Ryan Montbleau’s latest album, I Was Just Leaving, is a stripped-down journey into the nature of loneliness. Directly off the heels of the astronomical success of his cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which has clocked in over 15 million plays on Spotify as of the writing of this review, I Was Just Leaving operates in the same vein of profound simplicity. This solo offering marks a departure from some of Montbleau’s funkier work, providing listeners with a clear lens through which to experience his inspired songwriting.
Believe is the latest album by Colorado disco-grass pioneers, The String Cheese Incident. The band’s tenth album overall, it is only their third in 12 years and with a release date of April 14, it arrives almost exactly three years removed from their previous album, 2014’s A Song In My Head.
The stars seem to be aligning for John Craigie, a Portland-based songwriter whose stripped down and relatable songs are a refreshing dose of Americana in our saturated musical landscape. Craigie was recently picked by Jack Johnson to open for the West Coast leg of his Summer 2017 tour. This announcement comes after Johnson sat in during one of Craigie’s shows in Hawaii, and the two hit it off famously.
In the fall of 1991, the Jerry Garcia Band embarked on their extensive first Fall Tour since 1984. The previous year, the iconic guitarist and bandleader hadn’t taken his band off of the West Coast. The Warfield in San Francisco stood as their home turf. While 1990 and 1991 are both revered as phenomenal performance years for both the Grateful Dead and Garcia Band, they are shrouded in loss, with the untimely deaths of keyboardist/vocalist Brent Mydland and legendary promoter Bill Graham.
The Brothers Comatose are one of the most exciting bluegrass outfits to emerge in the past decade, and I await each of their stellar releases with bated breath. I first encountered the band at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015, where I stumbled across the latter portion of their set, the sound of the dueling fiddle and banjo drawing me in from across the sun-soaked fields of Golden Gate Park.
There is a great deal of discussion of the rift between the progressive and traditional bluegrass scenes, yet a number of groups have taken great strides to tear down the barrier between the disciplines. Ned Luberecki is a perfect example of this dismantling, as he blurs the lines between traditional Americana bluegrass tunes and avante-garde interpretations of songs from outside the genre.
There is something undeniably appealing about music that evokes the desert landscapes of the American West. The imagery of sun-soaked plains of dust beneath a never ending blue sky has pulled at my heartstrings since I first heard the Dead’s “Jack Straw.” This landscape has had a clear influence on psychedelic and improvisational music, and provides the inspiration for BIG Something’s fourth album, Tumbleweed. The album is a sonic desert trip, which uses the barren landscapes as a canvas for an introspective journey.
Keller Williams is a genre-fusing multi-instrumentalist and vocalist best known for his eclectic one-man-band performances. Williams’ live shows are delightful showcases of musicianship, as Keller employs loop pedals and multiple instruments to provide the audience with an experience not unlike the interplay of a full band. This approach has made Williams a perfect fit for collaboration with an impressive variety of artists from different genres, including The String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band.
Everybody’s past has a soundtrack. It’s an often-random selection of music that has accompanied, and in some cases, defined stages of our lives. As we grow older, tastes change and more is added to the soundtrack. Songs and artists are archived in our memory, assigned specific events or entire periods of our lives.
Until listening to this album, I had no clue the extent to which Iration is the soundtrack of my young adulthood.
Theo Katzman, best known for his work with the ever-funky Vulfpeck, has released three energetic tracks from his forthcoming solo-album, Heartbreak Hits. Katzman is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and his previous solo endeavor, Romance Without Finance, received well-deserved acclaim. His eclectic tastes are evident on the tracks we’ve heard so far, which blend classic and pop rock instrumentals with some rather funky licks.