Festival Frenzy Recap: Easy By Easy Ed West
As you might imagine, it was another exciting year for the EXEEW Festival held downstairs in my office. After packing my bags I walked down the winding staircase, checked in with my dog Shaky Lennon King, unpacked and got ready to rock the house with a blazing set of new tunes, videos, paperback books and internet art-theft.
This year was a little different, as I was able to add corporate sponsorship and the walls of my office were adorned with beautiful posters and advertisements. Among the highlights was the keynote address given via Skype from my close friend (and optician) Bruce Titlebaum, who urged us to “follow our dreams and let the music take you to a higher plane” but he didn’t quite get to finish his speech because Mrs. Kravitz came in to pick up her black plastic framed progressive bifocal glasses. Nevertheless, I think we all can agree that Bruce is The Man.
Let’s quickly get to the music, because I know that’s why you’re all here. Here’s a list of what I got a chance to hear, and I’ll try and link to samples where I can.
1. The Hobart Brothers and Lil’ Sis Hobart are the alter-egos of Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnson and Susan Cowsill and their At Least We Have Each Other was released here in the U.S. on 2/28. Although they live in different cities and won’t be touring, they did make it to that rival festival in Austin for a showcase. This is well crafted rock, with a twig of twang and great storytelling songs.
2. Katya Chorover is a Colorado singer-songwriter who took a ten year break from her last album to record this gem Big Big Love. Recorded in Portland with past and present Decemberists and some of the best root’s musicians the city has residing there, this is a great album filled with acoustic guitar, mandolins, fiddle, piano, dobro and pedal steel. Her vocals are strong as are the songs, and it features Townes’ cover too.
3. AJ Downing’s River of Life is one damn fine record of hillbilly, country, gospel and inspiration and I have no clue where I got it or who he is. I know this is the first record of two, recorded in Austin back in 2008. I believe there may be a new one coming out soon, but I may have dreamt it. Think Steve Earle ten years ago, about a half octave higher.
4. The Lighthouse And The Whaler is a Cleveland band that makes that type of indie folk pop that’s close to the Fleet Foxes that some either love or others hate. I think it’s really well done, heavily textured and with great vocals with that Beach Boy-like vibe slowed down to 16 RPM on a rainy day.
5. Seattle’s The Soft Hills have a gift for getting a lot of press that compares them to a wide array of other bands: Flaming Lips, Shins, Bread, Radiohead, Beach House, Grizzly Bear, and Crazy Horse. I’d say maybe, if you threw them all in a blender for a few hours; but their sound is unique in that indie alternative band sort of uniqueness. I love music like this.
6. Jackstraw has renewed my interest in bluegrass again, as I’ve put it on the back burner for the past year or so. Sunday Never Comes is this Oregon band’s sixth release. There is definite difference between the way they pick compared to a bunch of ol’ boys from the South, as it slides a little slower and easier with a greater emphasis on the song and lyrics, as opposed to trying to outplay each other at lightning speed. Made me pull the mandolin out and play along.
7. Rosie and Me is an alt-country band from Southern Brazil….really. The five-piece band is fronted by Rosanne Machada who recorded and produced Arrow Of My Ways in her home. They travelled to Austin for SXSW but didn’t make it over to my house. But this is a good one, worth checking out.
Commercial Message: What would a festival be these days without some corporate sponsorship? I’m going to try and make amends here to my fellow community member and frequent sparring opponent Will James, and give him a shout out for all his hard work and dedication for the music and memory of Gram Parsons. He’s the man who runs Gram International, and the link will take you to his ReverbNation page where there’s more information and links. He is also gathering signatures to try and get Gram into the Country Music Hall of Fame. My hat is off to Will today.
Helmut Zacharias and His Magic Violin from 1956
And now we close out this festival with Soupy Sales….see you next year