In Perspective – Tom Alter Channels Society’s Creative Voices on ‘Poetry and Protest’

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Tom Alter explores the complex nature of the human experience on “Poetry and Protest.” Courtesy photo

Tom Alter deeply examines art and life from different perspectives.

The Fraser indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist candidly depicts the thoughts, feelings and challenges of society’s creative voices on his latest insightful album, Poetry and Protest.

“I realized that so much of what I was writing about were things based on what I had read or had come from memories that had stayed with me for a long time and made me want to write about them. That’s the poetry side of it,” said Alter, who produced, mixed and mastered his own album.

“And the protest side blends in with that because a lot of the poetry is coming out and speaking to important matters. The last song I wrote for this was (the title track), and that was after thinking about this collection of songs. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody who has a very different experience from me.”

Alter’s Poetry and Protest provides an enlightening narrative filled with bold tales about humanity, sacrifice, loss and compassion. It seamlessly ventures from the vast emptiness of space to the sparsely populated shores of Hudson Bay to the tightly packed streets of Hamtramck.

“The Poetry and Protest idea came from me being out on a walk and thinking about this collection of songs that I was putting together and realizing where the influences for them came from,” said Alter about his sixth album.

“There’s a song, ‘Four Blue Horses,’ that is directly from a Mary Oliver poem, and it comes from Franz Marc’s Blue Horses. She wrote a poem about that series of paintings, and she got so personally involved in the paintings. I just thought, ‘I want to write about this; it was as simple as that.’”

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City Love Letter – Cashmere Washington Reveres Ypsilanti and Local Connections on ‘Life Is’

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Cashmere Washington pays homage to Ypsilanti and its people and places on “Life Is.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington openly shares a love letter to their current city.

The indie rocker expresses deep appreciation for Ypsilanti and the memorable friendships and experiences that accompany it on their introspective new single, “Life Is.”

“Ypsilanti is the first place I ever said, ‘I want to live here,’” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who hails from Midland and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. “It’s the hometown I got to pick.”

Throughout “Life Is,” tender piano, fuzzy electric guitar, strolling bass, steady drums and glistening cymbals instantly evoke sentimental images of people and places along Michigan Avenue and nearby neighborhoods.

Washington sings, “Watched the best minds of my generation/Stumbling back home, coming down the avenue/Yeah, they don’t even stop at the venue.”

“It’s based on this memory that I have of my friend walking home in front of a venue on Michigan Avenue on their way from work, and this really wonderful conversation I had with another friend about how our favorite songs have the ability to let us focus on a beautiful sunrise when we know something awful is looming just beyond the frame,” they said. “The original goal was to mash those two scenes into a song (with a few artistic liberties taken).”

With that vivid imagery in mind, Washington closes “Life Is” with a thought-provoking verse that prompts listeners to take chances and pursue their goals. In a sense, the city of Ypsilanti provides the ideal backdrop for Washington to fully realize their true sense of self.

Washington reflects, “Cuz I know I’m not scared to die/I know that I’m petrified/To try and fail.”

“The line alludes to my own history with depression. Personally, the worst days have never been the tough day; it’s usually the day after,” they said.

“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but who knows, maybe tomorrow I’ll get a raise; or a week from now I’ll bump into someone funny in line for coffee; or someone will send a really nice, thoughtful email about a beat-tape I put online five years ago. You just never know what can happen.”

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Speaking Truth – Rebekah Faidia Celebrates Integrity and Authenticity on ‘Songbird’

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Rebekah Faidia’s “Songbird” encourages sharing your voice and being proactive. Courtesy photo

Filled with vitality and passion, Rebekah Faidia boldly speaks her truth.

The Ann Arbor dream-soul singer-songwriter celebrates integrity and authenticity on her latest empowering single, “Songbird,” which dropped in December.

“It’s about speaking out, being real and doing what’s right. It was inspired by a real-life scenario. I was outside, it was really cold, and I saw one bird on top of a tree, and it was singing,” Faidia said. “It was really gray out, and there was no other bird expect for that one. I thought that was a cool metaphor for speaking truth.”

Throughout “Songbird,” serene tweets, uplifting piano, hopeful synths, calm bass, gentle electric guitars and booming drums encourage sharing your voice and being proactive.

Faidia confidently sings, “The trees are bare and the air is cold/The forest is full of stories untold/Of how they suffer, of how they fought/To not be silenced/To not be bought/She’s not hiding/She’s not hiding/She’ll soon be flying.”

“I like that music can give a message to people of what they need to hear,” she said. “It can be different for each person, and it can speak to them individually.”

Faidia started writing the track in 2020 and shared it with producers/engineers Ryan Hyland and Mike Hurley last year at Plymouth Rock Recording Company.

“I recorded ‘Songbird’ and ‘I’ll Find It’ there, and that’s where I’ll be finishing my EP,” she said.

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Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’

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Chirp pauses during a recording session at Willis Sound. Photo – Joe Sleep

Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”

“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”

By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.

In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”

“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.

“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”

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Guitar-Driven Destination – MC Roads Brings Bluesy Alt-Rock to The Token Lounge Saturday 

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MC Roads combines blues and alt-rock for powerful guitar-driven sound.

MC Roads thoughtfully travels along a bluesy, alt-rock-fueled highway.

That highway unfolds a promising itinerary of guitar-driven destinations throughout the Motor City, including a Jan. 8 headlining set at The Token Lounge in Westland.

“To me, this is the magical part. I look for souls, and that’s what wisdom has taught me. I look for good people who want to work together like a family, and that’s when the magic starts,” said Mike Cross, MC Roads’ lead vocalist-guitarist and Sponge founding guitarist. “The songs are there, but the band comes in and embellishes it and makes it that bluesy alt-rock, guitar-driven sound.”

Along with Cross, MC Roads bandmates Bobby Guskovict (guitar, background vocals), KK Scofield (background vocals) and Dearl Poore (drums) will fuse that magical sound before a live audience Saturday. They’ll be sharing the stage with Stompbox and The Analog Dogs as part of a special show to benefit Detroit Dog Rescue.

“We’ve been working up the set, and there’s going to be some surprises. All of the tracks from No Nostalgia will show up in the set, and we have some new music that we’re excited to get out there in front of people,” Cross said.

“And we even have some covers. You never know, there might even be a song from my previous band in the set. It should be a good time with Stompbox and The Analog Dogs.”

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Organic Growth – Dirt Room Cultivates Experimental Sound through Live Shows and Releases

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Dirt Room will bring their burgeoning sound to Small’s in Hamtramck. Photo – Mykel Andre

With new blood, Dirt Room continually thrives on organic growth.

The Detroit experimental collective of Samuel “SJ” Sprague (vocals, bass), Patrick Norton (guitar, Octatrack), Nate Zonnevylle (synth) and Duncan MacKillop (drums) will cultivate their burgeoning sound through a series of upcoming Nice Place Presents live shows, including Feb. 4 at Small’s in Hamtramck.

“This is a completely new lineup for Dirt Room, but the synergy is there. Their musicianship and enthusiasm inspire me to keep going,” said Sprague, who co-founded the band in 2016.

“Pat has been an absolute rock for me over the past few years. Their ambition and work ethic astounds me, and the music we write together is truly a blessing in my life. Duncan and Nate are the young bloods in the group. They’ve been super enthusiastic about the new music we’re playing together and working really hard to make something special.”

For the Hamtramck show, Dirt Room will share the stage with emerging Detroit acts Who Boy, Rob Apollo and Mykel Andre.

“We’re very fortunate to be playing with such talented local artists, especially after being undercover for so long,” Sprague said. “I’ve known the Who Boy group as well as Mykel Andre for a few years now, so being able to put a show together with these guys is definitely special.”

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Fresh Perspective – Caitlin Dee Explores Personal and Societal Transformation on ‘Daeus x Machina’

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Caitlin Dee gets philosophical on her latest concept album, “Daeus x Machina.” Photo – Cassie Hunter

Caitlin Dee candidly examines life through a new lens.

The indie rock singer-songwriter and guitarist explores identity, society and purpose on her latest philosophical concept album, Daeus x Machina.

“It is actually the outline for a novel that I’m working on … all I want to say is that it follows a protagonist in a new world, and that it’s science fiction-fantasy with elements of romance,” said Dee, who hails from Los Angeles. “It also contemplates mortality, myth, the idea of land ownership and immigration, cultural identity and purpose/destiny.”

Steeped in celestial, lo-fi soundscapes and intoxicating, psychedelic sensibilities, Dee’s Daeus x Machina provides a vulnerable journey of personal and societal transformation.

“It’s not that I set out to write about these things, but they’re so present to me in my daily life as we are watching this rapid transformation of our consciousness and society/systems,” she said.

“The idea of failing to control our consumption of resources on a planet that we evolved to exist on, but thinking that we could more easily establish life on a new planet … it’s just so ignorant and ridiculous to me, but it’s something that real billionaires and supposed geniuses are contemplating.”

The Stratton Setlist chatted with Dee about her ingenious album, past projects and releases, background and future plans.

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Assemble with Care – Jon Pattie Finds Rejuvenation on ‘Pieces (IVeY Remix)’

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Jon Pattie tackles depression on “Pieces (IVeY Remix) in collaboration with Jordan “IVeY” Iverson.

Fueled by tenacity and compassion, Jon Pattie boldly rebuilds his sense of self.

The Nashville, Tennessee indie pop singer-songwriter tackles mental health struggles and adopts a renewed mindset on his latest uplifting single, “Pieces (IVeY Remix).”

“‘Pieces’ was one of the first songs I wrote when I began my career as a solo musician. Around the same time, I was struggling with depression and writing this song was a way for me to work through what I was feeling from another standpoint,” Pattie said.

“I originally released it on a demo EP and liked it so much I chose to re-release it with Andy Freeman’s and Brad Lindsay’s production behind it. When I hear it now, I feel happy and successful that I was able to relate such a dark point in my life to others in a concise and melodic way.”

Originally a cinematic pop anthem on his Reflections, Vol. II EP, Pattie transformed “Pieces” into a supercharged remix with Denver DJ-producer Jordan “IVeY” Iverson. Tender, spirited synths, fearless electric guitars, confident bass and steadfast drums cleanse the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.

Pattie sings, “She lies lonely on her side/Shedding tears through window eyes/Let me in, I’ll break apart/So we can restart.”

“It’s not only an opportunity for those struggling with depression to remember there are people who care about and support them, but also an opportunity for their friends and family to know they’re not alone,” he said. “Working through depression is difficult, but so is helping someone with depression. It helps to know we aren’t the only ones out there.”

“Like ‘Dream On,’ I wanted to remix ‘Pieces’ because it’s a very important song to me, and I felt it could use another voice. IVeY was incredible to work with. After a brief discussion of the vision I had in mind, he ran with it.”

Part of that “Pieces (IVeY Remix)” vision includes a gripping guitar solo from Pattie intertwined with IVeY’s sleek production.

“(IVeY) had the idea of adding a guitar solo to the track, which I loved that I got to solo again. Really, the entire production was IVeY’s work. I enjoy giving producers full creative liberty to let them be themselves when working with a track of mine,” said Pattie, who’s known IVeY since high school.

“The solo adds a complex, yet simple beauty to this song. It’s a very slow build with a major payoff at the end with the guitar solo. The fact that it seemingly comes out of nowhere is almost metaphorical to the confusion that depression can cause, yet the resolution goes to show it will end.”

Pattie also visually stimulates fans with a kaleidoscopic lyric video for “Pieces (IVeY Remix).” Directed by Rasel, it features brilliant neon hues morphing into people and geometric patterns along with the track.

“His use of brightly colored visuals created a stark contrast from the slow buildup of the remix. I thought it’d bring a different energy to the track, and it was a very easy process to work through,” Pattie said.

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Zip Code Tour – Bill Edwards Revisits Princeton, Illinois Childhood Days on ‘61356’

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Bill Edwards revisits his Princeton, Illinois childhood days on “61356.”

Bill Edwards intricately designs a nostalgic roadmap to childhood.

The Ann Arbor Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist revisits his carefree days of growing up in rural Princeton, Illinois on his reminiscent new album, 61356, via Regaltone Records.

“I was eight when we moved there, and I was 13 when we left. Most of my childhood memories are from there. I don’t remember a whole lot before that, but I remember a ton about Princeton,” said Edwards, who lived there from 1960-1965 and named the album after the town’s zip code.

“It was a great place to be a kid. And sort of like I say in the first song, you’re just so unaware of what’s going on in the larger world beyond your handlebars. There was so much to explore, and you could just ride your bike anywhere you wanted to go.”

In his 61356 mind’s eye, Edwards pedals to hardware stores, community pools, patchwork fields, county fairs, neighborhood homes and other memorable locales. He quickly transports listeners to a pastoral era filled with vivid tales, multiple perspectives and complicated relationships.

“I just kept writing away, and some of the new ideas kept coming to me. Some of them are reminiscences and others are completely made up with different characters. All of them though involve some personal connection, like the one from the point of view of the farmer,” Edwards said.

“My parents went out of town one time, and they had us kids stay with this farm family for a weekend. We got to see pigs being born in the middle of the night, and we got to learn something about farm life a little bit.”

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Sky High – After Blue Embraces New Possibilities on ‘Far Above and Far Away’

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Tom Alter and Katie Williamson discard painful feelings of the past and surge toward the radiant promise of the future on “Far Above and Far Away.”

Brimming with atmospheric soundscapes and curative tales, After Blue provides a calming, aerial pathway to new possibilities.

The metro Detroit indie folk duo of Katie Williamson (vocals, piano) and Tom Alter (vocals, guitar) instantly soothes and invigorates weary, lost souls on their enchanting new album, Far Above and Far Away.

“I think the first song, ‘Armada,’ was written prior to the pandemic, and I read an article in the paper about the town and what they did to build the garden. And Katie and I finished that one off together in her old house. I think that song kinda set the stage for the rest,” said Alter, who formed After Blue with Williamson in 2016.

Throughout their latest release, After Blue gracefully discards the painful feelings of the past and surges toward the radiant promise of the future. Each mesmerizing track allows listeners to rediscover their sense of spirituality and inner peace within an azure-filled dreamscape.

“I think ‘Charlotte’ was the next one that was written … but it is about persistence. There’s a line in there where it says, ‘I promise that bruises heal,’ and that’s the core of that song,” Alter said.

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