$26 Advanced // $30 Day of Show // All Ages
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Official Website: www.paulthorn.com
Paul Thorn took an unexpected detour on the road to recording a follow-up to his most successful release, 2010’s Pimps and Preachers. After writing many discs of semi-autobiographical tunes that have drawn comparisons to John Hiatt and John Prine, the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter – hailed as the “Mark Twain of Americana” – decided to do an album of covers. “I wanted to take a break from myself,” he reveals, “do something different, and just have fun.”
The collection, entitled What The Hell Is Goin’ On? (due May 8th on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers) finds Thorn putting his own gritty rock stamp on some of his favorite songs. There are some names familiar to Americana fans (Buddy Miller, Ray Wylie Hubbard), some lesser-known (Foy Vance, Wild Bill Emerson) and some surprises. The Buckingham/Nicks tune Don’t Let Me Down Again originated on that duo’s debut, not during the Fleetwood Mac era, while the Paul Rogers/Free song that Thorn chose to cover is an obscure one, Walk In My Shadow.
The idea for a covers album grew as Thorn encountered tunes that meant something important to him. “I would hear them in the tour van or I’d be at a festival and see someone perform them live,” Thorn says, “and I’d say ‘That’s a great song, I wish I had written it!'” One thing all the writers of these songs have in common, according to Thorn, is that they are true artists. “They don’t just write songs in an effort to become popular or follow trends,” he explains. “At the risk of sounding corny, they write with their hearts. None of these songs are cookie-cutter tunes like you hear on the radio today. They all have real depth, which is very appealing to me.”
The set covers subjects that are familiar territory to Thorn, from the spiritual pull of Miller’s Shelter Me Lord to the spirited fun in Big Al Anderson’s Jukin’. Thorn, so skilled with his own character studies, plays storyteller with such lurid tales as Hubbard’s Snake Farm and Emerson’s Bull Mountain Bridge. Emerson (who has written for George Jones and Tammy Wynette) is someone, according to Thorn, who “can tell a story in a song like nobody else.”
What The Hell Is Goin’ On? also delivers songs of love and salvation. Vance’s Shed A Little Light and Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s Take My Love With You are emotionally powerful tunes. The latter particularly expresses Thorn’s feelings about being on the road and missing his family back home: “Being a touring musician is a blessing and a curse… and Eli put into words what I feel like sometimes.”
What The Hell’s centerpiece is the powerful title track, a blistering look at life in modern times that was penned by blues-rock icon Elvin Bishop. “We are living in a new world where people are very connected, but also at the same time are disconnected,” Thorn states. “I believe technology in moderation is good but too many folks are walking around wearing ear phones and some have forgotten the lost art of basic social skills.”
The song also is significant because he has developed a friendship with Bishop over the years. “I sometimes visit him at his house when I’m out in California and he always gives me a jar of his homemade jelly that he makes with fresh kiwis from his garden,” Thorn recalls. “He sang this song for me on his front porch one day and it blew me away.” It was also a treat to have Bishop perform a guitar solo on the tune – which Thorn describes as “wonderfully raw and dirty.” Other special guests on the album are Delbert McClinton (another Thorn idol) and the marvelous singing McCrary Sisters.
The heavy lifting on the album, however, was done by Thorn and, as usual, his touring band (guitarist Bill Hinds, keyboard player Michael Graham, bassist Ralph Friedrichsen and drummer Jeffrey Perkins). “The guys in this outfit are a tight unit and a well-oiled machine,” he proclaims. “I’ve had the same guys in my band for goin’ on 15 years and they are incredible musicians.” Another long-time collaborator is Billy Maddox, who steered the ship and also served as What The Hell’s producer. The sense of camaraderie among Thorn, his band and Maddox contributes to the disc’s loose, live performances. The lived-in quality is undoubted aided by the fact that Thorn and the band had already played these songs live and honed them into what he calls “crowd-pleasers.”
Thorn has been pleasing crowds for years with his muscular brand of roots music – bluesy, rocking and thoroughly Southern, yet also speaking universal truths. The Tupelo, Mississippi native worked in a furniture factory, jumped out of airplanes, and was a professional boxer before sharing his experiences with the world as a singer-songwriter. Pimps and Preachers, which topped the Americana charts for three weeks and broke into the Billboard Top 100, perfectly exemplified the vivid scope of his songwriting and illuminated his family background. While his father is a Church of God Pentecostal Minister, his uncle (his father’s brother) spent time as a pimp, and Thorn was influenced by both of these men. Mining these “saint and sinner” scenarios, Thorn crafted a disc that All Music Guide lauded as “a great rock & roll album,” while The Nation labeled it “an incredible find.”
When Thorn and his band hit the road, he’ll be performing both his captivating originals and these favored covers, because, as he says, “there are so many great writers out there whose songs need to be heard.” Thorn also might slip in a new song or two as he already has started writing more songs of his own for the next album.
Alice Drinks the Kool-Aid
Official Website: www.alicedrinksthekoolaid.com
Alice Drinks The Kool Aid is a Blues Based Chicago Indie Rock band founded in a Park Ridge basement in 2014 as a creative outlet for three life long musician friends. The drummer Jim Widlowski is a top session player in the city who has anchored many of the Broadway productions that have come to the city in the past 20 years. The bassist Alan Berliant is a peerless performer who makes his living as a composer of commercial music of all styles. Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company manages the guitar and vocal responsibilities. The band’s original material is written and arranged by all three members in congress and draw from the deepest free Jazz and the most fundamental Rock and Blues.
Engineer / Producer Chris Steinmetz says,“ This band is a groove oriented bastion of talent, musicianship and great songs. These three guys have instincts, imagination, and history… and it definitely shows. With the flawless, intricate time of drummer Jim Widlowski to the vibrant melodic bass lines of Alan Berliant, one is taken on a wild ride driven masterfully by singer/ guitarist Tony Magee. Tony has a voice that draws you in. His ability to perk up your ears while engaging you in the lyrics was apparent to me from the first listen. He truly brings his multi-faceted background to each performance. I am a big fan of his songwriting. He is an elusive word smith with the skills and ability to connect emotionally powerful lyrics with colorful melodic phrases”.
Since Forming in 2014, the band has performed on some of Chicago’s most renowned stages such as House of Blues, Livewire, Lagunitas Beer Circus and Hide Out.
Alice Drinks The Kool Aid plans to continue to tour in 2016 and play festivals, clubs, bars, and open for some well-known headliners. In 2017, they are headed to Europe to open for James McMurty. Their mission is to share their music worldwide with people who love music performed by people who feel the same!
Official Website: www.daniellenicolekc.com
A 2014 Blues Music Award winner, there’s not a time in her life that singer/ bassist/ songwriter Danielle Nicole (born Danielle Nicole Schnebelen) doesn’t remember loving to perform. As a child, she would sing for her family at holidays and took tap, jazz and ballet lessons for many years competing in numerous events. Danielle also took band in middle school, playing the tenor saxophone and enjoying it quite a bit. Unfortunately, she was forced to quit when the family moved to Kansas City and the new school did not offer band.
Danielle comes from generations of singers. Her grandmother, Evelyn Skinner, was a big band singer. Danielle’s mother, Lisa Swedlund, taught her everything she knew while growing up and listening to all different kinds of music from the Everly Brothers to the B-52s.
It wasn’t until she was 12 that Danielle took to the stage for the first time singing, Koko Taylor’s “Never Trust a Man” at a Blues for Schools program that her parents were playing at Englewood Elementary. From then on, she knew music would be her passion for the rest of her life.
Danielle began singing in coffeehouses and at open mic events at age 14, jamming with her parents whenever she could at clubs that would allow minors. At 16, she began singing lead in her father’s band, Little Eva and the Works – until he became too sick to play. In March of 1999, she started her own band, Fresh Brew, with Kansas City music veterans Steve Gronemeyer, Steve Hicks, Chuck Payne and Terry Roney. They performed for four years and even represented Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge.
It was during this time that Danielle and her brothers Nick and Kris began talking about a family band that would eventually become Trampled Under Foot. Not only did she and Kris have to move to Philadelphia (where Nick was living), but she would have to learn the bass guitar to keep it a family band. It took a few years of lessons and saving money before that could become reality.
After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released Badlands on July 9, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group. Toughened by years of nonstop roadwork, Badlands revealed a musical sophistication well beyond the band’s years.
Badlands debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.
As Trampled Under Foot wound down after 13 years, Danielle formed her own band and now makes her Concord Records solo debut with the September, 2015 release of a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based album Wolf Den, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitaristAnders Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Stanton Moore and her regular keyboardist Mike “Shinetop, Jr.” Sedovic.
Alice Drinks the Kool-Aid