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2011 July at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

A cross between Rolling Stone, Soldier of Fortune and the Oxford American

Archive for July, 2011

The Boxer Rebellion announces Knoxville show, releases live album from Clayton Center

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Big news for local fans of The Boxer Rebellion, the independent rock quartet that includes singer Nathan Nicholson, a native of Maryville — the band is returning to East Tennessee for a Nov. 10 performance at The Square Room (4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville), and a new album, “Live in Tennessee,” goes on sale at noon today (Wednesday, July 27).

The band came to prominence in 2009 when it became one of the top-selling artists on iTunes last summer. The group’s sophomore album “Union” was named the iTunes Alternative Album of the Year for 2009, and in October 2010, the Rebellion performed at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus. Thanks to Rob Loflin, Nicholson’s childhood friend and the original bass player in the earliest incarnation of the Rebellion (he now tours with the group as a guitar tech and joined the band onstage at the Clayton Center), that show was recorded for posterity and is now seeing the light of day as an international release.

“The idea at the time was, Nathan’s from here and it was going to be the first time he’d ever played to a hometown crowd and his family, and I thought it would be special enough to try and capture it, if nothing else for posterity,” “Since I have such a talented and good friend, Ben McAmis from Maryville (who owns RiverSound Productions in Maryville), I thought it would be a good idea to mix it and master it, and if it turned out really well, the band would have something they could use. And that’s exactly what happened — they played a great show, and Ben did an outstanding job mixing and mastering it.”

McAmis knew what he had on his hands shortly after the band finished playing — while the members greeted friends and family in the lobby of the Clayton Center, in fact.

“Right after we got done, Ben pulled me into the sound booth and said, ‘Hey man, listen to this.’ I put the headphones on and he went back and let me hear a minute or two of one of the tracks, and it blew me away. It just sounded so good,” Loflin said.

Once McCamus mixed the record and it was sent to the band’s manager, the rest of the group agreed. Manager Sumit Bothra said he felt it was one of the best live albums he’d ever heard, and plans started rolling to make it an official live release. At noon today, it’ll be available on iTunes and via the band’s website.

“Anybody who hears that album is going to say, ‘S—, I missed an amazing show,” Loflin said.

Those who weren’t there last fall have a chance to make up for it, however — tickets for the band’s Nov. 10 show at The Square Room go on sale Aug. 5. The band Canon Blue will open, and the show will start at 8 p.m. Tickets will be $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

The band is touring in support of its most recent studio effort, “The Cold Still,” produced by session ace Ethan Johns. Released exclusively on iTunes on Feb. 1 — the day before the band performed on “The Late Show With David Letterman” — the album entered the iTunes top 10 alternative list in less than 24 hours.

Nicholson is the son of local attorney Joe Nicholson and the late Susan Nicholson, who got his start playing music by taking guitar lessons from Palace Theater owner/local flatpick champion Steve Kaufman at Murlin’s Music World. When his mother died in 1999, Nicholson moved to London the next year, determined to make a living as a musician. There, he met the guys who would become his Boxer Rebellion bandmates, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Written by wildsmith

July 27th, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hell freezes over: The V-Roys reunite for compilation album, show

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At some point on New Year’s Eve, somebody in charge is going look around The Bijou Theatre, channel Roy Scheider in “Jaws” and declare, “We’re gonna need a bigger venue.”

Of that, I have no doubt. It’s a fine venue, acoustically almost perfect, but it’s nowhere near big enough to hold the crowd that’s going to pack the place for the first show by Knoxville’s favorite sons The V-Roys since Dec. 31, 1999.

It’s official: Not only are all four original members — Scott Miller, Mic Harrison, Jeff Bills and Paxton Sellers — getting back on stage for the first time, a new compilation album will be released Sept. 27.

First, the latter: “Sooner or Later” will be an 18-track collection of remastered material releasing on Miller’s F.A.Y. Recordings that pairs thirteen previously released album tracks (including fan favorites “Guess I Know I’m Right,” “Fade Away” and “Cold Beer Hello”) with five unreleased studio recordings. According to a press release, “Added to the mix are unreleased covers of Tom T. Hall’s ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis,’ Neil Young’s ‘Burned’ and Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ (from the ‘Add Ice’ era) with the unearthed originals, ‘Hotel Room’ and ‘Someone To Push Around’ from the ‘About Town’ sessions. The two newly restored tracks, both penned by Harrison, represent the only unreleased original songs stashed in archives.”

Also according to the press release, “Bills was the driving force navigating the waters of putting together a retrospective that both the band and the fans will hold in high regard.” The album title, Miller describes, comes from a seemingly innocuous note, Miller says in the press release: “When Jeff (Bills) gave me the final mastered version of this compilation, which he really put the effort into making, he had written ‘Sooner or Later or Just Whenever’ on the disc. ‘Perfect!’ I thought. I think we all knew we’d do it sometime. It’s nice to hear (and play) these songs again. I’m proud of what we did and I think it still stands up.”

Perhaps the biggest news, of course, is the reunion show. The V-Roys played their last show on New Year’s Eve 1999 at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. After two albums under their belt, the guys had been knocking on the ceiling of nationwide fame, but with label problems (going from Steve Earle’s E-Squared to Warner Bros.) came disagreements, and the band instead fizzled out.

“E-Squared broke up between the first V-Roys record and the second V-Roys record, and our second was on Warner Bros., and it didn’t feel right,” Miller told The Daily Times back in 2003. “It seems like it would have been something you would celebrate — ooooh, big times and Cadillacs now — but it just wasn’t. I was pushing to make a live record, and we got that set up, but basically Paxton and Jeff were burnt out with touring.”

We’ve interviewed Miller and Harrison in their respective solo careers numerous times over the past decade, and Harrison — who was called into the fold in 1995 by Bills, moving to Knoxville from West Tennessee to replace singer-songwriter John Paul Keith when the band changed its name from The Viceroys — went into the greatest detail about those halcyon times during a 2007 interview. For Harrison, still wet behind the ears from his West Tennessee upbringing, it was a heady time.

“God, it was great,” he said back then, a touch of wistful regret in his tone. “I didn’t have [a thing]; none of us did, but it was great going through these things with those guys. After that first record, we toured our asses off, and that was pretty much my learning year.”

The band wound up on several national compilations and even contributed several songs to the soundtrack of the Laura Linney indie film “You Can Count On Me.” But as The V-Roys started pre-production on their second album, “All About Town,” cracks in the foundation were starting to show through.

“I don’t know; it just didn’t seem like it was working out,” Harrison said in that ‘07 interview. “Scott was wanting to do his own thing on the side, Paxton wanted to finish college and we all wanted a different producer for the second record, because we didn’t want to sound the same on each one. There was definitely some tension there.”

“All About Town” received warm reviews, but the boys were ready to go their separate ways. A joint decision was made to call it quits on New Year’s Eve 1999, after one last, rocking show. While Harrison believes the band went out on top, he can’t help but wonder “what if.”

“I think we could have done a lot more, and I really think we should have,” he said. “I was disappointed, sure. It was one of those deals where it had become like my baby, and I didn’t want my baby to leave home.”

There’s been talk of a V-Roys reunion over the years – in fact, organizers of 2006’s Southern rock festival Mucklewain tried to convince the four to reunite – but until now, things haven’t worked out. Knoxville never forgot, however — if anything, the band’s reputation has only grown. In 2009, a Metro Pulse poll of local music scene movers and shakers named The V-Roys Knoxville’s Best Band Ever, cementing the band’s status as a local version of The Beatles or The Eagles.

Titled “One Show; Goodbye,” this year’s NYE gig will no doubt be the place to be for anyone with more than a passing connection to the Knoxville music scene. Tickets are $35 and will go on sale Sept. 9.

Here’s the track listing for “Sooner or Later.”

  1. “Guess I Know I’m Right”
  2. No Regrets”
  3. “Pounding Heart”
  4. “Sooner or Later”
  5. “Goodnight Loser”
  6. “Cry”
  7. “Lie I Believe”
  8. “Kick Me Around”
  9. “Mary”
  10. “Amy 88″
  11. “Over the Mountain”
  12. “Fade Away”
  13. “Burned” (Neil Young cover)
  14. “Someone to Push Around”
  15. “How I Got to Memphis” (Tom T. Hall cover)
  16. “Hotel Room”
  17. “Smokey Joe’s Café” (Leiber and Stoller cover)
  18. “Cold Beer Hello”

Let the celebration commence. And Knoxville city officials/AC Entertainment reps … I would strongly advise closing the 800 block of Gay Street and setting up big screens along the sidewalk, because you’re gonna need them to accommodate the crowds who don’t get tickets in time but show up to join the party anyway.

Written by wildsmith

July 17th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Ahem … nudge-nudge … V-Roys alert!

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More than a decade after playing their last show on New Year’s Eve 1999 at The Tennessee Theatre … and two years after being voted the No. 1 Knoxville Band Ever … The V-Roys are still the subject of much discussion. And in recent days, speculation.

From an official Facebook page that went active only a few days ago: “all will be revealed …………….. Monday.”

We’d tell you what that means, and we will … when the time is right. In the meantime, suffice it to say you’ll be very, very pleased.

Written by wildsmith

July 15th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Music

Introducing East Tennessee’s own gangsta-rap wizard … no really, he’s a wizard …

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HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2Who you gonna call? If you’re Harry Potter ’bout to get f—– up by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, you call up LiL iFFy.

There are rappers, and then there are gangsta rappers. And then there are wizard gangsta rappers. Straight outta the 865, LiL iFFy belongs in the latter category. And given his mad skills, I daresay he’d hold his own in one of those South Central drive-bys/gang wars/turf battles that were so popular in the East Coast-vs.-West Coast beef from a few years back.

A 9mm? Please. That ain’t shit compared to a spell-slinging wand. (No word on whether iFFy’s wand is bejeweled.)

LiL iFFy’s debut single, “Patron Us,” dropped this week. It’s the first song off his debut EP, due later this fall and to be titled “Wandcore.” He’s a mysterious dude, but I managed to track him down via his production team, Dude Source, on location in Chicago with another Knoxville musician, Wil Wright of Senryu. Wright hooked up Dude Source with iFFy, so the story goes; now he’s covering the Pitchfork Music Festival and Dude Source and iFFy are partying in the Windy City.

The dudes in Dude Source are almost as secretive as iFFy is; they decline to give themselves individual names, but they’re adamant about one thing — iFFy is the real deal. This is not a gimmick, nor is it meant to poke fun at the Harry Potter phenomenon or its fans. If anything, iFFy is a guy born of that world and holds writer J.K. Rowling’s books as sacred texts.

“The misconception about wizard rappers is that it’s all witches and galleons (the wizard dollar),” says one Dude Source dude, speaking for iFFy who, he adds, sleeps all day. “I think as he puts more music out, people will see that all the issues that affect American culture also affect the wizarding world. I think it’s going to be a real barrier-breaking release.”

Little is known about iFFy’s origins, other than he’s no Hogwarts graduate. He lays down furious rhymes that are not for the faint of heart; they’re explicit, rough and hardcore. Example: “Black-cloak bastards, blasting casting killing killer curses, but I’m laughing | This is the son of a wizard that got busy with a hippogriff and made a magic baby born to win the f—— Triple-wiz | F— the dark mark and motherf— a Malfoy | Red and yellow, bitch, Gryffindor.”

How big of a Harry Potter acolyte is iFFy? He name-drops such obscure characters as Peter Pettigrew, Rita Skeeter and more, enough that casual fans who haven’t cracked the books will appreciate his approach, and complex enough that hardcore fans will delight in deconstructing his more obscure references.

“We like to think of the Harry Potter world as an allegory; this is real s—,” Dude Source dude says. “The Harry Potter books are pretty accurate; they are the founding document by which we evaluate wizard culture.”

LiL iFFy remains vague about his origins; Dude Source claims he sleeps all day, awakens with portkeys to various clubs and vanishes to party all night. Wright introduced him to Dude Source, who provided the beats; even they have trouble, however, figuring out where he’s coming from.

“He doesn’t offer much; plus he’s a Parselmouth (one who speaks the language of snakes), so it’s hard to tell what he’s talking about sometimes. Usually he only talks about what he wants the beats to do,” Dude Source says. “He even records in Parseltongue, but it comes through the track into English. We don’t know what that’s about.”

It’s about magic, baby. And LiL iFFy is obviously one to carry on the Harry Potter torch, especially now that “Deathly Hallows Part 2″ is opening in theaters, bringing the series to a close in both book and film.

“He’s a real loyalist, and he feels like the books and the movies ended at a perfect time,” Dude Source says. “J.K. Rowling is one of his major influences, so whatever she says goes, as far as he’s concerned. He didn’t want the series to go on forever (any more than she did), but eventually it becomes like a reanimated dead body.”

And now that the shutters have been drawn on Potter’s world, it’s nice to know there’s a wizarding rapper out there who still carries a torch for the rest of us magic-loving muggles.

“Christian evangelists don’t send their books to Jesus; you have to send them out to non-believers,” Dude Source says. “Just putting out first release, he’s trying to get out to the broadest audience possible, especially to those not necessarily familiar with the books but who do like rap music and the films.”

Look for “Wandcore” this fall. In addition, iFFy will collaborate with Knoxville’s Katie and the Bass Drums addressing “muggle world topics” and “Mexican mythology.”

Read more about iFFy on the website where his track first dropped, The Music Slut: Click here.

Download “Patron Us,” by LiL iFFy: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)

Written by wildsmith

July 15th, 2011 at 9:13 am

New album on the way from R.B. Morris

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After going more than a decade between albums — from 1999’s “Zeke and the Wheel” to last year’s “Spies Lies and Burning Eyes” — local singer-songwriter/poet/playwright/institution R.B. Morris is already preparing to put out his next record, tentatively titled “Rich Mountain Bound,” after his own publishing company.

“It’s crazy — totally different, completely different,” Morris told me this week. “For one thing, it’s absolutely all solo – just me with a guitar. I don’t mean exactly like ‘Nebraska,’ where I play all the instruments; it’s just all guitar. There’s not an overdub on the whole record.”

The album came about via some front-porch sessions with his people “way up in the hills,” Morris said, particularly “Iron” John Webb, who after one session told R.B. that all of his favorite Morris songs were the ones Morris had never recorded — songs like “Once in a Blue Moon,” “Going Down to Hot Springs” and the like. That spurred Morris to action, and in one session at Nathan Milner’s Asheville, N.C., studios.

You can read more about the new album, his Friday (July 15) concert at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus and what Morris has been up to of late in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.

Written by wildsmith

July 12th, 2011 at 6:28 am

Posted in Music

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