Monday, July 22, 2019

INTERVIEW: Will Bennett and the Tells Serve Up All Your Favorite Songs

Will Bennet's one of those guys who sticks to his guns. After his spunky debut album, Wichita, Will needed to take a break to tend to some of the most important things in life. The band's sophomore effort, All Your Favorite Songs, has a much world wearier feel, but I think that just means Will is growing into himself. In addition to premiering the title track below, Will gave up the goods on how All Your Favorite Songs came together.

Photo: Lou Engleman
  Your music has always had a bit of a bite to it, but All Your Favorite Songs feels a bit defeated. Are you doing okay?

Ha! I’m doing great, but I understand where you’re coming from. The spark for this album came out of an unexpected trip back to my hometown of Grinnell, Iowa after my dad had a stroke a few years ago. He's doing fine now, by the way. That was the inspiration for the title track, but coming back home after living in Ohio for a year also caused me to think a lot about my own relationship with Grinnell. Small town America—with its backroads and trucks—is romanticized all the time in country music, but those tropes are never very meaningful or relatable. I wanted to put together a collection of songs that was true to my own experience growing up in a small town.


You moved from Grinnell, which is truly a small, small college town to Chicago! How's that been for you?

I love being in Chicago. I had been in Columbus, OH for a few years, but I was in a long-distance relationship with my partner who was here, so moving to Chicago was inevitable once she got a full-time job. It can be a little tough creatively since a stable, happy relationship is a little harder to mine for songs than a long-distance one, but that’s a minor quibble.

Musically, it’s exciting to be in a city with such a rich alt-country scene. It was at the center of that initial wave in the 90s with Wilco and all the Bloodshot Records releases and continues in that tradition today. It's fun to be able to soak up all this great music here while trying to carve out our own little corner of that community.

But don’t sleep on Grinnell! It has a surprisingly vibrant music scene for such a small town thanks in large part to the presence of the college. Springsteen famously played the basketball gym in 1975 right after Born To Run blew up, and they booked The Replacements once in the 1980s, but they got too drunk to play. It’s been growing a lot over the past couple of years thanks to some of my musician friends from college who have decided to move back to Grinnell. They help bring cool shows to town and use Grinnell as a home base for playing all over the Midwest.



On the song "In Nashville" you have some very pointed critiques of the country music industry. Is this based on personal experience?

It’s a little tongue in cheek for us to declare our independence from Music Row, given that we lean more to the alt side of alt-country, and in terms of popularity, we’re not even a blip on their radar. But at the same time, it’s true that we want absolutely nothing to do with Music Row and the machine that churns out these mindless radio hits at the expense of a lot of more interesting country music being made today, especially by women.


I wanted to ask about the album art. It's clever and also an interesting choice -- what's the story behind it?

My mom is a quilt book author and the design is an homage to the cover of the very first book she wrote. This was before personal computers and she didn’t understand that you could add text to a photo after the fact, so she sewed the title of the book right into the quilt that was to go on the cover. I had always thought that was a cute story, and then one day it hit me: we need to do that for our album cover. When I approached my mom about it, she was thrilled, and I'm very lucky to have a mom who is willing to put in a whole lot of time and effort for our album artwork. When you see it printed full size for the vinyl record, it looks really beautiful. It’s a perfect visual accompaniment to the album.

Will Bennett and the Tells -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, July 19, 2019

Adobe & Teardrops: Episode 71

A note on the Women’s World Cup win. Also, just the nerdiest episode of this podcast, possible. Also, an interview with Brandon Stansell!

You can see Rachel at FlameCon in NYC! Get your tickets here!


Music in this episode:
  1. Holodeck Heart -- “Beam Me Up Hottie” AND “Baby I’m a Bottom” (Engayge)
  2. Shane Sweeney -- “Constant, Constant” AND “Weeping Willow” (Love, The Dynamo)
  3. Have Gun Will Travel -- “Infinite Traveler” AND “American History” (Strange Chemistry)
  4. Rebecca Haviland and the Whiskey Heart -- “Stone Cold Lonesome” (Single)
  5. Caroline Shaw, Attacca Quartet -- “Entr’acte” AND “Plan & Elevation: IV. The Orangery” (Orange)
  6. Pillow Queens -- “HowDoILook” (Single)
  7. The Rev -- “Sea Level” AND “El Diablo” (El Diablo)
  8. Taylor Alexander -- “Good Old-Fashioned Pain” (Single)
  9. Eastbound Buzz -- “Looking For Trouble” AND “Big Smoke” (Opportunity Shop)
  10. Nik Davies -- “Flight of the Monarchs” (Unfurl)
PLUS an interview w/ Brandon Stansell, featuring his new single “Top Shelf!"



Rachel wrote a comic! Check it out here! Send us music via SubmitHub. Send us money via Ko-fi or Patreon. Contact Von via linktr.ee/vonreviewshttp://linktr.ee/vonreviews and say hi to Rachel on Twitter @adobeteardrops

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Hey! Listen: Tony Harrah -- "Sweet Lucinda"

"Sweet Lucinda" should've had a happier story. Charleston, West Virginia-based Tony Harrah had his album, Unicorns, in the can. It centers on themes of loss and redemption -- but also captures life with his wife and three boys. Unfortunately, Harrah's wife passed away suddenly in her sleep, giving Unicorns a tragic new dimension.

“During my eulogy for her, I called her my ‘unicorn.’ I said these mythical creatures do exist, and that I caught one once,” Tony says.

Credit: Rafael Barker c.2019
The album’s first single, “Sweet Lucinda,” is storyteller folk that traces the ups and downs of a profound relationship. This track was also Tony’s wife’s favorite on the album. He explains: “That song is about our life together, and the idea that we were a normal relationship that spanned 15 years together and 9 years married.”



Aside from the song's unfortunate prophecy, it'll remind you of American Aquarium's sense of ragged defiance. Life often travels in a crooked line, but with enough grit and enough fight, you can find your way back to where you need to be. "Sweet Lucinda" seems to luxuriate in this freedom -- the joy in the fight-- as much as it mourns Lucinda's loss.

Tony Harrah -- Official, Facebook

Monday, July 15, 2019

Hey! Listen: Zach Kleisinger -- "You Should Hold Me"

It doesn't get much better than Zach Kleisinger's "You Should Hold Me." I am first to complain if a country song is longer than three minutes, but you won't notice the time as Kleisinger's ballad comes into its own gracefully and inexorably. Kleisinger's classic story of unrequited love from afar skillfully marries the tension in his words with a catharsis in his music. Truthfully, it feels like a mini-symphony, where Kleisinger's repetition of his simple, heartfelt lyrics is simple another musical theme in the unfolding drama.


Of course, I'm deeply drawn to minimal compositions that feature pedal steel -- and Kleisinger's world-weary warmth makes his music all the richer. (Bonus points if the music comes from Canada, evidently.) This is Kleisinger's follow-up release to his similarly austere I Hope It's Calm, Then from last March. Kleisinger is touring in Canada and the UK to support the EP. Hopefully he makes it down to New York before heading home.



Zach Kleisinger -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, July 12, 2019

Adobe & Teardrops: Episode 70

Some July 4th misadventures, a few more Thoughts on Pride, the burdens of extra responsibility at work...and some music I’m really excited about! 
  1. Jake Riley and the Social Workers -- “Drown” (For All and None)
  2. Alisha Pace -- “Naked and Lazy” (Single)
  3. Jamie Lynn Vessels -- “Cloak and Dagger” (Single)
  4. Julia Heart -- “Jungle” (Julia Heart)
  5. Rich Layton and Tough Town -- “Live to Rock” (Salvation Road)
  6. Your Heart Breaks -- “Our Forbidden Country” (Drone Butch Blues)
  7. Ren Geisick -- “If You Can Take Him, You Can Have Him” (Ren, Love Song) 

Rachel wrote a comic! Check it out here! Send us music via SubmitHub. Send us money via Ko-fi or Patreon. Contact Von via linktr.ee/vonreviews and say hi to Rachel on Twitter @adobeteardrops

PREMIERE: Saddlemen -- "The Bend"

What do you get when you throw a bunch of jazz musicians into a jam session at New York's famed the Bitter End?

Well, some country rock, of course.

That's how New York-based band Saddlemen coalesced around a shared love of music. I wrote up their second release, "Indiana," a few months ago. Now I'm excited to see them come back around for their very first EP, which is out today. "The Bend" might be about pressure, but there's no mistaking the joy the band derives from playing together. The song goes in a lot of directions, but it never meanders. In fact, the combination of experimentation and tight instrumentation calls to mind another roots jam band that called the Lower East Side its home: God Street Wine.


According to the band, here's how it all came together: "We used to introduce this one at gigs by saying "we don't know what to call this." Everyone in the group had a different name for it. We felt like it was hard to categorize a song that had such a frenetic quality. It also proved difficult to find a title that accurately represented both the vintage instrumentation (plus we try to record live [together] as many instruments as we can and rarely use midi or click tracks) with a more modern, insecure lyricism. One day Austin rather typically had a moment of clarity and realized that it should be called "The Bend" — after the guitar string bends at the top of the first and second verse. It clicked for us: the idea that we're all at all times bending (and sometimes breaking) under different pressures. After all, the song is about how we're all operating in various states of "losing-it" — and a frustration with those people who refuse to acknowledge that very human phenomenon. We want this to resonate with folks — especially given the social fissures we see so often today. Ultimately, we hope this frenzied song sounds just right after a few drinks and a long week."



Saddlemen -- Facebook

Hey! Listen: Rupert Stroud -- "Along the Low"

Sometimes, you just need a song that makes you feel like you can take on the world. Well, Rupert Stroud's got one for that. It's not the kind of song that will pump you full of aggression, or even hype you up. Stroud's "Along the Low," rather, uncurls itself gradually and inexorably. Musically, the song echoes its theme: the importance of patience and delayed gratification.


“The song has a very uplifting, summery, anthemic vibe to it - but the truth is when I wrote the song I was feeling very low,” explains Stroud. “The lyrics were inspired by long journeys and late nights to and from home on the road, in all weather conditions. By the time I recorded the song my mood had lifted but the meaning of the song still remained. It’s a song about perseverance and positivity in striving for success and achieving your goals. Ultimately, doing what you want to do with your life - regardless of the ups and downs - following your passion and never giving up. The life of a troubadour.”



Rupert Stroud -- Official, Facebook