Not that long ago, Austin, TX musicians Dawn and Hawkes were finalists in our Intel Superstars competition. Garnering comparisons to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, this real-life couple turned folksy duo recently took to the The Voice to perform their cover of The Beatles‘ “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Within seconds of their opening lines Adam Levine (Maroon 5) and Shakira had already expressed interest, with Levine saying that it was his “favorite performance [he’s] ever seen on The Voice.” In the end, they chose Levine. You can watch it all unfold below. (more…)
The sweet, timeless, close harmony awesomeness of the Everly Brothers is compelling bait for musicians. The material has been covered time and again by notable fans of the duo, whose string of hits in the ’50s and ’60s place them forever among the greats of early rock and roll and influenced generations of songwriters. Look no further than the classic “Love Hurts,” recorded first by the Everlys and hundreds of times since, including hit versions by Roy Orbison, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Nazareth, and Joan Jett.
That bait was enough to bring together two unlikely bedfellows – Norah Jones and Green Day‘s Billy Joe Armstrong. The pair leave their trademark smooth jazz and pop-punk stylings, respectively, at the door to pick up where Parsons and Harris left off, delivering a tribute to an entire album, 1958’s Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
Man, did we want to make fun of this. But we can’t. It’s too good, too faithful to the music and too full of the natural gifts of these two artists to be dismissed. Check out the first track being streamed by Warner Bros, along with a lengthy Q&A with Jones and Armstrong, over at Stereogum.
How else to explain the Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer/musician Osenga’s “story” Leonard, The Lonely Astronaut, released on September 18. Perhaps the album’s theme was born of his love of science fiction and folk? Sure, rockers have explored this concept for years”David Bowie‘s 1973 album Aladdin Sane and Pink Floyd‘s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon come immediately to mind”but it’s fairly new territory for folk. Credit Osenga’s eclectic taste in music for the turn.
“I was into grunge and then Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, all the shows on the big stages,” he said of his early influences. “The music was heartfelt but they could hide the fact that they were heartfelt by putting on a big show. When I moved to Nashville I became friends with folk artists and really got into Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris…..And I’m a huge literary nerd, too, so that helped make this.” (more…)
In the past two weeks, Little Big Town earned it’s first No. 1 hit for the single “Pontoon,” received a Single of the Year nomination from the County Music Association, and watched as its just-released album Tornado ttook the No. 1 spot on the Billboard country chart and No. 2 on the Top 200 chart with 112,758 albums sold in its first week.
It’s almost too easy to say the vocal quartet”known individually as Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook”is a prime example of the old adage “good things come to those who wait.” But consider that it has been 13 years since the band formed and it just hit No. 1. And even “Pontoon,” which was released in April, didn’t really soar until the song was performed in June at the CMT Awards.
In the middle of the swirl of excitement, Jimi Westbook took a bit of time out to talk about the band, its new music, and just where they will go from here. (more…)
It’s difficult to imagine a more poignant moment than when Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder played a moving rendition of “You Can’t Shake Jesus,” at the recent FloydFest in southern Virginia.
Although the 15,000-plus fans that packed each of the four days of the festival heard from a top-flight roster of artists including Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, the Punch Brothers, Jackson Browne, and others, it was Skaggs’ virtuoso playing and heartfelt vocals that enticed concertgoers to stand in the searing sun and cheer, even as FloydFest wound down. Although Skaggs also teamed up with Bruce Hornsby for some power-packed songs, it’s difficult to imagine anything more lovely than the set Skaggs and his band played before meeting and greeting fans.
“It’s the most unusual gospel record I’ve ever done,” Skaggs told the crowd about Mosaic, the album from which “You Can’t Shake Jesus” was taken. “It’s not bluegrass and it’s not country, but you’ll like it. It’s good.”
Anyone wanting to sum up Skaggs’ career and appeal could likely turn to that line for reference. After making a name for himself as a major country star, he moved to bluegrass and even dabbled in other formats with special interest in gospel and Christian-themed songs. The result included 24 singles on Billboard’s Top 20, including 12 at #1 and an array of awards and honors, including 14 GRAMMY Awards, eight CMA Awards (including Entertainer of the Year), eight ACM Awards, two Dove Awards and nine ICM (Inspirational Country Music) Awards.
The headliners at this year’s FloydFest”including Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Brandi Carlile, and the Drive-By Truckers”were as amazing as you’d expect from internationally known and much-lauded musicians. But the real treat at the 11th Annual FloydFest, a four-day world music festival in Floyd, Virg., was arguably the array of up-and-coming artists certain to burst into prominence not too far into the future.
Amber Rubarth was clearly at the front of that line. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider she’s a fixture on New York’s indie scene and has won such accolades as the Grand Prize in NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest. Her recent album A Common Case of Disappearing, which features duets with Jason Reeves and Jason Mraz, debuted at No. 13 on iTunes. Watching her spin her musical web of alt-country, folk tunes on various stages at FloydFest, one couldn’t help but be struck by her poise and warmth, which translated into her music.
“I was really shy growing up,” said Amberth when discussing her set. “Music gave me the outlet to be able to get out my feelings and get out things I wanted to say that were more personal, even if I couldn’t say it in a conversation. It’s really powerful for me. It’s a way of healing, releasing, really.”
Those feelings translated to the audience, too, when Rubarth joined the Ivy League Hillbillies set that had nine up-and-coming musicians on stage and when she played her own sets”including a brand new song “The Maiden and the Ram,” that got the audience dancing.