Jeff Scroggins and Colorado
Ramblin' Feels Good

Bluegrass in the West is known for incorporating progressive, genre-bending influences, but few bands have perfected a blend of deep tradition and new trailblazing like Jeff Scroggins & Colorado. Hailing from the Western Frontier state of Colorado where the mountains run high and the air runs thin, the band brings together dizzyingly brilliant musicianship with powerhouse Appalachian vocals, a solid and energetic rhythm, and an easy stage banter that has delighted listeners all over the world. Fronted by internationally acclaimed two-time National Banjo Champion Jeff Scroggins, who cites influences ranging from Don Reno and Alan Munde to Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, Scroggins’ joined by his son, the preternaturally gifted young mandolinist and tune composer Tristan Scroggins. The band’s vocalist Greg Blake grew up in southwest West Virginia, and when he sings, you can hear a voice that connects to the great old generations of mountain singers, invested with a rich twang and the kind of eerily powerful cry that first inspired the 'high, lonesome sound.' On July 22, 2016, this hard-traveling band will release their newest album, Ramblin Feels Good, a collection of songs and instrumentals both original and from a wide variety of sources. For the album, the core trio of both Scroggins and Greg Blake is joined by star bluegrass fiddler Andy Leftwich, 2-time IBMA award winning bassist Mark Schatz (Bela Fleck, Linda Ronstadt), and harmony vocalists Don Rigsby (Charlie Sizemore), and David Peterson.

On Ramblin Feels Good, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado bring together country, bluegrass, and folk in a hard-driving sound. Opening with Willie Nelson’s “I’m A Memory,” the songs on this album are drawn from bluegrass sources like Don Reno (Wall Around Your Heart), Leon Jackson (“Love Please Come Home”) and Hylo Brown (“Down the Road of Life”), as well as classic country like Jimmy Webb (“Galveston”) and Dennis Linde (“Night is Fallin in My Heart”), all the way over to Nashville songwriter Walt Aldridge (“She’s Got a Single Thing In Mind”). To round out the trinity, they draw from folk sources like Gordon Lightfoot (“Carefree Highway”) or Seattle songwriter David Keenan (the fun romp “Sometimes Dig for Taters”). In between, Jeff and Tristan Scroggins have crafted blazingly-hot instrumental tunes likes “Dismal Nitch” or “Lemonade in the Shade” to showcase their picking abilities on the banjo and mandolin respectively. All of these influences come together in a tight, cohesive package because Jeff Scroggs in & Colorado know what the secret to what makes bluegrass so compelling: take music as old as the hills, and push it to its furthest reaches without ever losing site of the heartbreak and passion at the heart of the songs. That’s why bluegrass, country, and folk will always be so closely tied.  Each of these genres is built on the foundation of honesty and authenticity. Listening to this album or watching Jeff Scroggins & Colorado tear it up onstage, it’s clear that they came to this music the honest way: through hard work and great energy. With their new album, Ramblin Feels Good, cementing their place at the forefront of Western bluegrass, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado have nothing left to prove, but a lot left to say.

The Deer
Tempest & Rapture

With the sort of ingenuity, you might expect to come out of Austin, TX, The Deer encompasses the innovation of the modern indie-folk revival and the cross-pollination of Austin’s diverse music scene. Described as transcendental Texas folk and stargaze surf-western, The Deer creates psychotropic soundscapes and tranquil, vivid dream-pop. In 2016’s release, Tempest & Rapture, The Deer marries their brand of moody Americana with rapturous psychedelia, like two wings of one soaring bird. What began as the solo recording project of singer/songwriter Grace Park (The Blue Hit), The Deer formed its core membership in 2012 after the release of “An Argument for Observation” under the band name Grace Park & The Deer. Grace Park & The Deer was adapted to just the The Deer in early 2015 to represent the cohesive collaboration between all of the artists in the band and because the group especially identified with deer as symbols of protective guidance. Their music, in that way, acts as a beacon in the dark wilderness: shining of pure melodies, vivid images, and strong musicianship in a world of vapid ditties.

Tempest & Rapture is their most expansive, experimental recording to date. Original members upright bassist/songwriter Jesse Dalton (MilkDrive), guitarist/sound engineer Michael McLeod (Good Field, Richard Linklater film composer), drummer/pianist Alan Eckert (Dimitri’s Ascent), and Park, combine the gothic soul they’ve had all along with new cross-genre inspiration: analog tape and reverb effects, vocals and piano by Roger Sellers, pedal steel by Lloyd Maines, as well as the expert string stylings of both Dennis Ludiker (Asleep at the Wheel) and The Deer’s newest member, Noah Jeffries (MilkDrive, South Austin Jug Band), who adds orchestration to live shows. Engineered and mixed by Grant Johnson & Michael McLeod, with auxiliary engineering by Christopher Cox and Evan Kleineke, and mastered by Erik Wofford, was recorded at Cacophany Recorders, Good Danny’s, 5th Street Studios, and McLeod’s own Nine Grey Clouds Studios in Austin, TX.

With Tempest & Rapture, The Deer has created a dynamic collection of songs ranging between the blissful and euphoric to the dark and the dangerous. As rooted in surreal folk and Southern gothic, as transcendental surf-rock, The Deer moves fluidly between genres, eliciting emotion as varied and surprising as Tempest & Rapture implies.

 

The Wayside

The great painter Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” Americana songwriter Kelley McRae approaches songwriting the same way, immersing herself in the colors and meaning each song offers up. Her new album, The Wayside, released April 7th, 2016, is a bouquet of blooming tone-paintings, each tender and intimate in their own right, exploring the rugged, unfolding experience of life on the road. McRae’s vision is completed by co-writer, guitarist and husband Matt Castelein, whose distinctive guitar work and vocal harmonies add nuance and energy to the album.

In 2011, McRae and Castelein traded their New York apartment for a VW van and decided to tour full time with their music, travelling extensively in American and Europe for performances, crafting new masterworks as they traveled. The Wayside is a testament to the inspiration inherent in the American landscape, the grief intrinsic to change, and the hope that comes with stepping onto unknown soil.

Recorded in Vancouver, BC, The Wayside brings on acclaimed Canadian producer Roy Salmond to polish McRae’s raw lyricism. He also plays keys, bass and percussion on several tracks. Additional brushstrokes from Jon Andersen on lap and pedal steel and Spencer Capier on violin, mandolin, and the traditional Greek bouzouki lend depth and variety.

Her fifth release, The Wayside seems to flow organically from Kelley McRae. “I fell in love with writing,” she said, “I found I was better at singing what I meant than saying what I meant and I still am all these years later. I keep coming back because I don’t know how to understand life without the process of songwriting.” As a consequence, McRae’s songwriting has contemplative undercurrents, drawing the listener in to the emotional universality of her words. Her song, “If You Need Me,” off the new album, showcases this sort of poeticism, and in particular, her ability to intertwine introspection with external environment. “I wrote [the song] when I was struggling with a big life decision...We were touring on the West Coast and one afternoon we happened to have a few free hours at Lake Tahoe. It was one of those beautiful, crisp, blue sky days and I could imagine all the things I was worried about just kind of drifting away on that huge blue expanse of water. The song came out of that feeling and was one of those rare songs that we wrote pretty effortlessly,” McRae said. Songs like “Land of the Noonday Sun” and “Rare Bird,” similarly reference the “rivers,” “higher ground,” and “sunsets” of her travels.

 The Wayside, McRae says, “is the place along the side of the road where things get left behind, or where you go to rest awhile, or where you go find something you lost along the way.” McRae’s songs sip life from the tension between holding on and letting go, blooming in their rich search for truths.

Charismo

For touring musicians, the road is a harsh mistress. It takes an iron will to survive and a hard-headed love for music so deeply ingrained that the mere thought of a missed gig makes you nauseous. For 17 years, the Hackensaw Boys have plowed the asphalt, bringing their raw, gritty version of American roots music to the venues and streets that originally inspired them. Born in Virginia, along the same routes as fellow road warriors/street buskers Old Crow Medicine Show, the Hackensaw Boys have at times operated more as a collective than a band, sometimes boasting up to twenty members. What’s kept them together is a burning hot vision of American roots music brought kicking and screaming into a new age, fueled as much by a rowdy punk spirit as by the traditional masters that first inspired them. Now with their new album, Charismo (April 15, 2016 on Free Dirt Records)–their first studio album in almost a decade–the Hackensaw Boys have a new lineup and a new lease on life. Led by founding member, guitarist and songwriter David Sickmen, they’re back on the road with new songs, determined to get their fans back on the dancefloors they remember so well.

Charismo was recorded in upstate New York with Grammy-award winning producer Larry Campbell (Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Steep Canyon Rangers) who pushed the new lineup to look to their roots. Traditional Appalachian stringband tunes and Delta blues still lay the groundwork as the Hackensaw Boys inject their latest album with a heavy dose of the let-the-good-times-roll spit and vinegar the band has become known for over the years. Charismo’s songs, all written by Sickmen and longtime Hackensaw member Ferd Moyse, are tinged with an attitude of scrappy resilience, spinning tales of everyday struggles and triumphs. The instrumentation of the Hackensaw Boys still points to their origins in Appalachia, but the rough-edged fiddle (Moyse), banjo (Jimmy Stelling), mandolin/bass (Thomas Oliver) and washboard percussion (Brian Gorby) lines here likely have more in common with the band’s punk roots than they do slavish imitation of bluegrass progenitors. The Hackensaw Boys have always had more in common with bands like The Clash, who celebrated the working class roots of their own music, than they did with an overly-polished Nashville mainstream. As evidenced in the Hackensaws’ history, their music fit as easily as the backing band for Charlie Louvin as it did in backstage jams on tour with Modest Mouse or the Flaming Lips.

Charismo is the album that the Hackensaw Boys’ fans have been waiting for. The songs on this new album are fueled by the dance-all-night spirit, but point towards the kind of road-weary life experiences that have seen them through every storm the modern music industry could send their way. From a major label debut to playing massive festivals like Bonnaroo, the Hackensaw Boys have seen it all, and in the end the music has been the fuel that’s kept them going non-stop and has kept their vision of the future so bright and clear.

Corin Raymond
Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams

Canadian songwriter Corin Raymond’s love of words began in the car with his father, driving the endless jack-pined distances of Northern Ontario. His father would wrap up library books in newspaper, like presents, to be handed out over the trip, or he’d tell Corin Greek myths to pass the hours on the road. For Corin, this began a lifelong love affair with words and stories that led him to become an acclaimed songwriter and an ardent student of songcraft. Like a Johnny Appleseed of song, Corin has traveled the length and breadth of Canada, down into the States, over to the UK, Europe, and Australia, planting his songs as he goes, then coming back around later to see how they’ve grown. With his new album, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams, he’s created his finest collection yet; most of them collaborations with other songwriters, and all of them marked by Corin’s literate populism. These songs were written on the road, infused with the kind of afternoon restfulness found in an old hobo jungle, or rife with the rapid-fire wordsmith of a fever dream.

Recorded in Toronto in 2015 and produced by Canadian guitarist and songwriter David Gillis, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams projects Corin’s songs onto a larger screen, incorporating electrified textures and full-band arrangements that push his folk-roots into new realms, like grindhouse juke-joint blues (“Best Demented Cowgirl Face”), honky-tonk talking blues (“Two Miles of Train”), or harmony-drenched soul (“Under the Belly of the Night”). Throughout, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams is distinguished by Corin’s storytelling. He has an eye for the smallest details that carry the most meaning. In “Morning Glories,” he describes a neighborhood fixture: “He’s a liquor store strummer, he’s a half-a-block howler / he’s the sound of my summer, he’s a ‘Dead Flowers’ growler / he’s a sidewalk street singer, a Baldwin Spadina / old resonator slinger, and a drunken John Priner.” In “Hard on Things,” he strings a litany of these details into an all-too-relatable confession: “I’ve worn out two gold wedding rings, ‘cause I’m hard on things.” With “The Law and the Lonesome” (co-written with Jonathan Byrd, who titled his 2008 album after the song), Corin crafts a cinematic vignette where “the snow’s like the ghost of cocaine on the highway / it shifts and plays tricks on your mind.” The characters in Corin’s songs flash by like faces illuminated in passing car headlights, revealing just enough to draw the listener in.

Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams is larger than life, but it’s also intimately tied to our everyday connections. That’s the reason Corin Raymond is such a great folk singer. He understands what a song can mean, and how they travel between people. “It’s a breathing, living organism that is constantly re-inspiring itself,” Corin says. “That’s what makes folk music so beautiful. It brings people together and it’s people who carry it from place to place, the way information moves between hobo jungles. It’s a network, a web. It’s amazing. I love it.”