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Steelism

Steelism

Ruby Amanfu, Tristen, Andrew Combs, Skyway Man

Thu · June 29, 2017

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$10.00

This event is 18 and over

Steelism
Steelism
In September 2014, Nashville-based instrumental outfit, Steelism, were introduced to a national audience with the release of their debut full-length album, 615 to FAME. The record, featuring ten original instrumentals and one cover, became a calling card for the band’s versatile yet distinct sound, drawing influence from film score composers like Ennio Morricone and ’60s instrumental acts like Booker T. & the M.G.s, The Ventures and Pete Drake. With their latest effort, ism, Steelism offers a more holistic listening experience, inspired by mid- century design, early Brian Eno productions and 70s film scores. They also introduce featured vocalists into their instrumental canon for the first time. The result is a refreshing sonic palette with an invigorating twist on the Intoxicating Sounds of Steelism.

“We pieced together ism like a visual mid-century modern design - an array of vibrant colors and tones aligned together while constantly striving for minimalism, even as the production grew.”

ism, was co-produced by guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, pedal steel player Spencer Cullum (together known as Steelism) and Jeremy Ferguson (Lambchop, Tristen, Andrew Combs). Tracking began on November 9th, 2016, with the divisive results of the U.S. Presidential election just in. Respite was found through the creative process while holed up at Ferguson’s Battle Tapes Recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The usual Steelism rhythm section, Jon Radford (drums) & Jon Estes (bass), and Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on keys are heard throughout the record. Legendary “Nashville Cat” studio musician Charlie McCoy (Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde) on vibraphone & harmonica and a lush string quartet provide the finishing instrumental touches.

“We began recording ism the day after the election results rolled in which created a tense atmosphere right from the get-go. We depended on Steelism to be our escape. The new rule for the sessions became that a musical part or performance was only successful if it made you laugh or feel cool! Which instantly helps filter a lot of ideas out.”

Steelism’s inception was motivated by Fetzer & Cullum’s desire to explore musically, taking chances with writing and performance that they otherwise couldn’t backing other artists. With ism they continue this exploration. Elements of David Axelrod, AIR, & Pink Floyd were noted in the production of the opening track, “Re-Member”. On “Eno Nothing”, Fetzer’s piano and fuzz steel melody were inspired by the melodic phrasing of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk while put to a driving rhythm. The work of film score composer Lalo Schifrin, Serge Gainsbourg circa Histoire de Melody Nelson and the 1970s German Krautrock movement also inform the sonically rich tone of the record.

Fetzer and Cullum say the vision for ism was to curate a listening experience similar to that of a film soundtrack. To bring this vision to realization, they wrote 3 songs with vocal melodies to compliment the instrumental compositions. Fellow Nashvillians Tristen, Ruby Amanfu, Andrew Combs & Jessie Baylin, who appear as featured vocalists on the album, were then brought in as collaborators.

Tristen finished the lyrics that Cullum had started for “Shake Your Heel”, a song about overcoming modern anxieties. Amanfu provided the words for “Roulette”, a tune inspired by John Barry’s legendary James Bond scores and Fela Kuti recordings. Combs, a longtime friend and writing partner of Steelism, penned the lyrics for “Lonely Game”, which ultimately evolved into a duet with Baylin in the style of Lee Hazelwood’s LHI recordings.

"We wanted to keep the record 100% Nashville from the studio to the musicians and singers. We were even fortunate enough to enlist "Nashville Cat" Charlie McCoy who helped put the city musically on the map in the 1960s and had an instrumental group of his own known as Area Code 615. Nashville is currently evolving culturally and is going through some growing pains at the moment, but it continues to be a creative mecca and collaborative atmosphere for all us."

Steelism’s ability to combine a diverse assortment of sonic flavors in a way that feels fresh & cohesive has always been a staple of the band’s sound. It’s there with 615 to FAME as well as with their 2012 EP The Intoxicating Sounds of Pedal Steel & Guitar and 2015 EP, The Drawing Room Vol. I. ism casts an even wider net, yet the marriage of the various elements offers a more articulate listen than previous releases, presenting a more refined & mature Steelism sound. The implementation of vocals on the album flows seamlessly with the instrumentals and those components compliment each other rather than juxtapose. If ever Steelism provided a soundtrack to life, it is with ism.

ism will be available June 23, 2017 on Steelism’s own label imprint, Intoxicating Sounds, distributed by Thirty Tigers.
Ruby Amanfu
Ruby Amanfu
Special guest.
Tristen
Tristen
Special guest.
Andrew Combs
Andrew Combs
“Ever heard of a happy song?”

That question is posed to Andrew Combs in “Rainy Day Song”, the lead track on his acclaimed 2015 album All These Dreams, during a barstool chat with a sarcastic friend. The singer – offended but gracious – smiles and allows the moment to pass, eschewing confrontation for the sake of a gem he polishes as an afterthought for the listener: “Tab’s on me if you think I’m lying / Laughing ain’t a pleasure till you know about crying.” The moment, full of the understated charm and pulsing honesty that defines his music, and is as good a metaphor as any for the songcraft of Andrew Combs.

A Dallas native now living near the same Nashville airport immortalized in the opening sequence of Robert Altman’s country music odyssey, Andrew Combs is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and heir to that 1975 film’s idea of the Nashville troubadour as a kind of musical monk. Here in the twenty-first century whorl of digital narcissism, where identity can feel like a 24/7 social media soft-shoe performance, Combs makes music that does battle with the unsubtle. Like the pioneering color photographer William Eggleston, he sees the everyday and the commonplace as the surest paths to transcendence, and he understands intuitively that what is most obvious is often studded with the sacred. As a songwriter, Combs relies on meditative restraint rather than showy insistence to paint his canvases, a technique commensurate with his idea of nature as an overflowing spiritual wellspring. NPR music critic Ann Powers noted as much in a 2015 review: “His song-pictures are gorgeous, but he recognizes their impermanence as he sings.” This deeply felt sense of ecology, of the transient beauty within nature’s chaotic churn, lies at the heart of Combs’s approach to his art.

After touring behind All These Dreams, a record that earned him international accolades and comparisons to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Mickey Newbury to Harry Nilsson, Combs has returned with a new album that puts down stakes in fresh sonic terrain. Canyons of My Mind, out in March on New West, is — as its title suggests — a landscape where the personal and the pastoral converge. Drawing inspiration from the biographies of literary figures like Charles Wright and Jim Harrison, Combs has created an album that explores the notion of “sustainability” in its many facets — artistic, economic, spiritual, environmental.

"When I set out to record All These Dreams, I had a distinct vision of what I wanted the record to sound like. It was a cocktail of the Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Nilsson vibes that you can hear right there on the surface," Combs says. "Canyons of My Mind is much more personal. It’s a testament to my acceptance of who I am as a man, and who I am becoming.” The record’s sonic adventurousness bears witness to that evolution, as well as to some big changes in his personal life. Between All These Dreams and Canyons, Combs married his longtime girlfriend Kristin, with whom he honeymooned for six weeks in the Minnesota wilderness. “She walks through her life exuding such open-mindedness and kindness,” Combs says. “I can’t help but watch in awe. She lets me be whoever I want to be, and that’s new to me. And quite refreshing, and freeing.”

The quiet struggles and satisfactions of carving out an identity in a world gone wrong are palpable throughout the album. Whether questing through the labyrinth of his own spiritual yearning, (“Heart of Wonder”), recreating a rail rider’s full-body sensation of freedom beneath an azure Montana sky (“Rose Colored Blues”), imagining a near-future dystopia where the very idea of green spaces has been annihilated (“Dirty Rain”), or channeling the desire of a peeping Tom who has fallen in love with his sylvan quarry (“Hazel”), Combs refines the vulnerable vagabond persona he mastered on All These Dreams while pushing it beyond those boundaries, into a more pastoral realm aligned with artists like Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. The idea of the artist’s creative life as an ecosystem — one just as in need of cultivation and care as our own imperiled world — informs much of Canyons. For Combs, the quest to sustain his own capacity to create on a daily basis is what drives him. “I want to create for the rest of my life — writing, singing, painting,” he says. “I also want my life to include a family, a house, and kids. Seeking out other artists who’ve been able to keep the lights on without compromising their art – that keeps me inspired.”
Skyway Man
Skyway Man
An Introduction to the Wide World of James Wallace & Folk Futurism

“He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.”
― Project Leader, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

“If you are not a myth whose reality are you? If you are not a reality whose myth are you?”
― Sun Ra, Prophetika Book One

For the last decade, James Wallace & the Naked Light recorded and released music from the fringes of Music City USA, touring all over with a singular vision and purpose. All the while, James Wallace’s name figured in as a trusted companion to a few scenes in particular: the Spacebomb sound coming out of his hometown Richmond, Virginia alongside old friends Natalie Prass and Matthew E. White; inside the new Nashville “underground:” where his bands’ magnetic performance listed them as a favorite among Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard; producing records, occasionally filling in on keys with cult-treasured Promised Land Sound; and roaming with the Oakland collective of songwriters centered around a converted school bus who travel under the banner “Splendor All Around.” But now the name is Skyway Man. Solo tours in Japan and China, a new batch of songs intertwined with his fascination with UFO religion, signaled a shift in direction. His inner mercury nudged him toward a new role, and the name Skyway Man rose to the surface again and again. Was it the trickster of mythology, the soul of some eternally missing astronaut, or the old singing storyteller trying to get through?

Wallace possesses a knack for getting caught up in outlandish events – discovering a trove of mysterious letters written by a Ufologist to a woman, describing the New Jerusalem and the 4th dimension, or months spent playing Mahjong in a smokey trailer behind Opryland, working as a Mandarin interpreter for Chinese Ice carvers in Nashville. This knack also extends to orchestrating outlandish events, getting interesting people on board in his endeavors–sweet-talking the flow of life into altering its course. Time for a new name and new record. Seen Comin’ From a Mighty Eye is a dense undertaking, recorded in different locations, simmering influences, channeling all the correct energies, paying the people and spirits who need to be paid, finishing the work the right way over the slow course of time. He recorded the last Naked Light record in Matthew E. White’s attic, and returned to that revered spot to track this new psych opera about strange futures, haunted pasts, and the Mighty Eye in the sky. Spacebomb house bassist and composer Cameron Ralston provided the horn arrangements and Spacebomb house drummer Pinson Chanselle sat at the kit. Wallace sang, compiled and mixed back in Nashville. It’s the usual stew of B-movie scifi, cosmic American boogie, psychedelic folk and it’s apocalyptically good, focused and potent, an immersive fully realized song cycle and visionary sonic structure.

From his modest rancher in Bordeaux on the Cumberland River, the lights of downtown Nashville are visible at night, shining sweetly or casting a lurid glow depending on atmospheric conditions and the viewer’s mood. Music City is changing fast, but James Wallace is invested in its community and spirit–the true believers, auteur session aces and acid cowboys and cowgirls who need each other to survive the sweltering industrial music machine. Skyway Man transcends this landscape, tapping into an older, more spiritual commerce. Seen Comin’ From a Mighty Eye offers the kind of music you would want on the radio for a first or last kiss, the incidental music from some forgotten Spielberg adventure, a soundtrack for the later (not quite latter) days of earth. If lightning strikes and the car radio explodes, it might just be part of the track. Music for driving along the skyway, and thank god the skyway is made of music anyway.
Venue Information:
Mercy Lounge
1 Cannery Row
Nashville, TN, 37203
http://mercylounge.com/