AmericanaFest feat. The Texas Gentlemen, Quaker City Night Hawks, Steelism & more
Sat · September 16, 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pmMercy Lounge
This event is 18 and over
8:30pm - Quaker City Night Hawks
9:30pm - Escondido
10:30pm - Jamtown featuring G Love, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Cisco Adler
8:00pm - Whitney Rose
9:00pm - Doug Seegers
10:00pm - JP Harris
11:00pm - Zephaniah O'Hora
Midnight - The Texas Gentlemen
8:00pm - Shane Smith & The Saints
9:00pm - Christian Lopez
10:00pm - Steelism
11:00pm - Flatland Cavalry
Midnight - Liz Cooper & The Stampede
For the full festival line-up, visit http://americanamusic.org/http://www.mercylounge.com/event/1544409/
The new album album ”Walking On the Edge of the World” proves once and for all that Seegers is not a one hit wonder but an accomplished singer, songwriter and performer. 9 of 12 songs are originals and the standard of the songwriting skills are unbelievably high. Listen to the title track ”Walking On the Edge of the World”, the Southern rockish ”Before the Crash” or the beautiful hymn ”Give It Away”. Songwriting and performing at its very best!
The two covers Doug Seegers included are ”Far Side Banks of Jordan” and ”Don’t Laugh at Me”. The former a country gospel previously recorded by Carter Family and Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash. Here we get it as a heart breaking duet with Emmylou Harris. “If I Were You” was written by Jim Lauderdale and performed as a duet with old friend Buddy Miller. ”Don’t Laugh at Me” was written by Mark Wills and it’s brought crowds all over Scandinavia into tears more than once.
In his songs, Seegers tells us about the reality he used to live in. And to a certain extent still do. Even if he’s no longer poor, he still lives a simple life and stays in touch with his old friends. He sings about an ex-girlfriend in ”Before the Crash”, about addiction in ”Zombie” and about reaching out a helping hand to your fellow man in ”Give It All Away”. The lyrics are not necessarily about himself but talks about people living in the outskirts of society. With love and empathy without getting sentimental and never judging.
Just like the first album ”Going Down To the River”, ”Walking On the Edge of the World” was recorded in Nashville and produced by Will Kimbrough. Seegers was backed by some of the best musicians Nashville has to offer; Al Perkins, Phil Madeira, Chris Donohue, Bryan Owings, Buddy Miller and Elizabeth Cook to mention a few.
The Doug Seegers fairy tale has been told several times already. A Cinderella story with all the classic ingredients and almost too good to be true. But the hobo-turned-into-star is the truth and nothing but the truth, swear to God.
No less amazing is how Seegers handled his new found fame. How he emerged as a professional, experienced artist with the ability to do his part on stage, in the recording studio, in interviews, radio- and TV- shows, signing records, as a songwriter – like it was all he ever done in his whole life. Everybody working close to him, constantly have to remind themselves that less than 3 years ago, Seegers was living under a bridge, battling addiction and playing his music on the streets to survive.
Even more astonishing is to see the everyday growth of Doug Seegers as a human being. For many years he lived a rough life, even though Doug himself doesn’t agree. Self pity is not his thing. But the life he used to live scarred him of course. His ability to remember thing was limited, to put it mildly. Off stage he could get restless and unfocused and he sometimes had a hard time dealing with the world outside the music. But the healing has begun. He’s improving every day. Doug is not an educated man, he probably skipped school most of the time. He rarely reads books, but he’s still a very intelligent man, picking up new things every day at the speed of a child, eager to learn.
Doug Seegers is deeply rooted in the musical traditions of the American South. A tradition where the bounders between country, soul, rock and blues are invisible or at least unclear. It’s easy to imagine Seegers writing songs with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham in Muscle Shoals or with Chips Moman in Memphis. Songs that Aretha Franklin or Elvis Presley could have scored hits with. He could have been hanging out with Tony Joe White in Georgia or with Waylon and Willie in Nashville.
But that never happened. We know that for sure even if some parts of the Doug Seegers history still are a bit foggy. He had a band in New York in the seventies and they recorded a 7”, moved to Austin for a while in the eighties and played with Buddy Miller briefly, but apart from that he didn’t make much of a musical impression. Back in New York he worked as a carpenter and raised a family. Then there is a long period, a downward spiral including divorce, booze and drugs, ending up as a homeless in Nashville. Enter a TV team lead by Swedish stars Magnus Carlsson and Jill Johnson, both of them falling in love with Doug and his song “Going Down To The River” in the fall of 2013. At the same time Doug decided to get sober with the help of God. A few months later the show was broadcasted and thing never were the same again.
The “Going Down To The River” were an instant success and Doug now has Gold and Platinum album on the apartment wall back home in Nashville. He’s done several sold out tours in Sweden and has played many prestigious gigs in Europe and US. Doug has also recorded a duet album with Jill Johnson (”In Tandem”) and a Christmas album (”Let’s All Go Christmas Caroling Tonight”).
But despite all recordings and releases in recent years - ”Walking On the Edge of the World” is only the second solo album with original material by the 64 year old Doug Seegers. An unmistakable statement to any sceptics out there – Doug Seegers is here to stay!
Born six minutes before Valentine’s Day in Montgomery AL in 1983, JP’s life was to be full of color, travel, hardship, and grace from the day he first saw the world. After more than six generations in Alabama, his family would leave seeking work, first to California and then on to Nevada. He left home on foot at the age of 14, traveling via thumb and freight train, living the next 4 years mostly from a backpack, tarp, a bedroll. Eventually landing in the northeast, he worked as a farm laborer, equipment operator, lumberjack, luthier, and carpenter.
In the summer of 2011, after two years of touring without much in the way of recorded music, Harris made a trip to the sweltering heat of south Louisiana. In an old Cajun cook shack he and a few pals pounded out an album in three days, and shortly after it’s completion, he made the move to Nashville. JP released his all-original debut “I’ll Keep Calling” in May of 2012 on Cow Island Music. Shortly after it’s release, without the aide of publicists or a large label’s bankroll, it won “Best Country Album of 2012” from The Nashville Scene, the same honor at the Independent Music Awards, a cameo on NPR’s American Routes, and as JP says “a whole mess of other stuff in the papers and on the internet.” (Two songs were also licensed to the soundtrack of 2012’s “At Any Price,” starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron.)
His latest album “Home Is Where The Hurt Is” (produced by Harris, guitarist Adam Meisterhans, and engineer Justin Francis) was recorded and mixed at Ronnie’s Place (formerly the personal studio of Ronnie Milsap) at home in Nashville. It features not your typical Music Row studio musicians, but young local players, many of whom have spent thousands of miles on the road in JP’s backing band The Tough Choices. Lending a hand on the album vocally is friend and local Indie-Country star Nikki Lane, as well as long-time friend Chance McCoy, singer and guitarist of Old Crow Medicine Show (McCoy also took rhythm guitar and fiddle duties throughout the album.)
Rolling Stone named JP Harris one of fall 2014’s “Country Tours Not To Miss,” as well as one of “21 Must-See Country Acts at SXSW 2015.”
When he isn’t touring, JP can usually be found repairing an old house, splitting wood in his backyard, or digging through the trash for useable refuse.
It was also during this time that he befriended fellow Honeyfingers collaborator Jim Campilongo. A series of conversations between the two revealed a mutual love for the Truck Drivin' Country of Red Simpson, Del Reeves, and Dave Dudley. A few impromptu rehearsals later and The 18 Wheelers were born.
Initially serving as a great excuse to play their favorite trucker anthems and country classics, The 18 Wheelers soon evolved into a showcase for Zephaniah's original material. Assimilating a world-class band of musicians and a dozen songs that harken back to the golden age of country music, 'This Highway' is an album that gives a reverent nod to the past before blazing a brand new interstate through the gridlock of contemporary country. By combining the brash edge of Bakersfield and the slick sonority of the Nashville Sound, Zephaniah Ohora with the help of The 18 Wheelers have forged a new brand all their own. 'This Highway' is a modern classic and a tribute to American Music.
It’s deceptive, because it creates the impression these Gentlemen might be hesitant about their first record, but any hint of uncertainty vanishes as the core quintet — Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald and Ryan Ake — tears into the opening track, Habbie Doobie, a low-slung piece of vintage country-funk that slams out of the speakers and announces The Texas Gentlemen as a force to be reckoned with.
This Lone Star-bred collective takes its cues from some of the iconic acts of the past — the quicksilver brilliance of The Wrecking Crew, The Muscle Shoals Swampers (who backed everyone from Aretha to Wilson Pickett), Booker T. and The M.G.’s, and Bob Dylan’s one-time backers The Band are the most obvious examples. Bedford, who shares chief engineering and producing responsibilities at Dallas’ Modern Electric Sound Recorders, assembled The Texas Gentlemen as an all-purpose backing band for an eclectic array of singer-songwriters, including Leon Bridges, Nikki Lane, and more.
In 2016, the Gentlemen were lured out of the studio to the Newport Folk Festival, where they were joined by iconic troubadour Kris Kristofferson, making his first Newport appearance in more than 45 years. Rolling Stone called it one of the festival’s “most exciting sets.”
Kristofferson so enjoyed collaborating with The Texas Gentlemen that he enlisted them to reprise their roles in a series of critically acclaimed Texas concerts. Of Kristofferson and The Texas Gentlemen’s appearance at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, music critic Preston Jones wrote “The [instruments] would slowly coalesce around Kristofferson’s gnarled but still potent voice, creating an electric sensation of the past fusing with the present.”
That deft fusion of before and right now is possible thanks to the musicians’ unswerving dedication to simply playing to the best of their abilities, trusting their instincts, and letting the music guide them. Case in point: TX Jelly was created in less than a week — four days, start to finish — at Muscle Shoals’ singular FAME Studios.
Pared down from the 28 songs the Gentlemen recorded in that 96-hour span, TX Jelly effortlessly connects way back to what’s next, summoning the spirits of American songcraft even as it heralds the arrival of 21st century talent. Cut live, with little use for the blinding polish and careful presentation of so much modern music, TX Jelly oozes with skill backed up by that hard-won authenticity.
TX Jelly moves between contemplative and raucous, encompassing the full breadth of the American experience. The music touches on blues, soul, folk, country, rock and gospel — from first track to last, you can feel The Texas Gentlemen reaching deep inside themselves and finding what’s genuine — what illuminates the truth of the country’s rich, complicated and singular artistic history — and delivering it the only way they know how: real, raw and righteous.
From their home base in Austin through performances across the country (17 states) and abroad (Ireland), these five gentlemen have not just stuck stubbornly to their musical and lyrical convictions. They’ve defied audience expectations by delivering incendiary shows, each one ignited by the band’s ability to unleash, feed from and feed back the energy of the crowd — in spite of the fact that they don’t fit easily into any musical category.
With Geronimo, they’ve dared themselves to exceed their own expectations.
Each song begins with Smith creating its “bones,” in the form of chords and lyrics. He then joins fiddler Bennett Brown, lead guitarist Tim Allen, bassist Chase Satterwhite and drummer Zach Stover to bring those bones to life. Aside from a bit of cello, some horns and a few keyboard parts, the band lays down each note on Geronimo. Their ability to bring songs to life has even earned them opportunities to record instrumental tracks for other artists.
Smith’s ability to draw images from everyday life into poetry goes back to his earliest days in Terrell, Texas, an hour east of Dallas.
“There was an old Catholic church right next to our house,” he recalls. “To this day, I remember those church bells ringing. In fact, I use that reference in a song from Geronimo called ‘Suzannah,’ which is about a guy who’s fighting a war and is thinking of his hometown — and he also remembers being raised with a church bell ringing on the hour every day.”
Before he ever thought of himself as a songwriter, Smith was concerned mainly with tennis. He played for the formidable program at Tyler Junior College before transferring to St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. Smith soon began getting into music as well, playing solo gigs in local bars. And he began writing, inspired by looking at life as it played out around him.
“I’d be in a restaurant and overhear someone saying something, and I’ll have to excuse myself, walk outside and write a note to myself about it,” he says. “These days, I make little iPhone recordings. The other day I made one about this homeless guy I saw by the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. He was dirty and worn out but he was picking these gorgeous flowers. I constantly see moments and images and statements, put them in the bank and have them there to reflect on and make into honest lyrics down the road.”
Even when he writes a love song, Smith almost can’t help but turn the mundane into something transcendent. On Geronimo, he does this with “All I See Is You”: “The storm’s running through the Midwest like a bandit on the loose. / All the clouds are black as night and all I see is you. / The rain’s pouring through the window panes and the cracks of this roof. / Tea’s boiling from the spout of the pot, but all I see is you.”
Recorded and self-produced while on the road throughout Austin, Dallas and Nashville, Geronimo weaves these images into story lines, each enhancing the other, together coming alive. “I love trying to tell stories through songs,” Smith observes. “There’s something that fascinates me about echoing old tales in songs to carry them on for years and years, like old folk songs.”
And so we travel with a newly freed slave in the nineteenth century, hearing the music and feeling the exuberance of dancing in Congo Square on “New Orleans.” We feel the rueful reflection from a sinner who “spent time on the wrong side of the church door” on “Right Side of the Ground.” We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Alamo’s doomed heroes as their final seconds near on “Crockett’s Prayer.” And the title track serves a dual purpose, taking us to a heroic time and place while making a broader statement about this project.
“On one end, it is an attempt to pay tribute to the life of Geronimo, the Apache warrior,” says Smith. “I’ve always been fascinated by Geronimo and the principles he stood for. This also presented the perfect opportunity to relate the term ‘Geronimo’ with our intensions of this album and the ‘jumping from a cliff’ idea that it symbolizes. If we are going to attempt a career in music, this album is our commitment to give it everything we’ve got.”
“Our goal with this album was never to put out a bunch of catchy singles and be all over the radio,” explains Smith. “It was to set us apart, with meaningful lyrics, huge harmonies and the sound of a hard-working band that has played some crappy gigs and come out stronger for it. We always had the options to either make a ‘safe’ record or put something out that sounds like us and no one else.”
“We took that second option and named it Geronimo.”
But his heart? His long-term dream? Well, they’re rooted someplace far away from Music Row, to the place where he was born and knows he will never leave.
“I’ve dedicated 100% of my life and time to my music. I work on some aspect of it every day. But I also see myself back in West Virginia someday, with a house and a big yard where I can relax. And a dog too,” he adds quickly, with a laugh. “You could say that’s the American Dream. For me, it’s more specifically my West Virginian dream.”
Handsome, thoughtful and well spoken, Lopez is less concerned with the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle than with spending time back home with friends, family and the old cars he and his dad like to tinker with. At the same time, as interest in his multiple talents heats up, this only feeds into his fascination with discovering places, ideas and music. Lopez has been stoking that fire for five years, since he began touring and learning how to turn a bunch of bar patrons into foot-stomping, cheering fans.
By that time, Lopez had already laid the foundation of a distinctive sound and style. Drawn first to the power of classic rock ’n’ roll, Lopez enriched and expanded on this foundation at age 15. “That’s when my dad brought me those The Essential compilation albums from Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Kris,” he remembers. “It was then that I started to realize that meaning and message could matter in music.”
So he started to write. He widened his listening, going deep into and beyond traditional country toward what wasn’t yet labeled as Americana. When inspiration struck, he responded with a song. Soon inspiration became a frequent caller. Originals nudged covers out of the way on his set lists. His love for music transformed into certainty that performing his own songs was what he had been born to do.
Eventually Lopez connected with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb in Nashville. Their creative synergy ignited on Lopez’s first album, Onward, released in 2015. “Working with Dave taught me to trust my first instincts and not to overthink my ideas because the magic usually comes naturally,” he says. “I’ll remember that forever.”
Two years later, with characteristic curiosity, Lopez decided to explore different paths for his sophomore project. Over nine months, he tempered the intuitive approach he had cultivated for Onward with a more measured process, beginning with the careful selection of producer Marshall Altman. “It was almost like a science experiment,” he says, with a laugh. “But that’s what I thought recording would be like when I was a kid — a work of art rather than just throwing together a bunch of songs.”
The songs, too, were different. His recent works reflected a more perceptive view of the world as well as a greater self-awareness. Some of this came from co-writing, which he’d never done before. “It did help me expand my thought process and come up with ideas I never would have on my own.”
All of which makes Red Arrow a milestone for this emerging artist. On “Don’t Wanna Say Goodnight,” Lopez kicks into high gear, riding by the rockabilly rhythm as if hearing it for the first time. A different innocence informs “Swim The River,” through lyrics that conjure the thrill of young love. On the other hand, “1972” is a disarmingly affectionate tribute to his International Harvester Scout — and the romantic adventures it has witnessed. Writing with Mindy Smith and Josh Williams, Lopez came up with “Still On Its Feet,” an eloquent analogy equating beloved old piece of furniture with one who has weathered hard times; Vince Gill’s guitar accompanies Lopez’s intimate vocal. And for more classic harmony singing, look no further than “Caramel,” where Lopez and Kenneth Pattengale of Milk Carton Kids blend their voices and acoustic guitars with a synchronicity the Everly Brothers might have admired.
There’s much more as well, but pay special attention to “Steel On The Water.” Lopez wrote this one alone, on his last night aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis en route from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. Brought onboard to entertain 5,000 sailors on their way home, he ended up at least as moved by their stories as they were by his music.
“This is maybe the most personal song I’ve written yet,” Lopez says. “When you come from the outside and join a bunch of people who’ve been living on that ship for years at a time, they gravitate toward you. They want to talk with you. They tell you everything. You’re almost like a refuge to them. It’s overwhelming, especially coming from kids your age.”
Lopez was struck especially with the parallel he sensed between their lives and his as he embarks ever further and for longer hauls away from his West Virginia home. But he understood the differences in their missions too. “The first lines talk about how ‘some go for school; some go for tradition and some go for a last resort.’ I had conversations with people on that ship who had done those things. I was so emotional when it was time to leave them.”
On these songs and the album’s six other offerings, Red Arrow does us a service. For many, it will introduce an artist whose singing radiates youthful infatuation with life through songs rooted in a reverence for American tradition. To those who have already had the pleasure of discovering him, it documents the next stage of a journey toward wisdom, insight, perhaps heartbreak and a fruitful crop of great new songs to come. For Lopez, maybe it’s a ticket on that trip that will lead to faraway places yet end back home in West Virginia. Through his music we travel with him, beginning here.
“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.
Formed in the fall of 2012, the quintet was rounded up by Cordero after stretches of acoustic outings around the Panhandle town of Lubbock. With guitarist Reid Dillon, fiddler Laura Jane, bassist Jonathan Saenz, and drummer Jason Albers joining Cordero, Flatland quickly garnered the attention of the masses with the release of the debut EP, Come May, in the spring of 2015. Building off the success of Come May, Cordero and company released their full-length follow-up, Humble Folks, in April 2016.
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