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Former MMJ Guitarist Johnny Quaid is The Ravenna Colt

After conceiving the project over a decade ago, former My Morning Jacket guitarist Johnny Quaid is finally releasing the dreamlike, southern-flavored debut effort by The Ravenna Colt. The album, titled, Slight Spell, is now available through Removador Recordings and Solutions, the label Quaid recently co-founded with MMJ frontman Yim Yames.

After six years as a part of MMJ, Louisville, KY native Quaid parted amicably with the band in 2004 and headed off to California.  Eventually Quaid headed back east and reacquainting himself with his roots.  Fittingly, the music he has written as The Ravenna Colt reflects his style in Americana with a hint of cosmic breeze that emanates from California.

Opening track “South of Ohio,’ points to this when Quaid wonders “I lost my drawl in California / was there ever one at all?”  He reveals himself to be an individual who meditates on the deep connection he has with his hometown as well as one interested in venturing outward for new experiences.

The Ravenna Colt currently includes Phil Carlson, J. Brent Stuart and Daniel T. Mohler as members, but the group has always been a shape-shifting entity with the only constant force being Quaid at the helm.  This collective-like quality translates to the music as well, which has beautifully amorphous feel.  The songs on Slight Spell have definitive cores, but ones that seem capable of adapting to various musicians and arrangements. Quaid has the soul of a troubadour.  One can picture him with nothing but an acoustic guitar strapped to his back, traveling from town to town to share his music and his adventures.

Marley's Ghost taps Cowboy Jack Clement for new CD, 'Ghost Town'

Marley’s Ghost, cited by Paste magazine as “(having) earned cult-band status over 20 years of spirited musicianship, multi-part harmonies and irreverent humor,” will return from a three-year absence from recording with a new album, Ghost Town, due out February 23, 2010 on Sage Arts Records. The new album was produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, in whose Nashville home studio it was recorded. The cover was painted by acclaimed American watercolorist William Matthews.

The album follows Marley’s Ghost’s 2006 album Spooked, which was produced by Van Dyke Parks and featured a cover by R. Crumb. Of Spooked, Clement remarked, “The band’s eighth full-length in 20 years glides with deadpan sincerity through sea chanteys, perverted mountain gospel, country-rock, vintage pre-WWII pop, Jazz Age vamps, Dylan, western campfire songs, and a rib-tickling salute to ‘the French Elvis,’ Johnny Hallyday. Brilliantly sung and played, Spooked is a heady, subversive treat.”

The latest development in the band’s recording career may prove to be the crucial link for Marley’s Ghost. Clement, the country music cornerstone whose career entwined with those of Jerry Lee Lewis, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and so many others, is the beloved dean of Nashville producers, and the presence of Marley’s Ghost in his studio earned the band its first Music Row buzz.

“Working with Jack is standing in the front door looking out into the world with the whole house of rock ’n’ roll and country music behind you,” says Marley’s Ghost bassist and singer Dan Wheetman. “Jack is steeped in the Sun Records ideals of music. The technical side is important but takes a backseat to the ‘bang,’ the performance with heart and energy.”

“It’s easy to think of Jack as the guy who wrote hits for Cash at Sun Records and recorded Charley Pride in the ’70s, but you know, he has a platinum album with U2,” he adds, referring to a portion of Rattle and Hum that Clement oversaw.

“Marley’s Ghost is very experienced, versatile and best of all, open-minded, and a fun bunch of guys,” says Clement. “I prefer to play with a great band rather than a bunch of great session players. And they are a great band. They understand that we are all in the fun business and if we’re not having fun, we’re not doing our jobs. And they can play just about anything they want to. Even polkas. I ain’t got ’em to do one yet, but I will.”

After more than 20 years of making music together— recording nine albums and performing thousands of shows around the country — Marley’s Ghost remains one of the best-kept secrets in the music world, an untapped natural resource waiting to be discovered.

“Our criteria,” says the band’s guitarist, Mike Phelan, “has always been: bring it, let’s run it. It’s not about genre or style.” This is one band that knows all the songs from both The Harder They Come soundtrack and Ralph Stanley’s Cry From the Cross. Or as Paste puts it, "a decidedly unusual band, as capable of reanimating Appalachian folk songs as they are traditional Celtic fare, honky tonk and reggae.”

The most important ingredients in the Marley’s Ghost musical brew are the characters in the band. The five multi-instrumentalists boast distinctive musical personalities that couldn’t be less alike.

Dan Wheetman is a veteran of the ’60s Simi Valley, Calif. teen rock group the Humane Society, and, as a member of ’70s country-rockers Liberty, toured for years with John Denver and Steve Martin. Jon Wilcox, mandolinist and vocalist, used to trudge around the country as a solo artist. Mike Phelan, like Wheetman and Wilcox a prolific songwriter, can tear your heart out with a soul tune, put a romantic lilt into an Irish folk tune or blast molten lead guitar licks through the heart of a blues. Innovative pedal steel guitarist Ed Littlefield, Jr., spent years performing C&W in rugged roadhouses for loggers across the Pacific Northwest, and plays a fierce fiddle and bagpipes. And Jerry Fletcher, the band’s secret weapon and unofficial fifth Ghost, became “certified” in 2006, bringing his eclectic music skills (drums, keys, accordion and vocal arranging) to bear full-time.

Together they are a unique amalgam of their respective backgrounds, personal proclivities and musical abilities — a blend honed to a seamless collaboration over the many miles they have traveled together down the road.

“I call it ’bang,’” says Clement in summation. “It’s got bang. The band’s got some bang to it.”

From NY to B-Town, Super 400 tears it up in Boulder, CO

True to the classic spirit of Rock and Roll, and a hard hitting member of the so-called rock revival movement, Super 400 have rediscovered the beauty and simplicity of the power trio.  Kenny Hohman's guitar work is at times deliciously thick and crunchy, and at others soaring and smooth, kind of like his voice.  And he's got a killer rhythm section, with Joe Daley pounding out the heavy notes on the drums while the perpetually sexy Lori Friday pounds 'em out on the bass

DAVID OLNEY'S New Album ONE TOUGH TOWN

- for the Grateful Web

Over his four-decade career, David Olney has built a reputation not as a kind-hearted troubadour but rather as a performing songwriter possessed of a sharp literary mind that cuts to the bone of the human condition. Whether the subject matter is heartbreak or armed robbery, Olney's cinematic style and fearless approach to lyric writing have won him renown as kind of a musical outlaw. Listening to his latest CD, One Tough Town, due out on June 5 on Red Parlor, is like watching a Sergio Leone Western: It's gritty, smart and dangerous, and you can't take your eyes off the screen.
 
One Tough Town takes us on a back-roads tour of American music, and while totally entertaining, shows us a side that isn't always pretty. The dark-edged title track, for instance, is the kind of song that can only be written from first-hand experience and years on the road. But as Nietzsche's old saw reminds: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." And on One Tough Town, Olney is stronger than ever.
 
A veteran of the Nashville alternative group The X-Rays, who recorded for Rounder, appeared on "Austin City Limits" and opened for Elvis Costello in the '80s, Olney then made several acclaimed solo albums for such labels as Rounder/Philo, Dead Reckoning and Loud House Records. His songs have been covered by numerous artists, including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury and even Chicago bluesman Lonnie Brooks.
 
One of Olney's biggest admirers was the late, great Townes Van Zandt, who said of him: "Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bob Dylan and David Olney. Olney is one of the best songwriters I've ever heard — and that's true. I mean that from my heart."
 
In 2005, Olney teamed with producer Jack Irwin (The Legendary Shack Shakers, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart) and began recording at Irwin's studio with guitarist Sergio Webb. He enlisted some unconventional instrumentation (tuba, banjo, clarinet, ukulele) and proceeded to let it rip.
 
According to Olney, "I see One Tough Town as a retrospective of a hundred years of American music. Blues, country, rock, swing and all stops in between. No such vision can be complete. There's just too much to cover to achieve that goal. But it has been my life's work, and my life's pleasure, to see how close I can come."