Railroad Earth at The National (The Mighty River, Rolling Along)
Railroad Earth is a band beyond description, escaping every genre while still being grounded with reminiscent sounds from America's past. Railroad Earth is a reclamation of all things Americana. Gathering a devote following, myself included, I always leave their shows mind blown, ecstatic with energy and rearing for more. This would mark only my 4th time seeing RRE but this performance certainly left a lasting impression on me and the other members of the audience.
Railroad Earth began their set with a nod to The National, who was celebrating their 10th anniversary of re-opening in 2008. It was fitting that I would be at this anniversary show because I also attended that first show a decade ago. RRE opened with "Seven Story Mountain" and a heavy extended jam sequence into "Old Dangerfield." Their improvisational segments are on the verge of haunting, almost skin crawling but they always bring it back to their roots of Bluegrass and Folk. Roosevelt Collier joins the band adding yet another instrument to this sonic powerhouse. Roosevelt has been making his rounds with many big name acts in the Jam and Blues scene alike; his opening performance was riveting and high energy.
Introspective and refined, RRE continue their set, energy and ebullience never reseeding, always on the edge of improvisation and classic composition like a ship teetering at the ends of the earth but never tipping over. RRE defines Jam grass, the spirit of America runs through them from native roots to the Grateful Dead's American legacy. Like a hobo on an endless train waiting to return to some mythical Earth, filled with steam engines and cowboys, the band continues their musical journey down the rails of life. It's almost as if this band creates their own musical world every night.
Many of their songs on this set-list were unfamiliar to me and that's a great thing. One of the best things about live music is finding new songs and harmonies to obsess over, like "When The Sun Gets In Your Blood" or "Blazin’ A Trail," while still playing crowd favorites, "Like A Buddha" and "Mighty River." Morphing their sound effortlessly into something new and different at the drop of a hat, RRE ends with a jam into The Deads "The Wheel," which was a pleasant surprise, not many bands cover that song. “If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
Again, RRE astound and amaze with their originality and all around vibe. This band deserves top spots at all the major jam festivals out there. Lockn, Peach, take note.
Smiling like a Buddha,
Jam Band Purist
Set 1: Seven Story Mountain, Old Dangerfield, Lordy, Lordy, Blazin' a Trail, Addin' My Voice, Walk Beside Me, Magic Foot, Luxury Liner , Wayfaring Stranger
Set 2: Cold Water, Just So You Know, Bread and Water, Only by the Light , Raven's Child, When the Sun Gets in Your Blood, The Forecast , The Berkeley Flash, Like a Buddha, Cuckoo Medley
Encores: Mighty River, The Wheel
Jon Stickley Trio Birthday Event at 5 Points Music Sanctuary
Back at 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia which has become JBP headquarters lately with all the amazing concerts and bands being booked here. I was introduced to Jon Stickley Trio this past summer at Rooster Walk Music Festival which I hope to attend and cover again this coming May in Martinsville, Virginia. Pops Farm is always a great place to experience new music and this is where I got my first experience with Marcus King.
Jon Stickley Trio is a unique blend of instrumental Jam, Traditional Irish-Folk songs, Hard Rock and Bluegrass. With razor sharp guitar riffs and outstanding fiddle work to match, their transitions are progressive and original; I've never really heard anything like them before. While personally, I'd love the addition of lyrical and vocal qualities, it really doesn't make a difference this trio is powerful and should have a much larger following. Covering Bill Monroe's “Jerusalem Ridge”, this is a great example of how The Jon Stickley Trio are turning traditional bluegrass music on its head and doing something innovative and contemporary.
It being Jon Stickley’s 36th birthday, the band would go on to play "The best set of music they have ever played" and they looked to be recording a video of some sorts. For a three-piece, this band makes a lot of noise and they communicate on stage very well together. This allows them to improvise and take their jams out into new unknown territory, every night. At many times, I would be lost in the music and completely forget what song they were playing or I found myself trying to think of a familiar riff or melody.
During the last few songs, which included a great medley with Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” mixed with “Ripple”, The Grateful Dead classic, Jon Stickley himself would try on the SubPac; one of the musical programs at 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The SubPac was developed to make the user feel the musical vibrations in their entire body, as opposed to hearing it. I thought it was super cool of Jon to try this on and he continued to wear it throughout the performance commenting on how it felt and the benefits of these musical programs. JS3 would end their outstanding performance with “Flight Of The Derby” a high energy and contemplative song, perfect for ending this wonderful night of music and celebration.
After seeing Jon Stickley Trio again for the second time, I am even more impressed by their unique sound and improvisational abilities. I would love to see a co-headlining tour with Railroad Earth or someone of that stature. More people need to see this band and experience their live performance. Thanks again to 5 Points for having me back and facilitating such outstanding shows here in Virginia.
Jam Band Purist
Photos By: Misti Walters Photography
The Infamous Stringdusters in Philadelphia
The Infamous Stringdusters, brought their electric, high-energy bluegrass to The City Of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) on Saturday night, January 27th at the Union Transfer . The five piece was nominated for Bluegrass Album Of The Year for their latest studio effort on Compass Records, “Laws Of Gravity”.
Opening up the evening was Jamgrass group, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, who were just signed to The Infamous Stringdusters new record label, Tape Time Records. The group roused the crowd and got them warmed up for the main act.
With over a decade under their belt, The Infamous Stringdusters, have become one of the hottest bluegrass acts on the road today. You could tell from the opening number, “Once You’re Gone” written by fiddle wizard, Jeremy Garrett, the audience was engaged and excited to see where the evening was going to take them. The quintet is known for their high-energy bluegrass performances that turn into an all out dance party. Diving deep into their catalog, diehard fans were surprised when the band started into “Tears Of The Earth”, sung by dobro master Andy Hall, that flowed nicely into guitarist, Andy Falco’s, number, “Porcupine Cove”. Bringing the first set to a resounding close was the instrumental, “Moon Man” that showcased all five members of the group.
Starting out the second set, bassist Travis Book, took the microphone for fan favorite, “It'll Be Alright” that segued into a rip roaring rendition of “Machines” featuring, Andy Hall, on dobro and, Chris Pandolfi, on banjo. Falco, showed why he is considered one of the best flat-picking guitarists in the scene today during the twelve-plus-minute jam.
Paying homage to the late great, Merle Haggard, “Stay Here and Drink”, was the perfect tune for fiddle extraordinaire, Jeremy Garrett, to shine on vocals.
The tributes kept coming, as the five piece outfit pulled out all stops on “How Hard I Fall” (Galloway) right into “Midnight Moonlight” (Old & In The Way). The guys were on top of their game and loving every minute of the energy coming off the crowd on Saturday evening. One of the highlights of the extended second set was an oldie but goodie, “No More To Leave You Behind”.
After a short break, the band emerged with their friends, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, with a rousing rendition of “Harvest Moon” (Young) and “Love Please Come Home”.
The Infamous Stringdusters are on top of their game in 2018. Be sure to check out the Grammy winners for “Best Bluegrass Album Of The Year” when they come to your town.
Review Written By Christopher Snyder
Photo Credit: Ron Adelberg from LOCKN" 2017
Chris Eves and The New Normal ‘Find Your Way’ Album Review and Interview
Chris Eves and The New Normal are a Syracuse, New York based Rock-Jam act. I recently reviewed their debut album ‘Find Your Way.’ I was immediately impressed with this unique blend of Alternative-Rock, Jam and Pop and wanted to share with my readers. While most of Chris Eves and The New Normal fans are from the northeast, they are looking to broaden their audience. If you haven't heard of Chris Eves and The New Normal yet, check them out on Spotify or #1 on the Reverbnation International Jam Charts. https://open.spotify.com/artist/5cJA9GZa8d5yduDZ0dCxtu?autoplay=true&v=A
From the opening song “Remember To Forget,” I was intrigued at the depth and quality of this album and the band that recorded it. “Remember To Forget” has powerful vocal qualities from Chris Eves and a hard progressive riff that takes this song into Jam territory. I will say that this song is my favorite out of the entire album and makes for a great first track. This song captivates its listeners and draws them, inviting further exploration.
“Walking On Wire” keeps the great vocal qualities going; something that can be severely lacking, specifically in the Jam world. This songs approach is more alternative-rock based but is fun and catchy with lyrics like, "maybe you and me are always walking on a wire, and with every step it seems we are only getting higher.” This sentiment is heartfelt and a great example of the writing techniques used on this album. I could see this song being used in a larger capacity and it also has some viable commercial value.
Another song that caught my attention was the title track of this album ‘Find Your Way” that begins with a clear and precise guitar intro from Jay Lock, solo guitarist for The New Normal. This song would be a great live track and could allow for some extreme improvisation on stage; in the interview below we discuss walking the line between improv and structure. "You got to be just a little bit crazy to make it through another normal day," are some of the most poignant lyrics within this album and shows the open-minded feeling that this band represents.
Again, Chris Eves and The New Normal take a different approach to their sonic sound with “The Chains You Wear” and go more alt-country with a heavy slide riff laid over the track. The lyrical qualities remain remarkable, compared to today’s pop country landscape and make this song original and different than a lot of the Southern Rock-Country bands but still very reminiscent of the Black Crowes or even, The Zac Brown Band.
“Fall” is another song that gets stuck in my head and the driving guitar makes me want to hear an exploratory and long solo, the only thing I think is missing from this recording. Drummer Sean Benz, highlights this track with impressive musicianship and keyboardist Mike D’Ambrosia plays a pivotal role in not only this song but the entire album adding rousing piano licks wherever he can. “Fall” uses Classic Rock chord structures and melodies to make the sound relatable but still remains original and imaginative.
“The New Normal” and “Flown Away” accentuate the final tracks on this album and stay steady and slow throughout. They are both good choices and well recorded, something that stands out when listening to this album in my headphones. Mike Spadaro holds it down on bass throughout the entire length of this recording but can really be felt in the backbeat at the end of this album.
While the album ‘Find Your Way’ doesn't necessarily break any rules, it does find new and interesting ways to combine song structures and heartfelt lyrical connections. This album is very relatable to many musical listeners and Chris Eves and The New Normal seamlessly integrate many genres of music from Jam to Alt-Rock. I believe ‘Find Your Way’ is a great platform for this band to build upon and grow exponentially. Below is a short interview with Chris Eves himself where we discuss this latest album and the future evolution of The New Normal.
Interview with Chris Eves From Chris Eves and The New Normal:
JBP-Can you describe your sound, or what genres have influenced you as you wrote and recorded ‘Find Your Way’?
CE-Our sound is the sum total of the influences and personal style each member brings to the table. We all have very diverse influences and approach the music from unique vantage points. Everything from: Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails to Jazz greats like, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, have shaped our collective sound. One unifying band we all grew up listening to and seeing live is Phish. They were definitely the catalyst for us wanting to play improvised music. I think the five of us though, strive to go beyond our influences and are always trying to cultivate our own unique voice individually and collectively. Jay, for example, is a very different guitarist than I am and certainly has a very unique voice that’s all his own. A lot of times he’ll play something that inspires me to do something completely different than I would have otherwise. Especially in improvised music, each band member’s voice really comes through and steers the direction of the sound.
JBP-The transitions and song structures in songs like, “Remember To Forget” sounds very jammy, much like moe. or some of the other progressive Jam bands from the North East. Has this musical landscape shaped your musical evolution?
CE-Absolutely. I grew up in Central New York where moe. is from and we listened to them a lot. Chuck from moe.’s sister was our high school Spanish teacher. I’ve always been a fan of progressive music that has written out sections and jam sections, and that’s able to weave it all together into a story. The Dead tunes like, Terrapin or Help/Slipknot/Franklins, were always my favorite. moe. also inspired me to write in that direction for sure. It’s pretty cool to now be in the band Floodwood with Vinnie from moe. after listening to them for so many years.
JBP-What does the New Normal mean to you?
CE- I think it’s just a mantra to be yourself. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in or been a little left of center. Normal is just a point of view and just because you might be weird according to someone else, that shouldn’t stop you from being authentic and living the life that makes you happy. Weirdos are always welcome with us!
JBP-What have been some of your greatest musical accomplishments to date?
CE-I’ve been lucky to have a lot of musical accomplishments in my career. Some of the personal highlights are sitting in with the Zac Brown Band at SPAC and jamming with Jon Fishman live.
JBP-Any plans for summer festivals or tours?
CE-We are working on both right now and are looking forward to announcing some soon
JBP-While it is hard to add layers of improvisation to studio albums, does your band stick to the song structures or improvise live?
CE-We try to strike a balance between playing the song and jamming. In the studio, for this record, I was happy that we were able to capture a lot of our jams. “Remember to Forget”, “Find your Way”, and “Fall” were all one take. When we’re live every night is different and we’re still evolving in the way we improvise. Some nights we want to play “Green and Blue” completely structured as a stand-alone song, and some nights it turns into a 20 minute funk jam. I think we’ve just started scratching the surface of where our jams can go and that’s exciting.
JBP-Can you explain your lyrical process? Who writes the songs or is it a collective environment?
CE-For this record, I wrote all the Lyrics and it’s the toughest part for me. I just try to write down thoughts on a particular subject independently of the music so I’m not locked into a specific structure at first. When I’ve got a good amount of material, I start trying to play music that fits the ideas and hopefully get the puzzle pieces to fit. I try to be open to lyric ideas all the time so, I keep a bunch of notes in my phone just in case I think of something while I’m out for a run or grocery shopping or, whatever.
JBP-Many bands that relate themselves with Jam music walk the line between different genres. How do you see yourselves adding a unique aspect to the Jam world?
CE- I hope that even though we extend our songs live, that they are still relatable to everyone. The song always comes first for us and it should stand alone as catchy and meaningful. We also try to put a lot of attention into the vocals and harmonies. I think that emphasis on songwriting and vocals gives us a unique aspect.
JBP-What are your future goals and how do you think you will evolve to get there?
CE-Our short-term goals are to keep writing, recording, and evolving our live show. Playing for more people and extending our touring are also a priority. I think it just takes a lot of hard work and a high level of commitment. We live music 24/7 so it’s more a journey than a single goal we set for ourselves that’s off in the distance.
JBP-Any crazy band/road stories you would like to share with us? (Anything goes)
CE-Honestly we’re pretty chill and not too crazy. Our drummer Sean usually finds a casino after the show and we hear about how much money he won the next day. We never hear about how much money he loses though…
Thanks Again to Chris Eves and The New Normal,
Jam Band Purist
Kung Fu, the Connecticut based Funk-Rock band has been on my radar for quite some time now; I hadn't been able to catch a live show until recently and I'm really glad it was at 5 Points in Roanoke, Virginia. Having been quite familiar with their catalog of songs, I knew I was in for at the very least, a decent show. Opening up with “Scorpion” from their recent release ‘Ninja Cuts,’ Kung Fu came out swinging or karate chopping and I knew I was in for more than a “decent” show.
I was immediately reminded of Frank Zappa, with dissonant tonality in their transitions and tight mix of Prog-Rock, funk and even a little Jam. Guitarist, Tim Palmieri was a phenomenal soloist and knows his scale progressions backwards and forwards. Sax player, Robert Somerville had a perpetual smile that was infectious to the whole crowd.
Kung Fu would go on to cover, Steely Dan; I can't remember which song but you know “The Dan” when you hear it. After that short interlude into yacht rock territory, it was all business and there was no stopping Kung Fu, as they jammed out “Hollywood Kisses,” “Chin Music” and many more of their original songs that were filled with improvisational intros; flowering and evolving into full blast funk in your face. I'm most impressed with their transitions that seem to test of the bounds of Eectro-Jazz-Funk chord progressions and climactic crescendos.
5 Points Music Sanctuary again, comes through with an amazing act to celebrate and highlight their pursuit in the power of sound. I can't say enough about this venue and the programs they offer. https://5pointsmusic.com The show lineup is stacked and you will be hearing a lot more about this place. Roanoke seems to have a budding music scene and with the recent announcement that moe. will be playing a local festival, big things are in the works.
Kung Fu is a great name for this band and with musical chops and figurative kicks, this band is as good, as any of the hard-hitting acts in the Jam-Funk scene today; like Lettuce or Galactic. Kung Fu brings intense energy to the stage and the audience leaves it on the dance floor. I will be seeing more of Kung Fu whenever I can and you should too.
Jam Band Purist
After my recent visit to the magnificent 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke Virginia, I was graciously invited back and will hopefully be working with them in the future developing content. With a great lineup of Jam/Rock acts coming up, I know I will be spending a lot more time at 5 Points one way or another. In my recent Pink Talking Fish review, I touched on the Sanctuary and its Music Therapy, Music Education, and Hearing Loss Advocacy programs. As an advocate for Special Needs and former special-education teacher, these programs are close to my heart. I support this cause and want to inform my readers about these exclusive music therapy programs that benefit the local Virginia community. Passed around at the Yarn show was a backpack, called the Subpac, which allows the user to experience the music through vibrations. When the bass pounds on stage, you feel it in the backpack. This technology is one of the many examples of the opportunities Tyler Godsey and his team are bringing to 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The story of 5 Points is an amazing example of strength and opportunity. With these programs like the Subpac Initiative, the sanctuary is truly striving to keep the power of music alive for everyone. Much more to come on this venue and with shows like: Kung Fu, Feb 8th, Jon Stickley Trio, Feb 9th and 10th, Melvin Seals and JGB March 22nd, my friends Marbin, April 5th, and Ghost Light feat. Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling on April 19th. To learn more about 5 Points and their live shows and music therapy programs, follow this link: https://5pointsmusic.com/programs/
I had never experienced Yarn, the Brooklyn Alt-Country band (wait... what Brooklyn? Country? Yes, that's right.) But I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the musicianship and songwriting originality. Yarn is a vibrant mix of country, rock, and rockabilly sprinkled with some bluegrass, folk, and stitched together with a touch of grunge. There were times when there was improvisation and the band started to jam, but Yarn stayed true to the standard old country feel. Song themes ranged from traveling down south, breaking up, and drug use; themes I think most of us relate to in one way or another. The crowd was with the band the entire time. Yarn is well beyond a bar act and something much more serious.
Tour seasoned, Yarn has been riding out troubled times and rolling with the changes, releasing a new album, 'This is The Year.' With the songs, "Carolina Heart" and "This Is The Year" highlighting the album. It does seem a different direction than the previous sound Yarn has cultivated. With lyrics like, “This is the year, we’re gonna make that change/this is the year, we start all over again/This is the year, we’re all gonna come out swingin’/we’re gonna raise a glass to a new beginning,” the band is obviously looking to change things up and push their music into high gear. The sound in the Sanctuary certainly complements this type of music and the band was tight and constructed while still remaining loose and fluid. Bass player and Dave Grohl look-alike Rick Bugal, drives the rhythm of this band forward, always in the groove and ready to take the music further. Lead guitarist Rod Hohl, reminds me of a hired gun, ready to unload when the time is right with a country and western picking style that is smooth and unstoppable. Always staying steady like a train engine, drummer Bobby Bonhomme, is the heartbeat of Yarn. While lead vocalist and guitarist Blake Christiana is the lifeblood, reminding me very much of Todd Snider, a vagabond storyteller with an old soul that leaves his heart written in the lyrics. I look forward to catching Yarn again this summer at Roosterwalk Music Festival and if you haven't listened to Yarn and you really like country–rock check them out.
~Jam Band Purist
WARNING: The views and opinions expressed on this site may not be in conjecture with your own. Be Advised
Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.