You would think that with all of the attention being paid to the resurgence of Alabama soul music that someone like Heath Green would surely be on the radar of every A&R guy out of Nashville by now, yet for someone who has been quietly plying his trade for well over 15 years, Mr. Green has somehow managed to avoid the spotlight due to a lifetime of patience, hard luck, and working man’s caution. As a longtime fixture on the Birmingham music scene through groups like Mudpie, Fishergreen, and the Back Row Baptists, Green has carved out a reputation as one of the finest songwriters and performers around, combining gritty storytelling born out of the dirt and red clay of his home state with an electric delivery that’s on par with the best soul men of the modern era. Having toiled countless hours at dive bars and late-night haunts that have served as the real-time backdrop for his ongoing musical canvas, Green’s penchant for “tell it like it is” songwriting has made him a favorite among local scenesters in the Magic City music community, weaving tried and true tales of desperation, redemption, and devil-may-care attitude into a cohesive whole worthy of Delta blues relics twice his age.
But that’s really only half of the story. Having grown up on a steady diet of Stones, Faces, Humble Pie, and a lifetime of wanting to capture the live fire of artists like Ike & Tina Turner and the Joe Cocker/Leon Russell nexus, Heath’s uncanny ability to channel the best of his musical heroes is truly a sight to behold. From sidelong stage shimmies and full blast soul screams, to exorcising rock n’ roll demons with plaintive pleas for mercy and salt-of-the-earth salvation, there are few modes of musical catharsis his sonic world leaves untouched.
Having finally found a working unit of like-minded musicians to bring his songs to life in the form of the Makeshifters— consisting of his longtime musical partner Jason Lucia (13 ghosts, Dead String Brothers) on drums and half of Alabama indie rock savants Through the Sparks manning a blistering string section, with fretboard firebrand Jody Nelson on guitar pyrotechnics and Greg Slamen on bass— Heath may finally be on the cusp of the wider audience he has long deserved. Showcasing a unique blend of Swampers-tinged R&B and churning Zeppelin/Sabbath riffage— all tied together by Green’s smoky and guttural leave-it-on-the-stage delivery— the Makeshifters have created the perfect palette for one of the South’s most under-recognized frontmen to take his craft to the next level. Effortlessly navigating between the emotional and sonic extremes of songs like the mournful “Ain’t It A Shame” and the raucous take-no-prisoners guitar blitz of “Livin’ On The Good Side,” there are few bands below the Mason-Dixon line with enough brass to conquer the terrain these four gentlemen lay asunder any given night of the week.
From searing blues boogie and heartbreaking balladry, to maximum rock n’ roll with a side of fatback bounce, they’ve got it all and then some with enough to spare for the rest of us. And now it’s time for the rest of the country to choogle along with them and bear witness to the lightning in a bottle that is Heath Green & The Makeshifters.
“Much like Karen Dalton or Buffy Sainte-Marie, Odell has a unique and almost childlike voice. She geniusly contorts it, breaking into staccato rhythms and then holding high notes impossibly long, all within the same song.”
“They released a great record this year, Deep Dream, that reaches back to ’90s grunge and shoegaze but also feels very now and very present. [It’s] very much about young women’s experience in the world, trying to find their power.”
When singer and guitarist Jenna Moynihan saw the phrase “Daddy Issues” scribbled on the bathroom wall of a now-defunct Nashville DIY venue, she mistakenly assumed it was the name of an all-girl punk outfit sure to become her next favorite band. Upon realizing that no such band existed, Moynihan and friends Emily Maxwell (drums) and Jenna Mitchell (bass) picked up their instruments, taught themselves how to play and started their own band. Three years later, Daddy Issues are gearing up to release their full-length vinyl debut Deep Dream via Infinity Cat Recordings.
The band originally caught Infinity Cat’s eye after tastemaker Casey Weissbuch offered the trio a spot on the cassette series he curates for the label, which has hosted releases from artists like Rozwell Kid, Colleen Green and Guerrilla Toss over its three-year history. Days after submitting their tape in the summer of 2015, the band signed to Infinity Cat as official artists, releasing a 7″ split with Louisville band White Reaper later that year. Shortly thereafter, the band started work on Deep Dream with producer and label owner Jake Orrall (JEFF The Brotherhood, Colleen Green). Combining the sounds of ‘80s alternative, ‘90s grunge and ‘00s pop, Daddy Issues tackle the difficulties of friendship, heartbreak, mental health, sexual assault and a number of other issues that come with the package of youth in the modern world.
“Translee’s grasp on everyday living is refreshing in a game where trap rap floods the market.”
— Vibe Magazine
Government name Translee, rap name Translee. Who is Translee? What is a Translee and where does it come from, are usually the questions surrounding the Huntsville, AL raised; Atlanta-based MC when being introduced to the unfamiliar. From his stellar last project MAOTP, a particular set of witty words, and delivery that will finesse any verse line or hook, the masses are definitely starting to notice that it may be something different that is being birthed in the south, riding against the norm of the road MOST traveled. Simply conversational raps as he calls it, real music, real people, real problems, real times and real facts. His name is Translee. He is signed to independent label DNC (Digital Native Culture) and Grand Hustle Entertainment. Recently he’s been on the Hustle Gang world tour with super-star actor, rapper and activist T.I. and now preparing for his follow-up project Freedom Summer.
As a hip-hop artist from the south, Translee aims to change the perception of southern hip-hop and now hip-hop in general. From radio single with Raheem devaugn ‘Does Anybody Love Anymore’ which swept across the nation, to having videos on MTV and Revolt TV nationally, collabs with major artists such as KCamp, Bj the Chicago Kid, SyAri Da Kid, Cyhi the Prynce and BoB, to landing a deal with hip-hop legend T.I.. Translee proves to audiences everywhere around the world that he IS the quintessential hip-hop artist.
SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is an Ithaca-raised, Philadelphia-based rap artist, producer, and PhD student in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Known as much for her rousing stage presence as she is for her prowess as a beatmaker and lyricist, Sammus has spent the past several years cultivating a strong following of activists, hip hop heads, punks, and self-identified nerds and geeks, among others.
“The unity OSHUN possesses is…reflected in their music. Niambi’s fast-punching lyricism weaves in and out of Thandi’s smooth, honey-like harmonies, creating something that neither one of them could have formed without the other…Over subtle melodies that give a sense of steady calm, they expound upon current events, knowing your history, and the triumphs and tribulations of being young Black women growing up in today’s society.”
OSHUN is an independent Hip-Hop / Soul duo and the sonic manifestation of Afrofuturism. Using digital and acoustic sounds, heavy drums and bass, and ambient harmonic textures, OSHUN connects with the spirit of their ancestors to manifest a sweeter tomorrow for us all. Since the release of their debut mixtape ASASE YAA in 2015, OSHUN has amassed a social following of over 150k people between Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook alone. They’ve been recognized by media heavy hitters such as Rolling Stone, The FADER, Viceland, Huffington Post, NPR, Essence, and Vogue (just to name a few). They’ve also performed throughout the U.S. and Brazil all while remaining full-time college students at NYU. It’s been a wonderful journey and now that these young goddesses have graduated college, they are transitioning into the next phase of manifesting their purpose. OSHUN is preparing for the release of their debut album series “bittersweet”, complete with captivating visuals, a 2 month long tour of the US & Canada, and a deeper look into their ever-evolving selves.
“…one of the most formidable microphone mavens in the game.”
Following a series of independent releases, Sa-Roc has carved out her own lane through a combination of airtight wordplay and intelligent concepts. Over the course of her illustrious career, she’s performed alongside the likes of Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Atmosphere, and is one of the few MC’s to perform regularly as a feature artist with The Roots, around the country. In addition, she’s also landed an underground hit with “The Who?” featuring David Banner. 2017 saw her deliver a fiery cameo on “We Got This” from Brother Ali’s All The Beauty In This Whole Life, before joining him as direct support on his Own Light Tour across North America, followed by an unforgettable performance at Soundset. Next up, she appears in William Feagins Jr.’s upcoming film, The Possibility Of Her, a feature-length documentary that echoes many of the obstacles overcome by Sa-Roc in her career.
On her latest release, “Forever”, the hip-hop heroine delivers an empowering message over an ominous bass-line, dropping lines like, “No, I’m not flawless. I’m scarred up, and I’m fine with it.” Spitting bars and spinning words, she goes on to recount how mama taught her “stay woke,” admit her own body image struggles, and name-check Do The Right Thing. It feels like it could be rap’s own answer to the “No-Makeup Movement.” However, her message is just starting to resound on a grand scale…
A voice Okayplayer.com proclaimed “one of the most formidable microphone mavens in the game,” Sa-Roc is in the midst of finishing up her Rhymesayers Entertainment full-length debut — due out later in 2018.
“Jovani’s dusky tones and soul-baring lyrical content – turning over the issues and the raw emotions of relationships and coming of age – gives her a distinct soul maturity which lends her tracks a real edge.”
— Mahogany Blog
From Huntsville, AL, Jovani learned to play the guitar at age 12. True to her neo-soul voice, she incorporated much of her ambient texture from her natural surroundings and all the soul from her grandmother, who raised her to the tunes of Marvin Gaye and Sade.
Now 22, Jovani has since expanded her repertoire, working with an array of producers to bring a well-rounded collection to her sound.
Whether acoustic performance, solo work or collaborating, it’s hard to imagine that such perspicacity can come from someone so young, but Jovani’s ability to capture the essence of living through her blended musical talents is surely a testament to her precocious nature and makes her a force unto herself.
Erthling. - Lessons After An Era Of Errors (remix)
“Fans of Kool Keith and Deltron 3030 pay attention, for Erthling is here…”
Some say he’s “Hip-Hop’s extraterrestrial youth minister,” and others say he’s “thoughtful with beats af”. Even AL.com refers to him as a distributor of “lava lamp Hip-Hop”, but even those don’t quite do the talents of Erthling. justice, or even give him the credit he truthfully deserves. From his work as sLanguage, to the reinvention alongside Fathom with Pen Pals, to the solo endeavors, to putting together incredible shows across the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa circuit (including the annual Flow Fest showcase), the unity that the Birmingham producer/emcee exudes carries over to the honesty of his music.
Erthling.’s music is, at times, the unifier between the boom-bap and the abstract. Whether it’s his captivating, sarcastic stage presence, or his ingenious collaborations with OZU as part of 729, the proof has been in the pudding for quite some time, and his productivity is as sharp as ever. There’s no telling what he’ll do next, but -ironically – the unexpected… is expected.
“Set to a sparse musical dystopia, Dope KNife‘s NineteenEightyFour is equally imbued with autobiography, social commentary, Scorsese-esque noir, dark humor, and bombastic hip-hop authority. Dope KNife displays his signature style of savage wordplay over self-produced tracks composed of original live music and takes the listener on a dense tour through 21st century life.”
— hissing lawns
Perhaps it was the euphoria of the first time he heard a rhyme collide with a beat. It may have been the gruesome civil war that touched his young life, and that war’s impact on his family. Likely, it was the fusion of the two experiences that inspired a young Kedrick Mack to develop and refine his sound into what is now the intense, distinctive art of emcee/producer Dope KNife.
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“A common complaint among those who follow new rock and pop is that there’s too much good music to take in. An intimate festival like Secret Stages confirms that’s so by emphasizing discovery rather than highlighting a dizzying cavalcade of established artists and newcomers rocketing toward the top. In a convivial atmosphere among eager, open-minded fans, Secret Stages illustrated that what’s bubbling beneath contemporary music’s densely populated surface is worthy of attention, too.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Secret Stages finds a way to blend every slice of Birmingham life. And doesn’t hesitate to remind you that uplifting something new still manages to honor the past.”
“If you want to find the unheard sounds of young, Southern musicians, the best place to do it these days is Birmingham’s annual Secret Stages Festival.”
—The Bitter Southerner
“In this age of instant gratification, the concept of a music festival where the main goal is for patrons to discover new bands – rather than see bands they already know and love – is risky to say the least. Yet here we are, in the fifth year of Secret Stages, and it’s going as strong as ever.”
“Secret Stages is already a far, far better music festival than anyone dreamed it might be.”
—Black & White
“…one of the biggest bangs for your buck you’re likely to find anywhere.”
"This festival is one of my favorite regional events. Most of these bands have yet to break out of their respective local scenes…It’s a great chance to wander around and discover a bunch of new music."
“Secret Stages succeeded in having more depth in regional and national indie acts than the recent Soundland (aka Next Big Nashville) and had the out-of-the-box feel that SXSW had 15-20 years ago.”
“Secret Stages is a testament to the vitality of the music landscape.”
“…one of the most exciting new music festivals in the Southeast”
“Despite the lack of marquee headliners, that are used to draw large audiences and boost attendance, Secret Stages continues to be a breath of fresh air in its commitment to local artists and their promotion. This ethic has proven to be effective as more and more people each year choose to attend Secret Stages.”
—The Blue Indian (Macon)
“It would have been anybody’s guess that Birmingham would host the best Indie Festival in the Southeast.”
—The Nashville Bridge
“With so many new or little-known acts coming to town, Secret Stages is shaping up to be Birmingham’s best event of the summer for discovering new music.”
“…At so many shows and festivals, the artists play their set and then get out. Not so with Secret Stages. I shook hands and spoke with nearly every act I saw. There’s a personal element to Secret Stages that I really haven’t seen anywhere else.”