BOOKING (North America) :: Billions | Ali Hedrick
BOOKING (Europe) :: ITB | Barry Dickens
BOOKING - AMBIENT & ELECTRO (Europe) :: Little Big | Ned Beckett
Daniel Lanois is a name that deserves to be mentioned alongside the finest sonic experimenters of the 20th century – and the 21st century too. Whatever you're listening to – whether it be acoustic or electronic, roots or futurist, underground or pop – if you listen closely you'll hear traces of the sonic signatures of Daniel Lanois. And what's more he's still experimenting as eagerly as he ever has, creating music as beautiful and new as ever before.
It is a refusal to sit still, a constant hunger for new ideas and techniques, that has defined both his work as a world renowned producer and his solo works. Most recently, he has hit a rich creative seam, so apparent on the gorgeous, weightless album Goodbye to Language, which comes out this September 9th.
On this new album, and its widely acclaimed predecessor Flesh and Machine, Lanois connects the most forward-looking instincts that constant contact with studio technology can develop with the natural rootedness that only a lifetime in music can give a person.
The work he did on Brian Eno’s Ambient albums has entered into legend and would lead him onto working on some of the biggest selling records of the time. Working with Bob Dylan he brought out a Roland TR-808 drum machine to use as a compositional tool – kickstarting the groove of the Oh Mercy album, and helping make it one of the most dramatic creative reinventions in Dylan's career. A few years later, he and Eno helped bring the electronic music culture that they themselves had helped to inspire into U2's Achtung Baby.
Goodbye to Language is the perfect joining of the dots, through the world-changing experiments of his early days with Eno, through his flights through the most rarefied atmospheres of the mainstream of music. Constructed entirely from the sounds of the pedal steel guitar, Daniel on the pedal steel and his mate Rocco Deluca on the lap steel with compositional rigour that recalls the 20th century dreamscapes of Ravel and Debussy, with a sense of sonic futurism and yet also with the naturalness that can only come from someone rooted in centuries of grassroots music.
And while fusions of influence can sometimes lead to homogenisation in the blending of source material, this record does precisely the opposite: it's about highlighting the highest common factors from a lifetime of influences. Or as he succinctly puts it: “I operate under the banner of soul music – music that just feels right and comes from a truthful place.” When a musician with as much expertise and experience as Daniel tells their own personal truth, you should really listen closely.
Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. From the age of five, Holley worked various jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theatre, washing dishes, and cooking at Disney World. As a child, he lived in a whiskey house across from the state fairgrounds, a state run juvenile home, and finally was reunited with his natural born family at the age of 14. His early life was chaotic and Holley was never afforded the pleasure of a real childhood.
Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events. His work is now in collections of major museums throughout the country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.
Holley did not start making and performing music in a studio nor does his creative process mirror that of the typical musician. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording. In Holley’s original art environment, he would construct and deconstruct his visual works, repurposing their elements for new pieces. This often led to the transfer of individual narratives into the new work creating a cumulative composite image that has depth and purpose beyond its original singular meaning. The layers of sound in Holley’s music, likewise, are the result of decades of evolving experimentation.
Holley’s music caught the attention of Matt Arnett, whose father has been Holley’s primary art patron since the 1980s. In 2006, Matt organized the first professional recordings of Holley’s music. In 2010, Arnett set up a performance by Holley at Grocery on Home. One of the people in attendance was Lance Ledbetter, founder and owner of the record label Dust-to-Digital. Deeply moved by Holley’s keyboard playing and singing, Ledbetter signed Holley to his record label. Soon after, Holley found himself in the studio again, and in 2010 and 2011, a number of studio sessions ensued. The result was the album “Just Before Music.” More recordings are continuing to be made to celebrate and to document one of America’s most compelling musicians. In 2013, “Keeping a Record of It,” Holley’s second record was released. In early 2014, Holley recorded again with Richard Swift, acclaimed musician and producer at his studio, National Freedom, in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
In addition to the studio sessions, Holley began touring as a musician. In August and September of 2013, Holley toured the West Coast with Deerhunter. That tour was followed by a tour of the East Coast with Bill Callahan, and in November and December of 2013, Holley had his first tour through Western Europe (Spain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, and France). Holley has been joined on stage by a variety of musicians, including members of Deerhunter, Black Lips, The War on Drugs, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Bon Iver, Gang Gang Dance, Julia Holter, Megafaun, as well as Ben Sollee, Steve Gunn, Jim White, Sinkane, Stevie Nistor, Jenny Hval, Marshall Ruffin, Daniel Lanois, Brian Blade, Mammane Sani, and Bill Callahan. In 2013, Holley’s first records were named to a number of critics’ Top Records of the Year lists, including The Washington Post (#4) and The Chicago Sun Times (#2).
In 2014, Holley continued to tour, completing another tour of Europe (Belgium, Norway, England, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France) and a USA/Canada tour with Daniel Lanois. Also in 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that they had acquired three sculptures by the acclaimed artist and musician.
His visual art has been displayed in numerous museums and galleries around the United States. In the late summer, 2015, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art opened Lonnie Holley: Something to Take My Place, accompanied by the first significant monograph of the artist’s work.
In 2015, Holley recorded music for the film Five Nights in Maine (David Oyelowo, Diane Wiest, Rosie Perez), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has its theatrical release in the summer of 2016.
Holley continues to make visual art and music. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
BOOKING (US) :: Ground Control | Jim Romeo
BOOKING (International) :: Qu Junctions | Joe Hatt
Marisa Anderson channels the history of the guitar and stretches the boundaries of tradition. Her deeply original work applies elements of minimalism, electronic music, drone and 20th century classical music to compositions based on blues, jazz and gospel and country music, re-imagining the landscape of American music. Onstage, she is a master storyteller, bringing warmth, wit and insight to her virtuosic compositions and arrangements.
In 2017 Mississippi Records is re-issuing Anderson’s 2013 record, ‘Traditional and Public Domain Songs’. Anderson spent a year researching hymns, blues, murder ballads and American patriotic songs. The resulting record is an exploration of the relationship between evangelical Christianity and state sanctioned violence.
Originally from Northern California, Anderson dropped out of college at age nineteen to walk across the US and eventually landed in Portland, Oregon, where she currently lives. Classically trained, she honed her skills playing in country, jazz and circus bands. In 2011 she released her first solo guitar record, ‘The Golden Hour’ followed by ‘Mercury' (2013) and ‘Into The Light’ (2016). She is in demand as a collaborator and composer, contributing to recent recordings by Beth Ditto, Sharon Van Etten and Circuit Des Yeux among others, as well as creating music for short films and soundtracks.
Anderson tours extensively throughout Europe and North America. Her work has been featured in Billboard, Rolling Stone, NPR, SPIN, Pitchfork and The Wire. Billboard magazine named ‘Into the Light’ one of the best records of 2016 and Pitchfork named Anderson’s 2015 split LP with Tashi Dorji one of the top experimental records of the year. Recent festival appearances include Le Guess Who, Moog Fest, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
BOOKING (North America) :: The Apollo Agency | Cid Gardner
Pegi Young’s powerful new album, Raw, gets right to the point. Opening cut “Why” kicks off with Young’s impassioned alto, demanding, “Why’d you have to ruin my life? Why’d you have to be so mean?” Over the soulful Americana rock of her band the Survivors – led by legendary keyboardist/songwriter Spooner Oldham – Young taps into a surprisingly primal force.
There’s a reason for that. Young wrote most of Raw in the wake of her 2014 separation and divorce from Neil Young, to whom she’d been married thirty-six years. Over the decades, the pair had raised a family, made music together, and worked to support northern California’s Bridge School for severely disabled children. Pegi founded the Bridge School in 1986 after being unable to find the right kind of care for their son, Ben, who has cerebral palsy.
“[Raw] was very cathartic for me,” Young says. “What happened was real, but I also look at this record as having a universal quality to it. I’m certainly not the only one to go through a late-in-life divorce, and I’m not going to be the last. But in my case, it was so painful because we’d shared so many years building a life, together, weathering its ups and downs.
Yet the songs– most co-written with guitarist Kelvin Holly and Oldham – aren’t all expressions of anger. The first track to be released from the album is“Too Little Too Late,” a raw and poetic psalm of regret, the truth-tellin’ “Gave My Best to You” and a rockin’ update on “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” convey resilience and sass. A gorgeous, stripped-down version of Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter” explores the grace of forgiveness. As a whole, the album is a journey from shock, to rage, to sadness, to strength, but not necessarily in that order.
Young sees Raw as the soundtrack to the seven stages of grief. “It’s not a linear process,” she says. “You bounce back and forth. And each song could be sung by either party.”
In addition to chronicling this new chapter of her life, Raw also reflects the music Young has been drawn to since growing up in northern California in the 1960s. “Yes, I remember dancing in the living room to Motown,” she says. “I’ve always loved harmonies, lyrics, and rhythm. I used to go to the Fillmore and the Avalon and Winterland.”
Although it would be decades before she would take her work to the stage, Young was writing poetry in grade school and studying it in college. She picked up an acoustic and taught herself some chords and folk covers, and became a bona fide hippie nomad: hitchhiking around the country, with stops in Vermont and Canada. By 1972, she’d settled down with her dog in a teepee in northern California. “I bought it for $200,” she says. “My first home.” In 1974, she was working in a restaurant and living in the teepee when she met Neil Young.
The rock & roll road, family life, tending to the Young children, and the creation and operation of the Bridge School kept her busy. But by the early ‘aughts, Young, having toured with her ex-husband and spent time in the studio with the best of the best, was ready to become a recording artist in her own right, encouraged by Neil’s longtime manager Elliot Roberts. Two songs written during “the teepee years” ultimately graced her eponymous 2007 debut album. “I mostly set out to do covers,” Young says of that collection. “I was really shy about breaking out my own songs, but about three days into it, my guitarist original lead guitarist, Anthony Crawford convinced me to bring in my stuff.” The country-rock-tinged album also marked her first recorded work with Spooner Oldham and the late pedal steel icon Ben Keith, both of whom she’d sang alongside on Neil’s tours. They formed the original core of Pegi Young and the Survivors.
Raw features Oldham and several more recent Survivors, including Muscle Shoals-based guitarist Kelvin Holly, a veteran of Little Richard’s band; drummer Phil Jones; and the newest “Survivor” Shonna Tucker (Drive-By Truckers), who’ve added soulful muscle to the sonic texture. The group lost their original Bassist the renown Rick Rosas in 2014.
“With Kelvin in the band, we’re going to a place in my wheelhouse, more R & B stuff, like Otis Clay’s ‘Trying to Live My Life Without You,’ which also has the great horn sounds [from the TexiCali Horns] and harmonies of the girl groups I listened to as a kid.”
Of her five albums, Raw is the first on which Young is credited with production duties. Her M.O: “Be authentic, be true, sing what’s in your heart. It’s not about making it perfect, it’s about letting it be real, sometimes raw and flawed, as long as it’s true.” This also includes highlighting her band, the Survivors, whose camaraderie she credits with strengthening and inspiring her. That is most evident on unabashed rocker “You Won’t Take My Laugh Away From Me,” a defiant strut of hard-won confidence that ends with Young’s joyful laughter.
“My laugh has always been rather distinctive,” Young says. “It’s something I can hold on to that’s still mine.” As for the future, Young has started work on a memoir and making plans for a tour around Raw’s release. “I am a survivor,” she relates. “Although we named the band The Survivors after Ben Keith died, We didn’t have any idea some ten years ago, what an apt name it would turn out to be! I’ve gone through a lot of good stuff and scary stuff, and I will keep going forward.”
THE FIRST FULL-LENGTH album by Ural Thomas and the Pain has been a long time coming. The R&B revivalist group, led by the 78-year-old soul belter, has been kicking up dust in the local music scene since 2013, and bandleader/drummer Scott Magee talked about sessions for this LP at least two years ago. Considering the long path it took to bring Thomas out of semi-retirement and into the studio, the wait doesn't seem that outrageous.
Thomas was a singer on the rise in the mid- to late-'60s, releasing singles on UNI Records (home to Neil Diamond and Dead Moon precursor group the Lollipop Shoppe) and playing shows with Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones. But after getting run through the music industry wringer, he walked away from the business, returned to his hometown of Portland, and quietly hosted jam sessions out of his home. Enter Magee, a DJ with a deep love of vintage soul and funk, who befriended Thomas and convinced him to get back in the game.
With a few years of live performances under their collective belt, Ural Thomas and the Pain finally entered the studio and solidified their frontman's return. And if you've seen the band in concert, you know precisely what you're going to get with this self-titled double LP (out on Mississippi Records): a collection of heartfelt R&B that aims to replicate the glory days of the mid-'60s when labels like Motown and Stax were at their peaks.
"...perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Expery, 1939, Terre des Hommes
The impetus for Little Darkness , the new LP by The Domestics (the songwriting duo of Leo London and Michael Finn ), occurred in 2015 on their tour with Blitzen Trapper supporting their self titled debut. The duo, and their band ( Kyle Moderhak , Matt Moore , and Brad Norton), trekked through a grueling 28 shows in 30 days across the U.S. and Canada. Finn was going through a brutal and bitter break-up with his partner who was along with them for the tour and London's relationship of over a decade collapsed further with each passing day on the road.
Each morning, London would wake to work on on his music at around 6AM – while the band slept. A tiny Casio would provide the tone and the rhythm as he whispered into a recorder, careful to wake no one.
Upon arrival back home in Portland, Oregon, London continued to immerse himself in his early morning songwriting sessions, knocking out sketch after sketch while his now ex-girlfriend (whom he was still living with) slept. Having written over 200 songs since the recording of their first record, in the span of a few short months he wrote what would become the core set of songs for Little Darkness .
Populated with stream of consciousness lyrics, London would pass his homemade recordings along to Finn. As each demo came in at a breakneck pace Finn would absorb them with feverish intent, repeatedly listening to the sparse sketches so very pregnant with hope, pain and love – not to mention being catchy as hell. “I was blown away by those demos ... the songs grabbed me – you could feel it. Reading the words, it was a million stories, not some breakup record or a concept album about any simply defined thing- just songs about being alive. It was brilliant.”
Parts were pounded out, rough arrangements written, legendary producer Tucker Martine jumped on board and time at Martine's Flora Recording and Playback studio was booked; One month to write, record, mix and sequence Little Darkness.
As they began tracking with calculated and ambitious experimentation they carefully wove the 11 songs that would become Little Darkness . Most days were 16 hours - there was simply nowhere else to be.
“It's like when you've reached the point of no return. It's too late to straighten out and get a normie job. Too many years as an outdoor cat.... Broke and broken. Pointless and useless. So we made a record. What's more pointless than that?" London chuckles.
Finn adds, “It felt like the whole world was collapsing around us, but that we had the opportunity to do whatever we wanted and we could make make it perfect.”
Unlike their self-titled debut, that had been approached as if they were a band; guitar, bass, keys, drums et al., all trappings of 'Thou Shalt' came off for the sessions. Chains were dropped onto a mic'd up studio floor and run through plethora effects, crowd noise and hissing toy robots were recorded along with traditional instrumentation pushed to the edge of breaking apart. They hit the tape hard and the studio became not only a sanctuary but very much an instrument.
Finally after one month London, Finn and Martine emerged with Little Darkness, a n LP that is very much an album – meant to be listened to as a whole – but also chock full of corkers.
On the Calypso rhythm infused title track Little Darkness staccato chords dance over a twinkling Rhodes electric piano as Finn sings London's words:
... Down to the sea / All I can carry / The dreams that I've buried / They mean almost nothing to me now
As the verse closes the track explodes into waves of harmonic distortion, gigantic drums and swimming subliminal Mellotron and the chorus rings in:
Trying hard to remember / Trying not to forget her / Well she looked so good when she walked down the hall / Just light a candle and don your armor / There's a little darkness in us all
On Tunnels and Trains (penned while on tour) a distorted breakbeat is joined by an equally distorted acoustic guitar and then a flood of wet wailing chords. London sings:
Just a death grip and the window seat / Another bedroom I'll love to leave / To Carolina in the Tunnels and Trains / Tell her I miss her / Tell me she feels the same
From the opening notes of Love That Dress to the anthemic refrain of album closer Our Light , The Domestics Little Darkness is a sonically ambitious and compelling LP that demands repeat spins. Written in the aftermath of a national tour, the end of a decade long relationship, and recorded and mixed in a tireless month of arrangement and sonic experimentation, Little Darkness sounds like an obsession with honesty and perfection as if there is nothing left to take away.
Marshall Ruffin is a Georgia based guitarist, songwriter, and singer.
Ruffin has recorded two E.P.s under the Lagrange GA label Jammates, Rich Man’s Dime (2007) and Morning Glory (2009). He also wrote and recorded an E.P. with the band King Lincoln, and is the featured vocalist on five others with collaborator Alex Gordon Hi-Fi.
Ruffin has performed and recorded as the guitarist and backing vocalist for Lonnie Holley, with whom he recently toured Europe. His song Light The Way was featured during their session in London at BBC Radio 6.
Ruffin was the winner of the 39th Eddie’s Attic Songwriter Shootout in 2013.
Ruffin has performed gospel music at COGIC and AME churches in Georgia.
Copies of Ruffin’s new live album (At The Grocery), recorded at the Atlanta venue Grocery On Home, are available at live performances.