John Gorka

John Gorka’s new album Bright Side of Down includes this fun, energetic song, “Holed Up Mason City,” about trying to get home during blizzard via I-35 in northern Iowa. The record will release on 4 March 2014 via Red House Records.

Buy John Gorka’s music here on Amazon.

From the album information:

In Bright Side of Down, Gorka offers a complete listen, with arrangements built around vocal and guitar and songs that vary in type, tempo and feel. The 11 original songs and one cover (by his late friend Bill Morrissey, “She’s That Kind of Mystery”) explore broad themes of winter-to-spring: of unforgiving edges, saving beauty, and being at the mercy of larger forces. The songs adjust like eyes to darkness, opening up to let in more light.

“I think my experience living in Minnesota has brought a certain perspective to this record. You’ll find it in the images but also in the idea that in spite of bitter cold and wind, people find ways to hold each other up and keep going.”

The album opens with the true story of trying to get home in a blinding Iowa blizzard (the catchy, uptempo “Holed Up Mason City” — Mason City, IA is famous for being the city where Richie Valens, the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly’s plane took off after after a show in Clear Lake for what would be their fatal last flight (and no, there is no “Big Bopper” diner in Mason City) — and ends with a reflection on the spring that seems so far away with “Really Spring.” He experiences “Procrastination Blues,” shares the charming “Honeybee,” written for his daughter, and the timely story of “High Horse,” set in a crumbling neighborhood where the good jobs are no more.

There’s a greater intimacy to these performances that reflects the way the album was made. Gorka composed the songs on the road and at his home studio before bringing them into the Brewhouse Studio in Minneapolis. He’d record demos and let them “rest” to see if they aged well. The result is an album in the true sense of the word — a meticulously sequenced group of songs that works as a whole.

“The process was different,” he says of the sessions for Bright Side of Down. “I’d go in a little bit at a time by myself for maybe two or three hours, once or twice a week, get a performance of one song and see how it held up over time. At home, I’d try things and play instruments I had no business playing, and if the parts didn’t work, nobody had to hear them; I felt a lot freer to experiment. But since I often perform by myself, I wanted the songs to reflect the feel and presence of my vocal and guitar. Some of the songs lend themselves to more elaborate arrangements, but the vocal is really prominent in all of them because that’s where the story is told.”

After recording the bones of the songs, Gorka brought in producer/engineer Rob Genedak and a cast of top musicians including Jeff Victor (keyboards), JT Bates (drums), Enrique Toussaint (electric bass) and others. “Rob is a drummer and was able to put things together as well,” John says. “Some of the things that Rob did on “Procrastination Blues” — he recorded his foot keeping time on the floor of the control room while he was slapping his chest — ended up sticking and becoming part of the final mix. There were experimental parts we did that came to be the ‘real’ thing.” The songs sparkle with John’s characteristic wit, humanity and insight enhanced by artful contributions of the other players and singers.

Bright Side of Down is a rich listening experience, an album you can listen to and hear something new each time. It’s personal while hitting a universal nerve, a quality John Gorka has made his signature, with a group of songs that you’ll keep thinking about long after the album ends.

Gorka is on the road constantly. Check out a show:

Jan 16, 2014 Red Dragon Listening Room Baton Rouge, LA
Jan 17, 2014 30A Songwriters Festival Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Jan 23, 2014 McMillan Memorial Library Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Jan 30, 2014 Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Pittsburgh, PA
Jan 31, 2014 Happy Days Visitor Center Boston Heights, OH
Feb 1, 2014 Stuart’s Opera House Nelsonville, OH
Feb 2, 2014 Mountain Stage/WV Public Radio at Cultural Center Capitol Complex Charleston, WV
Feb 6, 2014 The Rendezvous Chico, CA
Feb 7, 2014 Pilgrim Congregational Church Redding, CA
Feb 8, 2014 Freight and Salvage Berkeley, CA
Feb 15, 2014 Hopkins Center for the Arts Hopkins, MN
Feb 22, 2014 Swallow Hill Music Hall Denver, CO
Mar 6, 2014 Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Ashland, OR
Mar 7, 2014 Alberta Rose Theatre Portland, OR
Mar 8, 2014 The Triple Door Seattle, WA
Mar 9, 2014 St. James Hall Vancouver, British Columbia
Mar 14, 2014 McCabe’s Guitar Shop Santa Monica, CA
Mar 15, 2014 San Dieguito United Methodist Church Encinitas, CA
Mar 16, 2014 Fiddler’s Crossing Tehachapi, CA
Mar 28, 2014 The Sellersville Theater 1894 Sellersville, PA
Mar 29, 2014 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
Apr 3, 2014 Flying Goose Brewpub New London, NH
Apr 4, 2014 Chandler Music Hall Randolph, VT
Apr 5, 2014 Center for Arts in Natick Natick, MA
Apr 6, 2014 St. Lawrence Arts at St. Lawrence Church Portland, ME
Apr 24, 2014 CSPS Cedar Rapids, IA
Apr 25, 2014 City Winery Chicago, IL
Apr 26, 2014 Wheeler Community Arts Center Indianapolis, IN
Apr 27, 2014 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI
May 8, 2014 Auburn Public Theater Auburn, NY
May 9, 2014 Eighth Step at Proctors Schenectady, NY
May 10, 2014 Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse White Plains, NY
May 16, 2014 Spring Gulch Folk Festival New Holland, PA
Jun 6, 2014 Minstrel Coffeehouse at Morristown Unitarian Fellowship Morristown, NJ
Jun 7, 2014 Congregational Church of Huntington Centerport, NY
Jun 28, 2014 Crossings at Carnegie Zumbrota, MN
Sep 5, 2014 Rubin Museum of Art New York, NY
Sep 20, 2014 Chatfield Center for the Arts Chatfield, MN
Dec 5, 2014 Fiddle & Bow Society at Community Arts Cafe Winston-Salem , NC
Dec 7, 2014 Mountain Spirit Coffeehouse at UU Asheville Asheville, NC
Feb 20, 2015 Metropolis Performing Arts Center Arlington Heights , IL

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings

I’ve known about Blackie & The Rodeo Kings since their duets album, but I was fortunate to see Colin Linden play in Nashville in support of another band and then see the band itself all in the same week. What a fun time!

Buy their new album here on Amazon

From their bio:

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “We’re very sensitive men,” notes Tom Wilson, who with longtime compatriots Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden comprises Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ singer-songwriter-guitarist triumvirate. “And when we’re not sensitive, we’re loud.”

The fabled Canadian roots-rockers are a virtual institution in their home country, where they’ve been crafting bracing, catchy, introspective music for nearly two decades. Yet they’ve managed to maintain a relatively low profile in the United States. That situation seems likely to change with the U.S. release of the band’s eighth album, South, coming out through File Under: Music on January 14, 2014. A limited edited 7” vinyl containing tracks “South” and “North” is due out on October 29, 2013.

South represents a fresh creative step for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, while embodying the qualities of rootsy musical uplift and quirky lyrical depth that have long distinguished the ensemble’s varied output. The album’s largely acoustic yet reliably punchy arrangements showcase the three songwriters’ multiple strengths, while their organically energetic performances maintain the vibrant chemistry that’s kept Blackie a consistently vital and distinctive musical force.

Fearing, Linden and Wilson were already seasoned veterans of the Canadian music scene when they first forged their collaboration in 1996 in Hamilton, Ontario. The group was initially assembled as a one-off side project to record High or Hurtin’: The Songs of Willie P. Bennett, a tribute to the Canadian folk artist whose 1978 LP Blackie and the Rodeo Kinginspired the combo’s name.

Despite the original plan, the new unit quickly took on a life of its own, spawning such memorable albums as Kings of Love (1999), which won a Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album, Bark (2003), Let’s Frolic (2006), Let’s Frolic Again (2007), the compilation Swinging From the Chains of Love (2009) and Kings and Queens (2011).

Meanwhile, the three have maintained their individual careers outside of Blackie. Fearing is a widely respected solo artist, and is half of the duo Fearing and White with noted Irish artist Andy White. Wilson has worked solo, as well as leading the bands Junkhouse and Lee Harvey Osmond. Linden, who relocated to Nashville in 1996, has released several solo albums and recently played guitar in Bob Dylan’s touring band. As guitarist, songwriter and/or producer, he’s also worked with the likes of The Band, Ray Bonneville, T-Bone Burnett, Bruce Cockburn, Amos Garrett, Emmylou Harris, Colin James, Keb’ Mo’, Diana Krall, Leon Redbone, Chris Thomas King and Lucinda Williams.

South represents both a consolidation of the qualities that have already endeared Blackie and the Rodeo Kings to fans, and a bold departure from the band’s established sound. The project first began to take shape while the group was touring the Canadian festival circuit in support of its last album Kings and Queens. On several occasions, inclement weather caused Fearing, Linden and Wilson to retreat to the shelter of the merch tent, where they would stage loose acoustic sets. These impromptu performances soon began to take on a sound and groove that was distinct from the five-piece electric sets for which Blackie was already renowned.

The experience of stripping down their sound had such a rejuvenating effect on the three frontmen that they decided to capture that vibe on record. They had initially planned to record a low-key all-acoustic vinyl-only release, with one original and one cover from each singer. But when they brought the material to Linden’s Nashville studio, they found their originals to be more exciting than the covers, and before long they’d accumulated an album’s worth of new original tunes. They then added the band’s longtime rhythm section of bassist Johnny Dymond and drummer Gary Craig to the sessions, and the material evolved yet again. By the time they were finished recording, the only element of the original plan that remained was the absence of electric guitars. Instead, Linden applied his production prowess to give the songs a vivid sonic depth that enhances the songs’ melodic and emotional resonance.

Titled in honor of the sessions’ Nashville location, South features Blackie’s most infectious and expressive batch of compositions to date. Linden’s autobiographical title track reflects poignantly on how he followed in his parents’ footsteps by moving his family from Canada to America. Wilson also took a crack at writing a title song for the album, but got turned around and instead penned the rousing album-opener “North.” The band’s capacity for insightful introspection is demonstrated on Fearing’s affecting “Everything I Am,” and on the heartbreaking Fearing/Wilson co-write “I’d Have To Be a Stone.” The album closes, appropriately enough, with its only cover, “Drifting Snow,” by the aforementioned Bennett, who inadvertently inspired Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ birth back in the day.

“Tom named this album South,” Linden notes. “The title was rooted in the idea that he and Stephen had come down to my house in Nashville to record, and the mythology of being Canadian musicians venturing from the cold, cold winters and short night to the land of plenty — plenty of wine and barbecue.”

“The way we sound when we’re sitting around in Colin’s kitchen and in dressing rooms playing music is how we wanted these songs presented,” Wilson says. “There’s a different musical conversation that takes place when you’re stripped to the wood and skins and strings, with the comfort and confidence of the moment when the world stops outside your kitchen window.”

If Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson have learned anything in the past 17 years, it’s that Blackie and the Rodeo Kings is a journey, not a destination. Their original plan to make one album and then go their separate ways has given way to an enduring musical rapport that’s grown deeper — and more integral to their lives — than they could have ever imagined.

“Blackie is there because we want it there, and when we don’t want it there it will be gone,” Wilson states. “Blackie enhances our lives, and gives us the kick in the ass that we need to rave on. And sometimes dinner gets burned, so it’s good to have three great cooks watching the oven.”

For Fearing, The Rodeo Kings are brothers, “We all come from crazy homes and this band is the family that we created for ourselves. It’s a chance to step outside of the solo spotlight and climb aboard an ensemble that puts musicality and soulfulness above everything. I know that no-matter what happens, those characters have got my back.”

“We love each other, and we love playing together,” Linden observes. “That’s the main and most important thing. And Blackie’s not the only thing we do, so every time we get together, it’s an event, and even when I do other things, I bring the spirits of my pals with me. Sometimes getting together is a challenge to organize, but that just makes you savor the time you have together more.”

Linden is looking forward to getting on the road and bringing South to old and new fans on both sides of the border.

“The prospect of playing for new people is exciting, and we want to play whenever and wherever we can,” he says, “I like the idea of being the oldest new band around. It makes me feel like the great older blues artists I knew as a kid, when they were getting rediscovered.”

Linden also opines that, despite being a stylistic departure, South is as good a place as any for new converts to discover Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

“Each of our records has its own character, but we’re unable to be anything other than what we are,” he says. “So they’re all good intros to us, for better or worse.”

“South is where we’re at right now,” Wilson adds. “Who we were is not important. Who we’ll be is unknown. America needs Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. They are starving for us and they don’t even know it . . . yet.”


Vandaveer’s most recent album is an entire collection of traditional murder ballads.

Buy Vandaveer’s music HERE on Amazon or HERE on iTunes.

Eddie Spaghetti

Leaked track from Eddie Spaghetti’s (of the Supersuckers) upcoming solo album, The Value of Nothing, on Bloodshot Records.

Buy the music for Eddie Spaghetti here on Amazon or Supersuckers here on Amazon. It’s right here Eddie Spaghetti on iTunes or Supersuckers on iTunes.

From the media release:
Eddie Spaghetti, front man for those Seattle-based pleasure barons of arena garage punk The Supersuckers, kicks out his first solo album of all originals. You might find that songwriting distinction surprising—given his lifetime traveling to two-bit hotels and dumpy backstages in order to spend a couple glorious hours on stage throwing devil’s horns and country-damaged metal to the adoring masses—but it’s the truth. The Value of Nothing distills everything he’s learned in his career-long, over-the-top and tongue-in-cheek adoration of all things rock and roll into a genre-scoffing dose of snarling country rock, full of pop hooks and wiseguy humor delivered with a brain, a heart, & a beer.

Recorded in Eddie’s surrogate hometown of Austin, TX, he employed the assistance of a genuine Texas badass, one Mr. Jesse Dayton (collaborator with such country legends as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and, um, Rob Zombie), in the hopes of making a more authentic country record. Well, ol’ JD thought that working with Eddie was his opportunity to get his RAWK on, so The Value of Nothing ended up a hybrid: a ragtop-down road trip soundtrack; an album embracing the guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures of classic rock, hooky-as-hell Texas roadhouse, and the alwayslurking- on-the-corner-barstool dirty joking of classic Supersuckerism.

The Value of Nothing gallops out of the gate with the Southwestern-inflected title track, all wide-lens spaced-out cowpunk, Eddie’s gravel road vocals both urgent and laid back cool. “Empty” follows with classic rock power chords filtered through the haze hanging over his buddy Willie Nelson’s ranch. The ragged, lazy charm of “Waste of Time” is a paean to kickin’ back, the theme song to those days where it’s almost too much goddamn effort to get off the couch and get a beer, all sung with a crooked smile and topped with some wicked fried slide guitar. With the lighter-sparking final track, “When I Go, I’m Gone,” we hear a surprisingly subdued Eddie, a man confident in the power of his hooks.

It wouldn’t be an Eddie Spaghetti record, though, without some full-on wise-assery. “Fuckin’ with My Head” channels ‘77 era UK punk with its jittery energy and feels-so-good-to-shout-along chorus. And then there’s that Chuck Berry-gone-metal guitar solo by Jesse D… The swinging conjunto throwdown of “People Are Shit” tells it like we all know it is, but Eddie’s got the stones to come right out and say it.

Eddie’s last solo album, Sundowner (Bloodshot 2011), featured covers from the likes of C&W stalwarts like Dave Dudley and Johnny Cash right next to punk rock snots like the Dwarves and the Lee Harvey Oswald Band. The Value of Nothing continues Eddie’s disinterest in tedious genre orthodoxies. From punk rock’s energy, metal’s showmanship, and country’s storytelling intimacy, Eddie finds unexpected commonalities.

Country Fried Rock Curates Charity Compilation

The Country Fried Rock Collection Volume One, To Benefit Nuci’s Space

Country Fried Rock is a one-hour, weekly radio road trip that features some of the most exciting off-the-radar artists from legendary veterans like James McMurtry to up-and-comers Ha Ha Tonka. Host and producer, Sloane Spencer is an unapologetic lover of all things “musically real” Read More