Into the Mystic – Amy Petty Explores Wondrous Musical Realm on ‘The Darkness of Birds’

Amy Petty goes deep into the subconscious on her latest album, “The Darkness of Birds.”

Amy Petty knows how to venture deep into the mystic.

That mystical plunge occurs in a refreshing musical dreamscape known as “The Darkness of Birds.”

For Petty’s newest album and first in nearly a decade, the Saginaw folk rock singer-songwriter dives headfirst into a wondrous musical realm that exists between day and night. It’s the vivid, haunting place where dreams mimic real life, but quickly dissipate once the sun rises.

“I thought I knew what it was going to be when the songs first started coming. I didn’t necessarily sit down to write an album. I was inspired by an idea and then wrote a song. Eventually, they all came together, and I didn’t know why. In hindsight, I feel like it was more of looking at who people are and how they get to where they are,” said Petty, who dropped her new album today.

“It’s more like an observation of the real side of people, and that’s a very broad thing from murder ballads to contemplating how we fit into this vast universe, and we fall all across the spectrum every single day. It feels like a complete thought instead of just one idea that I decided to investigate at length. It just feels like lots of aspects of the same person.”

Petty eloquently explores those different sides throughout her magical 11-track observation. In a sense, she serves as an oracle predicting which scenarios or paths will best guide people toward their destiny. The glorious opener, “The Dreams That Are Waiting for Us,” urges people to follow their instincts, realize their potential and overcome obstacles to fulfill their lifelong dreams.

Deep synths, bright guitars and dramatic drum taps nicely echo Petty’s larger-than-life vocals – “In the sky there’s a lullaby/And you cannot hear it until you close your eyes/These are the dreams that are waiting for us/When you sleep there’s a melody/It will play in you the way it plays in me/These are the dreams that are waiting for us.”

“The first one was based on words that my daughter said to me. She’s just the coolest kid, and she inspired me like crazy. I love where the song came from,” Petty said. “I don’t write a lot of optimistic songs, not that there’s a lot of optimism in that song, but it just feels very uplifting to me in some way. I love the instrumentation, and it’s kind of rocking on some weird level.”

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Master Collector – Dirk Kroll Gathers Everyday Life Experiences for Profound Sonic Tales

Dirk Kroll gathers an array of life experiences and shapes them into earnest sonic tales. Photo courtesy of Dirk Kroll

Dirk Kroll has an impressive collection.

The Pontiac blues rock singer-songwriter doesn’t collect coins, cards or clippings. Instead, he gathers an array of life experiences, stories and moments and shapes them into earnest sonic tales about everyday opportunities and challenges.

“I’m truly interested in life and people. If I were an alien, or from some other time period and I landed here, I’d soak it up more than it just passing me by,” Kroll said. “That’s what I do, and it’s in everybody, the stories I hear, the people I talk to, and their slant on the way they think, the flavor of the moment and everything.”

Kroll’s wife and bandmate, Marci Feldman, laughed and agreed. “The thing about Dirk is he’s a talker. We’ll go into Trader Joe’s, and he knows the names of anybody who works anywhere. Being a painter and restorer, people consider him harmless, so they disclose stories to him.”

Kroll constantly grows his collection through conversations and interactions with family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and characters. Those exchanges lay the foundation for past, present and future songs shared through vivid recordings and live performances with current Dirk Kroll Band members Rodney Walker (guitar), Joe Gaglio (drums), Gardell Floyd (bass), Jim Amann (keys), Robert Reeves (horns) and Feldman (vocals).

“I collect stories, moments and ideas. Lyrically, it’s an opposite reflex because when I really go hard after something, it doesn’t seem to work out right. The stuff that comes to me, that’s a mystery to me, too,” said Kroll, who moved from southern California to metro Detroit at a young age and honed an eclectic sound influenced by Motown and the British Invasion.

‘This Broken Play’

“This Broken Play” album artwork by Diane Irby

Kroll beautifully unravels an assortment of vivid stories across a multitude of genres on his latest album, “This Broken Play,” which dropped in late 2018. The album includes 10 striking tracks revolving around personal struggles, relationships, lifelong journeys and societal responses intertwined with hints of blues, rock, funk, ska, jazz and folk. Listeners will immediately think it’s the best of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, The Rolling Stones and Wilco rolled into one.

The album’s exquisite title track features a solemn cello mixed with banging piano chords to reflect the sadness and frustration of a passionate relationship that’s abruptly ended – “All of our lives, and all that remains/All of our moments, and all that’s the same/You cast your part in this broken play/Is it always love, forever, the price we must pay.”

Continue reading “Master Collector – Dirk Kroll Gathers Everyday Life Experiences for Profound Sonic Tales”

WSU’s Old Main Records Hosts Multimedia Launch Party Friday at St. Andrew’s Church

A new Detroit-based record label will celebrate fresh sights and sounds Friday night.

Old Main Records, a Wayne State University (WSU) student-run record label and organization, will host a multimedia launch party at St. Andrew’s Church in partnership with Nice Place Detroit. It will feature live music and visual art from some of the Motor City’s most promising artists and creatives.

“We want to help connect people who are interested in all forms of art under one roof and further develop a sense of community. People attending can expect to meet incredible people in the city and to enjoy a night that includes visuals and high-energy music,” said Patrick Norton, Old Main Records creative director, Nice Place director and a WSU music technology senior.

“The goal for this event for the artists and volunteers involved is to give a platform to show the city what we are made of. The ability to utilize the university has opened so many doors for connections to press and other music industry and art world contacts.”

Launch event attendees will encounter a broad spectrum of Detroit-based experimental, blues-punk-garage and indie rock from Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood. This emerging lineup represents the first round of artists who have expressed interest in signing with Old Main Records.

Old Main Records also has compiled “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground,” a Spotify playlist that features dozens of artists across a multitude of genres. All artists included on the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to the label.

To complement the music, nearly a dozen visual artists will display their creative vision and prowess throughout the night. They will include Sleepyboness | Sarah Brazeau, Caitlin C. Harvey, MLE, Anastasiya Metesheva, RELYDETROIT, Max Jurcak, Erin Theroux, Shelby Say, Synefeld, Kristal Michal-Brasseur and Tyler Sykes.

“We feel this particular lineup is cohesive in reflecting the high energy that we want for our organization to kick off. In terms of the overall aesthetic, we plan to make each event unique and make our selection of music as eclectic as possible while also maintaining a theme,” Norton said.

“We also want to bridge some gaps within the art world of metro Detroit. We wanted to include students from Wayne State, the College for Creative Studies, Eastern Michigan University and artists from Detroit to help expand the art community. We wanted visual artists for the event to help cross-pollinate between different scenes that don’t always work alongside one another.”

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‘80s Glitz, Glam – Whiskey A Go Go to Open for Enuff Z’Nuff Friday at The Token Lounge

Kyle Mikolajczyk and Guy Williams with Whiskey A Go Go at Toledo’s Civic Music Hall. Photo by Dazz Lee Photography

Metro Detroit will relive the glitz and glory of ‘80s hard rock Friday night.

Whiskey A Go Go, a Michigan-Kentucky ‘80s hard rock era tribute band, will pay homage to Quiet Riot, Motley Crüe, Ratt, Poison and other iconic glam metal bands while opening for Enuff Z’Nuff at The Token Lounge.

“The bassist/singer/founder Chip Z’Nuff is a major inspiration to very much of what I do. His style, approach, couth and constant love for his audience is astounding to me,” said Kyle Mikolajczyk, the band’s bassist who named the act after the legendary West Hollywood rock club.

“I cherish learning as much as I can from the legends in rock and roll that have already been where I wish to be. He is a fountain of knowledge and that alone gives me a lot to forward to on Friday.”

Along with infamous Detroit legend Guy Williams (vocals), Brandon Fields (guitar) and Garrett Ramsden (drums), Mikolajczyk will shred his way through collection of timeless hard rock hits. In a sense, the tribute quartet brings the look, feel and sound of the late ‘80s Sunset Boulevard rock and roll lifestyle to the Motor City.

“Individually, each member embodies and fits the style we’re attempting to pay tribute to perfectly. We’re all major ‘80s sleaze rock fanatics, so we take a lot of pride in the small details within each song to properly display them to our audience,” said Mikolajczyk, who also will celebrate Ramsden’s birthday with the band Friday.

“Some call it a blast from the past, but we’re just paying homage to our favorite artists and era, and we’re having a fun time recreating the atmosphere of one of the greatest eras in live entertainment history.”

After discovering their shared love of the music and era, Mikolajczyk and Williams formed Whiskey A Go Go five years ago and later brought Fields and Ramsden into the fold. Mikolajczyk and Fields also share a mutual admiration for Izzy Stradlin and Slash as members of Pretty Tied Up, a Guns N’ Roses tribute band that performs regularly in Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“I built the backing band that has evolved over the years, and we recently put Brandon in the lead guitar position,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s really helped take us to the next level.”

As a prominent fixture in Detroit’s hard rock and metal scene, Mikolajczyk developed a deep appreciation for the genre while growing up in Canton. At age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and later sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Motor City metal band Kro-Magnon as a teenager.

After becoming Kro-Magnon’s bassist, Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit and later formed HazardHead, a band influenced by ‘80s hard rock and GNR, in 2011.

Today, Mikolajczyk plays in several other tribute projects, including Bloodstone (Judas Priest) and Little Liars (Joan Jett), as well as Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall, Swizzille Trip, the Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue, Detroit Trouble and The Johnny Fangers Band.

He also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. Mikolajczyk books acts regularly through the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore, including the Jan. 25 Ultimate Tribute Fest!, and other hard rock and metal shows.

With a myriad of projects, Mikolajczyk relishes sharing The Token Lounge stage with an impressive roster ‘80s hard rock icons, including Winger, Slaughter, Faster Pussycat and Enuff Z’Nuff.

“Enuff Z’Nuff might not be the biggest chart-topping act, but their music is very cutting-edge. Their last album, ‘Diamond Boy,’ has many musical masterpieces on it for being released only a year or two ago as well as the rest of their discography. They are definitely one of my favorite bands that’s still touring,” Mikolajczyk said.

Show details:

Enuff Z’Nuff with The Missiles, Whiskey A Go Go and Most Wanted

Friday | Doors 7 p.m. | Show 7:30 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland

Tickets: $15, ages 18 and up

Light Up – Detroit’s Mike Ward Shines on Reflective, Poignant Americana Folk Tales

Mike Ward performs regularly solo and with other artists in metro Detroit. Photo by Scott Kraus

Mike Ward believes in light-bulb moments.

The Detroit Americana folk singer-songwriter discovered a recent songwriting prompt illuminated a bright idea – a new track called “Our Turn to Shine.”

“That song actually began as a song prompt from John Lamb’s songwriting retreat. His songwriters’ retreat, which I did last year and then I just got back from, I can’t say enough about it,” Ward said. “It just sort of jumpstarted me last year, and he does these really long involved prompts, and it was about changing out incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs.”

As one of Ward’s newest tracks, “Our Turn to Shine” features fast acoustic strums intertwined with a nostalgic, hopeful feel – “I’m a dinosaur made of glass and tin/Take a new one out and screw a new one in/But for now, I’ll light the way/Brighten up your everyday/If only for a short time/It’s still my turn to shine.”

“It had all these specifics in it. I’ve kept most of them, and I have reworked it since I got back from the camp to try and make it more of a universal appeal. It basically has become a metaphor for even if you’re old, there are parts of you that are still usable, you can still shine,” he said. “It’s sort of like let’s all celebrate that aspect in ourselves. A lot of the songs I’ve been writing over the last year I think as I look at my experience and my life, it has crept into a lot of songs.”

Ward also shines on his other latest single, “Content,” which he submitted for NPR’s 2019 Tiny Desk Contest. The pensive track includes a beautiful acoustic guitar as its sonic centerpiece – “It’s a simple life in a complex world/ I want what’s mine and you want what’s yours/But when you’re all by yourself and the money is all spent/Are you gonna leave this world completely content?”

“It’s really about what do you regret, what don’t you regret, what will you be content with when you leave this earth, and how do you want to be remembered – that’s sort of the gist of it. I do write some fairly downer songs, but usually when I have a song that I’m trying to make a point with, or it has a serious undertone, I try and find ways to keep levity involved in it. From the influence of John Prine, Steve Earle and Warren Zevon, songwriters like that who always seem to have a way of not taking it too seriously, those are songwriters who I really admire,” Ward said.

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Northern Exposure – Joanna & The Jaywalkers to Share New Tracks, Open for Judy Banker at The Ark Thursday

Anthony Marchese, Joanna Ransdell and Phil Rinke will perform with Joanna & The Jaywalkers Thursday at The Ark. Photo courtesy of Joanna Ransdell

These days, Joanna Ransdell hears the call of the wild.

The Ann Arbor folk pop singer-songwriter and frontwoman for The Jaywalkers is weaving a wilderness theme throughout her upcoming second album, a follow-up to 2018’s oceanic predecessor, “The Open Sea Before Me.”

“The story starts with a song about being in Alaska in the middle of the wilderness because I lived in Alaska for six months in my early 20s. I think the element is earth, and it’s all about navigating the wilderness and going into the deep wells of hurt and heartbreak, investigating it and pulling out what’s causing you hurt and heartache,” said Ransdell, who also plays keys and guitar with The Jaywalkers.

“It ends with somebody embracing their healing. I’m a therapist, so it’s all about emotional healing and vulnerability. I think this one is more about facing your demons head-on, the acknowledgement of it and the healing that comes from that acknowledgement.”

Joanna & The Jaywalkers’ new tracks will form the setlist for Thursday’s show at The Ark in Ann Arbor. Along with Anthony Marchese (cello), Phil Rinke (double bass), Shane Harrell (drums), Mel Clark (vocals) and Lauren Pulcipher (vocals, violin), Ransdell will open for Judy Banker and help celebrate the release of Banker’s new “Buffalo Motel” album.

“Judy’s been very supportive of us, and I really enjoy her music as well,” Ransdell said. “I got the chance to see her play a lot of these new songs on her album, and they’re fantastic. We’re very honored to be playing with her.”

After Thursday’s show, Ransdell and her Jaywalkers bandmates will rehearse before entering the studio in February to record their next album, which will drop later this year. They will take time to craft beautiful new tracks focused on life, love and growth at Solid Sound Recording Co.

Continue reading “Northern Exposure – Joanna & The Jaywalkers to Share New Tracks, Open for Judy Banker at The Ark Thursday”

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”