Elenowen Bio

elenowen

Elenowen

Supporting For the Taking

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Elenowen

There’s something so liberating about the deliberate letting go of others’ expectations to press on in a direction of your own choosing. Husband and wife singer/songwriters Josh and Nicole Johnson have lit upon their common voice after acute introspection, roads traveled, trials overcome, years lived. Resonating within themes of finding themselves in each other and the infinite possibilities of what’s ahead, Elenowen’s sophomore full-length For the Taking is a collection of modern songs keeping an indie tradition alive.

Those familiar with Elenowen’s appearance on the inaugural season of NBC’s The Voice, their debut album, Pulling Back the Veil, or their follow-up singles and EP, will recognize their characteristic tender melodies, lyrical motifs, and incandescent acoustic work, but there’s something new and exciting in this assortment of songs, perhaps a result of the overwhelming fan support they received by funding the album with Kickstarter, which served to reassure the young duo about their place in the world. Of their freshly realized niche, Nicole says, “We’ve been doing this for a long time, but it feels like we’re newborns, starting all over again.”

“We’re basically starting from scratch,” Josh agrees. “In a way, this record feels a lot like our first one. The whole tone and the way we’re going about this album are synonymous with our debut. It’s back to just us.”

The music of Elenowen straddles decades by bridging today’s folk rock troubadours with the lo-fi buzzing arrangements of the 70s, their distinctive combination of musical precision and emotional abandon bolstering a collection that alternates between dense, full-bodied rockers and minor, mercurial guitar melodies.

Opener “Desert Days” sets up Elenowen’s fresh Fleetwood Mac-inspired vibe with a driving beat, jangly harmonies, and a refrain written long ago that seems to have foreshadowed their current stride: “Someday we’re going to find the things that we have been looking for.” Balmy, wavering guitar riffs echoing throughout sketch a vital, resolute landscape for the album. “Half A Mile,” which pops a familiar feeling efficiently into a clever combination of words – “When I look at myself, I see lost; you look at me, you see found. That’s all that counts.” – is another first-listen favorite with its country-tinged major tones and heavy-handed reverb.

At the far end of their melodic spectrum, the melancholy, pleading “Place From Where I Fell” channels fellow Nashville duo The Civil Wars, Nicole’s vocals hovering finely above Josh’s minor harmonies, murky instrumentation cresting in an insistent, fluid orchestral tide. And the sparse, vulnerable “One by One” brings to mind the bare vocals and steady symphonic cadence of the musical Once’s duo The Swell Season.

“Losing the Lonely” is the album’s most magnetic track, a shimmering, upbeat ode to open, eager love. The chorus rings, “First thing I see in the morning, first dream I have at night; without a single warning, you got this heart of mine;” Elenowen’s newfound spirit is embodied here between the drum beat and the slide guitar, balanced delicately to create their own bright-eyed brand of retro folk rock.

“Cold Hard Truth” has a raw resilience to it that can only be explained by the unique circumstances under which it was recorded. “I was so winded because I was having contractions,” Nicole explains. “Nine months pregnant and trying to sing, it’s such a sweet memory though, every time I hear that song.” And “For the Taking” was the only track on the album recorded live in one take, a detail that imbues the chorus with a quiet gravity. The closing melody is both gently defiant and refreshingly acoustic, a nod to their past with roots planted confidently in their future.

This is the story of two people that made each other’s music better, two people that fought against their odds for the music they wanted to achieve together. For the Taking is a bold step on a path yet unexplored, but if you ask Elenowen, it’s the one they’ve been working toward all along. ”This is where we’re supposed to be,” Nicole finishes; “I feel really good about it.”

Elenowen’s new release, produced by Music City staples Jeremy Bose and Trent Dabbs, will be available January 20, 2015. For more information about Josh and Nicole and For the Taking, go to http://www.elenowen.com.

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Susan Werner Bio

Susan Werner

Susan Werner

Supporting Hayseed

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Susan Werner

Midwestern folk bard and “Empress of the Unexpected” as dubbed by NPR, Susan Werner is as unshakable as the earth and as unpredictable as the weather. It is fitting then that on her newest release, the downtown Chicago-based singer-songwriter set out to pay homage to American agriculture. On Hayseed, Werner lends her characteristically ardent voice to common agrarian themes like love for the land, patience for the rain, and the travails of farmers and their families. Each song dons a new perspective, sketches a different facet of true rural living, establishing Hayseed as a barbed but candid representation of the agricultural community.

Listeners will recognize Werner’s own brand of Americana roots sprouted on 2011’s Kicking the Beehive; however, the collection of sharp, passionate originals that appear on Hayseed hit much closer to home. “Everything was mandolin and banjo and upright bass and fiddle,” she says. “A sound that’s as (forgive the term, but it finally applies) organic as a sound can get.” The album itself was homegrown using a Pledge Music campaign to fund its production; Werner incentivized fans with rewards like handwritten family recipes and signed ears of corn. A percentage of the money raised was donated to farming charities as well: Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) of Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

Hayseed was produced by Crit Harmon (Martin Sexton, Lori McKenna, Mary Gauthier, Ed Romanoff), a songwriter and music producer from Boston. “I chose Crit to produce because he’s a songwriter himself; that was hugely important to me,” Werner says of Harmon. “And also because he grew up in Missouri and knows the business end of a honey wagon. I knew he’d get the spirit of the songs, the sense of humor and the sense of place in the songs. I also knew he’d assemble the best cast of players possible. This is the A list of the A list of the Boston area players.” That cast includes legendary guitarist Duke Levine, dobro genius Steve Sadler, and Red Molly’s Laurie MacAllister on backing vocals. “He totally got when I said this should sound like it’s being played on the front porch of a farmhouse,” Werner continues. “Iowa isn’t the south, but you can throw a rock and hit Missouri, and that’s about as urban as this album could dare get.”

Hayseed is the fourth in a series of concept albums, beginning with 2004’s I Can’t Be New, which features original songs in the style of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, followed by The Gospel Truth in 2007 and Classics in 2009. “I like concept albums because they give the audience and the artist a place to meet and something to talk about, right from the word ‘go,’” Werner states. “And it seems everybody has something to say about farms and farmers these days.”

Werner, a farmer’s daughter herself, is intimately acquainted with the trials and tribulations of American farm life. Her keen yet caustic perspective has led to the creation of the derisive, acerbic cast of characters that populate the album. “I wanted to show that farmers are just like everyone else,” Werner explains. “Honest, hard working, kind, generous, jealous, and capable of murder.”

Underneath its glib, satirical wash, Hayseed is tender and benevolent, Werner’s way of saluting her upbringing. “There’s something affectionate and at the same time wry about Iowans take on where they’re from and the world in general. Our worldview is sweet but cynical.” Werner’s next words serve as example: “Growing up on a farm is part poetry and part horror,” she says, “but it taught me that you can love a place as much as you can love a person.”

After all, it seems her pastoral childhood is what drove Werner to music in the first place. “I started playing guitar when I was very young. Like many farm families, we played music as a form of social entertainment. Boredom can be a kind of gift, and I think being out there in the middle of nowhere, we made the best of it by cultivating the ability to play music.”

At age five, farm girl Susan Werner made her debut, playing guitar and singing at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Manchester, Iowa. At 11, she began playing piano. After earning a degree in voice from the University of Iowa, she attended Temple University in Philadelphia, performing in numerous recitals and operas while completing her graduate studies. Werner still on occasion closes any one of the 125 club dates she plays annually throughout the US and Canada with “Un Bel Di” from Madame Butterfly or “Habanera” from Carmen, but she ultimately opted to forgo a career as an opera singer, dedicating herself to songwriting instead, building a reputation at coffeehouses and folk festivals from DC to Boston.

After launching her career with the self-released Midwestern Saturday Night in 1993, her second recording Live at Tin Angel impressed executives at Private Music/BMG, which released her critically acclaimed major label debut Last of the Good Straight Girls in 1995. She also received critical accolades for her subsequent recordings Time Between Trains (VelVel, 1998) and New Non-Fiction (Indie, 2001). She has toured the nation with acts such as Richard Thompson, Keb Mo, and Joan Armatrading, and was featured in a 1998 Peter, Paul, and Mary PBS special as one of the best of the next generation of folk songwriters.

On Hayseed, Werner employs her shrewdest charm and duskiest wit to deliver an assortment of tunes as hilarious as they are insightful. “There’s a certain sense of humor that goes along with farming because things don’t always turn out the way you expected,” she states. “If you can’t laugh about it, you’re not going to be farming for long. It was important to me to honor that part of things with the songs. If the songs weren’t funny, then they missed the mark.”

Opener “City Kids” sets a tart, jocular tone its snarky commentary on what Werner refers to as “the Revenge of the Nerds.” “The character in this song is surprisingly resentful, but the truth of it is that if you grew up on a farm, you always did feel a little square, a little behind,” she explains. Over a lilting minor banjo melody, Werner channels the biting, brooding attitude of the farm kids, practically spitting the title phrase: “All the city kids, they had fluffy little dogs, a dog that sits and begs, a dog with all four legs, didn’t smell like hogs.”

The countrified, hyperbolic “Herbicides” is saturated with Southern-accented sarcasm. “It’s another fact of farm life that itself deserved a song, but I didn’t know what new to say about it,” Werner laughs. “And this is something entirely new to say. The song speaks for itself.”

“Something to Be Said” is quiet and reflective, one of the few tracks that takes a moment to say something serious. “I was doing some shows in rural Nebraska, and this little girl wrote a note that said, ‘Thank you for coming to this waste of cornfields,’” Werner says. “It made me so sad that this kid felt that way about where they were growing up. I thought that needed addressing. Kid, you’re overlooking something. It may have taken me many years to see it, but I really do see it now.”

And slipping effortlessly into yet another character’s voice, the viscous, plodding “Egg Money” slinks suspiciously, wading into the dangerous waters of marital discontent and the wrath of a woman scorned, charting the story of a farm wife’s revenge.

Other Hayseed highlights include the punchy, sweltering “Bumper Crop,” a track that struts and sways like a 70s-era rockabilly number, the hushed and silvery “Plant the Stars” written about Werner’s father, and “Ode to Aldo Leopold,” a lustrous, ebbing closer boasting traditional harmonies, molten slide guitar, and lyrics like, “The land will outlive us all, however long we all shall live, and when the future comes to find the legacy we leave behind, may they say of us that we’ve been kind; we left the land with more to give, for the land will outlive us all.”

“This record matters now because there’s a changing of the guard taking place in American agriculture,” Werner explains. “Farmers like my father and mother are retiring, and new farmers are starting out. I wanted to honor my parents and their way of life, and I want to be part of the conversation about what happens next, what farming looks like this year, next year, ten years from now.”

The ultimate purpose of making Hayseed, though, is broader, more light-hearted. “Maybe the reward of it all is just this simple: to write a song like ‘Egg Money’ or ‘City Kids,’ to see a song like that make my parents laugh, my brothers laugh, my cousins, my high school friends, and know people all across the country will laugh,” she says. “Well, there you have it. Mission accomplished.”

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David Jacobs-Strain Bio

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

Supporting Geneseo

By Emily J Ramey

Written for David Jacobs-Strain

Expounding upon classic themes of broken hearts, winding roads, and flashbacks of Oregon summers, David’s newest work, Geneseo, is a collection of contemporary songs in keeping with longstanding folk traditions of Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. “I try to make art that you can dance to,” says David, “but I love that darker place in my mind where Skip James, Nick Drake, and maybe Elliot Smith blur together.”

The album plays with traditional refrains and modern execution, balancing silvery slide guitar with warm bass and resonant drums. Imperfect vocals, conviction saturating every note, harken back to an age that has provided much of David’s inspiration, of one-take recordings, singing for supper, and the hard-won American dream that raw talent will endure. “I’m fascinated by the way that rural blues inscribes movement and transience,” the young songwriter explains. “There’s a crossroads where a thing can be both enchanting and dangerous.”

Those familiar with David’s previous studio work, Stuck on the Way Back, Ocean or a Teardrop, Liars Day, Terraplane Angel, or his live follow-up, Live from the Left Coast, will recognize his characteristic casual harmonies, incandescent lyrical motifs, and complex guitar work, but there’s something new and exciting in this compilation, perhaps a result of the overwhelming fan support he received by funding the album with Kickstarter. “It feels great to have people stand up and say that it means something to them.”

29-year-old David nurtured his musical abilities early while growing up in small-town Oregon: “I got my first guitar for $10 at a garage sale when I was nine years old.” Something struck with a chord with David, who began playing street corners and farmers’ markets in middle school without the burden of formal musical training. “I don’t read tablature; I don’t read music. I play totally by ear.” He found inspiration among his pioneer blues heroes as well as current acts like Lucinda Williams and Taj Mahal, all the while developing his own class of cool, undulating refrains.

The Stanford dropout was playing festivals across the country, including the prestigious Newport Folk Festival, by the time he was nineteen and has been featured at a dozen since, including Merlefest, Telluride Blues Festival, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Seattle’s Bumbershoot. He’s taught at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, and at fifteen years old was the youngest faculty member ever at Centrum’s Blues and Heritage workshop.

On the road, he’s shared the stage with champions of the folk, blues, and jazz communities, musicians like Lucinda Williams, Boz Scaggs, Etta James, The Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Robert Earle Keen, Todd Snider, Taj Mahal, Janis Ian, Tommy Emmanuel, Bob Weir, T-Bone Burnett, and Del McCoury. But Geneseo, more than any of his previous recordings, feels like a confident step into his own, fleshing out a distinctively contemporary niche among sounds and influences of a bygone era.

Geneseo began as an experiment. Camped out in a converted 19th century church, Strain recorded guitar and vocals on a laptop, rarely using more than one microphone. “It was winter in rural upstate New York. We had very little daylight but endless old instruments to try.” A road trip to Los Angeles brought in drummer Scott Seiver (Pete Yorn, Flight of the Conchords), and bassist Jon Flaughers (Ryan Adams) and David Immergluck (Counting Crows) on pedal steel as well, after a chance meeting in a Hollywood bar.

“All the songs were written, but I didn’t have a budget or a plan,” David explains. “I couldn’t stand waiting, so we just started recording ad hoc.” Caitlin Carey of Whiskey Town sent harmonies and fiddle tracks by email, Band of Horses’ bassist Bill Reynolds Dropboxed a track for the impressionist blues closer “Josephine,” and long-time collaborator Bob Beach recorded harmonica solos in Philadelphia. By spring, the record was an overwhelming collage of sounds and parts. To pare the record back down to its organic core, David enlisted Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie) and Billy Barnett (Frank Black, Cherry Popping Daddies): “Everything that would fit on twenty-three tracks was moved to analog tape, then we turned off the computer screen and mixed as if it were 1953.”

Despite his youth, David Jacobs-Strain is cultivating, without hesitation or pretension, a presence among the founding greats of our time. “Music is the only job I’ve ever had; I have no back up plan,” he declares. “I’m going to put everything I have into this… or I’m going to try.”

David’s new release will be available June 25, 2013. For more information about David and Geneseo, go to http://www.davidjacobs-strain.com.

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Jeff Austin Bio

Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin

Supporting Jeff Austin going solo

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Jeff Austin

Mandolinist Jeff Austin is unstoppable. He is celebrated for his fleet fingers and penchant for improvisation on stage, but those qualities also speak volumes about how he chooses to live. Austin has cultivated his natural musical abilities and allowed himself to be driven by his boldest instincts. In this way, he has been able to build positive, exciting momentum around his life’s greatest passion.

Austin’s enthusiasm for the vast, vibrant world of music was rooted in him as early as he can remember: “I was always raised very musically. My mom always had music playing; she always sang.” It’s no surprise then that Austin himself grew up singing too. From beginning to end of his years in grade school just outside of Chicago, he sang in classes, choirs, and musicals, allowing his musical influences to lead him where they may. “I started listening to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings,” Austin says. “And then the Beatles, that turned into Bob Dylan, and then the Grateful Dead and Phish.”

Austin continued this fearless course of action, attending University of Cincinnati and majoring in Musical Theatre, until he a stumbled upon a crossroads that threatened to derail all of his plans. “I remember standing in front of the Grateful Dead three weeks before I dropped out of college and thinking, ‘there’s so much more to this music thing than being educated and being told what you are,’” Austin explains. “You can take what you think is your value and throw it at a crowd of people, and they will throw it back to you. The beauty is that nothing is black and white. It’s all grey; it’s interpreted at the moment.” Austin goes on to illustrate what this meant for his future: “At the time, I was auditioning for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I walked away from everything I was set up to do because I realized that I just wanted to be in a band.”

Serendipitously, he met banjoist Dave Johnston around the same time. He encouraged Austin to try the mandolin so as to join his band The Bluegrassholes, so Jeff learned how to play the only way he knew how – with music: “I would listen to Not for Kids Only, which is a record of kids’ songs that Garcia/Grisman put out, nothing too fast. I would listen over and over and over and find the notes on my mandolin.” Picking up an instrument for the first time was exhilarating for Austin. “I never took lessons,” he admits. “I just threw myself in that world. I’ve always kind of learned in the line of fire.” The line of fire inspired Austin to be better, so he kept coming back. “For the better part of 3 years, I jammed night after night with these guys. There’s something about the pace, the speed, the aggressiveness, the chasing of the beat.” Austin was hooked.

In 1998, Austin and Johnston relocated to Nederland, Colorado. While attending a club called the Verve, Austin met Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufmann, with whom he and Johnston would form the Yonder Mountain String Band. Together, the four musicians created a wild, high-energy niche among the bluegrass legends of old and the up and coming jam band scene. Over fifteen years, Yonder Mountain String Band built an intensely loyal fan base; played festivals and venues across the nation, sharing the stage with legends like Jon Fishman, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman, Earl Scruggs, Pete Thomas, and Jimmy Herring; and released five studio albums and five live recordings.

“My time with Yonder taught me what was possible,” Austin says. “It showed me that if you worked hard at it and you believe in it and there’s a part of you that’s meant to do it, it will happen. It’s clichéd, but it’s true.”

It is with this rich personal history at his back that Jeff Austin will step out into the spotlight as a solo act. “My ideal sound is between Phish, My Morning Jacket, and Zac Brown Band.” Austin plans to continue songwriting for his solo project but might be weaving in a bit of mainstream, in the style of his John Scott Sherrill/Shawn Camp co-write “Fiddlin’ Around,” featured on Dierks Bentley’s 2010 bluegrass album Up on the Ridge. “I love writing a three-minute song with a hook that would grab a five-hundred-pound marlin as much as I like writing something that goes, ‘okay, after the bridge, it’s going to open up and just go wide.’”

Indeed, “wide” is what Jeff Austin is all about. He wants new and different, complex and interesting. He wants everything the music world has to offer, and he’s willing to work hard to get it.

For more information about Jeff, go to http://www.jeffaustin.com.

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Marie Hines Bio

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

Marie Hines

Supporting The Tide and the Sea

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, The Tide and the Sea boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer wind and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as vibrant and smart as she is talented.

Marie nurtured her musical abilities early while growing up in small-town South Carolina: “I started taking classical piano when I was about six. Music was kind of something I developed on my own. I started writing at the age of twelve.” And something struck with a chord with Marie, who moved to Nashville in 2005. “I came to ‘Music City’ to surround myself with people that were better than me. I knew I needed that constant challenge in order to become a greater musician.” Marie found inspiration among fellow songwriters as well as larger acts like Norah Jones and Coldplay, all the while developing her own class of bright, satiny melodies.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her follow-up EPs, The Living Room Sessions and HeartCrash, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano refrains, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of love songs. On The Tide and the Sea, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides.

“The title comes from the idea of love as a push-and-pull; it’s a tug-of-war type thing; it’s a dance. The tide rises and falls back into the sea, but it always falls back into the sea. Love is not easy, but when you’ve found that one right person, it is constant,” says Marie. “I guess that is maybe how I experience love. It’s comforting and protective, and these songs have that theme in common.”

The Tide and the Sea begins briskly, a crisp breeze fluttering through spring grass, playful and steady. “My Love Will Never Fail You,” the expansive, glittering single, makes confident declarations on the origins of love with lyrics like, “I don’t believe in chance. I think it’s the choice we make, and I choose you for the rest of my days,” its melody expanding into broad, undulating layers of a soaring orchestral spectrum. “In My Arms,” co-written with fellow Nashville songwriter Justin Halpin, is a richly textured, sanguine tune with a spirited rhythm that reminds Marie, “Yes, I’ve had my heart broken, but it’s all washed away when you have this one person.”

The golden, ebullient “Always Been You,” another Justin Halpin co-write, boasts the title lyric – “You be the tide; I’ll be the sea. The rise or fall brings you home to me, brings you home to me. It’s always been you, love.” – and acts as the magnetic, whimsical cornerstone of Marie’s rosy ballads. “Forever Falling for You,” co-written with Justin Tam of Nashville folk band Humming House, is a glowing, ethereal track with lyrics warm and hopeful: “We’ll build a house someday; we’ll build a home in the meantime.” And the lilting, dramatic “Forever Mine,” co-written with Justin Halpin and featuring background vocals by Marie’s new fiancé Ben Ringel of Nashville blues band The Delta Saints, swells and diminishes in arresting, elegant strokes, closing the album with an exultant, richly resonant ballad of halcyon love, repeating the chorus: “Oh my love, my life, always you and I, steady as we rise; be forever mine.”

Marie’s music has seen commercial and critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prizes in the Intel Superstars Competition, the Intel Video Superstars Competition, and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way. In 2012, she was invited to play Toronto’s NXNE Festival.

Marie’s songs have provided background music for hundreds of wedding videos; MTV, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities; and the music video for “Perfect Kiss” was featured on CMT Pure.

The Delta Saints Bio

Supporting Death Letter Jubilee

By Emily J Ramey

Written for The Delta Saints

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

The Delta Saints

The Delta Saints are not what they say they are. Delta? Absolutely. But saints? One might call them “cautionary tales” long before the term “saints” ever came to mind; however, there is something devout about their bayou rock, a dirty, distinct sound they’ve zealously refined on their debut full-length, Death Letter Jubilee. Alternating between raucous melodies and slow-burning odes to the devil in his many forms, Ben Ringel (vocals/dobro), Dylan Fitch (guitar), David Supica (bass), and Ben Azzi (drums) explore themes of difficult love, the wanderer’s high road, and the moral low road using their unconscious fascination with the classical elements – earth, air, fire, and water – as a natural vehicle for their briny narratives.

With Death Letter Jubilee, The Delta Saints are blooming into life not as a pretty flower might, but perhaps a mushroom explosion from an atomic bomb or a feral thunderhead. After two self-released and well received EPs, Pray On and A Bird Called Angola, fans demanded a full length and happily burst through the band’s Kickstarter goal to get it. “That is a feeling like no other,” Ben Ringel claims. “It’s awesome and also humbling. And it’s good pressure on us to succeed. It’s the kind of pressure we were able to harness and strive off of.”

The members of The Delta Saints each moved to Nashville for college in 2007. They first found common ground as old-world-loving, good-bourbon-swilling musicians and began playing together around town before they had any plans to record. As the searing harmonica and howling vocals of their live show began garnering notoriety in a city known well for its indifference to anything less than worthwhile, The Saints rode their roots rock wave right into the studio.

On the heels of 2010’s A Bird Called Angola, the band toured tirelessly, playing more than 150 shows a year, including a slot at Arkansas’ Wakarusa Festival and two summers headlining in Europe during which they performed on the long-running, renowned German TV show Rockpalast. Road tested and weather worn, The Delta Saints have seen wholly organic growth, working diligently in the name of a roots revival alongside fellow up and comers Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr., becoming The Black Keys of a bygone era, all the while harnessing the brackish delta current into something gripping and bold.

“Liar” opens Death Letter Jubilee with a swaggering bass line and a blazing guitar riff, the “Come on!” refrain in the chorus echoing like a command, beckoning listeners to settle in for the long haul. “’Chicago’ is just written about the first time I was ever in Chicago,” Ringel explains. “We were there for 18 hours, and there was a blizzard, so it was snow and wind and bitter cold. Right before bed, I looked out this big third story window, and all I could see was amber light from the streetlights and snow, and for some reason that image just stuck.” The song itself generates a heat fit to ward off that blizzard weather, featuring a rare but incendiary brass section and an immovable beat that marks the tune as an early highlight.

“Death Letter Jubilee” is by far the most magnetic track on the album. There’s something eerie about its cacophonous Orleans-inspired chorus, the warm buzz of harmonica, the tinny trumpet whine, and the way one can’t help but be swept away by the utterly irreverent revelry. “I love songs where sonically you get one emotion from it, and then you look at the lyrics and it’s not at all what you expected,” Ringel says of the song’s musical inspiration. “And everybody has certain emotions that they’re not proud of. The idea that you can be glad about somebody’s ultimate demise… it’s such a negative thing, but everybody feels something a little like that.”

“Jezebel” melts down into a sweltering lo-fi blues number, its minimal instrumentation muddled and viscous as though the song was written on an old front porch when it was just too damn hot to do anything but sing. And like water thrown over flames, the crackling and steaming “Out to Sea” cools the album with its haunting refrain: “Oh, oh, river run, straight out from the hurt that seems to pour from me, and oh, oh, river speak, just haulin’ ass down the Calabash, just headed out to sea.”

“It was a new direction for us on a lot of different fronts,” Ringel admits of the tune. “It’s quiet and it’s sweet and it’s sad. It explores the idea of that cheesy, sappy movie line, ‘I can’t live without you,’ but this is more like, if you’re going to say it, what does that really mean?”

“Sing to Me” starts out sluggishly, forlornly, a rusted locomotive gathering speed with lyrics like, “I come to you now with blood on my hands, the law on my tail, and my conscience be damned, my sweet little babe, my sweet honeybee,” before running off the rails completely, harmonica flashing, drums galloping. And “River,” a second listen gem, is a brief interlude deep into the album in which an ethereal female gospel choir seems to sway and billow in the breeze on balmy Sunday afternoon.

“The main thing we wanted for Death Letter Jubilee was for it to have movement,” Ringel states. “We wanted people to listen and have an emotional journey similar to the one we had while making it.” That journey has left them energized and confident about the future, while still enjoying each stop along the road: “We want to grow, and maybe even grow faster, but we understand that it’s all in due time. We want to fully realize the weight of our experiences, and be able to savor them too.”

The Delta Saints’ new album will be available January 2013. For more information about The Saints and Death Letter Jubilee, go to http://www.thedeltasaints.com.

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Warren Brothers Article

Warren Brothers

“The Search for the Perfect Song”

By Emily J Ramey

Written for BMI: MusicWorld

Brett and Brad Warren always write their songs together, and as the Nashville songwriting duo The Warren Brothers, their industrious pens have been working for the likes of Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Dierks Bentley, among an impressive, steady growing list of others.

“Because we’re brothers, we have a built-in chemistry,” Brett explains. “We’re also brutally honest with each other. It can be refreshing and also taxing to write with us, but it will not be boring.”

The Brothers’ writing process seems about as diverse as their list of co-writers themselves: “We might go have lunch with Martina, and something in conversation will hit us, and we’ll write a song about that. Or Tim will call me up with an idea, and I’ll head over to his house, and we’ll write it. Or we’ll just start messing around on a guitar and try to think of stuff. There’s really no set way.”

Despite the Brothers current savvy, they worked hard to hit their stride. Early in their now 15-year career, Brad and Brett performed as artists, releasing three albums in six years, and served as judges on CMT’s Nashville Star for a time. Since then, they’ve found their niche as wholly devoted songwriters and have hurled themselves into the arena without hesitation.

“As regular artists, we were way too diverse,” Brett clarifies. “As songwriters, [that diversity] has been a blessing. We have a song on Hinder’s record and Toby Keith’s, we have four songs on Tim McGraw’s new album, and we’re writing with Orianthi this week. We just had a song cut by Lynyrd Skynyrd even, so we’re all over the map, and it is so much fun. We’ve written with Chris Daughtry and Ne-yo and people that are so different, it’s not even funny.”

The Warren Brothers’ lively schedule is due in part to their high demand as great writers but also probably as much to their enthusiasm and passion for finding the perfect song. They write with purpose and zeal for the music above all else.

“The best moments in my career have been the ones where I realized we were writing not for the money, not for an award; it was all about the song.”

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