Fully Conscious – Pajamas Revitalizes Improvisational Spirit on ‘You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound’ EP

Graham Low, Dan Schuler, Nick Orr and Owen Kellenberger of Pajamas. Photo by Toko Shiiki Santos

Pajamas magically revitalizes the improvisational spirit on their latest EP, You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound.

The Ann Arbor rock-funk quartet seamlessly blends extended guitar grooves, proggy keys, crashing cymbals, rhythmic drums and driving bass into a fluid four-track jam session on their optimistic, improvisational EP, which dropped in January. You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound is a tantalizing live soundtrack that seeps into the unknown spaces in between dreams.

“The overall lyrical message in my opinion is about accepting the things you can’t control and being happy with what and who you are. We played all of them live before releasing the EP, and I even rewrote good portion of the opening track after playing it out live for a while,” said Graham Low, drummer and vocalist for Pajamas.

“Overall, I want people to feel some emotion when they listen to our music. I’m not going to defy the moniker of ‘jam band,’ but I hope people hear ‘jam band’ and understand that to be a band committed to live improvisation and purposeful exploration, not just a bunch of spacey noodling. I think this project sheds light on our songwriting and shows glimpses of the many places we can take our music.”

Recording ‘You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound’

“You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound” EP artwork by Abbas Husain

Pajamas’ hypnotic eight-minute title track opens with an elongated synth that morphs into glistening cymbal crashes, groovy electric guitar and deep bass and slowly explodes into a star-filled prog-tastic multi-verse. Low proudly sings, “You’re awake, you’re alive/And the sun’s in the sky/Stop the hate and the cryin’/There’s a light inside so shine bright.”

“‘You’re Awake’ took me a really long time to write and a long time to rewrite. I’m really pleased with the end product, and I think the recording that we captured was one of the best takes that we’ve ever played of that song,” Low said.

Low joined Pajamas bandmates Nick Orr (guitar, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) to record You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound during a single four-hour session at the iconic Willis-based recording studio last year. They teamed up with Jim Roll to mix and engineer the majestic live project as a follow-up to 2018’s genre-defying, full-length debut, Onesie.

“Jim Roll is a freakin’ magic man. He dialed in each of our sounds and captured everything that makes our timbre unique while also isolating and getting a really clean overall mix,” Low said. “He’s been doing this forever, and it shows in his ability to get great results every time.”

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World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album

Tracy Kash blends eclectic sounds to create a world music feel on “Fierce.” Photo by Aly Darin Photography

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.

Getting ‘Fierce’

“Fierce” album artwork

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.”

Continue reading “World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album”

East Grand – Dirty Ol’ Men Bring Clever Rhymes, Fresh Beats to Detroit-Inspired Hip-Hop Collective Album

Dirty Ol’ Men gather in Detroit to record their latest album, East Grand. Photo by Rod Wallace

With East Grand, Dirty Ol’ Men poetically capture the creativity, camaraderie and connection of the Motor City.

The international collective of hip-hop and soul producers, musicians and curators blends clever rhymes, pulsating beats and introspective narratives into 15 compelling tracks on their latest album, East Grand, which dropped Feb. 29.

“I think everywhere we go, we’re very inspired by where we are. I’m always a huge advocate for what’s happening in Detroit and so that drove a little bit of the inspiration as well as the sounds and what we captured while we were here and being together, too,” said Rod Wallace, East Grand executive producer and a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.

“We’ve all had a really huge effect on each other. All of us have very, very diverse styles. You have producers that have very, very pronounced kind of styles that are very noticeable amongst the group, and we’ve rubbed off on each other.”

Last July, Wallace and 14 other hip-hop producers gathered in a Detroit loft at the corner of East Grand Boulevard and Oakland Avenue for a three-day Scratch Magazine retreat to collaborate on tracks for the new album. Dirty Ol’ Men collaborators arrived from Michigan; Ohio; Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia, California; Florida; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; and Japan to participate.

Creating East Grand

Together, the producers, musicians and curators brought initial stems, beats and samples to lay the foundation for their fifth collective project while magically capturing the authentic vibes of the Motor City. They also visited local record stores and dug through crates to find alternative sounds that could inspire music for East Grand.

“I think part of what’s built into the culture of digging and sample-based producing is taking the most obscure music possible and trying to pick something out of it. Customarily, we don’t necessarily look for music based on who’s making it, but we look at the potential vibe and sound that could be involved. It may just be something that we don’t have, like something with church bells,” said Wallace, who’s been part of Dirty Ol’ Men since their formation in 2014.

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Grand Reopening – Ypsilanti’s The Late Station Returns April 18 with Pajamas, Violet Sol

The Late Station will reopen for its first show in more than nine months. Artwork by GSW Art & Design

An integral Ypsilanti do-it-yourself (DIY) venue will reopen its doors next month.

The Late Station will host its first show of the season April 18 with Pajamas, Violet Sol and several other TBD acts as part of a “pre-420” celebration.

“We’ve been quiet for a while due to logistical issues, but now we’re ready for action with a banger of a show. People can expect our new PA system, which is much louder than our older one, and projector visuals as well as our renovated stage and mural. The night will feature prominent local funk and electronic music,” said Greg Hughes, curator for The Late Station and former After Hours Radio bassist.

The Late Station’s last show took place July 6 with Chicago’s Stardust Encounter, Cyrano Jones, Shindig Machine and The Sundots. Previously run by After Hours Radio, the DIY venue celebrated its year anniversary last March and has hosted more than 35 shows since its inception.

Hughes started The Late Station in 2018 after performing at University of Michigan open mic nights as a college student and experiencing the Chicago DIY music scene. For each show, volunteers help book and promote events, run the door and assist with gear.

In the meantime, The Late Station will closely monitor reports related to the coronavirus and COVID-19 and make any adjustments as needed.

Show details:

Return of The Late Station with Pajamas, Violet Sol and more TBD

Doors: 8 p.m. | Saturday, April 18

Cover: $5 at the door

Send a Facebook message to The Late Station for venue address.

‘Feelin’ Good’ – Adam Liebman Shares Groovy Sounds for March 20 Farmington Civic Theater Show

Adam Liebman will open for Olivia Dear March 20 at the Farmington Civic Theater.

Adam Liebman will get into a multi-genre groove March 20 in Farmington.

The West Bloomfield singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and music producer will bring flavors of pop, rock, jazz, R&B, blues and funk to his “LIVE!” set at the Farmington Civic Theater. He’ll open with a solo acoustic performance and share the stage with Rochester indie pop singer-songwriter and headliner Olivia Dear.

“I’ve been writing a lot of songs that I really believe in. I think people are going to like this set. It’s a little bit of a departure from my Mood Chambers EP, but it’s a good departure,” said Liebman, who’s previously performed during the theater’s “Out Front” summer concert series. “It’s more mature, I think the songwriting is better, and I’m really excited to show people what I’ve been working on.”

As a Berklee College of Music student, Liebman, 20, has amassed a wealth of new material since releasing his groove-filled debut EP, Mood Chambers, in 2018. With a double major in guitar performance and contemporary writing and production, Liebman writes and records in his apartment-based recording studio and collaborates with classmates in Boston.

“It’s really rigorous, even one major would be a lot, but it’s all stuff that I really love. I’m doing a vocal score for this class that I have called vocal writing. They teach you to professionally prepare scores and vocal parts for vocal ensemble,” he said.

“Next year, I get to look forward to learning studio recording techniques and mixing applications for writers and writing for big band and orchestra. There’s a lot of really cool stuff in the curriculum.”

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‘Better’ Days – Olivia Dear Releases New TIDAL Single, Headlines March 20 Farmington Civic Theater Show

Olivia Dear is releasing new music through the inaugural TIDAL Unplugged program.

Olivia Dear has never been better.

The Rochester indie pop singer-songwriter has released an inspirational new single, “Better,” introduced a new artist name (from Olivia Millerschin to Olivia Dear) and received a grant from the TIDAL music streaming service.

“This has really given me a shot to do that. I know that what I’m gonna do is gonna always be me. ‘Olivia Dear’ is great because it separates me-the-artist from me-the-person because ‘Olivia Millerschin’ felt like I couldn’t release anything that ‘Olivia Millerschin’ wouldn’t think of or make,” Dear said.

“‘Olivia Dear’ has allowed me to take a step back personally from it. I think in general the music is gonna be the singer-songwriter, pop and indie side of things, but just a little bit more produced than my previous work.”

Dear will share a wealth of new and old favorites from her three-album catalog during her March 20 “LIVE!” headlining set at the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington. She’ll be joined by longtime bandmates James Pyne (trombone, vocals), Brian Reilly (guitar) and Bob Mervak (keys, vocals) while West Bloomfield singer-songwriter Adam Liebman will open the show.

“For a show with a quartet in a nice, intimate room, we’ll do mostly like broken-down versions of the new music and my last record. The band and I have been working on some new cover stuff, so we might throw one or two of those in there just for fun,” said Dear, who also plays ukulele, piano and guitar.

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Time Markers – The Steve Taylor Three Celebrates Renewal, Reflection on New ‘Earn Every Scar’ Album

The Steve Taylor Three will celebrate the release of “Earn Every Scar” Saturday at Royal Oak’s Dixie Moon Saloon.

Steve Taylor vividly remembers the day Tom Petty died.

The Lake Orion singer-songwriter and vocalist-guitarist of the Americana roots trio The Steve Taylor Three drove home from a band rehearsal on Oct. 2, 2017 and officially heard Petty had passed away.

“By the time I was driving home, it was like 10:30 at night, it was pretty clear that he was gone. I was rooting around in my car trying to find a Tom Petty CD in there somewhere, and I found the album, Echo,” said Taylor about Petty’s 1999 album. “The first song on that album is called ‘Room at the Top,’ and it just starts with Tom Petty playing guitar and singing, ‘I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight, and I ain’t comin’ down.’”

That song instantly sparked Taylor to write four pages of nostalgic thoughts about Petty once he arrived home. Those thoughts remained dormant for six months until Taylor turned it into a heartfelt tribute with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, keys) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion) called “The Day Tom Petty Died.” It’s one of 12 new stunning tracks featured on The Steve Taylor Three’s third album, Earn Every Scar, out Saturday.

“And the whole thing was I didn’t want to write a sad song about it. I kinda wanted to write a song that told the story of the day he passed away,” said Taylor, who studied bass at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “It’s supposed to be a tribute to everything that he accomplished.”

The uplifting ode to everyone’s favorite Heartbreaker features clicking drumsticks, driving bass and vibrant piano as Taylor beautifully sings, “I hope you like the view from the room at the top of the world/And I hope you’re dancing with an American girl/I know that Roy and George are sitting by his side/I won’t soon forget the day Tom Petty died.”

Taylor grew up listening to Tom Petty on the radio, but didn’t become a hardcore fan until seeing Peter Bogdanovich’s 2007, “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” about the Gainesville, Fla., native and his longtime band. “I’ve said to so many people, ‘You don’t realize for every 25 Tom Petty songs that you know there are 25 you’ve never heard that are good if not better,’” he said.

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