Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’

Darity’s “Everything” serves as a hopeful anthem for 2021. Artwork – Olivia Sergi

For Darity, a new year faintly shines in the distance.

Specks of wintry sunlight peer through thick January clouds and serve as a hopeful reminder of better times ahead. Those far-flung rays symbolically represent the gratitude Darity expresses in her latest uplifting single, “Everything,” which dropped Tuesday via all streaming platforms.

“I wrote this song for myself initially. I just think it’s so easy to think about all the things we don’t have. This song started like a long journal entry. I went on a tour with a band pre-Bitterroot and had a lot of conversations of the leader of that band about the struggles of being an artist and a band leader. I noticed that a lot of it was centered around being on the edge of losing hope and feeling like we didn’t have what we needed to be an artist,” said Darity, aka Linsley Hartenstein.

Throughout “Everything,” Darity, a Cincinnati indie rock singer-songwriter, poignantly captures the fight for hope as twirling synths, pulsating bass, vivid electric guitar, delicate drums and soft cymbal taps slowly surround and envelope listeners. She calmly sings,” Run after it/Desire breathes by design/You’re my dream not a fault line/And disappointment’s bound to dig a cliff/But I will walk with you through all of it/You were made for this edge.”

“Recording vocals for this song was painful because this is such a hard truth to swallow. All of the things, all of the outside support that maybe we think we need, or that we do need, we are all put on this planet to do something specific. If that is your worldview, then you as a person have everything you need. That’s a power and a posture that’s so hard when the whole world is telling you that you lack something,” said Hartenstein, who initially wrote the track in 2017.

After laying the initial foundation for “Everything,” Darity teamed up with Coastal Club frontman and producer Alex Hirlinger and drummers Simon Alexander and Dan Crowe to record the track. Together, they infused the hopeful, whimsical sonic quality to evolve it.

“Alex is one of the best arrangers I’ve ever met, so he did all of the production around it. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I gave him what the band and I had been playing live, and he rewrote everything aside from the drums. He is responsible for the world around that song, and I’m really grateful,” she said.

Darity also dropped a stunning lyric video for “Everything,” which features her strolling along a deserted roadside near the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. It simply captures the personal time Darity needed to process her feelings and develop a mindset filled with gratitude.

“Josh and I made this lyric video here in Montana. When the pandemic hit, I was on tour on the west coast, so I figured I’d put that Easter egg in there and make a little video,” said Hartenstein, who developed the video with her partner Josh Kemp of Au Gres. (Check out Au Gres’ dreamy, pro-soulmate single, “Nervous.”)

Continue reading “Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’”

A Man for All Seasons – Steve Somers Jazzes Up WCC’s Winter Semester Music Classes

Steve Somers performs at Grove Studios in Ypsilanti. Photo by Kyla McGrath and mural by Joanna Farben

For Steve Somers, jazz weathers all seasons, especially winter.

The Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will share his longtime love of jazz, guitar and music through virtual winter semester courses for aspiring musicians at Washtenaw Community College (WCC).

Starting Jan. 11, Somers will teach Creative Jazz and Improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) and Beginning and Intermediate Guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual consultation and assistance with varying recording projects as well as virtual recitals. Students can now enroll for these online winter classes through WCC’s website.

“The jazz and improvisation classes allow students to work on different songs each semester and learn about jazz and improvisation concepts. They submit solos and parts online, which I mix in my studio at Alley Records to create an audio recording,” Somers said.

“The guitar classes combine both beginning and intermediate students in one class. Beginners work on basic chords and strumming patterns while the intermediate students work on melodies, solo concepts and more advanced bar chords.”

Somers also will bring in Ann Arbor hip-hop artist and Grove Studios marketing head Max Preissner, aka Max Price, to offer a social media class for music students through WCC. Management for Working Artists (MUS 285) will help musicians learn how to promote their own music through social media.

“Many of the students are interested in eventually writing their own music, and Max will help them learn more about how to market it and utilize social media,” Somers said.

As another course offering, Somers will offer a virtual non-credit Community Jazz Orchestra class through WCC that starts Feb. 24. For those seeking financial assistance, WCC’s Emeritus Scholarships provide free tuition for Washtenaw County residents age 65 and older who enroll in non-credit and credit courses, including music.

Outside of the Community Jazz Orchestra, Somers will teach a virtual Ypsilanti Youth Jazz and Music Theory Class starting Jan. 9 for students ages 9 to 18. Adults are welcome to participate as mentors and learn more about jazz music and theory.

Continue reading “A Man for All Seasons – Steve Somers Jazzes Up WCC’s Winter Semester Music Classes”

Made to Heal – The Stratton Playlist December 2020 Edition Provides Soothing Escape

As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.

Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist provides an introspective sonic path for healing, reflection and growth. Featured musical healers and friends include Lily Milo, Meredith Shock, Mark Jewett, The Soods, Dani Darling, Joss Jaffe, Ava Panza, Blaksmith, Dirt Room and more.

Thank you for everyone who supported The Stratton Setlist in 2020. It’s an honor to feature you and the share wonderful music you create today and tomorrow. Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

The Flight Team Hosts Toys for Tots Donation Drive, Livestream Show Saturday at Grove Studios

An Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti hip-hop group will brighten the holidays for Washtenaw County children in need.

The Flight Team will host the “Super Fly Toy Drive and Live Show” Saturday, Dec. 19 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Grove Studios, 884 Railroad St., Suite B in Ypsilanti.

The holiday-themed event will include a contactless drive-thru collection for Ypsilanti Toys for Tots donations and a virtual livestream telethon featuring performances from The Flight Team’s Dre Dav, King Micah The Infamous, Villin, Brad Spliff, DJ Nitro and other local artists.

“We know Christmas is especially hard on people this year due to the pandemic and the loss of employment so we want to help ease some of the stress and make kids smile along the way. Some of us have benefited from programs like this when were young so it’s nice to be able to give back,” said Neiko “DJ Nitro” Thomas-Cook of The Flight Team.

For Saturday’s event, community members can donate and drop off new, sealed toys at a curbside collection bin located outside Grove Studios, a 24/7 self-service recording and rehearsal space. All toys must be unwrapped and sanitized before they’re donated. No plush toys will be accepted this year.

“All the donations will be given to Toys for Tots the following day when we plan to volunteer and help them sort through the donations we provided. Toy donations will be accepted at five other locations through Saturday, and people are also invited to make monetary donations online,” Thomas-Cook said.

Once community members drop off Toys for Tots donations at Grove Studios, they will be able to catch The Flight Team’s livestream telethon via Facebook and Instagram. The fun event will allow the group to personally connect and engage with fans for the holidays.

“We’ll be playing Christmas tunes, trivia and silly-themed games for your entertainment and have some special surprise performances from local favorites. We want to prompt people to come back and give to a community that has given us so much,” Thomas-Cook said.

“Grove is becoming an important pillar in the artistic community here in Ypsilanti. It’s a hub for The Flight Team where we can practice and have group meetings in a professional environment. We wanted to partner with Grove for the simple fact that it’s an awesome environment to throw a show and perform.”

To support The Flight Team’s “Super Fly Toy Drive and Live Show,” donate a toy at one of the following locations below by Saturday. You can also make a monetary donation online through Sunday.

The Mike C Collection

226 W. Michigan Ave. Bldg. Ground Floor

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Suite 328 Recording Studio

239 S. Ford Blvd.

Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Leon Speakers

715 W. Ellsworth Road

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

The Workshop Recording Studio

317 Ecorse Road, Suite 12

Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Ypscity

2898 Washtenaw Ave. D

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Grove Studios

884 Railroad St., Suite B

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’

The Soods’ latest album, “Ornaments of Affection,” features collaborations with Grand Rapids artists, songwriters and musicians. Album artwork – Dominic Ryan Photography

Jason Roy thoroughly mines for Michigan music gold.

The Soods frontman uncovers rich collaborations and treasured tracks with a growing collective of scintillating local artists, songwriters and musicians on his latest indie folk-psych rock musical gem, Ornaments of Affection.

“I pared it down from a list of 36 songs; those were the ones to get vocals on, and from there I followed through with 22 of those. Some of those are the newer singles that I’ve been putting out. It was a fun thing like, ‘Well, I haven’t put any music out in a while,’” said Roy, who released the album in October via GTG Records.

“For ‘Morning Harold!’ and ‘Nomadic Marine Biologist,’ I’ve had those two instrumentals for eight months. I just hadn’t gotten vocals on them yet, and then when it came time to make that list of 36, I was like, ‘Ooh, I like that title,’ and I remember liking this track. It was like, ‘Two check marks, you’re in,’ and then figuring out from there who fits best.”

Throughout Ornaments of Affection, Roy beautifully melds 13 priceless Soods folky, trippy tracks with a talented array of Grand Rapids collaborators, including Steven Meltzer, Matt Ten Clay, Shane Tripp, Patrick Wieland, Drinking Mercury’s Timmy Rodriguez and others.

“These guys have their own ways with words, and weirdly somehow it all does sound like a band if I keep the thematic elements constant. Like having Matt Ten Clay sing the backing vocals on a track strengthens the foundation of that illusion of like, ‘These guys got together in the studio for a week and pounded these songs out.’ If you only saw all our emails and Google drives, it’s very different,” said Roy with a laugh.

“It’s a great compliment when people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I like that band.’ That’s what I want; I don’t necessarily need it to be a Jason Roy brainchild thing. I enjoy collaborating with these guys.”

Continue reading “Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’”

Virtual Migration – Ann Arbor’s Ebird & Friends Holiday Show Lands Online Saturday

Saturday’s show will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube. Artwork courtesy of Erin Zindle

For Erin Zindle, this year’s Ebird & Friends Holiday Show will migrate to a new format.

The Ragbirds frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist will present the beloved Ann Arbor holiday show virtually Saturday through a free, one-night livestream performance via Facebook and YouTube.

“The pandemic has forced creative people to get extra creative if they want to continue making their art and sharing it with a world in isolation. This is the 13th year I’ve produced the Ebird & Friends Holiday Show, but it’s an entirely different experience in this virtual format. I’ve had to rethink it from the ground up with safety as a top priority,” Zindle said.

Formerly presented live at The Ark over four sold-out nights, this year’s online show will feature a mix of pre-recorded videos interspersed with live performances and virtual special guest cameos. To protect artists and crew members, Zindle implemented a number of rigorous safety protocols throughout the show’s development and production.

“We are filming the production in a large warehouse space where we’ve measured plenty of distance between us, and there is a large rolling door that we open regularly to air out the room. All the crew and artists are masked, with the only exception being the lead singers and horn players who remove their masks for the final video takes,” said Zindle, who teamed up with Allen Audio and Birdhouse Productions to record the show’s performances.

“We all isolated ourselves as much as possible prior to the event, and most have taken COVID tests to be extra cautious. I created a schedule where the featured artists show up by appointment to avoid overlap and reduce our exposure to each other. Like everyone else we have had to make a series of hard choices and sacrifices to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

In light this year’s pandemic challenges, the show will still retain its fun variety-style format and holiday setlist with a star-studded Michigan lineup of new and returning acts.

Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, The Native Howl’s Alex Holycross, The Accidentals, The Sweet Water Warblers, Seth Bernard, Mark Lavengood, The Gasoline Gypsies, Madelyn Grant, The Crane Wives’ Emilee Petersmark, Shake Steady’s Sean Ike, Dave Boutette and Kristi Lynn Davis, Jen Sygit and others will grace the show’s virtual stage. Comedian Shelly Smith will emcee and introduce the artists from a separate stage set.

“When choosing artists I always try to keep diversity and flow in mind to create a dynamic show with a variety of styles represented. This year I chose artists that have already been involved in past shows and decided to repeat a few favorite songs we already knew,” said Zindle, who formed The Ragbirds in 2005.

“I knew we would not have much if any rehearsal time, and I wanted to simplify the amount of songs we had to learn. We did the new song arrangements via Zoom meetings and shared demo iPhone recordings so we could show up ready to roll the camera.”

Continue reading “Virtual Migration – Ann Arbor’s Ebird & Friends Holiday Show Lands Online Saturday”

Present Tense – Meredith Shock Starts Anew on ‘Maybe This Isn’t Home’ Single

Meredith Shock recalls vivid memories of her hometown on “Maybe This Isn’t Home.” Artwork – Savannah Harden

Meredith Shock prefers to live in the present.

The Nashville country-pop singer-songwriter candidly reflects on outgrowing her hometown, cherishing childhood memories and finding a renewed sense of purpose on “Maybe This Isn’t Home,” a poignant, cinematic ode to new beginnings, now available on all streaming platforms.

“I went home for a long weekend for a wedding, and one of my best friends was getting married. I remember staying in my parents’ home, and I was in my shared bedroom with my sister. Everything had changed, and I was like, ‘I feel like a stranger,’ and I felt like I was a guest visiting. Nothing felt like it was mine anymore; I had to live out of my suitcase in my own bedroom,” said Shock about that memorable trip home in August 2019.

“I love my family, and I love that town, but I was missing Nashville. I felt like I was missing out on things that were happening in Nashville. I had made new friends and had new experiences here in a new environment where I now call home. I’ve created a space here that feels a lot more like home.”

Throughout “Maybe This Isn’t Home,” Shock elegantly strolls down memory lane as submerged alternating synths, shiny twirling electric guitars, intermittent electronic drums, glistening keys and calm bass recall vivid loving memories of growing up outside Washington, D.C.

She nostalgically sings, “There’s this painting in the closet that my sister did/In the bedroom that we shared since we were kids/Down the street I still remember where I had my first kiss/Holding hands under the pillows in my basement/And I walked to school until I learned how to drive/I was cheering on a team under those Friday night lights/I swear those times were golden and I can’t forget/But it’s time for me to move on and start again.”

“For me, it’s creating new memories here. When I’m singing ‘Maybe This Isn’t Home,’ all my memories have to do with that town I grew up in. Two or three of my brothers played on the football team, and I always went to the football games to support them,” Shock said.

“Those are the memories that are so my hometown; whereas here in Nashville I’ve never been to a high school football game. It’s like creating a different memory completely and having those special moments that make you feel like home. It didn’t start to feel like Nashville was home until I was here for almost two years.”

Shock started working on her latest track a year ago with Nashville producers James Robertson and Jay Tooke. Together, they spent several months recording “Maybe This Isn’t Home” and finalized it before the start of spring quarantine.

“It was really cool to work with them in the studio while they were trying to think of the best way to produce it. Normally, I just write my songs with me and my guitar, so it’s cool to hear a full track. They did a good job at making it feel nostalgic, and it doesn’t have a slow super sad song kind of vibe. You can bop your head to it,” she said.

Continue reading “Present Tense – Meredith Shock Starts Anew on ‘Maybe This Isn’t Home’ Single”

False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose

Joss Jaffe unearths political fallacies on “Promises,” with reggae legend Mykal Rose. Photo – Kim Jae Yoon

For Joss Jaffe, today’s global political climate runs rampant with false promises.

The Oakland, California world music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares this widely held notion in his latest reggae-infused single, “Promises,” with Mykal Rose.

“Ultimately, I think politics is always divisive. Peter Tosh would call it ‘politricks.’ But yes, this period in time has been especially unprecedented. Although I do not call out Trump by name in this song and take the approach of an old-school reggae song, where we speak in metaphors and allegory stories, clearly it references the cascade of lies and falsehoods that seem to never end,” Jaffe said.

“However, yes, the song also speaks to the timeless, and sadly, seemingly ever relevant problems this poor type of leadership brings, and it’s not just limited to the U.S.”

Throughout “Promises,” Jaffe and Rose quickly unstitch the increasing fallacies Trump and other controversial political figures continually weave into society’s fraying fabric. Vibrant horns, thumping drums, bouncy bass, breezy synths, spirited organ and peppy electric guitar seamlessly undo each tumultuous thread.

Rose eagerly chants, “Promises are a comfort to a fool/All they wanna give is promises/We know the golden rule/Yet they wanna use you like a footstool.” In response, Jaffe soulfully sings, “Step on you to reach that goal/And cast you aside when you played your role/Promises that keep on saying/But then you look at them and see they’d never change.”

“My vision for this song is something that’s uplifting and triumphant over adversity. Something that rises above the current moment, however difficult it is, and gets back in touch with the universal consciousness,” Jaffe said.

With honest, reflective lyrics and a hypnotic reggae sway, Jaffe and Rose triumph with “Promises” as a fitting theme song for our turbulent political and social times. The track serves as the duo’s second dynamic collaboration since the divine, glistening “Elohim” with Shimshai in 2015 for Jaffe’s Dub Mantra Sangha album.

“Mykal Rose has always been one of my longtime heroes of reggae music. We have a mutual friend named Siah who is his guitar player and produces some of his songs. Mykal is a true legend; rocksteady in the studio and always pushing everyone to capture their best possible take. It was a true blessing,” Jaffe said.

Continue reading “False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose”

Giving Voice – Carolyn Striho Relives ‘Detroit (Maiden Energy)’ Words through New Audiobook

Carolyn Striho personally narrates her new audiobook for “Detroit (Maiden Energy).” Photo – Jacx Art

Carolyn Striho beautifully relives her poignant written words in a refreshing fashion.

The Detroit rock singer-songwriter personally narrates a new compelling audiobook version of Detroit (Maiden Energy), her 2019 intimate, eloquent collection of song lyrics and poetry.

Now available via Google Play, iTunes, Apple Books, Nook, Scribd and Audible, Striho’s latest release commemorates the one-year anniversary of Detroit (Maiden Energy)s print version from Aquarius Press/AUXmedia. It features Striho reciting 28 selections from her expansive 50-piece “street princess” collection in a compact 41-minute audiobook.

“I recorded them with me reading over two days in the summer at the home studio while Scott (Dailey) engineered. I sang a couple of lines on some of the songs. It was very different to hear myself reading the poems. It was not that different from a song, in some respect, when I sing in the studio,” Striho said.

“But I felt more self-conscious as they were ‘naked’ and not being talked to or sang with music behind them. As I love hearing and watching poets read, I know it could turn out really well. We had thought about doing music behind it with some guitar and piano, but it felt really organic and natural to just read.”

Continue reading “Giving Voice – Carolyn Striho Relives ‘Detroit (Maiden Energy)’ Words through New Audiobook”

Heart to Heart – Lily Milo Explores Uncharted Emotional Territories on ‘Stars Go Out’ EP

Lily Milo shares a personal journey of self-discovery on “Stars Go Out.” Photo – Jennifer Metsker

Lily Milo delicately reveals the hidden sides of her heart.

The Ann Arbor indie folk singer-songwriter shares an intimate, poetic journey of self-discovery while navigating between life’s light and dark emotions on Stars Go Out.

“This is the first thing that I’ve ever put out. I’ve wanted to work on music for a really long time. A couple of years ago, I just sat down and said, ‘All right, if you’re gonna do it, then you’re gonna make some music,’ and it’s been awesome,” said Milo, who released the project in September.

Throughout her raw, authentic debut EP, Milo beautifully explores uncharted territories of the soul across six poignant, reflective tracks that uncover internal strength and wisdom. Each Stars Go Out song provides an intense, heartfelt outpouring of emotion from past thoughts, experiences and relationships.

“Most of them are personal. ‘Sandcastles’ is about a friend who passed away. The other ones are feelings that I’ve had and worked through, and part of the reason why it seems like a strange moody mix from the heart is because it’s all very much from the heart,” Milo said.

Continue reading “Heart to Heart – Lily Milo Explores Uncharted Emotional Territories on ‘Stars Go Out’ EP”