This week on Music City Roots, it’s a folk/songwriter heavy affair with Darden Smith, Vance Gilbert, and the quite surprising English artist Piers Faccini.
Also on tap are youthful bluegrass band The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys (as seen on Letterman and the Today show), plus excellent country-tinged rock from Nashville’s fast-rising MODOC.
About the artists:
Darden Smith (born March 11, 1962, in Brenham, Texas) is an Austin-based singer-songwriter known for his lyrics and for weaving folk and Americana influences with rock, pop, and the musical roots of his home state. His debut album, “Native Soil,” was released in 1986. His fourteenth album, Love Calling, is due out August 27, 2013.Over the past decade, Smith has developed two programs, The Be An Artist Program (2003) and SongwritingWith (2011). Both use collaborative songwriting to work with groups ranging from children in the classroom to soldiers returning home from combat. Smith established SongwritingWith:Soldiers as a separate non-profit organization in 2012. In a recent presentation for TEDxAustin called “Fearing Your Gift,” Darden Smith discusses what led him to these projects.
Vance Gilbert (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American folk singer/songwriter. He started as a jazz singer, switched to folk music, became a regular on the open mike circuit in Boston and toured with Shawn Colvin. He has recorded eight albums, including Side of the Road, three of them on Philo/Rounder Records.
Piers Faccini (born Piers Damian G. Faccini; 1970) is an English singer, painter and songwriter. Faccini was born in London, England to an Italian father and an English mother. His family moved to France when he was five years old.
Faccini first appeared on the music scene in London in 1997, co-founding Charley Marlowe with performance poet Francesca Beard, percussionist Frank Byng and guitarist Lucas Suarez; the band split in 2001 when Faccini decided to pursue a solo career. His first solo album Leave no Trace was released in 2004 by French Independent label Label Bleu. His second album was released by Los Angeles label Everloving Records in 2006; Tearing Sky was produced by JP Plunier, and featured Ben Harper, who Faccini would tour with between 2006 and 2008. His third album released by French Independent ‘Tot ou Tard’ in 2009 was co-produced by Faccini and Renaud Letang. His fourth album, My Wilderness, was released in late 2011 Six Degrees Records. His upcoming fifth album, Between dogs and wolves, will be released in late 2013 on his own label Beating Drum.
Faccini has collaborated over the years with many musicians and singers including Rokia Traore, Busi Mhlongo, Ben Harper, Ballake Sissoko, Vincent Segal, Camille, Francesca Beard, Seb Martel, Patrick Watson and Ibrahim Maalouf amongst others. In March 2011, Faccini contributed to the Patagonia Music Collective, contributing to the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation.
Sleepy Man Banjo Boys is a bluegrass music trio from Lebanon Township, New Jersey, United States. It is composed of the Mizzone brothers: Jonny (born ca. 2003, banjo), Robbie (born ca. 2000, fiddle) and Tommy (born ca. 1998, guitar).The trio’s debut album America’s Music, was released in October 2011.Their second CD, The Farthest Horizon, was released in October 2012. Ashley Lilly, 13 year old granddaughter of the bluegrass legend Everett Lilly, sings on two songs of the latter album.
In the midst of a full-on rock revival, Nashville, Tennessee’s MODOC has established itself as one of the most irresistibly and undeniably fearless new acts to emerge from Music City, USA.
Having turned out two blistering, full-length albums of potent, unvarnished rock in little less than 18 months, the hard-hitting four-piece is turning heads and earning favor with many of the city’s industry heavyweights, not to mention fans. Managers, producers, publishers – even network television – have taken notice of one of the smartest, most original sounds to come out of Nashville in a long time.
“True rock n roll, coming from Nashville!” raves producer Nick Raskulinecz. The multiple Grammy-winner would certainly know, having worked with acts like Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Rush, Superdrag and Queens of the Stone Age, just to name a few.
“One of my favorite new acts,” confirms Nashville producer Marshall Altman (Marc Broussard, Natasha Bedingfield, Matt Wertz). “Definitely on the rise and poised to be a break-out band from Nashville.”
Veteran rock manager Steve Hutton (Kid Rock, Better Than Ezra, All That Remains) pegs the MODOC vibe perfectly: “Urgent rock n roll. No gimmicks, just raw soul.”
Even Hollywood has been quick to recognize MODOC’s refreshingly elusive sound. In 2012, Universal Music Publishing heard a rough version of the band’s “Devil On My Shoulder” and immediately put them in touch with Grammy nominated producer Paul Moak. When the finished version ended up in the hands of executives at ABC, the network snatched it up for the fall promos of its 666 Park Avenue television series.
While Nashville was once regarded almost exclusively as a boots n’ buckles kind of town, the city has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, with diverse rock entities like Jack White, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Paramore and JEFF the Brotherhood all calling Music City home. Since relocating to Nashville in 2011, MODOC has been welcomed like a long lost brother, collaborating with rock royalty like Black Crowes guitarist/co-founder Rich Robinson and working with revered producers Raskulinecz and Moak. In February, the band celebrated a new management and publishing deal with Nashville-based Zavitson Music Group, and this summer they landed a coveted spot at the Nashville Dancin’ downtown concert series. Clearly, MODOC has found its rightful place in Music City.
“I think this band is really something special, and people are taking notice of it,” says ZMG President Russ Zavitson. “MODOC has a unique ability to create songs that punch you in the gut, but somehow it just feels good! They’re raw, passionate, forceful – exactly the kind of band that rock music needs today.”
The four members of MODOC (Clint Culberson on vocals/guitars, Kyle Addison on lead guitars/vocals, Caleb Crockett on bass/vocals and John Carlson on drums/vocals) first met through the regional music scene at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Culberson, who had previously lived in a nearby, one stop light town called Modoc, suggested the name during a band brainstorming session. The moniker was unique, direct and memorable. And it somehow fit perfectly.
After migrating south to Nashville, MODOC wasted little time putting out its gritty 2012 debut, Fortune & Fame, as well as a single and music video for the fan-favorite “Coward.” Fortune & Fame’s indie-vintage aesthetic – smart, punchy melodies, shifting rhythms and occasionally Zeppelin-esque riffs bubbling over gang style backing vocals – was a fitting way to announce MODOC’s arrival as a serious rock n roll contender. On stage, Culberson balances the band’s feverish intensity with innate coolness, leading the unit with a ragged howl that can morph seamlessly from a startling shriek to a soul swagger to a pleading falsetto.
“I think Fortune & Fame was really about us trying to get over the hump of life, in general, and trying to come to terms with how to do something you love to do and make a living at it,” reflects Culberson.
Within months, the band was back in the studio, itching to record some of the new material they had written in the wake of their debut effort. Turning to a mounting pile of work tapes, the band began recording their 2013 release, the self-titled powerhouse MODOC. While the project often mirrors Fortune & Fame in its pure electric force, the new record broadens the MODOC sound with a mix of introspective tracks (“If I Can’t Live For Love”), ominous rockers (“Devil On My Shoulder”) and some of the band’s most radio-friendly material to date (“Runnin”). More than anything, the twelve tracks on MODOC sound very much like a band finding its niche in the modern rock world.
“We wanted this record to sound a little more live, so we kept a lot of raw tones and scaled back on stacking so many tracks,” says Culberson. “We were still conscious of song structure and the overall quality of the songs of course, but we paid a little more attention to the recording and production process. On the other hand, just like Fortune & Fame, we kept this record brutally honest in the lyrical and musical sense. We wrote what we felt, and played like MODOC. It’s the only way we know how to do it.”
With their new album due out in August, the band is ready once again to hit the road and play a new batch of songs for their fans. Following an appearance at Austin’s legendary SXSW, the foursome began penciling in a series of key 2013 summer festival dates, including Milwaukee’s Summerfest, St. Louis’ Loufest and the Nashville Dancin’ concert series, among others.