Circles Around The Sun Proves the Hype is Real in Atlanta May 9, 2019 19:50

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Ryan Lewis: Rylewphoto
Last night in Atlanta was an experience I had been anxiously awaiting for nearly four years. Like many of you, I was completely mesmerized when it came time for setbreak at the infamous Grateful Dead "Fare Thee Well" shows in 2015. What is usually a time for heading to the bathroom, grabbing a cold beverage, and counting the minutes until the band's return was a far different experience. We would later learn that Justin Kreutzmann, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, was in charge of visual effects. The production team would play unreleased, archived footage and psychedelic montages on giant screens, and Kreutzmann looked to guitarist Neal Casal to create an instrumental soundtrack for these visuals. 
Casal quickly called on Adam MacDougall (keyboards), Dan Horne (bass), and Mark Levy (drums) and formed a band. With very little time to prepare, the band went into the studio with no pre-written material. I had the opportunity to interview Neal several months ago, and he explained, " We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it."
The music was so well received that Casal decided to pursue this as a long term project, which was ultimately named Circles Around The Sun (aka CATS). The Fare Thee Well recordings were released as Interludes For The Dead in November of 2015, and the band would perform their first public show at LOCKN' Festival in 2016. With each band member being involved in various other projects, such as Chris Robinson Brotherhood, tour dates were initially few and far between. Fortunately, we've seen the number of dates increase drastically over the past year. 
Wednesday night was the band's first true headlining show in Atlanta. Earlier this year, CATS performed to a sold out crowd at The Tabernacle in support of Greensky Bluegrass, and the local buzz was more than noticeable last night. Terminal West was about as packed as I've ever seen it, and the show must have been about as close to a sell out as possible. The unique lighting arrangement and multiple disco balls on stage set the tone for an incredibly wild musical journey.
As the band took the stage, an extended, spacey jam ultimately made way for "On My Mind," the opening track from their sophomore album, Let it Wander. I can't think of a much better way to get the room moving. It didn't take 10 minutes to realize that this was going to be a special night. "Gilbert's Groove" gave us our first taste from the Interludes album. It's truly remarkable how Casal has mastered the Garcia-esque licks. We got another taste of the new album in the form of "Halicarnassus." This one featured some of my favorite moments from MacDougall, and I cant say enough about the rhythm section here. When Mark Levy finds a pocket, he absolutely locks in and couldn't appear to be happier doing so. Dan Horne is an absolute monster on bass, and watching these two's interactions throughout the night was one of my biggest takeaways from the show. 
Midway through the set, we saw a glimpse of what the future holds in one of CATS' newest originals, "Peace." While Let it Wander remains in steady rotation around the house, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxiously awaiting more new material from this band. Another monstrous jam vehicle has surfaced, and it's safe to say that there is much more coming. MacDougall led the way on "Immovable Object," which is easily one of the most soothing, peaceful tunes you will find. The slow, groovy build makes way for some blistering guitar work from Casal. This is another one that could easily be mistaken as a Jerry Garcia Band original. Casal's technique and overall tone is uncanny. 
Before this monster set came to an end, the band busted into "Saturday's Children," another Interludes track. I like to think that this tune is the lovechild of "West LA Fadeaway" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Levy keeps the beat nice and tight, while Casal hits those riffs that just put a big smile on your face. I found myself laughing on countless occasions at this point. That's when you know it's good. After a brief exit, CATS returned with time for one more. I'd been waiting for this one all night, and thankfully, Levy kicked straight into the intro for "One for Chuck." If I had a nickel for the amount of times I've played this song in 2019, I'd have a hell of a lot of nickels. "Chuck" showcases my absolute favorite moments from MacDougall's wizardry, and this epic musical journey couldn't have ended on a higher note. 
There's only so much you can put into words when it comes to this band. The music is perfect for any occasion. Whether you're looking to relax and unwind, or maybe even hit the dance floor, Circles Around the Sun has you covered. My expectations heading into Terminal West could not have been much higher, and they were exceeded in every way. The ceiling is incredibly high with these CATS, and I'll be making every effort to catch them on the road whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Watch a clip of CATS performing "One for Chuck" here:

Big Friendly Takeover Tour Kicks off Friday at Avondale Brewery May 8, 2019 12:15


Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Three of Alabama's hottest rising acts will join forces at Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Friday night. Winston RambleLittle Raine Band, and Taylor Hunnicutt will kick off what is sure to be a special tour, which also includes stops in Asheville (NC), Atlanta (GA), Montgomery (AL), and Mobile (AL). These three bands are certainly no strangers to one another, as their roots run deep across the greater Birmingham area. Based on what we've seen in the past, we should expect numerous collaborations throughout all three sets. 

This has been a busy year, to say the least, for all three of these bands thus far. Winston Ramble continues to draw impressive crowds across the southeast, while having recently completed multiple successful runs out to Colorado. Their most recent single, "1000 Miles," alludes to the band's increasingly busy tour schedule and is more than worthy of an addition to your latest playlist. Back in early March, Little Raine Band released Dreamwalker, their first full length album since 2016. As expected, they have been grinding across the southeast in support of the release, which is one of our favorites of 2019. You can check out a detailed review of the entire album by clicking hereTaylor Hunnicutt has been one of Birmingham's brightest rising stars in recent years, and she sure seems bound to break out in 2019. You simply can't look away when she starts singing, and her "supporting cast" is as strong as any. Click here to check out her latest feature on

Click Here: Purchase tickets to the Avondale Brewery show!

As an added bonus, Friday night's show in Birmingham will feature an opening set from Atlanta's Bird Dog JubileeIf you're planning on heading over to the brewery, you definitely don't want to miss these guys. If that wasn't enough, you can walk across the street to Saturn and catch LUTHI, The Pearl, and Dirty Lungs immediately after the music ends at the brewery. Long story short: Avondale is the place to be on Friday night.

We took a few minutes to chat with members of Winston Ramble and Little Raine Band to learn more about their vision for this tour. See below for a few quotes from the conversation. Click here to purchase your tickets to see all three bands on Friday night in Birmingham.

There’s nothing quite like playing music on the road with people you love. We’re all close friends and love making music together, so this is kind of like a family vacation in a way.. We’ve thrown around this idea for a while now and it’s awesome to see it finally come into fruition. There’s really no telling what you could expect from this tour, we have some fun surprises in store, other than that we know it’s going to get rowdy! Davis Little of Little Raine Band

"This run has been a long time coming, and I know we're all excited to make it happen. We've been lucky enough to share the stage with each other many times The Avondale show was so much fun last year, and we had to take it on the road. If I could pick any bands to travel and play with, it'd be these two. We love the music these two bands make and love the people who make it. Expect a show full of a many genres, original music, re-imagined covers, and collaborations. It'll be a damn good time." - Justin Oliver of Winston Ramble

Check out the official promo video for the BFT tour here:

Universal Sigh Releases New Single "Snow Dunes" May 3, 2019 09:51

Athens, GA - Metamorphic rock band Universal Sigh released a new single "Snow Dunes" on Tuesday, April 30th. This upbeat track features lively guitars and reminiscent lyrics inspired by the might of nature and the wisdom of hindsight. It was recorded with producer Tomas Uribe in several studios around Atlanta, GA. "Snow Dunes" marks the first studio release from Universal Sigh in three years and is the initial of several releases on the horizon in 2019.

Universal Sigh maintains a busy touring schedule averaging over 100 shows per year and will celebrate the release of “Snow Dunes” with a headlining appearance at Aisle 5 in Atlanta, GA on May 3rd following the Shaky Knees Music Festival.

Additionally Universal Sigh curates and hosts their own 2-Day Music and Arts festival called “Sigh In July” in Athens GA. The multi-day event showcases national, regional, and local talent to inspire consciousness and foster musical community. The 5th Annual Sigh in July will take place at Live Wire Athens on July 26th & 27th.

We recently sat down with Universal Sigh guitarist Pace Maynard to get the inside scoop on all of the band's latest happenings. See below for look into our conversation!
  • "We have had a lot of fun working in the studio over the past 6 months. Our band has toured non-stop for several years now, and it's been refreshing to take a step back from performing to focus on the studio process. "Snow Dunes" was recorded in two Atlanta area studios: Prana Studio in Lilburn and Emanant Studio in Ackworth. Our producer Tomas Uribe, has been an amazing guide throughout our journey. His input has been invaluable, and we have developed an endearing personal and professional relationship."
  • "Tomas fronts an excellent band called Kilroy Kobra based in Atlanta. We had an overwhelming amount of unrecorded material to choose from for these sessions, but we opted to release "Snow Dunes" first for a couple of reasons. We feel it highlights different facets of our sound, and it has historically been one of our most played songs in the live setting." 
  • "We plan to release another single in July and intend to drop our sophomore album this fall. Nothing is set in stone though. Hopefully, we can get back into the studio this winter to start working on our next project if time allows." 
  • "The band is incredibly excited to get back on stage in Atlanta. We love Aisle 5 and the last time we played it was a sold-out new years eve show with Funk You. This time we invited our longtime friends and fellow Athenians Partials to open up the show. They are fantastic and we are working on some collaborations that I'm sure the audience will enjoy."
  • "Additionally, we are going to do something on Friday that we've never done before. At 10:00 PM, directly before the music begins, we will kick off the festivities by screening a short film that features members of Universal Sigh, Partials, and fellow Athens, GA band The Orange Constant. The mini-documentary is titled "Homegrown" and focuses on our experience hosting Sigh in July, our annual music and arts festival. It was produced by Guilty Peach Productions along with some of our best friends. We've never done a film premiere before so come celebrate our single release this Friday and bring some popcorn." 

Steam Universal Sigh's "Snow Dunes" here:



Official Bio: Universal Sigh

Universal Sigh is set for high gear in 2019 and beyond. Their unique “metamorphic rock” compositions are rooted in quintessential groove that delves into an epic, cinematic, psychedelic jazz journey. Their soulful melodies reflect peaks and valleys of emotion and their harmonious improv sparks fascination in their listeners. This year will be a very productive year for the band boasting several single debuts and the release of the band's second full-length album.

Based out of Athens, GA these southern rockers have been bringing the heat across the country since 2013. In the past 2 years, the band has shared the stage with Leftover Salmon, Papadosio, Twiddle, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, Aqueous, Naughty Professor, The Jauntee, Cycles and more. The quartet regularly tours between the southeast and Colorado and produce their annual Sigh in July Music & Arts Festival every summer.

The band name Universal Sigh signifies a common thread that links everyone to life – the breath. Music, like breath, provides connection, awareness, and brings you into the present moment. Each breath and song is a simple reminder that we are all connected and reliant on each other in this journey through life.

Nostalgia vs. the Now: 25 Years with The String Cheese Incident April 30, 2019 10:44

Photo by Dylan Langille: ontheDL Photography

Interview by Brett Hutchins:

Ten years ago, The String Cheese Incident took a chance on me.

As naive senior at Florida State, the dread and uncertainty of post-graduation was met with one sure thing - my absolute need to be involved in music. Resumes flew out to damn near every record label, booking agency, and publicity firm in the country.

One returned the email.

A day after graduation, I made the trek from Tallahassee, FL to Boulder, CO for an internship at SCI Fidelity Records. I was quickly rocketed into a world gloriously foreign to me, where all are welcome and the most different of people and styles are free to come together. The music of the String Cheese Incident did for me what it has done for people around the world and even the band members themselves. It forged seemingly impossible connections through the simple act of being open to adventure.

Bassist Keith Moseley chats here about the band’s 25 years, the communal spirit behind the band and its fans, and how the city of New Orleans inspires the band in front of this week’s JazzFest after-parties. It’s a conversation that points to the immense ways that music can transcend time and boundaries of all kinds.

Congrats on the 25th anniversary. Do you feel old?

Keith: Every day. It’s a serious milestone to reflect on and live with the fact that we’ve been a band for 25 years. We’re beating the odds and all staying healthy. I feel like we are making the best music ever together, too. It’s a special feeling.

I’ve read a lot of interviews where you speak about staying in the moment. How do you keep focused on that when there is so much nostalgia in the air this year?

Keith: The moment on stage? Part of being present with the band is how much new material we’ve written and recorded in the last few years. It feels like the band is going through a renewed sense of growth. To execute those songs onstage, you really have to be mindful and present. There’s no auto-pilot when you’re playing brand new songs. You have to remain super engaged up there in trying to play them the best you can.

Your music has created life-changing memories for thousands of folks. How does the band avoid the pressure of feeling like they need to replicate past experiences for some of their veteran fans?

Keith: There is definitely some expectation of the band every time we hit the stage. Some of that results in pressure to live up to the past, but we view it more as a responsibility to our fans and our past than pressure. This band, the music we make, and this scene we curate is big and important, more so than any one of us. It’s showing up and playing your role in this bigger thing. It’s all encompassing in that way. Sometimes you get that liftoff where the whole physical experience can take on importance for people.

When you guys were playing ski bars in the beginning, was there ever any thought into how big this could be?

Keith: It was hard to see how big it could go. 25 years and traveling worldwide with this music is a big deal. It’s hard to imagine, although the connection was very real on a smaller scale. We did get to those points of playing music quickly in those small bars. It got magical quickly. Getting that feeling and knowing we’re doing something emotional and powerful is a unique experience. Getting into those moments of absence is a special place I like to get to whenever I can.

I’ve chatted about Cheese with strangers in as faraway lands as Thailand. The community truly is worldwide. What makes your fans so special?

Keith: Our fans in general are an open-minded adventurous spirit as a group. They’re open to our wild palate of music and diverse ideas. That’s the type of people I want to hang out with.

Are there things the guys do, either musically or otherwise, that surprise you even after all this time?

Keith: Musically, we’re so familiar with each other, but surprises do still happen. I feel really fortunate to play with such amazing and spirited fellows. They’re a great group and it’s always an adventure. Personally, it’s fun, too. We’ve all been friends for a long time. Travis starting a family was a big surprise. We didn’t see that coming. But as an example, that’s been an amazing growth experience for him and it’s brought a lot of joy to his playing.

How organic is the current writing process? I’d imagine it helps a ton having your own studio space.

Keith: The Sound Lab has really gotten our focus and writing in place. We can come directly off the road and everything’s already set up to go. It’s been super inspiring. The process of writing is different for everyone. Lots of times we get together and band mates bring in songs that are complete or nearly complete. It’s just a matter of how we are going to put our group touch on it. Other times, it’s a group writing process where we’ve got a jam or a groove we’ve played before and want to revisit to build into an actual song.

It’s nice to have a studio space where we can come together and not be on the clock. It sure beats paying tons of money to be put on deadlines and have songs put together in x-amount of time. It helps us to be able to spread out the process between the writing and then shift into rehearsal head space.

Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

How has family life and time passing in general affected the band’s songwriting?

Keith: Where you’re coming from in life is always going to have a big effect on your output when you’re writing. A lot of us are feeling mature in a lot of ways these days, with kids leaving home and moving on. Some of the guys have younger kids. Different chapters in your life affect songwriting in different ways. When there is a deeper well to draw from, it’s bound to yield positive results. That well gives you time to reflect and comment based on things you’ve seen. I’m excited about the material the band’s putting out. We’re still getting better and that alone is super exciting.

Are there any surprising lessons you’ve learned from music that you take into your everyday life?

Keith: Not many surprising, but lessons continue to reveal themselves, the most basic being that what you get out of it is a reflection of what you put into it. That remains true on so many levels.

What goes into preparations for shows these days with the weekend runs?

Keith: We’ll usually try to come up with a setlist before the run and pass that along via email to give everyone a chance to throw their input in. We’ll have a little time to prep on it and then we’ll rehearse and try to go over some of the stuff we haven’t hit in a long time or rehash the newer tunes. We have been rehearsing a lot though, which has been fun. There’s a lot of pre-planning, but there is always the chance we might ditch the setlist or call an audible here and there.

Does the time in between shows make it more difficult to build more momentum into the improve spaces?

Keith: That’s a continuing discussion with the band. Was it better when we were on the road playing five, six nights a week? The band certainly gets into a unique space when you’re doing intensive touring. Just by the virtue of all that time together, you get to a different space in the playing.

The flipside is that it can be a burnout being out for long stretches. Attacking things like we are right now gives us time to come in refreshed and looking forward to the gig, plus giving us rehearsal time at home. There are pros and cons of every way of doing these things.

The crowd comes in fresh and excited, as well.

Keith: Yeah, people are pumped to come to New Orleans. We had a big weekend in St. Louis after not being there in forever. It’s been a great run of shows this Spring, and I think we’re on a great trajectory.

I’ll be shooting over for those New Orleans shows. How will the shows with guests be structured? Full shows? Full sets? Just a few songs?

Keith: Just a few songs most likely.

What’s the communication like with these guests beforehand?

Keith: We’ll have a point person in the band assigned to each guest. They’ll reach out and get an idea of the tunes they can do, and then we’ll have some rehearsal with them day of show.

You guys have a pretty cool history with New Orleans all the way back to the early days. What makes New Orleans so special for the band?

Keith: We’ve all just been attracted to the vibe of the city and the musical richness of the city for a really long time. Before I had ever been to New Orleans, I was fan of its music. The Meters, the Neville Brothers, Dr. John.

We did some early gigs at the Maple Leaf mid to late 90s. It’s such a small room, but it was awesome soaking up the vibe. We’d see as many shows as we could see as well. I have great memories of seeing a late night Gatemouth Brown show. CJ Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco come to mind as well. So we get pumped just coming to New Orleans.

Stream SCI's 1997 Maple Leaf Show with 2019 featured guest Anders Osborne here:

One last question and it might be the big unanswerable, but what’s next for the band after this anniversary run?

Keith: More of the same in a way. We’re going to hit it hard this year. There’s still some unannounced shows on the horizon for the remainder of the calendar year we’ll bust out soon. We look forward to getting out some unreleased music we’ve been working on in the Lab and a few more tracks that are going to trickle out and perhaps package that as an album. We’re on a great path as far as recording and creating music, and playing some great destination venues. We’ll look forward to more of that.

Great. I appreciate the time, Keith. It’s impossible to overstate how important the band’s music has been for me. It truly changed the trajectory of my life.

Keith: Thanks so much. It’s happened that way for a lot of people. It’s been a huge influence on all of us, too. We’ve all met our best friends, wives, and all kinds of people through this community. Thanks for being a part of it. We appreciate you.

Ready for Festival Season: Catching up with SunSquabi April 28, 2019 18:51

Photo by Chester Pink
Spring time is without a doubt one of the most exciting, critical times of the year for any nationally touring act. Festival season is shifting into full gear, and countless artists are preparing to take the stage in the hopes of blowing the minds of their loyal fans and, hopefully, picking up some new followers along the wayJust over a week ago, many of my favorite acts gathered at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park for the annual SweetWater 420 Festival. This year's lineup was as impressive and diverse as ever, and honestly, I'm still trying to digest everything that went down.
After several years of listening and watching from afar, I finally had a chance to catch one of my favorite electronic funk acts: SunSquabi. We actually sat down to discuss their latest tour, the new album (Instinct), festival season, and much more prior to their set. See below for the full conversation with Kevin Donohue (guitar/keys/production),  Josh Fairman (bass), and Chris Anderson (drums) and make sure to keep an eye out for these guys this summer!
You guys recently completed a big spring tour. Now you're here in Atlanta as you kick off festival season. How have things been going overall? Any highlights? 
Kevin: It's really been phenomenal, since all the way back to October. We've been traveling to different parts of the southeast. All up and down the northeast and over to the west coast. It's tough to say what the highlights would be. It's been a very consistent and strong tour all the way through. 
Josh: We played our first show in DC. It was a packed, sold out show, which was really cool. 
Chris: In Boston, we got to play with my little brother on violin. That was a big highlight for me. It's pretty special to get to play with family. 
Kevin: It was great getting back out to Seattle and northern California. We hadn't been up that way in about two years, so it was great seeing all of the fans in that area. We played Los Angeles for the first time: sold out. We played San Diego for the first time: sold out. It's crazy to see the growth and love. 
Josh: It was the best tour we've ever had. For sure. 
That's amazing. Keep that momentum rolling right into festival season. So you released a new album, Instinct, earlier this year. How was this recording experience different from those in the past?
Kevin: I think the meat of it is really cool. We did a lot more live recording, which gives it a really unique sound. All three of us were able to play in the studio together and feed off of the improvisation we came up with on tour. These ideas would evolve night by night. We were able to come home and live record these ideas instead of writing them from scratch, which we had done more of in the past. A few of the songs still developed that way, but the meat of it had a really fresh feel to it. 
Josh: It's also the first full length record that I've played on.
Kevin: That's right. First full length with Josh. A lot more analog synths. Been doing a lot of production techniques that we're just learning this year. Using less mics and taking a more minimalistic approach with the electronic sounds as well. Just using what you need to get the juice out of certain sounds that you want. 
Chris: We did a lot of songs that came to us through improvisation. Everything evolved from there. We got a lot out of the entire process. It was a really fun recording experience. 
From what I've heard, one of the next things we can expect is a remix on a Lettuce tune. Is that something you can elaborate on?
Kevin: Absolutely. It will be released as soon as we complete the finishing touches. We have some killer artwork that Mike Tallman did for us. I'm expecting that it will be released during mid to late May. We've been working on it for about a year and a half. We got the samples from Adam Dietch (drummer from Lettuce) a while back. He's a really good friend of ours in Denver. 
It's been one of those things where you're chipping away at this project for a while. It was essentially finished about a year ago. They asked us to hold off until the entire LP remix was finished. We decided we would play it live and keep making it doper. We've continued to add little things to it. It's a super crazy, psychedelic track. I think putting off the release was actually a blessing. It's given us another six months to refine it. 
Check out SunSquabi's "Night Moth" here:
It's funny how things work out sometimes. Which Lettuce track is this again?
Kevin: It's called "The Love You Left Behind." It's got these great female vocals in it and a lot of great guitar playing.
Josh: Lettuce is collectively one of our favorite bands. They're definitely an inspiration to us. 
Kevin: Working with them directly was pretty special. Hopefully we'll be able to play some more shows with those guys in the future. 
That would make for a hell of a pairing. There wouldn't be a dull moment on a Lettuce / SunSquabi bill. 
Kevin: We like to think so too. (laughs).
Getting back to the topic of festival season. You guys are playing Bonnaroo this year. That's obviously a big deal. Camp Bisco and Summer Camp are also coming up. 
Kevin: We're stoked to play three sets at Summer Camp this year. 
Chris: There's also Disc Jam up in New York. 
Kevin: I'm really excited about getting back to Summer Camp. I think we were there for six years in a row. Last year, we did Electric Forest instead, which was awesome. Summer Camp brings together a lot of our closest friends. 
Chris: It was one of the first festivals we ever played back in...2012?
Kevin: There's a little bit of a different feel with not playing there last year. We're coming back this time around, and we get to play three sets. 
Josh: I'm also really excited for ARISE Music Festival. It's basically the highest we've ever been billed on a festival. It's right at home in Colorado, so that's our big summer play for the hometown people. 
Chris: We're playing The Werk Out Festival in Ohio. That's gonna be a really fun one. There are a couple more announcements coming as well. 
Well you've obviously got two big sets coming up this evening. First, you get to play a prime time set this evening here at SweetWater 420 Festival. Then you're heading over to Aisle 5 for an afterparty that's been sold out for weeks. How do you formulate the setlists on a day like today. What's the strategy with the festival set versus the late night set?
Kevin: Honestly, it's different every single time. We've had a pretty crazy 24 hours getting down here. We'll take this whirlwind of energy and channel it directly into the music. Take that energy and turn it into something constructive for everyone. I think we're gonna play pretty loud, fast, and hardcore today. We're a little pissed off (laughs). You know what I mean? We will probably write the setlist shortly after we finish this interview. 
For the late night set, we won't really worry about that until we get there. We're gonna play what we want to play today. No repeats ever, obviously. Even though, it's a much smaller club. There are going to be a lot more people here. We try not to let too many outside factors play into the set. Just play what we're feeling at the moment. That feels like the most genuine approach, when you're put on a platform of a festival. Be yourself.
Josh: With the late nights, we tend to have more sit-ins and experimental jams.
Are there any confirmed guests for the Aisle 5 show tonight? 
Kevin: We've talked to a few people. [Michael] Menert is in town, so I think he's gonna stop by and do some free styling. We've been doing that with him for years. It's crazy. The late nights are always fun. We tend to get pretty loose. We've been looking forward to this day for a while now.
Check out a few shots from SunSquabi at 420 Fest via Ryan Lewis:

Adam MacDougall of Circles Around the Sun: A Band Beyond Description April 24, 2019 13:58

Words by Josh Hettermann

Photo by ontheDL Photo

Not long into a conversation with Adam MacDougall, the keyboard aficionado who has played with The Black Crowes and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, he remarked, “This is without a doubt the most serendipitous band I’ve ever been in.” It takes a deeper understanding of Circles Around the Sun, the outfit MacDougall was referencing, to fully comprehend that statement.

The group, popularly referred to as CATS by fans and industry professionals alike, assembled in 2015 and recorded Interludes for the Dead, which was broadcasted at the set break of the 5 Grateful Dead 50th anniversary shows that year. Joined by his CRB bandmate Neal Casal and veteran musicians in bassist Dan Horne and drummer Mark Levy, MacDougall and the group recorded what he readily admitted, “Wasn’t really an album... but more a reflection on iconic Grateful Dead tunes that were danceable and fun.”

The response from the hundreds of thousands of fans both at the shows and those streaming at home was influential in the band’s decision to pursue further musical exploration together. Acknowledging this, MacDougall quipped, “So whenever everyone was sitting there packing their bongs or making cocktails or whatever at set break, we were strapped on to the back of those shows. It was huge.” After cutting their teeth with a few live performances in the following year, the foursome reconvened at Castaway 7 Studios in Ventura, CA in 2018 to record their sophomore album Let it Wander.

The record is not an enormous departure from Interludes for the Dead, but it most certainly displays the band’s growth as a cohesive unit and their desire to create a more original sound. If Interludes was a rhythmic dip in a tide pool, Let it Wander is a journey into the waves and depth of the ocean.

Touching on the serendipity that MacDougall referenced earlier, a notable track from the record is “A Song for Chuck,” which features a toast from the legendary Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, who records at the same studio. Chuck stopped by while Circles was laying down one of their rhythms for the new album and liked the sound, so studio head JP Hesser asked him if he wanted to come back and add his voice to the track’s intro. Chuck happily obliged. Despite whatever title for the track the band had in mind, “A Song for Chuck” just fit better. Such is the benefit of recording instrumentals.

Let it Wander was released to universal acclaim and has coincided with the band’s steady rise as a major player in the current live music scene. When speaking of this success, MacDougall credited the group’s potentially risky decision to open for the tour de force that is Greensky Bluegrass for a dozen shows in early 2019. “You don’t open shows to make money... but once we saw some of the venues we would be playing (with Greensky), like the Beacon in New York, we couldn’t turn it down.” A highlight of that stretch of shows, undoubtedly, was when Adam and CATS’ guitarist Neil Casal sat in with Greensky at the iconic Tabernacle in Atlanta.

The success of that stretch lead Circles Around the Sun to book their first major headlining tour, starting this Saturday in Austin at Antone’s Nightclub. While this two month tour will hit many of the similar Southeastern markets that the group played with Greensky, it also includes new markets, “Like Texas... which is scary!” It also includes a stop at the up and coming Aiken Bluegrass Festival in South Carolina, where they will join fellow Greensky tour opener Cris Jacobs Band as one of the only non-bluegrass bands on the lineup. MacDougall doesn’t see this as a challenge, though, stating, “If we can make people dance for a few hours, that’s all we really care about.”

Adam MacDougall has an enviable enthusiasm about being a part of this band. “I get to play with really great friends and great people. I’ve known Mark forever and Dan is an incredible bass player, and Neal and I have built a musical language for almost a decade now.” Circles Around the Sun is undoubtedly one of the hottest acts in the current live music scene. “This is my retirement plan,” said a laughing MacDougall. “I could easily sit back in an easy chair with this band for as long as people will have us.” He better get comfortable in that chair... Circles Around the Sun have only just begun to rise.

Check out Circles Around the Sun's "One for Chuck" here:

10 Reasons Not to Miss SweetWater 420 Festival April 18, 2019 01:33

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Let's be honest. We've reached that point in the week where all we can think about is the music that lies ahead. Over the last three years, SweetWater 420 Festival has become arguably my favorite annual tradition. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that the anticipation is more than a distraction today. Many of you reading this will join me in feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve tonight.
This festival will once again offer one of the strongest lineups of the year, featuring countless genres from across the musical spectrum. We'll likely witness some special collaborations, such as that blazing "Statesboro Blues" from Tedeschi Trucks Band and Brandon "Taz" Niederauer last year.
As a method of burning the time and preparing for what's ahead, I put together a list of ten reasons why you just don't want to miss out on this festival. Check out the full rundown below and make sure be smart, stay hydrated, and be kind to those around you this weekend!

1. Two nights of Widespread Panic. Need we say more?

  • Let's face it. This festival is in the heart of Panic country, and there is not a more prime candidate to close out the festival on Saturday and Sunday night. The band's history in Atlanta is well documented, most recently completing a three-night New Year's run at The Fox Theatre that we're still trying to comprehend. Being back in Georgia always seems to bring out the best in the band, and if anyone understands the level of expectation for these four sets, it's these guys right here.
  • In case you missed it, Panic's last 420 Fest performance fell on Sunday, April 23rd in 2017. The show kicked off in powerful fashion with "Disco" > "Arleen" and made for one of the hottest festival shows in recent years. I think it's safe to assume there will be much more where that came from this weekend.

2. Joe Russo's Almost Dead: There are tribute bands, and then there's JRAD.

  • Prepare to hear the music of the Grateful Dead like you've never heard it before. If you've had a chance to catch this band before, you know to expect the unexpected. These guys use the Dead's catalog as a launching pad into another dimension, and there's no telling where they'll take a jam at any given moment. Friday night will be dominated by the two-and-a-half hour set from Joe Russo's Almost Dead.
  • The all-star cast features Joe Russo (drums/vocals), Marco Benevento (keys/vocals), Tom Hamilton (guitar/vocals), Scott Metzger (guitar/vocals), and Dave Dreiwitz (bass/vocals). 

3. Stay in tune with the jam scene's hottest rising acts.

  • While the lineup is consistently diverse, you can always count on 420 Fest to feature several of the jam scene's hottest rising acts. Take a look at this year's lineup, and you'll see exactly what we mean. 
  • Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Billy Strings, Big Something, & Turkuaz  are absolutely "can't miss acts" this year. There is a reason that you continue to see these names rise on festival billings each year. You can also find them packing out venues across the country, while releasing new, original material that we're all singing along with in no time. 
  • Surely you're familiar with the mad scientist known as Keller Williams. Have you heard about Grateful Grass though? This set is appropriately scheduled for 12:00 PM on Easter Sunday. Bring your bible, 'cause Keller's gonna take us all to church.
  • Everyone Orchestra will feature a fully improvised set from members of Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Jane's Addition, Greensky Bluegrass, and more on Saturday at 2:30 PM. 

4. This lineup offers a beautiful variety that any music fan can enjoy. 

  • It's a challenge to even begin keeping up with the amount of annual music festivals in 2019. While many of the these lineups are designed to cater to a specific fan base, such as jam bands or bluegrass, 420 Fest steps outside the box. While there's plenty of jam over the weekend, major national acts such as The Avett Brothers, Moon Taxi, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Rebelution, and Iration

5. THE BEER: Who could forget about the beer?

  • You'd be hard pressed to find a brewery with tastier options from top to bottom. This brewery's impact on the city of Atlanta, our beloved music scene, and the entire Southeast, really, can't be overstated. 
  • Prepare to see the following SweetWater brews across the festival 420 Pale Ale, IPA, 420 Strain G-13 IPA, 420 Strain Mango Kush Wheat Ale, Peach Love & Happiness, and Guide Beer: A Lager.
  • Have you heard about the artist collaboration brews? This year you will find the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong's IPPPA, Iration's Already Gold, and Fruition's "Fruition's Fire." 
  • Take a break from the sun and stop by the SweetWater Experience Tent, a weekend-long craft beer centric event where you can taste your way through 25 unique styles of SweetWater beers. Enjoy presentations a wide variety of topics. We've included the schedule for the SweetWater experience below.

6. Sustainability: SweetWater 420 Fest's eco-friendly focus grows stronger each year.

  • Did you know that 420 Fest started as an Earth Day celebration in 2005? Festival organizers continue to go the extra mile each year with so many ways you can contribute. 
  • Make sure to purchase your refillable Steelys cup to do your part and protect the environment this weekend.
  • Make sure to stop by the Planet 420 Eco-Village, where the majority of environmental workers spend the weekend raising awareness for Mother Earth. Hands-on workshops engage attendees and educate them on how to become more eco-friendly in their day-to-day lives. 
  • The festival offers a heap of transportation options, such as MARTA and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which allow for eco-friendly choices to avoid the hassle of parking downtown. 
  • To date, 420 Fest has donated over $120,000 to various neighborhood organizations including CPNO, Park Pride, and Friends of Candler Park (where the festival was previously held).

7. You never know what you'll find in the artist + craft vendor market.

  • There's more to SweetWater 420 Fest than just music and beer. Each year, dozens of artists and craft vendors from across the country are showcased at the 420 Fest Artist Market. You never know what you might stumble across amongst your artist village at a major music festival. Arrive a little early or maybe even take a break from the music and check out the entire festival grounds this year. 

8. Lyrics & Laughter Stage will put a smile on your face.

  • While the SweetWater Stage and 420 Strain Stage get the majority of the attention, one of our favorite elements of 420 Fest is the Lyrics & Laughter Stage, which is presented by Aisle 5. This stage hosts a mix of both local, up-and-coming bands, as well as a handful of nationally touring acts. We're especially excited for Cory Wong of Vulfpeck (Friday), SunSquabi (Saturday), Zach Deputy & The Yankees (Sunday), Hedonistas (Saturday),  Flow Tribe (Friday), Travers Brothership (Friday), Voodoo Visionary (Sunday), and The Orange Constant (Sunday). 
  • You don't want to miss out on Joe Pettis and Andrew Michael either. These two stand up comedians will perform on each day in between various sets on the Lyrics & Laughter stage. Click here to check out the schedule. 

9.  Got a minute to give? Don't miss the 4:19 Auctions.

  • The 420 Fest band charity auction will benefit each participating artists charity of choice. Participating artists include Widespread Panic (Tunes for Tots), The Avett Brothers (Press On), Joe Russo's Almost Dead (Atlanta Community Food Bank), Rebelution (Atlanta Music Project), Moon Taxi (We're Hear For You), Claypool Lennon Delirium (Atlanta Community Food Bank), Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (Music In The Park), SunSquabi (Can'd Aid Foundation), Billy Strings (Nicholas House), Cory Wong (Conscious Allience), BIG Something (Atlanta Music Project), Fruition (Atlanta Music Project), Pink Talking Fish (Positive Legacy), and Turkuaz (Positive Legacy)...just to name a few.
  • Auction items include concert tickets, signed memorabilia, photos, meet & greets, and more. Mobile bidding began on April 16th and lasts through the end of the weekend. CLICK HERE to register for online bidding.

10. There's some serious after shows to choose from. Killer late night sets across the city.

  • Not quite ready to call it a night after the headliner? No problem. The afterparties surrounding this year's festival are as strong as you'll find anywhere. Terminal West will host Ghost Light on Friday night and Billy Strings on Saturday. Aisle 5 will host Voodoo Visionary on Thursday, Higher Learning on Friday, SunSquabi on Saturday, and Knower + Nate Wood Four on Sunday. Additional afters shows we're keeping an eye on include Bird Dog Jubilee Schema at Cotton Club (downstairs at the Tabernacle) on Friday and Runaway Gin "Make Phish Evil Again" at The Loft on Friday.

Here's a quick video recap from the 2018 festival:

    Check out the full weekend schedule and map out your weekend below!

    Year Two of Ghost Light: An Interview with Tom Hamilton April 16, 2019 13:47

    Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

    Photo by Donna Winchester: DonnasPics

    In preparation for Ghost Light's upcoming run through the southeast, we recently sat down with guitarist / vocalist Tom Hamilton to learn more about what what we can expect from the band in year two, their recent album release, and much more. With scheduled performances in Nashville (4/16), Asheville (4/17), Charleston (4/18), Atlanta (4/19), and Charlotte (4/20), southern jam fans have plenty of options. The tour continues on April 24th at Zydeco in Birmingham, and you can enter to win a pair of tickets by sharing this interview from the Live & Listen Facebook page. See below for our full conversation with Tom, and make sure you don't miss out on this run!

    Let's start off by talking about your personal journey. You've toured the country and been involved with a number of projects. How would you describe the journey thus far?

    Tom: Yeah man. It's been a long go, I guess. I started playing at bars when I was twelve, and I just turned forty. That's a good amount of time. It's funny. Starting that early, there was never really an option. There was no "plan B," so to speak. This is just what you do, because you love to play music. Starting in middle school, I was a student with a part time job. On the weekends, I played concerts. It's always been like that. Up until about four years ago, I always had a job as well. It's something I did because I loved to do it. 

    With my first band, Brothers Past, that was a college experience. I lived with a bunch of dudes. It was like living in a frat house. None of us knew what the fuck we were doing...with any of it. That was a van full of 21 to 24 year old kids with no internet or iPhone. We had an atlas and a van. It was just like, "Ok...I guess we're gonna drive to fuckin' Cleveland today!" That kind of fell apart unfortunately, or I guess fortunately, because I'm ok with where I am now. I love being in a band. I've always enjoyed that comradery and the hang in general. It's something I've always been super into. 

    Clearly. Things have obviously come a long way since then. Joe Russo's Almost Dead has really taken off. I'm sure that's been a bit of a game changer for you personally. How much have things changed since then?

    Tom: Hmm...I don't think things have changed personally. You're talking to me right now. I'm in Columbus, Ohio at a 300 person venue that I've played a bunch of times over the course of my life. I've been on the road for four weeks. I'm in a van with five other people. This could be April 11th 2019. This could also be April 11th 2001. There's not that much of a fucking difference. 

    The JRAD thing has been amazing. You're right. It's provided so many opportunities and has made it more feasible, or maybe more comfortable, to do what I'm doing right now. I'm still doing the same shit though. I still have the same goals. I started Ghost Light last year, and fortunately, my experience over the years and the entire organization has allowed us to grow a lot in our first year of existence. It hasn't changed my goals, which are to be in a band with a group of people that is based around original music. 

    That's what I like to do. I like to make interesting records. I feel like I've stuck to my guns, you know? When I was a kid, in my mid-twenties, someone asked me to take a gig with this band that just wasn't my cup of tea. It wouldn't have been something that I believed in and enjoyed. I would have just done it for the money. I turned it down, and at the time, I was fucking poor. I had been living on Joe Russo's couch for the better part of four years. I had changed my residence to a couch in The Disco Biscuits' studio in Philadelphia. I was sleeping on that couch or in my car, so it's not like I was in a position to be picky about gigs. I didn't want to just do something for the money. My buddy thought I was crazy. I told him the only gig I'd ever consider doing that wasn't my music was something related to the Grateful Dead. That's how I started listening to and playing music.

    So when the JRAD thing came together, I was all about it. I love the Grateful Dead. That music is a part of my DNA and a part of my existence. I've been lucky that I've been able to get to this point. I'm not fucking Bono or anything. I'm just a working musician, but I'm able to make a living doing it. I can look in the mirror everyday because I got here doing what I wanted to do. I didn't have to take a bunch of bullshit gigs that I didn't believe in, and there's a small sense of satisfaction with that. 

    Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

    I can imagine so. So more specifically, Ghost Light is entering year two now. You guys have covered a lot of ground thus far. Packing out venues from day one. How has this experience been for you thus far, and what stands out the most when looking back on year one?

    Tom: Oh man. It's been really interesting. The response has been crazy...and heartwarming. It's really nice that people are taking a chance on coming out and seeing this band. I feel like most of the reaction has been very positive. Those people seem to enjoy it and are likely to come back again. That's a nice feeling, because there's a lot of stock in the tribute thing right now. It's nice to know that people are still open minded enough to come check out a new original band that isn't playing Grateful Dead or Phish tunes. 

    That's gotta be encouraging, especially considering that this is a brand new band performing new original material. A lot of people are coming out and giving you guys a chance without having a whole lot of familiarity with the band's catalog. 

    Tom: Absolutely. I'm really proud of our management team. They've done an amazing job getting our live material out there into the ether and consciousness of the listener. Whether it's through live recording on or video clips, it's been great to see the positive reaction. People are willing to pay their hard earned money to see us play. There's only so many people and only so much money people have to spend. When someone chooses to spend that time and money on us, it's a pretty special feeling.

    It's been about three weeks since the release of the band's debut album, Best Kept Secrets. The band ultimately decided to release two singles prior to the full album release. What do you feel are some of the positives and negatives of releasing a new album in the modern digital era?

    Tom: Honestly, I think it's all positives. You're putting out an album. You create a piece of art, that is ideally something that really matters. It's part of being a creative person. I've never taken that lightly. I love albums, but I do realize that, in some ways, it is the less desired form of consumption. That doesn't mean you stop cutting albums though. There are plenty of people that still appreciate it. So yeah, I think it's all positives man. I look at as a piece of art, a statement, and piece of yourself. It's a very important landmark in your life. I look back on my life and career thus far, and the albums reflect my experiences. They're great chapters. It's a really exciting thing for me. 

    Absolutely. I'm sitting here looking at Spotify right now. The first single you released was "Best Kept Secrets," and it's already sitting with 72,000+ streams. The various streaming networks certainly give you the ability to reach a wide audience quickly, which is valuable.

    Tom:'s all good man. Even if people don't like it, I'm cool with it. As long as it's out there. 

    You mentioned that you're a few weeks in to a three month tour across the country. What habits and patterns have you developed over the years to keep a sound mind and body while living on the road?

    Tom: Oh man. That's a great question. I try not to take anything too personally. We're out here, and we have a mission. We're out here to make this music and present ourselves to the masses. Personally, I just try to keep my eye on the ball. Obviously, the hang is important. Having fun is important. At the end of the day, I try to keep my head on straight. Be conscious of what the goal is. There are days off, and someone might want to go for a hike. Maybe it's best for me (and best for the show) if I just chill and recharge the batteries. Maybe going for a hike is the best thing another day. Being self aware and always trying to do what's best for the three hours you have to put everything out on stage, you know?

    That makes sense. I know that you take a lot of pride in keeping things fresh and putting on a unique show every night. How does each set play out with preparation vs. improvisation?

    Tom: It's one of my favorite parts of the process. We don't ever have a setlist. We have a song list, maybe eight songs, that we know we want to play. We just go out there, play, and figure it out as the show unfolds. As we're walking on stage, we'll decide on a starting point. That's about the extent of the planning. Whatever happens happens. We try to have strong communication on stage, and if someone brings the band to a certain song, then that's where we go. We get there, play that tune, and keep moving. 

    Photo by Donna Winchester: DonnasPics

    What is the band's approach towards covers? Is there much focus on keeping a fresh rotation?

    Tom: Here and there. Personally, I don't care that much about it. I get my fill playing covers with JRAD. With Ghost Light, we try to throw in some covers to keep things fresh. I try not to give too much credence to that shit. A lot of the blogs out there focus on when a band plays a certain cover. Why not give more coverage to their original music, you know? (laughs). Personally, I try not to put too much weight into the cover thing. We have some cool ones on the list that are certainly outside the box. We do an 80's Kinks song and a Shins tune. Those aren't covers that a lot of people in our scene are going to expect. 

    I like that approach. It's always refreshing to hear a cover that hasn't been done a million times. 

    Tom: Yeah man. We like to try some different things and throw in a few deep cuts. 

    Before we wrap things up, I was curious to know how you're balancing things out between JRAD and Ghost Light. How do you see the calendar playing out for the rest of 2019?

    Tom: Honestly, balance isn't really a luxury that I have. JRAD does 40 shows a year, and that's that. Ghost Light is probably going to do 80 to 100. That's what you have to do to grow a band and build something new. 

    That's almost half the year already.

    Tom:'s a lot of fucking time (laughs). To quote The Godfather Pt. 2, "this is the business we have chosen." I don't know man. I've just always tried to work as hard as I can. Put your head down, dig in, and do the job. Good things will happen. They might not happen right when you want them to. I would have rather had this kind of success when I was in my twenties, and not have to wait 'til my late thirties, but it still came. I believe it's because I work very hard. I think that's a truth that anyone would try to deny. It is what it is. 

    Balance is something I'll worry about in a few years. Maybe when I get to fifty, I'll try to find some balance. At the moment, I love the JRAD thing so much. I love the hang. I love that music. With Ghost Light, we're building something here that people are reacting to. I'm responsible for my bandmates as much as they're responsible for me. I need to work as hard as I can to make sure that their careers are as successful as mine, if not better. There's a lot that needs to happen, but balance isn't really a part of it for me. 

    There's a time and place for everything. It's been a pleasure catching up with you. I really enjoyed interviewing the entire band back in December, but I wanted to make sure we covered some different topics today. 

    Tom: Yeah man. This has been great. If there's anything else you'd like to cover, feel free to ask away.
    You know what? I totally forgot to ask you about Ghost Light's new bassist, Dan Africano. How has he fit in with the band thus far?
    Tom: Dan has been great. We really got lucky that he was available and interested. He's a really cool guy, and he's very focused on being great at his job. What else can you really ask for? There's no ego there. He learned all of our tunes in about three days. He has a great work ethic, and it's been a great experience getting to know him both musically and personally. We're really lucky to have him.
    That's great to hear. I'll be looking forward to catching the upcoming Ghost Light shows in Atlanta and Birmingham, and of course JRAD at SweetWater 420 Festival. 
    Tom: Sounds great man. We'll see you there!
    Stream Ghost Light's debut album Best Kept Secrets here:

    Second Annual SandJam Brings Massive Lineup to Panama City March 28, 2019 23:08


    Press Release via

    (Nashville, Tennessee) – SandJam Presented by Pepsi has released the full lineup for the 2nd annual rock music festival set for April 26, 27 & 28, 2019 at Panama City Beach’s M.B. Miller Pier. Kings of Leon, Third Eye Blind and Young The Giant are set to headline, and over 20 more acts are scheduled to perform on two massive stages set right on the beautiful white sand over the three days. Tickets are currently available at
    The headliners will be joined by Cold War Kids, Dirty Heads, The Revivalists, Blackberry Smoke, Anderson East, Kongos, Max Frost, JJ Grey & Mofro, Yeasayer, Alice Merton, The Shadowboxers, Brandon “Taz” Niederaurer, Them Dirty Roses, Heritage, Matt and Kim, Coin, Parachute, We The Kings, The War and Treaty, Kirstie Lovelady and Welles.
    “We are beyond excited about these headliners,” said SandJam Executive Producer Rendy Lovelady. “Kings of Leon and Third Eye Blind are absolutely huge, and Young The Giant looks like they’ll have their first #1 single when the Festival rolls around.” 
    Setting up two large stages directly on the beach is unique to large-scale music festivals. Artists alternate from one stage to the other, so there is very little down time between acts, and music will be virtually non-stop over the three days.
    Over 20,000 music lovers descended on Panama City Beach at the inaugural SandJam Presented by Pepsi. Last July, the Bay County Commission, The Panama City Beach Tourism Development Council and SandJam organizers committed to bring the festival back to the same location for at least the next three years.
    Transforming the M.B. Miller Pier area into a music venue was no small task at the inaugural event. Over 800 sheets of DuraDeck, the same material used by the military to build temporary roads, were placed on the sand to accommodate semi trucks and trailers and other heavy equipment moving tons of gear, staging, sound and lights into place. Food, drink, clothing and craft vendors filled the parking lot, creating a fun atmosphere for attendees to eat, drink, shop and catch up with friends. A massive fireworks display capped an incredible event immediately following Incubus’ headline performance on the final night.
    Stay tuned to FacebookTwitter and Instagram for 2019 SandJam Presented by Pepsi updates regarding talent, tickets, lodging, special offers and more.
    Watch the weekend recap from SandJam 2018 here:


    Blurring Traditions and Definitions with Billy Strings March 21, 2019 11:34

    Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands

    Billy Strings sees you on your phone at his show. And he’s about to make you feel weird about it. Coming off the heels of a monster week at Austin’s SXSW festival, the progressive bluegrass guitarist extraordinaire took a breather before his shows at Pensacola’s Vinyl Music Hall and Suwannee Spring Reunion to chat about his endless touring, how he handles rough crowds, and his band’s embrace of the unknown.

    Though Billy’s fearless guitar playing boggles minds on its own, he has locked in a unit of mandolin, upright bass, and banjo  that is committed to each other and their crowds in a special way. There’s purposeful playing here, but more importantly, there’s a whole lot of fun - the type of fun that forces you to look at strangers to confirm that yes, we all just witnessed that together. Do not miss this show when it comes to town.

    You were immediately surrounded by bluegrass upon birth, but do you think it would have found you if not for your family?

    Billy: I wonder. That’s a great question. You could say it’s 50/50. There’s a lot of people born when I was in 1992 that have no idea what the hell bluegrass is. When I think about it, I am grateful to my father for showing me the music. I attribute it to my parents’ influence.

    And you still play with him a decent amount, don’t you?

    Billy: Absolutely. It’s because of him that I’m out here doing this. I don’t think I would’ve found this bluegrass, at least not to the degree that I’ve fallen in love with it.

    Was there ever any pressure in being labeled a protege?

    Billy: No. Never. In fact, my parents never pushed me either way. It was more like I wanted to play because my dad was so cool.

    Looking at your writing, there’s a lot of darkness in your lyrics, but glimmers of hope shine through. Where does that hope come from?

    Billy: Man, that’s a good question, too.  Waking up everyday and seeing the sun. Seeing my friends, and hoping for the best. Obviously, you can plan for the worst. It’s positivity. I got a lot of negativity, too, with what I write about. I write about poverty and substance abuse. It’s where I grew up - Small Town America. I write about little tiny towns with little tiny high schools, where kids are snorting pills off their desks.

    That authenticity comes through. There’s also an anti-authoritarian, almost us vs. them vibe to a lot of your lyrics and the music backs it up. Where does that sort of writing come from in songs like “On the Line” and “Dealing With Despair”?

    Billy: I don’t think of myself as being separate from animals. It is us vs. them, them being people who are in charge and people who are raping the planet. Government and mines and money, and all this fake bullshit instead of what’s really here on a beautiful planet that we’re all living on together. I have strong feelings about the direction of humanity.

    As you’re reaching more people, do you find that what you are doing is more purposeful? It sounds like you are on a mission to spread that positivity. Is that on purpose?

    Billy: Absolutely. I see how music affects people. They come out to our shows, have a good time with their friends, and smile. That’s important for a lot people who work all week - to just let go. It’s important for me too. When I look out and see somebody get lost in the music and it looks like they’re having a blissful experience, that’s the greatest compliment anyone could ever give me. That’s what satisfies me in a way, knowing that I am spreading positive energy and light.

    How much of that energy in the crowd affects you guys on stage?

    Billy: 110%. I sometimes think of it that I am only as good as the audience. I can only play as well as the audience can play that night. If people are really into the music and interested in what we’re doing, I can and will play my best. The more that people are into it, the better I play.

    How do you power through it when the crowd isn’t as engaged?

    Billy: That’s part of being a pro. You have to face those days. There are ups and downs. There are days where you’re playing a nice arena and the next day you’re going to be explaining to some drunk dude why he can’t play your guitar during setbreak.

    That’s really happened?

    Billy: Oh yeah. Or the harmonica guy - why he can’t come up and play with you. Sorry man, but no.

    How do you keep up with the number of shows you’re doing with how physical you are up on stage? It has to take its toll.

    Billy: I’m glad someone noticed! I was worried that nobody cared about my well-being. No man, I’m really lazy now that I have so many gigs. Whenever I’m not on stage, I just want to relax and totally zen out as much as I can because I give all my energy to the tour and performances. Sometimes, I stay home from the carnival just so I can relax.

    Paul Hoffman from Greensky Bluegrass joked that you never turn down gigs. Do you?

    Billy: Ha! Never! No, I don’t have much to do these days with that part of it. I’ve released all control onto my team. Sometimes, I’ll say, hey we really want to do this gig or do we really have to do this gig, depending on what it is.

    Do you find any limitations with the current acoustic format as far as sounds you might want to be making but can’t because of the instrumentation?

    Billy: These are good questions. Good job. Maybe a little bit. I’m always hoping for this bigger sound, but it is just us four up there. So maybe sometimes if I’m up on stage, I’m just dreaming about this big sound, but it’s just us four up there going “plinky plinky plink”. Maybe I’m just pretending like we have a big sound and trying to come across that way. I do love playing electric guitar, and I do love playing loud, so maybe someday, I will do some gigs with a rock band, but it’s never going to be the main focus.

    So if it happens, you envision it being a separate entity?

    Billy: Yeah, a side project, or you might see “Billy Strings Electric” on a festival bill. For the most part, this progressive bluegrass is what we’re doing.

    Along those same lines, psychedelia has obviously had a huge impact on your sound, but how has it affected your  approach to playing and the intention behind it?

    Billy: It makes me want to be less mechanical and technical and be more spiritual and soulful. I want to reach deep into my soul and pull out emotions and have them regurgitated through my guitar. That’s what it’s about. And also the freedom of it. Getting into the Grateful Dead and stuff like that. Studying Jerry taught me a freedom in music that I didn’t learn in bluegrass. Bluegrass is really structured and you have your set solos and everyone takes their turn. There are fiddle tunes where everybody knows the melody and where they go. Rarely are we 100% purely jamming - just reading each other’s emotions and going for it. So I’ve found out that I really like doing that more and more now. I really like trying to play stuff where we don’t really know what the hell we are doing, but it sounds cool.

    A lot of what you just said there, I think, also speaks to Col. Bruce’s influence on you, even if it was after he passed. Is that the case?

    Billy: He’s one of the greatest at those things that I’m talking about. Everything’s out there in the ether. The music. The weirdness. The sounds. The emotions. They’re all out there. You have to reach out there and grab them and spit them out of your guitar somehow. It’s a weird energy thing. People like Col. Bruce and other improvisational jazz players tap into this other realm and spit it out. I don’t really know how to explain it because I don’t fully understand it myself.

    It’s obvious the crowd feeds off of how you embrace that unknown.

    Billy: We know just as little about what we’re going to do next than what the crowd does.. We’re just as surprised when we land something.

    Are you able to take in any shows as a spectator?

    Billy: Not as much as I’d like to because usually when I am at a show, I am working in some way. I don’t go to many concerts. Something in the back of my head lately has been telling me that I need to go see more shows as a stress reliever. I want to go see Tedeschi Trucks Band again,  along with so much other good stuff going on right now.

    Do you ever see people talking in the middle of your shows and if so, what’s the Billy Strings way of telling them to shut the fuck up?

    Billy: Play some really weird shit on my guitar and stare directly at them. I do that sometimes if I see someone just looking at their phone. I will play a bad note, something that sounds like shit, just so that person’s like, “Wait, what?!”. And then they’ll notice I’m staring right at them and they’re like, “Oh, fuck, I am busted.”

    Called out by the man.

    Billy: Totally. I’m not going to get on the mic and tell people what to do, but I’ll play that weird stuff until they notice.

    Last question - are you linking up with fiddler John Mailander at Suwannee Spring Reunion?

    Billy: Oh, shit!

    He’s there all weekend.

    Billy: He reached out to me and I am an asshole.

    I wouldn’t complain if you made that happen.

    Billy: You just reminded me is what you did, that I need to make that happen. So yes, and thank you for the reminder.


    An In-Depth Look at Little Raine Band's 'Dreamwalker' March 19, 2019 16:15

    Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

    The state of Alabama has long played an integral role in the development of American music, most notably blues and country. The groundwork of a rich musical culture was laid in the early 20th century, and the resulting influence can be felt more than ever today. This culture continues to serve as a hotbed for diverse, vibrant music from across the musical spectrum. Somewhere between the realm of jazz and psychedelia, you'll find Birmingham's Little Raine Band, who have been grinding across the Southeast for the better part of a decade. 

    It's been nearly four years since the release of Liveheart, LRB's first full length album. As you might expect, the band has accumulated an arsenal of new originals since 2015. To the excitement of many, rumors of a new release began circulating over the last year. These rumors became a reality on March 8th when the band released their sophomore album, Dreamwalker. While live recordings have their own unique appeal, there's nothing quite like hearing those studio cuts for the first time. It's always exciting getting your hands on an album you have anxiously awaited, and Dreamwalker was worth every minute of anticipation.

    This album has the feel of a concept piece, ultimately telling a story as one track leads into the next. It's never a bad idea to start off with a heavy hitter, and that's exactly what they did. The title track, "Dreamwalker," sets the tone immediately as Daniel Raine (keyboards/vocals) subtly lures you in. The rhythm section couldn't be tighter on this one. Drummer Justin Sledge drives the band straight into the opening verse, and there you get your first taste of Isaiah Smith's unmistakable slap bass lines. Davis Little (guitar) is a master of his craft, and "Dreamwalker" features an impressive balance of heavy riffs and scorching solos. These elements are complimented by Raine's soft, raspy vocals in what truly feels like a stroll through one's dream. 

    As "Dreamwalker" peacefully dwindles, the transition into "Fiery Hoop" begins. The soft, tasteful clapping which precedes Little's opening guitar riff is the perfect touch. LRB has always done a phenomenal job showcasing the vocals of both Raine and Little, who takes the lead on "Fiery Hoop." I find myself coming back to this track several times a day. The lyrics are clever, powerful, and inspiring. The guitar work is uplifting and nostalgic, and the tune as a whole is pretty damn catchy. These are the characteristics of a great song. I expect this tune to stay in heavy personal rotation for the foreseeable future. 

    The dream-like state is revisited as the band works its way into "Trying to Fly." The lyrics allude to a struggle in which we can all relate to: "Here I am, just trying to fly. Just can't get my feet off the ground. Too many things, keep fogging my mind. Just can't figure it out." There is a very ambient vibe which ultimately drops into a killer jazz section. Another beautiful showcase of the skill that all four members bring to the table. Sledge and Smith keep things tight and creative, making way for Little and Raine to work their magic. 

    "Fooling Around" drifts back towards the upbeat, danceable melodies that you feel during "Fiery Hoop." I find myself following Sledge's every move behind the kit here. You're gonna want to get up dance to this one. Maybe do a little "Fooling Around" yourself? Little once again delivers an inspiring message, and it's one of those songs that puts a smile on your face. Any time you have Taylor Hunnicutt lending a hand on vocals, you're in for a treat. She adds a special component that very few are capable of. 

    Things calm down a bit with "No Man's Land," and the band steers back into that dream-like state. The versatility of this group is what makes them so special, and this song proves that as much as any. Little is best known for his complex riffs and mind-bending solos, but he's equally impressive on the pedal steel. "No Man's Land" makes that perfectly clear, while making room for some blissful harmony vocals as well.

    I experienced some serious deja vu when the opening notes of "Artificial Love" hit. While a handful of these songs have a familiar sound, this is an LRB original that I've grown to know and love over the years. You'll hear that classy, elegant jazz sound that the band has perfected in their young career. Tragic City's Desmond Sykes takes you to church on the sax, while Raine attempts to guide you to another galaxy. Smith digs deep on the low end, and things get nice and weird before you know it. The band ultimately lands back in that familiar jazz-driven bliss that is sure to make you dance.

    The synth vibes are strong with "Other Side." I can't decide whether this tune feels more like a scene from Stranger Things or an early 90's video game, but I dig it. You really get a taste of Raine's entire arsenal here. Sledge shines on each transition, and Little never fails to deliver some tasteful licks. 

    The final track comes in the form of "Settled Sun." I'm not sure if the band ever really leaves the dream-like state, but you can definitely feel it throughout this tune. Smith's graceful playing stands out from the opening notes. They couldn't have finished in more appropriate fashion. A multi-layered, complex tune on all fronts. This band has a lot of jazzy moments, but "Settled Sun" might take the cake. 

    As I mentioned earlier, this release has been on my radar for some time. LRB would be the first to tell you that this was past due. At the end of the day, some great things take time, patience, and persistence. The band's loyal fans now have another serious piece of music to sink their teeth into. "Dreamwalker" was every bit as impressive as we've come to expect from this band. The Birmingham-based four-piece seems poised for its biggest year year. This album will stand the test of time as a pillar of the band's existence.

    Stream the album in its entirety here:

    Sermons of Suwannee: Jeff Mosier on the Healing Power of Music March 19, 2019 16:03

    Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands

    It shouldn’t surprise you that a man nicknamed “Reverend” has a lot to say. Rev. Jeff Mosier, the longtime right hand man of spiritual jam forefather, Col. Bruce Hampton, is a jamgrass pioneer in his own right. But more important than that is his uniquely purposeful approach to live music. Here, he speaks with Live & Listen about the brain of the improviser, the magic of the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, and how the lessons of music align with everyday life. Mosier’s words are like his playing. They weave and wander, but in the end, they hits home in an intentional, powerful way.

    Let’s jump right in with this ensemble you’re so excited about. What’s the format?

    Jeff: It’s banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, drums, and electric guitar. The music is very open. We do a lot of improvising and we write. The magic is in the way we present it, almost like chamber music. We sit in the round where we can see each other. We do normal songs too, but it’s the way we play them that makes it different.  It’s the best thing I’ve done and I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to do a live album.

    I’d bet you prefer playing with groups versus solo.

    Jeff: As I’ve gotten older, I’m doing both. I have a solo set planned for Suwanee this weekend. It forces me to use my brain and language more when I’m by myself to do some storytelling mixed with music. When I’m in an ensemble, I use the improvisational Grateful Dead-affected, Col. Bruce nutcase run through the woods naked brain. That’s the brain of a child. The brain of imagination. It’s where all the things he taught me reside - that a band is people yielding their ears one to another in the hopes of becoming bigger than the sum total of their parts.

    You can rehearse something and pull it off or you can get up there and make the donuts, take chances, risk, and do it in front of a live audience. I prefer that. I like having some structure, but improv is what really moves me these days. Now I’m playing with musicians who are all comfortable with improv. I don’t get scared looks on the stage anymore. Anyone I play with knows that anything might happen at any given moment. And nobody ever looks surprised.

    Is that part of the brain something that needs to be developed or does everyone have an inkling of it from the get-go?

    Jeff: It’s more of a philosophy that you apply to your ears. Improvising is not something you can learn. It is feel and how you respond to your environment. That’s how I define it. Feel is how you relate to The One or The Beat. It’s what you leave out. It’s what you put in. As has been said many times - John Hartford said it and many others - style is based on limitations. It’s what you can’t do that defines you, not what you can do. A lot of people who fill up their bucket with skills are people who think they have more to offer than they do. Sometimes, having less to offer affords people opportunities, meaning that musicians who are really good at what they do and don’t reach beyond that are better to play with because they are comfortable with who they are.

    From a spiritual point of view, it’s your philosophy that makes you a good improviser, not your skill set. If you love the concept of improvising, then it lets you get to the point where, as Bruce used to say, you let The Invisible Whip take over. You’re getting to the point where you aren’t playing music, the music is playing you. That’s what I learned when I was in the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Even though I was in a band that could play circles around me, I was an equal with them as far as how open I was. It changed my life at 30 years old. I’ve never been able to go back to formulary music.

    It sounds like a lot of those lessons you’ve learned through music, via Col Bruce or otherwise, translate to the real world and everyday life as well.

    Jeff: They really do. If you keep your expectations low in life and you raise your tolerance for frustration, that space in the middle is mental health. A lot of times, if you raise your expectations too high in music, you miss the point. You want to bring too much to the table. You want to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it’s the simplest of notions that will hit a listener right between the eyes, bring a tear to the eyes, chill bumps to their arms, make them move, dance, think, emote, and realize something. I play music as a spiritual activity. I know it’s entertainment, too, but in my mind, I am playing it as a healing point in the universe. That’s what Albert Ayler called it.

    Right now more than ever, people need that healing aspect, they need it live, and they need it together in a crowd. Festivals are serving a need that we never imagined we’d need. The elephant in the room I don’t even have to mention, but we do need that community. Music is color blind and culture-blind. And is a beautiful reminder of what makes us human.

    Circling back to that communal experience you were talking about. I know you have a theology background. What similarities do you see between the experience of church and that of live music?

    Jeff: Live music creates community very much like the church does. A lot of people that come into music or are at Suwannee are also involved with church. I had to step out of that mold because I was overloaded. I saw the first Moral Majority meeting in Atlanta. I was involved in the hardcore Christian Right growing up.

    When I got into music, it became my new family. I could believe, cry, feel, think, have friends, have ritual, have all the things church provided me, in and around performing and listening to music. We had something in common and the music became the belief system. My biggest belief is that art equals life. No matter what you have to do as a parent, a spouse, a worker, your life is in some way, a creative activity, Hopefully, we are all working to leave a legacy of something that will survive in perpetuity after you’re gone.

    We’re really good at making something out of nothing. We can do it. Sadly, we’re really good at bad ideas as well. We’ve yet to achieve viability as a species. We are only viable to ourselves right now. We’re not doing a good job being viable to the system that spawned us. Music can do that.

    We can do it without being political and playing green songs and all that stuff. We prove ourselves simply by being out there under those trees together, dancing, joking around the fire,  hearing the music and seeing our friends. We sleep. We watch the days go by. We see the weather. We’re in the weather. All that stuff reminds us that we are a part of nature, not apart from it. The more apart from nature we become, the more miserable we are. That’s why we focus on money and government. We’ve lost our way.

    Music holds our hand and brings us back to our senses. That’s why I still do it. For myself, my family, and all the people that enjoy what I do.

    Great stuff, Jeff. Anything else you’d like to add?

    Jeff: Live Oak is the balm. It heals me from missing Bruce, missing Vassar. It gives me a chance at 60 to keep it going as long as I can. So far, so good. That’s all you can do - keep writing, creating, doing interviews with folks like you and you doing your writing, that’s what life is - keeping the ball rolling.

    That’s one of the things I love about these Suwannee roots festivals - you can feel the musical history floating through the air and you have people full of intention, both onstage and out in the crowd that are there with respect for the past but also there for the now.

    Jeff: It’s a special place and it made a huge difference in my kids’ lives. They’re in their 20s, but they started going when they were babies. It taught them everything they needed to know without us having to teach them. It taught them how to be. They decided to be people like the people of Suwannee. And now they’re good people. My little boy used to say, “Why can’t the world be like Suwannee?!”. That’s really it. Why not? I think it can.

    I go there every year in hopes of keeping that going, though it seems like the world’s gone down and that the message has lost its meaning. It’s easy to go there, but I can’t. Gratitude is the attitude.I keep my chin up and post more about the things I believe in and less about the things I don’t.

    The Jeff Mosier Ensemble is scheduled to perform at Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival in Live Oak, FL this weekend. This group features Mosier, Mark Nelson (bass), Leah Calvert (fiddle), Adam Goodhue (drums), Neal Fountain (electric guitar), and Michael David Smith (mandolin). 

    Photo by Andy Estes

    JoJo Hermann Discusses James Booker, New Orleans Piano Influences March 19, 2019 15:13

    Words by Josh Hettermann
    Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
    For an audiophile and music junkie such as myself, there is undoubtedly no greater high than discovering an artist you had never heard before. I may not remember much of my childhood, but I can vividly recall when my father put on a tape cassette of Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus album as we took a drive through the bucolic Shenandoah Valley on the way to one of my older brother’s college basketball games in 1999. I was 8 years old. To this day, the album remains one of my favorites of all time. While I have grown up and changed in many ways, one of the few constants in my life has been my insatiable desire to discover new music.
    When I recently came upon the innovative and self-proclaimed “Best damn record club” and website Vinyl Me, Please a few months back, I was cautiously optimistic that it would introduce me to some hidden gems that I may have missed over the years of my intense and far-reaching musical exploration. Little did I know that the service would open my eyes to, what I now consider, one of the greatest and most underrated artists I have ever listened to. After receiving James Booker’s The Lost Paramount Tapes and spinning it a few times, I was shocked and humbled that I had never heard his legendary piano-driven sound steeped in New Orleans’ rich musical roots.
    The more I researched Booker’s The Lost Paramount Tapes in conjunction with his enigmatic and tragic life, the more serendipitous this story became for me. I discovered that John “JoJo” Hermann, one of my musical icons and the longtime keyboard player and key contributing singer/songwriter of the legendary Athens, GA outfit Widespread Panic, was not only heavily influenced by Booker but also devoted a whole episode of his podcast Key’d In to the album.
    After being linked up through the always-welcoming Widespread PR team, JoJo was kind enough to have a quick conversation with me this past week about Booker and elaborated on how Booker and other NoLa greats influenced him. A common theme early in the conversation was the significance of the “family tree” of New Orleans pianists that legends such as Professor Longhair and Fats Domino cultivated, which inspired both Booker and Hermann alike. JoJo elaborated on these influences further by stating, “Booker was one of the biggest limbs off that whole tree that was Fats, the Professor... but he took it to another level with his syncopated left hand playing and by adding some of these unique, funky notes in there.” He followed this with a humble observation, one that shows his respect for the late Booker, saying, “To tell you the truth, I don’t consider myself really good enough to play him! Not as much as guys like Josh Paxton, (legendary Allman Brothers Band keyboardist) Chuck Leavell and Dr. John, of course.”
    While he is not a born and raised Cajun musician like all the aforementioned artists, JoJo’s reverence and respect for the incredibly rich musical history of New Orleans is apparent throughout the conversation as well as in his play with Widespread Panic and his side projects such as Slim Wednesday. “Street Dogs for Breakfast,” the title track of WSP’s most recent album is a boogie-woogie tune carried by Herrmann’s vocals and keys. While JoJo is modest about his abilities compared to Booker’s, his powerful, clean work on the keys in Panic staples such as their fan-favorite cover of JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High” are most definitely reminiscent of Booker’s similarly strong finger-work on what I think is The Lost Paramount Tapes’ best track in “African Gumbo.” Upon being asked about his playing style and prose, he answered, “It’s all connected to New Orleans and Fats with Little Richard, Doctor John, Huey “Piano” Smith, Art Neville, ya know? It all comes out of that.”
    After trading a few minor anecdotes about Booker’s enigmatic life, including the fabled story of the pianist giving a young Harry Connick Jr. piano lessons in exchange for leniency on drug charges from legendary New Orleans district attorney Harry Connick Sr., JoJo strongly recommended watching the critically acclaimed Lily Keber documentary on Booker’s Life, Bayou Maharajah which premiered to rave reviews at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. “If you see that, you’ll get it!” I’ll take JoJo’s word on that one!
    Discovering James Booker’s music and the readily apparent legacy and influence he continues to have on many prominent artists in the modern music landscape has been an incredible experience. It blessed me with the opportunity to discuss “The Gulf Coast Conundrum” with one of my all-time favorite musicians in JoJo Herrmann. Diving deep into the rhythmic anomaly that is James Booker will forever be one of my most cherished memories as a journalist and music fan. It feels as if I’ve unearthed a time capsule buried in the swampy waters of the Louisiana bayou many years ago, and I have no doubt that there is more to uncover on this enigmatic but supremely talented musician whose influence can be felt all over today’s live music landscape. Circling back to my anecdote about the pure, unadulterated joy of discovering music, I can honestly say that uncovering and dusting off the legendary sounds and story of James Booker has been one of the most rewarding musical and journalistic endeavors of my life. Despite this satisfaction, I have a feeling I’ve only just started to dust the cobwebs off the long forgotten treasure that is Booker’s music and story, and I can’t wait to dig a little more.

    Watch Little Raine Band Cover Cake's "The Distance" March 2, 2019 15:34

    Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

    The world needs more Cake. We've been saying it for years. They've been one of our favorite bands over the last twenty years, and their tour dates are few and far between these days. Fortunately, we've noticed a handful of our favorite bands working Cake tunes into rotation, including a recent take on "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" by The String Cheese Incident last fall (check it out here).

    The latest example surfaced this morning from Little Raine Band's recent take on "The Distance," the hit single from the 1996 release Fashion Nugget. It's not a true Cake experience without a little brass, and Tragic City's Tommy Bowen added a fantastic touch on this one. Check out the complete performance below, and keep an eye out for LRB's new album Dreamwalker, which drops on Friday, March 8th!

    Watch LRB cover "The Distance" at WorkPlay Theatre here:

    Listen to Bird Dog Jubilee's Latest Single "Take Your Breath" March 1, 2019 11:07

    Bird Dog Jubilee’s latest release, “Take Your Breath”, was recorded live at Aisle 5 in Atlanta Georgia. It is a follow up to their previous release “Tabby’s Playhouse” which was also recorded by Andre Griffin on August 31, 2018. “Take Your Breath” will be available on Spotify and everywhere music streams on March 8th, 2019. In the meantime, we're pleased to offer you the exclusive release of the band's latest release. 

    BDJ’s homecoming at Variety Playhouse February 17th, supporting Spafford, established their position in Atlanta’s budding music scene and cemented them as a jovial act here to stay. They have been gaining steam by steadily notching off clutch plays last year including BIG Something support at Terminal West, CBDB support at Georgia Theatre & Song Birds, SweetWater 420 Music Festival, and SweetWater 21st Anniversary Party. They now have their sights set on touring the Southeast.

    They released Album Art, their inaugural 3-song EP, at 420 Fest last year. It was recorded at Prana Studios with Will Clark of Funk You’s and Andy just outside the Atlanta city limits. Whether they are blending old ballads or hashing out new grooves, this is act is always a sight to see at their crux.

    These guys are a collection of instrumentalists that blur the lines between structured songs and improvisational jams.  This is encapsulated by their ability to seamlessly meld tunes while encouraging impromptu collaborations with fellow musicians live on stage.

    Each member has an eclectic set of influences in which they draw inspiration from, but they can always agree on The Band, The Dead, Phish, Allman Bros or My Morning Jacket while on the road. The synergy of each member’s experiences culminate live on stage providing a unique take each time you attend a performance.

    Check out the exclusive stream of "Take Your Breath" here:


    Mandolin Orange Swims Against the Current in 'Tides of a Teardrop' February 26, 2019 15:48

    Words by Josh Hettermann

    Long gone are the days where most musical artists could be defined by a specific genre. To that point, it is no new phenomenon for musicians to straddle the lines between a far ranging sphere of sound and influence. You would be hard pressed to find passionate music fans that could pigeonhole icons such as Pink Floyd into one musical category. The same could be said for legendary artists such as John Prine, Fleetwood Mac and cult favorites like Ry Cooder. That being said, since founding Mandolin Orange in 2009 in Chapel Hill, NC, mandolinist Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz have created as unique and enigmatic a sound as any band we have seen in the modern music landscape. The group’s standout record Tides of a Teardrop, released earlier this month, is a shining example of the sheer talent and versatility as artists.

    Due to the great success of their dynamic and critically acclaimed album Blindfaller in September 2016, which featured standout tracks such as “Hey Stranger” and “Wildfire,” there was reasonably high hopes and expectations for their newest output Tides of a Teardrop upon being announced in late Fall 2018. The duo’s remarkable vocal and instrumental harmonies and seamlessly effortless blending of folk, bluegrass and Americana in their past output justified said hype; it is no overstatement to say that Tides of a Teardrop meets these expectations and more.

    Tides of a Teardrop’s first two tracks were two of the singles released over the months prior to the album’s release. The opening track, “Golden Embers,” was one of these singles. A somber, pensive track, its lyrics speak to a wounded soul reaching out to an old flame. The track features excellent use of a stand-up bass interlude towards the end of the song. “The Wolves” follows, and is undoubtedly a highlight of the album. Andrew Marlin’s vocals and virtuoso mandolin playing seem so effortless and organic that it transports the listener to a peaceful place. Circling back to the opening anecdote of this review, Marlin’s tone changes significantly from the track’s first chorus to its third and final one. He sings the first confidently and steadily, and transforms the third and final chorus with an uptick in his voice, expressing comfort and ease.

    “Into the Sun” is a standout track that showcases Frantz’ beautiful, melodic range. The group’s lyrics range from heartbreak to hope, as Frantz sings, “Just a bird with a broken wing, longing to fly.”

    “Lonely All the Time” displays their roots in traditional bluegrass, with a beautiful harmony between Marlin and Frantz. The supporting honky-tonk guitar provides a refreshing break from the twangy strings of the band’s two leads. Frantz and Marlin’s symmetrical verse to end the song recall the connection that legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette shared on their 1976 collaboration “Golden Ring.”

    There is no doubt that the final track of any album is integral to its perception and legacy amongst fans and critics alike. More importantly, it allows the artist to nail down the ethos and tone that they wish to get across in their art. Tides of a Teardrop’s finale “Time We Made Time” absolutely cements this notion. Frantz’ fiddle carries a somber yet hopeful tune. The song evokes the memories of a distant romance where the participants can hope to always count on each other in times of need. A strong slide guitar and a heavily distorted finish call to mind psychedelic, exploratory rock. Marlin croons of discussions with a strained lover with the lyrics, “Softly, tenderly, using delicate voices.”

    To put it simply, Tides of a Teardrop is a prolonged love letter. It is one full of hope, heartbreak and vulnerability. All of these themes carry discomfort and self-consciousness. By nature, these imperfect aspects of the human condition are undoubtedly difficult to address; this is why Mandolin Orange is so unique as an artist. They create an undeniably original sound, supported by the firebrand that is Frantz’ and Marlin’s virtuoso musicianship. It is refreshing to hear music so heartfelt and sensitive in this day and age, and Tides of a Teardrop is a perfect encapsulation of this true display of human emotion.

    Stream the album in its entirety via Spotify here:

    The Gulf Coast Conundrum: James Booker and The Lost Paramount Tapes February 25, 2019 16:21

    Words by Josh Hettermann

    As technology and society have evolved, art has become increasingly omnipresent in our daily lives. Regardless of whether the audience is millions of fans or a mere few hundred, 21st century technological platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Spotify allow musicians and visual artists a constant opportunity to promote and share their work. Its easy to forget that as recently as 20 years ago, artists had to rely on traditional grassroots methods to get their work out to the public. Robert Johnson is considered the King of the Delta Blues and had a profound influence on musical deities such as BB King, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The remarkable aspect of Johnson’s legacy, though, is that his now fabled raw recordings were released to the public for the first time in 1961, close to 25 years after he unceremoniously passed away. Other famed artists such as Blaze Foley, Johann Sebastian Bach and Vincent Van Gogh belong in the same category by the sheer nature that their work became widely celebrated well after their time.

    James Booker undoubtedly belongs in this category of artists whose work flew well under the radar during their careers. Unlike the aforementioned creatives, though, Booker has yet to achieve the due credit he deserves. The August 2018 vinyl release of his criminally underrated record The Lost Paramount Tapes should be celebrated as a monumental musical achievement.

    Born in 1939 in the historically African American and poverty stricken 9th ward of New Orleans that has produced musical legends such as Fats Domino and the prominent Batiste family, James Carroll Booker III showed an early knack for the piano and honed his skills by playing in local Baptist churches and also as an understudy of the iconic blues pianist Tuts Washington. After a decade of working tirelessly as a session musician, Booker recorded his first studio album The Lost Paramount Tapes at the famed Paramount Studios in Hollywood in 1973 with a talented supporting cast that included band members of New Orleans’ own icon Dr. John. Somehow, the master tapes for these sessions were lost soon after these sessions. Fortunately for us, the recordings were unearthed in 1992 and released in CD form the next year without much fanfare or publicity. At the time, Booker had been dead for close to 10 years after succumbing to heart failure due to years of chronic alcohol and heroine abuse in 1983 at the relatively young age of 43.

    Listen to JoJo Hermann's podcast on The Lost Paramount Tapes here:

    Forgive my wordy preamble. I’ve only included it because it is almost unfathomable to me that someone as mercurial and supremely talented as James Booker could possibly be so underserved and undiscovered in today’s music world. The recent resurgence of vinyl record production has blessed music fans all over the world with the opportunity to discover music they may have never had the chance to listen to before. The Lost Paramount Tapes is a perfect example of this. It was remastered and released on vinyl in August 2018 and is without a doubt a musical masterpiece. By blending elements of boogie-woogie, blues and roots rock, in conjunction with Booker’s visceral and impassioned efforts on the keys, the record is a standout production from start to finish and is Booker’s magnum opus. The second track, “Feel So Bad,” utilizes sturdy percussion and scintillating piano playing from the man himself to create an infectious groove. “Junco Partner” is undoubtedly influenced by the cajun rhythms of Booker’s hometown. The highlight of the disc, though, comes in the instrumental track “African Gumbo.” Booker pays homage to ragtime greats like Scott Joplin with a sustained, funky rhythmic sequence highlighted by excellent guitar work and irresistible saxophone playing by fellow NOLA legend David Lastie. While every single track packs a substantial punch, Booker and his band contributed their own take on the epic T-Bone Walker blues standard “Stormy Monday,” a piece immortalized just two years prior on the Allman Brothers Band’s iconic 1971 Live at Fillmore East record.

    Records like James Booker’s The Lost Paramount Tapes will never top the charts and will undoubtedly never get the credit they truly deserve. “Junco Partner #2,” the most popular track from the disc, has an unremarkable 65,000 plays on Spotify. Despite this, the legacy and influence of artists like Booker is palpable. John “JoJo” Hermann, celebrated by fans and keys enthusiasts alike as the longtime pianist and contributing vocalist for Widespread Panic, recently dedicated a whole episode of his podcast Key’d In to the record. His influence on Hermann’s prose and sound is readily apparent even to novice fans of the group. Plato once said that “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” James Booker embodied those incredibly wise words on The Lost Paramount Tapes, and it is a shame that he is not around to witness his art’s profound impact that continues to this day.

    Stream The Lost Paramount Tapes here via Spotify:


    Bailey Ingle Discusses Debut Single "In Love With The Memories" February 24, 2019 21:22

    Photos + Interview by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

    Bailey Ingle is a native of Hoover, AL and a singer/songwriter known for her warm, soulful voice and charismatic stage presence. At 19 years old, many consider her to be an old soul. Just last week, Bailey held her hometown release party in celebration of her debut single "In Love With The Memories," which is now available on all major streaming outlets. Prior to the show, we sat down with Bailey to learn a little bit more about her journey thus far. See the full conversation below, and make sure to stream the new single.

    When did you first start playing music and what led you to the guitar? 

    Bailey: I started singing when I was three. As soon as I could talk, I was singing. My grandmother can sing and my dad play's guitar, so we come from a really musical family. I sang with Keith Urban, and he asked me if I wanted to play his guitar. I was like, “I don't want to touch your guitar,” because it's amazing. From then on out, I knew I wanted to get to a point where I'm good enough. That way, if he ever asks me again, I'd be able to say, "Heck yeah. I'll play your guitar!" That's essentially what lead me to having a better drive for it.

    I remember when you performed with him at Oak Mountain. You were only about 15 years old. 

    Bailey: Yeah that's right (laughs).

    At what point did you realize this was the career you wanted to pursue?

    Bailey: As soon as I stepped on stage at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater with him. It was as if there was nothing else that I could ever do. I really don't think there's any other calling out there for me.

    Your new single “In Love With The Memories” was released today (Feb. 15th). Tell me about the song and how it reflects on you as an artist.

    Bailey: "In Love With The Memories" is something I wrote with Emily Brook in 2017. It was our first time meeting. It was just one of those things where we thought it would be a trial run. Our chemistry worked great, so we wrote the song in just a few hours. For me, I usually take a lot of time to write. It usually takes me about four hours, but this song flowed perfectly. I feel like it's a good reflection of this side of me. I know I'm nineteen, but I feel like there's a lot of depth to what I can write. It makes you realize you shouldn't stay with someone just because you're in the comfort zone with them.

    How was the studio experience?

    Bailey: It was crazy. I recorded it at Cash Cabin, which Johnny Cash built in Hendersonville TN. Dave Schools produced it. Dave brought in all these musicians that I've idolized the records they've played on from Elvis Presley, Marty Stuart and Aretha Franklin. It was crazy. It was one of those things where it was exhilarating and so exciting but it was also terrifying cause I was eighteen year old and I was like there's no way I'm supposed to be in here this is crazy but it was amazing. 

    Listen to Bailey Ingle's "In Love With The Memories" here:

    You've had the opportunity to work with some great people including some guys from my favorite band Widespread Panic: Steve Lopez and Dave Schools. How did you guys meet and how special has this been?

    Bailey: I met Dave through Steve. I met Steve where I played at an event in January of 2018. A few weeks later, I got a call from my aunt, who knows Steve's wife Ginny basically just saying we were going to be put in touch. We met at a Widespread Panic show and I met Dave. They were just going to pitch me for a project. I didn't know what was going to come from it. They called me the next week and said that Blue Rose wanted me to come up to the cabin and record five songs that I had written. I still really didn't know what was coming from it. I thought it was like a project they were gonna have fun. Like a development kind of thing but then it lead to a record deal with some pretty cool people.

    How is the rest of the year shaping up post-release and what do we have to look forward to from Bailey Ingle?

    Bailey: We have another single coming out pretty soon after this and another music video will come with it. Then we'll have an EP or an album. Then I'll be hitting the road the rest of the year. I think we're gonna try and go the festival route this summer and do as much touring as we can.

    Do you know what festivals?

    Bailey: Not yet. We have some in mind but haven't confirmed any yet.

    I'll be looking forward to those announcements. Before we wrap things up, I'd love to get a little insight from you, Steve. Your track record as tour manager for Widespread Panic is well documented. What ultimately lead to your decision to take on this management role for Bailey? 

    Steve: Before I started tour managing Widespread I managed a couple of other bands. Fast forward to Widespread Panic. I've been with them for nineteen years. Then recently in the past year I decided to potentially start managing again and I picked up a band out of Austin TX. I believe everyone in Bailey's family and their friends kept telling me about her. It was a funeral that actually led me to listen to her. The way she held herself and her composure singing was quite beautiful to the point I left there thinking, "Wow. This girl has something."

    Then a couple of opportunities fell in my lap. I called her on my way to Mexico last year, asked if she wanted me to manage and if so, we could sit down and talk. We did, and I explained to her how I do things. We agreed on something and now, fast forward again, we're here, releasing her new single. It's a pretty cool story and I'm excited to see what she has in store for us. I think she's going to be around for a long time.

    I think you're right. 

    Steve: Yes. For sure.

    Thank you Steve.

    Steve: Thanks Craig.

    This Weekend: Montgomery’s 6th Annual Mardi Gras Block Party February 20, 2019 15:26

    Montgomery’s Downtown Business Association (DBA Montgomery) will once again bring the Mardi Gras funk to the 100 block of Commerce Street from Noon - 6pm on Saturday, February 23rd for the 6th Annual Mardi Gras Block Party and Cajun Cook Off. This year, we are proud to partner with the Alabama 200 and Montgomery 200 as part of this event. The Block Party is free, family-friendly and open to the public. Tickets are required to experience the Cajun Cook Off that will take place 12pm - 2pm and will feature some of Montgomery’s premiere restaurants showing off their best cajun dish.

    Advanced tickets for the Cajun Cook Off are currently available for $20 each on the Mardi Gras Block Party & Cajun Cook Off Facebook event page or by going to clicking here. Any remaining tickets will be sold on site for $25 each. It is strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance as the event is always a sell out. All proceeds will benefit Valiant Cross Academy and That’s My Child, two local nonprofits that are improving our city by educating and empowering our youth.

    Headlining this year’s Block Party is one of the elite brass bands from New Orleans, Stooges Brass Band who will take the stage at 3pm. The Stooges consistently provide a welcome blast of true Big Easy spirit by engaging audiences with their innovative blend of traditional New Orleans brass sounds, contemporary jazz and hip hop beats. They have gained notoriety as a full-blown musical party immersing the crowd in a cut-loose vibe that is contemporary yet deeply rooted in the culturally rich musical legacy of New Orleans. Also performing is Montgomery’s own, The Avant Garde Creative League who will kick off the party starting at NOON. Followed by the Outlawz Brass Band from Mobile.

    Mark Bullock and Tonya Terry from WSFA will once again serve as masters of ceremony. The event will go on rain or shine. No outside alcohol is allowed. In true Mardi Gras fashion, costumes and dancing shoes are encouraged. Follow the event on Facebook by clicking here.

    Entertainment is sponsored by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Other sponsors include City of Montgomery, Alabama Power, Bama Budweiser, Willie Durham State Farm, Goodwyn Mills & Cawood, City Councilman Arch Lee, Serquest, AALOS, Starke Agency, Alabama State Grad Program, Robert D. Reynolds, LLC, WSFA, Rushton Stakely and others.

    Check out Stooges Brass Band on 'Jam in the Van' here:

    Check out additional video footage of Stooges Brass Band here:


    All Things Synthwave: An Interview with Doom Flamingo's Ross Bogan February 14, 2019 15:47

    Photo by Nicholas Lintz

    Interview by Jordan Kirkland

    It's not everyday that you're introduced to an entirely new genre of music. Upon hearing of a new Charleston-based band called Doom Flamingo, I had no idea what to expect. It wasn't long before I learned of Ryan Stasik's (Umphrey's McGee) involvement, as well as some serious Charleston musicians, including keyboardist / synth master Ross Bogan. After hearing Doom's first few releases and getting my first taste of synthwave, I sat down with Ross to learn a little more about the overall vision for this project. Check out the full conversation below, and see below for details on the Doom Flamingo's free live stream from Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday, February 16th via The Relix Channel!

    Let's start off with the original idea for Doom Flamingo. What sparked the original idea? How did you guys bring it to life?

    Ross: Ryan (Stasik) moved to Charleston a few years ago, as did Vince (Iwinski), who is Umphrey's McGee's manager. Umphrey's was playing a show here that Friends With Benefits, who our manager (Hank Wharton) was putting on. Ryan reached out about putting together a group of local musicians for an afterparty. He and Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey's) have another band, Omega Moos, that couldn't make it. Hank reached out to me with a few ideas for potential band members. I was driving back from Grand Canyon with Amy, my girlfriend. We were driving the van cross country. I remember getting the text and being blown away. Stasik wants to start a band. Amy looked at me and said, "Don't get in a wreck." 

    I had been listening to a lot of Synthwave at the time. My friend Jon Black had been sending me playlists. I really fell in love with that music, so I pitched the idea to Ryan and Mike (Quinn), and they were on board immediately. Within about thirty minutes, I think we had figured out the concept of the band and the name, Doom Flamingo. We were tossing some ridiculous names back and forth. Ryan really liked the idea of using Doom in some fashion. I wasn't so sure about Doom Flamingo initially, but I rolled with it. Afterwords, things were just starting to warm up, and I was noticing flamingos everywhere. 

    So we embarked on this Synthwave journey, and it was something we really didn't have much experience with. Just from working with each band member in the past, I know that all we need is a set goal for the show. We'll figure out a way to pull it off. Whether it's an Earth Wind & Fire tribute, Black Sabbath tribute, or even re-scoring The Exorcist, we've been able to pull off quite a few concepts. Doom Flamingo encompasses all of our different skills and puts them into one band. Musically, we're sort of all over the place. Several of the guys are deeply rooted in jazz, as well as funk. I've been in the jam and reggae scenes for a while. It's cool that we're going with this concept. 

    Synthwave is usually coming from one person. It's interesting to approach this music with six people. We took it into the studio to nail down some tracks for the first show (May 31st, 2018). I had a few demos, and we worked on the instrumental parts. Kanika (Moore) came in and already had three songs completely written. She went in the other room and started singing "F-16" with one of the instrumentals. She really blew us away. We were just like, "Holy shit. This has insane potential." We all saw it then and there. Since then, we've been going pretty balls-to-the-wall with it. Constantly sending each other music and ideas. 

    It's definitely a unique concept. What do you guys hope to accomplish here in year two?

    Ross: As far as goals, the idea is to get as many gigs as possible. We're getting into some festivals to be announced soon. There are some other offers on the table, which we're really excited about. When we were first starting, I wondered how much we could actually play around the Umphrey's schedule. How often would Ryan want to play? He's got two young children now. Seeing how stoked he is about it, and how much he pushes us to try new things. It's been a really cool experience. 

    It's been amazing to watch this band come to life. I remember hearing about this idea last Spring and wondering what would come from it. Once I heard that first recording of "F-16," I think I had the same reaction that you guys did. 

    Ross: Oh yeah. It's interesting. I've never dabbled in pop music. When I was previously playing with this reggae band, I was making beats and instrumentals. I took that same approach, and once we got in the studio, the tracks really came to life. Kanika's writing really blew me away. I believe this is the first original project that she has recorded with. It's pretty wild to see what a raw talent she is. I've wanted to get this group of musicians together for a while now. We've all played multiple gigs together. To have all of this come together is pretty phenomenal. I'm really excited and want to play as much as possible. 

    Watch Doom Flamingo performing in Richmond, VA here:

    I would imagine so. I'll be honest, I wasn't familiar with synthwave at all prior to this band. For the sake of anyone else who's wondering what the genre is all about, how would you explain the band's take on it?

    Ross: I've heard it described as what 80s synthesizer musicians thought music would sound like in the future. It's kind of retro-futuristic. Obviously, the technology has changed since the electronic scene of the early 80s. We have a few more tools to apply to it. While it does have the 80s reference and aesthetic, it also has a futuristic vibe as well. We've been working with this (visual) artist named Iron Skullet. He has a really nice synopsis of what synthwave is on his site ( He wraps it up pretty nicely, if you're ever looking to learn more about it. It's really interesting. There are so many genres within synthwave. There's darksynth, which is rooted in heavy metal music, but with synthesizers. There's Outrun, which is sort of driving music. There's dreamwave, which is poppier, dreamy synthesizer music.

    There's quite a few elements that fall under the umbrella. Most synthwave artists are rooted in one of those styles. We're trying to tackle all of them, while playing with a live band. Obviously, we're all improvisational musicians at our core. We play gigs where we just roll with it for three hours all the time. That comes out in our live show. You've got Ryan's background with Umphrey's McGee... Those guys are some of the craziest improvisational musicians in the game. The way they play together as a band is pretty special. They're unlike any other band I've ever seen.

    That's a fact. They're a freakin' machine.

    Ross: That's a great description. It's a machine. 

    You guys have how many shows under your belt at this point?

    Ross: We just did our sixth show in Richmond. 

    How is the calendar shaping up the band? I know there are some nice opportunities with Umphrey's afterparties. Is there a specific game plan or forecast that you guys have in mind?

    Ross: Right now, we have shows around Umphrey's schedule in New York City at Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville at Mercy Lounge, Denver at Cervantes' Masterpiece, and more in the works.  We also headline French Broad River Festival outside of Asheville in May, and have more festivals soon to announce... We're trying to hit as many of the major markets as we can. We're going full speed ahead and hope to make it as big as we possibly can. There are big hopes and aspirations for Doom. Seeing the feedback after having 600+ people at a show, it's been pretty mind blowing for all of us.

    The way people have been receiving us has been crazy. There's so much that you can do with this concept. I've seen people dressed in Doom Flamingo costumes. It's pretty cool. We have this comic book coming out as well. We just got the script from our buddy Jordan Noir, who we met on Instagram. We're really excited about that. The more the comic grows, I believe we can incorporate more musical characters from other bands and friends. It's such a conceptual thing. There's really no limit to it, as far as creativity is concerned.

    You've been releasing the originals as singles thus far. Is that the formula the the band plans to stick with?

    Ross: The reason we've been releasing singles is so we could get some initial material out there. Something for people to actually listen to. We had shows in place, and I think people were wondering, "What is this?" We wanted to get some material out there as quickly as possible. I think the single is definitely becoming more common, with people's attention spans dwindling in the music scene. Creatively, we do want to release a full album. Right now, we have an EP in the works which should show more of the overall vision. 

    The Unpredictable Journey of Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney February 4, 2019 14:58

    Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

    Celebrating their 33rd Anniversary together, Atlanta-based folk rock act, Drivin' N Cryin', have spent most of their career on tour. In October 1985 Drivin' N Cryin' played their first show at Atlanta’s famed 688 Club. The band quickly gained attention for their blistering live shows, and amassed a rabid fanbase in the fertile soil of the late-1980s Southeast music scene. Now, 33 years later, and after releasing four full length albums on Island Records and one on Geffen Records, founding members Kevn Kinney and Tim Nielsen find themselves enjoying a milestone anniversary for the band, having survived the pressures of fame, a shifting musical landscape, multiple lineup changes, and miles of back roads and highways to arrive here.

    With a gold record, 10 full-length albums, and a handful of EPs to their credit, the band still refuses to rest. In 2012, a documentary about the band, entitled Scarred but Smarter: Life n Times of Drivin' N’ Cryin’, was produced. In 2015, a collection of 10 choice cuts from the band’s 4-EP “Songs” series, entitled Best of Songs, was released on Nashville’s Plowboy Records. Additionally, the band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame that same year. The following year, Drivin' N Cryin' released a vinyl-only album, entitled Archives Vol One, with a collection of basement recordings from the years 1988 to 1990. With Dave V. Johnson as their drummer, and the band's newest member, Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band), now being added to the lineup, Drivin' N Cryin' continues to tour the U.S. to great acclaim.  

    Montgomery, Alabama is in for a treat on February 21st, as Kevn Kinney comes to town for a rare solo performance at the Capri Theatre. We recently sat down with Kevn to get the full story on how this band came to life, the journey from building sewage plants to touring the country, and details on what the band has planned for the future. See below for the full conversation.

    Purchase Tickets: An Evening with Kevn Kinney

    I typically start these interviews off with a general history lesson. Let's hear the story of Kevn Kinney, as well as Drivin N Cryin. You were born and raised in Milwaukee, correct?

    Kevn: Yes. I was raised in a hardworking, Irish-Catholic, middle class family. Five children in a 1000 square foot house. Music was everywhere. We had three pianos and several guitars in that little house. All of my sisters played instruments. Piano, guitar, flute, clarinet. My brother played everything. It was a pretty musical household. From an early age, I was surrounded by the blessings of having music in my life. You have a bad day, then you sit down at the piano or with your guitar. You focus on what you're doing and learn how to express yourself. Try to figure out how the world works, and why people are the way that they are. Why people expect certain things. 

    I was really, really fortunate. I don't know how my Dad raised five children on a refrigeration engineer's salary, but he did it. We're all very good people because of it. We all care for each other, as well as those around us. We all still play, enjoy, and respect music. That's kind of what made me who I am. I can't imagine living in a house where someone says, "Put down that damn guitar!" My dad would say, "Play that guitar!" 

    I've tried to do the same with my children. My daughter plays piano. I think my son is one of the best drummers in Atlanta. He's a part of the underground, independent rock scene here. One of his first teachers was Col. Bruce Hampton's drummer. So yeah, I grew up in Milwaukee. It was cold, and we were stuck inside a lot. We learned to open our minds through the music opening the landscape of opportunity and a glimpse at the future.

    How did you ultimately make it down south? What led you to Atlanta?

    Kevn: I did not come down here musically. I was 23 years old, and my brother had recently walked the Appalachian Trail. He wound up in Atlanta. He came home briefly before moving back to Georgia. He encouraged me to move down here and assured me that I could find work. The jobs started at $4.50 an hour, and I was like, "Whoa!" I was making about $2.15 an hour at the time. I could maybe make $3.10 an hour if I had stayed there for a little bit longer. I was never going to get ahead. I decided I would go be a laborer for $4.50 an hour. Then, I learned a trade. 

    My first job down here was great, because it was really hard. I worked with a whole lot of people from Alabama at this construction company. We built sewage plants. They trained me to be a form carpenter. I did that from 1982 until 1984. In 1985, I quit and moved on to indoor carpentry building cabinets. I was sick of working outside. I think I was making around $9.25 an hour at my last job, which was a ton of money in 1984. 

    When I quit to travel and ride in a van with a band, I was giving up a pretty steady income. I was happy for the opportunity. Drivin' N Cryin' was pretty popular right away because of the fact that I had some serious players. Our bassist (Tim Nielsen) and drummer (Paul Lenz) were members of probably the most famous band in Atlanta. They were the band that could sell out the 688 Punk Club. They quit that band to join me after seeing me play with this punk rock band from Milwaukee. 

    This was when, 1985?

    Kevn: Correct. 1985. That's where the Drivin' N Cryin' story begins. 

    Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Straight to Hell" here:

    Tell me about those first few years. Getting started and developing your catalog. Building your reputation in Atlanta and the surrounding markets.

    Kevn: I'll tell you what we did then, and I think what it would help to do now. We did a very early version of modern day advertising. Let's rewind just a little bit here. I was also working part-time at a futon store. My boss got a nice deal buying these weekly ads. Drivin' N Cryin' decided to do the same thing. We had a little tiny ad with our logo, and we would list our shows underneath. The initial dates would be predominantly Atlanta, but we were eventually able to show our progress with dates in Chattanooga, Athens, Chapel Hill, even New York City. People may not of known who we were, but they could see our progress in this ad each week. It made us look organized. I feel like that really helped bring crowds in. Letting people know who you are and where you're going. 

    I write a lot of melodies, and then I fill them in with words. Whatever I'm thinking about at the time. I would call my answering machine in the old days. That allowed me to remember what it was and turn it into a song. Songs like "Straight to Hell" started just like that with a simple melody. You find yourself singing it in traffic and think it's just a passing thing. Songs like "Malfunction Junction" and "Honeysuckle Blues" came to life in the same way. I decided that I wanted to have rock music, and I didn't want to sing about bars and girls the whole time. I wanted to capture America changing. 

    Back in the 80s, it was about how much America was being homogenized. It turned out to be true. If you drove me around for 9.5 hours, in a circle or a straight line, and you pulled me into a truck stop and asked where I was...I wouldn't be able to tell you. There would be a Subway and a Chester's there though. It could be Wyoming, Missouri, or Alabama. Everything was the same. I miss that element of America where things were special. You had to get off the highway to go find the hamburger joint. We try to use the Yelp app as much as we can. We like finding the local diner, meat and three, or BBQ joint. Something besides a chain restaurant. 

    That's a great practice. You're selling yourself short if you don't. So, there were some special things happening in and around Atlanta music at this time. How vital was this towards the early days for the band?

    Kevn: We had a great family of bands surrounding us at the time. There was a really nice community, and we all shared stories and experiences. Discussing our first road trips and things like that. We all played together constantly. We'd go to each other's practices to see how other bands did things. Uncle Green was this band that had their own house. They were this fantastic band that moved down from New Jersey. I think they ended up making a record with Brendan O'Brien. 

    Community is important. If you have a band in Montgomery, Alabama, hopefully you are friends with the other eight bands in Montgomery, Alabama. If you're not, you should be. You have to create a coalition and encourage each other, have each other's backs. We'd get together and play on the street. Help each other through breakups and makeups. Network with one another. Sit around and listen to music. Smoking pot. Drinking Mad Dog. Whatever it was that got us through the day. Good coffee was hard to get back then. Expressos were impossible. 

    I don't remember too many details of what made what go where, but I remember the overall cloud of friendship and community. I've never really focused on the details of yesterday. I like to focus on what I'm here to do, and how crazy it is that people pay me to do it. Being honest with yourself. When I talk to kids about songwriting, they ask how I wrote certain songs. My answer is always, "Just tell your story." Don't think about the crossroads. You will obviously want to imitate your heroes, whether its The Rolling Stones or Foo Fighters. 

    Eventually, you have to find the discipline to let that go and tell your story. That's the only thing that's going to make you special. If you grew up in a suburban house, right off the highway, with shag carpet and an avocado colored refrigerator, books and magazines stacked up in your mom's tupperware collection...tell me that story. That's special only to you and no one else. I'm interested in that story. I prefer the non-fiction story. 

    Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Let's Go Dancing" here:

    How would you describe the more recent years for the band? How do you guys go about balancing your time at home versus out on the road?

    Kevn: We're seeing that a lot of our fans now have grown children. They don't need a babysitter anymore, and they can actually come to the shows again. Their children are grown, so they're coming to the shows as well. They've been hearing Mom and Dad talk about us all these years. We're starting to notice a younger crowd, as far as our popularity goes. I think we're doing pretty well there. We have a new guitarist named Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band). I'm actually trying to get him to come to the Montgomery show with me. 

    I'm still writing songs. We just cut a new record. It might be one of the top two or three records that I ever make. We're super excited about it. Really great circumstances. We recorded it in Nashville. There is an entire generation of folks that remember us from their childhood. They're curious as to who we were and where we're going now. The good news is that we still have a lot of people who don't know who we are. I really think that's a good thing. We have a lot of people that we can still reach. 

    One of the newer friends I've made is Jamey Johnson. I fell in love with his music, voice, and discipline. I saw him play and knew I'd love to play with him one day. Warren Haynes introduced us at the Christmas Jam, and we've played "Honeysuckle Blue" and "Straight to Hell" a couple of times now. I'm overwhelmed when I look over and see him singing those songs on stage. Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed that I forget the words (laughs). He has to remember them for me. I made it down to his charity golf tournament at Cottonwood Golf Course last year. Hopefully, Drivin' N Cryin' will play it one of these years. 

    I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm still writing songs. I'm still being honest. I think they're good songs. We're looking for a label for this amazing record we just made. We're all feeling really positive about things. We haven't had a record deal before we've cut the record in over 20 years. We make them all ourselves and find someone to distribute them. We're pretty proud that we can still make a great record for a few thousand dollars. I'll be playing a few of those new songs, as well as the older ones, at the Montgomery show. 

    Purchase Tickets: An Evening with Kevn Kinney

    Live Album Showcase: Dickey Betts 'Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse' February 1, 2019 12:08

    Live and Listen’s Live Album Showcase

    Dickey Betts: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse

     Words by Josh Hetterman

    Taped recordings have long been an integral cog of the live music scene. This is the first installment of a weekly series highlighting iconic live albums from the last half century. Today, we will take a close look at the Allman Brothers Band founding member and guitarist Dickey Betts’ 2018 EP Live at the Lone Star Roadhouse, recorded in 1988 with his band Great Southern.

    After a tumultuous and frantic decade that saw the tragic deaths of founding members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the Allman Brothers Band broke up in 1982. Speaking on the breakup, Dickey Betts stated, “We broke up in '82 because we decided we better just back out or we would ruin what was left of the band's image.” Other than a brief co-headlining tour led by Betts and Gregg Allman in 1986, the band’s members focused primarily on their solo careers, especially Betts and Allman. During this time, Betts, the enigmatic but superbly talented guitarist and songwriter who penned iconic ABB hits such as “Ramblin’ Man,” “Southbound” and “Jessica,” reunited his band Dickey Betts and Great Southern, which featured a young, hungry guitar virtuoso by the name of Warren Haynes.

    Despite being recorded on January 11th, 1988, Dickey Betts and Great Southern: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse was not released to the public until April 21, 2018. It was featured as one of the premiere, exclusive releases of the internationally recognized celebration and homage to vinyl records, with a limited run of 1400. Upon first listen, the 90 minute EP surely did not disappoint; in fact, it is so solid from start to finish that it should hold a place in the upper echelon of ABB records for any fan of the band.

    Side 1 of the record features a 4 song set highlighted by Betts compositions and ABB staples such as “Blue Sky,” “Jessica” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The musical apex, however, occurs during Betts’ instrumental tribute to his legendary fallen bandmate and ABB co-founder Duane Allman on “Duane’s Tune,” a single off the Dickey Betts Band’s 1988 album Pattern Disruptive. Dickey introduces the song with a noticeable excitement, and strong percussion complements his and Warren Haynes’ driving guitar harmonies throughout the six and a half minute track. Even without explicit knowledge of the song’s dedication to Duane, even an amateur ABB fan could tell this is an impassioned tribute to the late founding member of the band. Phenomenal slide guitar and a driving rhythm carry the song and remind us of the impact that the legendary guitarist had on his bandmates and the music world at large.

    Side 2 opens with a few more ABB classics in spirited renditions of “Statesboro Blues” and “One Way Out.” Adding to the already palpable star power, guitarist Rick Derringer came out to guest on his hit song “Rock ’n Roll Hoochie Koo,” and was immediately followed by legendary Cream guitarist Jack Bruce sitting in on a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.” Bringing the set to a rocking close, the band hits the high note with a 10 minute version of another Betts original and ABB classic in “Southbound.” Dickey Betts’ legacy has long been muddled by his tumultuous personal life and well-documented rifts with fan favorite Gregg Allman. Despite this, there is no logical argument against his impact not only as a guitarist and songwriter but also as a founding member of one of the greatest bands of all time. Dickey Betts: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse does nothing to weaken this argument: he is, and always has been, a brilliant musician and songwriter and should be celebrated as such.

    The Werks Discuss 'Sonder', Future Releases, & Much More January 25, 2019 13:24

    Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

    Over the last four years, Live & Listen has allowed me the opportunity to discover more new music than I could have ever imagined. Whether it's a newly established up-and-comer, or a band whose name I've heard for years, it's been an amazing experience. There are times where I've simply found myself in the right place at the right time, and that's exactly what happened on July 4th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. 

    The epic voyage to Chicago for The Grateful Dead's "Fare Thee Well" shows was ultimately a city-wide music festival. You had a countless number of bands performing both before and after the big shows at Soldier Field. Following the Saturday night show, I ventured over to The Chop Shop to finally catch my first taste of The Werks. I was absolutely floored and really haven't stopped digging into their catalog since. 

    Here we are nearly four years later, and I've been fortunate enough to work with the band on a number of shows, attend the annual Werk Out Festival in Ohio, and watch the continued growth of an incredibly unique group. Upon hearing the band's latest release, Sonder, just last week, I had to reach out to get the low down. Check out the full conversation with Chris Houser (guitar), Jake Goldberg (bass), and Dan Shaw (keyboards) below and make sure to give Sonder a good listen as soon as possible.

    Last week you guys released Sonder, the new three-song EP. It seems as if you guys are taking a new approach to releasing new music this year. How did the band come to this decision?

    Chris: Across the board in 2018, streaming numbers went up drastically. The number of album sales did not. We're trying to keep up with the times, be honest with ourselves, and stay in tune with the way things are moving in an ever changing world. We want to make sure that the music we're putting out is being listened to.

    If someone is even buying an album these days, they don't always make it to the end. They're usually off on something else by three songs in. We figure we would focus on putting out a digestible amount. Not to patronize our audience, or any audience, for that matter. Something that is more relatable with current times, and also spread out new releases throughout the year. We've had a lot of fun with it, and we're all really excited.

    Jake: It definitely has a lot to do with the streaming platform, the way tracks are laid out, and the average span of your average listener. Like Houser said, working on multiple releases throughout the year, and almost having three different themes for three different songs. 

    Did you guys knock out the material for each release in the same studio session?

    Jake: For the most part, they were done in one chunk of time. We'll revisit some of them in the studio, but yes for the most part. 

    Chris: We've found a studio that we're really comfortable with, and an engineer that we really look forward to seeing every time. It's a very comfortable place for us at this point. We plan on spending even more time in the studio during our off time, because we're constantly working on new music. Hopefully more of these releases will happen in the future. 

    Let's talk a little bit about these three specific tracks. When I first listened, I noticed that each really represents the different elements of The Werks. "No Prisoner" has more of a classic, old school Werks instrumental feel to it. "Stars Collide" has a nice catchy vibe and really showcases Rob's vocals. "Flatiron" gives you a nice dose of that dark, "Werktronic" side of the band. 

    Chris: nailed it!

    Anything interesting you can tell me about this group of tracks?

    Chris: Let's start off with "No Prisoners." That one is largely Dan's "deep brain" child. 

    Deep brain? Oh man...

    Dan: Yeah, I've always been attracted to the ways that rhythm guitar lines are actually lead lines in a lot of classic rock songs. I originally planned for the song to have lyrics, but as we were working on it, it evolved into an instrumental. The goal was to have something that's almost a cross between Led Zeppelin and Edgar Winter with some catchy rhythm guitar licks.

    Love hearing that. 

    Jake: In terms of these three songs, like you said, I think they capture different aspects of the band really well. In writing each of these songs, we wanted to be unapologetically ourselves. Let's not try to create something that we think is going to sell, as opposed to something that we actually want to listen to. I think that really comes through in the tracks, which is why we're enjoying it so much.

    I'm sitting here looking at the definition of the word "Sonder" right now. Very cool. "The realization that each random passerby is living a life as viviid and complex of your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness..." Where does that word / concept play into this release?

    Jake: Honestly, we just wanted to expand people's vocabulary. Now people like yourself are looking that word up.

    Mission accomplished.

    Chris: It's a pretty amazing idea to be conscious of. 

    Jake: I think that answer will become more prevalent as future tracks are released. The theme of "Sonder," as well as the music. One of the cool things about the staggered release is the anticipation that comes along with it. 

    Agreed. That "Sonder" concept really plays into a mindset that I'm constantly trying to be conscious of. Everyone is on their own journey. You never know what's going on in someone else's life. Don't be quick to judge anyone, because we're all out here fighting the good fight every day. 

    Jake: Absolutely. You see it all the time in life and music. 

    Photo by Josh Timmermans: Noble Visions

    You guys are in the midst of a 10-day run, and you'll be getting home just in time for Winter Werk Out?

    Jake: That's right. Our big event of the winter. 

    Tell me about how that expansion on the Werk Out is playing to your advantage and helping build on this culture which continues to grow each year. 

    Chris: It's been great. It's fantastic for us because there's always a bit of lag or depression once The Werk Out is over. There are just those feels, man. It keeps the name and the brand coming out of people's mouths. Everyone is constantly talking about The Werk Out. We're out here on the road spreading the word once again. 

    In the early years of The Werk Out, we talked about possibly doing something in the fall. It turns out that the first weekend of February was the right time to do it. Every six months we get to have a Werk Out, and that's a great thing for us. I think it's as long as people want to wait. 

    That's a nice, healthy balance. A good Werk Out every six months keeps everyone in shape. 

    Jake: It was really cool to bring it to a venue like The Bluestone. We haven't had much prior experience there, and I know most of our other bands haven't either. It just wasn't a venue that was used much in our scene. To be able to bring people to this beautiful room in the heart of Ohio is pretty special. 

    For me personally, I've been on stage with The Werks at all three Winter Werk Outs. It holds a special place in my heart. Not that the summer Werk Out doesn't, it's been amazing to watch this event come to life and grow each year. People are really into it.

    So how is the rest of the spring shaping up? How's the schedule looking?

    Jake: We're going to be busy. We'll be touring through the southern belt and eventually getting down to Florida. 

    Chris: We're always excited to get down south. We're doing a two-night run at Aisle 5 in Atlanta. We're also hitting the Carolinas, Knoxville, and Nashville. We're back on the horse and hitting the road strong, and we're having a lot of fun and doing our thing. I've kind of started telling everyone that we aren't out here to fuck around. (laughs)

    Jake: We're out for blood, and we're taking no prisoners. 

    Jake and Chris...I know you guys have had some major life developments in the past year. Tell me about how fatherhood has shaped you as a musician and human being. How has this next chapter of life played out thus far?

    Chris: It has certainly made us harder workers. 

    Jake: teaches you a lot of patience. It's really cool being able to share something as sacred as music with your offspring. It's crazy. I sit down in front of a piano with my daughter and play. Sometimes I'll be playing bass or guitar. She looks at me and smiles and it's just She becomes more a part of my life, and music becomes more a part of my life. It just makes everything more important, you know? Music included.

    Chris: I'm really looking forward to seeing Mark grow up. Having him realize that it's possible to follow his dreams. Make his dreams his goals, because that's what daddy's doing. We don't have a lavish lifestyle by any means. We earn an honest living, a modest living. Success is in the eye of the beholder, and I believe the same applies to happiness. I know that I'm very happy and grateful.

    That's what it's all about. 

    Chris: Yes it is. 

    Before we wrap this up, I've gotta hear what Mr. Dan Shaw is fired up about this spring. Let's hear it, Dan.

    Dan: Other than the finishing touches on the new material, I know we're out here now, but I really love traveling out west. Colorado is great, but even up north of here. There's a lot of wide open space.

    Jake: Dan loves wide open spaces.

    Chris: He loves The Dixie Chicks.

    Jake: He loves hotel pools.

    Who doesn't love hotel pools?

    Dan: I love getting out and traveling the country. I also love the creative process in general. We have plenty of both ahead of us, so I'm pretty excited about that. 

    Well you guys stay safe out on the road. Bring it back home in one piece for the Winter Werk Out, and we'll see you in Atlanta in just a few weeks.

    Stream The Werks' Sonder via Spotify here:


    1.25 Denver, CO w/ The Jauntee
    1.26 Vail, CO
    1.29 Minneapolis, MN
    1.30 Milwaukee, WI
    2.1+2 Columbus, OH (Winter Werk Out)
    2.13 Charleston, SC
    2.14 Jacksonville, FL
    2.15 Punta Gorda, FL
    2.19 Gainesville, FL
    2.20+21 Atlanta, GA
    2.22 Knoxville, TN
    2.23 Nashville, TN

    SweetWater 420 Fest Finalizes Yet Another Killer Lineup January 10, 2019 09:38

    Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
    Organizers of SweetWater 420 Festival in Atlanta, GA have finalized yet another killer lineup for 2019. As previously announced, we will see Widespread Panic will return for four sets over two nights at April’s event. Today's announcement includes the addition of Joe Russo's Almost DeadJJ Grey & MofroPigeons Playing Ping PongEveryone OrchestraSunSquabiCory Henry & The Funk ApostlesBIG Something, Billy StringsMagic City HuppiesPink Talking FishZach Depity & The Yankees, and more (see below). These artists join an already stacked cast, which includes The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Rebelution, Moon Taxi, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, Turkuaz and  KNOWER
    If you haven't had a chance to attend this festival in years' past, we couldn't give it a stronger endorsement. Held annually in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, you're within walking distance from countless hotels, as well as everything downtown Atlanta has to offer. The infrastructure and overall flow of the weekend is second to none, and we're already counting the days til this year's festivities. Stay tuned for additional details, as well as the lowdown on after parties at Terminal WestVariety Playhouse, and Aisle 5. Oh yeah, go ahead and click here to purchase your tickets today!
    Photo by Ryan Lewis: Rylewphoto
    Click Here: Our recap on last year's SweetWater 420 Fest (2017)