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

Active Voice – Mike Ward Encourages Casting Your Ballot on ‘Troubled Times’ EP

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Mike Ward tackles sociopolitical challenges on “Troubled Ti

Mike Ward knows the nation’s times are a-changin,’ especially with today’s midterm elections.

In response, the Americana singer-songwriter encourages people to raise their voice and chase their freedom on his latest sociopolitical EP, Troubled Times.

“From my standpoint, I’m hoping it will help people look in the mirror and ask themselves some of these questions in terms of raising your own voice and paying attention to what’s truth and what’s not truth,” said Ward, who’s based in Detroit. “That’s basically the theme of ‘Wishing Well,’ and it’s the subtle theme of ‘WWTFS.’”

The contemplative opener, “Wishing Well,” advocates protecting individual rights and free speech alongside determined acoustic guitar and solemn organ.

Ward sings, “Stand alone, stand apart / Take a deep look into your heart / Because these are troubled times / These lives of yours and mine / So seek the proof in the face of the untruth / In the face of all the untruth.”

To learn more about Troubled Times and his upcoming plans, we recently chatted with Ward at Folk Alliance Region Midwest in Lisle, Illinois.

Continue reading Active Voice – Mike Ward Encourages Casting Your Ballot on ‘Troubled Times’ EP

Evolutionary Perspective – Mike Ward Examines Passage of Time on ‘Particles to Pearls’ Album

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Mike Ward highlights the fleeting passage of time on “Particles to Pearls.” Photo – Danny Ward

For Mike Ward, a new album chronicles a thoughtful evolution of sound.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter carefully transforms a dozen acoustic tracks into an earnest collection of expansive tales on Particles to Pearls.

“I think the first track we added any instruments to was ‘All We Have Are Words.’ David Roof played the electric guitar on it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what this can sound like.’ I’d been playing that by myself for two years,” said Ward about his third Psychosongs album.

“Because it’s been two years since I wrote most of those songs, and that’s right about now, every day on Facebook there’s a memory of the song, and I get to hear how I first wrote it.”

During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Ward penned 31 new tracks as part of a 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk-rock singer-songwriter Paul Winfield. The poignant tracks opened his creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches.

“They’re all moments in time. The album has a number of those songs,” Ward said. “I’m pretty happy with the end results. David Roof plays bass on everything, but he also plays a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar on ‘Back Again.’ We wanted a Byrds/Roger McGuinn-style sound on it.”

Continue reading “Evolutionary Perspective – Mike Ward Examines Passage of Time on ‘Particles to Pearls’ Album”

Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album

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Bobby Pennock demonstrates his musical prowess on “The Vestiges of Art.” Photo – Kent Koller

Bobby Pennock strategically revisits past songs for future reflection.

The Detroit folk-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist shares insightful vignettes from an enduring canon of tales on his new power-pop-fueled album, The Vestiges of Art.

“Interestingly, most of the songs on this album are older songs that I’ve performed live over the years, but never recorded. Although a couple are older and have never been performed,” Pennock said.

“When I started selecting songs for the album, rather than thinking about a theme, I thought about which songs I had that are up-tempo and kind of pop-rock. I thought the phrase, ‘The Vestiges of Art,’ is what an album is, so the idea to name the album came pretty quickly and easily.”

Pennock proudly reveals 10 “vestiges” (and one new track, ‘Perhaps We Were’) bursting with melodic instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics and timeless pop-rock sensibilities.

Whether addressing internal struggles or changing relationships, each track places a vivid storyline inside listeners’ heads and delights their ears with infectious soundscapes.

“About 99 percent of the time when I sit down to write a song, I have no idea what I’m going to write about,” he said. “I don’t keep a writer’s notebook.”

Continue reading “Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album”

Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP

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Cashmere Washington seeks inspiration from film on his new EP, “Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington didn’t expect a car accident, a degree completion and several rom-com binges to spark a new EP.

Ironically, that chaotic period provided the Ypsilanti indie rocker with an unexpected setting for writing their new “love letter-style” EP, Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them, out today.

“I got rear-ended by a tow truck right after The Shape of Things to Come came out, and it really destroyed my confidence for a bit … like I didn’t want to be online or even want to leave my house,” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who’s now an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) alum.

“But I had this screenwriting course at EMU in which we analyzed movies from a screenwriting perspective, and I watched so many more of them because of last semester. I blazed through so many Rachel McAdams or Meg Ryan movies and also got really interested in a few K-dramas. I watched a lot of them while I played guitar at night and most of the new EP was written this way.”

While watching rom-coms and K-dramas, Washington also sought inspiration from another unlikely source, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s 2007 Academy Award-winning film, No Country for Old Men.

“I pictured the whole EP as an indie romantic-comedy soundtrack. Because the songs on the EP lean into a variety of emotions, I see ‘Life Is’ as a good example of both. It straddles the line between a cataclysmic sadness and an unwavering optimism to me,” they said.

“It’s funny because No Country for Old Men is such a dark film. I love how it sits within many genres and influences, yet is its own thing. The EP … pushed me to write songs that have multiple sides and angles. The songs have these dark and cinematic edges to them, but I hope they also feel kind of cheeky and cute.”

Continue reading “Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP”

City Love Letter – Cashmere Washington Reveres Ypsilanti and Local Connections on ‘Life Is’

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Cashmere Washington pays homage to Ypsilanti and its people and places on “Life Is.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington openly shares a love letter to their current city.

The indie rocker expresses deep appreciation for Ypsilanti and the memorable friendships and experiences that accompany it on their introspective new single, “Life Is.”

“Ypsilanti is the first place I ever said, ‘I want to live here,’” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who hails from Midland and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. “It’s the hometown I got to pick.”

Throughout “Life Is,” tender piano, fuzzy electric guitar, strolling bass, steady drums and glistening cymbals instantly evoke sentimental images of people and places along Michigan Avenue and nearby neighborhoods.

Washington sings, “Watched the best minds of my generation/Stumbling back home, coming down the avenue/Yeah, they don’t even stop at the venue.”

“It’s based on this memory that I have of my friend walking home in front of a venue on Michigan Avenue on their way from work, and this really wonderful conversation I had with another friend about how our favorite songs have the ability to let us focus on a beautiful sunrise when we know something awful is looming just beyond the frame,” they said. “The original goal was to mash those two scenes into a song (with a few artistic liberties taken).”

With that vivid imagery in mind, Washington closes “Life Is” with a thought-provoking verse that prompts listeners to take chances and pursue their goals. In a sense, the city of Ypsilanti provides the ideal backdrop for Washington to fully realize their true sense of self.

Washington reflects, “Cuz I know I’m not scared to die/I know that I’m petrified/To try and fail.”

“The line alludes to my own history with depression. Personally, the worst days have never been the tough day; it’s usually the day after,” they said.

“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but who knows, maybe tomorrow I’ll get a raise; or a week from now I’ll bump into someone funny in line for coffee; or someone will send a really nice, thoughtful email about a beat-tape I put online five years ago. You just never know what can happen.”

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Beyond the Studio – South Main Street Marketing Promotes Artists, Albums

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A new music marketing firm is amplifying artist voices beyond the recording studio.

Known as South Main Street Marketing, the firm advises, supports and promotes musicians in their marketing efforts. Launched earlier this year by David Roof and Stephanie Reed, it’s already achieved a growing roster of multi-genre artists, including Linden Thoburn, Jeff Adams, Mary Beth Howell and Dirk Kroll among others.

“Every record that I’ve made has ended with the same conversation – ‘Hey, I’ve got a record, but what do I do now?’ I’ve been producing about 12 to 15 albums a year for more than a decade, and in total, I’ve probably been part of over 200,” said Roof, who also owns and operates Rooftop Recording.

“I know the time-intensive efforts that go into what musicians have to do to promote a record. There aren’t many formal resources for musicians to consult to answer that question. I sensed there was a void in filling that need for musicians.”

Roof shared that thought with his business and creative network and quickly connected with Reed through Chris McCall, an Ann Arbor singer-songwriter, voice coach and meditation counselor.

“I had been working with Chris on her marketing, website and social media and learned through her that Dave was looking for someone who did this kind of marketing,” said Reed, an experienced marketing, creative and business development executive/consultant.

Within a few weeks, Reed and Roof assembled a business plan and company framework to launch South Main Street Marketing, which is named after Ann Arbor’s famed downtown thoroughfare and honors both Reed and Roof growing up in Michigan.

For their new venture, the duo developed a suite of marketing and creative services which range from digital experience design and digital media to social media management and marketing consulting.

Each new artist relationship begins with a discovery session to identify goals, expectations and next steps. An artist can choose from à la carte or bundled services depending on their needs and budget.

“I use the same philosophy I’ve used with all my clients through the decades. Our goal is to discover who a client is and where they’re coming from as well as their goals and voice. We give them the plan, tools and encouragement needed to have their voices heard,” Reed said.

“South Main Street Marketing’s operating premise is to listen to people, provide the resources they need, and educate and set them free. We want artists to not feel tethered. We’re all about supporting an artist’s individual needs and goals.”

Additionally, the firm’s focus allows artists to spend valuable time honing their musical craft instead of getting absorbed in ancillary activities. At South Main Street Marketing, Reed and Roof want musicians to take back their opportunity costs.

“All the time that musicians spend marketing themselves is not time they’re practicing their instrument, writing a new song or experiencing the world. If we can help take that burden off of people, then we’re helping create more art by freeing up artists’ time,” Roof said.

Looking ahead, South Main Street Marketing will continue meeting their goal of quietly remaining behind the scenes to ensure artists stay front and center. As part of a collaborative approach, they’re creating clear plans to elevate artists and support their uniqueness while helping grow the music community.

The Darkness and The Light – Mike Ward Balances Past, Future on Contemplative New Album

Mike Ward uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on “The Darkness and The Light.” Photo – Mark Stevens of Blue H2O

Mike Ward eloquently strikes a balance between the past and the future.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter thoughtfully uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on his reflective third album, The Darkness and The Light.

“I think it has a lot to do with my age; I got started in this late. I think it comes from a lot of experience and examination of that. I come from a really big family; we’ve had some losses and struggles over the last 10 years. These songs were all written well before the pandemic, but they tee up the emotions that people have,” Ward said.

“Since my dad passed and my mom died almost 10 years before that, I’ve been on that path of examining life as it is, life as it was and life after I go. I archived about 10,000 slides and photographs from my dad’s collection because he was an amateur photographer, and you can’t do that without diving into the faces, the eyes, the smiles and the tears. All those stories ruminate around, and I think for me as a writer I’ve realized that’s the way things have to happen for me.”

Ward’s initial ruminations unfold into 10 insightful tales about wisdom, gratitude, reality and altruism throughout The Darkness and The Light. As a majestic successor to 2018’s We Wonder, each Darkness and Light track sashays from shadows of struggle to flashes of hope as listeners travel from one experience to the next.

“I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything, and I’m not trying to be Pollyanna. Even when I sing ‘Our Turn to Shine,’ it’s done in a way that suggests taking it upon yourself. When one of us shines, we can all shine, and bringing a little light to the world is a good thing even as messed up as it is. That’s what I hope people will get from it. I’ve been told by a number of people who’ve listened to it that it’s calming and gives them a sense of relaxation,” Ward said.

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Leader of the Pack – Michael Snyder-Barker Celebrates Local Lineup on ‘Bark & the Pack’ Live Album

Michael Snyder-Barker, center, poses with his bandmates at Adrian’s Cotton Brewing Company.

Michael Snyder-Barker leads the ultimate live music pack.

The Tecumseh singer-songwriter and drummer joins forces with an all-star local lineup – John Lowe (guitar, vocals), Mike Hintz (bass, vocals), Chris Broski (guitar, vocals), Michael Rozich (guitar, bass, vocals) and David Roof (guitar, keys, vocals) – for a bluesy, rock-infused live album, Bark & the Pack, now available on all streaming platforms.

Recorded live at Adrian’s Cotton Brewing Company in January, Bark & the Pack features 12 timeless classic rock, jam-fueled tracks spanning nearly three decades of Snyder-Barker’s prolific, multi-genre career. He’s assembled a fiery sextet of collaborators from The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, Barker & Broski and other solo projects.

“The lineup was based on my current band, The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, as the core, and David Roof, who played all of the instruments on the studio recordings. Chris Broski and I did a set as the opener in which we performed Barker & Broski’s The Ballad of Billy Bob and Other Generic American Folklore in its entirety. I thought it would be fun to have him play on a majority of the other tracks as well,” Snyder-Barker said.

“‘Godsparrow’ was a song we had written and recorded with the group Soylent Green/Edgar Allen’s Toe in the ‘90s, and I wanted this to be somewhat of a retrospective. I had written and recorded some music with Michael Rozich and wanted to highlight those originals as well.”

Throughout Bark & the Pack, Snyder-Barker spotlights life-changing musical stories about internal growth, personal loss, rowdy adventures, stolen moments, long-lasting friendships, renewal and the fleeting passage of time. For his second live album, Snyder-Barker decided to drop Bark & the Pack after recording a prior CD release party for Bark’s Wagon Tales at Cotton in 2017.

As the live album’s ‘70s hard rock-inspired opening track, “Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy)” features crunchy metal guitars, pounding drums, crashing cymbals and calm bass as Snyder-Barker chronicles a man’s eternal soul-searching journey for self-acceptance.

He reflects, “You see a young boy screamin’/Across the desert plains/Runnin’ for his life/He never found his peace/Jealous men never revealin’/What they hide away/For diamonds and silver.”

“The album has four new tracks with The Mighty Rhythm Bandits – ‘Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy),’ ‘I Lost My Money,’ ‘Bats Riot in the Hen House’ and ‘The Mighty Rhythm Bandit’ – and two other songs written with Michael Rozich, ‘Weak Eyed Willie’ and ‘Soul Sacrifice,” he said.

Continue reading “Leader of the Pack – Michael Snyder-Barker Celebrates Local Lineup on ‘Bark & the Pack’ Live Album”

Songs of Comfort – Mike Ward Releases New Quarantine-Inspired ‘30 Songs in 30 Days’ Project

These days, Mike Ward takes life month by month.

The Detroit Americana folk singer-songwriter marks the passage of time in month-long increments, especially while hunkering down in quarantine.

Last month, Ward tested his creative prowess by writing and recording 31 new acoustic-based tracks at home as part of 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk rock singer-songwriter Paul Weinfield.

“When Paul set out the challenge, he put it in a post and said, ‘OK, who’s up for this? You have to write at least a verse and a chorus, and you have to record it and post it.’ At the time, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m up for that.’ The very first one was the most daunting, and it was like, ‘Well, where do I start?’” said Ward, who released his last album, We Wonder, in 2018.

“I keep a lot of notes on my phone that I use to record audio notes and melodies, and I also keep a lot of typed notes of starts of songs. I’ve kept them compiled for years, and this gave me a reason to go back to a lot of those notes. I also began exploring feelings of what’s happening, and the very first thing that was recorded was ‘The New Normal.’”

For Ward, “The New Normal” serves as a prevailing folk anthem for staying optimistic during increasing times of uncertainty and unpredictability. The 4.5-minute poignant track features thoughtful, churning acoustic strums as Ward reflectively sings, “Got my love, got my faith/Only hope it’s enough to get us through these days/No human contract, touch of a hand/Six feet of distance across the land/Open skies and open hearts/As we close our doors, do our part.”

The New Normal” also opened Ward’s creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches. A refreshing series of lyrics, melodies and chords flowed from Ward each day.

“The one thing I was cognizant of, but I didn’t go back day to day and say, ‘Oh, did I use those chords in that song? Does this song sound too much like this one?’” said Ward, who submitted an acoustic video of “The New Normal” for this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest.

“I honestly didn’t do that much because I felt like otherwise I wouldn’t finish, and if there was something I liked about one particular song, I could always go back and rework it if I needed to. At the same time, I tried to do some different things from a playing standpoint.”

Continue reading “Songs of Comfort – Mike Ward Releases New Quarantine-Inspired ‘30 Songs in 30 Days’ Project”