The Whigs Modern Creation (New West) Rating: 3 out of 5
“I just want to run forever, and I want to rock and roll.” Those few words (from the album cut “Too Much In The Morning”) tell you most of what you need to know about Modern Creation, the fifth full-length from long-running trio The Whigs, recent transplants from Athens, Ga. to Nashville. Where their previous albums weren’t necessarily burdened by excessive production, Modern Creation dials back even further on the overdubs, reducing the group to its essentials. Aside from a piano run here or an organ pad there, what you hear is pretty much what you’ll get on stage, a solid, satisfying, uncomplicated block of grunge-influenced rock from a machine oiled by years of heavy touring.
Recorded by forty-plus year industry veteran Jim Scott, the wide-open arrangements allow each of the few elements to sound their most massive. In a few places – the hypnotically-grooving track “The Particular,” for example – it feels like the delectably rich guitar tone could come forward a little, but that impression could be a product of listening to too much music that’s been compressed within an inch of its life, where whispers and screams are at the same dynamic level. While the songs aren’t the most complex ever written, even among The Whigs’ catalog, they are perfect for cruising with the windows down.
It’s ASCAP’s100th Anniversary this year and, to celebrate the venerable performing rights organizations’ centennial, Hal Leonard Publishing has released two fine books: the first, a historical retrospective, and the other a companion sheet music songbook.
Songwriters all over the world are undoubtedly familiar with the acronym ASCAP. But how many know what it stands for (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and more importantly, what does the organization do for the performing songwriter? Award-winning author Bruce Pollock breaks it all down for the reader in A Friend In The Music Business: The ASCAP Story. The nearly 300 pages are filled with interviews, anecdotes and a chronology of major events and players who shaped the organization from its inception in New York City in 1914 to its position today as a major advocate for the protection of songwriter’s rights. Pollock, a veteran music industry journalist, details these ups and downs with a loose but informative style. It’s interesting to note that many of the initial problems the founding fathers battled (refusal to pay for content, technological advances, etc) are still in play today.
A few weeks back, American Songwriter partnered with Songspace, Martin Guitar and publishing/management/music licensing company Secret Road to launch the 2nd Annual The Pub Deal. With the deadline approaching, we’ve had lots of questions about the opportunity, so we had Director of Strategy, Jesse Feister, answer some frequently asked questions below:
Why did you all decide to create an opportunity like this? Now in its second year, “The Pub Deal” originally evolved from the American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest. Just recently American Songwriter highlighted an awesome story on Quinten Collier, who landed a cut on Rodney Crowell’s new album Tarpaper Sky. That opportunity came about after he won the 2010 Lyric Contest and met Rodney as a part of the “dream co-write” prize back in 2010.
So the lyric contest has been a huge benefit to writers, and we decided to take it a step further. The music business is tough to break in to even for talented artists and writers, mostly because there are so many people vying for the same opportunities. We’re willing to sit down and actually take the time to listen to thousands of songs because part of our mission at Songspace is to support developing writers. We thought it’d be cool if we could help launch someone’s career who might not otherwise get the opportunity. Thankfully we’ve been able to do that with Elise Davis, last year’s Pub Deal winner.
CURRENT LOCATION: Cambridge, MA (slow obstetrician)
AMBITIONS: To write songs that haven’t been written better before.
TURN-ONS: Sugar. Humor. Small courtesies. Big hearts.
DREAM GIG: Superbowl Half-Timeout Show. I’d run on the field, tune my guitar, do a 10-second medley of my greatest hits (may have to throw in some covers), run off while yelling my website address, game would resume.
Nickel Creek Relight The Flame At Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium
There’s a tipping point with nostalgia where, when you get enough of it in one room, the wistful warmth of a memory recollected becomes full-blown, palpable electricity. At the first of Nickel Creek’s two-night return to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium this past weekend, that collective nostalgia provided a charged backdrop for one of the most anticipated reunions in recent memory.
Thankfully, those embers never quite burned out and Nickel Creek returned this month with the aptly-titled A Dotted Line, a record that bridges past with present by showing a band who’s grown up without forgetting its roots.
Barry Manilow’s new album Night Songs is a stripped-down affair that features just his voice and his piano. It recently debuted at #8 on the Billboard Charts, and marks his eighth Top 10 debut in the last 10 years, an impressive feat for an artist 42 years into his career.
Night Songs finds him covering some of his favorite standards like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” “It’s A New World” and “But Not For Me.” “It’s the most intimate album I’ve ever made,” says the Songwriters Hall Of Fame member. He initially had no plans to release it commercially, but after the feedback he received from friends who he’d given copies to, he decided to put it out for his fans to enjoy.
In an exclusive interview, Manilow told American Songwriter why he chose to include the 1956 ballad “Blame It On My Youth,” which you can stream below.
In conjunction with the May/June issue, American Songwriter presents The Muse May Sampler, a free album available for download that features 12 killer tracks from some of our favorite artists. Click here to download the sampler.
Boy & Bear, “Arrow Flight”
“I belong here, basking in the autumn sun,” Dave Hosking croons during this summery, sun-baked tribute to romance and reconciliation. He apparently belongs in the 1970s, too. “Arrow Flight” is a dead-ringer for the mellow, California folk-rock that filled that decade’s airwaves … and we’re certainly not complaining.
Jeremy Messersmith, “Heidi”
While guitars and keyboards swirl in the background, Jeremy Messersmith sings this spacey, swooning love song to a girl who’s in love with the wrong man. The chorus is deliciously ’80s, the sort of undeniable refrain that could’ve soundtracked the breakup scene in a classic John Hughes movie.
The Old Settler’s Music Festival could create a serious problem. Anyone who has been fleeced at one of the overcrowded, overpriced, college puke fests that have dominated the festival scene for the last twenty years should definitely go. Their faith in musical humanity will be restored. But if everyone who falls into that category were to show up next year at Old Settler’s it would look like Woodstock. Then again, that might not be such a bad thing. A good show of public support for something, anything, that represents a rejection of a “profit first” mentality is fine with me. Anyway, the citizens of the small town of Driftwood, home of the Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch, where the festival has been held since 2006, survived an equally formidable force of nature when The Butthole Surfers moved there in the late ’80s. They would survive.
As unlikely a place as Driftwood is to be the one-time home of the B.H. Surfers, it is the perfect setting for both the kind of music Old Settler’s showcases and the kind of festival it intends to be. It is a small community with deep roots in American rural traditions that have found new currency in a society that each year, it seems, is turning more and more to the less industrialized past for direction and inspiration. Set on the limestone cliff-lined banks of Onion Creek amid massive live oak and native pecan trees, the Salt Lick Pavilion overlooks the shaded lawn of the Bluebonnet Stage, the smaller of the two venues. The main venue, the Hill Country Stage is a few hundred yards away – close, but far enough away and positioned such that the sound doesn’t bleed over. Including the campsite venue over at Ben McCulloch where the first performances were held on Thursday, there are four distinct sites where the action goes down, with a total attendance somewhere around ten thousand, concurrently.
Lyric of the Week: Jesse Winchester, “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding”
The world lost a wonderful songwriter last week when Jesse Winchesterpassed away at age 69. Winchester never broke through to the mainstream due to a combination of circumstance and his own reticence to deal with the pop machinery. Yet other songwriters were aware of his brilliance, covering his songs and clamoring to work with him.
His debut album in 1970 was produced by The Band’s Robbie Robertson, who posted a heartfelt tribute on his Facebook page to Winchester in the wake of his death. “When the record came out, it was received with open arms, and many recording artists covered his songs,” Robertson wrote. “Jesse’s music stands up today as good as it did then, and I am so proud to have been a part of it.”
Winchester continued to record sporadically all the way up to 2009, when he released Love Filling Station. From that album comes the staggeringly lovely “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding,” an ode to both the triumph of true love over time and to the profundity of nonsensical doo-wop lyrics, all delivered by Winchester in a fragile croon that transmits all of the deep emotions hiding between the lines.
English electronic band Metronomy kicked off 2014 on a good note: their song “Love Letters” was named the Hottest Record in the World by BBC 1 DJ Zane Lowe. The band is currently in the middle of a North American and European tour in support of their record Love Letters, which dropped earlier this year and has been the band’s most successful release to date, reaching no. 7 on the UK and French charts. We spoke with songwriter and frontman Joe Mount about his writing process, Kendrick Lamar, and songs about girls in clubs.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
I’ve got lots, really. How many do you want?
As many as you’d like to say.
I guess when I was getting into bands and stuff, I was obviously into the Beatles. They’re kind of obligatory.When I was a teenager I was into Nirvana and Weezer, Kurt Cobain. I used to listen to a lot of The Lemonheads. I’ve had so many different phases of stuff that I’ve been into. I kind of got into electronic music, people like Aphex Twin. All of the standard people as well. Everyone.