CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
The Road to CukoRakko: A Conversation with Charlie Hunter September 24, 2018 20:49
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 we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our second installment, we caught up with famed jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, whose trio will close out the festival on Sunday, October 7th. See below for the full interview, as well as several videos of Hunter performing live.
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I always like start these by getting some background info. How did you first get started playing guitar and enter the world of music?
Charlie: Well, I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 70's. My mom played music and repaired guitars. I spent a lot of time growing up around music in general. I was around some amazing musicians, and I guess I didn't really know any better. That's just how I ended up in that universe. You definitely have to have an affinity for it, and you have to have a calling to do this as a career. It sure ain't a hobby, 'cause there are much better hobbies. (laughs)
Was there a particular experience or 'aha' moment that made you realize the potential to play professionally?
Charlie: No...for me, it's just all about the work. You know what I mean? That's the glory. Performing is awesome, and that's where you prove whether your work has had any success. I love playing and communing with the audience, but really, the joy for me is in the community and in the work. When I was a young guy in my teens, I was playing a lot of gigs with older guys, and that's just kind of how it all started.
Your debut album 'Charlie Hunter Trio' was released in 1993 on Les Claypool's Prawn Song Records. How'd you get hooked up with Les?
Charlie: The drummer that I was playing with, Jay Lane, used to play in Les's band Primus. I knew Les from when I was playing in a band called Disposable Heroes of Hyphoprisy. Primus opened for U2 on the same tour that I was on with Disposable Heroes, so that's how we initially met. He's just a real good dude. He's always trying to help people out and go to bat for others, so that was nice.
Speaking of Jay Lane, I was curious about how the lineup has worked with the trio over the years. Has there been much consistency with the lineup?
Charlie: Oh I'm always changing it around, just depending on what direction I'm going in. I usually have a trio. It's the biggest sound you can get, with the least potential for losing tons of money on the road (laughs). For this specific gig, I'll be playing with Derek Phillips, who I've played with for many years, on drums, and a woman named Dara Tucker from Nashville will be singing. It should be a grand ole time.
You've become well known for your unique style with the seven/eight string guitars; playing bass lines, chords, & melodies simultaneously. What led you in such a unique direction?
Charlie: That's a great question. I was a street musician in Europe for a number of years back in the 80's. I really just fell under the sway of people like Joe Pass and Tuck Andress and that real self sufficient type of playing guitar. That just tickled me, and I felt like I really needed to learn how to do this. I also played a lot of drums and bass guitar. It just kind of made sense. Then I went down this road of figuring the whole thing of my own out, and I'm still kind of figuring it out.
You were a co-founder of Garage a Trois, back in the late 90's, right?
Charlie: Well I didn't found it. I was really just one of the guys. Skerik and I went there because we were playing on Stanton's (Moore) record back in the late 90's. It kind of grew out that.
I know there have been some great players involved. I saw the band with Marco Benevento in Atlanta back in 2010.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah I kind of left around that time and Marco joined.
So originally that was you, Skerik, Stanton Moore, and who else?
Charlie: Mike Dillon on all kinds of percussion.
That's right. How could I forget Mike Dillon?
Charlie: Yeah, right? He's an awesome dude.
You've had the opportunity to collaborate with such a wide variety of world class talent. Looking back, are there any moments in particular that stand out?
Charlie: Not really. I think the stuff that people know, like D'Angelo's Voodoo and (writing and recording with) John Mayer...those were just really quick days in the studio, you know? Then you have the people who you're on the road with year after year, learning a lot...those are the things that last with you a lot longer. Again, it all just has to do with feeling like it's an honor to be able to do the work and be on the path at all. That's kinda what keeps me going. Knowing that there is always another experience down the road with someone who knows something that you don't know, and you can learn from them.
Absolutely. I think that's something that can be applied to all walks of life. There's always more to learn, even if it's how not do something.
Charlie: Amen. Exactly. Yes. (laughs)
You've definitely linked up with some killer drummers along the way. Stanton Moore and Jay Lane, just to name a few...
Charlie: Yeah...and those guys are my peers, but the really, the heaviest experiences have been with guys like Bobby Previte, Idris Muhammad, Bernard Purdie, Mike Clark, Ed Thigpen. Those have been the real incredible experiences.
That's amazing. Did I hear that you're getting ready to record a new album in Nashville?
Charlie: Well yeah, interestingly enough, it's not my record. Dara Tucker, who's singing with the trio, I'm going to be producing her record. We're going to do that right after the Alabama gig. In November, I'll be recording an album with Lucy Woodward and Derek Phillips, the drummer who's playing with me this tour. All kinds of shit is goin' down.
It appears so. Looking at all the albums that you've been a part of, there is a wide variety and quite a lengthy list.
Charlie: Yeah...I really feel lucky to have been a part of it all. Again, I'm just juiced that I get a chance to do it all.
You're closing out CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival in Alabama on October 7th. For those who haven't seen the trio before, what can they expect?
Charlie: Oh man, I don't know. I guess I'd just tell them to get on YouTube and check out some of the recent stuff.
That's a great answer in 2018.
Charlie: Exactly, exactly.
Well thanks so much for your time Charlie. Look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.
Charlie: Sounds great man. Thank you. Take care.
Watch Charlie Hunter Trio perform "Spoonful" here:
Watch Charlie Hunter Trio's full performance from The Acoustic in Bridgeport, CT here:
Watch Charlie Hunter's "No Money No Honey" here:
CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival Confirms 2018 Lineup August 07, 2018 16:20
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Festival organizers have revealed the initial lineup for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, which returns Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL for the fifth consecutive year on October 6th - 8th. This annual, grassroots music and arts festival has seen tremendous growth with each year, and 2018 looks to be no exception. The Fall Fest lineup includes veteran nationally touring acts such as The New Orleans Suspects, Charlie Hunter Trio, and The Fritz, as well as Steady Flow, The Jauntee, Eat a Peach (Allman Brothers Tribute), The Brook & The Bluff, Lamont Landers Band, Early James & The Latest, Skydyed, and The Pearl.
Advance general admission tickets and VIP packages can be purchased at CukoRakko.com. Stay tuned for info on the official Thursday night pre-party, future updates, exclusive artist interviews, and everything you need to know about CukoRakko. See below for further info on what to expect from this year's lineup.
As part of our CukoRakko preview coverage, we're giving away a pair of weekend passes to the festival. To enter the contest, head over to the Live & Listen Facebook page, share this post, and tag a friend in the comments section. Make sure your settings are designated to public, so we can see the shared post on our end.
Artwork by Mike Sears: Light Train Studio
The New Orleans Suspects
New Orleans Suspects began playing together in 2009 as a pick-up band at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans. Comprised of some of the most seasoned, highly respected players in NOLA, the group called themselves The Unusual Suspects. Their chemistry was undeniable and by the summer of 2011 they decided to tour full-time, renaming the band New Orleans Suspects. They quickly began attracting large crowds from San Francisco to New York. They've released four CDs and established themselves as one of New Orleans’ best supergroups.
Charlie Hunter Trio
With a career spanning 16 years and almost 20 albums, Charlie Hunter consistently ups his game as an innovative writer and bandleader. He has worked with the likes of Norah Jones , Mos Def, John Mayer, D’Angelo and countless others. He is widely considered the authority on the seven and eight - string guitar, and continues to stun audiences with his ability to simultaneously bust out tasty bass parts, melodic leads and swinging rhythms.
Hunter has previously recorded for the venerable Blue Note label, Concord, Ropeadope, GroundUP and others. His recent independent venture is steered by his motivation to release music that most inspires him. Critics have touted his genius technique, but it's his profound artistic sensibility that propels his original music. Hunter's signature style of writing and performing has secured his place as one of today's great guitarists.
The Fritz is a soul-driven dance rock band hailing from Asheville, NC. The group’s aggressive approach to funk, soul, and rock creates a sound that is uniquely their own. Their high-energy, danceable songs provide a platform for each member to shine. With powerful vocals, climactic solos, and tight grooves, The Fritz has built a devoted following and is captivating audiences everywhere.
Originally formed in the rehearsal spaces of University of North Florida's School of Music, The Fritz discovered an immediate chemistry. Drawing on influences such as Prince, Talking Heads and Jimi Hendrix, the quintet integrated their diverse musical tastes and began writing music together.
With their college days behind them, the Fritz soon set their eyes on the mountains of Western North Carolina, eventually settling in Asheville in July 2011. After the release of their 2012 debut album, Bootstrap, the band launched into a near-constant touring schedule. With appearances at festivals such as Hulaween, Wakarusa, and Catskill Chill, the band quickly gained a reputation as a live act not to be missed.
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."
With almost a decade’s worth of touring experience; appearances at major festivals such as Peach Fest, Catskill Chill, and Resonance; and 36 states toured with stops at national touring staples such as Brooklyn Bowl, Georgia Theatre, and the Paradise Rock Club, The Jauntee have been nurturing a fanbase of dedicated followers who are inspired by their music and willing to travel to see what the band has in store next. Fans that thoroughly analyze their music, track their set lists and passionately promote their music. The Jauntee makes each night an exciting prospect of a new shared experience with bust-outs, fresh jamming, poignant covers, and accessible songwriting.
Their upcoming live album “ALWAYS NEVER KNOWING” is a quintessential selection of live works from the band’s 2017 two-night-run at The Bridge Sound & Stage in their hometown of Cambridge, MA. It features 16 tracks that were professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered by sound engineer Alex Allinson. It showcases the band’s masterful playing and inspiring ability to take their original music and create something uniquely theirs night after night. It also features nine previously unreleased tracks that have quickly become staples of their live show. Experience the band in their purest element, pushing the boundaries of their sound while sharing that trip with their fans.
Eat a Peach (An Allman Brothers Tribute)
Eat A Peach consists of five guys from Birmingham that share a mutual respect for the Allman Brothers music. With Will Cash on guitar, Matt Casey on guitar, Peyton Grant on keys, Mark Lanter on drums, and Aaron Branson on bass, what was once just an idea in high school came to life in the summer of 2008. All the members found their way back to Birmingham and back out on the music scene again. After a lot of rehearsing and learning tunes, the boys were ready to take the classic songs to the stage. With a great deal of local success, the band decided to hit the road playing college towns, private events, and festivals. Keep your eyes peeled for Eat A Peach in a town near you! Anyone who is a fan of the Allman Brothers Band is sure to have a great time at an Eat A Peach show.
The Brook & The Bluff
Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that has been traveling and recording music since late 2016. The group consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford.
The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's first single, “Masks.” Released in September of 2016, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits.
The group's first year as a full band has been widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville, the band has had an exhilarating 2017. The band will be releasing a variety of new music in 2018!
Lamont Landers Band
Born and raised in Alabama, Lamont Landers grew up absorbing the soulful sounds of the south that surrounded him. At the age of 14 he taught himself how to play guitar, and at the age of 19 began singing. He spent years quietly honing his talents behind his bed room doors, listening to records by Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Sly & The Family Stone, and Ray Charles on repeat. At the age of 22 a candid video recorded by his sister of him performing the Ray Charles’ classic “Hit the Road Jack” went viral on YouTube, and with the help of Reddit.com garnered over 400,000 views overnight. His YouTube channel now has over 11,000 subscribers and over 1.9 million views, and his four-piece outfit, The Lamont Landers Band has since become a staple in college towns and perform across the southeast bringing their joyful noise of Soul, Funk, and R&B to audiences of all sizes.
And now with their crowd-pleasing performance on Showtime at the Apollo, the Lamont Landers Band is destined to become a household name.
Early James & The Latest
Birmingham based Americana band that attempts to re-spin what has been spun before. A mishmash of Blues, Country, Folk, and Jazz with crooner-esque styling. While drawing influences from both old and new, we attempt a unique spin on something that has been spun many times over. A combination of genres that will not only knock your socks off, but put them back on for you afterwards.
Skydyed is a three-piece band that blends cutting edge electronic production with live instrumentation from Fort Collins, CO.
Featuring Andrew Slattery on bass synths and bass guitar, Max Doucette on guitar and keys, and Craig Babineau on drums, the band integrates generations of the state’s extensive musical heritage with their own deep-seated ties to the electronic music scene. With roots in rock, funk and jazz, Skydyed has created their own, diverse sound that intertwines organic live drums, bass and guitar through soulful jam, hard-hitting bass and profound break-beats.
With their unique and advanced production, Skydyed has established itself as a can’t miss performance that bridges the gap between EDM and live music.
The Pearl is a product of collaboration... a natural progression of musicians playing next to one another in different settings with different people, starting in 2016. All three members are quite good at keeping themselves musically busy, so as the gigs began to overlap, side projects and pop-up shows, typically featuring a mixture of this trio with other local talent, starting becoming more frequent.
As musicians, they also share a common thread in that all three work exceptionally hard between shows to practice and grow as musicians and people. Each member, even before they had met, had developed borderline excessive practice routines so, in hindsight, forming a trio was the move to make.
Finally, in the Spring of 2018, when Taylor moved back home from Nashville to finish his masters in music education from Belmont, all it took was one trio gig for The Pearl to start writing, booking, and practicing together many hours a week.