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”

A Tale of 2 Albums – Kathy Wieland, John Rinn Host Joint Release Show Saturday at Trinity House Theatre

Kathy Wieland will celebrate the release of her album, “Momma Liked to Fish,” with John Rinn Saturday at Trinity House Theatre. Photo by Judy Insley

Kathy Wieland and John Rinn will share heartwarming melodies of life, love and laughter Saturday night at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre.

The metro Detroit folk singer-songwriters will celebrate the release of their latest poignant albums, “Momma Liked to Fish” and “Sweet Summer Moon,” at the intimate 90-seat venue. Wieland and Rinn will take turns performing songs and supporting one another with instrumentals and harmonies throughout their joint set.

“John and I are both members of Songwriters Anonymous, and our CDs came out about the same time. We also know each other from doing open mics, especially at BaseLine Folklore Society. We have not performed together before so this will be an adventure for both of us,” Wieland said.

For Wieland, Saturday night’s on-stage adventure also will include singer-songwriters Sara Melton Keller, Beverly Meyer, Robin Monterosso and Linden Thoburn as special guests on backup harmonies throughout her set.

Together, they’ll combine their soaring vocals on four of Wieland’s tracks from “Momma Liked to Fish” – “A Little Whiskey,” “Prayer the Devil Answered,” “Makin’ Lemonade” and “A Woman Who’s Aged” before an eager singalong crowd.

“Trinity House Theatre is a place I feel really comfortable, and it’s a great place to be a performer or a listener. I attend the monthly Songwriters Anonymous meetings there and have made so many wonderful friends through this venue,” said Wieland, who’s from Ann Arbor.

Continue reading “A Tale of 2 Albums – Kathy Wieland, John Rinn Host Joint Release Show Saturday at Trinity House Theatre”

Early Check-in – Judy Banker Creates Welcoming Stay on New ‘Buffalo Motel’ Album, Hosts Release Show Thursday at The Ark

Judy Banker, center, will celebrate the release of her latest album, “Buffalo Motel,” at The Ark Thursday. Photo by Robin Scully

With “Buffalo Motel,” Judy Banker creates a welcoming extended stay throughout album’s dozen heartfelt, transformative tracks.

The Americana singer-songwriter shares an expansive, layered and atmospheric sound that transcends her traditional acoustic country and folk roots. Driving drum and bass tracks, hook-driven instrumental intros and breaks, and innovative arrangements push Banker toward a countrified indie rock territory that lies somewhere between Ann Arbor, Mich., and Kalispell, Mont.

Out Thursday, “Buffalo Motel” allows Banker to flex her raw, gritty songwriting muscle and weather a series of intense emotions through different relationships and life events. She poetically chronicles love’s rise and decline at several points in time throughout her third album’s intimate tales.

“There’s something about this being the beginning of a new year and new decade that adds a sense of importance to it all. This album turned out bigger and better than I could have imagined. I think it feels that way for the members of the project – the band and David Roof and Ben Sayler as producers and creative directors,” said Banker, who took creative inspiration from Beck, The National and Sharon Van Etten while recording her latest album.

“We didn’t know where all of our experimentation in the pre-production sessions was going to take the music. There were so many moving parts and different ways we approached recording each of the songs. ”

Banker collaborated with a roster of talented Michigan musicians on “Buffalo Motel” to make it bigger than the sum of its parts. Tony Pace (electric guitar, dobro), John Sperendi (electric and upright bass), Brian Williams (drums), Alan Pagliere (pedal steel) and Roof (multi-instrumentalist, Rooftop Recording engineer) added new elements to realize the potential of each song. They spent most of last year steeped in fireplace bourbon sessions while creating “Buffalo Motel’s” exquisite, multi-genre tracks.

“I hope that the sound of the album, this collection of songs and how they are presented, excites people and engages them. The playing on it blows me away – this band is over-the-top talented,” Banker said. “They pushed themselves and tried new approaches on this album to bring out the heart of each song. I hope people can feel that, and it moves them.”

Continue reading “Early Check-in – Judy Banker Creates Welcoming Stay on New ‘Buffalo Motel’ Album, Hosts Release Show Thursday at The Ark”

Solo Ride – Bobby Pennock to Open for Jeff Scott Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater

Bobby Pennock will open the first show of the LIVE! 2020 winter concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater.

For Bobby Pennock, a new decade will bring more chances to perform live as a solo artist.

The Detroit folk rock singer-songwriter typically performs with the quartet Taller Than They Appear or as a duo with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Luti Erbeznik.

This month, Pennock will make a rare live solo appearance opening for Jeff Scott as part of the Farmington Civic Theater’s “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. His Jan. 17 opening set will include acoustic-filled gems from his collaborative and solo projects, including The Pennock/Stephens Project and Taller Than They Appear.

“I know there’s already going to be songs from each of those in the set,” Pennock said. “I’m also doing a new song that’s one of the latest ones Mike Stephens and I wrote called ‘Circling Back to You.’”

Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).

The Pennock/Stephens Project

The Pennock/Stephens Project album artwork

In 2018, Pennock released a striking folk rock album called “The Pennock/Stephens Project” with the late singer-songwriter Mike Stephens, who passed away from cancer in October. The duo met years earlier through Myspace when Stephens hosted a podcast called the Open Mike Café and eventually developed a strong friendship.

Throughout the years, Pennock and Stephens wrote an extensive catalog of folk rock songs and decided to release their self-titled debut album as a duo. At the time, Stephens had relocated to Colorado to live near his daughter as he battled long-term health issues, but later returned to Michigan.

“He was diagnosed with cancer, and our good friend who lives in Nashville, M.J. Bishop, set up a GoFundMe, and then I wanted to do something else,” said Pennock, who also performed with guitarist Terry Birkett as part of the project.

“Mike and I had continued to write songs together, and I got the idea of recording an album and the proceeds of which would go to him for his medical costs. That’s how that album came together, and my friend John Finan said he’d record it for free.”

Continue reading “Solo Ride – Bobby Pennock to Open for Jeff Scott Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater”

Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday

The Judy Banker Band and Mike Gentry will close out the fall series of Friday Night Live Nov. 8 in Farmington.

Farmington Civic Theater’s musical guests will receive an early check-in at the “Buffalo Motel” Friday.

Upon arrival, they’ll hear the refreshing and comforting indie country rock sounds of the Judy Banker Band with special guest Mike Gentry.

The Ann Arbor quintet of Judy Banker (vocals, guitar), David Roof (drums), Tony Pace (guitar), John Sperendi (bass) and Alan Pagliere (pedal steel guitar) will headline “Friday Night Live” at the historic theater and preview new material from Banker’s forthcoming “Buffalo Motel” album.

“It’s our last band show before the end of the year, so we want to introduce people to the new album,” said Banker, who will release “Buffalo Motel” in January. “We’ll also be playing some cuts from other albums, and Tony and John are going to take the lead on a song. Playing in a band with five of us can be really intimate, and we just have this creative energy all around us.”

Banker will share that creative energy with the Farmington Civic Theater audience and include flavors of Americana, roots, country and rock music throughout the band’s eclectic set. For “Buffalo Motel,” Banker has evolved into a country rock sound with heavier electric guitars and driving drum beats compared to her acoustic-oriented predecessors, “Devils Never Cry” (2016) and “Without You” (2014).

“The sound we’ve created for ‘Buffalo Motel’ is more layered and complex, and it’s a bigger sound with a higher volume that has more percussion and is bass-driven,” said Banker, who teamed up with son Ben Sayler to produce the album. “It’s nice to play the new album in segments, and a theater feels perfect for that.”

Banker is putting the finishing touches on “Buffalo Motel” with Roof, who will master the album at his Rooftop Recording studio in Grand Blanc. Along with Roof Sayler and her band, Banker has created a strong sonic signature for each track on “Buffalo Motel” and taken creative inspiration from established indie rock acts like Beck and The National.

“You have the same instruments and the same band playing on the songs, but each song has such a clear identity – more confidence, more integration,” she said. “I like my old songs and albums, but there’s a more confident and sophisticated approach with this one.”

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‘Traveling Lady’ – Ann Arbor’s Judy Banker Honors Folk Music Hero Rosalie Sorrels in Idaho This Weekend

Ann Arbor’s Judy Banker will celebrate the musical legacy of folk icon Rosalie Sorrels in Idaho this weekend.

Judy Banker is ready to embark on a folk music pilgrimage of sorts.

The Ann Arbor Americana singer-songwriter will travel nearly 2,000 miles to perform at the Rosalie Sorrels First Annual Music Festival near Boise, Idaho this weekend.

As part of the inaugural festival’s lineup featuring Sista Sarah & Pocket of Bones and nearly a dozen other artists, Banker will celebrate the musical legacy of Sorrels at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park in Meridian, Idaho.

A beloved folk singer-songwriter who passed away in 2017, Sorrels has inspired Banker and a growing generation of folk, country and roots artists with her iconic music, storytelling and social activism. During her nearly half-century career, Sorrels recorded more than 20 albums, including the 2005 Grammy-nominated “My Last Go ‘Round.”

“I saw a post that her son Kevin had put on Facebook about how they were going to have a festival, and he was thinking of having it around his mother’s birthday, which was June 24,” Banker said. “She’s one of my heroes, so I thought, ‘How could it hurt? I’ll message him the link to my music, and I said if you’re opening it up for people to play, I’d love to play.’ At midnight or one in the morning that night, I got a ding on my phone, and he said, ‘Yes.’”

Flabbergasted, Banker immediately joined the lineup to support Kevin Sorrels and his family in honoring his mother’s memory and music. During the festival, Banker will perform a Saturday night closing set and cover several Rosalie Sorrels favorites, including “Baby Rocking Medley,” “If I Could Be the Rain” and “Traveling Lady.”

“I feel just this debt of gratitude and closing the show that night will be a real tribute to her. It just feels like I’m going to Mecca,” said Banker, who originally met Sorrels after one of her performances at The Ark more than 30 years ago. “I also would really love for Kevin to play guitar on one of her songs during my set.”

Continue reading “‘Traveling Lady’ – Ann Arbor’s Judy Banker Honors Folk Music Hero Rosalie Sorrels in Idaho This Weekend”