Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album

Whole Cloth album art
Bill Edwards’ “Whole Cloth” serves as a poignant, reflective novel of Americana songs.

For Bill Edwards, the basement provides the ideal music lab and creation space.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist retreated to his subterranean studio during the pandemic and experimented with his recording gear.

“When we went into lockdown and realized we weren’t going to be playing live for several months, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of my recording software. I wanted to get better acquainted with MIDI instruments, or musical instrument digital interfaces,” Edwards said.

“MIDI instruments have come a long way since their invention, and the sampled instruments that are available now are just incredible. It gave me the opportunity to do things like drums, bass and pedal steel, and a whole world opened up.”

Eighteen months later, Edwards’ MIDI software explorations have resulted in an ambitious, yet prolific 30-track double album, Whole Cloth, out Friday via Regaltone Records.

“It feels like birthing a very large baby, and I’m really proud of it for a lot of reasons. I think the songs are good, and the fact that I was able to do it all by myself feels like a pretty big accomplishment,” said Edwards, who spent 15 months writing and recording his new album.

“Over that period, I probably had 70 songs, and I would finish one and then move on to the next and start building it together. I didn’t plan to do a double CD, but then I had all this stuff, and I thought, ‘Well, why not just put it all out?”

Continue reading “Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album”

Pathfinder – Athens Creek Discovers Strength, Inspiration on ‘The Road Home’

Athens Creek EP cover
Athens Creek’s Taylor Haring and Nate Jones address growth, divorce, nostalgia and sobriety on their debut EP, “The Road Home.”

For Athens Creek, The Road Home represents a poignant, personal mile-marker in a lifelong journey to overcome adversity and find redemption.

The metro Detroit Americana duo of Taylor Haring (vocals) and Nate Jones (vocals, guitar) proudly reflects on that introspective odyssey nearly a year after releasing their debut EP.

“Our original plan was to write a full album, and we wrote down on paper the ideas we had for it. The ideas that were there mostly came from that paper, which captured what we wanted to write over the next year. Unknowingly, we didn’t realize other things were going to come up,” Jones said.

“Right now, we still have a sense of pride about it. We’re glad we got through it and did it, despite the fact that it took a year and half for us to release it. It was worth it.”

Released last August, The Road Home beautifully documents Athens Creek’s original destinations of professional and spiritual growth, yet refreshingly chronicles the unexpected detours of divorce, nostalgia and sobriety across six tracks. It’s a realistic, relatable portrayal of life’s ups and downs zigzagging from one point of uncertainty to the next, especially in a pandemic.

“When everything first started to happen, we didn’t know how long it was going to last. First, it was only going to be a couple of weeks, and now it’s been nearly a year and a half later. We all had our own struggles and learning curves, but it allowed us to create and share in ways that we didn’t before as far as recording and having live meetings with each other,” Haring said.

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Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’

pink moon (1)
Desmond Jones takes a refreshing vintage country detour on “Pink Moon.” Artwork – Daniel Benayun

Desmond Jones elegantly casts twangy lunar magic throughout West Virginia’s sprawling Appalachian Mountains.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) takes a refreshing vintage country detour on their latest jamboree-filled, celestial single, “Pink Moon.”

“The song is actually named after a music festival that used to be held in West Virginia called ‘The Pink Moon Music Festival.’ The festival was named after the lunar phenomenon we call The Pink Moon, which is a unique yearly full moon that occurred last week,” Bota said.

“I guess you could say it’s a love song I wrote to the moon. It’s meant to be sung while I’m hanging out in the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of a small West Virginia mountain town dancing to some wonderful live music under the moon and the stars.”

As a timeless, torchy ode to our favorite pastel-tinged satellite, “Pink Moon” awakens the youthful, nocturnal spirit as swift drums, rich pedal steel, propulsive bass, soulful sax, jubilant mandolin and vigorous violin gallop into a bright summer night.

Bota nostalgically sings, “Once a year, my dear, I’ll spend a night with you/Lookin’ at sunlight through your view/Whistlin’ a tune until the sun’s had enough of you/As you drift into the sky.”

“I wrote the song very late at night five years ago after the second Pink Moon Music Festival that we played and attended. I touched it up over a week or two of playing and singing it solo on my acoustic guitar. We recorded the drums, bass, two guitars and saxophone live at our manager Kevin McKay’s studio in the fall of 2019 three years later,” Bota said.

“The vocals, pedal steel and instrument solos were recorded at everyone’s own homes during the winter of 2020-2021. We have one guest on this track who happens to be one of our favorite Michigan musicians, Don Julin. We had the pleasure to play with Don during two of our sets at the Cowpie Music Festival in 2019, and he agreed to lend his musical talents on this album.”

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Necessary Nourishment – The Stratton Playlist November 2020 Edition Refuels for Road Ahead

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.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist shares a satiating sonic respite before the chaotic journey resumes. Featured sonic companions include Grooblen, Au Gres, Michael Snyder-Barker and The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, The Kodaks with Jemmi Hazeman and Quells, Lily Talmers, Louis Picasso & The Gallery and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

Out of the Vault – Steve Taylor Revives Unreleased Tracks for New ‘Beside Myself’ Album

Steve Taylor celebrates unreleased tracks and B-sides on his new solo album, “Beside Myself.”

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.”

Continue reading “Out of the Vault – Steve Taylor Revives Unreleased Tracks for New ‘Beside Myself’ Album”

Take Solace – The Stratton Playlist September/October 2020 Edition Provides Everyday Escape

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.

Featured artists include Shawn Butzin, Zilched, Speak Mahogany, VVISIONSS, LoraDale, The Soods, The DayNites, Blank Tape Tax, J.E. Sunde, Major Murphy, Speelburg and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

Sounds of Autumn – Local Artists Perform Weekend Sets at Canterbury Village’s Open Air Markets

The Keynote Sisters perform at Canterbury’s Village Open Air Markets. Photo – Mark Reitenga

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.

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A Prelude to Fall – The Stratton Playlist August 2020 Edition Shares Crisp Sounds

The crisp sights, scents and sounds of autumn linger in the late August air. The days are still long, but the nights slowly steal precious sunlight a few minutes at a time.

This month’s edition of The Stratton Playlist captures those final summer moments and simultaneously serves as a welcome, refreshing sonic prelude to fall.

Soulful pop, groovy psych rock, thoughtful piano ballads, fiery dance, reflective post-rock, introspective folk, fresh hip-hop and timeless country soar across 35 hypnotic, multifarious tracks.

Featured artists include Angela Predhomme, Asphalt Flowers, Brian Perrone, Madelyn Grant, Monte Pride, Al’Exist, Tauri, Jakob Leventhal, TREASVRE and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres are welcome.

Open Range – Bob Marshall Shares Lifelong Cowboy Tales on ‘That’s the Way It Should Be’

Bob Marshall celebrates the cowboy life on “That’s the Way It Should Be.”

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.

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Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’

Katie Pederson has recorded three new tracks for her latest EP, “The Tracking Room Sessions.” Photo by Savannah Wilde

Katie Pederson magically creates her own silver linings.

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.”

Continue reading “Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’”