This morning on Music City Roots, forget the java—let the good tunes give you your morning buzz! Today’s featured performances include those of Alanna Royale, Davina & The Vagabonds, Shook Twins, Wood & Wire, and The Stephen Sebastian Band. Jim Lauderdale hosts.
About the artists:
2013 has been an explosive year for Nashville sextet Alanna Royale and with the speed of a runaway train; they show no signs of stopping. On August 14th, 2012 Alanna Royale arrived at The Basement in Nashville to play their first show without even a demo in hand and left that night with a room full of fans. After that first electric show, the word was out and Nashville was ready to embrace them with open arms. With a bombastic live performance, a handful of performances, and a growing fan base, Royale’s reputation continued to spread without even one recorded song. It was five months later in January 2013 when they released their debut EP Bless Her Heart at a sold out show and confirmed everyone’s suspicions that they were ready for something bigger.
Picking and choosing their favorite elements of soul, funk, Motown, and straight up Billboard pop, Alanna Royale has assembled their own unique style out of many. Not quite soul but not quite rock, Royale shines brightest when marrying their dirty rock n’ roll attitude with their smooth, retro roots. Sharing the stage with some of Nashville’s best and brightest stars of all genres, Royale seems right at home whether playing with a bluegrass band or a garage rock trio. Fronted by the larger than life personality of Alanna Quinn-Broadus the band is led fearlessly with quaking vocals and off the cuff sass. Known for her edgy attitude she will steal your heart, sing it a love song, and break it all in one set. While Alanna might draw you in, she is not alone in the act. It is the band as a whole that keeps you there. Backed by a solid rhythm section and a bouncing two-piece horn section, Alanna Royale lays down the groove, keeps the beat pulsing, and forces you along for the ride. Once Mike Grimes, the owner of the famous record store and venue Grimey’s and The Basement, declared Royale the “next big thing” coming out of Nashville, Royale has worked tirelessly to live up to the hype.
In eight short months, Royale has made two appearances at East Nashville Underground, Grimey’s Record Store Day, Music City Roots, and Scenic City Roots. They won BMI’s Road to Bonnaroo securing them a slot at the summer festival, and will be heading to Austin for Austin City Limits Fest in October. They have been featured in Garden & Gun, on NPR, and in a podcast spotlight with The Tennessean. Despite all of their accomplishments in such a short time, they did not wait to make their next move. Less than four months after the release of Bless Her Heart, Royale released a stunning 100-piece vinyl collaborative project including twenty local Nashville artists to release for Record Store Day. Featuring two new songs and a club banger remix of their single “Animal”, the records sold out within 15 minutes of the beginning of their set.
Armed with their smashing single “Animal”, Alanna Royale is looking forward to their next big step – taking their show on the road. Across the country, word of Royale’s dirty pop/raunchy soul has begun to spread and you can expect them to be turning heads everywhere they go. In less than a year of being a band, they have managed to not only plant their feet firmly in a community flooded with talented musicians but stand out among them. From headlining Nashville Gay Pride to Austin City Limits to Bonnaroo, Alanna Royale has just begun on an unstoppable journey and there’s no telling where they might be headed next.
Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds have created a stir on the national blues scene with their high-energy live shows, sharp-dressed professionalism, and Sowers’ commanding stage presence. With influences ranging from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits, the band is converting audiences one show at a time, from Vancouver to Miami and across Europe. The band’s latest recording, 2011’s Black Cloud, was named one of the 10 best releases of the year by the Minneapolis Star & Tribune. In 2012 the band performed in 21 states and 6 countries in Europe, and the band is hard at work on a new record (due for release Fall 2013), spending time in the studio between tours.
So much more than just a blues act, DATV’s shows are filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul swagger, dark theatrical moments that evoke Kurt Weill, and tender gospel passages. Davina’s voice and stage presence defy category in a different way. Davina has been compared to Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Betty Boop, but comparisons don’t suffice: Sowers is a true original.
Something unique to this “blues” project is the instrumentation. This rollicking quintet is held together by Sowers’ keyboard playing, with acoustic bass, drums, and a spicy trumpet and trombone horn section. The group’s focused, clean sound and emphasis on acoustic instruments is novel to both blues and jazz worlds, and sets the show closer to New Orleans than to Chicago. This has set the Vagabonds apart at blues festivals in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Sighisoara, Romania, Sierre, Switzerland, Kemi, Finland, and 2012’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Davina and band will make their debut at the Monterey Jazz Festival this September. Catch this one-of-a-kind live show while they are in town!
“A unique, personal music that lights up the stage with its joy and enthusiasm.” (Mason Jennings)
Born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho, Shook Twins are an Indie folk-pop band now hailing from coniferous forested Portland, Oregon. Identical twins Katelyn and Laurie Shook, Kyle Volkman and Niko Daoussis form the core quartet. Central elements of the Shook Twins’ sound are a wide range of instrumentation, including banjo, guitar, electric and upright bass, mandolin, electric guitar, electronic drums, face drum (beatbox), glockenspiel, ukulele, banjo drumming and their signature golden EGG. Beautiful twin harmonies, layered upon acoustic and electric instrumentation coupled with Laurie’s inventive use of percussive and ambient vocal loops, and Katelyn’s re-purposed telephone microphone, set their sound apart, creating a unique and eccentric blend of folk, roots, groove and soul.
The twins are the main songwriters but they have recently started backing up their band members, Niko Daoussis (Cyber Camel) and Anna Tivel (Anna and the Underbelly) and adding their stunning songs to the mix.
Each Shook Twins song tells a story, distinctive, sharp, genuine, and well – sometimes quirky. Drawing from their life experience, select subjects include, being potters’ daughters, imagined superpowers and a chicken named ‘Rose’ they befriended. Shook Twins also pull out unexpected takes on classic hits, retellings of their musician friends’ songs, heartfelt ballads and rhythm driven dance numbers.
After releasing their first album You Can Have the Rest, the twin sisters moved to Portland in December of 2009, conceptualizing their 2011 release Window (featuring Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival). Both albums were recorded and produced in Santa Cruz, California, at InDigital Studios. Favorable reviews, extensive radio airplay and a busy tour schedule have created an ever growing fanbase & kudos from many major musicians. Shook Twins and their full band, including Niko (mandolin, electric guitar,vocals), Kyle (bass), Anna Tivel (violin,vocals), and Russ Kleiner (drum kit, percussion), recently finished recording their third album with Grammy nominated producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios as well as partnering and recording an album, with fellow Portland musician Ben Darwish on his epic concept piece, “The Clear Blue Pearl.”
Shook Twins have shared the stage with artists including: Ryan Adams, David Grisman, Mason Jennings, Blizten Trapper, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Jarosz, Laura Veirs, The FruitBats, Jonatha Brooke, JJ Grey and MoFro, The Indigo Girls, Crooked Still, Jason Webley, The BoDeans, Elephant Revival, The Head and The Heart, The Lumineers and many more.
Eclectic, amusing and whimsical, Shook Twins’ laid-back and fun stage presence draws the listener in, allowing them to take the audience away on the adventure that is their live show.
Anyone wondering about Wood & Wire’s sound need not look any further than the four-piece band’s name, which honors the purity of acoustic instruments and the gorgeous music a skilled artist can coax out of just simple wood and wire.
The Austin-based band’s self-titled debut album, which will be released on February 5, 2013, is an engaging collection of music that is deeply rooted in bluegrass traditions, although the members themselves draw upon country and Americana and listen to everything from Doc Watson to Led Zeppelin.
Founded in 2010 by guitarist Tony Kamel and mandolin player Matt Slusher, who honed their acoustic skills playing with acts like Graham Wilkinson, South Austin Jug Band and Rodney Hayden, respectively, Wood & Wire began to take form when bassist Dom Fisher joined Matt and Tony’s jam sessions. Last spring, the trio officially added Trevor Smith (Green Mountain Grass) on banjo and started making a name for itself on the Austin music scene, their infectious songs and high-energy live performances drawing fans to venues like the legendary Cactus Cafe.
Working with producer/engineer Erick Jaskowiak in Nashville, Wood & Wire cut fourteen stellar, original songs for their first album, which delivers what Smith describes as “a modern take on traditional mountain, hillbilly, and country music” and Slusher terms “Dirty Texas Grass.” The material ranges from the historical (“Coal Mining One” is set in 1940s Kentucky) to the heartbreaking (“Setting the World on Fire”) to the humorous (the raucous “Rollin’ in the Washingtons” takes a less-than-sober look at the financial situations—or lack thereof–of touring bluegrass musicians who have a taste for liquor and an eye for the ladies), and they’re all expertly arranged, thanks in part to the two band members who have had classical training. Tight, three-part harmonies, sprightly mandolin, and rolling banjo keep the band’s sound grassy, while occasional contemporary flourishes, like the electric bass and the phaser effect on “Washingtons,” speak to the group’s diverse backgrounds and far-flung musical influences. Fiddler Brittany Haas adds an extra musical layer to several of the album’s songs, including “Fool Out of Me,” a waltz that, recorded live around a single microphone, feels as though it must have been found in a dusty stack of 45s and given new life.
Touring in early 2013 with Yonder Mountain String Band, Wood & Wire is poised to have a breakout year; as they bring fiery bluegrass footstompers and loose, acoustic jams to packed venues across the country, it’ll be hard to say who’s having a better time: the band or the crowd.
Stephen Sebastian isn’t going mad. Seriously. Granted, musical comparisons to eccentric influences like Ryan Adams, Tom Petty, and Elliott Smith abound. But Steve Sebastian is a young college graduate from Cleveland, Ohio who drives to work, eats home-cooked meals, walks his dog, and tries to call his parents every couple of weeks. Still, he’s not strictly typical, either. His music might best fit into a cozy but lonesome middle ground between the mundane and the unorthodox, between the old and the new, tradition and rebellion. It’s like the blues as seen in a funhouse mirror, or all of rock and roll history thrown into a blender and played in reverse, a twisting kaleidoscope of five decades worth of guitar-based pop music. Riffs and solos give way to twang and shuffle in a tag-team match of alt-country haze and classic rock immediacy, accented all the while by lyrics equally forceful and vulnerable, both visceral and broken. Rightly enough, his voice actually keeps up with the shape-shifting act. He growls like Tom Waits, croons like Ryan Adams, whispers like Thom Yorke, and bellows like The Boss. Equipped as such, he follows the blues around to just about anywhere it’s made it’s home in the past, from the delta to the honky tonk to the arena and all in between. Yet his vagabond sound is rooted firmly in the bright, not-too-distant future. Call him an observant scholar of the past or a bold poet of years to come, or maybe just a cool guy who might as well be your next door neighbor, but it’s worth the trouble to listen to the evidence and decide for yourself. -Chris Leonard