The Road to CukoRakko: Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe May 15, 2018 16:32
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As this concept has continued to evolve each year, festival producers have decided to bring the spring festival to Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Saturday, May 19th, while still having plans for a full-weekend festival in October.
The spring festival will now be known as CukoRakko Fam Jam, a one-day event held in the heart of Birmingham which features a wide variety of world class talent from across the country. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko experience, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of this year's performers. For our next installment, we caught up with Luke Quaranta, percussionist of Toubab Krewe. See below for the full interview and stay tuned for further coverage throughout the weekend.
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Some music cannot be found on a map or within iTunes categories. Some music is so original it seems snatched from the great, invisible substrata that runs below all human activity, a sound aching to be born without a flag or fixed allegiance – free, questing, overflowing with immediate, tangible life. This is the music of Toubab Krewe, the vibrant Asheville, NC-based instrumental powerhouse that creates a sonic Pangaea that lustily swirls together rock, African traditions, jam sensibilities, international folk strains and more. While nearly impossible to put into any box, it takes only a few moments to realize in a very palpable way that one is face-to-face with a true original who recognizes no borders in a march towards a muscular, original, globally switched-on sound.
Formed in 2005, Toubab Krewe has tenaciously honed their craft through relentless touring and a fierce dedication to carving out something they can truly call their own. This is a band that actively draws inspiration from whatever source floats into their purview, something they've exhibited in their decade of heavy gigging, including regular appearances at major U.S. festivals like Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Wakarusa and New York City's Summer Stage, and abroad at such legendary gatherings as Festival In The Desert in Mali, The Shanghai World Music Festival, and The Festival of World Music in Sines, Portugal.
Their globe-hopping propensity has made them an emerging headliner at their hometown's famous Orange Peel and a familiar face at similar venues throughout the country. Whether on their own or collaborating with luminaries like the Last Poets' Umar Bin Hassan or Uncle Earl's Rayna Gellert, Toubab Krewe has already earned the attention and respect of a broad musical community.
Toubab carries echoes of African greats like Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab and Salif Keita, no doubt picked up during the group's travels to study and live in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali. But what truly differentiates Toubab Krewe from other Statesiders inspired by African music is how they innovate on what they've learned instead of simply recreating tradition. Toubab Krewe carves out a new trail honoring the African originators they admire by making something alive and contemporary.
Let’s start off with some general history on the band. You guys got started in Asheville back in 2005. How did this project come together?
Luke: We started in 2005, and we had actually been friends for a lot longer than that. The project really came together around our friendships formed at Warren Wilson College. A few of the guys had been friends well before that. Our kora/ngoni player Justin Perkins and our guitarist Drew Heller grew up together in Asheville; playing music for a number of years. Our original drummer, Teal Brown, also grew up with those guys since the middle school days. They had some bands throughout high school and college.
I met the guys during the college years, and we had all developed this mutual interest in West African music. I was a part of a drumming group on campus, and then I went to Guinea, West Africa to study music in 1999. Four of us in the group (at that time) went to Guinea and Ivory Coast to study in 2001. So, those were the roots of it all. The interest in West African music and traveling to West Africa. Drew and Justin actually took a trip to Bamako, Mali in 2004 for about four months, and it was when they returned from that trip that we started in the band in 2005.
I think on that trip...their eyes were opened to not only all of the traditional music that we had been studying, but also more of the contemporary scene in Bamako. Bands playing clubs, mixing Western instrumentation and more modern instrumentation with the traditional music. They got a real sense that we could play a lot of the music that we had come to really love, but also in a style that was true to our American roots.
It was a cool moment, man. We started the band in '05 and cut the first record in April of that year. I think we released it in June of that year and started hitting the road, playing festivals, and never really looking back. We ended up being on the road for like 10 years, up until 2014. We played through that year, and that's when we decided to take a bit of a break from the road.
Luke: I would say that they can expect a dance party, for sure. A lot of the music is heavy dance music. Also, I think they can expect a merging a worlds and cultures. They may hear a style of music that they've never heard before. If they have heard West African music, they might be experiencing it through a different lens. I think whether folks want to be on their feet dancing, or just listening and deciphering the different influences, I think it works for both experiences.
Every show is different. The band prides itself on really allowing the music to move us and the crowd together. We want to take the whole experience to a new place that we might not have thought we'd get to. We're always open to seeing where the music takes us artistically, musically, and spiritually. I think it's going to be a great time. We haven't played in Birmingham too much, so I'm really looking forward to playing there in a nice, outdoor setting.
CBDB's Cy Simonton Discusses "Opelika Yella" & Recording a New Album April 06, 2018 08:50
It's no secret that we are big believers in the Alabama music scene. The history within this state is as rich as any, and there's no doubt that the future is bright as well. With bands such as Drive-By Truckers, Alabama Shakes, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones paving the path, there is every reason to think the Alabama pipeline will continue to produce major contributors. Tuscaloosa's CBDB is undoubtedly on our short list of contenders, and the band is currently preparing for one of its most pivotal chapters thus far.
The band's third full-length studio album is scheduled for release on May 5th, and as of 12:00 AM today, the second single "Opelika Yella" is available on all major online music outlets. We recently sat down with frontman Cy Simonton to get the tune's entertaining back story and learn more about what went into this record. Check out our conversation below and make sure to mark your calendars for the album release party on May 5th at Avondale Brewing Company.
Check out the official promo video for "Opelika Yella" here:
CukoRakko Fam Jam Confirms Official 2018 Lineup March 12, 2018 15:00
The Russ Liquid Test
Redefining the possibilities of modern music, The Russ Liquid Test fuses the raw vitality of classic funk and the inventive sound design of electronic production. Songwriter/producer and renowned brass specialist Russell Scott heads up the New Orleans-based band. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round things out, with each providing a distinct musical background deeply rooted in the New Orleans jazz scene. Their debut EP 1984 featured an eclectic array of guest collaborators such as Mr. Lif and Ivan Neville—successfully creating an auditory canvas to forge The Russ Liquid Test’s irresistibly soulful future-vintage stylings.
A kinetic energy infuses each track on 1984. Giving way to a mixture of funk/jazz/electro, The Russ Liquid Test evokes a kaleidoscope of textures, senses, and moods. Featuring Ivan Neville on keyboards and the Funky Meters’ Russell Batiste Jr. on drums, the effervescent and synth-heavy title track “speaks about the current state of America from the perspective of an outsider,” as described by Scott. Lead single “Honesty,” meanwhile, finds The Russ Liquid Test slipping into a woozy psychedelia, offset by a brilliantly structured dichotomy introduced in its second-line-inspired groove.
At the heart of The Russ Liquid Test is an improv-driven musicality that began with Scott’s taking up classical piano. After spending several years playing in a jazz quintet on cruise ships and touring with psychedelic ska band Uprite Dub Orchestra, his one-of-a-kind artistry was unveiled in the genre-busting musical performance group MarchFourth Marching Band. Capable of playing the trumpet and saxophone, Scott quickly began experimenting with electronic music, eventually adopting the moniker of Russ Liquid. As his full-length debut, 2013’s Foreign Frequency showcased a forward-thinking mentality and fearless vision, anchored by an incomparable knowledge of music as a whole. “I wanted new colors to paint with,” says Scott of his foray into electronic music. “I kind of look at the electronic world as this whole other color palette, compared to the traditional sounds we’ve been working with for the past however many years.”
While on tour with Gramatik in 2014, Scott crossed paths with Block and discovered the duo’s shared musical tastes and philosophies. A South Florida native, Block grew playing guitar in his local Pentecostal church. “I wasn’t religious, I just wanted to play at that church because the music there was amazing,” says Block. He later relocated to New Orleans, pursuing his dream of becoming a full-time musician. The guitarist’s legendary endeavors reached fellow purveyors of soul/funk/R&B, ranging from Pretty Lights to New Orleans icon Dr. John. Capable of collaborating and working as a solo artist without missing a beat, Block released his 2014 debut You Can Only Go Up From Here on Gramatik’s independent label Lowtemp.
In the making of 1984, The Russ Liquid Test compounded their potent chemistry by bringing in a lineup of equally impassioned musicians. “Coming from a background of playing in bands and then getting into electronic music, I’d really missed having that interaction with other musicians,” says Scott. “The most rewarding thing for me is being able to bounce ideas off other people, so that the music ends up having more than just one person’s vibe to it. Ultimately it lets you give the audience even more to connect with.”
The studio workhorses have already begun working on a sophomore EP. The Russ Liquid Test also presents a joyful sense of synergy in their high-powered live shows, with recent appearances including Shambhala Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Summer Camp, and Sonic Bloom, among others. No matter the setting, a clear multidimensionality can always be heard in The Russ Liquid Test’s projects. “We want to make people feel good but also give them something to reflect with,” says Scott. “It’s not about just making party music or music that’s more introspective—it’s for the full gamut of human expression, and we want it to be just as dynamic as life itself.”
Blending American and West African influences into a sound all its own, Toubab Krewe has set "a new standard for fusions of rock 'n' roll and West African music" (Afropop Worldwide).
Since forming in 2005, the magnetic instrumental quintet has won a diverse and devoted following at performances everywhere from Bonnaroo to the legendary Festival of the Desert in Essakane, Mali, the most remote festival in the world. The band developed their unique sound over the course of numerous extended trips to Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and studied and performed with luminaries.
But the group has its roots in Asheville, NC, where many of its members were childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators. It was at home in the Appalachians, where the band recorded their sophomore album, Live at the Orange Peel.
Produced by Grammy winning producer Steven Heller (who also produced the band's debut), the new album captures their outstanding 2007-2008 New Year's run. All of the songs are previously unreleased and continue to mix American rock with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way, they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco, fusing it all together into what the Village Voice describes as "a futuristic, psychedelic, neo-griot frenzy" and Honest Tune hails as "one of the most innovative voices in music today." The new release features col- laborations with legendary spoken word artist Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets and fiddler Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl.
Listen to Toubab Krewe's new single "That Damn Squash" here:
DYNOHUNTER is truly a breath of fresh air to the world of electronic dance music. With a sound embraced by fans of house and techno and a live performance fueled by the organic energy of live instrumentation, their music is undeniable on the dance floor. DYNOHUNTER's ability to blend deep electronic influences with live saxophone, bass, and drums forges a new path in the vast expanse of electronic music.
Their sound journeys from dark tribal meditations, exotic rhythms, and deep hypnotic grooves to hard hitting dance tracks, uplifting melodies, and soulful improvisations. Equally at home playing underground clubs and festival mainstages, DYNOHUNTER brings a relentless and unmatched energy to each and every set.
They've opened for some of the biggest names in livetronica including Conspirator, Eoto, Opiuo, Ott, and The New Deal as well as supporting world renowned DJ's Shpongle, Bonobo, Infected Mushroom, Klingande, and The M Machine. No stranger to the festival community DYNOHUNTER has performed at music festivals across the country including Wakarusa, Summercamp, Joshua Tree, Sonic Bloom, & Great North. With an unparalleled work ethic and a one of a kind performance DYNOHUNTER has established themselves as the livetronica artist to watch.
DYNOHUNTER has set themselves apart from the pack by creating timeless music that speaks to true lovers of dance music. Always paying respect to the artists that have inspired them and paved the way, yet always striving to make music that is contemporary and progressive, a genuine expression of their own unique human experiences and a reflection of the times.
Watch DYNOHUNTER perform "Knew Conscious" here:
From the Heart of the Midwest, Steady Flow brings a unique style of powerful funk music like you've never heard it before. Formed in 2012 by 18 year old, soul guitarist extraordinaire, Tanner Brown, and his older brother, Ky "Goonie-Mom" Brown on bass guitar, the group has now transformed into a six-piece funk-powerhouse, quickly claiming their spot as one of the best live acts around.
In Steady Flow's short existence, the group has taken on music festivals such as North Coast, Summer Camp, Phases of the Moon, and the list goes on. The band is constantly turning heads at every performance as their hard hitting Funk Rock compositions shake the room and force all audiences to dance, rage, & simply feel good.
Steady Flow released their first EP, "The Oneoff Sessions" in 2013, and their debut album, "Loud." in June 2015. The band released their newest full length album, "Do You Like That?" in April 2017! Do not miss a live show near you. Steady Flow is "The Future Of Funk."
Watch Steady Flow perform "Do You Like That" here:
Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival
Straight out of a cabin in the backwoods of South Alabama, Jimmy Lumpkin belts out sublime sounds that are altogether Country, Rock, Soul and Blues. Jimmy is a singer, songwriter and guitarist with an intoxicating voice and a stirring, soulful bend to his own brand of music. With the voice of a 100-year-old angel from the delta, the soul found in Jimmy’s music is like no other. Skate Mountain Records is proud to present to the world music from a point of view they have never heard before. In the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Bo Diddley, The Black Keys and Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival set the bar higher than any other with their August 2017 release of their new album, "Home" - a unique blend of soulful roots rock and Americana.
Watch Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival's music video for "The Best One" here:
After the disbandment of Festival Expressions, Ransom Pewitt (lead singer and guitar player of FestEx) created Barnaby Rudge as the new vehicle for musical endeavors. In the style of Steely Dan, Barnaby does not have a set line-up of musicians; rather, the best artists for the songs are chosen on a show by show and song by song basis. Some of the best local talent around Birmingham, Alabama aided in the first show at Workplay Theater. The line-up included members of Little Raine Band (Justin Sledge, Daniel Raine, Davis Little), local favorite Jason Grubbs, along with members of Tragic City and Taylor Hunnicutt & Co. Bassist Beck Hall played a few tunes in addition to the original FestEx bassist Marcus O'Neill. The next show, May 19 at The Cuko Rakko FamJam at Avondale Brewing Company, is sure to be another great night of live music with Beck Hall, members of Little Raine Band, Jason Grubbs, and Taylor Hunnicutt returning for the special event. The band will continue to evolve as previous Festival Expressions drummer Josh Wiseman joins the lineup in 2018. Stay tuned. Much more to come.
Watch Barnaby Rudge perform "The Music Never Stopped" at WorkPlay here:
Dark Star Orchestra Returns To Birmingham On Sunday Night December 13, 2017 14:03
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Dark Star Orchestra is returning to the Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Sunday, April 8, 2018. Using entire shows from the Grateful Dead’s decades of touring as a launching pad, Dark Star Orchestra recreates song for song performances straight from historic set lists. Not merely mimicking the Dead, DSO instead seeks the individual style of each era and offers its own interpretations and improvisations for a group famed and loved for their interpretations and improvisations. Click here to purchase your tickets in advance.
Having toured worldwide to the tune of over 2000 shows, Dark Star Orchestra’s determined commitment to ‘raising the Dead’ has drawn them much critical acclaim. Dark Star Orchestra isn’t a cover band. Its shows are not even meant as tributes. What Dark Star Orchestra achieves is a continuation of the spirit of what has now become over forty years of the Grateful Dead’s timeless music.
This will be a rather unique show for DSO, as guitarist Rob Eaton, who plays the role of Bob Weir, will not be with the band due to unforeseen health circumstances. The band issued the following statement as to what fans can expect from this run of shows without Rob:
“Due to unforeseen family health circumstances Rob Eaton on rhythm guitar and vocals is unable to join us for shows March 30 – April 12,” reads a note from DSO. “During this time period, Dark Star Orchestra will perform the Music of Jerry Garcia Band plus songs from the Grateful Dead Repertoire. We wish Rob Eaton and his Family the best and we look forward to his return to the stage with DSO on April 13.”
Watch a clip of Dark Star Orchestra performing "St. Stephen" at Avondale Brewery in 2017 here:
Watch Dark Star Orchestra perform "Playin' In The Band" at Gathering of the Vibes here:
Umphrey's McGee Brings "Power Of Soul" To Avondale Brewery September 11, 2015 10:49
Thursday night, progressive jam rock band Umphrey's McGee took the stage at Avondale Brewing Company in Birmingham, AL. A rabid, rowdy crowd welcomed the group with open arms, just one night before the band was scheduled to close out Friday night at Lock'n Festival in Arrington, VA. While Avondale has quickly established it's strong reputation for live music since it's establishment in 2012, Umphrey's would be the brewery's biggest show to date, with roughly 2000 fans in attendance.
Umphrey's took the stage promptly at 8:00 PM CST, opening the show with "No Crying in Mexico," which progressed perfectly into "Bright Lights, Big City." Next up was "Rocker Part 2," which appeared on the band's latest release, The London Sessions. "Water" an oldie from the band's first album, Local Band Does O.K., would follow and segue into "Mad Love."
The band's metal side was showcased with a heavy hitting take on "#5," allowing lead guitarist Jake Cinnenger, bassist Ryan Stasik, and guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss the first of many opportunities to face off and trade licks center stage. "No Diablo," arguably the band's biggest hit off last year's release, Similar Skin, provided a nice change of pace and made for a nice sing-a-long for the lively crowd. "The Bottom Half," the title track from the band's 2007 release, would round out the first set.
The second set kicked off with "The Triple Wide," an instrumental, spacey dance tune which has developed into one of the band's bigger jam vehicles over the years. A smooth transition led directly into "Red Tape," the first and only tune of the night off of the Mantis album. The always uplifting, reggae-ish "FF" had everyone on the property grooving, showing off the band's inner Bob Marley. A sudden, powerful drop into "All in Time" sent the Birmingham crowd into a frenzy, before an early exit into "Booth Love" pulled things back into a steady, baby-makin' groove.
The band dug deep in the archives with "Out of Order," one which was recently rerecorded for the release of The London Sessions. Few songs truly embody the full package for Umphrey's more than "Out of Order." Constant chord progressions, swift vocals, winding riffs from Cinninger, and an eventually explosive build up. Having played all originals thus far, it was only a matter of time before a bust out cover, which came in the form of Jimi Hendrix's "Power of Soul." Drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag held down a tight rhythm, allowing for Bayliss and Cinninger to pay homage to the legendary Hendrix. Hearing nearly 2000 people singing "With the power of soul, anything is possible" as the set came to a close was inspiring to say the least.
After a brief exit, the all too familiar opening notes of "In The Kitchen" provided a proper warning for an absolutely rocking encore. Bayliss guided the Birmingham crowd through one of the band's biggest hits to date. Many had forgotten that "All In Time" had been left unfinished, as usual. The drop back into "All In Time" gave one last shot of adrenaline before settling into one of the more peaceful, soothing segments of any Umphrey's tune. Bayliss's lyrics during the closing bridge always hit home and make for a powerful sense of nostalgia.
Umphrey's McGee heads to Arrington, VA today to play a late night set to close out the festival's opening night. For all additional info and tour dates, head over to Umphrey's official website and social media outlets.
Set 1: No Crying in Mexico, Bright Lights Big City, Rocker 2, Water > Mad Love, #5, No Diablo, The Bottom Half