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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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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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ky bscBlack Stone Cherry
Kentucky
Barrick Studios: Edmonton, KY
Mascot Label Group
Available: April 1, 2016
BlackStoneCherry.com

“So turn the radio up when your heart breaks down.”

Rock n’ roll. Southern. Hard. Dirty. Grungy. But, sometimes soft. Ballad-esque. That’s who they are. And they’re perfectly comfortable with that. Opting not to experiment that much with their solidified iconic sound, Black Stone Cherry continues to pledge allegiance to their musical roots by returning to the very studio where they first recorded Rock-n-Roll Tape, their first EP in 2003, recorded at Barrick Studios in Glasgow, Kentucky. The same studio they would eventually record their first self-titled major release via Roadrunner Records, now 10 years ago. It’s fair to refer to this album as a “roots” endeavor, right?

Most of the album is a metaphorical product of its time, both for the band personally, and our generation as a whole. They waste no time showing that sentiment on the opener, with “The Way of the Future.” Filing some well-timed complaints about greasy politicians, BSC wales of the semi-dystopian state of our current reality with heavy washed-out guitar riffs and bone-crunching percussion that emulates the frustration we all feel.

A cover of Edwin Starr’s 60’s classic “War” is a doggone epic rendition of the original, and represents the Doo Wop and Soul influence that was bestowed onto the band by way of drummer John Fred Young’s musical familial heritage, father and uncle of grammy award winning Kentucky Headhunters. Nonetheless, the song’s appearance on the album feels like another well-timed political statement they’re making overall. I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the nail on the head with this assertion.

Ok, I gotta wrap this shit up. I’m rambling, but speaking of which, “The Rambler” is probably the most heartfelt and tear-jerking song these boys have ever written, “Cheaper To Drink Alone” is not only true, but a damn good rock-junkie song to drink to, and “Soul Machine” is another guitar-solo-fueled example of their soul influence.

Theoretically, every album released by Black Stone Cherry could’ve been called “Kentucky.”
Why?
Dumb question.
Because that’s what these boys are – in and out, thru and thru. 
Ken-FUCKIN-tucky.
OK?
Just like the crazy BASTARD who scribbled this review.

*Reviewed under extreme duress of Vanilla Stoli and Diet Coke by Jason Ashcraft

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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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Black Stone Cherry 2014

Magic Mountain Album Artwork

Black Stone Cherry
Magic Mountain
Roadrunner Records

Produced by: Joe Barresi www.BlackStoneCherry.com

Much like they did when they first formed in 2001, Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry has recorded an album that essentially reiterates their stylistic roots as a band. Hard. Southern. Rock-n-roll. Maybe in that order, and maybe their best recorded effort ever. Considering they are probably Southern Rock’s unofficial-official torch-bearers.

However, somewhat unlike their youthful formative elementary days, Magic Mountain’s topics are a bit more college’y, highlighted by moments of verbal sultry bluntness more so than their previous three releases. Perhaps so blatantly, that we can go ahead and officially add “stoner-rock” to their growing list of genre identifiers.

The opening track, “Holding On To Letting Go,” sets a fast pace that rarely slows down throughout the album. Between the first single, “Me and Mary Jane,” or other tunes like “Peace Pipe” or the album’s title cut, there are enough marijuana-friendly references for this recording collection to be a modern day Cheech and Chong movie soundtrack. Where C&C go to Kentucky. Theoretically.

Of course, a Black Stone(d) Cherry album is never really complete until, in prideful anthemic-fashion, there’s a song which glorifies their home state of Kentucky. A place they’re not ashamed from being. The tune this time is “Hollywood In Kentucky” where the guys proclaim that “KFC would still be Kentucky Fried Chicken” and where “you get your ass kicked if you talk about my mother.”

And that song closes out with an instrumental guitar-fueled bluegrass’ish jam session.

Word.

Key Tracks: “Me and Mary Jane” “Dance Girl” “Fiesta Del Fuego” “Hollywood In Kentucky”

This review also published at PerformerMag.com and in Performer Magazine’s July 2014 issue. 

 

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No, my fingers didn’t get chopped off. Nor did any other of my body parts. I’m not dead, either. Not yet. Bummer, right? It usually takes something happening out of Kentucky, musically, that actually leaves the state’s borders, to bring me out of my so-called editorial hibernation.

I’ve been following these young Southern Kentucky lads, Black Stone(d) Cherry, since they were 16 years old. I think Ben and John Fred were still sophomore’s in high school when I first met them in Jillian’s Louisville (now Diamonds Pub). How’d they get into a bar at 16, you may ask? Well, when your father is Richard Young, founding member and guitarist of the Kentucky Headhunters, they just kinda get to go where they damn well please in Kentucky’s live music venues. And as history would have it, I would be lucky enough to be invited down to their Edmonton-based practice house, and be the first published journalist to interview and write about them.

Black Stone Cherry 2014So, that said, the bad boys from Southern Kentucky, who literally are Southern Rock’s torch-bearers, are back, and they’re dropping their new album, Magic Mountain, May 6th via Roadrunner Records.

Black Stone Cherry commented on the making of Magic Mountain, stating, “Not since before our first album have we felt the freedom and confidence that we felt while writing and recording this album. After touring the world behind three previous albums that we are extremely proud of, we feel this album best captures the live energy, honesty and vibe that encompasses our true musicianship.”

Without going into to much detail, I’ll confirm this. For those few of you who have a copy of Rock-n-Roll Tape, their first studio demo from 2001, think that kind of musical rawness, mixed with their modern-era rhythmic hooks, typical dirty guitars, and now throw in a little social support for the nation’s green movement, and you’ve got Magic Mountain.

Yes, I’ve had a copy of it for a little while now, and yes, I’ll publish my random rhetoric and review of it at PerformerMag.com. And for some odd reason it’ll appear in Performer Magazine’s July 2014 issue. My Editor must be nuts…just like me. And like Black Stone(d) Cherry too I suppose…

 

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jim-james-album-cover Regions of Light and Sound of God
by Jim James
ATO Records
Produced by: Jim James
wwwJimJames.com

If you’ve ever listened to any My Morning Jacket album you may have wondered where all that diverse musical inspiration originates from. A singular source or more of a collective effort from all band members?

This album- perhaps – suggestively answers that question as MMJ’s bearded-frontman perfectly fuses prodigious sounds of classical, alternative rock, folk, funk, soul and jazz into a singular cohesion of climatic musical joy. Just like many MMJ albums have done.

The piano-lead opener, “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)” emanates James’ curiosity of life and his ability to harmonize vowels to a progressive funky bass rhythm.

The album’s first single, “Know Til Now,” is a trippy 6+ minute jam who’s random arrangement reminisces MMJ’s “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt.2” and is equally contagious to all the senses.

There’s also the sensual crooning on “A New Life” which starts one way and ends another way, the smooth and sultry progression of “Actress” and the uplifting instrumental “Exploding” which provides depth.

Any song on this album – to the untrained ear – could easily be mistaken as a new MMJ song. And although that’s not really the case, it was, however, crafted by the one musical wizard behind all of them.

– Jason Ashcraft 
* This album review will also appear in Performer Magazine’s February 2013 issue and at PerformerMag.com

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