Soul Desert is a 5-piece transcendental rock-and-roll band from Birmingham, AL who bring the space grooves that make you move.
Soul Desert is a 5-piece transcendental rock-and-roll band from Birmingham, AL who bring the space grooves that make you move.
“‘Devil N Me’ is thematic kin to Florence + The Machine’s ‘Shake It Off’ but shares sound qualities with the latest from Gary Clark Jr.—that’s to say, it’s pure, hot blues…There’s that sludgy guitar, smug harmonica… but there’s also weird pedal effects and a synthetic organ. Hollingsworth sings the blues in his gritty, old-school alto, repeating “I’ve got the devil in me” until it sounds like he’s finally expunged the evil from his insides.”
Following the Mystic Valley Band’s recent reunion shows and a cover of his 2013 song “Dominos” on the critically acclaimed Better Oblivion Community Center album (which was the only one non-original Oberst/Bridgers composition), Taylor Hollingsworth’s (Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Dead Fingers, The Dexateens) new LP Tap Dancin’ Daddy is out August 2, 2019 on Flower Moon Records (the LA based label founded by Maria Taylor of Azure Ray). TDD is his first solo release under his own name since 2011, and coincides with his West Coast run with Better Oblivion Community Center this August. Pre-order bundles (available now) include a limited run 7” single on colored vinyl, tour exclusive cassettes, and (for those that are familiar with Taylor’s on stage mannerisms) limited edition bobble heads. Hollingsworth plays The Observatory in Santa Ana August 8th and the Wiltern in Los Angeles on August 9th, in support of Better Oblivion Community Center.
Hollingsworth’s solo recordings date back to 2003, ranging from weird lo-fi blues-pop (2003’s You Know That Summers Comin’ and 2011’s Where to Go, How to Get There and What You Should Know in Advance), to whiplash-shredding, 70’s-era sing-alongs (2005’s Tragic City), to flawlessly-fingerpicked-acoustic avalanche-of-tear ballads (2009’s Life With a Slow Ear). In 2007, Hollingsworth ended up in Tepoztlan, Mexico to work with Conor Oberst on what would become Conor’s self-titled solo debut. Taylor contributed several original songs to Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band’s (COMVB) 2009 Outer South including “Air Mattress” and “Snake Hill,” and “Central City” on 2012’s One of My Kind. Hollingsworth and his wife Kate released two records as Dead Fingers (recorded by Bruce Watson and released on Fat Possum records) and he’s has also recorded and/or toured with Maria Taylor, The Felice Brothers, The Dexateens, Monsieur Jeffrey Evans, Jack Oblivion, SDX and more.
Ten years on the road culminated with the Tecate-blur of a never-ending world tour with the Mystic Valley Band. When it was over, Hollingsworth went back home to Birmingham, Alabama to start a family, buy a home, and play local gigs around town to make ends meet. This is where Taylor rediscovered what truly made him happy was just the simple creation of art and songs – free of striving for “success.” He found comfort in the old school punk-rock DIY ethos and studied the minimalist folk & blues players who mastered playing to small rooms for the sole purpose of entertainment. Hollingsworth evolved his faster-than-hell-fuzzed-out style to be more folk-blues inspired finger-picking, preferring just a duo (guitar and drum) and incorporating a loop guitar pedal to keep the party atmosphere going late nights at local gigs. “I loved how the old blues guys used to be the house band somewhere, and they’d just play all the time, and go all night long. You can really get lost in the music that way.” It became even more fulfilling, plus it paid the bills and he got to sleep in his own bed every night. Tap Dancin’ Daddy was recorded and produced by Taylor in his humble wood-paneled basement studio in Alabama full of old gear he’s collected over the years and decorated with his weird and eclectic art. He still plays regularly in Birmingham at Marty’s PM, Little Italy, and Parkside, and you can often find him happily busking on downtown sidewalks for tips at local farmers markets, events, or parties.
“Hollywood Gold…demonstrates a considerable breadth in Ragsdale’s writing, ranging from Laurel Canyon folk rock and Americana to echoes of vibey new wave and power pop.”
Formed in 2015, Nashville-based rock band The Prescriptions have quickly become a “must see” act in the southeastern regional music scene. Following the release of their EP “Either Side” in 2016, The Prescriptions have maintained a healthy performance schedule while continuing to move forward musically. On April 5th, 2019 the band released their first full-length LP “Hollywood Gold” on Single Lock Records.
“…a sincere blend of longing guitar and sentimental hums…”
The last time we heard from Preston Lovinggood was with his stunning 2014 album, Shadow Songs. The soundscape of songs showcased Lovinggood’s intricately-detailed, and low-key funny tales of love, longing, and loss, even spawning a lo-fi companion album, Sun Songs.
Consequences, Lovinggood’s new album, is his best, most concise, and hook-laden album to date, which manages to conjure a unique soundscape of its own: sun-kissed, modern pop that pulls off the neat trick of appearing straightforward when, upon further inspection, the music often trails off into subtle psychedelic curls.
Lovinggood’s music is properly cinematic, sustaining moods, characters, and themes, and Consequences is, in a sense, a “break-up” record, but the storyline resists linear narrative and opts for a cut-up approach – its two lovers unstuck in time.
“Bent on frenzy and full of personal flair Datenight’s Comin Atcha’ 100MPH proves their album’s name over and over again. This music isn’t self-conscious at all. Balancing heavy strums with wrist-breaking flails these guys give hope for the future of punk music. The longest song comes in at blistering two minutes and twenty seconds, the shortest at a minute and twenty-two. There’s no hiding behind effects boards or post-production. They don’t go ham on guitar pedals and the vocals are nearly bone dry. These guys had to just write fast catchy punk songs and they sure as hell did.”
In a high-school music classroom in Nashville, Tennessee, guitars are falling from the ceiling. During a break from teaching the jazz compositions of Wes Montgomery, high-school guitar teacher Doc makes a fatal mistake and walks out of the classroom, leaving the students of Nashville’s School of the Arts completely unsupervised. As the story goes, while he was away three students opened up the ceiling tiles and laid all of the school’s acoustic guitars up there, covering the ceiling like a wooden blanket. When Doc re-entered the classroom ten minutes later he heard two things: the sound of “Janie Jones” playing over the loudspeakers and a rumble that any ordinary person might describe as an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 4 or higher. Fortunately, the ceiling collapse didn’t hurt anyone as bad as an earthquake might have, but it did get the three students responsible suspended for two and a half weeks. So, what did those three do with their 13 days away? They formed DATENIGHT and never looked back. Boredom breeds Rock’n’Roll.
Photo by Wes Gregory
“…Sweeping, bold, ethereal, lush, driving, haunting, commanding, dreamy, layered, methodical, atmospheric, triumphant, glassy, and lovely. In the end, the best way to describe [Easter Island] is, simply, damn near perfect.”
Formed in Athens, GA, Easter Island is a dreampop act fronted by guitarists Ethan Payne and Ryan Monahan, whose sound has been likened to Explosions in The Sky, My Bloody Valentine, DIIV, Pedro the Lion, and more. The band’s falsetto vocals and panoramic guitars are countered by its muscular rhythm section – Asher Payne (keyboards), John Swint (drums), and Justin Ellis (bass) all serve to add gravity to an otherwise weightless sound.
The band has traveled as far as Japan to work on new material and to film their latest music video, “Island Nation”, which was recently premiered by Paste Magazine . Produced and engineered by Ryan Monahan, the songs have received additional engineering, mixing, and mastering from Mike Albanese at Espresso Machine Recording. The band’s followup single, “Always Room For Another”, premiered on Billboard in fall 2018.
The past three years have seen the band working in various studios on their new record while touring the U.S at large, including appearances at SXSW, CMJ, Treefort, and Athfest in their hometown of Athens. The band’s debut record Frightened (2012), led to a number of television syncs, including ABC’s “Off The Map”, MTV’s “Awkward”, and a recent live appearance on CW’s Dynasty which aired in early 2019.
Throughout Easter Island’s near 10 year career, the band has had the opportunity to share the stage with David Bazan, Cindy Wilson (of The B5s), The Low Anthem, Bully, Wild Nothing, White Rabbits, Valley Maker, and more. The band plans to release their follow LP, Island Nation, in 2019.
“Rife with hooks and snarled twang, “Other Minds” is an ear pleaser. Opening with storming piano riff, the lo-fi home recording feels anthemic from the outset. The weariness in Mouton’s voice is earnest as he’s self-aware of his introvert tendencies.”
The eponymous rock and roll project of Pete Mouton stays busy. Aptly listed as one of the “Hardest Working DIY Bands on Tour in 2018” by Audiofemme, the band played nearly a hundred shows last year while also demoing songs for an upcoming debut LP. Deviating from the two post-punk leaning releases, the sound draws heavily from Big Star and Tom Petty, but with an energy and brevity more akin to late 70’s budget rock and power pop à la The Nerves.
“With a tremendous amount of swagger, [Hiatt] wields her guitar like a weapon while that distinctly southern accent of hers delivers vocal melodies that are in turns deep, bluesy, fearless and sweet.”
Trinity Lane isn’t all an expression of anger, but it is an emotional, honest confrontation of Hiatt’s feelings and her past, like how she’s processed her mother’s suicide over the years. Hiatt lost her mom when she was just one year old and was raised by her father, John Hiatt, and his wife Nancy, struggling her whole childhood and adult life thus far with how to process that resentment and grief. And it’s a chronicle of overcoming heartbreak and addiction: “Different, I Guess” is a slow folk ode to losing love, and “Imposter” is about the difficulties her father faced raising his daughter, and the sparks of her mother that still shine through.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad and the strength it took him to keep me going and to bring me to Nashville,” she says about “Imposter.” “Just to keep us together and keep us going, that’s always meant a lot to me. For a long time I felt pretty angry with my mother. But through maturation, I feel like I understand her more these days.”
“She’s never coming back, I think we both know that,” sings Hiatt before cooing with her steady twang, “I count on you.” It’s an incredibly vulnerable and intimate family diary, but never at the expense of a rich and stirring melody perfectly in tune with the modern pulse of Americana. It’s an offering of sonic salvation that Hiatt hopes will do as much for the listener as it has done for her own personal healing.
“It’s really cool to be honest with yourself,” she says. “When I have a clear head and a peaceful mind, that process of looking back at things is so much easier. It’s a very empowering feeling. It has literally saved my soul, songwriting. I would not be here without that and without that outlet of writing.”
The songs on Trinity Lane have even helped Hiatt process things like the death of David Bowie, which functions as a metaphor for a lost lover. On the heavily nineties-tinged “The Night David Bowie Died,” she bids farewell to a relationship and to a musical genius while also evoking Veruca Salt-style vocals and guitars. It was a track written entirely in one stream-of-consciousness, where Hiatt didn’t edit or write anything down – she just sang and played. “That was David Bowie’s little gift to me,” she says with a laugh.
Trinity Lane is full of gifts and full of guts – an album that is a healing process and a road map forward, filled with Hiatt’s wildly expressive approach to songwriting and stark, honest lyrics. To get there, she finally had to put her faith into something she couldn’t see. But to hear that journey, all you have to do is listen.
Photo by Alexa Viscius
“Paul Cherry’s Smooth and Psychedelic Debut Album Is a Weirdo-Pop Gem”
Paul Cherewick, monikered Paul Cherry, came up during Chicago’s garage rock golden age of 2014. Despite being in the thick of the DIY scene with up and coming bands such as Twin Peaks and The Lemons, Paul would abandon the all too familiar lofi rock sound of his first EP “on Top” and spend the next 2 years exploring the nuances of jazz and pop, finding his footing with a new sound. Paul Cherry has completely reinvented himself on his upcoming LP, Flavour.
The first single, “Like Yesterday” sets the tone for the record as a brilliantly written, mid-tempo pop ballad. It would fit nicely as a modern addition to Paul McCartney’s “Ram” or Todd Rundgren’s “Something/Anything,” or even Player’s “Baby Come Back.” Paul Cherry crafts melodies on Flavour that sit at the intersection of 1970s yacht rock and Ariel Pink’s lo-fi dream pop. Lyrically, Cherry touches upon millennial culture with references to love in the modern age, phone culture, and giving a conceptually new light-hearted twist to age old old themes of love lost, missed connections and polar political climates.
“The guys in Young Valley do a fantastic job of blending rock and country influences on their forthcoming self-titled album. Think of them as a more Southern-sounding Deer Tick or a rootsier T. Hardy Morris. The guns-a-blazing rock of the vengeful ‘Hope It Kills You’ and the Baptist guilt-ridden ‘Howlin’ offer up Southern roots music for people searching high and low for real rock ‘n’ roll.
Jackson, Mississippi’s Young Valley offers points of view from songwriters Zach Lovett, Dylan Lovett, and Spencer Thomas with a trading of styles from traditional country to southern-tinged rock ‘n roll. With the addition of Kell Kellum and Ethan Frink, the 5-piece group lays out a catalogue of catchy melodies, harmonies, and plenty of guitar shred all packaged into well-crafted tunes. “We serve the song. Wherever the song takes us, that’s where we need to go.” This mantra has kept them honest in their approach, and just like their hard-to-look-away kind of stage show, you don’t quite know what to expect next from Young Valley.
—The Wall Street Journal
“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.”
“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.”
—The Bitter Southerner
“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.”
“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.”
—Black & White
“Secret Stages is already a far, far better music festival than anyone dreamed it might be.”
“…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”
—The Blue Indian (Macon)
“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 Nashville Bridge
“It would have been anybody’s guess that Birmingham would host the best Indie Festival in the Southeast.”
“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.”
—You Hear This?
“…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.”