Monday, February 18, 2013

Fifth on the Floor - Ashes & Angels

Finally....the day is nearly here. Lexington, KY based band, Fifth on the Floor is releasing their third album, "Ashes & Angels". It has been a long wait for a lot of fans since the release of  their sophomore album "Dark and Bloody Ground" in 2010, an album that set the foundation for the direction they are going today. It did, after all, catch the ear of Shooter Jennings, son of the great Waylon Jennings, who is also the producer for "Ashes & Angels" and can be heard in a couple songs playing the keys.

The album starts off with a fast track called "Whiskey", which gets your legs moving right off the bat with a bit of fiddle and banjo thrown in. This is a song that tells a story about a man and his devilish drinking ways, only to be connected later in the album by "Wine", sang by the beautiful Rachel Brooke and tells the story from the perspective of that man's woman waiting at home, both of which were written by lead singer Justin Wells along with several others on the album. Wells' voice is one of the things that makes this band special and unique. 
Parsons, Graham, Rodgers, & Wells

The other fellas contributed their writing talents as well on plenty of tracks. Bassist Jason Parsons is credited with "Same Old Thing" and my personal favorite  "Angels in the Snow", a fantastic song down one of love's memory lanes, both of which Parsons takes the lead vocals. Drummer Aaron Graham wrote "Hangman's Reel" which has a Tom Waits/Neil Young feel to it, and lead guitarist Matty Rodgers got his pen dirty with "What For".

The guitar solos scattered throughout by Rodgers are alone worth buying the album, his talent seeps through the tracks like blood thru the bands veins. Combined with Wells' voice, it turns this album into a true gem. The only song not written by the band is "One Big Holiday", a cover from My Morning Jacket, which they slowed down a bit and remade fantastically.

Rodgers and Wells
All in all, this album is true to it's roots, and is a refreshing sound compared to what is pumped out of Nashville these days. Another record showing country isn't dead, and in fact why it is in the midst of a rebirth.  Fifth on the Floor aren't going anywhere, and hopefully just getting started.

"Ashes & Angels" will hit the shelves March 12 from Entertainment One, and the first single, "January in Louisiana", is now available for download on iTunes, I highly recommend you put this at the top of your list for your next album purchase.

Ashes & Angels Track List:
1. Whiskey
2. Shotgun
3. January in Louisiana
4. The Last Opry
5. Burnin' Nashville Down
6. Angels in the Snow
7. Wild Child
8. Wine (featuring Rachel Brooke)
9. Hangman's Reel
10. What For
11. Same Old Thing
12. One Big Holiday

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Departed: "Adventus": Worth the Wait

Adventus, pronounced Adven-toose.....Latin for arrival, and it couldn't be a more fitting title. The band consists of  Cody Canada, Jeremy Plato (both formerly of Cross Canadian Ragweed), Seth James, Steve Littleton, and Chris Doege, all whom have had their toes in the Oklahoma/Texas music scene for quite a while, and it shows.

After Ragweed's split, Canada wasn't ready to call it quits. He hand picked the members for "The Departed" to form somewhat of a super group with singer/songwriters. Right away they got to work on their first album, a tribute to all of their favorite Okie singers called "This is Indian Land", which was more of a pacifier for their fans and an album Canada had wanted to do for years. Now with several years, hundreds of shows, a solid fan base, and one album under their belt, "The Departed" is ready to show off some original work.
James & Canada

Adventus doesn't let you down...the album starts off fast and hard with their single, "Worth the Fight", a heavy hitting, melt your face jam that portrays all the energy they put into their shows. From there, Seth James gets to show off his soulful vocals with "Burden", "Hard to Find", "Demons", "Better Get Right", "Sweet Lord" and "Prayer for the Lonely" all of which have a nice rock/blues feel to them. Then there is  "Flagpole", another fast paced rockin' song, which I would expect to be their next single. Plato, the bassist, gets to contribute his vocals as well in "Hobo", a song about trying to escape the day to day and probably their most "Ragweedish" song on the album. Bottom line is, Canada and James swapping vocals through the entire album keeps it fresh and fun. Both have different styles and "Adventus" benefits from it.

All in all a great album, and well worth the wait for those that have Ragweed withdraws. "The Departed" are now on the scene, and sitting pretty to make some noise. I couldn't be more pleased.

"Worth the Fight" Video

Cody Canada
Jeremy Plato

Monday, May 7, 2012

NPR First Listen of New Beach House Album

Beach House's new album, Bloom, coming out on Tuesday, May 15th. While browsing the racks of Schoolkids RecordsMyth started playing, followed by a few others from the album. I enjoyed listening to Bloom so much that I wanted to stay and listen to the whole album. I did find out that NPR is already hosting a Free Listen of the entire album on its website and it is fantastic. Have a listen for yourself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Album Review: A Church That Fits Our Needs by Lost in the trees

We would like to welcome Amy Heishman as a guest contributor to Final E Chord music blog.

A Church That Fits Our Needs (2012)
It was my growing obsession with Mount Moriah that led me to Lost in the Trees. Perhaps not quite as literally as that may sound; either way, it’s an easy path to follow. I’m not sure what got me first- the orchestral sounds or the haunting voice of Ari Picker. I’ve always been in love with classical instruments; Picker is a classically trained musician. This was bound to happen. 

While I will be forever in love with All Alone in an Empty House (2008), there is something gritty about A Church That Fits Our Needs (2012). Their debut track, “Red” is more defined than the much loved “Walk Around the Lake.” The old album was lyrical; it told ballads, it made up stories. Here, in their sophomore release, Picker’s lyrics are poetry in their own right. Picker wrote the album while dealing with his mother’s suicide, and perhaps his own journey through that is what moves this beyond simple storytelling into a well-articulated statement of beauty and loss. It’s easy to see why “Red” is the debut track; you can’t help but hear the “beautiful garden that blooms” in the careful considerations of percussion. The xylophone is the budding flower behind the strings and yet the vocals never let one forget that we can “still hear you weeping beyond the wall.” Like the album, “Red” is a celebration of mortality. Picker has, in many an interview, spoke of music as a religious experience and this is certainly true of the album and much more so in the title track. 

If “Red” is an upbeat realization then the title track, “A Church that Fits Our Needs,” is an angry questioning and tribute to the healing power of music. The song is part chamber music, part folk, and part something else. The album as a whole should be considered much the same: part worship, part storytelling, and part something else. It will take more than one listen, but you’ll want to listen more than once. And, while I still remain devoted to the first album, I have a feeling that even the morose tones of the second will take root. I’ll just call it "the thinking man’s album", and go from there.

Album Review: Todd Snider's "Time As We Know It-The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker"

In his second release in as many months, Todd Snider pays tribute to one of his biggest influences, the great Jerry Jeff Walker. Walker is probably best known for "Mr. Bojangles" which has been covered by nearly everyone imaginable. Walker is also credited with helping start the career of Jimmy Buffett, and ran around with the outlaws of country in the '70's, i.e. Willie and Waylon. But more than that, Walker's story-teller style is what has influenced Snider the most. If you have ever seen Todd live, it is one of the best shows you can see. He comes on stage, normally barefoot, and tells hilarious stories that lead to songs that can be, and usually are equally as funny. Some songs you may know from Snider in the past, "B-E-E-R Run", that you have heard on Bob & Tom, and "Alright Guy" covered by Gary Allan in the mainstream market. If your familiar with the singer-songwriter, folk style genre, you SHOULD already know who he is. Snider is a true artist, and captivates anyone that will sit and listen to him.

Jerry Jeff Walker
On "Time As We Know It-The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker"(Aimless Records), Todd pays homage to the songs that have influenced him the most over the years, hand picking the ones most influential to him out of at least 30 years worth of  fantastic Jerry Jeff music. So many songs to choose from, but the 14 he chose are perfect. With "Sangria Wine", one of my personal favorites, I can picture Todd sitting down and flashing back to his early years and what made him want to be a song writer. "Railroad Lady" which Walker co-wrote with Jimmy Buffett is another fantastic rendition, well worth being on the album. Can't forget "Mr. Bojangles" or "Pissin' In The Wind", which he nails. I'm pretty sure that Todd knew all of these songs from memory, as they have his feel to them and seem to flow naturally, not the forced feeling that can come from a lot of tributes.

Snider & Walker on stage together
This album was produced by the Grammy Award winning Don Was (Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Iggy Pop, Rolling Stones,and on and on.), and in my opinion, the only thing that could of made it better, is to hear a live version where Todd could tell the stories of why he picked the songs he did. Otherwise, it is a fantastic album well worth checking out. It is nice to see a singer care so much about his influences, and hopefully, if you don't know who Jerry Jeff Walker is OR Todd Snider you will take a minute to give them a listen. Promise you won't be disappointed.

Todd with his trusty sidekick, Cowboy Jim

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hopscotch 2012 Lineup Announced

Fans enjoy The Flaming Lips at The Plaza Stage, Hopscotch 2012
The Independent's Hopscotch Musical Festival in Raleigh, NC is back for the third year with a stellar lineup featuring something for just about every musical taste. This year's headliners include The Roots, Scottish 80s alt-rock group The Jesus and Mary Chain, Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, and Liars. Hopscotch is unique in its support of the homegrown music scene. Notable locals include Birds of Avalon, Roman Candle, The Beast, Arnold Dreyblatt/Megafaun, and The Mountain Goats. Even with the sheer amount of local groups there are bands from all across the US and the world, for that matter (High Wolf, Hubble, and Holograms are all European). Other US bands include Damien Jurado, Ducktails, and Wye Oak, as well as numerous others.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Hopscotch 2011
With so many bands in so little time how do they fit them all in three days? Hopscotch makes use of many well-known venues in the area but also utilizes bars and clubs with smaller stages for smaller acts. Concerts are ongoing at fifteen venues all over downtown, starting at staggered times so patrons can hopscotch Raleigh, giving festival-goers a chance to see what Raleigh is all about. The festival features headlining shows at The Plaza on Fayetteville St. on Friday and Saturday night.

Titus Adronicus at Tir Na Nog, Hopscotch 2011
VIP passes are already sold 
out and 3-day wristbands are on sale now for $110. One day passes will be available soon. Check their tickets page for availability. Look for band previews on Final E Chord in the months leadng up to the festival. All photos shown, courtesy of Ronny Nause Photography.

Wayne Coyne surfs the crowd

The Dodos

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Man Behind the Drums

We are glad to welcome Justin Taylor as a guest contributer to the Final E Chord music blog.

Most people of my generation more than likely don't know the name, but the songs are forever etched in our memories from high school and on. Levon Helm, 71, died yesterday (4/19) after a long battle with cancer.

Mr. Helm, I will refer to him as Mr., because that is the kind of respect a man like him deserves, was a singer and drummer for the 70's rock group "The Band", most notably. Songs like "The Weight", "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down", and "Up on Cripple Creek" are just a few of his works that most know by heart. But his influence in Americana and music in general goes so much deeper.......

The son of Arkansas cotton farmers, Helm was influenced by the likes of Elvis, Conway Twitty, and Bo Diddley, in their early years. He was around when rock n' roll was formed. He established his first band in high school, The Jungle Bush Beaters, and at 17 started playing in bars and clubs around his area. After high school, he was invited to play in former Arkansas native, Ronnie Hawkins' band, "The Hawks" who were popular in southern Canada. In the 60s, Bob Dylan, whom at the time was in his electric rock phase, asked "The Hawks" to be his back up band. Helm, didn't like the negative response Dylan was getting with his new sound, and decided to return to Arkansas. After a two year layoff working on some oil rigs, Helm was invited back to "The Hawks" in '67, who were now pretty much referred to as "The Band". This is where most of us pick up on Mr. Helm's music. "The Band" played together until '76, their farewell performance "The Last Waltz" was filmed as a documentary by legendary film director Martin Scorsese. Between '76 and '83, when "The Band" reunited without Robbie Robertson, Helm worked on some solo work, playing with the likes of Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris. In '83, "The Band" reunited, in '86 band member Manuel committed suicide and the remaining 3 members carried on until 1998.

In the late 90's Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, ending his singing career for several years. After removing the tumor, his voice became hoarse and raspy, forcing him to mainly play drums in his later years. Overwhelmed by medical bills, Helm decided to host a series of concerts at his Woodstock home. These became known as "The Midnight Ramble", artists like Kris Kristofferson, Steely Dan, Gillian Welch, and even Norah Jones contributed to these works. His final album was in 2007, "The Dirt Farmer", which was a solo album that won him a Grammy for Traditional Folk Album. He also released a live album from a 2008 concert titled, "Ramble at the Ryman" that won him another Grammy for Best Americana Album.

On April 19th, 2012, we lost a true troubadour that has influenced music from my past, and continues into the music I listen to today. I hear his name everywhere I turn in the Americana genre, from Robert Earl Keen, Cody Canada, Blackberry Smoke, Jerry Jeff Walker, and on and on and on. His smile and creativity will be missed and felt all over the music world.

R.I.P. Mark Lavon "Levon" Helm
May 26, 1940-April 19, 2012