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

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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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Days of Future Past – Major Murphy Reaches Personal Crossroads on New ‘Access’ Album

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Major Murphy’s Jacki Warren, Brian Voortman, Chad Houseman and Jacob Bullard revisit personal struggles and explore newfound intrinsic possibilities on “Access.” Photo – New Archive

With Access, Major Murphy beautifully arrives at the emotive intersection of past and future.

The Grand Rapids indie rock quartet of Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (bass, vocals), Brian Voortman (drums) and Chad Houseman (guitar, keys, percussion) seamlessly navigates undiscovered internal roads filled with uncertainty, contemplation and growth on their boundless sophomore album.

“You have to go rock bottom to be able to adequately move forward. At times, it can be a little dark, scary or intense, but ultimately if you don’t face some of those things, then you’ll be missing the point. Anxiety and stress are definitely fused into the record, but it’s for the purpose of being able to identify things and put them to rest,” Bullard said.

Major Murphy deeply revisits personal struggles and explores newfound intrinsic possibilities across nine introspective, cinematic and experimental tracks on Access, which arrived April 2 via Winspear on all streaming platforms.

Each thoughtful, captivating track weaves a reflective, relatable tale about arriving at an unexpected crossroads and grappling with the amount of control one has in life. Layered with choose-your-own-adventure insights, Access prompts listeners to decide the direction of their next fateful turn.

“I was going through a lot of big changes, and I started writing songs in 2017. Part of the optimism is saying even when everything around you shifts and you don’t really recognize it, the old way of being doesn’t need to hold precedent. You have the find the strength within yourself to accept the new reality and adapt,” Bullard said.

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Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’

The Soods’ latest album, “Ornaments of Affection,” features collaborations with Grand Rapids artists, songwriters and musicians. Album artwork – Dominic Ryan Photography

Jason Roy thoroughly mines for Michigan music gold.

The Soods frontman uncovers rich collaborations and treasured tracks with a growing collective of scintillating local artists, songwriters and musicians on his latest indie folk-psych rock musical gem, Ornaments of Affection.

“I pared it down from a list of 36 songs; those were the ones to get vocals on, and from there I followed through with 22 of those. Some of those are the newer singles that I’ve been putting out. It was a fun thing like, ‘Well, I haven’t put any music out in a while,’” said Roy, who released the album in October via GTG Records.

“For ‘Morning Harold!’ and ‘Nomadic Marine Biologist,’ I’ve had those two instrumentals for eight months. I just hadn’t gotten vocals on them yet, and then when it came time to make that list of 36, I was like, ‘Ooh, I like that title,’ and I remember liking this track. It was like, ‘Two check marks, you’re in,’ and then figuring out from there who fits best.”

Throughout Ornaments of Affection, Roy beautifully melds 13 priceless Soods folky, trippy tracks with a talented array of Grand Rapids collaborators, including Steven Meltzer, Matt Ten Clay, Shane Tripp, Patrick Wieland, Drinking Mercury’s Timmy Rodriguez and others.

“These guys have their own ways with words, and weirdly somehow it all does sound like a band if I keep the thematic elements constant. Like having Matt Ten Clay sing the backing vocals on a track strengthens the foundation of that illusion of like, ‘These guys got together in the studio for a week and pounded these songs out.’ If you only saw all our emails and Google drives, it’s very different,” said Roy with a laugh.

“It’s a great compliment when people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I like that band.’ That’s what I want; I don’t necessarily need it to be a Jason Roy brainchild thing. I enjoy collaborating with these guys.”

Continue reading “Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’”

Desmond Jones Calls for Global Accountability, Change on New ‘George Floyd’ Single, Video

Desmond Jones emphatically speaks for countless voices lost to racial injustice.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), John Nowak (drums), Chris Bota (guitars) George Falk (sax) and Taylor Watson (bass) strongly calls for global accountability, peace and unity on their thought-provoking new single and video, “George Floyd.”

Out today, it serves as a growing rally cry from the band and protesters worldwide after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Desmond Jones has released “George Floyd” exclusively via Bandcamp and will donate half of the proceeds to the NAACP Grand Rapids and the other half to The Bail Project, a national organization that provides free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent.

“At the very least, I hope that it acts as a reminder of George Floyd’s story and the countless stories just like it that happen every day in this country without any repercussions. I hope that it makes people say his name and talk about why or how this could have happened,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.

Floyd, 46, died after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police offer, kneeled on his neck and back for more than eight minutes during an arrest. Two other officers further restrained Floyd while a third prevented onlookers from intervening. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder while Kiernan Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao have been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder as well as second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter.

In response, Desmond Jones’ compelling “George Floyd” single features thoughtful, echoey electric guitars, soft drums and somber sax as Berkowitz seriously reflects, “I can’t breathe he said, the cycle of oppression/Leaves only one direction to be led/I can’t breathe he said, as we heard the pain of generations past and present pled.”

“I hope that it helps people understand that this behavior and complacency of that behavior is unacceptable in this country and on this planet. With the help of the amazing video Nathan Purchase made, I think this song can show how important these issues are to people and what a serious impact our voices can have when we come together to peacefully make the change that needs to happen,” Berkowitz said.

The impactful “George Floyd” video features raw, candid black and white photos of protesters peacefully marching in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Muskegon and Columbus, Ohio. Five local, independent photographers – Nathan Purchase, Nick Small, Adam Berta, James Saville and Ryan Broton – captured and compiled the historical images during last week’s protests.

“They were able to not only capture and convey the tension and the anger of the situation, but also the unifying demand for peace and unity. Each one of these photographers was able to capture a wider image of the state of our country currently. To see how all these different people from all over were coming together in the middle of a pandemic is a powerful thing to see,” Berkowitz said.

George Floyd” also serves as Desmond Jones’ second new single and video in less than two months. In April, the band released “Major Burbank” as an ode to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” While “Major Burbank” celebrates a lighter side of Desmond Jones’ sound, “George Floyd” pushes the band musically and thematically toward a burgeoning political and social conscience.

“I know we are currently working on more songs that approach these political and social issues, which will be a big step forward for us lyrically and content-wise. However, besides more songs, we have been raising and donating money through livestreams and promoting our favorite local and national black artists, musicians and social leaders on social media,” Berkowitz said.

“We also have been directing people toward charities that are helping as well as local black-owned businesses to shop at. In a way, I think we’ve started to find our voice politically and don’t plan on quieting down. We are lucky enough to have a platform and right now we believe it’s right to use that to help fight against social injustice and shine a light on those who are doing all that they can to make a difference.”

‘The Desmond Jones Show’ – Grand Rapids Quintet Drops New Truman-Inspired ‘Major Burbank’ Video

For Desmond Jones, authenticity reigns tried and true.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals, guitar), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (sax, vocals) and Taylor Watson (bass) embraces their holistic selves on “Major Burbank,” a new glistening, groovy video out today. It’s the first new studio material Desmond Jones has released since their Hello, Helou album last July.

The 10-minute slow, transformative jam pays tribute to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” As an authentic ode to Carrey, “Major Burbank” majestically combines sparkling guitars, velvety bass, dancy drums and sensuous sax as Berkowitz smoothly sings, “So come back in to/The old world you knew/And although it’s not true/We’re all here for you.”

“With a flawless Jim Carrey performance and the layered philosophical themes present throughout the movie, ‘The Truman Show,’ makes for an excellent flick. We here at Desmond Jones aim to not only remind the listener of these important themes and encourage them to think further and pull back the curtain, but to also gain financially from the film’s popularity as well,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.

“We’re really excited to get this song and video out for everyone to enjoy and boogie to. We also encourage anyone who knows Jim Carrey to pass this song along to him because we think he’d dig it.”

Filmed this past winter at Plymouth Rock Recording Company, the “Major Burbank” video beautifully depicts Desmond Jones wearing fun, glitzy outfits and colorful, glam-inspired makeup on a dark, smoky soundstage while vibrant spotlights glow behind them.

Videographers Nick Small, Ryan “Toby” Hyland and Wayne Small eloquently capture the band’s magical instrumentation and rich improvisation from several innovative camera angles.

“That’s one of our newer songs, and the only recording we have is the video we took at Plymouth Rock. We did probably three full live takes, and I think we took the second one. They filmed each one, and when we chose the take we liked most, they put it to film and mixed and mastered it afterward,” Nowak said.

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Bluegrass Roots – Mark Lavengood Cultivates Homegrown Dobro Sound Locally, Nationally

Mark Lavengood will perform at “The Ebird & Friends Holiday Show” tonight through Saturday at The Ark.

Mark Lavengood will bring warm down-home holiday sounds to Ann Arbor this weekend.

The Grand Rapids bluegrass roots vocalist and multi-instrumentalist will join a star-studded lineup of Michigan artists and musicians for the 12th annual “The Ebird & Friends Holiday Show” tonight, Friday and Saturday at The Ark.

Hosted by Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, the variety-style show will also feature Alex Holycross (The Native Howl), Graham Parsons (The Go Rounds), Carolyn Striho, Anne Heaton, Brad Phillips, Jen Sygit, Jessica McCumons (Jessica Delle) and members from The Macpodz, The Appleseed Collective and Jive Colossus.

“I’ve done it two other years. I love Erin so much, that production is one of the most pro things I think I’ve been a part of, and it’s just always a good time, and I’m always honored to be invited back,” Lavengood said. “I get to lead some, and I get to back other people who play the instruments. It’s just a great hang, the community comes out in droves, and there really isn’t a show like it anywhere.”

As an established touring artist and musician, Lavengood regularly shares his resonant energy with spirited crowds from Michigan to Colorado. He eloquently combines folk, bluegrass and Americana with bandmates Justin Avdek (bass), Dutcher Snedeker (keys), Justin Wierenga (guitar) and Loren Kranz (drums) on stage and in the studio for a growing catalog of bluegrass roots singles and albums.

With an expansive musical palate, Lavengood adds delectable instrumental flavors of dobro, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, drums and percussion to assemble an appetizing eclectic sound for fans nationwide.

“I’m fleshing out a lot of songs that I been sitting on over the years, and I love playing the music, but at the same time, I like getting the ideas out and then bringing a band into the studio and tracking it that way,” Lavengood said. “There’s a lot of magic you get when you have a bunch of different minds in one space serving a song together.”

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Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music

Erin Zindle is releasing new music under the new band moniker, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds. Photo by Joe Gall

Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds are ready to soar above the clouds.

The Ann Arbor infectious global groove group has taken flight with a new band moniker and migrated toward new music wrapped in breathtaking melodies, vocal harmonies and improvisational elements.

Previously known as The Ragbirds, the quartet of Erin Zindle (vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo), TJ Zindle (electric/acoustic guitar, vocals), Shannon Wade (bass, vocals) and Loren Kranz (drums, vocals) is now Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

“The name change sends a very clear message that this is different from what we’ve done before. This is different enough that we feel like it needs a new name,” said Zindle, who formed the band in 2005. “Also, there’s the sense of me stepping up and really taking ownership of the role that I have played in the band this whole time. My bandmates are just so amazing. I’m so proud of my band right now, and they’re the best guys I could possibly ask to work with.”

Throughout the band’s 14-year history, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds have maintained a passionate grassroots fan base by continually reinventing themselves with an evolving sound while remaining rooted in the high-energy sphere of world-based folk rock. Today, they’ve shifted their sound to include more melodic components along with uplifting vocals, edgy guitars and groovy rhythms.

“We have less going on in the percussive world, and in the rhythm section, it’s a little less busy. And it’s interesting how that happened at the same time as I was having this natural shift toward developing my voice and stepping forward as a singer and writing songs with stronger melodies as I improve as a songwriter,” Zindle said. “I’m just getting much more honed in my craft so that I can write songs that are more vocal forward and focus on the melodic elements.”

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Prog Royalty – Nad Sylvan Reimagines ‘Selling England by the Pound’ for Genesis Revisited Tour, Releases Enchanting ‘Vampirate’ Album Trilogy

Nad Sylvan will perform Genesis’ 1973 album, “Selling England by the Pound,” with Steve Hackett during the “Genesis Revisited” tour. Photo by Scott Saldinger

Tonight, a Grand Rapids, Mich., audience will travel through time to a majestic era filled with British knights, sailors, lovers and battles.

They will step inside the 20 Monroe Live “time machine” and sonically travel back to October 1973, when Genesis released their definitive prog rock album, “Selling England by the Pound.”

During their sonic travels, the audience will receive Nad Sylvan as their exquisite, effervescent and enchanting musical tour guide. Dressed lavishly in dark ruffled shirts, dark velvety capes and cloaks, slim riding pants, and tall black boots, Sylvan, a “vampirate,” will magically perform “Pound” in its entirety alongside legendary former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Jonas Reingold, saxophonist/flautist Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell.

“I’ve done more than 500 shows with Steve now, and this is my seventh year with him. But I felt that this tour has been perhaps the most successful tour because people love ‘Selling England by the Pound.’ We go out and do the whole album without any words in between songs,” said Sylvan, a U.S.-born Swedish prog rock singer-songwriter and musician.

“We just play it like you play the record, and I take on these characters, and I do it in my own way. I’m not mimicking Gabriel at all, I do sound a bit similar to him sometimes because of my register. Everyone knows I’m a massive Genesis nut. I always have been, that’s why I got the gig.”

Sylvan, Hackett and the band are currently embarking on a 27-date North American “Genesis Revisited” tour through Oct. 20 and performing “Pound” as well as highlights from Hackett’s popular 1979 album, “Spectral Mornings,” and his latest release, “At the Edge of Light.”

The band previously performed a series of “Genesis Revisited” tour dates in 18 countries in seven weeks and will head back to Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand next year. Their next Michigan stop will be March 4 at The Fillmore Detroit.

Sylvan started touring with Hackett and his band in March 2013 in support of Hackett’s 2012 release, “Genesis Revisited II.” Hackett learned about Sylvan after he released a Genesis-inspired album with Bonamici called “Unifaun” in 2008 and a mutual friend suggested they work together.

“That’s why I did the ‘Unifaun’ album, that was just prestige of Genesis just for the hell of it, and that was long before I got to know Steve. I think that’s partly why I have the gig because he knew that guy sounds authentic, he sounds like a Genesis singer,” said Sylvan, who first saw Hackett perform with Genesis during the 1977 “Wind & Wuthering” tour in Stockholm.

“That’s how he felt about my singing, even though I have the ability to sing more soulful and go different ways with my vocals with different vibratos and what have you. But when I sing Genesis, I just sing it the way I believe I’ve heard them, but I put my own stamp on it.”

Continue reading “Prog Royalty – Nad Sylvan Reimagines ‘Selling England by the Pound’ for Genesis Revisited Tour, Releases Enchanting ‘Vampirate’ Album Trilogy”

Genesis Revisited – Steve Hackett Brings ‘Selling England by the Pound,’ Solo Gems to 20 Monroe Live Thursday

Steve Hackett will perform Genesis and solo classics at 20 Monroe Live Thursday in Grand Rapids.

Steve Hackett will breathe new life into a beloved Genesis album Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The legendary former Genesis guitarist will perform the band’s 1973 prog rock classic, “Selling England by the Pound,” in its entirety at 20 Monroe Live, a 2,600-seat music venue located in the heart of Furniture City.

“It happens to be my favorite Genesis album. That setting was 1973, and just as we were leaving New York desperately trying to find a gig anywhere else in the States, we heard that John Lennon gave an interview and said Genesis was one of the bands he was listening to, so I assumed he liked that album at the time, and we were all very proud of it,” said Hackett, who performed with Genesis from 1971-1977.

“I get to do it again in its entirety, which wasn’t possible with the technology we had back in the day, plus an extra track included like a deleted scene. Something that Peter Gabriel introduced to the band as an unfinished song. I finished it years later with his blessing, and we shared credits on it.”

That “deleted scene” of a song is “Déjà Vu,” a quiet, emotional track filled with deep synths, exquisite classical guitar strums and a haunting extended electric guitar solo. This time, Hackett will perform it live with singer-songwriter and musician Nad Sylvan, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Jonas Reingold, saxophonist/flautist Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell.

Together, the prog rock sextet is embarking on a 27-date North American “Genesis Revisited” tour through Oct. 20 and playing eight other influential tracks from “Pound” as well as highlights from Hackett’s popular 1979 album, “Spectral Mornings,” and his latest release, “At the Edge of Light.”

The band previously performed a series of “Genesis Revisited” tour dates in 18 countries in seven weeks and will head back to Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand next year. Their next Michigan date will take place March 4 at The Fillmore Detroit.

Continue reading “Genesis Revisited – Steve Hackett Brings ‘Selling England by the Pound,’ Solo Gems to 20 Monroe Live Thursday”

Jam-packed – Desmond Jones Mixes Multiples Genres for Latest ‘Hello, Helou’ Album

Desmond Jones’ “Hello, Helou” album features longtime friend and fan Antoine Helou on the cover.

For their latest release, Desmond Jones has fans at “Hello, Helou.”

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet masterfully mixes multiple genres across seven tracks on their second full-length and latest album, “Hello, Helou,” which dropped in July. It includes an eclectic batch of captivating tracks from Desmond Jones’ expansive catalog of more than 40 original songs.

“These songs were already written before we went into the studio, so it wasn’t a collective effort to write all of the music for an album,” said John Nowak, drummer, guitarist and vocalist for Desmond Jones. “Since all of the songs already existed, it was really a matter of choosing which ones we wanted to go on the next album.”

Nowak and bandmates Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, drums, vocals) and John Loria (bass, vocals) spent eight months recording “Hello, Helou’s” tracks with manager Kevin McKay of Innovative Music Solutions in Webberville. The band also recorded a few tracks in the band room at East Grand Rapids High School where Nowak and Berkowitz attended.

In typical Desmond Jones fashion, all the tracks from “Hello, Helou” received initial live improvisational treatment before being reimagined as studio versions. With a fun, upbeat sound, the album features a collection of shorter songs compared to tracks from the band’s 2017 self-titled, full-length debut.

Four of the five band members also penned tracks for the album, which include spatial, culinary, relational, existential and fantastical themes. Listeners encounter a dynamic sonic journey while venturing from one track to another.

“In our live shows, we definitely take the liberty to extend songs as long as we want. Some songs are a better platform for that, but songs like ‘Split Again,’ ‘Sylvia’ or ‘Instructional Dance Song’ are similar to how we play them live,” said Nowak, who formed the band in 2012 while attending Michigan State University. “With streaming and attention spans, we want songs that are easily digestible for people to listen to before they come see us.”

Continue reading “Jam-packed – Desmond Jones Mixes Multiples Genres for Latest ‘Hello, Helou’ Album”