Guiding Light – Mason Summit Illuminates Dark Wintry Days with Latest ‘Round January’ Single

Mason Summit will release his fifth album, “Negative Space,” on April 3. Photo by Spencer Shapeero

Mason Summit brilliantly shines on the darkest January days.

The Los Angeles indie folk rock singer-songwriter thaws the winter blues with his latest magical single, “‘Round January,” which drops today via all streaming platforms.

Summit’s track fuses sorrowful acoustic guitar strums and delicate drum taps with vibrant electric and slide guitars – “I hope one day I can tell you this won’t last/And be right/Cuz I know how you get when the sun sets early/But there’s a better way/There must be surely/But maybe you’ll make it out alive/Maybe you’ll just survive.” It’s also ideally suited for a fruitful collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline.

“‘Round January” single artwork – Cover by Spencer Shapeero

In a sense, Summit’s exquisite combination of acoustic, electric and slide guitars represent the warring emotional factions within us. Deep inside, there’s a hope that wants burst through, but the darkness fights back with a vengeance.

“It’s specifically the month my dad died, and it’s also when I introduce the song now, and what makes it more broadly applicable to different people’s lives is seasonal depression. I probably experienced that unknowingly since before my dad died, you know the melancholy of those months, especially like the line, ‘when the sun sets early,’” said Summit, who also struggles with the lack of daylight in winter.

“It was just instant depression for me. It made me tired all the time, and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people, but it definitely influences my mood in a disproportionate way.”

Two years ago, Summit penned “‘Round January” as a response to a songwriting class prompt at the University of Southern California (USC).  The prompt required students to write a song to their eighth-grade selves.

“And that was a week when a lot of people brought in some heavy stuff,” said Summit, a songwriting senior who will graduate in May. “It was just so provocative, and so I was thinking back to eighth grade, and middle school in general is when people tend to be struggling and trying to find out who they are.”

For Summit, the track also advocates the importance of therapy in tackling seasonal depression and other mental health challenges. He came from a family that believed in its long-term healing power.

“When I got to school, I met a lot of people who didn’t come from that and ended up having a lot of undiagnosed issues. They just didn’t know how to deal with it, and it took them so long to have the courage to go to therapy or go to a psychiatrist and start treating their illness with therapy and medication,” Summit said. “Whereas I had already started to sort that out by that time, there were actually specific people in my life I was writing it for as well as myself.”

Continue reading “Guiding Light – Mason Summit Illuminates Dark Wintry Days with Latest ‘Round January’ Single”

Northern Exposure – Joanna & The Jaywalkers to Share New Tracks, Open for Judy Banker at The Ark Thursday

Anthony Marchese, Joanna Ransdell and Phil Rinke will perform with Joanna & The Jaywalkers Thursday at The Ark. Photo courtesy of Joanna Ransdell

These days, Joanna Ransdell hears the call of the wild.

The Ann Arbor folk pop singer-songwriter and frontwoman for The Jaywalkers is weaving a wilderness theme throughout her upcoming second album, a follow-up to 2018’s oceanic predecessor, “The Open Sea Before Me.”

“The story starts with a song about being in Alaska in the middle of the wilderness because I lived in Alaska for six months in my early 20s. I think the element is earth, and it’s all about navigating the wilderness and going into the deep wells of hurt and heartbreak, investigating it and pulling out what’s causing you hurt and heartache,” said Ransdell, who also plays keys and guitar with The Jaywalkers.

“It ends with somebody embracing their healing. I’m a therapist, so it’s all about emotional healing and vulnerability. I think this one is more about facing your demons head-on, the acknowledgement of it and the healing that comes from that acknowledgement.”

Joanna & The Jaywalkers’ new tracks will form the setlist for Thursday’s show at The Ark in Ann Arbor. Along with Anthony Marchese (cello), Phil Rinke (double bass), Shane Harrell (drums), Mel Clark (vocals) and Lauren Pulcipher (vocals, violin), Ransdell will open for Judy Banker and help celebrate the release of Banker’s new “Buffalo Motel” album.

“Judy’s been very supportive of us, and I really enjoy her music as well,” Ransdell said. “I got the chance to see her play a lot of these new songs on her album, and they’re fantastic. We’re very honored to be playing with her.”

After Thursday’s show, Ransdell and her Jaywalkers bandmates will rehearse before entering the studio in February to record their next album, which will drop later this year. They will take time to craft beautiful new tracks focused on life, love and growth at Solid Sound Recording Co.

Continue reading “Northern Exposure – Joanna & The Jaywalkers to Share New Tracks, Open for Judy Banker at The Ark Thursday”

Early Check-in – Judy Banker Creates Welcoming Stay on New ‘Buffalo Motel’ Album, Hosts Release Show Thursday at The Ark

Judy Banker, center, will celebrate the release of her latest album, “Buffalo Motel,” at The Ark Thursday. Photo by Robin Scully

With “Buffalo Motel,” Judy Banker creates a welcoming extended stay throughout album’s dozen heartfelt, transformative tracks.

The Americana singer-songwriter shares an expansive, layered and atmospheric sound that transcends her traditional acoustic country and folk roots. Driving drum and bass tracks, hook-driven instrumental intros and breaks, and innovative arrangements push Banker toward a countrified indie rock territory that lies somewhere between Ann Arbor, Mich., and Kalispell, Mont.

Out Thursday, “Buffalo Motel” allows Banker to flex her raw, gritty songwriting muscle and weather a series of intense emotions through different relationships and life events. She poetically chronicles love’s rise and decline at several points in time throughout her third album’s intimate tales.

“There’s something about this being the beginning of a new year and new decade that adds a sense of importance to it all. This album turned out bigger and better than I could have imagined. I think it feels that way for the members of the project – the band and David Roof and Ben Sayler as producers and creative directors,” said Banker, who took creative inspiration from Beck, The National and Sharon Van Etten while recording her latest album.

“We didn’t know where all of our experimentation in the pre-production sessions was going to take the music. There were so many moving parts and different ways we approached recording each of the songs. ”

Banker collaborated with a roster of talented Michigan musicians on “Buffalo Motel” to make it bigger than the sum of its parts. Tony Pace (electric guitar, dobro), John Sperendi (electric and upright bass), Brian Williams (drums), Alan Pagliere (pedal steel) and Roof (multi-instrumentalist, Rooftop Recording engineer) added new elements to realize the potential of each song. They spent most of last year steeped in fireplace bourbon sessions while creating “Buffalo Motel’s” exquisite, multi-genre tracks.

“I hope that the sound of the album, this collection of songs and how they are presented, excites people and engages them. The playing on it blows me away – this band is over-the-top talented,” Banker said. “They pushed themselves and tried new approaches on this album to bring out the heart of each song. I hope people can feel that, and it moves them.”

Continue reading “Early Check-in – Judy Banker Creates Welcoming Stay on New ‘Buffalo Motel’ Album, Hosts Release Show Thursday at The Ark”

Think Piece – Jeff Karoub Unravels Past, Present Stories on ‘Pieces Break’ Album

Jeff Karoub blends stories from the past and present on his latest album, “Pieces Break.” Photo by Joe Alcodray

For Jeff Karoub, past stories shed light on the present day.

The Dearborn rhythm-and-roots acoustic singer-songwriter believes historical people, places and pieces holistically define and shape society today.

“When I read this quote, it really kind of summed up what this was all about, and it was this Kansas journalist named Roy Wenzl, and he was talking about what he learned from his father. There’s just this great essay about it, but the quote I love is, ‘The ground beneath our feet is filled with the bones and the stories of millions of creatures that came before us,’” Karoub said.

“He talks about how we all go through our lives sleepwalking and missing what’s happening and not thinking about the people who came before or the places that have come and gone. Here, we live in this town where Motown rose and then relocated, but lots of musicians stayed and kept making music, but the world wasn’t necessarily hearing them anymore. I’m grappling with the past, but I also definitely want to be very much living in now and making sure I don’t miss anything.”

Karoub’s viewpoint of past meets present serves as a core theme throughout his latest and fourth Motown-made folk album, “Pieces Break,” which dropped in November.

Piecing Together ‘Pieces Break’

“Pieces Break” album artwork

In a sense, the album references timeless symbols of Midwestern life – tires, bells, barns and cities – and reminds people to reflect on how far they’ve come. Each track beautifully stands alone, yet collectively represents a certain musical point in time.

The album’s heartfelt title track wraps listeners in vibrant acoustic strums and vintage Hammond B3 organ chords while whisking them into a poetic reverie – “Sometimes the pieces break/In such perfect shapes/They’re better left apart/What does the water wash over/And what does it forget/If I was never here and we never talked, would it matter much?”

Continue reading “Think Piece – Jeff Karoub Unravels Past, Present Stories on ‘Pieces Break’ Album”

Solo Ride – Bobby Pennock to Open for Jeff Scott Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater

Bobby Pennock will open the first show of the LIVE! 2020 winter concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater.

For Bobby Pennock, a new decade will bring more chances to perform live as a solo artist.

The Detroit folk rock singer-songwriter typically performs with the quartet Taller Than They Appear or as a duo with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Luti Erbeznik.

This month, Pennock will make a rare live solo appearance opening for Jeff Scott as part of the Farmington Civic Theater’s “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. His Jan. 17 opening set will include acoustic-filled gems from his collaborative and solo projects, including The Pennock/Stephens Project and Taller Than They Appear.

“I know there’s already going to be songs from each of those in the set,” Pennock said. “I’m also doing a new song that’s one of the latest ones Mike Stephens and I wrote called ‘Circling Back to You.’”

Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).

The Pennock/Stephens Project

The Pennock/Stephens Project album artwork

In 2018, Pennock released a striking folk rock album called “The Pennock/Stephens Project” with the late singer-songwriter Mike Stephens, who passed away from cancer in October. The duo met years earlier through Myspace when Stephens hosted a podcast called the Open Mike Café and eventually developed a strong friendship.

Throughout the years, Pennock and Stephens wrote an extensive catalog of folk rock songs and decided to release their self-titled debut album as a duo. At the time, Stephens had relocated to Colorado to live near his daughter as he battled long-term health issues, but later returned to Michigan.

“He was diagnosed with cancer, and our good friend who lives in Nashville, M.J. Bishop, set up a GoFundMe, and then I wanted to do something else,” said Pennock, who also performed with guitarist Terry Birkett as part of the project.

“Mike and I had continued to write songs together, and I got the idea of recording an album and the proceeds of which would go to him for his medical costs. That’s how that album came together, and my friend John Finan said he’d record it for free.”

Continue reading “Solo Ride – Bobby Pennock to Open for Jeff Scott Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater”

Jeff Scott Launches ‘LIVE!’ 2020 Winter Concert Series Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater

Jeff Scott will headline the first show of the “LIVE!” winter concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater. Photo courtesy of Jeff Scott

Two years ago, Jeff Scott experienced a musical epiphany in the Big Easy.

The Royal Oak singer-songwriter strolled through Jackson Square and retraced his steps from a previous New Orleans visit two decades earlier.

That trip down memory lane transported Scott back to performing with The Big Picture, a Detroit-based pop sextet. At the time, Scott and his bandmates opened for The Neville Brothers at the iconic New Orleans Jazz Fest.

“I was sensing at the time that I could never recapture the way that I felt when I was younger and in that position with that band. It started to rain exactly as it had the first time we showed up there, and I was standing in exactly the same place,” Scott said.

“I thought for the purposes of this album I was retreading and going back to where I had originally been musically and most successful professionally. That was a good way to start it. I’m attempting to reclaim something, maybe I’m not going to hit it, but the pursuit of it is deeply fulfilling and emotional.”

Scott shares his splendid journey of sonic self-discovery on “Nola,” the opening track of his third album, “Nola to New York,” which dropped in 2018.

It also will give listeners a preview of his Jan. 17 headlining show at the Farmington Civic Theater to kick off the “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series with special guest Bobby Pennock.

Along with longtime bandmates Tony Jaworowski (piano, keys), Duane Allen Harlick (electric guitar, background vocals), Dave Hendrickson (electric and upright bass) and Dan McCann (drums, percussion), Scott will perform an eclectic mix of pop, folk, soul and jazz favorites from “Nola to New York” as well as his previous releases.

“I hope that they will be moved musically. That’s always my intent. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful music with a big ‘B.’ It can be up-tempo, it can be down-tempo, it can be a ballad, it can be a lot of different things,” Scott said. “That’s always the end goal for me. A lot of people come to the shows because they appreciate the lyrics, which I spend a lot of time on.”

Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).

Continue reading “Jeff Scott Launches ‘LIVE!’ 2020 Winter Concert Series Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater”

Farewell AF – Wilson Hosts ‘Thank You, Goodnight’ Shows Saturday at The Crofoot

Wilson will perform their final three shows Saturday night at The Crofoot.

Wilson will take their final bow of fuckery Saturday night in Pontiac.

The Detroit multi-genre quartet will host three farewell banger shows filled with debauchery and shenanigans for longtime, hardcore fans at The Crofoot.

“The shows will be closure for us and everyone who’s been involved. It will be emotional, but relieving at the same time,” said Jason Spencer, Wilson’s co-founder and guitarist. “We’ve always been transparent with our fans, that’s always been important to me, but all in all, the fans have been polite and supportive.”

Along with bandmates Chad Nicefield (vocals), James Lascu (bass) and Matt Puhy (drums), Spencer announced Wilson’s indefinite hiatus and “Thank You, Goodnight” farewell shows Nov. 6 via the band’s Facebook page. After a decade filled with in-your-face rock, hip-hop and all things ‘90s, the band will celebrate an explosive era three different ways:

1.  A “Wilson’s House of Fuckery” 4:30 p.m. pre-party in The Crofoot’s Vernors Room with band conversations and a past, present and future walk-through as well as a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Lighthouse of Oakland County and MusiCares.

2. A 6 p.m. performance of “Tasty Nasty” and “Right to Rise” in their entirety on The Crofoot Ballroom stage. The Messenger Birds, Red Stone Souls and Ladysse will provide support.

3. A 10 p.m. performance of “Full Blast Fuckery” in its entirety on The Pike Room stage. Strange Magic will provide support.

Each show will encompass part of Wilson’s history at their “hometown” venue and allow devoted fans to engage one last time with these genre-bending titans. In a sense, it will be like viewing the exhilarating and exhausting journey through each band member’s eyes.

“The Vernors Room pre-party will consist of props/outfits from old videos, stage props and a bunch of visual aspects. Our fans have always loved the gimmicky parts of the band, so we figured this could be a fun way to obtain items for their Wilson collections … no joke, we have fans who have made entire rooms out of Wilson items,” Spencer said.

“The Ballroom will be a standard Wilson headliner with some visual aspects. But the final show in The Pike Room will be the most intense show because it’s the type of room that has played a big part in our history. You know, punk-rock club style … just wild.”

Continue reading “Farewell AF – Wilson Hosts ‘Thank You, Goodnight’ Shows Saturday at The Crofoot”