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Honestly Alluring: Cains & Abels, August 19 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Monday, 13 August 2012 08:09

David Sampson of Cains & AbelsThe Facebook biography of the Chicago-based trio Cains & Abels is four words: “honest rock and roll.”

That might sound glib, vague, evasive, or even a dig at other bands – and it is. But a truer explanation is that singer/songwriter/bassist David Sampson means it, and to expand on the idea would simply take too long. When I asked him a general question about the genesis of “Money” – from the band’s gorgeously, patiently articulated My Life Is Easy album – he talked for more than four minutes.

He touched on how his fictional songs seemed to bring their specific sadnesses into his life, and how he decided – almost as a joke – to write happy songs to conjure a different vibe.

“One of the main troubles in my life is money,” he said. He discussed how hip-hop artists rap about what they aspire to, and “if it works out, ... they’ve made it happen by talking about it. ... So I decided at one point that I should try to write some songs about how awesome it is to be wealthy, or at least comfortable financially.”

He then deflated what had seemed a hopeful tale. “I ended up writing a song addressing money as a lover that spurned me,” he said. “It didn’t actually come out the way I intended it to.”

Even Sampson’s fantasies are weighed down by truth; he couldn’t complete a tongue-in-cheek exercise in wish fulfillment.

 
Extra Ordinary: Better Than Ezra, August 18 at River Roots Live PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 13:20

Better Than Ezra. Photo by Rick Olivier.When I interviewed Better Than Ezra singer/songwriter/guitarist Kevin Griffin earlier this month, I asked him whether the group’s next album – originally conceived as a late-2012 release – had been pushed to next year to mark the band’s quarter-century milestone.

“I had no idea that next year will be the 25th anniversary,” he said. “Oh my God.”

He recovered quickly, though:“This is the 25th-anniversary release, which will ... be our swan song.”

He was kidding about Ezra’s retirement, saying that “it just felt like the thing to say.” And the band certainly shows no signs of quitting at 25 years. The trio is one of the headliners at this year’s River Roots Live festival, it continues to regularly produce new music that connects with fans, and Griffin has built a second career writing songs for other artists (including Sugarland, James Blunt, Train, and Debbie Harry) that keeps him busy when Ezra isn’t.

 
Christmas in August: Josh Duffee Plays in Three Bands at the 2012 Bix Jazz Festival PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 17:28

Josh DuffeeJosh Duffee admits that his Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival schedule is intense. The 32-year-old percussionist will be playing with three groups and performing more than a dozen times over five days, but he said it’s not exhausting.

“Usually, by Monday, I’m feeling it a little bit, but ... it’s kind of like Christmas for me,” he said in a phone interview last week. “I’m going to take advantage of every single second I can get, and if I can sleep on Tuesday, August 7, then I’ll go ahead and do that.”

The Bix fest opens on Thursday, August 2, with a full slate of concerts the three days after that and an event on Monday, August 6: a show at one of Bix’s old haunts – Jim’s Knoxville Tap, formerly known as the Bluebird Inn – on the 81st anniversary of his death at age 28. Most concerts will be held in the RiverCenter, the Adler Theatre, and LeClaire Park. (For a full schedule of events, visit BixSociety.org/festival.html.)

 
“Peaks” Performance: Swedish Singer/Songwriter Sofia Talvik, August 3 at Cool Beanz Coffeehouse PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 06:00
Sofia Talvik, photo by Kirk StaufferIf you’re a fellow fan of Twin Peaks – David Lynch’s 1990-91 cult favorite in which Special Agent Dale Cooper investigated the murder of high-schooler Laura Palmer – you can listen to folk singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik’s latest CD thinking that the Swedish musician sounds, sometimes uncannily, like that TV series’ resident chanteuse, Julee Cruise. With her light, airy soprano and haunting, faraway melancholy, it’s easy to imagine Talvik herself hypnotizing crowds in a small-town biker bar, right before vanishing into the ether and being replaced by a cryptic bald giant. (It was that kind of show, bless its demented heart.)

 
Poised to Conquer: JEFF the Brotherhood, July 27 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 09:05

Triple Play

Over the course of a week, from July 21 to July 27, RIBCO will offer an impressive array of acts: half of The Sea & Cake on Saturday, the national-pastime-themed supergroup The Baseball Project on Thursday, and the up-and-coming garage-rock duo JEFF the Brotherhood on Friday.

An interview with The Sea & Cake’s Sam Prekop can be found here, and an interview with JEFF the Brotherhood’s Jake Orrall is below.

The Baseball Project. Photo by Michael E. Anderson.We interviewed The Baseball Project’s Scott McCaughey last year, and that article can be found at RCReader.com/y/baseballproject. In addition to McCaughey – known for the Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5 – the band includes Steve Wynn (of Dream Syndicate and Gutterball), Peter Buck (of R.E.M.), and Linda Pitmon (who has regularly worked with Wynn).

As we wrote last year, songwriters McCaughey and Wynn help the band transcend gimmickry: “The songs don’t settle for easy recitations of historical highlights. Some are pure celebrations – such as the punky ‘Ichiro Goes to the Moon’ – that exude a love of the game through their understanding of it. But most of the songs are more complicated.”

More information and tickets for all these concerts are available at RIBCO.com.


JEFF the Brotherhood. Photo by Jo McCaughey.

Jake Orrall said that major labels these days wouldn’t put out something like Hypnotic Nights, the just-released album from JEFF the Brotherhood.

They might have in 1994, he said in a phone interview last week, in advance of his band’s July 27 show at RIBCO. And if that seems an odd date to choose, consider that was the year DGC released Weezer’s self-titled debut, popularly known as the Blue Album.

You’ll have no difficulty making the stylistic link between the two records, both packed with candied rock hooks, punkish drive, infectious melodies, and gleefully arrested development. As Stereogum casually put it: “Whenever people say to me, ‘Man, I miss Blue Album-era Weezer,’ I reply, ‘Then why the hell aren’t you listening to JEFF The Brotherhood already?’” To which the A.V. Club added (discussing JEFF’s 2011 album): “They’ve sidestepped Rivers Cuomo and created the album he’s no longer interested in making.”

The irony is that Hypnotic Nights was released by Warner Bros.

 
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