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”

Think Piece – Jeff Karoub Unravels Past, Present Stories on ‘Pieces Break’ Album

Jeff Karoub blends stories from the past and present on his latest album, “Pieces Break.” Photo by Joe Alcodray

For Jeff Karoub, past stories shed light on the present day.

The Dearborn rhythm-and-roots acoustic singer-songwriter believes historical people, places and pieces holistically define and shape society today.

“When I read this quote, it really kind of summed up what this was all about, and it was this Kansas journalist named Roy Wenzl, and he was talking about what he learned from his father. There’s just this great essay about it, but the quote I love is, ‘The ground beneath our feet is filled with the bones and the stories of millions of creatures that came before us,’” Karoub said.

“He talks about how we all go through our lives sleepwalking and missing what’s happening and not thinking about the people who came before or the places that have come and gone. Here, we live in this town where Motown rose and then relocated, but lots of musicians stayed and kept making music, but the world wasn’t necessarily hearing them anymore. I’m grappling with the past, but I also definitely want to be very much living in now and making sure I don’t miss anything.”

Karoub’s viewpoint of past meets present serves as a core theme throughout his latest and fourth Motown-made folk album, “Pieces Break,” which dropped in November.

Piecing Together ‘Pieces Break’

“Pieces Break” album artwork

In a sense, the album references timeless symbols of Midwestern life – tires, bells, barns and cities – and reminds people to reflect on how far they’ve come. Each track beautifully stands alone, yet collectively represents a certain musical point in time.

The album’s heartfelt title track wraps listeners in vibrant acoustic strums and vintage Hammond B3 organ chords while whisking them into a poetic reverie – “Sometimes the pieces break/In such perfect shapes/They’re better left apart/What does the water wash over/And what does it forget/If I was never here and we never talked, would it matter much?”

Continue reading “Think Piece – Jeff Karoub Unravels Past, Present Stories on ‘Pieces Break’ Album”

Sonic Potion – New Drinking Mercury Album Drenches Listeners in Soothing Folky Dream Pop

Drinking Mercury will host an album release show Saturday at The Robin Theatre in Lansing.

It only takes one swig of Drinking Mercury’s new self-titled album to feel warm and dreamy on an overcast November day.

In this case, the Lansing indie rock quartet’s newest album functions as a sonic potion drenching listeners in soothing waves of vibrant folk-influenced dream pop.

“We knew that was the kind of record we wanted to make. Michael Boyes and I had done a lot of acoustic shows together, or rather where he played acoustic and I played electric,” said Tommy McCord, Drinking Mercury’s guitarist and vocalist, about the band’s latest release out today via GTG Records.

“We had focused on embracing that sort of finger style-like folky guitar playing and bringing that in with more textural and psychedelic stuff. From there, it was a matter of filling in the arrangements, but we all knew we wanted to have the vocals be really prominent and arranged on the album.”

Soaring vocal harmonies intertwined with slow, thumping drumbeats, driving basslines and gentle acoustic and electric guitars abound on the band’s striking follow-up to 2011’s alt-folk debut, “Orcades.”

Recording Drinking Mercury, Split Album with The Soods

To create the album’s laid-back feel, McCord invited longtime friends and bandmates Boyes (guitar, vocals), Timmy Rodriguez (bass, keys, vocals) and Kevin Adams (drums) to his family’s 60-year-old rustic cabin in Bitely last July to record new material.

“It’s like the cliché of getting back to nature to write your masterpiece. My grandpa and some other guys built this cabin in the early ‘50s, so I’ve been going there my whole life. I had thought in a daydream it would be cool to record an album up here,” said McCord, who co-formed Drinking Mercury nearly 20 years ago with Adams while growing up in Ionia.

“It’s not like it’s a big acoustically awesome space. It’s just a pretty simple cabin, but it’s in a beautiful area, and the atmosphere is really relaxed, and your cell phone doesn’t work there, and there’s no internet.”

Continue reading “Sonic Potion – New Drinking Mercury Album Drenches Listeners in Soothing Folky Dream Pop”

Running Down a Dream – Nashville’s Jeremy Ivey Makes Blind Pig Debut Saturday

Jeremy Ivey will open for Ian Noe at The Blind Pig tomorrow night. Photo by Cal & Aly

As the everyday person’s troubadour, Jeremy Ivey will share thoughtful tales of the nation’s turbulent political climate mixed with personal diaspora and societal struggles at The Blind Pig tomorrow night.

The Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter will make his live debut at the legendary Ann Arbor rock club and open for Ian Noe, a Beattyville, Ky., singer-songwriter.

“It will be me and a harmonica and a guitar, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been on enough hectic production tours that I’m ready to be by myself for a little bit,” said Ivey, who kicked off his tour Sept. 12 at Nashville’s AMERICANAFEST. “I’ll definitely play some songs from the record, but I’ve already recorded a second record and have the third one already written.”

Interpreting ‘The Dream and the Dreamer’

For his intimate Saturday night set, the prolific Ivey will feature homespun, deeply introspective tracks from his brilliant nine-track debut, “The Dream and the Dreamer,” which dropped earlier this month on Anti-Records.

Recorded in a small Nashville home studio with producer and wife Margo Price, Ivey’s album beautifully weaves elements of classic folk and gently-frayed psychedelia with Southern rock and Americana pop-tinged sensibilities. Price encouraged Ivey to write and record a batch of his own songs during a brief tour break.

“I co-write a lot with her, but I had been writing stuff that I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to sing. It only took me a couple of weeks, maybe a month tops, to write the whole thing,” said Ivey, who initially played with Price in the country-soul group Buffalo Cover as well as Secret Handshake.

“Everyone always says you take your whole life to write your first album, and I’ve been writing since I was 15, so that’s not necessarily true for me. I went in to record, it was supposed be demos, and it turned out pretty good. Anti had heard them, and then it all started to happen. I never really planned for it to be a record.”

Continue reading “Running Down a Dream – Nashville’s Jeremy Ivey Makes Blind Pig Debut Saturday”

Sonic Storytellers – 4 Michigan Artists Host Singer-Songwriter Show Tonight at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe

Four Michigan artists will share the stories, successes and secrets behind their music tonight in the Motor City.

Brian Perrone, Shawn Butzin, Mike Gentry and Mark Jewett will host a “Singer-Songwriter Night” today at Detroit’s historic Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux Road, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For the artists, it’s a rare chance to share their eclectic, timeless music in a live, intimate acoustic setting on the city’s east side. Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter, relishes any opportunity to bring talented local artists together.

“I try to find artists who are somewhat similar, but still different enough for the audience,” said Perrone, who’s organizing tonight’s show.  “I like to set it up where we either all take the stage at the same time and take turns rotating songs, or we each go up, play two songs and do a round like that. That way, it’s not just one act for four or five songs.”

During tonight’s show, each artist will reveal past and present tunes from their musical catalogs and introduce their favorite covers. They also might surprise the audience with a new song.

Continue reading “Sonic Storytellers – 4 Michigan Artists Host Singer-Songwriter Show Tonight at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe”

Three Times A Lady – Angela Predhomme, Kathy Wieland and Judy Banker Host Songwriters in the Round Show Saturday Night at Crazy Wisdom

Angela Predhomme, Kathy Wieland and Judy Banker will perform a “Songwriters in the Round” show Saturday night at Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor.

Three singer-songwriters will share two hours of acoustic tunes, tales and triumphs Saturday night at Ann Arbor’s Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom.

Angela Predhomme, Kathy Wieland and Judy Banker will perform as part of the “Songwriters in the Round” series and take listeners on an intimate musical journey filled with creative lyrics, catchy melodies and compelling stories.

“It’s a really cool venue because it’s a listening room, almost like a mini Ark, where people come and pay attention,” Predhomme said. “It’s very appropriate for us to tell stories about the songs, talk between the songs and really interact with the people.”

As part of the show, each singer-songwriter will perform her own material, provide insights into her music and collaborate with one another. Together, they’ll offer an invigorating blend of Americana, country, folk, soft rock and pop to uplift the musical spirit on a warm winter’s night.

“It’s fun to be able to share the stories behind our songs with people who care about them,” said Predhomme, who performs regularly at Crazy Wisdom. “I’ll be doing a lot of newer songs, and we may do a song together at the end.”

Continue reading “Three Times A Lady – Angela Predhomme, Kathy Wieland and Judy Banker Host Songwriters in the Round Show Saturday Night at Crazy Wisdom”

Circle of Friends – 4 Metro Detroit Artists Host Friday ‘Songwriters Round’ at Farmington Civic Theater

Four metro Detroit singer-songwriters will share their tunes, tales and triumphs Friday night with an intimate Farmington audience.

Mark Jewett, Amy Petty, Sam Corbin and Rochelle Clark will host a “Songwriters Round” performance as part of the Farmington Civic Theater’s “Friday Night Live” concert series.

During the show, each singer-songwriter will take a turn performing their own material, tell stories behind their music, delve into their personal creative process and introduce a new track. “There will be some interesting and funny stories probably, and I think everyone in this lineup likes crowd engagement,” Jewett said. “We’re not looking for the hushed symphony audience.”

This is the third time Jewett has teamed up with Petty and Corbin to host a “Songwriters Round” in metro Detroit since May 2017. In the past, they’ve hosted similar events at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion and Trinity House Theatre in Livonia with Chelsea folk singer-songwriter Annie Capps.

Instead, Clark, Ypsilanti singer-songwriter, will join the trio for Friday’s show to share her burgeoning Americana roots music with the crowd.

“We found that we have a pretty good chemistry, and we are able to follow whatever kind of flow the group has got going. I don’t think anyone is coming with a specific setlist of songs they’re absolutely going to play, maybe a longer list they can pick from, but that’s what I like about songwriter rounds,” Jewett said. “They’re dynamic, you can either follow someone’s lead and go deeper into a topic, or if you feel like the audience has had enough of that, then you can do a quick change-up and play something for contrast.”

Show Details:

Friday Night Live Songwriters Round with Mark Jewett, Amy Petty, Sam Corbin and Rochelle Clark

8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9

Farmington Civic Theater

33332 Grand River Ave. in Farmington, MI

Tickets are $15 each through Eventbrite.

Continue reading “Circle of Friends – 4 Metro Detroit Artists Host Friday ‘Songwriters Round’ at Farmington Civic Theater”