For Marc Dorian, life includes several strokes of luck.
The Commerce Township singer-songwriter and keyboardist eloquently hits the high notes of growth, chance and connection on his latest inspirational album, Another Lucky Day.
“I wanted to have some kind of optimistic message or some kind of offer of hope. The first song, ‘End of the Tunnel,’ sparked things off, and I was working in the basement when I came up with a lot of those little comical lines. It’s not making light of people going through hard times, but it’s saying that we’re all waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dorian said.
Dorian brings an honest, thoughtful sheen to his 10 uplifting anthems about everyday life on Another Lucky Day. Filled with an enticing mix of rock, country and blues, the album melds warm, nostalgic reflections of the past with eager, optimistic expectations for the future.
“Hopefully, some people will say, ‘Hey man, that song made me feel good,’ because it makes me feel good to do it. That’s what makes me feel the most alive,” Dorian said.
The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist quickly sheds a weathered emotional exoskeleton for a recharged future mindset on the collective’s latest contemplative indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 2, via GTG Records.
“These songs feel like you’re shedding some skin, and you’re hatching out of an egg in a way. The world is a lot different now than it was two years ago, and it will be in a year, five years or 10 years from now,” said Roy, who’s based in Grand Rapids. “If you’re not shedding your skin every once in a while, then you probably need to do some self-reflection.”
As a cerebral outgrowth of A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, the second volume deeply explores sensitive internal terrain throughout pier houses, Haight-Ashbury and nearby neighborhoods and action-packed reveries. It also features an impressive roster of returning Soods collaborators, including Chris Coble, Matt Ten Clay, Steven Meltzer and others.
“There were a few things that kind of changed course a little bit along the way, and that was something a younger me wouldn’t have always been as open to,” Roy said. “The longer I get to make music, the more rewarding it is to come up with a really good idea and then have someone strengthen that with an equal or better idea.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
Filled with abundant love, family and music, Linen Ray remains rock solid.
The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) strongly withstands the mounting challenges of weather, the pandemic and personal stress on their latest bluesy, gospel-tinged single, “Love Ain’t Easy.”
“There are so many tests, and a lot of people and marriages broke up during that time. Being in a relationship is hard work,” said Rebekah Craft, an Ypsilanti native who’s been married to Gabriel Craft for 18 years.
Along with his wife, Gabriel Craft nodded in agreement. “I think the biggest challenge we faced during that whole time with the tornado and the pandemic was how suddenly things had to change. You would start to acclimate to the change, and then there was a change again.”
Back in March 2020, the Crafts encountered a deadly tornado that devastated part of Nashville just 10 days before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation.
Reeling from those life-changing experiences, they quickly adapted to lockdown life at home, which included virtual school, remote work and Linen Ray home studio recording sessions.
“We went through all of that, and then things started to change. We were able to leave a little bit, and the kids were back in school, but then after two weeks, somebody got COVID, and then the kids were back at home,” said Gabriel Craft, who grew up in Spring Arbor.
Despite the constant changes and lingering uncertainties, the Crafts relied on the strength of their marriage and family to focus on the future. Last fall, they penned their soulful solidarity anthem, “Love Ain’t Easy,” as a fervent tribute to lifelong love and commitment.
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.”
For Anthony Lai, it’s never too late for a fresh start.
The Dearborn vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist boldly weathers life’s painful losses, changes and challenges on his latest hopeful, folk-inspired album, Take Me with You.
“Every song is a very real experience, and some are more specific than others, but they’re all very honest. As I was choosing what songs I’ve written, I kept gravitating toward the honest ones and the ones that gave an emotional response,” Lai said.
“The album just started to take shape, and it ended up having this theme. I originally set out for it to be less themed and more of just a collection of tunes, but it looked like I had a common thread after all.”
In fact, Lai beautifully threads uplifting themes of resilience and renewal throughout eight introspective tracks into his genre-defying tapestry of Take Me with You.
Each thread weaves different tonal colors and instrumental palettes to represent a cohesive sound tinged with hints of pop, rock, bluegrass, classical, choral and folk.
“It feels like this album is finally me saying I understand who I am as a Beatles fan and as someone who has also studied classical music and is a choral director. You can hear all avenues of my life in this album,” Lai said.
As cultural anthropologists, The Mommyheads thoughtfully document the dawning of a new civilization.
The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, analog synths, guitar), Michael Holt (electric piano, vocals, synths), Dan Fisherman (drums, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass, recitation) poetically observes, records and shares the everyday habits of people living in newfound COVID-19 solitude.
Together, they produce and present a compelling 10-track report of recent lockdown life known as the Age of Isolation, which runs rampant with TV dinners, ceiling spots, drippy faucets, overgrown facial hair and extended window gazes.
As a follow-up to last year’s New Kings of Pop, The Mommyheads’ cerebral, contemplative 13th album beautifully delves into the psychological, political and social complexities of residing in suspended animation during quarantine. The Age of Isolation also gives new meaning to existential dread during a prolonged era of pandemic-induced uncertainty.
“I always think of records as snapshots or documents of certain time periods. That’s the main reason I like working through the writing and recording process extremely fast. It keeps you in the moment, especially in terms of the feeling and subject matter,” Elk said.
“The LP almost seems like a concept album, but that’s just because it never has the liberty of veering from its theme. I really hope it’s just a time piece and not the new normal.”
Immersed in sophisticated jazzy soul-pop sensibilities and refreshing, colorful sonic textures, Hannah Baiardi beautifully steps outside her comfort zone.
The Ann Arbor vocalist-composer and pianist provides a calm, soulful reassurance to embrace our authentic voice and rediscover our true calling on her latest hopeful single, “Reason.” It’s her first new material since releasing her genre-bending album, Straight from the Soul, in March.
“There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders right now, but it’s also a very inspiring time. Lightworkers are individuals who come with a purpose and are very driven to make social change and be their true selves and not hide their identities out of fear or shame,” Baiardi said.
“I was blown away when I got responses from other musicians saying, ‘Hey, that really resonated with me and made me feel like you’re standing up for the underdog.’ That’s totally my whole MO, even from being in high school and resonating with clique-busting and trying to be a friend to the friendless.”
Throughout “Reason,” shimmering piano, spirited drums, luminous slide guitar, fervent finger snaps, smooth electric bass and Baiardi’s confident vocals drench listeners in a sultry, protective dreamscape while inspiring a renewed, united social consciousness.
Once inside her encouraging, hypnotic sonic realm, Baiardi thoughtfully sings, “You never fit in/Stood out from the crowd/You waited you turn/Took courage to speak out loud/But now’s your time/You have to see/Your worth.”
“If someone feels alone or thinks it’s a really tough period of time … know there are others out there who see them and want to champion them. We’re all in this mess together while riding the waves. Water and waves are a theme in the song, and I’m trying to incorporate more sounds with nature and more sounds that evoke a feeling of tranquility,” Baiardi said.
Baiardi magically creates a peaceful “Reason” atmosphere with producer Marty Gray and bassist Ryan King of Stormy Chromer. Together, Baiardi and Gray spent two to three months recording the track in the studio for a late summer release.
“The rough melody and rough sketch of the lyrics came over a couple of weeks. The magic really happened when I brought it to Marty, and I was introduced to him through a mutual friend, David Magumba,” Baiardi said.
“We knew each other from the University of Michigan, where we were both students. Our paths didn’t really cross because he was a vocal major and I was a jazz major. We got together to work on this track, and instantaneously there was this sense of creative synergy. I came with the bones and left with a wonderful song, thanks to Marty.”
Baiardi also translates “Reason” into a gray-tinged lyric video filled with placid, flowing waters. While watching the video, viewers float above and reflect on their personal challenges as snippers of white light permeate the screen.
“The grayness of it conveys the uncertainty of the murky waters that we’re in right now. My social media manager Melissa (Zhuang) played a huge role in helping me craft that, and she’s very adept with Adobe,” said Baiardi, who’s also working on a new video for “How Do You Want Your Love.”
“I was like, ‘Hey, we just need water and some gray, so run with it.’ I think lyric videos are powerful so that someone can contemplate as they’re watching the visual element.”
Lucas Powell deeply digs into buried experiences and emotions of the past.
The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist delicately exhumes old selves and uncovers entombed painful memories on his cerebral, haunting debut album, Michigan, which dropped in August.
“One of my favorite songwriters as a kid was Jon Foreman because I grew up religious and liked Switchfoot. He once said songwriting is like archaeology for him. He just digs inside and finds something. I saw that in an interview a couple of years ago and realized that’s my songwriting process,” Powell said.
“If I can’t write something, then I know that it’s because I need to meditate and get it out of me. Michigan is very embodying of a young, coming-of-age kid trying to get it all out. I could just see me trying to find the right words to say, and I love it for that reason.”
On Michigan, Powell slowly unearths fragile thoughts about spirituality, growth, self-worth and loss throughout his 12-track personal excavation. Filled with vivid religious imagery and layers of swelling cinematic soundscapes, the album thoughtfully chronicles his cathartic journey toward inner enlightenment and existential freedom.
“I’m exploring those themes to use that language as my own narrative. Artists use Christianity or religion as a way to talk about themselves or question it. It’s a mix of sometimes I’m addressing it, and sometimes I’m just using the language that I have,” Powell said.