Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album

Mark Jewett is working on a follow-up album to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Photo by Tom Sorensen

One late August night Mark Jewett stumbled upon an enigmatic vision while heading home from a show in Port Huron.

That vision illuminated the night sky while its reflection danced on the water and beckoned Jewett to stop and observe.

“As I drove south out of Port Huron on Military Street, which runs close and parallel to the St. Clair River, I looked out my side window, and I could see the Canadian shoreline, south of Sarnia,” Jewett said. “I saw a spectacle that lit up like something from a sci-fi movie. All I could think was, ‘What was that?’ I was stunned.”

Jewett turned his car around, drove up to the river’s shoreline and saw the “industrial monstrosity” known as “Chemical Valley,” which is home to more than 60 refineries and chemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

“The vibe I got standing alone on a dark river bank in very peaceful quiet was very calming,” said Jewett, a Plymouth-based Americana singer-songwriter. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, in spite of this hideous pollution-spewing industrial megaplex in very close proximity to a population of people, everything will be all right.’”

Jewett captured that peaceful, nocturnal moment in his latest single, “Saint Clair’s Promise,” a twangy, torchy ode to beauty, mystery, faith and hope that’s available  via Bandcamp. Billy Harrington (drums, percussion), Michael Harrington (pedal steel, electric guitar), Ken Pesick (bass) and Dale Grisa (piano) accompany Hewett on the track.

The track features a driving bassline and a mellow slide guitar beautifully intertwined with Jewett’s Johnny Cash-inspired vocals while Amy Petty provides soothing harmonies – “It might have been the water/It might have been the light/It might have been a silent voice calling out to me that night.”

Saint Clair’s Promise” is one of two new tracks that will be featured on Jewett’s untitled third album, which will drop in spring 2020 and serve as the follow-up to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Produced by Billy Harrington, Jewett’s new album will sonically immerse listeners in personal tales about different moods, feelings and experiences.

“When Billy heard my demos, he said he could imagine taking these tunes down a sonic road similar to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ ‘Raising Sand,’” Jewett said. “Ironically, I see my sound growing by getting simpler. With exceptions, I feel like music that I write for a conscious purpose needs room to breathe.”

Continue reading “Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album”

Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album

Bill Edwards released his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” in October. Photo by Chasing Light Photos

These days, Bill Edwards views love as the soundtrack of his life.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter eloquently chronicles his evolving thoughts about love on his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” which dropped in October on Regaltone Records.

“A year ago I decided I wanted to do an album of love songs. It seems like the times we’re going through right now we can use as much love as we can get,” Edwards said. “They’re not all songs that say ‘I love you.’ Some are about the complications and the darker side of some love relationships. I think they’re at least loosely related to the concept of love.”

Sounds Like Love” features 13 stellar tracks highlighting the ups and downs of love from different perspectives and moments in time – new love, lost love, lifelong love, past love and unrequited love. On each track, Edwards gently moves listeners from one soundbite of love to the next along a fascinating emotional path that includes paint, hurricanes and boxcars.

“I write about a song a week, and it’s just my creative outlet. I had accumulated quite a number of songs to choose from, and I just picked those 13 for the record,” he said. “I’ve long wanted to do an album all by myself in my own home studio, and I’ve accumulated an embarrassing amount of recording gear.”

Continue reading “Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album”

Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday

The Judy Banker Band and Mike Gentry will close out the fall series of Friday Night Live Nov. 8 in Farmington.

Farmington Civic Theater’s musical guests will receive an early check-in at the “Buffalo Motel” Friday.

Upon arrival, they’ll hear the refreshing and comforting indie country rock sounds of the Judy Banker Band with special guest Mike Gentry.

The Ann Arbor quintet of Judy Banker (vocals, guitar), David Roof (drums), Tony Pace (guitar), John Sperendi (bass) and Alan Pagliere (pedal steel guitar) will headline “Friday Night Live” at the historic theater and preview new material from Banker’s forthcoming “Buffalo Motel” album.

“It’s our last band show before the end of the year, so we want to introduce people to the new album,” said Banker, who will release “Buffalo Motel” in January. “We’ll also be playing some cuts from other albums, and Tony and John are going to take the lead on a song. Playing in a band with five of us can be really intimate, and we just have this creative energy all around us.”

Banker will share that creative energy with the Farmington Civic Theater audience and include flavors of Americana, roots, country and rock music throughout the band’s eclectic set. For “Buffalo Motel,” Banker has evolved into a country rock sound with heavier electric guitars and driving drum beats compared to her acoustic-oriented predecessors, “Devils Never Cry” (2016) and “Without You” (2014).

“The sound we’ve created for ‘Buffalo Motel’ is more layered and complex, and it’s a bigger sound with a higher volume that has more percussion and is bass-driven,” said Banker, who teamed up with son Ben Sayler to produce the album. “It’s nice to play the new album in segments, and a theater feels perfect for that.”

Banker is putting the finishing touches on “Buffalo Motel” with Roof, who will master the album at his Rooftop Recording studio in Grand Blanc. Along with Roof Sayler and her band, Banker has created a strong sonic signature for each track on “Buffalo Motel” and taken creative inspiration from established indie rock acts like Beck and The National.

“You have the same instruments and the same band playing on the songs, but each song has such a clear identity – more confidence, more integration,” she said. “I like my old songs and albums, but there’s a more confident and sophisticated approach with this one.”

Continue reading “Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday”

Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday

Emilie Rivard will bring her intimate acoustic indie folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday night. Photo by Kent Koller

Emilie Rivard will forge a deep musical connection with Tree Town Friday night.

The Royal Oak indie folk singer-songwriter will share her highly personal, reflective songs with an intimate Ann Arbor crowd at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom.

“This one’s just going to be on my own. I want to give myself some time and space to focus on my own work,” said Rivard, who will perform two 45-minute acoustic sets. “I am working on some new songs that I will be performing, and I will be doing some covers. It will mostly be original music, but the covers will be my interpretation of the songs.”

Throughout her mesmerizing sets, Rivard will showcase raw emotional vocals with a heartfelt wall of acoustic sound. Her relatable sonic tales of love, travel and growth will resonate with crowds of all ages and musical interests.

“There’s the spiritual element of letting go and letting music flow through you. The best music that I’ve created is what just comes out of me,” Rivard said. “I’m not trying to manipulate it, I’m not trying to do anything – it just comes. I’m committed to it, and I’m going to keep on going because there’s so much to learn from it.”

Rivard spent the last three and half years honing her guitar chops after studying with Detroit singer-songwriter Joel Palmer. She later added guitar to her repertoire after playing drums, piano, banjo and autoharp while growing up in Royal Oak with several musical siblings. That instrumental prowess also led to a deep musical appreciation for Simon & Garfunkel, Gillian Welch, Lauren Hill and Scott Joplin.

“I discovered when I was younger the soundtrack for the movie, ‘Amelie,’ by Yann Tiersen,” she said. “It’s instrumental stuff that’s kind of playful and whimsical, so I think that played a part in the kind of music that I play.”

Continue reading “Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday”

Three’s Company – Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho to Join ‘Even Steven Songwriters Round’ in Farmington Friday

The Even Steven Songwriters Round will feature Steve Acho, Stephen Clark and Steve Taylor in Farmington Friday.

A metro Detroit crowd will experience the live music of “Three’s Company” Friday night in Farmington.

While it won’t involve Jack, Janet or Chrissy, it will spotlight three “Steves” who’ve made a lasting sonic impression on the Motor City and Music City.

Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho will bring their catchy acoustic country, Americana roots and pop-rock classics to the “Friday Night Live – Even Steven Songwriters Round” at the Farmington Civic Theater. It will be an intimate evening filled with live music and laughter all round.

Let’s take a closer look at each “Steve” and how they will even up the musical score Friday night in Farmington.

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Danika & The Jeb Bring Fresh Americana Tonight to Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe

Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart will perform tonight at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe.

Editor’s Note: This is repost of an earlier interview with Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart of Danika & The Jeb. Tonight, they’ll be performing at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe.

A Nashville acoustic pop and Americana duo, Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart, aka Danika & The Jeb, bring a dynamic, uplifting and fun sound that includes a combination of artfully written songs and powerful musical phrasing.

Together, Danika & The Jeb have performed more than 1,200 shows in the U.S., U.K. and Europe since forming in 2010. They’ve also opened for Lyle Lovett, Dierks Bentley, Phil Vassar and Tracy Lawrence.

Holmes believes that a well-written song can embody all emotions of the human existence, and she articulates that beautifully with her slightly raspy, yet warm voice and truthful lyrics.

“I learned how to play the guitar from Jeb. It’s been so fun playing together all these years now because our musical style has grown together,” said Holmes, who grew up listening to church music. “As a vocalist, every artist wishes they had a guitar player like Jeb, someone who knows when to hang back and knows when to step up to the front of the stage and give a killer solo as well.”

Grand-nephew to country artist Clyde Moody, Hart can craft a story with six strings. Despite a car accident that left him unable to play for several years, Hart’s determination to overcome prevailed.

“I started on sax when I was nine and then on guitar at 14. When I was young, I’d go to work with my mom and was told to be quiet,” Hart said. “I’d hang out next to her desk with a pair of headphones on and record mixed tapes from the radio onto this little boombox she bought me.”

The duo’s latest project, “Day #2349, Danika & The Jeb – Live at Campbell Steele Gallery,” is a live double album that was recorded in Marion, Iowa last year. They recorded it 2,349 days after the release of their first album, “Second Chances,” in 2010. Their latest studio album, “Balance, Vol. 1” was released in 2014.

“Our goal was to capture one of our 1,200 live performances in a way that made people feel like they were right there listening to it,” Holmes said. “We didn’t want it to be a ‘best of’ album where you get the best version of 20 live shows. Our double-disc album is a complete show, beginning to end.”

Danika & The Jeb will capture that same live spirit during their performance tonight at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe.

“We never tell exactly what we are preparing, but we choose our set from about six hours of rehearsed material,” Holmes said. “We like to read our audience and the other writers we’ll be playing for and with.”

Later this year, Danika & The Jeb will launch a Patreon page to share more live adventures with their fans. Each month, they will release two pieces of content that will include audio or live video projects. Danika & The Jeb also will be playing 80 more shows throughout the U.S. and Europe this year.

Tom Birchler, Bobby G Launch ‘Friday Night Live’ Fall Season at Farmington Civic Theater

Tom Birchler will headline Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater this Friday.

This Friday, Tom Birchler will take center stage at the Farmington Civic Theater.

The metro Detroit singer-songwriter will headline his first show for “Friday Night Live,” a fall and winter concert series he’s curated, produced and emceed for nearly three years.

“I get to play some of my own stuff and go through my catalog to see what might connect with the audience. I’ll also do some covers, so you might hear The Beatles, Carole King or an Eagles tune,” Birchler said. “The trick is to weave the covers and originals in such a way that the show has a flow and make it entertaining from front to back.”

Birchler will perform an acoustic set with his brother David Birchler and include special guest Bobby G, a Livonia blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.

“I have some stuff in the set that has to do with family, I’m going to do a song called ‘That’s My Mom,’” he said. “I’ve also got some songs about love, and I’m going to do a tribute to my fallen ‘brother’ Tommy Anderson.”

A Farmington music mainstay, Birchler launched the “Friday Night Live” concert series in January 2017 after discovering the theater’s potential as a live music venue. He approached theater general manager Scott Freeman about hosting the concert series in the upstairs 130-seat theater, which now doubles as one of southeast Michigan’s premier listening rooms.

Together, Birchler and Freeman, who met each other while working at Farmington’s Rhythms in Riley Park summer concert series in 2014, wanted to offer a live music experience on Friday nights and expand the theater’s offering beyond movies in downtown Farmington.

For the “Friday Night Live” series, they opted for three shows in the fall and four in the winter. To prepare for each show, Birchler books performances and handles sound while Freeman oversees promotion and venue needs.

“I knew it was a good room, and the size was right,” said Birchler, who also books and produces several Michigan-based shows through Go2Guy Productions and performs regularly for seniors. “I thought this would be an awesome venue for live music. I’m really lucky to be able to do stuff in that venue. Going forward, I hope that it’s something we can do more often.”

Continue reading “Tom Birchler, Bobby G Launch ‘Friday Night Live’ Fall Season at Farmington Civic Theater”