With November’s upcoming arrival, some soulful sonic nourishment is needed to weather and withstand the remainder of 2020.
Fortifying morsels of lo-fi folk, shiny indie pop, fiery classic rock, breezy dance, garage-filled indie rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads and groovy, emotive hip-hop strengthen the mind and spirit for the unknown road ahead.
For Steve Taylor, creative inspiration inadvertently starts with a full hard drive.
The Lake Orion Americana roots singer-songwriter surprisingly ran out of storage space on his digital audio workstation while polishing tracks this summer for his latest solo album, Beside Myself.
“I’ve had this thing for 10-15 years, and I got an error message that said, ‘Hey, You’re running out of space, and you’ve now exceeded the limit of this hard drive.’ I said, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to start deleting songs off here,’ and I put out a solo album in 2005 that I recorded in a similar fashion called And So On, and I thought, ‘I can delete tracks that have already been mastered and released,’” Taylor said.
“But I had all these other tracks on there, like ‘Do You Remember’ and some of the other ones that wound up on Beside Myself. I was like, ‘Well, I guess I should just finish these off, or I should just add something to these.’ We weren’t able to do anything; I wasn’t playing any shows. We weren’t getting together as a band, and every gig was cancelled. I felt like I needed that outlet just to kind of stay creative.”
As a quarantine-fueled creative project, Beside Myself features 10 poignant, acoustic tracks and B-sides focused on long-term love, delayed goals, deer-car crashes, childhood memories, peaceful lullabies and other classic life experiences. In a sense, it’s a closely cherished sonic scrapbook of Taylor’s musical evolution as an influential singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontman of The Steve Taylor Three.
“These songs were forgotten; they were songs that I had written for my wife or my neighbors. ‘Sleep & Dream’ was a lullaby I had written for my kids when they were little, and I used to sing it to them before they went to bed. And none of them had I ever intended to release. Some of them just started as demos so I could give them to people, and we could learn to play them live,” said Taylor, who recorded the project in a home studio located under his basement stairs.
“Some of them were already done, like ‘Do You Remember.’ I had recorded that and given it to my wife for our anniversary, but I hadn’t done anything else with it. I started looking to see how many of these were actually done and how many needed more instrumentation. I started counting them up and found there was a group of 10 that I could use.”
While the world turns to chaos outside, it’s time to search for solace inside.
Throw work, school and virtual commitments aside for some long overdue relaxation. With headphones in hand, adjust the volume and press play to start a new musical journey into uncharted local and regional waters.
The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist serves as a refreshing sonic escape from politics, pandemics and people. Visit country-filled skies, fuzzy lo-fi jams, jazzy hip-hop points, psych rock bangers, vibrant piano pop anthems and other new terrain.
Strong flavors of folk, country and rock will fill the autumn air at Lake Orion’s Canterbury Village this weekend.
Those aromatic sounds will come from a talented roster of metro Detroit singer-songwriters performing intimate outdoor acoustic sets at Open Air Markets Saturday and Sunday.
This weekend’s lineup will feature James Wailin, Sean Blackman, Al Carmichael, Tom Butwin, Johnny Rhodes and Jon Rice, said Mark Reitenga, a Royal Oak folk rock singer-songwriter who curates live music for Open Air Markets.
“This is a pure energy boost because many of the musicians have been laying low since March and many of the patrons as well. It’s like two happy colliding forces,” he said.
“The music is the tonal center of the market in that the musicians keep the spirit happy as market goers walk around the vast campus looking for goodies, donuts, cider, clothing and specialty items. The musicians play in the outside dining area to folks on picnic benches and also walking by.”
Outdoor market and live music aficionados can expect masked, socially-distanced crowds at Canterbury Village through Oct. 4. The markets also will showcase the work of local artists, crafters, cooks and jewelers and spotlight a different theme for vendors spaced throughout the village.
“They have been fantastic for the pretty strong socially-distanced crowds and also for the safe-distance and mask-wearing aspect. The musical acts have been superb – with many selling their original CDs and making great tip money from the family-oriented crowd accompanied by dogs,” Reitenga said.
As a bona fide cowboy, Bob Marshall eloquently rides into the Midwestern summer sunset.
The Ortonville, Mich., country singer-songwriter and horse trainer celebrates nostalgic, poetic tales of youth, family, love, life and wisdom on his latest free-range, heartwarming album, That’s the Way It Should Be.
“What I do normally, and I shouldn’t do this, is I sort of prejudge my own music. I do things like, ‘Oh, that’s a good one,’ or ‘I’m not sure what that one’s gonna do,’ so I play the ones that I think are going to work, and then I’ll see what the reaction is from the audience as soon as I do a solo,” Marshall said.
“Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m wrong. Like I said, ‘She Loves to Dance,’ we’ve gotten a great response on that one from people, and then you have a Texas DJ who’s like, ‘I’m not sure about that one,’ but you’re never going to make everybody happy.”
Coincidentally, Marshall brings a hearty, hats-off welcome to country music compadres with a penchant for Western-rooted sensibilities on That’s the Way It Should Be. For his fourth album, twangy acoustic strums, gleaming pedal steel and electric guitars, folky fiddles, driving bass and steady drums wrap listeners in a cozy Marshall sonic blanket of 12 timeless, down-home tracks.
Horses and Dances
Marshall’s thoughtful, countrified trek begins with a poignant tribute to carefree youth, cherished family traditions and adored equine on “The Old Horse Barn.” Old-time fiddle, shimmering pedal steel, delicate acoustic strums and attentive bass transport Marshall to idyllic Colorado “walls of knotted wood.”
He longingly recalls, “Playing on that old thick rope/Swinging wall to wall/Long hours in the hayloft/Or hiding in the stalls/That old horse barn held magic beneath its leaky roof/Those things that taught and grounded us were cowboy boots and hoofs.”
“On ‘The Old Horse Barn,’ I was listening to the lyrics, and the music was great. I mean, the studio guys did an awesome job on the music, but I said, ‘Nah, the lyrics, they’re not up to the standard of the music,’ so Merel Bregante, the producer, said, ‘Well, you’re a songwriter, aren’t ya?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Write new lyrics,’ so I spent a day and a half working on the lyrics,” Marshall said.
The Nashville pop singer-songwriter sprinkles hopeful words of wisdom and growth after recovering from heartbreak on her latest poignant, three-track EP, The Tracking Room Sessions, which dropped May 1 via all streaming platforms.
“I think at that time in my life I was going through a lot of that in different areas. A lot of times for me, breakup songs are so much more than that. I think there’s a lot of loss in different areas of my life, and that was just the best way that I could articulate it,” Pederson said.
Pederson beautifully articulates her personal reflections about love and loss throughout her fourth piano-centric release recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville. Soulful, emotive vocals and hypnotic, uplifting piano chords immerse listeners in spirit-healing waters after experiencing the unexpected sting of rejection.
That first drop of relief arrives in “Quiet Waters,” which blends deep, sparse piano, delicate bass and sweeping drum brushes with Pederson’s melancholy, velvety vocals as she laments, “Take me back to that night/Manhattan and a glass of wine/When my hope was alive, you had that fire in your eyes/Ritter on the radio, singing I’m coming home/And the stars in the sky were aligned/All the things we didn’t know such a short time ago/All my days I thought you’d be mine.”
While initially ruminating in “Quiet Waters,” Pederson confidently embarks on a therapeutic journey throughout “Recover.” The self-assured track weaves soulful hums, rhythmic finger snaps, lingering piano, delicate synths and light bass as she emphatically declares, “I’m moving to Alaska/Lord knows I am never coming back,” and “There is no amount of red or white to calm this anxious mind.”
“‘Quiet Waters’ and ‘Recover’ were songs that I had written in June or July of last year, and I had written quite a few in that time period. Those two were the ones that stuck out to me the most,” said Pederson, who’s originally from Ann Arbor.
Perhaps Pederson’s most striking track includes a new soaring acoustic version of “The Landing” as vibrant, thoughtful piano entwines with sorrowful, optimistic vocals. Throughout her turbulent flight, Pederson tries to “soften the landing” as she sings, “Oh the road has been long and lonely/And one of my darkest nights/I swear you saved me/I was high as hope could’ve ever let me fly/And we were alone, you and I.”
The Detroit alt country duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric guitar, harmony vocals) encounter western frontiers, far-away galaxies, budget motels, fiery gun-slinging duels, deserted highways and nightmarish monsters while getting Lost on the Range.
Their refreshing 10-track cinematic road trip serves as the ideal soundtrack for a vintage-like spaghetti western directed and musically curated by David Lynch. During Range, The Whiskey Charmers embark on several introspective journeys while tumbleweeds blow past, wildfires burn and classic country guitar tones reverberate in the distance.
“We didn’t have a plan originally of what songs were going to be on there, but we picked the ones we liked the best. We thought a lot about the order once we had all the songs, and we feel like it has a beginning and an ending the way we had it structured,” Shepard said. “The girl (Akriirose) who did the album art noticed all the words she kept hearing, and she kept getting this explorer vibe.”
Daversa quickly added, “Like Lewis and Clark.”
Getting ‘Lost on the Range’
For their third country expedition via Sweet Apple Pie Records, The Whiskey Charmers enlisted Brian Ferriby (drums), Johnny “Wolf” Abel (bass), Dan “Ozzie” Andrews (bass) and Rooftop Recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist David Roof to join the “wild west” entourage.
Together, they seamlessly blend scorching retro Americana, folk and rockabilly into timeless tales of love, revenge and self-discovery amidst vast, barren fields rolling in the mind’s eye. Their Range adventure begins amidst blazing struggles and deep space odysseys.
One of Range’s most striking tales includes “Galaxy,” a hypnotic, interstellar ode to solitary confinement in an expansive universal frontier. Intertwining melodic acoustic and electric guitar strums, vibrant glockenspiel, echoing chimes, delicate bass and light drums drift to and fro as Shepard and Daversa sing, “Well I’m lost at sea, lost in the galaxy/There’s no one else tonight, no one else but me/Still I float along, most of my hope is gone/Gotta find a rocky spot, that I can land upon.”
With carefree lyrics, driving instrumentation and cruising melodies, Big Time Grain Company provides the ultimate cross-country joy ride.
The Kansas City country-rock quintet zooms along life’s two-lane highway with a caravan of uplifting Americana singles and EPs that travel far and wide. Behind the wheel are Big Time Grain Company frontmen and brothers Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin who accelerate on their latest free-spirited single, “I’ll Take You with Me.”
This three-minute country adventure revs with traveling drums, resonant electric guitar and bouncy banjo as Bret Bourquin euphorically sings, “We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van/Don’t need a suitcase, don’t need a backup plan/Oh won’t need my MapQuest to straighten out these wheels/You can pick the direction/We’ll put this town on our heels.”
“We’ve got a lot of songs that fit that same category that are in the hopper that have not been released yet. The subplot to that is opposites attract to make a relationship exciting. The line in there, ‘We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van,’ my wife wanted a Volkswagen van for years,” said Chad Bourquin, Big Time Grain Company’s guitarist and co-lead vocalist.
“She doesn’t have one yet, but they’re coming out with a new one. We’re thinking they should adopt this song for their commercial and provide us all Volkswagen vans. It’s those differences that really make a relationship work, and in spite of those differences, I’m going to take you with me wherever I go.”
After embarking on a fun road trip, Big Time Grain Company briefly returns home for a family visit on “Sunday Morning,” which blends uplifting electric guitar, steady drums, jamming bass and vibrant acoustic guitar into this weekend domestic track.
Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin eloquently reflect on the joys and comforts of coming home, “40 days I’m on the road and playing songs/Making friends that’s cool/I wouldn’t trade it for a day gig/I wouldn’t turn back if I thought I could/But your picture crosses my mind a time or two/This beer I’m drinking don’t erase the truth/That the only place my heart rests is right here with you.”
“We’ve been really fortunate to have designed this to be the way we want it to be. In other words, we’re not gone for long bouts of time because we’re completely independent. We go out for a few days and then we come home because we like being home,” said Chad Bourquin, who has three children.
“We like being with our families, but we also love playing and love traveling. It’s a big shift every time you crawl off that bus and get back home, especially with Bret because his kids are so young now. It’s an even bigger shift for him.”
As an explorer, Linden Thoburn searches every corner of her soul to find life’s true meaning.
The Brighton country-folk singer-songwriter deeply mines the head and the heart through a majestic journey of self-discovery on her latest album, Scarecrow, out Friday. Thoburn’s Americana odyssey weaves through sunbaked rows, bitter winds, mountain tops, shadow-hearted plains and the Goodnight-Loving Trail alongside 10 heartfelt tracks of courage, growth and gratitude.
“It’s an album about personal journeys – reflective and physical. For me, all the album’s songs came from deep internal explorations, and they represent the struggles to find meaning and to resolve my confusion and find ground in the rapidly-changing U.S.,” she said. “I hope to move people to feel or think. I would love it if people saw their own questions reflected in mine. The music I love the most makes me feel mirrored and less alone in the world.”
Each Scarecrowtrack encapsulates a struggle, a passage, an emotional hurdle, a dilemma and a celebration as birds, scarecrows, coyotes and heroes seek new beginnings. The breathtaking opener, “Carolina Wren,” creates a timeless country sound while embarking on a life-changing path.
Bright acoustic and slide guitars fuse with hypnotic piano to accompany Thoburn as she beautifully sings, “I hope you find you and your voice, your song again/Maybe find a friend/And when you arrive in a place where you belong/I hope you sing out like a Carolina Wren.”
Hearing the Calls of the ‘Carolina Wren’ and the ‘Whippoorwill’
The high-pitched calls of the “Carolina Wren” instantly resonate with the “Scarecrow’s” deep desire to “follow the sun or the Canada geese” on the liberating title track. Wailing slide guitar, deep harmonica and vibrant mandolin echo in the distance as the “Scarecrow” imagines heading east while Thoburn shares her planned escape, “She’s holding on/One of these days, she’s got the notion/To get outta here, go see the ocean.”
“I am inspired by everything. I love all kinds of music, but I particularly like a compelling and harmonious melody. As for my own process, I always start with melody, and the melody generally brings a feeling to me,” Thoburn said. “I allow the melody and the feeling to begin expressing. Sometimes it’s super quick and easy, and then other times it comes out like a slow and painful birth.”