Archive for the Knoxville Music Category

A Little Knox Music: Read the Book by Karen E. Reynolds

Posted in Karen Reynolds, Knoxville Music on December 6, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As the host of The Writer’s Block on WDVX, Karen Reynolds follows me on the air every Wednesday night.  The Writer’s Block plays nothing but original songs by independent artists, and Reynolds has been the show’s host for nearly 13 years.  She’s been a very good friend to below-the-radar artists for a very long time.

Part of the reason she cares so deeply about those independent artists is that she is one herself.  Reynolds is a veteran of the singer/songwriter circuit and wears many hats in addition to hosting and performing.  When she isn’t behind the radio mic or playing gigs, Reynolds teaches collaborative children’s songwriting classes at The Country Music Hall of Fame, hosts and judges various singer/songwriter competitions, and serves as Vice President of the IndieGrrl organization that works to support women in the arts.  Karen even operates her own artists services agency (Sound Advice) to help other artists navigate the waters of independent music.

With all that on her plate, it’s no wonder that her new record Read the Book is her first new studio record in several years.  It’s an album that’s been a long time coming, and you should take the time to open the cover, flip through a few pages, and hear what Reynolds has to say.

The album’s title is an obvious reference to the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and stems from a specific event in Reynold’s music career.  A few years ago, she was playing an opening set at a prominent listening room in the South.  As she took the stage, Reynolds overheard a patron in the front row say to his friend, “I’m not going to like this chick.”  She didn’t acknowledge it during her set, but the comment got her pretty riled up.  In addition to calling her a “chick” (which she hates), this man had taken one look at an artist, decided she didn’t look like the people he saw on CMT or MTV, and made a snap judgement on her abilities and her music without hearing her play the first note.

The event also inspired the album’s title track where Reynolds invites the listener to see with their heart instead of their eyes before passing judgement.  It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed many times over the years by several artists in several forms, but Reynolds manages to put a personal spin on it to keep it fresh.

Other highlights include the album opening “What Kind of Everything,” a song about a love that may not be all the subject of the song believes.  “You Don’t Love Me” is another broken heart ballad that is immediately preceded on the album by “Drunken Love,” a spoken word piece by Knoxville artist/poet Bill Alexander.  The two compliment each other nicely as though the protagonist in Reynolds’ song is the voice of Alexander’s abandoned lover at the bar.

Two songs were borne out of Reynolds’ partnership with the Words and Music in Schools Program in which artists collaborate with elementary school music classes to write songs.  They range in tone from the whimsical “Dolly” about an imagined meeting with a certain Backwoods Barbie to the more poignant “The Forsaken.”  The latter reads as a tribute to military men and women stationed overseas as the narrator offers prayers for their safe return. The song stemmed in part from a student who had written a letter to her father, a serviceman in the Middle East.

There’s plenty to like here for those who want to take the time to open up the book and read it cover to cover.  Speaking of cover to cover, I guess I should finish the story of the guy at the show who just “knew” he wouldn’t enjoy the show.  After Reynolds played her set, he came to the merch table and bought a CD.  He also voluntarily apologized for the comment he didn’t know Reynolds had heard.

Karen Reynolds: Read the Book (Buy Album)

ReviewShine Wednesday/A Little Knox Music: Tim Lee 3

Posted in Knoxville Music, Tim Lee 3 on November 10, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Until I got the link for their new album Raucous Americanus Tim Lee 3 was just another one of those Knoxville bands that I had always heard good things about but had never really taken the time to hear for myself.  I’m not sure why that is, but I’m here to tell you that I’ve been missing out. Maybe you have too.

The band’s front man and namesake Tim Lee gained some notoriety in the ’80s as a member of the jangle pop band The Windbreakers.  By the beginning of this decade, however, Lee had become tired of the business side of the music business and moved to Knoxville with is wife Susan with the thought of putting music behind him.  Luckily, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and Tim Lee 3 was born four years ago with Tim on on vocals and guitar, Susan on bass, and Rodney Cash on drums.  Cash was replaced by Matt Honkonen last year.

The band releases its third album next week… a double disc affair featuring 21 tracks of solid rock and roll.  Susan’s role has expanded on this album to include writing credits on half of the songs and lead vocals on several others.  Susan’s voice provides a nice contrast to Tim’s rougher sounds and helps the extra long set avoid the monotonous ruts that trouble most double albums.  But the real highlights come when the two sing together.  In their most rocking moments, they bear more than a passing aural resemblance to John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X.

Tim Lee 3 will play the WDVX Blue Plate Special this Friday at noon (Eastern).  I’m gonna be there, and you should listen in.  Don’t put off listening to this band as long as I did.

Here’s one song with lead vocals from Tim… and one with lead vocals from Susan.

Tim Lee 3: What I Have Not Got (Buy Album)
Tim Lee 3: Dig it Up (Buy Album)

ReviewShine Wednesday/A Little Knox Music: Mic Harrison & The High Score

Posted in Knoxville Music, Mic Harrison on August 25, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature a brief review of at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”

I already had a copy of Mic Harrison and the High Score’s Great Commotion before it showed up in my ReviewShine inbox a couple of weeks ago. Mic is a local artist, and local albums seem to have a way of finding me. In the interest of trying to get things back to a normal schedule at the site, however, I thought it best to use this album as a return to my weekly ReviewShine feature.

Harrison is a bit of a local legend stemming from his days with Knoxville’s roots-rock heroes The V-Roys in the late 1990’s. Harrison co-fronted that band with this blog’s patron saint Scott Miller, and (like Miller) has carved out a nice solo career for himself in the decade since the V-Roys’ split. For his last few albums, Harrison has paired with another local band, The High Score, to flesh out his sound and provide the same kind of power he had behind him in the V-Roys.
Harrison’s latest collaboration with The High Score brings that power to the fore with the aptly titled Great Commotion, an album full of brash, roots rock anthems full of pop hooks that need to be played at a high volume. The band wrote and produced the record themselves and then had the whole thing mastered by studio veteran Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Bottle Rockets, Chip Robinson, Kasey Anderson). I’m sharing a track called “Early Grove” which is actually one of the more subdued tunes on the album. It’s based around a simple acoustic groove, but has plenty of electric tension pushing through to the surface.
Mic Harrison & The High Score: Early Grove (Buy Album)

A Little Knox Music: Sam Quinn’s The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships

Posted in Knoxville Music, Sam Quinn on May 3, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

According to Sam’s website, he’s living in North Carolina these days, but he spent the last several years here in Knoxville. That’s enough for me to devote the latest segment of “A Little Knox Music” to his upcoming release, The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships.

Quinn is probably best known to most of you as one half (along with Jill Andrews) of the songwriting team behind indie-folksters the everybodyfields. Of course, the everybodyfields called it quits last June, and Andrews released her first solo EP in October. Now, it’s Quinn’s turn.
On Fake, Quinn visits many of the same places he used to frequent when he was a member of the everybodyfields. Their music was always known for a strong sense of melancholy weaved into music that sounded so heavenly. They often made you wonder how something that sounded so sweet could be so sad. The same question could be asked here.
Case in point… The song “So Strong” builds slowly after an opening electric lick and reads mostly as a dirge with strings and steels swirling around Quinn’s sombre reading of the lyrics. You get a hint of the sadness contained within, but by the time the chorus soars along, you’re swept away by it and too wrapped up in the music to care. Take a closer listen, however, and you’ll hear Quinn sing of a restlessness, a feeling of weakness, and a pain that’s “hurt for so long.”
That hurt is a central theme of the record, and it permeates nearly every one of the ten tracks. Quinn sings lines like “I’m only crying cause the tears weigh so much,” (“Suite Motown”) “I kill myself a little every night,” (“Gun”) and “I never needed anyone except myself” (“Fanboy”). His continued use of first person pronouns such as “I” and “me” let you know that these are his words and his pain. Quinn says the last year of his life has been a particularly trying one with personal and professional break ups. He is just trying to share some of his sadness… and maybe bring a few people along with him. Mission accomplished.
I played the song “Mardi Gras” on the air at WDVX a couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon. Before the song was even over, someone called the station to tell me that the music I was spinning was just too depressing for such a beautiful day and the end of the work week. That may be true. This might be more of a late night/rainy day record (perfect night for it in East Tennessee tonight as I write this). Listen to this record when you’re in a good enough mood, and you might even get a little mad at Quinn for trying so hard to bring you down with him.
Listen again, however, and you’ll realize that there is a method to his madness and a beauty to his sadness. If only all of our sorrows sounded so good…
The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships will be released May 11th on Ramseur Records. On May 12th Quinn will play the first ever outdoor Blue Plate Special live from The Market Square Stage in downtown Knoxville.
Sam Quinn: So Strong (Buy Album)

One more note…

In case you didn’t notice the new text in the sidebar, you can now follow this blog on facebook. You’ll get updates on what’s being posted here, heads up on special events at WDVX, random thoughts, and whatever else I can come up with. You can also leave comments there as well.

Random Weekend Post: Greg Horne

Posted in Greg Horne, Knoxville Music on March 20, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Wednesday night at WDVX, I’ll be joined on the air by local artist Greg Horne. Greg is known around town as a tremendous guitar player, and he just released his new album Basically Sane. I’ll try to throw up a brief review of that album before he sits in with me Wednesday, but just in case I don’t… here’s a nice video of Greg performing live.

A Little Knox Music: Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes by R.B. Morris

Posted in Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris on January 14, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

R.B. Morris is a singer/songwriter who has shared a stage with Lucinda Williams and had his songs recorded by John Prine.

R.B. Morris is a poet and author who has published multiple books and once served as the editor of the highly respected Hard Knoxville Review.
R.B. Morris is a playwright who once wrote and starred in his own one man show based on the life of Pulitzer Prize winning author (and Knoxville native) James Agee.
I once referred to Morris as a one man literary wrecking ball, and his skills with the written word in all of its myriad forms are showcased brilliantly on his new CD Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes. On this album, Morris moves from Dylan style folk, to abstract spoken word pieces, to straightforward rock and roll bombast with ease… sometimes within the same song.
The album kicks off with the subdued travelogue “Amsterdam.” R.B. croons softly over faint accordions and guitar before transitioning into the funk fueled word art of “Big Wheel/Vowels” on the album’s second track. Here Morris references the works of french poet Arthur Rambaud as he muses on the colors represented by different vowels. Morris speaks rather than sings as his studio band, including longtime compatriot Hector Quirko and guitar maestro Kenny Vaughn provide a perfect canvas for his words.
It’s a formula he repeats on a few other tracks as well. The whole thing can be a bit jarring if you aren’t expecting it, but those who are familiar with Morris’ previous works and live shows have come to expect such departures. These Beat inspired pieces provide a backdrop for his poetry that a standard song structure simply can’t provide.
That’s not to say, however, that Morris can’t turn out a straight forward song when he tries. “Spy in My Brain” is a guitar rocker of the highest calibre that brings to mind some of Alejandro Escovedo’s heavier work. The fire is balanced nicely with the more restrained “That’s How Every Empire Falls” and “Then There is a City.” All three tracks (along with “Big Wheel/Vowels” and “Buddha in European Clothes”) also appeared on Morris’ 2007 EP Empire but have been re-recorded and given new life here. The album is wrapped up nicely with the Dylan-esque “Plato’s Perfect World” in which he wishes for a world where there was no need for poets to point out societal ills.
R.B. Morris is already a legendary figure in Knoxville and an artist Lucinda Williams once called the “greatest unknown songwriter in the country.” Maybe his new effort will help to remove the “unknown” tag from that title.
Here are two tracks from the new album… one song and one “other.”
R.B. Morris: Spy in My Brain (Buy Album)
R.B. Morris: Big Wheel/Vowels (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Scott Miller’s New Single

Posted in Knoxville Music, Scott Miller on October 24, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I told you about Scott Miller’s new single “Lo Siento, Spanishburg WVa.” Scott is selling downloads of the song on his website to help raise funds for his next studio recording. This is the first in what should be a series of such downloadable tracks.

Scott has also created a video for his new song. You can watch it here and see more of Scott’s videos on his YouTube page.