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.”
Tracy Kash fiercely brings world-class sounds and styles to the Motor City.
The Detroit world music vocalist, flutist, pianist, composer and arranger delightfully blends classic elements of jazz, soul, pop and theater into a dramatic center-stage sound on Fierce, her fourth and latest album that’s currently nominated for Outstanding World Music Recording in the 2020 Detroit Music Awards (DMA).
“It’s a tricky thing because I am kind of all over the place stylistically. When people go, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just say, ‘Um, yes, I don’t know what to say,’” Kash laughed. “Some of them are older tunes. I was never sure if I was going to record them. The rest of it came organically over the course of about eight years because I hadn’t released anything since 2010.”
For 2019’s Fierce, Kash assembled a star-studded cast of musicians called the Bro’ Fos, including Pat Shanley (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Chuck Bartels (bass) and Van Hunsberger (drums), to bring the album’s 11 sensational tracks to life. They spent six months recording the tracks with producer Tom Rice at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Studio and Eric Morgeson at Dearborn’s Studio A Recording.
“Most of it is just mastery of their instruments. When I put together rehearsals, performances or recordings, unless there’s something really specific I’m looking for, I won’t arrange each part. They’re such great musicians, and because of that, it gives them the freedom to bring something that’s more natural to them to the recording or the performance,” Kash said.
With a troupe of A-list collaborators, Kash launches her eclectic Fierce sound with “Face Time,” a jazzy opener featuring swift piano, vibrating electric guitars, deep bass and pounding drums.
Her soulful vocals warn lovers to eradicate the ghosts of past relationships in favor of new ones – “I’m the one you run to/To unload a heavy heart/I’m happy knowing I can do the same/Well maybe it’s because I’m naïve/I assume that I’m the one you need/But the doubt comes when you call me by her name.”
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
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.”
The folk rock duo will demonstrate their sonic superpowers live Thursday night before an intimate crowd at Lake Orion’s 20 Front Street. It will be their first time captivating fans there together.
“Billy and I have a ‘Vulcan mind meld’ on stage where we can follow each other effortlessly and know what direction to go in when we go off-piste and improvise instrumentally,” said VerLin, a U.K.-based singer-songwriter, violinist and multi-instrumentalist. “When we play and write together, we rub against and wear away each other’s rough edges to get a sound blend that neither of us gets on our own.”
The enchanting pair will share timeless tales from their latest release, “Are You Listening?” – a magical 10-track odyssey that includes Shakespearean characters, ghosts, emperors, dystopian worlds and whales. Magical acoustic guitars, violins and mandolins whisk listeners away to a stunning sonic world beautifully constructed in their minds.
“‘Are You Listening?’ took about two years to complete. When I was here in Detroit a few years ago, I said we should go in the studio to record. We had a few songs that had not been recorded yet so we started with those,” said VerLin, who originally hails from Trenton.
“Billy had written a song called ‘Sailing Away,’ and coincidentally and separately, I had written a song called ‘Sailing Away.’ A completely different feel but in a similar key, so we combined them into a two-part song.”
Released in 2018 via Drum Dancer Records, “Are You Listening?” also unearths another folk rock treasure, “I Wish I Knew,” which includes a splendid picking arrangement of a melody Brandt wrote and envisioned as part of a monotone vocal accompaniment.
Back in July 2011, VerLin wrote the lyrics during a trip to Chamberlain’s Ole Forest Inn in Curtis, but couldn’t pair it will the right melody. Six years later, Brandt’s guitar melody formed the perfect marriage for the song.