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.

A Little Knox Music – Expatriate Edition: Robby Hecht

Posted in Knoxville Music, Robby Hecht on October 22, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’m bringing a little bit of a twist to this installment of “A Little Knox Music.” The artist I’m featuring today claims Knoxville as his original home, even though he has moved on from our fair city in recent years.Today, I feature the music of Robby Hecht

Robby has spent most of his musical life away from the shadow of the Sunsphere, but he was born and raised in Knoxville. That’s enough for me to include him here.

Robby’s first foray into songwriting came when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also spent time in Paris and San Francisco before settling in Nashville where he worked on his debut album Late Last Night. The album is textured and melodic, and filled with great songs (Hecht wrote nine of the album’s ten tracks)… a very mature offering for a debut disc that shows why Hecht was named the winner of the 2008 Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition.

Of course, talent attracts talent, and Late Last Night boasts an impressive list of guest stars. The angelic voices of Mindy Smith, Jill Andrews, and Sarah Siskind all grace the album. Robbie is also joined on select tracks by Thad Cockrell, Andrea Zonn, and Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. At no point, though, do the guests overpower the record. Robby keeps you squarely focused on his voice and his words.

Here’s a track from the album that features vocals from Mindy Smith (herself a former Knoxvillian).

Robby Hecht: Freight Train Lady (Buy Album)

Notes: Kontest Winner, New Scott Miller,

Posted in Annie and the Beekeepers, Knoxville Music, Kris Kristofferson, Scott Miller on October 15, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

First of all, in case you missed the comment in the contest thread… I want to say congrats to Rory, the winner of the Kristofferson Kontest. Rory won a Deluxe Edition copy of Kris Kristofferson’s new album Closer to the Bone. I want to say thank you to everyone who entered the drawing (nearly 20 of you), and a special thank you to New West Records for providing the prize for the contest.

I’ve really enjoyed these first two contests (Kris & Porterdavis), and I know my wife has enjoyed being in charge of picking the lucky winners out of the hat. Keep your eyes peeled. If I come across any more cool prizes, I’ll certainly try to do more of these giveaways.

The Patron Saint of A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz, Mr. Scott Miller, has a new project cooking over at his website. If you remember, last year, Scott sold 1,000 copies (complete with original artwork for each copy) of a demos project called Appalachian Refugee to raise money for his first self-released studio album For Crying Out Loud.

This time around, Scott is again looking to fans to help fund the creation of his next record. Starting this week, Scott will be releasing a series of songs on his website that will be available for paid downloads. The first song, “Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WVa” went live yesterday. For those of you like me who don’t speak Spanish, the title translates to “I’m Sorry, Spanishburg, WVa.” You can purchase the song and become an investor in Scott’s new record here.

Last month, I posted a link to several videos over at the Music Fog website that were recorded on the Music Fog bus during the Americana Music Conference in Nashville. One of the videos I linked to was for a song called “Again & Again” by Annie Lynch & the Beekeepers. The video was contained in a post titled, “For the Love of God, Please Watch This!!!” So I did… and you still can.

What I heard was a true melancholy folk masterpiece from songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Annie Lynch, bassist Ken Woodward, and cellist Alexandra Spalding. The trio met while attending the Berklee College of Music a few years back and have just released their second EP, The Squid Hell Sessions. The studio version of “Again & Again” appears on the EP and was just included on the sampler CD in the newest issue of Paste Magazine. You can hear a whole lot more at their myspace page.
Annie & The Beekeepers: Again & Again (Buy Album)

A Little Knox Music: Jill Andrews New CD and WDVX Appearance Friday

Posted in Jill Andrews, Knoxville Music, the everybodyfields on October 8, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Jill Andrews spent the past several years as one-half of the creative force behind indie-folk darlings the everybodyfields. Along with Sam Quinn (the other half) and a rotating cast of fellow musicians, Jill and the everybodyfields released three outstanding records. The band gained new fans and accolades with each new release as their melancholy lyrics and soaring harmonies were impossible to resist. They were working on material for a fourth studio album when word began to spread around Knoxville that the band was no more.

In the last few months since the split, Quinn has been playing gigs with his new project Sam Quinn & the Japan Ten. Meanwhile, Andrews took some time off to give birth to her first child and work on her first solo project… a self-titled EP due out at the end of the month.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to an advance copy of the new EP for the better part of a week now, and I can’t put it away. I put the whole thing on repeat Tuesday afternoon while I did some house work. It had played all the way through four complete times before I finished my project. I didn’t mind one bit… I was enthralled by each song each time through.

The first thing you notice about this project is just how great it sounds. Andrews produced the album herself and had the whole thing mastered by Patty Griffin sideman/producer Doug Lancio. Pianos and gentle guitars float in and around Andrews’ gorgeous vocal melodies all while giving her voice and words room to shine.

It’s when you listen to those words that the stomach punch comes. The everybodyfields were always known for their heart wrenching and emotionally powerful lyrics that added heft to their soaring harmonies. Andrews keeps that spirit alive here with songs about loss and love… endings and beginnings. With that, it’s hard not to hear these songs in the context of the dissolution of the everybodyfields and call this a break up record. When Andrews sings, “Are you ready to leave?” over and over on “These Words,” it’s not a big leap to take.

Now, I must admit that I don’t know the circumstances around the break up, and I know some of these songs were performed live by the band before the split. However, anyone who has been in a relationship as it ends knows all of the conflicting feelings and emotions that show up in these situations. All of those emotions show up here. Anger at the person who is leaving. Gratitude for the time they spent. Confusion as everything changes. Excitement to start things anew.

All these emotions are brazenly displayed on Andrews’ sleeve in these six tracks. This EP reads as a deeply personal recounting of recent events and serves as a powerful reminder that Jill Andrews has plenty to say and will likely make quite an impact as a solo artist.

Andrews’ management has asked that I not share any of the tracks with you here until after the EP’s official release later this month (Oct. 26th). In the meantime, you can listen to a few streaming tracks on her myspace page, pre-order the EP at her webstore, and look for more updates on her website. Jill will also be performing live on WDVX’s Blue Plate Special Friday at noon (Eastern) along with The Stella Vees and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. You can stream the whole performance live at WDVX.com.

Since I can’t share anything from the new album yet… here’s one of my favorites from Andrews’ time with the everybodyfields.

the everybodyfields: His Pontiac (Buy Album)

Edit: I forgot to mention that there is a contest going on that will give one lucky person a copy of Jill Andrews’ new EP and two tickets to a show on the upcoming tour.

…and don’t forget about my Kristofferson Kontest. The winner will be picked Monday night.