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2012 April at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for April, 2012

Whitechapel new album details announced

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Back in March, we told you about how the boys in death metal band Whitechapel — three of whom are from Blount County (singer Phil Bozeman and guitarist Ben Savage are Knox County boys) — were working on a new album at guitarist Alex Wade’s house out in Louisville.

Today, the band’s label Metal Blade revealed details, including the cover art: It’s self-titled and slated for release on June 19; the first single, “Hate Creation,” is streaming here and the track listing is as follows:

  1. Make it Bleed
  2. Hate Creation
  3. (Cult)uralist
  4. I, Dementia
  5. Section 8
  6. Faces
  7. Dead Silence
  8. The Night Remains
  9. Devoid
  10. Possibilities of an Impossible Existence

The band continues its “ReCorruptour” with Miss May I, After the Burial, The Plot In You and Within the Ruins on Thursday in Louisville, Ky. On June 30, the band will join the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with Slipknot, Slayer and As I Lay Dying.

Written by wildsmith

April 30th, 2012 at 8:43 am

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Raven Records and Rarities to relocate

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“Leaving the black heart of Bearden for the warm bosom of Happy Holler” reads the flyer on the Raven Records and Rarities Facebook page.

For now, Raven is still open at its current location, 5710 Kingston Pike, but owners Jay Nations and Jack Stiles hope to be up and running at the new location — 1200 N. Central St. in the Downtown North neighborhood of Knoxville, an area also known as “Happy Holler” — the first week of June.

The decision was made a couple of months ago, and personally I think it’s a good one. Raven, which we profiled back when it first opened, has the sort of scruffy, colorful and weird-in-a-good-way vibe of places like Time Warp Tea Room and Toot’s Little Honky Tonk than the tony neighbors of its current location.

Either way, we encourage you to support. If you’re a comic book/sci-fi fan, Stiles has some stuff that’ll blow your mind, and Nations has been the master of vinyl around these parts for a couple of decades. Stop by before they move; you might find something to tickle your fancy. And definitely support the guys in their new location come June; locally owned businesses, especially those that deal in music and oddities you can’t find anywhere else, give East Tennessee some of its character and history

Written by wildsmith

April 27th, 2012 at 8:21 am

Record Store Day … go support, dammit!

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rsd+date_wide+vinyl_2012Yes, this matter deserves that sort of language.

Because in this digital day and age, brick-and-mortar merchants are either dying off or being swallowed up by corporate whales. Record stores have been hit especially hard. It’s becoming more and more difficult for places to make a go of it when you can log onto iTunes or Amazon, download a favorite album and never get off the couch. But there’s something inspiring about owning a physical copy of a record, be it on CD or vinyl, and Saturday is one day you’ll want to head to your local record store and do so.

As part of a national campaign known as Record Store Day, an annual event that celebrates music and independently owned record stores, hundreds of independently owned record stores across the country will sell a series of special releases commissioned for the event. Locally, you can find three fine establishments we wholeheartedly endorse: Raven Records and Rarities, 5710 Kingston Pike in Knoxville, opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday; Lost and Found Records, 3710 N. Broadway Ave. in Knoxville, which opens at 11 a.m.; and The Disc Exchange, 2615 Chapman Highway in Knoxville, which opens at 9 a.m. The latter two will feature in-store performances by a number of local bands, and all of them will have special releases put out especially for Record Store Day, as well as prizes, giveaways, free food and a whole lot more. It’s a great way to support music and a locally owned business, so get out and make it part of your Saturday.

If you’re looking for specifics, here they are:

  • At Disc Exchange: Remedy Coffee and Eagle Distributing will offer beverages, Sweet and Savory Truck will have edibles and a whole lotta bands will perform: Lera Lynn at noon, The French at 1 p.m., Angel Snow at 2 p.m., Hoots and Hellmouth at 3 p.m., The Shaky Show at 4 p.m. and The Hotshot Freight Train at 7 p.m.
  • At Lost and Found: The big draw is barbecue made by local rocker Tim Lee, who will be camping out and firing it up tonight. At lunch, all of the bands performing on Saturday at Lost and Found will serve up their own ‘cue sauces, and the crowd can determine whose is best. The live music lineup: From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., deejay sets by Nostradamus, Kingo Gordo and Nijoli; Pegasi 51 at 2 p.m.; Itchy and the Hater Tots at 3 p.m.; The Vaygues at 4 p.m.; Tim Lee 3 at 5 p.m.; Mutations at 6 p.m.
  • At Raven: Lots of specials, including two-for-$1 LPs, 10 percent off of all used merch, BOGO goodies from the “Rarities” side of the store and unadvertised specials for RSD patrons. As well as some free swag.
  • And while we can’t find whether they’re doing anything special for RSD, we have to give a shout-out to Hot Horse Records, 108 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City, a funky-cool place beside The Pilot Light that (usually) opens around noon.

And in case you’re wondering about all of the special releases artists who support independent retailers have put together for this year, there’s a complete list to be found here.

Written by wildsmith

April 20th, 2012 at 5:48 am

Jeff Barbra gracefully bows out of The Drunk Uncles

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The-Drunk-Uncles1The Drunk Uncles: (From left) Jeff Barbra, Mike McGill, Eric Keeble, Gordy Gilbertson and Aram Takvoryan

Jeff Barbra and The Drunk Uncles have parted ways, but both parties are reporting the split is amicable, mutual and in no way reflects any sort of bad feelings or bad blood.

Barbra, a Blount County resident who’s been working as a singer-songwriter, most often with his wife, Sarah Pirkle, for years, formed the Uncles with another local tunesmith (Mike McGill, who’s also doing the solo thing and playing as part of the Barstool Romeos with Barbra’s brother-in-law, Andy Pirkle), told us he simply feels led in another direction.

“It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, and it wasn’t an easy decision,” Barbra said. “But it’s like my pappaw used to say: If you can’t do something 100 percent, you shouldn’t do it at all. I’m just going where my heart leads me and trying to do what feels right.”

According to Barbra, the increase in church performances and house concerts with Pirkle has fanned the flames of his desire to have a conversation with fans. He and Pirkle were saved and joined a local church a couple of years ago, which led to the creation of last year’s gospel album, “Family Singing.”

“When we play in someone’s basement or in a church, you get to talk to people; really talk to them,” Barbra said. “A lot of times, that leads them to wanting me and Sarah to tell our story, which is as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done.”

In addition, the Sunday morning radio program “In the Spirit,” which he and Pirkle co-host for WFIV-FM i105, has brought the couple additional opportunities and is taking up more time, something he’s not complaining about at all.

According to McGill, the Uncles will soldier on, although the loss of Barbra will be a heavy one. At this time, there are no plans to mothball the retro-c0untry outfit, although carrying on will mean reconfiguring how the band — which includes bassist Aram Takvoryan, drummer Eric Keeble and fiddler/vocalist/songwriter Gordy Gilbertson — does so.

“We will fulfill all of our obligations, which includes a May date at Toot’s (Little Honky Tonk in Downtown North Knoxville) and another show in June,” McGill said. “Eric will probably play some electric (guitar), and I may, too. And Eric and Aram will both be singing, at least on harmony, to fill in that hole. We’re not sure how it’s going to work — we may have a couple of different drummers filling in — but the Uncles will go on.”

The band’s new album, which began last year at Music Row Studios, is still on deck as well, McGill said, but there’s no timetable for its completion — or whether it’ll be re-cut to reflect the band’s new lineup. Barbra’s songs, as well as his studio contributions before he left the band, are still planned for inclusion.

Both men say their friendship is intact, and neither rules out a return to the stage with the Uncles by Barbra, either as a guest or at some point down the road. For now, however, they’re focused on doing what’s best for them as individuals, and while it won’t be the same for them — or for the rest of us, for that matter — whenever the Uncles play “On Tap, In the Can or In the Bottle” or “Drunk Talkin’,” it’s with relief and admiration that we wish both parties the best on their new journeys.

“It’s a little sad, no doubt,” McGill said. “Going back to when Jeff joined White Oak Flats (the Sevier County-based show band that was a predecessor of the Uncles) and us playing together through the Uncles, we’ve had a lot of fun, and we’ve become more than friends; we’ve become brothers. We wish him nothing but the best, and we respect that he feels led to do something else.”

“No band is bigger than friendship,” added Barbra, who said that his resignation is effective immediately. “Those guys are still my best buddies in the world. We’ll still see each other, and we’ll still hang out and pick a little bit. But this is what I feel called to do now. I have no regrets, because playing with the Uncles and watching people get up and dance and have a good time was a whole lot of fun. But I’m looking forward to seeing where this new calling takes me.”

Written by wildsmith

April 16th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

The return of the Rockwells!

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rockwellsThe Rockwells

In perusing the calendar for that fine Old City indie-rock club The Pilot Light, I stumbled across a lovely little nugget slated for May 3: A performance by the Rockwells, that quartet of rockers who have been sorely missed in the local scene over the past few years as the boys have taken on various adult responsibilities.

A quick call to Tommy Bateman, general manager of the Maryville Tomato Head, reveals that it is, in fact, true — he’s getting married that week, and the guys are getting back together as sort of a celebratory reunion show. And while the band hasn’t committed to future performances, they’ve been practicing regularly, Bateman said, and there’s talk of perhaps some new recordings.

“We’ve kicked the idea around as we’ve rehearsed some of the songs we’re preparing for the show, especially one or two that never got recorded or were recorded early on and have changed shape,” he said.

The Rockwells — Bateman and his brother Trace, and brothers Fred and Jonathan Kelly (who have been busy of late running Famous London Recording Studio) — hail from Memphis, and they’ve played together in some form or fashion for most of their lives. Tommy Bateman and Kelly were best friends through high school and college, while their younger brothers, Trace and Jonathan, shared a similar close friendship. After the Batemans moved away, the Kelly brothers formed the Rockwells in 1999. The Batemans returned to Tennessee, the Rockwells moved to Knoxville and the rest is quickly becoming part of the city’s local music history.

The guys have released several albums — the full-lengths “Star Smile Strong” and “Little Symphonies for Kids,” as well as a number of EPs and the most recent full-length, “Place and Time,” the latter of which contains one of my favorite songs ever: the melancholy, looking-back-on-life gem “The Quarterback.”

The May 3 show also features Marina Orchestra and will start at 9 p.m. (real time, not Pilot Light time). Admission is $5.

“We’re really glad we’re doing it at The Pilot Light, given our history with that place and what it means to so many people around here,” Bateman said. “We’re really excited.”

Written by wildsmith

April 16th, 2012 at 8:26 am

The Great Great Pines pack up and head west

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GreatGreatPinesThe Great Great Pines: James Maples (left) and Laura Bost

The tiny town of Martin, Tenn., is about to undergo something of a folk music Renaissance.

James Maples and Laura Bost, the Blount County duo who perform as The Great Great Pines, will be headed west to Martin on May 1, taking with them their 1-year-old daughter Josie, hopes for a blissful future and some East Tennessee memories that will no doubt keep them coming back from time to time. Maples is on the cusp of obtaining his doctorate, and this fall Dr. Maples will officially be a professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee, Martin. Bost is finishing her accounting degree, and while the two thought they might wait until mid-summer to move, they decided to make the jump early, Maples told us today.

And with light at the end of the tunnel as far as his own education goes, it feels a bit surreal, he said.

“We decided to go ahead and move down and learn the community, take summer courses, finish my dissertation — and then I’ll be done with school for the first time in a decade,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s weird, because getting a job after all of that is something you don’t think about. You’re so busy and involved and thinking about the learning process in graduate school that there’s just thing after thing to do, and then halfway through your dissertation they tell you, ‘You need to apply for jobs this year.’ And that’s exactly what happened. Last July, my boss said, ‘Have you sent out applications?’”

He hadn’t but he got on it, and while one peer found a position at Carson-Newman College that allows him to stay in East Tennessee, the six hours between Blount County and Martin would make for a mighty strenuous commute. (Although not as exhausting as other peers, who will be relocating to Washington, D.C., and Montana, he added.)

And while Blount County isn’t exactly cosmopolitan, the rural environment of Martin should make for a perfect base of operations for The Great Great Pines. A 1996 graduate of William Blount High School, Maples is a veteran of the folk-rock band the Postmodern Tourists, and Bost was a member of the piano-pop band Hudson K. They met at The Pilot Light, the indie-rock club in Knoxville’s Old City. Capitalizing on the chemistry evident in an impromptu jam together, they first formed The Centralia Massacre with Bost on guitar, ukulele and vocals and Maples on banjo and vocals. That was in 2007; the next year, they released the album “Right at Home,” an album that struck the perfect balance of Old Time and contemporary, sometimes within the span of a single song.

Over the course of the next year, the music drew on additional influences, becoming more elaborate until Bost and Maples decided to get back to basics. The feel of the songs was so different they rechristened themselves as the Pines, released an EP of rough demos and went into Elkgang Studios in Knoxville to put together a proper debut with engineer Scott Minor of Sparklehorse, who’s worked on local projects by Royal Bangs and The Black Lillies. It was going to be a 6-song EP, but after completion, Bost and Maples pulled the plug on it.

“In the end, we listened to it, and it was great, and the production was great. We loved working with Scott,” Maples said. “But it just wasn’t us. It didn’t feel like it was our best, or that it captured our essence. And knowing what was coming with the doctorate and getting a job somewhere else, we decided to hold off to give ourselves a chance to find the time and money to do what we want.

“We’ve joked about how when we become big and famous, we’ll release it as a secret rarities album. We think it’s going to be a good thing. We’ve got a couple of albums’ worth of songs in the pipeline, and for the first time since we started playing together, we don’t have to worry about making ends meet. We can concentrate on the artistic end of things instead of saying, ‘We have to play a Barley’s show next month, or we can’t pay the electric bill.’”

For fans who might have missed it, the last Great Great Pines show was back in February at The Well in Bearden. Come May 1, they’ll pack up and depart the Louisville community of Arline (”Population 12, I like to joke,” Maples said) and head out. It’s time; they’re creative souls with an urge to explore, and now that their daughter has taken her first steps — last weekend, in fact (”She’s walking and auditioning for the band — standup ukulele,” Maples added with a chuckle) — the whole family is feeling the itch of exploring new places.

They’ll be back to visit, and once they get a 12-song full-length album to sound like they want, they’ll no doubt come back and celebrate its release here in East Tennesse. But for now, the town of Martin best prepare itself.

“They don’t realize they’re about to have a folk  explosion,” Maples said.

FREE MUSIC! The Great Great Pines, “Right at Home”: right-click here (choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”)
The Great Great Pines online: click here

Written by wildsmith

April 13th, 2012 at 7:32 am