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Langhorne Slim Opens Voice, Heart with Soulful Blend of Music & Experiential Lyrics

There’s something homey feeling about the idea of a man sitting out on his porch as the sun sets, plucking away at his guitar as he moves forward and back in a rocking chair. And it was just that image and sensation that Langhorne Slim brought to the stage, rocking chair and all, as he sang his songs of love lost and love found to an audience more than eager to share in his musical story telling.

Gathering of the Vibes 2010 | Review & Photos

Until I arrived at this year’s Gathering of The Vibes Festival in Bridgeport, CT, I didn’t know I was looking for something. Until I left, I didn’t realize that I had found it. The following is a recounting of that journey. Along the way masters in the field of musical entertainment will appear. All were influential, some more than others. But as you read this recounting of GOTV 2010, remember that this is one man’s quest.

Ryan Montbleau Band's Martin Sexton-produced album out September 21

“Time hangs heavy on the vine/Let’s make wine,” Ryan Montbleau sings in the lulling, sensual verse that gives his group’s new album its title. Ryan Montbleau Band has been tending its own musical vineyard for a few years, on the patient cusp of a breakthrough. Their distinctive, long-fermenting blend of neo-folk, classic soul, and kick-out-the-jams Americana finally comes to full fruition in Heavy on the Vine, due out September 21, 2010 on indie Blue’s Mountain Records. It’s an album that represents the product of — and further promise of — a very good year.

It’s been a good year already. The group spent much of it both as opening act and backing band for Martin Sexton, including a round of dates with the Dave Matthews Band. Sexton in turn produced Heavy on the Vine. “I used to dream about getting to meet Martin Sexton,” says Ryan, “and now we’re getting hired as his backing band and he’s producing our record.

“He may not be a household name but to me and so many others, he’s a legend,” Montbleau adds. “But one thing he made clear from the start was that he didn’t want his fingerprints on this record. He wanted us to just play and be us.”

As a songwriter, Ryan recently contributed the single “Something Beautiful” to Trombone Shorty’s recent major-label debut album Backatown. Shorty turned to no less than Lenny Kravitz to contribute vocals and a guitar solo to the track, to help bring across the song’s soulful vibe. Ryan also co-wrote the Backatown track “One Night Only,” the tune Shorty and his band performed on their Late Night with David Letterman debut in June.

“I’m not one of these people who’s like, ‘Oh, we can’t be pigeonholed.’ I honestly wish we could, just so I could describe it quickly to people,” Montbleau says. “This record has folk songs, funk songs, country tunes, a reggae tune . . . and the end is almost like prog-rock. It’s all over the map, but it’s all us, and we always do it wholeheartedly. We’ve sort of come up in the jam scene, and that’s where our hearts have been in a lot of ways. But we don’t go off on 15-minute epics. We’re actually trying to make the songs shorter as we go. So I would lean more toward the Americana thing than the jam thing. But more than anything, we’re definitely about the song.”

The “us”-ness of the band comes through in Heavy on the Vine in vivid, funny, touching, and hummable spades. The opening “Slippery Road” playfully examines the fine line of moderation between inebriation and sobriety, a subject familiar to most of Montbleau’s contemporaries and more than a few non-musicians. “Carry,” the purest love song Montbleau has written, is in demand as a wedding song by some romantics who’ve heard it being road-tested. “Fix Your Wings” deals with damage and healing in relationships, with tight gospel harmonies adding to the surprisingly sprightly feel. Both the rocking “Here at All” and the ’20s-styled “Stay” address the itinerant musician’s thwarted impulse to settle in one place for more than one night at a time. An admirer of Paul Simon, Montbleau reaches some of his greatest lyrical heights in “Straw in the Wind,” which asks, “Wouldn’t it be nice . . . if you could reconcile the smile you want to feel with the one that you show?”

“For the song ‘More and More and More’ we had done another weirder version in the studio with a strange old synthesizer. But Martin said, ‘We need to try a Rolling-Stones-in-Nashville country version of this,’ with an untuned piano they had in the studio. And it turned out great.”

The Peabody, Mass. native got his first guitar at age nine but didn’t get the bug to become a serious player until he was attending Villanova University. He spent many years as an acoustic solo artist. His first album, Begin (2002), was followed by the live Stages. The first Montbleau Band recording was One Fine Color (2006). And by the time 2007’s Patience on Friday was released, Ryan Montbleau Band (Montbleau, guitar, lead vocals; Laurence Scudder, viola, vocals; Jason Cohen, keyboards; James Cohen, drums; Matt Giannaros, bass, vocals; and Yahuba, percussion, vocals) were hometown heroes.

The band’s unusual makeup was somewhat accidental, as the leader tells it; he never had it in mind, for instance, that he needed a full-time viola player. “It just evolved over the years, because I really didn’t have a sound that I was going for,” he says, before qualifying that claim. “Well, I knew I wanted an upright bass, I guess. And I knew I wanted the drummer in some ways to be more of a jazz drummer than a straight-ahead rock drummer. But that was all I knew. I’ve personally always loved the B3 organ, but the keyboard approach really comes from Jason (Cohen), who’s a vintage gear nut and tone junkie who loves old Rhodes, organs, Wurlitzers, Moogs, etc.”

Abject realism and a sense of limitless possibility coexist in Montbleau’s ever-ripening mind. “For the last 10 years, I’ve had this insane desire to just go out there and do this. And I face the realities that, okay, I’m 33 and I’m not selling out stadiums yet. I get more realistic as I go and I also get more appreciative of just being able to do this at all. My goal for a few years when I was starting out was to make a living off playing music, and now I’ve been doing that for seven years or so, and the goals change as you go. Now the goal is to spend more time practicing and writing and creating, and a little less time doing all the business stuff.”

Tempted as Montbleau might be to look toward the big picture, not losing sight of the small one is why the band has maintained such a loyal and evangelistically inclined base. “I still go back to my original philosophy of just one person at a time,” he says. “I never even told people ‘Bring your friends to the show’ at the beginning, because it wasn’t about them bringing their friends, it was about them bringing themselves. I’m trying to focus on the one person, because if they come and like it, they are going to bring their friends. We’re still grass roots in that way.” No surprise, then, that those well-tended roots have sprung up into such pregnant vines.

Renaissance Innovators: Bisco CO & Beyond

Before I even begin to describe the Disco Biscuit madness that has been transpiring lately, I would like to qualify the title of this article. The word renaissance means rebirth.

And They Called it Living..Horning's Hideout

The dusty road leads to an unseen location. Clouds of dirt and earthy grime pass through the air. As the dust settles and the road becomes steeper, Horning’s Hideout comes into view. “Happy Horning’s,” comes a chipper voice from my right.  My window is rolled down and I turn to see a girl standing on the side of the road. She wears a neon-green shirt that reads “Volunteer”.

“Where should I park?” I ask her.

“Just keep driving,” she says with a devious smile. “You’ll find the way.”

I grinned and waved and continued down the rocky hill.

Mile High Music Festival releases 2010 Stage Schedule

With just four weeks until Colorado’s third annual Mile High Music Festival, today festival organizers announce the weekend’s performance schedule. Unveiled with the schedule is Mile High Music Festival’s brand new Beta Beach. Booked in partnership with Denver’s world-renowned Beta Night Club, the already diverse festival expands its musical terrain by now hosting an impressive list of Denver’s most cutting-edge DJs and electronic music including Second Sun, Halo and Hipp E, and Dragon.

Bobby Long to Appear at Mile High Festival on Saturday, August 14

British singer-songwriter Bobby Long returns to the road this summer for a combination of solo acoustic shows and a series of dates at which he will be backed by a band for the first time since arriving on American shores just over a year ago.  Long, who has been working on his recording debut album backed by studio musicians, has been anxious to bring this new dynamic to his live appearances and is looking forward to giving his hauntingly personal songs added depth and dimension.

Gathering of the Vibes 7/29-8/1 Celebrates Jerry Garcia's Birthday!

The fifteenth annual Gathering of the Vibes will begin next Thursday, July 29, at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT.

Particle, Oct 30 @ the Fox Theatre

Not your typical jam band (they have just as many disco and electronica influences as anything else), Particle started in 2000 in Los Angeles with keyboardist Steve Molitz, drummer Darren Pujalet, bassist Eric Gould, and guitarist Dave Simmons. Tragically, Simmons died just two months after the band started, but Particle found his replacement in Charlie Hitchcock. Gaining fans from the pure energy of their live show, Particle released their debut album, Launchpad, in 2004. The next year Hitchcock left the band, and Scott Metzger and Ben Combe took his place on guitar, also bringing in vocals -- a new addition for the group. Particle celebrated their first-ever performance with the new lineup by recording it and releasing its highlights (along with pieces from another show) as Transformations Live for the People in 2006.

All Ages / GA  / $18.00 adv / $23.00 DOS

Tea Leaf Green, Oct. 14 @ the Fox Theatre

San Francisco-based band Tea Leaf Green got their start in the relationship formed between guitarist Josh Clark and drummer Scott Rager, who played in a high-school band together in Arcadia, CA. After graduation, Rager enrolled at San Francisco State College, where he met bassist Ben Chambers. When Clark moved to San Francisco, the three began playing together as a trio. Their first paying gig was attended by Trevor Garrod, a singer/songwriter and keyboard player who had moved to San Francisco looking for other musicians to play with. Garrod met the three others, and soon they were playing together as a quartet. They built a following in Northern California and self-released the albums Tea Leaf Green, Midnight on the Reservoir (2001), Live at Slim's, San Francisco CA (2003), Living in Between (2004), and Live at the Independent (2004).

They issued their first national release, Taught to Be Proud, in 2005 and within a year they were opening for Gov't Mule, Trey Anastasio, Dave Matthews Band and a host of other lauded musicians. In 2007, longtime bass player Ben Chambers left the band and was replaced by Reed Mathis, formerly of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Mathis's stylistic versatility on bass proved to be the perfect fit for the band. In 2008, Tea Leaf Green went on to re-release their first three studio albums as the triple-CD compilation entitled Seeds. Later that year the band followed up with their next studio album Raise Up the Tent.

In June 2010 Tea Leaf Green released Looking West, their first studio album in 2 years. The release is a compilation of road-tested, fan favorite songs that the band has never recorded in the studio. The album marks a new chapter for Tea Leaf Green and represents the artistic and individual growth of the band since their formation more than a decade ago.

In a few short years, these road warriors have built a strong following, consistently filling venues across the country and becoming a warmly received, go-to band on the festival circuit with stand-out performances at Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, 10K Lakes, and The Echo Project, among others. Sharing some of the style and substance of musical contemporaries My Morning Jacket, Wolfmother, and the Raconteurs, Tea Leaf Green conjures the spirit of bands like '70s Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and The Grateful Dead, taking classic sounds and giving them a present-day polish. Tea Leaf Green reminds us at every turn just how alluring rock 'n' roll can be.

All Ages / GA  / $15.00 adv / $18.00 DOS