First Listen: Will Hoge duet with Sheryl Crow – “Little Bit of Rust”

Will HogeWill Hoge has slogged his way through years of van tours, bar shows and others having more success with his songs than his own band. He’s made some freakin’ great Americana rock and roll albums, including his most recent record Small Town Dreams. His shows are killer; a Telecaster-infused Memphis rock and roll blast.

Through it all, the consistent theme seems to have been that Will Hoge is just one of those guys who is better than people realize, meaning he may be in a van playing the 800-seaters for years.

But he’s smart. And his songwriting reflects it. You like Petty? Dig into Will Hoge. Shouldn’t be that tough.

And his new song, “Little Bit of Rust” from his forthcoming album Anchor brings Nashville neighbor Sheryl Crow into the mix, with a duet that blends the harmonies with a surprisingly biting electric guitar.  It’s a song that pairs his endearing and enduring grit with  a partner who might just raise his profile, even if that’s not his intention.

Read the Rolling Stone story about the partnership here.

VIDEO: The Lumineers breaking big (“Stubborn Love”)

The Lumineers have sold nearly 300,000 copies of their debut album.  They played a 200-person club in Indianapolis in May, and much like fellow Americana darlings The Civil Wars, are on the cusp of breaking really big.  Love their sound, and love the loose-limbed live performances.  Here’s one recorded in a radio studio of “Stubborn Love” – simultaneously  melancholy and uplifting…

Review: “The Wake” – four Indianapolis American rock bands turn it up

Dubbed “The Wake,” the four-band bill at The Earth House in downtown Indianapolis on Friday night was a well-paced night of throwback Midwestern heartland rock, updated for the times. Held in an old church (with the gospel influence that brings) is most certainly a good thing in rock and roll.

All four bands were almost entirely Indy-based. The Weakenders, with only a guitar player not from Indy (he was the from-the-gut guitar-playing, long-haired Nashville cat) were the final band of the night, and brought home the two-guitar rock and roll turned-up-to-11 noise.

The Dead Hearts showed the promise and original music that warrants following the Tom Petty/Bryan Adams/Springsteen vibe they throw off when they play. Attakula was a surprisingly diverse and mature roots rock version of Arcade Fire. And Henry French and The Shameless worked as a three-piece; French wrangled rock and roll grit and beauty out of his Telecaster guitar and was helped along by the cranked-up drums.

The show was a model of efficiency, moving from one band into the next in about 15 minutes each; it roared to a start with French, whose sound channeled a rocked-up version of Son Volt. They tore through just over 45 minutes of originals. French, who has said he is taking a break from the band and music for a while, was most effective when taking a song’s energy, and twisting it higher as the song roared. A neo-Bo Diddley beat, and Henry stomping his right foot while facing the drummer during the last song of the set, was goose bump-inducing.

Attakula, six-piece band of nuanced roots rock, revealed themselves as a contender for best local talent working in the Americana genre. They can come with twin guitar attack, or bring on a mandolin to replace the Gibson Les Paul. A full, intricate sound and Petty blues mixed with The Band country-rock moments were highlights.

With “Not What I Wanted to Say” coming early in their set, The Dead Hearts brought the most accessible songs of the evening. They, as all the bands did at some point in their set. worked moments of beauty mixed with barbed wire electricity, By the time they reached “Bad For You” at the end of the 50-minute set, singer Brandon Perry had found sweet spot of chunky rhythm guitar with Brian Gropp’s gospel-tinged Hammond B3-like keyboards. The band is only one year old, and they’re still growing in confidence. If they find a way to let loose a bit more during performances while continuing to write, I like their future,

The most polished, and also pleasingly Shooter Jennings-like rugged, of the groups was the Nashville-based The Weakenders. Three of the four members are from Indy, and have recently moved to Tennessee. Guitarist Eli Chastain led them through “Sink or Swim,” echoing a Neil Young rawness; the two hard-strummed guitars worked together with slamming drums to show off the band’s efforts to take their musical game up a step by moving to Music City. Their effective harmonies and a nicely rehearsed set closed the show, using high-energy rock and roll with country-via-“Exile on Main Street” touches to pull the crowd in.

Were there things to that could have been better? There were moments with each band when lyrics needed to be sold harder, as they stopped being words and blended into melody. I would have loved a cover tune from each band; sometimes I need one, even on a night of originals. And the crowd of a 100 or so felt large enough to make it seem like the night was appreciated, but they did hang back until The Weakenders took the stage.

In reality, these are minor qualms with a show that was meant to refute the notion that American rock and roll is scarce — or dying — in Indianapolis.

As Brian Gropp of the Dead Hearts told me between sets during the show “American rock is out there” — at house parties and in basements; it’s just harder to find.” For one night, it seemed lost no more, and instead found in an old church in downtown Indianapolis.

And it may be in the hands of these four – and the others who mine the same sound — to keep playing, elevating their on-stage energy, and continuing to honor their true voice. We know it is rarely a one night or one week or one month endeavor to get anywhere worthwhile in life, professionally or otherwise.

It’s up to one band to make themselves heard with American rock in Indy. If any one of these bands, or others who were not at this show, takes their musical game to the next level — in popularity and with creativity — then others could follow. This was a good step in the process. What’s next?

2011 Americana Music Award Nominees Announced

Elizabeth Cook on the stove

Here’s the announced list for Americana Music Association Honors and Nominees: The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, October 13 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  My comments follow each category…

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Band of Joy, Robert Plant
Welder, Elizabeth Cook
Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle
Blessed, Lucinda Williams

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Buddy Miller
Elizabeth Cook
Hayes Carll
Robert Plant

NEW/EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Civil Wars
Mumford And Sons
The Secret Sisters
Jessica Lea Mayfield

DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Avett Brothers
The Civil Wars
Mumford And Sons
Robert Plant and the Band Of Joy

SONG OF THE YEAR
Decemberists with Gillian Welch- “Down By The Water”
Elizabeth Cook – “El Camino”
Hayes Carll – “Kmag Yoyo”
Justin Townes Earle – “Harlem River Blues”

INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Buddy Miller
Gurf Morlix
Kenny Vaughan
Sarah Jarosz
Will Kimbrough

Rock News: Americana chart; U2 and Culture Club; Indiana connection to California music

Rock Water Cooler – Things to talk about to appear really smart….
Top 10 – This week’s Americana chart
1 ROBERT PLANT Band of Joy
2 RYAN BINGHAM & THE DEAD HORSES Junky Star
3 RAY LAMONTAGNE & THE PARIAH DOGS God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise
4 JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE Harlem River Blues
5 MARTY STUART Studio B Sessions
6 LOS LOBOS Tin Can Trust
7 MAVIS STAPLES You Are Not Alone
8 OLD 97S The Grand Theatre
9 JOHN MELLENCAMP No Better Than This
10 KIM RICHEY Wreck Your Wheels

→ After retiring the floppy disk in March, Sony has halted the manufacture and distribution of another now-obsolete technology: the cassette Walkman. The final batch was shipped to Japanese retailers.The first generation Walkman was released on July 1, 1979. Sony sold more than 200 million Walkman’s over the 30 years. Continue reading “Rock News: Americana chart; U2 and Culture Club; Indiana connection to California music”