Posts Tagged ‘Memphis’

Julien Baker has announced her third full length album titled “Little Oblivions”, which is set for a February 26th 2021. Released via Matador Records. In addition to the album announcement, Baker also shared the first single off the new record, titled “Faith Healer” coupled with a music video directed by Daniel Henry.

In Baker’s own words: Put most simply, I think that “Faith Healer” is a song about vices, both the obvious and the more insidious ways that they show up in the human experience. I started writing this song two years ago and it began as a very literal examination of addiction. For awhile, I only had the first verse, which is just a really candid confrontation of the cognitive dissonance a person who struggles with substance abuse can feel — the overwhelming evidence that this substance is harming you, and the counterintuitive but very real craving for the relief it provides. When I revisited the song I started thinking about the parallels between the escapism of substance abuse and the other various means of escapism that had occupied a similar, if less easily identifiable, space in my psyche.

There are so many channels and behaviours that we use to placate discomfort unhealthily which exist outside the formal definition of addiction. I (and so many other people) are willing to believe whomever — a political pundit, a preacher, a drug dealer, an energy healer — when they promise healing, and how that willingness, however genuine, might actually impede healing. ‘Little Oblivions’ is the third studio album by Julien Baker. Recorded in Memphis, TN, the record weaves together unflinching autobiography with assimilated experience and hard-won observations from the past few years, taking Baker’s capacity for storytelling to new heights. It also marks a sonic shift, with the songwriter’s intimate piano and guitar arrangements newly enriched by bass, drums, keyboards, banjo, and mandolin with nearly all of the instruments performed by Baker.”

Releases February 26th, 2021

Liz Brasher a singer songwriter based in Memphis, Tennessee, Brasher’s upbringing is central to her music and specifically to her album “Painted Image“. Raised in a religious Dominican family, they were active Baptist church singers in Charlotte, North Carolina. Brasher herself studied theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago but was soon drawn to secular music. This pursuit created familial tension resulting in excommunication. However, her exposure to religion, biblical texts, and sacred music directly informed her music. Brasher’s disconnect from strict dogmas also showed her the value in creating music that defined her as an individual.

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Liz Brasher came in and knocked out a new song ‘Sad Girl Status’ in less than a few hours. She was an absolute joy to work with and has one hell of a voice. We had some time left over, so I blocked off a stairwell in the building and had (studio manager) Blair Davis and (assistant engineer) Spenser Frazier help set up a PA speaker to use the space as a chamber. It sounded so, so great. There isn’t a single digital reverb on that song.”

Released January 13th, 2019.

JULIEN BAKER – ” Tokyo “

Posted: February 25, 2020 in MUSIC
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Julien Baker was barely 20 when she released her debut album Sprained Ankle, but she voiced her creative frustrations as if she’d already been at this for decades: “Wish I could write songs about anything other than death,” she lamented on the title track. Songs about death may be almost as old as death itself, but each time Baker meditates on giving up the ghost—in her solo work, with her supergroup boygenius, or in a tribute to Frightened Rabbit’s late frontman—her perspective feels chillingly new.

Such is the case with “Tokyo,” a new-to-streaming single Baker released earlier this month as part of a Sub Pop vinyl series. It opens with a hypnotic ascendant arpeggio that initially feels alien to Baker’s usual stripped-down arrangements. But seconds in, her chugging guitar takes over, propelling one of her most affecting songs to date. “Don’t wanna stay here/But I’ll crash anyway,” she sighs over scattered piano notes, likening her own emotional precariousness to a rocky plane landing: “Never learned how to come down without burning up on the runway.” She depicts her inner turmoil as a “seven-car pileup,” calling to mind her deliberations on seat belts from Turn Out the Lights highlight “Hurt Less.” This time, instead of recognizing the value of her own safety, Baker’s coming to terms with the inevitable. “You want love/This is as close as you’re gonna get,” she bellows, her vocals as agonizing as ever. The instrumentation swells with her pain, emulating the startling intensity of a crash landing—and then, just like that, silence.

Because it’s Julien Baker, that’s why. Whenever Julien Baker makes new music, I will buy and enjoy that music. Case in point, these songs.

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Released October 11th, 2019

2019 Sub Pop Records

Craft Records is about to reissue Big Star’s acclaimed, first two albums on 180-gram vinyl.  Set for a January 24th, 202 release date, and available for pre-order now, #1 Record and Radio City feature all-analog mastering by Jeff Powell at Memphis’ Take Out Vinyl, and also manufactured locally—in Big Star’s hometown—at Memphis Record Pressing.

Though they both failed to strike commercial success at the time of their releases, 1972’s #1 Record and 1974’s Radio City are now considered to be milestones in the history of rock by critics and musicians alike. Heavily influenced by the British Invasion, yet markedly original—with their jangly pop, driving guitars, sweet harmonies, and wistful melancholia—Big Star offered a distinctly new sound when they first emerged in the early ‘70s, and are counted among the founders of power pop—a genre which wouldn’t truly take off until later in the decade. Nevertheless, Big Star would become an underground favorite, influencing some the biggest alt-rock artists of the ’80s, ’90s and beyond, including R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, and The Replacements (who famously penned the song “Alex Chilton” as an ode to the band’s frontman).

The Memphis band was formed in 1971 by singer/songwriters Alex Chilton (1950-2010) and Chris Bell (1951-1978), drummer Jody Stephens (b. 1952) and bassist Andy Hummel (1951-2010). Chilton and Bell drew on the Lennon/McCartney style of collaborative songwriting for their aptly titled debut, #1 Record. Working with Ardent Records’ founder and engineer John Fry, Chilton laid down guitar and vocal tracks—often in one take, while Bell added polish with overdubs and harmonies to songs like “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “Thirteen,” and “In The Street.” #1 Record was released to wide critical acclaim, yet distribution issues severely limited the album’s availability in stores. It would sell fewer than 10,000 copies.

Although Chris Bell departed the band shortly after the release of #1 Record, Big Star’s remaining members began work on a second album in the fall of 1973. Losing the creative input of Bell could have wreaked havoc on the band’s progress, but Chilton confidently took the helm, and his undeniable talents shone through—especially on tracks like “I’m in Love with a Girl,” “Back of a Car,” and cult favorite, “September Gurls.” Released in February of 1974, Radio City garnered praise from the press, but, unfortunately, critical acclaim did not translate to sales.

Disbanding in late 1974, Big Star could have easily fallen into the abyss of could-have-beens and one-hit-wonders, yet they have instead achieved near-mythic status in pop music history. The legacies of #1 Record and Radio City—as well as the band’s third LP, Third—have far exceeded their original commercial performances. All three of Big Star’s albums are included on Rolling Stone’s 2012 “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” lists, and tracks from the first two (“Thirteen” and “September Gurls”) are also among the magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Numerous artists (Elliott Smith, The Bangles, This Mortal Coil, Beck, and Jeff Buckley, to name a few) have recorded covers of the band’s songs.

Big Star has been honored with a tribute record (Big Star Small World, 2006), a documentary (2012’s Nothing Can Hurt Me) and a touring live show, “Big Star’s Third,” in which an all-star roster of guest vocalists and musicians join a core group (including R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Chris Stamey of The dB’s, The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and sole surviving Big Star member, Jody Stephens) to perform Third, plus selections from #1 Record and Radio City. Most recently, the 2016 concert film and live album, Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s “Third” Live…And More, captures one such performance in Glendale, CA. Through their heartfelt renditions of the band’s songs, a cross-generational lineup of talent—Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson, Jessica Pratt, and San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet among them—prove the enduring appeal of Big Star’s music.

#1 Record and Radio City (180-gram vinyl editions) will be available on Friday, January 24th, 2020

Big Star’s Third performing live from the Bumbershoot Music Lounge. Recorded August 31st, 2014.

Songs:
For You
Take Care
Nightime
Give Me Another Chance
Thirteen
Blue Moon
I Am The Cosmos
In The Street

After FIVE solid years of painstaking research and hard work, Rich Tupica’s epic tome on the deep end of the BIG STAR story is ready.

THERE WAS A LIGHT is an oral history containing new and archival interviews with those closest to Chris Bell and the Big Star circle: their friends, family, former bandmates—even some fans, exes, classmates and co-workers.

The varied cast of voices, many from the band’s hometown of Memphis, comprises all the members of Big Star, including: Chris Bell, the iconic Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens. In the following decades after its 1975 breakup, the obscure group somehow reached and inspired some of rock’s most important bands, including R.E.M., the Replacements, Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub, Beck, and Wilco.

With Chris Bell at the center of the Big Star universe, this book carefully reveals the production of Big Star’s masterful 1972 debut LP, #1 Record, for Ardent/Stax Records. Despite stellar reviews in music magazines, the record saw abysmal sales. Soon after, toxic personality conflicts and turmoil tore Big Star apart while Bell battled drug abuse and clinical depression.

There Was A Light then delves into Big Star’s second and third albums, while recounting Bell’s second act as a struggling solo musician and devout born-again Christian. During several trips to Europe, he ambitiously recorded songs and pitched to record labels—even crossing paths with Paul McCartney. From this productive era arose Bell’s lone solo album, the posthumously released I Am the Cosmos LP—his swan song and masterpiece.

There Was A Light details the pop culture phenomenon that made Big Star legends and divulges how its staunch fanbase saved the band from obscurity.

On May 7th, Elektra Records signed pop-rock group The Band Camino. Co-frontmen Jeffery Jordan and Spencer Stewart and guitarist Graham Rowell formed the band in Memphis in 2015 — later recruiting drummer Garrison Burgess and have built a loyal fan base with their independently released EPs, 2016’s My Thoughts On You and 2017’s Heaven.

Elektra’s senior director of A&R Johnny Minardi was one of those early fans, thanks to his friends who had introduced him to the band’s song “What I Want.” Minardi, who was at Equal Vision Records at the time and joined Elektra in 2017, says he was drawn to the song because it didn’t sound like everything else from rock bands today. “They have such great melody, and hooks that live with you. You can listen to the band and walk away for two weeks and be like, ‘Why is this still in my head?'”

As the band continued releasing music independently, Minardi kept in touch with their manager, Jameson Roper. And once they released the roaring electric guitar-heavy jam “Daphne Blue” in August 2018, Minardi wanted to act fast: “That’s when I truly head over heels fell in love.” So earlier this year, when The Band Camino was looking to sign a record deal, Minardi got to work and sent several coworkers to the band’s New York show at Music Hall of Williamsburg in February. After Elektra’s A&R reps Caterina Nasr and Danny Rakow saw them perform, Minardi remembers, “They called me freaking out.”

“They’re a younger rock band — which is hard to say these days — that actually puts people in venues, but has a modernized pop appeal to it as well, compared to a lot of the bands [just] having success at pop radio,” Minardi says of the foursome, who are all in their early 20s. “They bring the full gambit of what a true pop-rock band is these days.”

After announcing their Elektra signing on May 14th, The Band Camino have re-released “Daphne Blue” and unveiled the heartbreak anthem “See Through.” They also announced their biggest headlining tour to date, hitting 1,000 to 2,000-person rooms around North America. The group has continued making music with frequent collaborator (and Nashville superproducer) Jordan Schmidt and Minardi assures there will be new music before they hit the road — also hinting that the new material will bring even more impactful energy to The Band Camino’s sets. “We all set out to be the biggest band in the genre ever,” he says. “That’s where we’re trying to go.”

Baker

Memphis, TN-based songwriter Julien Baker is the latest addition to the Matador Records roster. The 21-year-old’s devastating and vulnerable debut album, Sprained Ankle, which was originally released in 2015 and now gets re-released by Matador. The album was recorded at Spacebomb Studios, though Julien’s songs don’t share the down-home gloss of the other albums produced there. Instead of beefing up her honest tunes with rich layering like Natalie Prass or Matthew E. White, Baker pares her songs down to their simplest possible format: alone, singing and playing acoustic guitar directly into the microphone, sometimes in a single take.

That decision resulted in a remarkable record, one full of beautiful, personal explorations revealed in stark intimacy. That choice makes a lot of sense for Baker’s voice, both in the literal and figurative sense. Rather than Prass’ sweet, soaring tones or White’s blue-eyed soul, Sprained Ankle is delivered in reedy whispers and chilled coos. Released just before she turned 20 years old, the record still sounds raw – not that her voice lacks control or power, but rather that the weariness of songs about death, breakups, and existential questioning are sung with incredible presence. They’re coming of age songs from someone still coming of age, the wounds still fresh, the big truths currently being revealed. There are the struggles of depression, drugs, loneliness, but the clear-eyed way she faces it all supersedes any platitude.

LP – The album comes with a new 7″ Funeral Pyre. Only Baker can make a song with such a darkly macabre title so heartbreakingly gorgeous, with her signature hushed-yet-lofty vocals soaring over a quietly fingerpicked melody that crescendos into layered, almost-orchestral beauty. The B-side, Distant Solar System, is another unheard song from the Sprained Ankle sessions.

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John Kilzer, a singer and songwriter from Tennessee whose music career spanned 30 years and who became a pastor after undergoing drug recovery, has died. Kilzer’s death was disclosed Tuesday by St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, where he served as an associate pastor for recovery ministries. A cause of death was not disclosed. The church said in a statement that it was a sudden death.

Throughout his life, Kilzer struggled with his drinking, often courting trouble with the law. It was after an arrest in the early ‘90s that he began his path toward finding sobriety and his religious faith.

A native of Jackson, Tennessee, Kilzer was born in 1957. An All-American high school basketball player, Kilzer came to the City as a highly touted shooting guard for the basketball team Memphis State University in 1975, playing four years for the Tigers.

He eventually became an English teacher at his alma mater, and later began a new life as a musician — in part inspired by a chance dorm room encounter with Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, the famed Hi Records guitarist and songwriter. Hodges had come across Kilzer messing around with a guitar, took an instant liking to him and became his mentor. “If he hadn’t walked in the room that night, I wouldn’t be a songwriter,” Kilzer has said.

Kilzer’s musical career took off in the late 1980s, when he was signed to the Geffen label, releasing a pair of roots-rock records for the company, including his 1988 debut, “Memory in the Making,” I bought this album on vinyl in 1988 when it was originally released and subsequently on CD a number of years later. John Kilzer possesses one of the world’s finest voices, not only does he have a natural ‘gravel over honey’ tone he is one of the finest singers you will ever hear in terms of his ability to effortlessly ‘tell his story’. He communicates emotion in every song that does everything from make you want to get up and dance to conversely breaking your heart. Lyrically Kilzer’s songwriting is incredibly diverse, every song feels natural, thought provoking, beautiful and real, he is an incredibly clever songwriter who never strays into being crass or pseudo intellectual. There are so many poignant moments on this album which hasn’t aged in almost 30 years, the next album In 1991’s “Busman’s Holiday.” including Kilzer song the minor rock radio hit “Red Blue Jeans” — brought him exposure on MTV and television shows like “Melrose Place.”  Roseanne Cash, Trace Adkins and Maria Muldaur are among artists who recorded his songs.

John Kilzer should have been a star, possibily mentioned in the same breath as Tom Petty and especially Bryan Adams. I have loved this album since I first clapped ears on it in the late 80’s , the years have not diminshed the quality of the songwriting and the playing. The obvious reference point is Bryan Adams circa Reckless but you can pick out influence of blue collar rockers like John Mellancamp in some of that fine songs and guitar playing.

Memphis power pop cult hero and Big Star contemporary Van Duren is the subject of the new documentary “Waiting”, and Omnivore has the companion CD soundtrack!  Featuring Van Duren favorites and previously unreleased tracks (including one recorded live at Ardent Studios in 1981 and one with Big Star’s Jody Stephens from 1975), the soundtrack boasts new liner notes from the artist.  All tracks are original masters (no re-recordings).  Look for Waiting – The Van Duren Story is out today on vinyl

“I’m not one of those people who dwells on the past very much” isn’t the first thing you expect to hear from a man whose 1978 debut album is at the center of a new documentary. “That was the strange part to me, to celebrate something that happened 40 years ago,” says Van Duren about Are You Serious?, the record that commands the undying affection of ’70s power pop obsessives, but has otherwise slipped between history’s cracks. Wade Jackson and Greg Carey’s film Waiting: The Van Duren Storyand its soundtrack album, however, aim to right that wrong.

In the first half of the ’70s, Duren was one of the most promising talents on the Memphis rock scene, along with power pop compatriots Big Star. He was even invited by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens to audition for the band after singer/guitarist Chris Bell’s departure, though the match was somewhat star-crossed. “It was a disaster,” Duren rather less diplomatically recalls. “I wasn’t a lead guitar player. Jody thought my vocal abilities and songwriting would really help the band in the direction he wanted to go. Meanwhile, they were cutting [dark, offbeat album] 3rd, which obviously had nothing to do with anything that I’d ever jump in on.”

Nevertheless, Duren seemingly never left Stephens’s mind. “When Big Star was kind of crumbling, he reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to do something,” remembers Duren. At Memphis’ legendary Ardent Studios, the pair cut demos of several Duren tunes. With famous admirers like Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in his corner, Duren eventually cut a deal with a tiny label out of Connecticut and released his debut, Are You Serious?, in 1978.

The record introduced a man with a plaintive voice and an unerring knack for the almighty hook. The stomping riffs of “Chemical Fire,” the yearning piano balladry of “Waiting,” and the McCartney/Rundgren vibe of the pumping pop-rocker “Grow Yourself Up” reveal an artist already fully matured in his mid-20s, bouncing off the same basic musical touchstones as his Big Star buddies but processing his influences in an utterly personal way. Though it earned some great reviews, it pretty much sank into obscurity, and when the follow-up album was scuttled in 1980 due to acrimonious label relations, Duren’s promising career seemed to flame out.

“It was a very dark situation and it was very tough to get through that,” says Duren. At that point, he pretty much dropped below the radar of the wider world. Some three and a half decades later, Sydney singer/songwriter Wade Jackson and his friend Greg Carey discovered Are You Serious? by accident. “It was everything I love about music,” says Jackson. “I was completely hooked; within a week, that was all I was listening to. I heard Big Star in there, I heard Todd Rundgren, and McCartney of course, I also heard that Emitt Rhodes thing, and I just felt like it was exactly what I was looking for. And the delivery of the vocal, I think, is so genuine. There’s something about the desperate delivery that I love. It’s very real, in my opinion.”

Jackson and Carey were so flabbergasted they decided they had to tell Duren’s story in a documentary despite having zero film experience, learning as they went. “Being so naïve about how it all works is probably what got me through it,” Jackson says.

But Duren’s been burned enough to operate from a place of caution when people approach him about his music. “Every now and then people reach out to me on social media,” he says, “and I’m pretty wary of it because many times it doesn’t go well, for whatever reason.” Consequently, he remained guarded when first-time filmmakers Jackson and Carey first emailed him from Australia. “It took a couple of months for Van to want to chat with us on the phone,” confirms Jackson. Over time, though, the well-intentioned Aussies earned Duren’s trust, and came to Memphis to meet him.

They eventually learned that while Duren never earned national attention, he never quit recording and performing. In the ’80s he formed Good Question, earning regional renown. “We started in August of ’82 and the band ran for 17 years,” Duren says. They released two albums and had a local hit with “Jane.” “Good Question almost immediately became one of the most popular live bands around here,” Duren remembers. “We worked all the time. It was the first time in my entire career I worked enough to actually go in the black.”

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After the band’s breakup in 1999, Duren kept working, releasing duo albums with fellow Memphian power pop hero Tommy Hoehn, as well as subsequent solo records and collaborations with others. “It was a real shock, to be honest,” says Jackson about learning of Duren’s post-’70s output. “It was great to hear that he’d never given up on writing tracks and releasing albums. We like to call it the music disease—once you’re struck with it, it’s there to stay.”

Hidden in plain sight, Duren paradoxically wasn’t even well-known enough to really be considered a cult hero. “In my experience,” he explains, “if you can rise to the level of what they call ‘obscure,’ then that’s some level of success. You do it because you feel compelled to do it, and it’s not because you’re trying to please anybody else.”

Jackson and Carey’s film is a compassionate portrait of Duren’s rocky road through the music business, and even the buzz over its first few festival appearances has already brought Duren more attention than he’s had in decades. Equally important is the release of the soundtrack album, containing early Duren gems, Good Question material, and even one of those Duren/Stephens demos.

Boutique reissue label Omnivore, renowned for its Big Star-related releases, turned out to be the perfect home for Duren’s music. “They did such a wonderful job,” Duren enthuses. “The mastering on that soundtrack album is phenomenal. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that those recordings would sound like that.”

Jackson and Carey helped facilitate not only the soundtrack’s release, but a publishing deal for Duren with Australia’s Native Tongue Publishing, as well. “It’s excellent for Greg and I,” says Jackson, “because we were so heads-down in this project we’d sometimes go, ‘Is the music as good as we think, or are we going crazy?’ Having a great label like Omnivore and a great publishing company like Native Tongue get behind it [we feel like], ‘Yeah, we’ve done the right thing.’”

The film’s sold-out premiere at the Indie Memphis Film Festival on November 3rd, 2018—complete with a five-minute standing ovation at the end—was a full-circle moment for Duren. “It was really heartwarming and very surprising to me,” he says. “After the showing we walked across to a different theater where we had set up for a live performance, and we did about a 45-minute set of songs from the film with a band, including my son on drums.”

Full theatrical releases for both Australia and the U.S. are in the works for the film. Duren’s future plans include recording new songs and taking his live show to audiences beyond his hometown. “I’m very grateful to Wade and Greg for finding me,” admits the once-wary songsmith, “because I wasn’t looking for this, I didn’t seek it out. That made it very pure to me, very honest. I’m grateful for that more than anything. Meanwhile, forward. There’s more to come, absolutely.”

Van Duren