Coming Soon: Handpicked with Under The Big Oak Tree

Under The Big Oak Tree's "Handpicked" concert poster

WHO’S PLAYING?  Under The Big Oak Tree (and guests) (St. Joseph, MO)

WHAT TO EXPECT?  Billed as “Autumn Spirits & Spice” this is a very unique, one of a kind concert will feature songs related to the fall. The event will be part of the First Saturdays celebration in Downtown St. Joseph, Missouri.

Under The Big Oak Tree are a local traditional bluegrass band. Their brilliant musicianship has impressed crowds over the last couple years while supporting their self-titled debut album and their latest release “Local Honey.” The 3 piece group features the sweet vocal stylings on Kristin Hamilton who also plays acoustic guitar, stand-up bass player Doug “Sluggo” Ward and multi-instrumentalist Simon Fink.

Special guest Lory Lacy is scheduled to help out the hosting group with a couple songs as well. She is a flutist and classically trained vocalist that should add a lot of variance to the performance.

Under The Big Oak Tree sounds like: traditional bluegrass, music you would hear on a Victrola, your bare feet in the July grass

WHERE IS IT? The Paradox Theatre, 107 S. 6th Street, St. Joseph, MO 64501

WHEN IS IT?  Saturday, October 1st, 2016; 2:00pm, FREE to all ages

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • It’s a family friendly event, no babysitter required
  • It’s at Paradox, they have a pretty good coffee shop too
  • It’s short, at likely under an hour it should be over before the kids even lose their patience
  • It’s a FREE show, it’s hard to beat FREE family entertainment
  • This is the first of three installments of the “Handpicked” series, to see them all you have to attend this one
  • It’s a classy event put on by really good people
  • There’s a SECOND show at the Tiger’s Den just a block away right after at 3:30 from the rustic roots band Like Rabbits out of Kansas City
  • On a Saturday afternoon it shouldn’t conflict with many other plans, it can be a small part of a busy day

You should RSVP on facebook to the event so you don’t forget, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/534680406727016/

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Vinyl Court: Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear

  • Artist: Father John Misty
  • Album: I Love You Honeybear (2015)
  • Purchased at: Hastings (St. Joseph, MO) for $12

This album topped many best of lists in 2015 but I wasn’t ever sure if it was for me. My favorite local record store’s closing sale provided an opportunity to own it so I took a chance. It turns out I should’ve paid full price the day it came out because it is worth it.

Father John Misty is also known as J. Tillman and Joshua Tillman. He has been in tons of bands, most notably The Fleet Foxes who burst out of the indie rock scene in the late 2000s. His brand of softer indie music and deep, intellectual lyrics has made Father John Misty his most successful project yet. You might need a dictionary to follow along with the lyrics but it is actually worth the ride.

With a very very weird album cover, a drawing where a baby Tillman with full beard is breast feeding, you can tell things aren’t so straight forward here. On songs like “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.” you might learn words like “malaprops” and if you already know that one hats off to you, it’s a good one. This song is a good one too. Alongside other great songs like the slow burning “Bored in the USA” and the dramatic rocker “The Ideal Husband” this album will give you a fresh look at indie rock and what is so great about it. It’s smart music for smart people or just people who like good music.

Rating: B

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Concert Review: Lucero / The Architects at The Granada in Lawrence, KS 9/13/16

Weekday shows can be tough, especially if you live out of town. When two bands you like hook up for a show you’ve got to answer the call though. Not even the inability to see the center line of the road through the pounding rain damped the spirits of the show. It was The Granada’s birthday after all. Tickets could be netted for a very practical $5 to see Lucero and The Architects on a Tuesday night yet the venue would still only be about 3/4 full.

The Architects and Lucero don’t have a ton in common stylistically, the pairing must have been based on Lucero loving The Granada (and Lawrence) and The Architects being local favorites made sense for the venue.

The Architects with another high intensity show at The Granda in Lawrence, KS on 9/13/16.

The Architects with another high intensity show at The Granda in Lawrence, KS on 9/13/16.

Taking the stage at 8:00 The Architects played to a light crowd that acted far more interested in Lucero than the band on stage. The Kansas City punkers brought their A-game though, as they always do. They pounded through several songs from their very good comic book/CD EP series Border Wars where they have finely rode the line between punk intensity and pop hooks. The soaring choruses of “Kickswaggerboom” and “Lucky” are undeniable to crowds. They dug out songs from each of their records with the standards; “Pills” and “Daddy Wore Black” in addition to a surprising reveal of “Bury My Heart In Lebanon, MO.”

As distinct as their stage show is the sweaty lead singer Brandon Phillips always committing to the show and ending up dripping wet by the end of the set. A little fun is never far away from the band as the three brothers (Adam, Brandon and Zach Phillips) howled like wolves while guitarist Christopher Meck tuned. They pounded out a riff heavy “Death Rides a Horse” before indulging in their AC/DC cover “Sin City” then ending with “Peter Fonda.” Their set would show them at their best, loud and proud.

The Architects setlist from The Granada in Lawrence, KS 9/13/16:

  • Lucky
  • Bury My Heart in Lebanon, MO
  • Pills
  • I Chose Wrong
  • Daddy Wore Black
  • In The Snow
  • Kickswaggerboom
  • Death Rides a Horse
  • Sin City (AC/DC cover)
  • Peter Fonda

Then Lucero came on stage, lacking the two horn players present last time they played The Granada. Now a standard 5-piece band led by salt and pepper haired Ben Nichols and featuring more heavily with each passing show keyboardist Rick Steff. Lucero instantly bucked the tone set by The Architects by playing the slow burning “Went Looking For Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles” with Nichols strumming his acoustic guitar. They would then set the tone for the rest of the night by honoring an audience request by playing the song “When You Decided to Leave” off their album That Much Further West.

The theme of the night would be requests, Nichols and the band are fearless when it comes to requests. They aren’t afraid to attack any songs from their entire catalog dating back to their self-titled debut from 2001. They would hit a few of their career highlights like the brilliant “Texas & Tennessee” and “Tears Don’t Matter Much” along with concert favorites like the sing-along “Nights Like These” and “The War.”

Lucero guiding their way through another impromptu set at The Granda in Lawrence, KS on 9/13/16.

Lucero guiding their way through another impromptu set at The Granda in Lawrence, KS on 9/13/16.

The group is always very loose and play off one-anther, it’s easy to see why no two Lucero shows are ever the same. They don’t have a setlist and undoubtedly are open to impromptu songs. The musicianship to be able to hold together on songs they haven’t even practiced in months and maybe years is staggering. The high volume of requests does have its draw backs though, you end up with several obscure songs that many audience members might not know. Going into a show you definitely don’t expect to hear “Nineteen Seventy Nine” “When You Decided to Leave” and “Last Night In Town” but it is all part of the Lucero experience.

Only playing 3 songs off of their excellent new record All A Man Should Do was a shocking turn. Even among those, absent was their latest triumph of a song “Baby Don’t You Want Me.” Nichols and the band likely don’t think much about that on stage, they aren’t pushing any particular record most times, they are just trying to appease a hungry audience one person at a time. Nichols, adorning his standard plain white tee, is one of the best at connecting with many audience members one-on-one. Regularly gazing into the crowd making those connections. By this time the lead singer had respectfully accepted all the loving audience’s free drinks and was feeling the effect. Lucero would end with a rowdy version of “Drink Til We’re Gone” and a standardly somber “Fistfull of Tears” before returning for a one song encore. They ended the show as they started with a slow songs from their mostly slow new record. They pulled out “My Girl & Me in ’93” which is not a great example of how good of lyricist Nichols actually is. Then as always he lifted his glass to the crowd and turned his attention to doing the same thing in Colorado the next night.

Lucero’s setlist from The Granada in Lawrence, KS 9/13/16:

  • Went Looking for Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles
  • When You Decided to Leave
  • Texas & Tennessee
  • Last Night in Town
  • My Best Girl
  • Bikeriders
  • Union Pacific Line
  • Good Enough for You
  • Downtown (Intro)
  • On My Way Downtown
  • Tears Don’t Matter Much
  • Nights Like These
  • Nineteen Seventy Nine
  • Little Silver Heart
  • I Woke Up in New Orleans
  • Kiss the Bottle (Jawbreaker cover)
  • I Can’t Stand to Leave You
  • I’ll Just Fall
  • The War
  • Joining the Army
  • Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good
  • Drink ‘Till We’re Gone
  • Fistful of Tears
  • My Girl & Me in ’93
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250 Word Classic Album Review: Bob Dylan – Love and Theft

Now 15 years… still just as good.

Vocals On Top

Bob Dylan "Love And Theft"

Bob Dylan "Love And Theft" gets 5 Stars

So it has been exactly 10 years today since Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” was released on September 11, 2001. This is obviously a minor footnote on the day’s historical significance but an important event nonetheless.

Bob Dylan had a long stretch of albums that were not great up until 1997’s Time Out Of Mind. The albums weren’t bad, but not up to the standards we had come to expect from the greatest songwriter ever. Time Out Of Mind was a stone cold classic album, the next release would tell whether that release was lightening in a bottle or a sign of things to come. “Love and Theft” proved Bob Dylan was back.

From the opening track “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” to the closer “Sugar Baby” “Love and Theft” is just plain brilliant. The album has no weaknesses and still 10 years later sounds fresh and interesting. Dylan…

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Ashley Raines debuts new album “King of Nothin'”

Ashley Raines

Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Ashley Raines has provided the first signs of his new album “King of Nothin’.” The Kansas City based Raines is releasing the new album after teasing new material with a collection of covers titled “I’ll Fight: A Collection of Cover Songs” late in 2015. That digital-only collection can be purchased here. The new record will be his first full-length release of original material since “After The Bruising” released in November of 2014.

The new album “King of Nothin'” is due to be released on November 25th, 2016, preorders are available on Raines’ website. Before clicking the link to preorder the prolific songwriter’s latest record you can listen to the title track embedded on the page. Check back soon to Vocals On Top for a review of “King of Nothin’.”

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Album at a glance: Red Kate – unamerican activities

RedKateUnamericanActivities

If you don’t like punk there is no need to read further. This is unapologetic punk, harsh and rash, everything a good record from the genre should consist of. The anger of “You Don’t Speak For Me” is intentionally transparent and aggressive. “Get Out” has the same edge musically but is actually a Ramones-ish love song. There’s actually a lot about love here like on “She Doesn’t Need Your Love” and “Her Lips Say Yes.” Jangly guitars and crashing cymbals scatter on the record all over songs like the Misfits inspired “Punch The Clock.” “On My Mind” is irresistible to not like with it’s soaring chorus all while Red Kate manages to keep their edge. This is high-strung but not too heavy to sing along to, a good match that will please the hardcore fans and also those who like some pop hooks mixed in.

Key Track: “On My Mind”

  1. You Don’t Speak For Me
  2. Get Out
  3. I Got A Gun
  4. Better
  5. Punch The Clock
  6. Take It Back
  7. You Ought To Know
  8. On My Mind
  9. I Want You
  10. She Doesn’t Need Your Love
  11. Her Lips Say Yes
  12. Waited
  13. Heart of the City
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250 Word album review: Massy Ferguson – Run It Right Into The Wall

Massy Ferguson - Run It Right Into The Wall

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This kind of twang you wouldn’t expect to come out of Seattle. The band’s northwest leanings do explain the heavier guitar driven sound though. With the thick, Jay Farrar sounding vocals it would always be difficult for the group to totally escape being associated with country, not that they are particularly trying.

Songs like “Firewater” are just simple, driving bar songs, the kind of tunes that sound intentionally tired and worked over. The guitar crunch on songs like “Makin’ It” leap off the page in contrast to slower songs. There aren’t a lot of unexpected turns and twists throughout the album but the concentration on putting together a concise, consistent effort is apparent. Twangy guitars replace the late 80s garage band crunch on “Sante Fe” where the band possibly shows where their spiritual home is. Songs like “Sante Fe” show their ability to deliver a solid hook and surround it with interesting guitar licks, twangy or not. While the band may owe a tip of the cap to Jay Farrar and Son Volt alongside the Bottle Rockets, they are equally influenced by R.E.M. and the Meat Puppets. Massy Ferguson is a refined and confident band, you can hear it in songs like “Away From The Devil” that they are steady and sure of what they are doing with each step.

This may not be a straight-up americana effort but it is still close. After all, you could take the band out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the band.

Key tracks: “Makin’ It” “Away From The Devil”

 

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