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jim-james-eternally-evenJim James
Eternally Even
Produced by Jim James and Blake Mills
ATO/Capitol Records
Release: November 4, 2016
www.JimJames.com

Jim James has cultivated a reputation for being an experimental musician, not pledging allegiance to any one style of sound. It’s constantly evolving to say the least. Not only as the frontman and chief song architect for My Morning Jacket, but as a solo artist, too. On his sophomore solo album, a follow-up to 2013’s Regions of Light & Sound of God, James’ delivers a set of tracks that once again proves he’s still in a state of evolution.

Where Regions of Light & Sound of God was 2013’s melodic, tenor-based, happy trip thru musical serenity, Eternally Even delivers a more rhythmic, synthed-out, acid-jazz sound that’s laced with R&B and soul undertones, and accentuated with James’ unconventional baritone vocs. The payoff is a bit more darker and somber in overall resonance than perhaps anything he’s recorded, even with My Morning Jacket.

As usual with James, these songs are deeply personal, and reflective of his own personal views on life and our reality in the present day. A reality that seems rather glum and bummed out, as “Same Old Lie” spells out with candid reverberation via a swanky chorus. Is he talking about the presidential election? The fear-mongering media? Most likely. Along with a host of other loathsome politically-charged realities.

The instrumental prowess of “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger Pt. 1” provides a gratifying, mid-album transition into the second half of the album, where Pt. 2 of the same song fuses James’ alto vocals.

The album’s title track triumphantly culminates as the last track, and maintains the album’s avant-garde feel. Eternally Even manifests itself as a progressive experimentation and peek into James’ own unpredictable psyche.

—This review is also published at PerformerMag.com and GonzoToday.com

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Forecastle-07-17-2015-Sam-Smith-S-1

Photo by Willie MacLean

Once upon a time, in July of 2002, a grassroots-organized neighborhood gathering of music, art and activism took place in a quaint little patch of grass in the Fredrick Olmsted-designed Tyler Park. Located in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Forecastle was comprised primarily of local artists and musicians who all performed for free.  Drawing a few hundred people nonetheless, festival founder JK McKnight made it all work on a budget of less than $500.

Fast forward to today, and this little grassroots festival has steadily evolved itself into a corporate-controlled, behemoth midwest tourist attraction, drawing thousands and thousands of festival-goers from 49 states and 12 countries. Now fully orchestrated by Knoxville’s AC Entertainment (producer of Bonnaroo & Sloss Music Festival), Forecastle Festival will once again take place on Louisville’s Waterfront Park this weekend, from July 15-17th.

The Dwindling Local Element

As an advocate for all things Kentucky, this writer would be remiss to note how our largest home state music festival seems to play host to fewer and fewer “Kentucky” musicians and artists, as each year passes. Sad, but true. In 2015 there were five artists, including My Morning Jacket, who hailed from the Bluegrass State, but this year it’s been reduced to only three, which is another aspect of the festival’s inevitable evolving trend. On the this year’s official lineup of musical artists with Kentucky roots we’ve got 1200, Joan Shelley and Louisville Orchestra Director, Teddy Abrams & Friends, who will likely feature a variety of other Kentucky musicians during his set.

Nonetheless, there’s still plenty to revel about and be excited for as Forecastle Festival maintains its status as Kentucky’s largest annual gathering of music and art. According to official ticket sales to date, this year’s festival is expected to surpass their all-time ticket sales record set last year, with over 65,000 tickets sold. 

Here are some of my personal highly-anticipated on and offstage attractions that I will choose to jabber about, in no specific order. You can even download a FREE set of tunes from a handful of Forecastle 2016 artists.

Ryan Adams

The last time I saw Mister Ryan Adams was in 2007 at Louisville’s Brown Theatre. This was when he had the audacity to only deliver a 20 minute acoustic set, sitting in a dimly-lit half circle with his band the entire time. After about three songs, plus a cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole,” he stepped to the mic and uttered the words “Thank you, goodnight,” and then proceeded to walk offstage. Everyone in attendance was infuriated.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Regardless of that incident, this dude is one hell of a songwriter and live performer, with a 20+ year catalog of songs to draw from. I just happened to catch him on one of those shitty nights where ole’ Ryan just wasn’t feeling it. Chances are I won’t be the only person present at Forecastle this year who last saw him at the aforementioned flub show. That’s why I will confidently predict that his upcoming set at Forecastle will be an enthralling live demonstration of his musical prowess in one of his rare festival appearances. So, how about a total rock-out with your cock-out set there, Mister Adams? Some of us have been waiting a long time for it…

The Arcs

The last time a Dan Auerbach-fronted rock-n-roll machine graced a stage at Forecastle was in 2013, when the Black Keys gave a rock-n-roll sermon for over 2 hours to a rambunctious, yet appreciate drunken mass of fans. I was happily part of that mess.

The Arcs - Photo by Richard Swift

The Arcs – Photo by Richard Swift

Auerbach returns to the Forecastle stage with his newest rendition of psychedelia/garage rock while keeping intact his trademark vocals and reverb-drenched guitars. Also a vital part of the band is bassist Nick Movshon, whose better known for his extensive work with the late, great British soul queen, Amy Winehouse.

Keep an ear out for “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” if you’re a Keys fan. It should be just as a trippy performance as the song’s video. Hopefully. Catch them early on Saturday at 5:15 on the Mast Stage.

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Making his 2nd Forecastle appearance in only 3 years is Austin-based Gary Clark Jr., one the next soon-to-be greatest Blues rockers of our generation. He’s a festival staple across the country and his experience with the Forecastle crowd will lead to another guitar and vocal-fueled battleground experience for his audience.

Just wait till he plays “The Healing” at some point during the set. Who doesn’t need some healing from living in today’s world? Catch him on Sunday at 5:00 on the Mast Stage.

[Read our March 2016 review of Gary Clark Jr. by our own Miss Autumn en Austin]

1200

1200

1200

Also known as Jecorey Arthur, he is a music teacher for a local school by day, and up-and-coming hip-hop artist by night. There’s not much more of a positive role model coming from his west end Louisville roots. But this boy will ignite your senses with his genuine delivery of real-life inspired songs, and heartfelt authenticity. He’s a “real” musician whose capable of reshaping the overall perception of his style within the uninformed popular thought, so make sure you give him a listen on Friday at 3:00 on the Ocean Stage.

The GONZO Bar

You know, not because I’m freaking biased towards Hunter S. Thompson and virtually anything GONZO, but this will be one of the coolest damn spots to get a bourbon or other GONZO libation of choice. Thompson, a Louisville native, and creator of GONZO Journalism, was also a rabid bourbon connoisseur, amongst quite a few other mind-altering substances of choice.

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Celebrate the GONZO spirit while you enjoy a new feature to this year’s bar – a Grant Goodwine curated “traveling madhouse” of inspired art by Thompson and his longtime British illustrator, Ralph Steadman. Great DAZE!!

Anderson East

Rhythm and blues and soul rockers with dashes of country are definitely crowd-pleasers at Forecastle. This year’s festival will feature one of that genre-orgy’s up-and-coming rising giants, with Michael Cameron Anderson, professionally recognized as Anderson East. 

Anderson East

Anderson East

Yep, this little young Alabama lad can sure as hell man a mic and rock a stage with more heartfelt intent than some of the seasoned veterans around him. And when he’s done doing all that, he parks his boots under Country Music Queen, Miss Miranda Lambert’s bed. How about that?

You’ll have to shake off that Saturday night hangover kind of quickly as he opens the Mast Stage on Sunday at 1:45. Oh yeah, make sure you wish him a happy birthday if you’re in attendance because he’ll be celebrating his 28th.

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

A celebration of Kentucky’s most famous export, other than horses and world-renowned musicians: bourbon, curated by The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a non-profit organization that promotes and publicizes all the major bourbon distillers throughout the state. You’ll learn about the history and cultivation of bourbon directly from the distilleries who’ve made it a world class export. And of course, be aware this is usually the only non-VIP air-conditioned oasis within festival grounds. So why not give all those sun and heat-relief seekers first class access to Kentucky’s brown hell water? Good call.

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

This is the corridor where most of the incoming art will be found, along with mixed in festival retailers, many from Kentucky. It’s definitely the calmest and quietest section of the festival ground, and is great place to people watch. Grab a bite to eat. Or drink a craft brew. Or catch a nap. Whatever floats your boat.

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FullSizeRenderWhiskey Bent Valley Boys
On The Fly
Produced by Ben Townsend
Questionable Records: Pewee Valley, Kentucky
Released: May, 2016
whiskeybentvalley.tumblr.com

There’s been a bit of a resurgence of popularity, so to speak, in the world of bluegrass music over the last decade or so, in case you haven’t noticed. While the majority of big time present-day bluegrass renegades experiment with ways of incorporating modern sounds into this pioneering art form of string-picking, Pewee Valley, Kentucky’s Whiskey Bent Valley Boys are non-conformists, in that regard. Conjuring up more of a 19th century, rootsy style, these young Kentucky lads entire persona is about inducing a historical feel to both their sound and image. Almost as if they’re trying to emulate an actual Appalachian backwoods porch jam session amongst family members in 1885. Happy, hillbilly, tenor-induced, string mayhem is how I’ll sum it up, with songs about running rabbits, shady groves and drinking up that whiskey. No doubt they live up to their name.

And just like the majority of their fellow Kentucky-born musical brethren, songs about the home state is always hip subject matter to lay down tracks to. Regardless of your style. You’ve got the instrumental jam session of “Kentucky Traveler,” followed up by the reminiscent testament of “Old Kentucky” where they sing of growing up on the banks of the Ohio, amongst other homages sprinkled throughout.

Whiskey Bent Valley Boys once again cement their status in bluegrass, as an authentic old-time, whiskey-sipping, porch-stomping, string-slaying trio of young lads who belt out tunes which remind us of a time that none of us actually have any real memory of.

-This review also published at GonzoToday.com

 

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GFLou2016
GonzoFest Louisville
, Louisville’s annual celebration of its most famous 
literary son, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, returns to Waterfront Park’s Big Four Lawn to celebrate the life, work and legacy of Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

GonzoFest Louisville, now in its sixth year, has stacked this year’s lineup with national and local acts. Nashville rockers with Kentucky roots, Fly Golden Eagle and rock & roll trio Natural Child, who are also from Nashville, will headline GonzoFest Louisville 2016. Old-school hip-hop artists Dr. Dundiff with Touch AC and Smoke Shop Kids, along with garage punk band Chrome Pony, and indie rock band Quiet Hollers are set to perform on the main stage.

Also on the bill is Frederick The Younger, a slinky vintage pop band from Louisville, local rockers Your News Vehicles, and acid country rock band The Bottom Sop. Along with Frogg Corpse & Mr. Stranger Present The End of The World on the Gonzo Today Stage.

In addition to music and spoken word performances, Tinderbox Circus Sideshow, the self-proclaimed “most mind-blowingly devilish backwoods troupe from the ground up”.will be performing at the Gonzo Today Tent Stage throughout the day.

Craft vendors, food, liquor, beer, will be available at the festival as well. GonzoFest Louisville 2016 will also feature a non-fiction literary contest and a satirical political portrait art contest. Submit literary entries to gonzoliterarycontest@gmail.com. Art entries must be sent to 4016 Summer Place New Albany, IN 47150. Literary and art entries must be submitted by March 15, 2016.

The official GonzoFest Louisville after-party at The New Vintage begins at 11:00 p.m.; featuring The Sundresses, Discount Guns, plus a very special jam session with festival musicians. Present your GonzoFest Louisville 2016 ticket stub for free entry to the after-party ($10 at the door otherwise).

Proceeds from GonzoFest Louisville 2016 will support the creation of a life-size bronze statue of Hunter S. Thompson. Sculptor, Matthew Weir will be present during the festival. GonzoFest Louisville is sponsored by Falls City Brewing and Four Roses Bourbon. Gates open at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at Eventbrite. Additional information, including details about the 2016 literary contest, vendor applications, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities can be found by visiting www.GonzoFestLou.com.

For the latest news about this year’s festival fans can visit GonzoFest Louisville on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About GonzoFest Louisville
GonzoFest Louisville is a literary and music festival honoring Hunter S. Thompson, as well as the lasting mark he has made on literature, art and music. Through poetry, spoken word, art and live music and more, GonzoFest Louisville celebrates the life and times of Hunter S. Thompson in his hometown. 2016 will mark the sixth year of the festival.

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MERRY (whatever) you MAY or MAY NOT be celebrating at the current time.

Just dug up an interview with another KENTUCKY boy I did back in 2012 in the Seelbach Bar. Sorry about the volume. I do this shit for FREE sometimes…

Oh and one of his videos also, which by the way, is F’ing AWESOME…

Tonight’s post was inspired by OLE SMOKEY moonshine…

G’night folks…

OK…

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waterfall500The Waterfall
by My Morning Jacket
ATO/Capital
Produced by: Jim James & Tucker Martine
www.MyMorningJacket.com

On their 7th studio production Louisville-based My Morning Jacket continues to masterfully hone their tradition of album production by being that band who doesn’t conform to the music business. Nor their own previous endeavors of recording an album, for that matter. Which is rather typical of them at this point.

Venturing to remote Stinson Beach, in Northern California – once called home by Jerry Garcia – they isolated themselves in the Panoramic House with essentially only each other, a beach, the stars and the moon. For front man Jim James, a sudden and debilitating back injury would also be a catalyst for his song writing and recording experience. Just like any environment typically has on it’s occupants, the emotional output recorded was befitting of their environment.

Many of the songs were born out of assembling different song fragments and ideas from each band member, blended together with advanced recording tactics. Unlike that of 2011’s Circuital.

The euphoric and mesmerizing dark rhythms of “Spring (Among the Living)” and “Tropics (Erase Traces)” tantalizes the senses, while “Only Memories Remain” and “Thin Line” showcases the soulful crooning James is still cable of, even if it’s lying flat on his back while nursing an injury.

Other critics, writers, so-called journalists or clucking hens with a blog will rave and jabber about this being the band’s best recorded effort to date; but I say they’re missing the point entirely if that’s what they really feel is important to say. This band doesn’t enter the studio with the goal to outdo or out-perform their last album. They’re just evolving. They don’t care about writing a hit song. Hit songs are for the music business, and the business is bad.

On top of that, they came away with so much new material that another installment of The Waterfall, or perhaps something else, is due out before year’s end.

MMJ is about experiencing and conveying raw human emotion by giving birth to music that arouses a curiosity within themselves, and their listeners, to search for the answers to life’s mysteries. Presumably with some of those catalysts being isolationism and the controlled intake and indulgence of substances yet-to-be-known. You know, kinda how Pink Floyd gave birth to Dark Side Of The Moon.

Welcome to the dark side of My Morning Jacket, which happens to be referred to as The Waterfall.

— This review also published at PerformerMag.com

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FF_pic

Picture courtesy of Forecastle Festival

In the world of music festivals, everything changes. Eventually. And Louisville’s annual mammoth-sized music, art and activism mecca, Forecastle Festival, now in its 11th year, is no exception. The festival will once again take place on Louisville’s Waterfront Park, from July 12-14.

What started as a small neighborhood gathering in Louisville’s Tyler Park in 2002 has evolved into one of the Midwest’s largest platforms for musicians, artists and activists alike with tens of thousands flocking to the banks of the Ohio River every summer.

Last year the Forecastle founder JK McKnight, announced a partnership with Bonnaroo producer, AC Entertainment.

“One of the biggest assets AC Entertainment brings to the table is experience, and the relationships that go along with that,” McKnight explains. “In addition, a laser-like focus heavily on festivals, which is different than concerts. Festivals are brands, and have to be approached in a different way.”

That approach has lead to a number of expected changes with the core management shift to AC. The most obvious – perhaps only to the Forecastle-faithful – is the music roster, which is a bit lighter on Louisville area artists as compared to year’s past.

“We’re always going to have a local and regional stage. I think that’s never going to change,” McKnight adds.

“But yes, it’s (Louisville & Kentucky musicians) always been a part of the festival and I imagine it always will be. It’s part of our DNA. I think as the festival grows and expands, we’ll be able to use more real estate, which could open up more opportunity,” says McKnight.

“This year I’ve put together a list of probably 15 to 20 local artists that I thought were really special and deserving of an opportunity like this. These were artists that were really out there, touring constantly, pushing the envelope, building their brand. You can look at numbers and statistics, and see them growing in the market. People are responding, which is what we want to see. We want something that catches our eye. If we see other people responding to it, that’s important. The festival’s not about our personal music tastes. I think that’s a misconception,” McKnight candidly commented.

A few of those carefully selected artists hailing from the Louisville area include; the musically unclassifiable My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, the up-and-coming folk-jammers Houndmouth, retro-rockers The Pass, the bluegrass-americana sounds of 23 String Band, and the alt-country up-comers A Lion Named Roar.

As for the Forecastle headliners, festival-goers will enjoy Robert Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters (which’ll hopefully turn into a Led Zeppelin affair), The Black Keys, The Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, The String Cheese Incident, Outkast’s Big Boi, and Alabama Shakes just to name a few.

Forecastle is also expanding beyond the festival’s official grounds with a number of late night after-party concerts at Louisville Palace and aboard the Belle of Louisville.

“Every year, the late night component of the festival is always something that we think about throughout the whole year,” McKnight explains. “Obviously, this year with String Cheese doing the Saturday night at the Palace, which is the first year of its kind that the Palace has ever done. But yeah, the Belle of Louisville is an iconic venue. I don’t see us ever quitting that tradition of trying to do shows on the Belle. It’s a lot of fun!”

* This article can also be read in Performer Magazine’s July 2013 issue and at PerformerMag.com

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