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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En Route – Daring Detour Returns to Live Music Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse

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Daring Detour’s Kathi Dvorin and DeVeaux Gauger perform at a house show. Photo – Richard Greene

For Daring Detour, the new year arrives at a long-awaited destination.

The Ann Arbor acoustic Americana duo of Kathi Dvorin (vocals) and DeVeaux Gauger (guitar) marks the return of their intimate live music performances after a pandemic-induced hiatus.

“We decided to put Daring Detour on hold early in the pandemic. Part of that was due to closing venues, and part was our general emotional state with all the upheaval going on at the time,” Gauger said.

“We tried writing virtually and that didn’t work out, so we agreed not to force the creative process and would pick it up when we both felt comfortable.”

With comfort now on their side, Daring Detour will share their emotive originals and covers Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse in Ypsilanti. It will be their second live show since December.

“Playing at the Ypsi Alehouse was a wonderful experience. We had quite a few friends show up despite it being on a weekday evening and lingering COVID concerns,” Gauger said. “All the rehearsal time and mentally being on the same page showed as the music flowed, and we told some stories in between songs.”

During their two-hour set, Daring Detour will perform poignant renditions of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Almost Home” and “I Feel Lucky.” They’ll also share an unnamed Taylor Swift cover.

“We draw cover material from decades of artists, much of it out of our generation. We wanted to expand our repertoire to include some more upbeat songs and have some fun in between the more introspective tunes,” said Gauger, who’s inspired by Harry Chapin, James Taylor and Jim Croce.

“It’s highly possible that Ted Badgerow, Alehouse owner and brewer, will make an appearance. I played there solo the week before Halloween, and Ted joined me for a couple of songs playing flute, harmonica and some backing vocals.”

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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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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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The Lucky One – Mark Jewett Expresses Gratitude on New Album, Headlines Dec. 3 Trinity House Show

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Mark Jewett’s “The Lucky One” provides a thoughtful, folky passage through time. Photo – Misty Lyn Bergeron

These days, Mark Jewett feels immensely grateful.

The Plymouth Americana singer-songwriter remains thankful for a supportive family, an introspective new album, The Lucky One, and a Dec. 3 headlining show at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre.

“When I look back on it, I still feel like gratitude is the theme. ‘The Lucky One,’ ‘Warren Zevon’s Birthday’ and ‘Sophia’ have threads of gratitude that run through them. Then, there’s some curious pondering of things, like ‘The Only Thing,’ and ‘Voices’ is a little bit mystical,” said Jewett, who recently retired after a long career in program management.

“Yeah, I think almost everybody can probably relate to it in some way, but ‘Guilty’ is the outlier, and I have a fondness for dark music.”

Whether dark or uplifting, Jewett’s insightful music beckons listeners to reflect on their life’s purpose, their favorite moments and the people who surround them. His third release, The Lucky One, provides a thoughtful, folky passage through time across nine astute, indelible tracks.  

“There have been a lot of changes in recent years that have caused me to step back and think, ‘Wow, it doesn’t seem like it’s been very long since that happened,’ or ‘Wow, it seems like it’s been forever since that happened,’” Jewett said. “And how you get both of those feelings about similar events, it’s just kind of mysterious to me.”

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Midwest Sounds – Wiltsie’s Nov. 27 Festival Showcases and Supports Local Artists

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The Real Dan Minard, Aaron Markovitz and Jackie Pappas perform at Wiltsie’s. The three singer-songwriters also are part of the Midwest Sounds festival lineup. Photo – Brandon Still

Wiltsie’s thoughtfully highlights the artistic brilliance of independent Michigan artists.

The intimate Clarkston listening room will spotlight and support local singer-songwriters during their inaugural Midwest Sounds festival on Nov. 27 at Bay Court Park’s Brady Lodge.

“Festivals have a whole ‘nother dynamic and atmosphere, and I think we’ll get a different crowd in to see these musicians and artists. The goal is for them to get more recognition and acknowledgement for what they’re doing while being able to pay them,” said Jackie Pappas, an Americana singer-songwriter who co-runs Wiltsie’s with Brandon Still and Paul Angelini.

Midwest Sounds will feature a star-studded lineup of Americana, folk, country and rock artists, including The Real Dan Minard, Sean Miller, Emily Rose and Pappas, as well as a young songwriters round.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Americana quartet of Jason Dennie, Aaron Markovitz, Keith Billik and Scott Kendall – also known as Through the Thicket – will headline the daylong festival.

“It’s all about giving back to the musicians, getting more of a crowd in and shining a light on everyone because they work so hard and are so talented,” said Pappas, who’s also partnered with Oxford’s HomeGrown Brewing Co. and Fenton’s D&W’s Street Eatery for refreshing festival craft brews and food.

In addition, festival ticket proceeds will support a new Wiltsie’s grant and mentorship program for independent musicians. As a newly established nonprofit housed in Main Street MI’s historic co-working space, Wiltsie’s will help one artist each month with recordings, videos, photos and music distribution.

“We want to help get them on their feet and give them that first nudge, so they can have a great portfolio to move forward and send their stuff to some venues. If they really like what we’re doing, then they’ll come back and have the funds to hopefully continue with us,” Pappas said.

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Due West – Desmond Jones Explores Vibrant Americana Landscape on ‘Why Not?’

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Desmond Jones opts for a cohesive Americana sound on “Why Not?” Photo – Purchase Productions

Desmond Jones boldly explores the sunny, vast terrain of the undiscovered countryside.

The Grand Rapids jam quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) proudly ventures through blazing deserts, rolling hilltops and sprawling mountains on their latest Americana-infused album, Why Not?

“We’re lucky it fell together in a cohesive way because some of the songs were written almost 10 years ago. Others were written two years ago or right before we started recording the album,” Nowak said.

“We tried to collect them in a way that made thematic sense, even though we didn’t write them all together with the intention of releasing a concept album.”

As a refreshing, countrified conceptual immersion and stylistic detour from their funky, glam-jam sound, Desmond Jones’ Why Not? glides through 15 insightful, majestic tracks filled with nomadic adventures, lovelorn moments and bucolic musings.

The addition of warm, folky instrumentation – pedal steel guitars, fiddles, banjos, Dobros and mandolins – and rich four-part harmonies allow the band’s newfangled Americana sound to travel beyond the Midwestern landscape.

“A lot the songs we’ve been performing for over eight years now, and the Americana sound and songwriting style have always been a part of our live show and our catalog. We just never had the opportunity to record a lot of it or package it in that way,” said Nowak about the band’s third album.

“Once we started writing more songs that were a verse-chorus structure and a singer-songwriter style, they started to add up. We realized we had enough material to put it all together in one album, so that it wouldn’t feel as disjointed if we had put some of this stuff together with our funky or more progressive songs.”

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