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Fearlessly All in: Lewis Knudsen, “Joy, Pain, Love, Songs.”; June 5 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 10:19

Last year, Quad Cities-based singer/songwriter Lewis Knudsen decided to give up substitute-teaching to devote himself full-time to music. Lots of musicians make a similar leap, but few of them commit to it as fearlessly and smartly as Knudsen has.

He performed at open mics and got gigs wherever he could – restaurants, bars, wineries, nursing homes, birthday parties, company parties.

He set out to write and record a new song a week in 2013, a project that ended up generating 40 tracks (all of them available on his Web site at LewisKnudsen.com/songs-from-2013). For the uncharitable who think Knudsen was a slacker for falling short of his goal, the song-a-week project was waylaid by a three-week tour of Europe through the Germany-based Songs & Whispers organization.

He assembled a band and professionally recorded the self-released album Joy, Pain, Love, Songs. – whose debut he’ll be marking with a June 5 show at the Redstone Room.

And while studio recording can be a challenge for neophytes, Knudsen sidestepped that issue in two ways – by fine-tuning the songs in live settings and having the process come to him by tracking with mobile equipment in his quintet’s practice space. “It was exactly like being in my living room and recording the whole album,” Knudsen said in a phone interview last week.

 
“We Don’t Want to Slow Down”: D.R.I., May 30 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 23 May 2014 13:17

D.R.I. Photo by Colin Davis.

The seminal crossover-thrash band D.R.I. released its seventh studio album, Full Speed Ahead, in 1995, and fans hungry for an eighth album ... well, they’ll need to keep waiting.

Founding vocalist Kurt Brecht, in a recent phone interview promoting D.R.I.’s May 30 appearance at RIBCO, said the band isn’t against the idea and has made fits and starts. It recorded four demos in 2004 and released a Web-only track from those sessions. And, he added, founding guitarist Spike Cassidy “was saying something about recording the next time we’re in L.A. with the engineer that used to do our old albums when we were on Metal Blade Records.”

But, he said, if something comes from that studio time, it will likely be an EP. “Not that we couldn’t write a full album,” he said. “It’s just we’ve been so busy touring and stuff, we don’t want to stop to put out an album. ... We’re just so happy to have an unlimited amount of dates thrown at us all over the world to play, so we don’t want to slow down.” Plus, without a current record deal, the band is under no obligation to release new material – and getting a record deal or self-releasing an album would require energy that could be devoted to touring.

 
The Best of Both Worlds: Black Star Riders Build on Thin Lizzy, May 30 at Rascals Live PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 05:23

When guitarist Damon Johnson was recruited from Alice Cooper’s band to play in Thin Lizzy in 2011, he had no idea that he was also joining another band.

“The initial discussions were just about filling that soon-to-be-vacant guitar spot,” Johnson said in a phone interview this week. “And that was enough for me, as a student of Thin Lizzy’s music – not just the guitar players, but Phil [Lynott]’s songwriting.

“So it was extra exciting for me, literally the second or third day that I was there, [that] there was a discussion about wanting to write and record new material for a Thin Lizzy album.”

 
Pin It Beneath Glass: Julie Byrne, May 28 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:08

Few people would be surprised to find Julie Byrne working in the service industry. The singer/songwriter, after all, is in her mid-20s with one album to her credit, and it’s hard for an emerging musician to make ends meet performing for small audiences and selling records one by one.

But if you see Byrne working at Rozz-Tox in the coming weeks, it’s not for that reason. Instead, she’s the first artist-in-residence at the venue, and her one-month stay in the Quad Cities – running through early June – will include a show on May 28.

The residency, Byrne said last week, originated with the idea of finding something to fill the gap between a two-month tour and her summer concert bookings. “I knew that going on such a long tour would be really wonderful and really exhilarating but also challenging just because there’s no privacy and no space to reflect on these constant, rapid experiences – each day in a new place,” she said. “So I was trying to figure out a calm, tranquil environment where I could exist after the tour to kind of take it all in and begin working on new material.”

 
Unexpected Light in the Darkness: David G. Smith, May 17 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Saturday, 03 May 2014 08:48

David G. Smith. Photo by Avory Pierce.In putting together his new album One House, Blue Grass, Iowa-based David G. Smith “ended up with 10 issues-oriented songs,” he said in an interview last week.

This was a bit of an accident. Smith – who will be celebrating the album’s release with a May 17 show at the Redstone Room – said he brought 21 songs to producer Blue Miller and “figured we’d find an album out of that. ... We ended up recording two albums. ... We’ve got another one on deck. It’s already been mastered.”

And when Smith considered which songs to put on which album, One House’s 10 tracks seemed to naturally go together in the order they appear.

The title track asks the question “Can we live in one house built on higher ground?” “Ivory” deals with the illegal trade of elephant tusks. “Jesus Is in Prison” is about a death-row inmate. “Angels Flew” tells the story of a boat lift rescuing people on 9/11. “Doesn’t Take Much Light” and “Ariel” are specific narratives based on real people – with Parkinson’s disease and the extremely rare Rett syndrome, respectively. (The River Music Experience concert is also a platform to raise money for the latter illness.)

It’s a heavy collection, and for some tastes it will likely be too on-the-nose, even though it’s rarely preachy – which Smith called “the mortal sin of songwriting”: “It’s a supreme challenge to try to write something that will strike a chord with people and at least make them pause and maybe think a little bit.”

The subject matter and directness are countered by folk arrangements that are thoughtful and evocative, but more importantly the album – Smith’s second studio effort – is also filled with hope, conviction, earnest heart, and lovely turns of phrase that elevate it. Smith is at his best finding unexpected light in the darkness.

 
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