News & Updates

Mike Doughty Brings His Qustion Jar Show to Bottletree
Posted on Wednesday October 29, 2014 By Tre Brannum

Mike Doughty, the former front man of the band Soul Coughing, stops into The Bottletree on Halloween night to perform his entertaining and unique "Question Jar" show. Touring in support of his new record, "Stellar Motel", Doughty continues to fuse jazz-alternative with smart hip-hop. Except this time, he's doing it his way.

After years of performing with a band that didn't quite match his creative vision (understatement of the year) Doughty picked up where he left off and has released a string of solo album's. Last years "Circles Super Bon Bon...." shows fans what the songs we all enjoyed in the late 90's were supposed to sound like. His latest record pushed his signature sound to the next level by collaborations with artists you may not know, but you know you should get to know.

On Halloween night, Doughty performs what he calls his Question Jar show. In addition to performing songs throughout his extensive catalog, Doughty encourages fans to write questions and place them in an on-stage jar. He then randomly selects a question, and answers them in the honest way that only he can. The questions have ranged from insightful inquiries of life in the music biz, to the strange and bizarre. There are no rules, which always makes for an entertaining night.

Stop by the podcast section to hear our chat with Mike Doughty.

Also performing are Birmingham's own Downright, and Mandi Rae. Tickets are $15 and the show starts at 8 pm.

What Happened to the Female Rapper?
Posted on Tuesday October 28, 2014 By Alex Lafosta aka Poor Frisco

It's no secret that hip-hop has changed over the years. With every generation, music -- along with the culture -- evolves.  It could be debated whether rap music has changed for the better or worse, but what can't be argued is the noticeable lack of women in the rap game. Hip-hop hasn't always been the boy's club that it is today. Queen Latifah, Foxy Brown, MC Lyte, Eve, Salt n Peppa, Lil Kim, and Missy Elliott are just a handful of women that changed the genre forever. But what's happened since then? When the Drake’s and the J Cole’s of the world started popping up, where were the women to take the place of artists like L Boogie and Da Brat? It could be blamed on the climate of the industry, but surely the reason isn’t that women haven't become disinterested in hip-hop. There;s a gaggle of underground female rappers that have the chops to contend with their more popular male counterparts. Now, when over-sexualized rappers like Iggy and Nicki are the most recognizable females in hip-hop, it's clear that there is sexual equality in rap has taken a large step back since the 90’s. Here are just a few female artists who, God willing, will add a women's touch to the rap game.

Nitty Scott MC

Probably the best rapper you’ve never heard (female or otherwise), Michigan born Nitty Scott MC is not one to be slept on. Since moving to Brooklyn at the age of 17, Nitty's smooth voice and biting lyrical prowess has garnered some recognition with her critically acclaimed mixtapes Doobies and Popsicle Sticks and The Cassette Chronicles. With a style comparable to clever, conscious rappers like Mos Def or Black Thought, Nitty has the talent to make a listener laugh, think, and inevitable rewind. With rap superstar Kendrick Lamar contributing a verse to song “Flower Child,” the lead single from Scott’s debut LP Boombox Diaries, it would seem that the emcee’s fame is on the rise.

 

Favorite Line:
“I bend the track over, beat it like a drum/ Finger fuck the English language 'til she cum
Put the rhythm to her nipple, tickle her syllables / Juicin' up her literal 'til all the similes trickle”

Tell Somebody – Doobies and Popsicle Sticks

 

Rapsody

Signed to producer 9th Wonder’s label Jamla Records, the 26 year old Rapsody has bars for days. Born in North Carolina,  Rapsody’s intricate rhyme patterns are like that of a lost member of the Wu Tang Clan. Her swagger and delivery is effortless and grimy in a style similar to O.D.B. or a Method Man. Ironically, on her mixtape She Got Game, Rapsody collaborates with the legendary Wu member Raekwon on the track “Coconut Oil” from her mixtape She Got Game. Having the opportunity to collaborate with artists like Wale, Childish Gambino, Big K.R.I.T., Mac Miller, and Phonte.

 

Favorite Line:

“Lot of great players but we better as a team

You learned that watching Miami and the Spurs in the spring.”

Lonely Thoughts feat. Chance the Rapper – She Got Game

 

 

Asia Sparks

Born in Philadelphia, Asia Sparks has a more aggressive style than most female rappers, or rappers period. On her debut mixtape Spark Up, tracks like “The Christening” show how versatile and lyrically viscous she can be.  As a child, Sparks wrote her thoughts down in a journal. Later in life, she converted her journal entries into song lyrics. Thankfully for us, she decided to continue to pursue her dream as lyricist. Her clever lines and piercing delivery makes her one of the best in the game.

 

Favorite Line:

“Trying to do what I can in a world that misunderstands/ A beautiful black woman and a strong black man

That’s the root to by bad thoughts / That’s Invaded by a macbook, club beats and bad hooks”

The Christening – Spark UP

 

 

Ben Miller Band at Avondale Brewing FREE SHOW
Posted on Tuesday October 28, 2014 By Jessica Brasher

Ben Miller Band at Avondale Brewing
Posted on Monday October 27, 2014 By Jessica Brasher

For a MUST SEE LIVE SHOW and touring in support of their New West Records debut, Any Way, Shape Or Form, produced by Vance Powell, the Ben Miller Band will stop by Avondale Brewing this Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

Photo Credit: Paul Moore

BMB is a one-of-a-kind trio from Joplin, MO that combine the frenetic energy of bluegrass, the soul of the delta blues and the haunted spirit of Appalachian mountain music into a unique stew they dub “Ozark Stomp." The band uses an arsenal of lo-tech, largely self-built instruments to create their sound, including thrift shop guitars and banjos, a one-string washtub bass (comprised of a weed eater string attached to a wooden pole), an electric washboard, and spoons that have been outfitted with pickups. The band's use of offbeat instrumentation, however, shouldn't be misunderstood as a gimmick. Instead, the three bandmates have mastered the technical challenges of their unconventional axes to produce a uniquely evocative ensemble sound that offers a compelling frame for Miller's compositions.

"What I really care about is songs, and the rest of it is just a vehicle to get you to that destination," Miller asserts, adding, "Just because we use junk to make music doesn't mean we aren't serious about it." "Our sound," Dicharry notes, "is something that we never thought much about. It's just something that kept growing without us really trying, and at some point we realized it sounded pretty cool." "The instruments that we use," Miller explains, "were originally born out of necessity, because we didn't have any money. People would give us their old gear that didn't work anymore, and we'd wire things together and try things out in different permutations and see where it led us. Through a lot of trial and error, we arrived at the set up that we've got now. Blazing your own trail through the jungle can take a lot of extra time and effort, but it gives you a chance to end up in a place that nobody's been to before."

"I like the idea of saying something very complicated in a very simple way," says Ben Miller, discussing the trio that bears his name. "That's what we strive for musically, and what I strive for lyrically—to get directly to the point and save the flowery b.s. for the romantic poets. John Sargent, the painter, said 'That which is not necessary is detrimental,' and we try to live by that."

Miller eventually found kindred spirits in bassist Scott Leeper, who'd been playing since the age of seven and had performed with his family's band, in a duo with his brother, as a one-man country act and in a variety of blues combos; and Doug Dicharry, a musical omnivore and multi-instrumentalist, who can play nearly any instrument and has played in a wide array of projects from noise bands to ska and rock.

ZZ Top fell in love with the Ben Miller Band and took them under their wing last year, thanks to the enthusiastic patronage of avowed fan Billy Gibbons. The legendary band enlisted them as main support on their 2013 North American tour, which resulted in Radio.com exclaiming: “When they finished their 40-minute set, they got the most rare rewards for unknown opening bands: a full-on standing ovation from an audience who were mostly unfamiliar with them.”

With Any Way, Shape or Form encapsulating the Ben Miller Band's salient qualities, the three intrepid bandmates are eager to hit the road and bring their new songs to live crowds around the nation and around the world. "Our plan," Leeper says, "is to just get out there and play for as many people as we can. That's pretty much been our plan all along, and it's worked for us so far."

  "The title Any Way, Shape or Form is sort of our way of saying that by any means necessary we will make the music that makes sense to us,” Miller explains. “That’s always been our attitude, and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are and how we will get to where we are going.”

 

You can purchase the album from the Ben Miller Band Official Online Store.

 

Recently we were given the opportunity to speak with Ben Miller of the Ben Miller Band. Ben talks about the band, their new album Any Way, Shape, or Form and about their upcoming show at Avondale Brewing.

 

Q: Before the formation of the Ben Miller Band in 2004 had you been a part of any other bands?

A: "I was in a band in high school, we didn't play much, maybe a couple of backyard parties over the course of a summer. It was mostly just playing music with buddies in the garage. Doug was in a ska band in high school and later played drums for a "noise" band. Scott played with his brothers and sisters in a family band from the age of seven or so."

 

Q: How did you meet band members Scott Leeper and Doug Dicharry? How did you come together and decide to form the Ben Miller Band?

A: "We met at open mics that I was running in the area. We got along well and had similar musical sensibilities so after a while I invited them out to join me at my weekend shows. People liked it so much that it was a no brainer to keep on with the trio."

 

Q: Whose idea was the Ben Miller Band?

A: "It wasn't anyone’s idea really. We didn't start out as an idea of who we would be as a band, we just played the music we thought sounded good and sort of evolved as we went along."

 

Q: What lyrics from songs off of your newest album Any Way, Shape, or Form do you feel best represent what you strive for musically and lyrically - "to get directly to the point and save the flowery b.s. for the romantic poets"?

A: "That's a hard one to answer... lyrically I think "Ghosts," "23 Skidoo," "King Kong," and "Prettiest Girl" turned out pretty good. I have a hard time picking favorites. I'm way too invested in the songs to be objective."

 

Q: How is Any Way, Shape, or Form different from your debut album Heavy Load?

A: "Well, for one we had a budget on awsof [Any Way, Shape, or Form]. This gave us the time to really dig in and develop the songs live in the studio. I think it shows up on the final product as a vitality that heavy load didn't seem to have."

 

Q: What do you think is one of the most complicated things or ideas people try to express? How would you simply express the same thing or idea?

A: "I couldn't really say specifically what people do, but it seems most things are needlessly being complicated all the time. There is a temptation to over-decorate things. For me I love when artists get to the heart of things, like Hank Williams; his words were simple but nuanced and the music had such an economy to it that any extra instruments would just take away from its power. Johnny Cash's sun recordings were the same way, really profound in a way that adding more decoration would just distract from what it was."

"When I was in art school I had a teacher that always drilled into our heads to get the big pieces right before trying to move on to details. It is the same to me with music. I am always asking myself if the important things are right, and if things could be simpler."

 

Q: What was it like opening up for ZZ Top during their 2013 tour of Europe? What is your most memorable show or moment during that tour?

A: "It was a wild experience, we had never toured with a band like that before, we didn't really know what to expect. ZZ Top and the crew just took to us and we took to them. The time that sticks out for me the most was when we went to the Montreux Jazz Fest with them but we weren't booked to play. The night before ZZ was scheduled to play I got a call from Billy Gibbons and he said "make sure you boys don't get too drunk tonight......I talked the festival into letting y'all play before us." So here we are, an unknown band first time touring in Europe, at a legendary festival in Switzerland, and I just got off the phone with the great Billy Gibbons telling me we were playing between George Thorogood and ZZ Top for a packed house......it started feeling really surreal as you can imagine."

 

Q: Will this be your first time/show in Birmingham, AL?

A: "We have played Birmingham a couple of times before, both times at Avondale. We even filmed a live performance of "Outsider" there."

 

Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming show at Avondale Brewing in Birmingham?

A: "We have a bunch of new songs that have been killing on the road, I expect everyone who comes out to see us is gonna have a ball."

 

Q: Are there any plans or talk of adding more dates, possibly revisiting Birmingham, to your tour?

A: "We are always on tour, we never really stop. Birmingham has always been a good stop for us so we will always come back. The best way to find out when would be to like us on Facebook and we will keep you updated or just check www.benmillerband.com for upcoming shows."

 

The "Outsider" off of Any Way, Shape, or Form - live performance filmed at Avondale Brewing (Published July 24, 2014)

 

The Devil Makes Three at WorkPlay
Posted on Monday October 27, 2014 By Jessica Brasher

The Devil Makes Three is excited about their stop, with special guests The Cave Singers, at WorkPlay Theatre Thursday, October 30, 2014. Get your tickets here TODAY!

Photo Credit: Piper Ferguson

 

“There’s a road that goes out of every town. All you’ve got to do is get on it,” Pete Bernhard says.

The guitarist/singer and his cohorts in the raw and raucous trio The Devil Makes Three have found their way onto that road numerous times since they first left their picaresque rural hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Back then, they had no idea it would lead them to such auspicious destinations as the Newport Folk and Austin City Limits Festivals, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and on tours with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Trampled By Turtles. Along the way, they drew numerous accolades from a growing fan base and press alike.

TDM3’s travels and travails serve as inspiration for their fourth album and their New West Records debut, I’m a Stranger Here, produced by Buddy Miller and recorded at Dan Auerbach’s (Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound in Nashville.

With upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean, Bernhard crafted a dozen tunes, part road songs, part heartbreak songs and part barnburners. While most bands are propelled from behind by a drummer, TDM3 builds exuberant rhythms from the inside out, wrapping finger-picked strings and upsurging harmonies around chugging acoustic guitar and bass, plying an ever-growing audience onto its feet to jump, shake and waltz.

TDM3’s sound is garage-y ragtime, punkified blues, old n’ new timey without settling upon a particular era, inspired as much by mountain music as by Preservation Hall jazz. “We bend genres pretty hard,” Bernhard says.

The combination could only have happened via the circuitous route each of them took to forming the band. As kids in Vermont, “all raised by sort of hippie parents” who exposed them to folk, blues and jugbands, Bernhard says, they blazed a path to nearby Boston, Massachusetts in search of punk rock shows. They found venerable venues like The Rat and The Middle East, drawn to east coast bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Aus-Rotten.

“It would be like 6 bucks for 13 bands, everyone playing for 20 minutes,” Bernhard says. “I had so much fun going to shows like that. The energy coming off the stage makes a circle with the crowd and comes back. We were really attracted to that energy.”

Bernhard and McBean, a multi-instrumentalist who plays banjo, musical saw and bass, forged a particular bond. Unlike most of their mutual friends, they both liked to play acoustic music, with McBean showing Bernhard the wonders of Hank Williams and Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. They kept in touch after high school, when nearly everyone in their clique relocated to the west coast like the characters in Delbert McClinton’s song “Two More Bottles of Wine.”

“It was a mass exodus of kids who went out to start bands and be creative, searching for the unknown, dreaming of something different,” Bernhard says. “We wanted to get away from where we were from, as many kids do, and California was the farthest we could get.” Eventually they landed in sunny Santa Cruz, California, where TDM3 took shape in 2001. Their early gigs were house concerts, then small bars, punk shows, bigger rock clubs and theaters and festivals, all the while defying genre and delighting whomever turned up to listen.

Turino learned bass to join the band, but her unremitting sense of rhythm comes naturally from being raised by parents who were dance teachers, and from her own dance background. Attacking the strings of her upright, she understands how to infuse songs with the force it takes to get a crowd moving.

And the songs on I’m a Stranger Here tell the rest of the story, with the music often joyously juxtaposed against lyric darkness...the rootless nature of being in a touring band, traveling from town to town with little sense of community, represented by a devil-like character (“Stranger”)...thorny transitions into adulthood...struggling with relationships (“Worse or Better”), watching friends succumb to addiction (“Mr. Midnight”), coming to terms with mortality (“Dead Body Moving”), nostalgic notions of childhood (“Spinning Like a Top”). Bernhard even considers the destruction of changing weather patterns, inspired in part by Hurricane Katrina as well as a flood that wreaked havoc in Brattleboro (“Forty Days,” a gospel rave-up recorded with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

You can purchase The Devil Makes Three latest album, I’m A Stranger Here from their online store.

Bernhard wrote more than 20 songs for the album and turned them over to producer Buddy Miller, who gravitated toward the darker material but insured that the recording was lit up by the band’s innate ebullience. It was Miller’s idea to record at Easy Eye rather than his renowned home studio. “Easy Eye is like Sun Records,” Bernhard says. “There’s one live tracking room filled with amazing gear, and that defines the kind of record you’re going to make. That was exactly the record we wanted to make, and we knew Buddy was the one who could capture us playing together like we do.”

For a band that made its bones with dynamic performances, recording an album is almost like coaxing lightning into a bottle, but Miller and TDM3 succeed on I’m a Stranger Here. Now they’re continuing the journey that began when they found their way to the road that led them out of Vermont. “I can’t wait to get onstage, I love it,” Bernhard says. “Playing music for a living is a blessing and a curse, but for us there’s no other option.”

 

The Devil Makes Three's official video for "Stranger" off their latest album, I'm A Stranger Here

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