Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Marc Cohn has been obsessed with pop music for as long as he can remember. As a songwriter and singer, Cohn combines the precision of a brilliant tunesmith with the passion of a great soul man. He's a natural storyteller, balancing the exuberant with the poignant, and able to distill universal truth out of his often romantic, drawn-from-life tales. He similarly finds the emotional essence in the vintage songs he's just recorded, even as he brilliantly reshapes his source material. Cohn’s own career took off at the turn of another decade, in 1990, with the recording of his critically acclaimed, self-titled debut disc, which yielded such classics in their own right as "Walking In Memphis," "Silver Thunderbird," and the lovely "True Companion."
Best known for his tenure fronting the hugely influential New York Dolls, David Johansen was a true chameleon; throughout the course of a career which saw him transform from a lipstick-smeared proto-punk hero into an urbane blue-eyed soul man and finally into a tuxedo-clad lounge lizard, he remained a rock & roll original, an unpredictable iconoclast and a true cultural innovator. Born January 9, 1950, in Staten Island, NY, Johansen joined his first band, the Vagabond Missionaries, in his mid-teens. A tenure with Fast Eddie & the Electric Japs, as well as an attempt to mount a career as a theatrical actor, followed before a club-hopping Johansen met bassist Arthur Kane, who extended an invitation to join his band, Actress. After changing their name to the New York Dolls, the group began building a notorious reputation for their menacing, edgy music, drug-fueled lifestyle, and outrageously campy, drag queen-inspired glam image; although neither their eponymous 1973 debut nor 1974's Too Much Too Soon even cracked the Top 100, the Dolls established an enduring cult following, and their influence on the rise of punk was unmistakable.
The Dolls officially broke up in 1975, although Johansen and guitarist Syl Sylvain continued performing under the group's name for two more years. Finally, in 1977, Johansen entered the recording studio with his support group, the Staten Island Boys, to cut his self-titled solo debut; while it sold no better than the Dolls' records, it did renew the critics' love affair with the singer and his gritty, soulful voice. With producer Mick Ronson, he returned in 1979 with the Motown-influenced In Style, followed in 1981 by the commercial-minded Here Comes the Night. While 1982's concert set Live It Up won some airplay for its medley of the Animals hits "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," "It's My Life," and "Don't Bring Me Down," Johansen was forced to reassess his career when 1984's dance-flavored Sweet Revenge tanked. At the end of 1984 he resurfaced in the pompadoured guise of Buster Poindexter, a supposed ethnomusicologist armed with an expansive knowledge of R&B chestnuts. After debuting the Buster character at a series of mid-'80s downtown New York loft gigs with the Uptown Horns, Johansen continued honing the identity in the piano bars of Manhattan, establishing a lounge swinger persona which predated the lounge-kitsch revival of the mid-'90s by a decade.
As Poindexter's popularity grew, he began fronting a large band dubbed the Banshees in Blue and building a devoted following on the New York club circuit. In 1987, he issued an LP, Buster Poindexter, which featured the party classic "Hot Hot Hot," an effervescent cover of an obscure 1984 soca hit. In addition to reviving Johansen's career as a musical performer, Buster also renewed his long-dormant acting bug, and he was tapped to co-star in the 1988 features Married to the Mob and Scrooged. The character remained Johansen's focus in subsequent years as well, as evidenced by the albums Buster Goes Berserk in 1989 and Buster's Happy Hour in 1994. He maintained a relatively low profile in the years prior to the spring 2000 release of David Johansen & the Harry Smiths.
Since we last heard from Shawn Mullins on 2008’s honeydew, the Atlanta-based singer/songwriter and bandleader has undergone a series of transformative experiences, leading to a second coming for the veteran artist. Evidence of Mullins’ newfound level of musical and lyrical ambition courses comes through with Light You Up (Vanguard Records, October 12). This captivating new song cycle will likely be viewed as a flat-out revelation even by Mullins’ most fervent fans.
His experiences included an indoctrination into the collaborative creative process by numerous bouts of intensive co-writing, in one instance putting him atop of the country charts via a key contribution to the Zac Brown Band’s “Toes,” marking his third #1 single, following 1999’s “Lullaby” and the 2006 Triple A/Americana chart-topper “Beautiful Wreck.” Further co-writing yielded nine of the 11 songs on the new album, which Mullins believes represents the strongest, most expressive writing of his distinguished career. All of this creative activity was topped off by the birth of Shawn’s first child, Murphy, in August of 2009.
As a young man from Meridian, Mississippi, Steve Forbert traveled to New York City and played guitar for spare change in Grand Central Station. He vaulted to international prominence with a folk-rock hit, "Romeo’s Tune," during a time when rootsy rock was fading out and the Ramones, Talking Heads and other New Wave and punk acts were moving in to the public consciousness. Still, critics raved about Steve’s poetic lyrics and engaging melodies, and the crowds at CBGB’s club in New York accepted him alongside those acts. "I’ve never been interested in changing what I do to fit emerging trends," Forbert observes. "Looking back on it, I was helping to keep a particular American songwriting tradition alive at a time when it wasn’t in the spotlight."
After his first two records came a plethora of well-crafted, unforgettable songs on such albums as Little Stevie Orbit, Streets of This Town, The American in Me, Mission of the Crossroad Palms and Evergreen Boy. His tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Any Old Time, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004. In October 2012, 35 years after his first album, Steve has released an exciting new one, Over With You. Its ten fresh but mature songs pinpoint a wide range of emotions that color personal relationships — emotions that most listeners have undoubtedly felt and struggled to understand at some point in their lives. "This is an album that has taken a lifetime to make," explains Forbert. "You don’t just pull these songs out of thin air — you have to live them."
In his three and a half decades as a recording artist, Willie Nile has earned a reputation as both a fiercely committed rock ’n’ roller and a singularly insightful songwriter. It’s Nile’s introspective side that fuels If I Was A River, a deeply compelling ten-song collection that diverges from his usual sound, while affirming the remarkable, melodic and lyrical skills that have long endeared the artist to his passionately loyal fan base.
In contrast to the rousing, guitar-based rock ’n’ roll that’s been the focus of the dozen albums that he’s released since 1980, If I Was A River — which will be available on CD at willienile.com, and available as a digital download after November 11 — features ten stirring original compositions on which Nile accompanies himself on piano, with sparse arrangements that keep the focus firmly on the songs and Nile's deeply felt performances.
That stripped-down, piano-based approach is one that Nile has explored on various tracks over the years, but never for the length of an entire album. However, in the wake of the warm public reception that greeted his 2013 release American Ride — which won some of the most enthusiastic reviews of his career and was voted Best Rock Album of the Year at the Independent Music Awards — Nile was ready to explore some new creative options.
Andrew Belle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter. He released his debut album, The Ladder, in 2010 and its follow up, Black Bear, in 2013. Andrew was presented a John Lennon Songwriting Award in 2009 and is currently part of the critically acclaimed US touring group Ten Out Of Tenn. His most recent EP Black Bear Hushed includes reimagined versions of tracks from Black Bear. The Ladder and Black Bear were each selected as iTunes Albums of the Year in 2010 and 2013. His music has been featured on hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and Castle, among others.
Cheerleader began as a bedroom project of longtime friends and roommates Joe Haller and Chris Duran, who recorded a series of demos via GarageBand. The Connecticut natives moved to Philadelphia and completed the full band lineup in 2013.
Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan, an Americana/Jersey Shore/Rock & Roll band, released their 13th CD on SCR/Schoolhouse Records, titled "Sway" in January 2013. The 12 song CD was recorded in Nyack, Rockland County, New York and features 9 songs written or co-written by D'Urso and three tunes penned by Willie Nile, Steven Van Zandt and the late Terence Martin. "Sway" is an upbeat, rocking record and covers some good territory on the Americana/Jersey Shore/rock and roll painter's pallet. Joining drummer Sam LaMonica, bassist Mr. Lou DeMartino, guitarist Greg Lykins and D'Urso on "Sway" is Rita Harvey, Tony Pallagrosi, Neil Berg, The Maddog Horns, Steve Pavia, Greg Talenfeld, and Gordon Roehrer on voices, piano, horns, organ and cello.
New York City's musical makeup remains just as diverse as its cultural identity. The Upper West Side now claims its own cleverly catchy pop outfit in THE HEYDAZE — Jesse Fink [vocals, guitar], Andrew "Wonderberg" Underberg [producer, keyboardist], Andrew Spelman [lead guitar], and Alexander Glantz [drums].
In 2013, Jesse approached Wonderberg with song ideas he had been working on with his University of Pennsylvania buddy Andrew. As family friends, the producer and vocalist go way back to when Jesse's parents paid the high school senior Wonderberg to teach a sixth grade Jesse how to properly work Logic and Garage Band on a Mac. Their first composition, "Little Bandit", began as a voice note which Andrew texted to Jesse at two in the morning. After a little production magic, the track turned into something special with its fingerpicked acoustic guitar and irresistible refrain taking flight.
"There's not one specific genre," Jesse proclaims. "We classify ourselves as Windows Down, Stereo Up music. It appeals to a wide range of people, and it's meant to be catchy and make you feel good. We all have different tastes in music, and you can hear that within the music. That balance is becoming our signature."
Thirdstory began when Richard Saunders and Elliott Skinner were approached by their now manager, Marc Johnston, after performing at the YoungArts Singer/ Songwriter Showcase at Rockwood Music Hall in November 2013. Shortly after, the two were introduced to Ben Lusher, and the three committed to working on this collective project.
The band combines three artists who have traditional and technical music skills with current and creative pop culture vibes to create a distinct sound, that is unparalleled and has yet to be created by anyone in this generation. Thirdstory fuses the conventions of legends such as Crosby, Stills, and Nash with the currency of contemporaries like Sam Smith and Amy Winehouse. They combine their three unique personalities with their collective passion for music and simultaneously blur the lines between jazz, soul, and pop music, creating a unique modern sound.
Currently on the precipice of success, these three artists are still hopeful souls, eager to “make it” in the industry. However having just recently signed a development contract with Verve Music Group, a record label under Universal, Thirdstory is well on their way to becoming one of the most influential music groups of this decade.
There are plenty of reasons to love East Love. This East Village-based acoustic pop-rock band got its start right here in Westchester, with three members playing together since their days at Scarsdale High School. The band is currently recording a 6 song EP, and has recently released their first single "Little Less," available on iTunes, Spotify & SoundCloud.
You can catch East Love at venues all across NYC, including the Gramercy Theatre and The Marlin Room at Webster Hall. And if, at the Festival, you happen to see Peak radio host Jimmy Fink singing along to all the words, tell him how great his son's band is doing.
Anderson East is a new American artist. Known for his songwriting and unique vocal ability, he quickly caught the attention of renowned producer Dave Cobb. The Alabama native is currently finishing up his first long play due out 2015.
Firmly a phenomenon in their home country of Iceland, the four-piece band Kaleo is set to descend upon foreign shores in 2015, bringing their gorgeous blend of folk, blues, country, and rock to a wider mainstream audience in America. Their isolated heritage inspires a unique take on familiar sonic elements, resulting in diversity and freedom on each and every breathtaking track.
Best friends since attending elementary school in the small town of Mosfellsbaer outside of Reykjavik, bandleader JJ Juliusson, drummer David Antonsson Crivello, and bassist Danny Jones began playing together at the age of 17. Honing their skills, they played countless shows around the nation’s capital for a few years before adding guitarist Rubin Pollock to the mix in 2012. They named the band Kaleo, which means “the sound” in Hawaiian, and started their career in earnest with a handful of well-received shows at the 2012 Iceland Airwaves music festival.
They recorded their first pair of original songs in early 2013, the fiery “Rock N Roller” and laid-back, bluesy “Pour Sugar On Me,” which earned Kaleo some radio airplay and press in Iceland. Then, that spring, their cover of the traditional Icelandic ballad “Vor í vaglaskógi” during a live radio show was videotaped and posted to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. The band recorded a studio version of the song in June, which went straight to Number One in virtually every radio station in the country. “It’s a different kind of cover, more dramatic and the tempo is taken down,” says JJ. The buzz for Kaleo had begun.
The band signed to Iceland’s largest record label, Sena, in the fall of 2013 and recorded their full-length debut, Kaleo, in just six short weeks. Five singles would reach Number One and the album would go Gold, receiving high praise and sending the band to shows and festivals in Europe over the next year, including an appearance on the biggest stage in their home country, Culture Night, where they played to 100,000 people and reached 90 percent of Iceland’s population in broadcast. Then, in the spring of 2014, Kaleo recorded the lush, introspective song “All the Pretty Girls” and in one night their destiny to outgrow their small, island nation was cemented.
“It’s a very delicate song. It seemed to speak to a lot of people,” says JJ. “From there everything started to happen. We got contacted from other places: managers, labels, publishers—they all went crazy over one night.” Drawn to Kaleo’s multi-layered dynamics, their ability to play different genres with equal skill, the vocals and mood reminiscent of everything from Bon Iver and Iron & Wine to Coldplay and David Gray, and wise-beyond-their-years songwriting, the world came calling.
Now, signed to Atlantic Records in the US, Kaleo has moved to Austin, Texas, and will begin recording new material with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg) in London for an EP due this year. Get ready for the sound.