The Detroit Sound – New Live Roots Music Series Debuts Jan. 27 at Aretha’s Jazz Café

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A new live music series aims to showcase the musical “roots” of Detroit.

Known as The Detroit Sound, the quarterly roots music concert series debuts Jan. 27 at Aretha’s Jazz Café with singer-songwriters Jennifer Westwood, Jimmie Bones, John Bardy and Tino Gross.

“There are so many people here that I know who make music, and they never do shows together, and they’re from different parts of the city. We have fantastic music here as good as any other music city, and we need to champion that,” said Westwood, who curates The Detroit Sound with WhistlePig Music Group producer-engineer-mixer Bunky Hunt.

“It’s like, ‘Well, what is the Detroit sound?’ Some people just think it’s garage rock, some people just think it’s Motown, but really what’s happening right now? It’s a lot of things, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be one thing, but for our intents and purposes, it’s going to be more roots-based.”

To amplify those roots sounds, Westwood and Hunt selected a lineup artists and musicians who advocate Detroit’s independent rock, country and blues music scene. They also assembled the all-star Motown-Shoals house band of guitarist Dylan Dunbar, bassist Chuck Bartels, drummer David Below and keyboardist Bones.

“They’re all uniquely Detroit, and these are people who are carving their own path. They’re not listening to the people who run the tech media giants … they’re sticking to their art. These guys all fall in that category,” Hunt said.

“We’ve also got this great house band. These are guys that both play in Jennifer [Westwood’s] band and support me in the studio as well. I kinda use them as my wrecking crew. It’s gonna truly be a Detroit experience, and that’s what we’re gunning for.”

Continue reading “The Detroit Sound – New Live Roots Music Series Debuts Jan. 27 at Aretha’s Jazz Café”

Seriously Funny – Danny VanZandt Balances Wit and Sincerity on ‘Music to Your Ears’ Album

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Danny VanZandt breaks code of taste on “Music to Your Ears.” Photo – Kris Herrmann

Danny VanZandt doesn’t take himself too seriously on Music to Your Ears.

The Detroit indie-rocker strikes an optimal balance between wit and sincerity on his refreshing new album.

“I’m a really goofy guy in my personal life, and I love making jokes and stuff. I wanted this album to be goofy and funny, but I still wanted the subject matter to be important,” VanZandt said.

“For artists, especially early on, everything can feel like it’s the art school film where it’s black and white and super serious. The big lesson I learned between the last album and this one is that a lot of my favorite serious art still has a lot of humor in it … and some of my favorite comedies are tearjerkers and have a real serious side to them.”

That ideal mindset flows throughout the 11 authentic tracks featured on Music to Your Ears. Filled with vivid tales of youth, nostalgia, and the passage of time, the album whisks listeners along from one memorable VanZandt adventure to the next.

Zany escapades occur at rock ‘n’ roll history museums, Wendy’s, Bruce Springsteen on ice shows, the Stranger Zone, mountaintops and other locales. Collectively, those stops provide greater insight into VanZandt’s past, present and future.

VanZandt also features brands and music artists as his ironic sidekicks throughout Music to Your Ears. These “pals” include AC/DC, Guitar Center, Jamba Juice, Eagles, Vineyard Vines, Enclave, Cat Power, Google Earth, McDonald’s and others to distinctly set each track’s scene and mood.

“When you go outside, it’s not like forests and rivers anymore, it’s Subway and Domino’s. If you’re going to do a modern-day landscape painting, like Jake Longstreth, it’s a painting of an abandoned Circuit City,” said VanZandt, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in art history from Wayne State University.

“I wanted it to have that feel and also in a pop-art way, like ‘What do brands mean and signify?’ That’s a big 21st century anxiety that we all deal with. I wanted it to feel true to actual modern life, and there’s something I love about how banal all that stuff is.”

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Collective Consciousness – Slowfoot Reveals Personal Thoughts and Mantras on ‘Something Good’ Album

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Slowfoot’s Tony DiDio, Frank Grimaldi, Kris Greig, Mike Conley and Peter Zajicek bring “Something Good” to listeners with their debut album. Photo courtesy of Slowfoot

For Slowfoot, Something Good captures a collective inner monologue from past to present.

The Waterford blues-rock quintet’s debut album reveals personal thoughts about loss, growth and ambition, especially from lead vocalist-guitarist Frank Grimaldi and organist Peter Zajicek.

“I wrote ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ when I was 17 after my first bad breakup. It’s just a heartbroken kid who thinks he’s never gonna fall in love again. ‘Long Road Ahead’ was me trying to write a song that sounded like a Jimi Hendrix song,” Grimaldi said.

“What comes out from me lyrically are things that I don’t have the courage to say directly to people, or they’re something I just wanna get off my chest. They’re also mantras, even if they’re negative. I feel like Pete [Zajicek] writes out of frustration as well.”

Those shared experiences from Grimaldi and Zajicek truly produce “something good” for Slowfoot listeners.

With bandmates Mike Conley (guitar), Kris Grieg (bass) and Tony DiDio (drums), they present a profound release filled with soulful vocals, introspective lyrics, vintage Hammond organ solos and bluesy instrumentation.

“If you asked all five members of the group, you would get five different favorite bands. There’s a lot of different stuff melting into our sound, and you know who wrote what song,” said Grimaldi, who’s influenced by Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin and Derek Trucks.

“It’s only me and Pete who have been writing the songs, but you can feel my writing tendencies versus Pete’s. He has a lot of words in his songs … and my songs are more Hemingway in their approach.”

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Authentic Self – Chain of Lakes Experiences Personal Growth on ‘Songs That Didn’t Make the Record’ Album

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Chain of Lakes shares candid stories on “Songs That Didn’t Make the Record.” Photo courtesy of Kyle Rasche

Chain of Lakes doesn’t hesitate to show his authentic self.

The Alto, Michigan indie-folk singer-songwriter candidly shares honest stories about self-acceptance, familial love and the passage of time on his latest album, Songs That Didn’t Make the Record.

“I’ve consciously been trying to not worry about how a song is gonna come off. The second I stopped trying to be cool, audiences started responding,” said Kyle Rasche, aka Chain of Lakes.

“When I play my ‘Worm’ song from the [upcoming] kids’ record because that’s the last one I finished, people wanna see who you are—good, bad, ugly. You’re just more interesting that way when you’re yourself.”

The album’s 10 tender tracks showcase Rasche’s increasing growth and strength over different points in time. Whether it’s his last day on earth or his ideal day at the beach, his wise lyrics, sentimental stories, and earnest instrumentation reflect his evolutionary mindset.

“I do write a lot, so these were all from that same season of writing. I think it makes sense there’s a theme throughout because I have been writing a lot about my family. I have been writing a lot about discontent on not being able to fully dive into art,” Rasche said.

“I use a lot of imagery … sunsets on a chapter, day or period. I didn’t consciously make these songs to be a batch that comes out like this by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it makes sense if they sound like that because they were all made in the same time period of a writer that was writing a lot.”

A prolific songwriter, Rasche’s Songs That Didn’t Make the Record serves as his second full-length Chain of Lakes release in over six months. In May, he dropped Catch, an introspective album that recounts personal tales of heartwarming comfort and raw vulnerability.

“Thematically, Catch was more cohesive as it was than if we had just thrown a random ‘Sunset’ song on there or a very sweet love song that wouldn’t really fit,” Rasche said. “Catch is about coming of age and nostalgia and finding reconciliation with parts of yourself.”

Amidst that reconciliation, Rasche compiled a timeless gem of an album with producer Josh Kaufman for Songs That Didn’t Make the Record. However, don’t let the album’s title fool you—there’s nothing ephemeral about any of its tracks.

“I put this record out because I love these songs too much to not have them on a record. I’m very, very proud of them, and now I have a little bit of regret on that name. If it sounds like these are reject songs … that last record was made to be that record, and this means those weren’t for it. I think this one is a little lighter,” he said.

“Calling this Songs That Didn’t Make the Record took so much pressure off of having it be a cohesive album because everybody just gives me liberties of it being the next songs.”

Continue reading “Authentic Self – Chain of Lakes Experiences Personal Growth on ‘Songs That Didn’t Make the Record’ Album”

Flow State – The Dangling Participles Dive Deeply for ‘One More Drop’ Album

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The Dangling Participles’ Tim Patterson, Tamiko Rothhorn, Austin Kaufmann and Dan Moreno explore life changes on “One More Drop.” Photo – Vincent Brady

The Dangling Participles take sage advice from John Lewis and David Bowie.

The Lansing indie-folk quartet follow spirited wisdom from the late congressman and musician about taking risks and making changes in life.

Lewis and Bowie’s encouragement about “getting in good trouble” and “going a little further into the water” inspired the band’s hopeful opener, “Where It Gets Exciting,” from their new album One More Drop.

“I wrote this song in 2020 during one of the Black Lives Matter movements,” said Austin Kaufmann, the band’s co-lead vocalist, guitarist, mandolinist and harmonicist.

“I was talking through this with my children, attending some of these rallies with them and processing that. You talk big to your kids and realize, ‘I really need to live up to this stuff, and I need to put myself out there.’”

The track also resonates with Tamiko Rothhorn, the band’s co-lead vocalist, cornetist and ukulelist.

“I lived in Germany for a while, and I did work with Peace Brigades International and trained with the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed,” she said. “There’s a word called ‘civil courage’ that’s about speaking out and taking action against injustice or oppression, whether that is on a bus, at a school or in a community.”

Along with Dangling Participles bandmates Tim Patterson (vocals, bass, piano) and Dan Moreno (vocals, percussion), Kaufmann and Rothhorn convey that “Where It Gets Exciting” determination through eager acoustic guitar, cornet, saxophone, bass and percussion.

Kaufmann sings, “And I’m right where I need to be / To up my game, fight complacency / In the deep end, there’s no hiding / This is where it gets exciting.”

“That song is a reminder that I need to do more than just treading water,” he said. “I need to intentionally jump into that deep end because if I don’t, then I’m not living my life the way I want to live it.”

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Life Cycle – Strange Heart Breaks Old Patterns on ‘Falling Back Again’ Album

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Strange Heart’s Bobby Jankowski, Josh Clemens and Mike Schneider add soulful instrumentation and Motown-rich sensibilities to “Falling Back Again.” Photo – Dave Lamarand

Strange Heart boldly leans into the future on Falling Back Again.

The metro Detroit rock-soul trio of Josh Clemens (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Schneider (vocals, bass) and Bobby Jankowski (drums) share heartfelt truths of the past and find the way forward on their latest album.

Falling Back Again is when you’re trapped in a cycle, and you’re falling back into the same old patterns,” Clemens said.

“In a relationship, it can be like, ‘We’re fine; we’re doing really good,’ but then it’s like, ‘We’re back to square one,’ and finally it’s like, ‘Are you leaving? No, I’m staying.’”

That cyclical nature of Falling Back Again elicits eight personal tales of love, self-acceptance and heartbreak against a backdrop of soulful instrumentation and Motown-rich sensibilities. Each track accepts one circumstance and prepares for the challenges of the next.

“It’s just this vicious cycle, and it never stops. When you’re Falling Back Again, you’re falling back to the beginning of the cycle, which has a ‘with or without you’ vibe,” Clemens said

“That idea also kinda hits throughout the album, and obviously it’s within the song ‘24 Hours (Without Your Love).’ In a song like ‘Good Company,’ it fits perfectly. It fits a lot of places.”

Continue reading Life Cycle – Strange Heart Breaks Old Patterns on ‘Falling Back Again’ Album

Joint Adventure – The Whiskey Charmers Blaze New Sonic Trails for ‘On the Run’ Album

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The Whiskey Charmers capture an adventurous sonic spirit for “On the Run.” Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Charmers

The Whiskey Charmers thoughtfully choose their own adventure.

The Detroit alt-country duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric and steel guitars, backing vocals) explore and weather life-changing terrain on their new Odyssean album, On the Run.

“When we were trying to think of an all-encompassing title, we started realizing how much that theme goes through the record, the On the Run theme,” said Shepard about the album out today via Sweet Apple Pie Records.

“We didn’t have a specific theme before going into the record because we actually recorded about 20 songs at once. We picked half that we thought would go well together for this first one, and we have half that we’re hoping to release next year.”

As the first half, On the Run journeys through melodic Laurel Canyon soundscapes, ‘70s-inspired country-rock instrumentation fused with hard-rock, psych-rock, blues and funk elements, and daring tales of growth and reflection. Collectively, the album’s 10 tracks serve as the ideal sonic companion for an open-ended road trip.

“The last two records featured the same guitar and the same amp that I play with live all the time. I just brought different stuff in because I was playing different stuff … and some songs like ‘Billy’ seemed like it needed to be a little more aggressive,” Daversa said.

“I did a whole run-through of that song and sent it to some guitar-player friends of mine and one friend was like, ‘Yeah, I hear what you’re trying to do on that, but that ain’t it.’ At first I was like, ‘Forget you, man,’ and then I started thinking about it. He was right because I changed it to what we do now, and I think it turned out a lot better.”

Continue reading Joint Adventure – The Whiskey Charmers Blaze New Sonic Trails for ‘On the Run’ Album

Countryside Tales – The Wild Honey Collective Explores Life’s Peaks and Valleys on ‘Volume 2’ Album

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The Wild Honey Collective features storied lyrics, timeless acoustic instrumentation and rootsy sensibilities on “Volume 2.” Photo – Michael Boyes

The Wild Honey Collective deeply explores countryside tales of the past and present on Volume 2.

The Lansing-Grand Rapids, Michigan Americana-folk quintet of Tommy McCord (vocals, acoustic guitar), Danielle Gyger (vocals, fiddle, acoustic guitar), Timmy Rodriguez (vocals, electric and upright bass), Dan O’Brien (vocals, electric and upright bass) and Adam Aymor (pedal steel) ventures through life’s peaks and valleys on their latest anecdotal album.

“One of the big differences between [2021’s] Volume 1 and Volume 2 is that on Volume 2 all of the original written songs were brand new when we did them,” said McCord, who also produced and released the album via GTG Records.

“That’s very much reflected in the material because that’s what was going on in our lives; some of us were getting married, and Timmy and Dan both had kids in 2020. It wasn’t on purpose, but that very much is true.”

Alongside Volume 2’s storied lyrics and bucolic setting, The Wild Honey Collective beautifully weaves timeless acoustic instrumentation with rootsy sensibilities. It’s a refreshing listen while spending time with family and friends at a lakeside cabin or trekking through hilly, sprawling landscapes.

“By Volume 2, we were a gigging band when we made the album, and I think that really shows,” McCord said. “It feels more like a band than a studio project. We’re just kind of driving forward with that now.”

The band also drives Volume 2 forward with invigorating renditions of traditional folk songs and unreleased tracks by other songwriters, including Mark Vella’s “Ode to Thor,” “Dark Hollow,” Buck Owens’ “There Goes My Love,” “Rocky Mountain Belle,” “Katie Cruel” and the Irish instrumental “Red Haired Boy.”

“When you play in punk bands, the idea of recording cover songs is very taboo unless if you’re making fun of it or something. But in the world of traditional and folk music, that’s kind of part of it … interpreting other people’s songs and the Great American Songbook,” said McCord, who also plays in Drinking Mercury and The Plurals.

“That’s something I’ve learned more as I’ve played is this idea of respecting and learning from other songwriters … it’s really important. It’s less about my ego and more about what are good songs.”

Continue reading Countryside Tales – The Wild Honey Collective Explores Life’s Peaks and Valleys on ‘Volume 2’ Album

The Great Escape – Kruel Summer Trades Stress for Bliss on ‘Another Night’ Single

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Kruel Summer searches for happiness on “Another Night.” Artwork courtesy of Kruel Summer

Kruel Summer hatches an instant, emotional escape plan on “Another Night.”

The San Jose, California indie rock-reggae quartet of Clev Stiles (lead vocals, electric guitar), Ben Dimmit (lead guitar, backing vocals), Shane Billings (drums) and Chris Reed (bass, keys, backing vocals) fervently abandons prolonged stress for instant bliss on their latest all-weather single.

“I was dealing with a major life impact when I was working on ‘Another Night.’ I felt stressed, anxious and uneasy not knowing what came next,” Stiles said. “I wanted the song to have the reverse effect … a sort of mood booster or escape to forget about [what] I was dealing with.”

Rolling waves of electric guitar, bass, keys and drums refresh Stiles as he sings, “We talk about / Running around all day / Swore to your father / Now I’m standing in the light / You know I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“[It’s] an attempt to overturn any negative feelings of worry and stress to bring energy and happiness … an uplifting, feel-good summer song,” Stiles said.

“It’s sort of hard to not instantly get in a good mood after listening to it. The actual story is about me spending time with my girl in the city on the beach just escaping the stress and letting that love and company soak away the anxiety.”

Kruel Summer also escapes worries on the forthright breakup anthem, “Just Too Broken,” which dropped in May.

Soothing electric guitar and tranquil bass release the emotional floodgates as Stiles sings, “And if I didn’t know better I would love you / Be stitched up together like you want to / But that’s a little surreal to deal / I’m better off living off what I feel.”

“I feel like everyone in one time or another has felt ‘Just Too Broken.’ You’re just tired, exhausted and drained in trying to keep a relationship, connection or anything going … that feeling like you’re putting more effort into it than a significant other,” Stiles said.

“But it doesn’t necessarily need to be about a person or a relationship. It could be about anything you’re struggling with – a job, a habit or a personal roadblock. It’s that sense of giving up and trying to keep something going when it’s simply not working.”

Continue reading “The Great Escape – Kruel Summer Trades Stress for Bliss on ‘Another Night’ Single”

My Brave Face – Ken Newman Uncovers Societal Fears on ‘What Am I Afraid Of?’ Album

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Ken Newman’s “What Am I Afraid Of?” album features purposeful lyrics, vigorous instrumentation and massive rock soundscapes. Photo – Jayms Ramirez

Ken Newman boldly tackles society’s deepest and darkest fears on What Am I Afraid Of?

The San Francisco indie-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist deftly uncovers and deciphers a multitude of emotional traumas, violent conflicts, racial injustices and political tensions on his insightful debut album.

“It was gonna be called ‘Dreaming of Guns’ based on that one song. At some point, somebody else recommended another title, and I tried that for a little while, but that didn’t quite resonate,” Newman said.

“And then Scott (Mickelson) and I were talking about it, and I said, ‘What if I just called it What Am I Afraid Of? ’ Then, the two of us went, ‘Oh my God, of course, that’s what everything’s about.’”

For Newman, “everything” serves as an umbrella of personal and societal challenges ranging from everyday anxieties to teen suicide to homelessness to gun violence. The album’s 11 gripping tracks provide a poignant wake-up call for the nation to strongly unite, take action and instill change.

“The thing about this album is essentially the same paradigm that’s kind of dictated my entire life,” he said. “I don’t exactly know what’s happening until I look in the rear-view mirror and go, ‘That happened.’”

Continue reading My Brave Face – Ken Newman Uncovers Societal Fears on ‘What Am I Afraid Of?’ Album