Paying homage to one of my favorite bands!
Kentucky-born “psychedelic” rock band, My Morning Jacket had me mesmerized when I discovered the original demos from their debut album Tennessee Fire (1999) many years ago. The stripped down, acoustic songs captivated me with not only the rawness of the chords but the sincere lyricism about love, change and the process of maturing.
Jim James., Image courtesy of Google
Fronted by the emotive and eloquent, Jim James, the band has achieved much success in the indie music scene as well as securing mainstream notoriety with songs such as “Wordless Chorus,”(Z, 2006), “Just Because I Do”(At Dawn, 2001) and the heart-breakingly beautiful track, “Golden.” (It Still Moves, 2003).
Jim James., Image courtesy of Google
Regions of Light and Sound of God (2013), is the first solo album for Jim James, delivered in his signature vocal style (impressive, and sweet falsettos, followed by moments of vibrato so rich in texture that it pulsates your bones). The album addresses many topics ranging from holy devotion, and belief, to being aware of (and challenging) deceiving messages about life.
The songs flow together cohesively in a manner atypical of My Morning Jacket; the music is soaked in hipster obscurity (vocals that blend almost too seamlessly, that are accompanied by stirring melodies that significantly slow the heart rate) and casts a introspective mood from the first tune to the last. Also true to his style, James effectively uses lyrics to make social commentary
Regions of Light and Sound of God, Jim James., Image courtesy of Google
In the opening track, “State of Art (A.E.I.O.U)” he expresses frustration and weariness for the technological age, and reliance on various gadgets in order to communicate:
“I used the state of art technology/supposed to make for better living/are we better human beings/we’ve got our wires crossed/our tubes are all tied/and I’m straining to remember/what it’s like to be alive.”
There are some downsides to this 40 minute album: if you do not focus on the differences of every song, there is little way to distinguish one ballad from the next, and the record generally requires a few listens to grasp the concept. But aside from the blurriness, Jim James has succeeded in expressing his emotional and musical growth-and has presented a bewitching compilation that only cements him as a talented figure in the pop-indie scene.
The Rhythm Room in Phoenix is the place to be on a Saturday night if you are a blues aficionado in search of an exceptional show. On January 19th, Dave Riley and Bob Corritore performed a mesmerizing line-up of jazzy -blues with a folk edge, like a dream collaboration between Leadbelly and BB King.
Lead vocalist and guitarist, Dave Riley smoothly transitioned through each enchanting melody, inspiring the crowd to take to the dance floor. The songs were skillfully accompanied by Corritore, on harmonica, who dazzled the audience with his resplendent musical ability.
The celebratory engagement marked the 8 year anniversary of the bands’ origination; and the group certainly impressed their fans and gained many more with their excellent performance. The Rhythm Room never fails to deliver with amazing music, delicious drinks, and great people!
Just an hour after the announcement of President Obama’s victory of being reelected to a second term in office I found myself venturing into the night and stopping at Char’s Has the Blues, a jazz and blues nightclub in downtown Phoenix, AZ better known as simply, Char’s. The club was small and intimate; I noticed the cozy atmosphere right away that was created by extremely dim overhead lighting and exclusive seating areas near the entrance and also within the interior flanks. The crowd, mostly consisting of patrons approximately 30 years old + sat in various places in the club, including near the full bar where the bartender provided friendly service and delicious beverages.
To celebrate my mother’s birthday, we indulged in Vodka Cranberry’s and Pina Coloda’s at amazing prices and settled at a side table to enjoy the live music. Essence, the headlining band of the night, excited the crowd with dazzling jazz melodies that were mixed with beautiful nuances and splendid subtleties that clearly showcased their talent. Shaun Johnson, the lead vocalist, smoothly crooned through many classic hits such as Michael Jackson’s, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Bustin’ Out (On the Funk)” by Rick James. At one point in the evening, Johnson invited my mother on stage and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ with soulful accuracy, much to her extreme shock before continuing on with the designated set list.
The band, which is comprised of Sonte Vales, the lead guitarist, Dbazz who plays bass and Lawrence Ross on keyboards, delivered each song with marked passion that showed a deep and genuine appreciate for performance and music. The drummer, Jamarl Baker aka JB That Drum Killa executed every beat with brilliant precision and gracefully carried the quintet through each moment. The tiny crowd in Char’s Has the Blues responded to classy and equally impressive lineup with applause; a few of the club-goers took to the dance floor to sashay to the melody.
At the conclusion of the band’s lively set, the crowd disbursed for the night, either exiting from the small parking lot or lingering outside of Char’s for a smoke and conversation. As a whole, Essence was thoroughly impressive and deserves much recognition for their inexplicable talent and prodigious showmanship.
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Where they lack in air conditioning, they made up for in culture: that was apparent as I squeezed my way through the red door that donned the words “The Trunk Space” and was immediately greeted by a ocular goldmine for music junkies and hipsters alike. There were carts of dollar records for sale, hand-made necklaces and varying books about hot pop culture topics pinned in an absurd and ironic way that attracts the smart asses of the world.
This tiny haunt in the heart of Phoenix, was hot. Just so very hot. Sweat was pooling on my face as I surveyed my surroundings, and checked out the sites, namely the snow cone machine and the $3 dollar photo booth. The free programs that lay strewn on a bookshelf near a wall, served as a hand fan for the night ahead. Barely large enough to contain seventy people, The Trunk Space caters to smaller local bands and their devoted following: make a sharp turn and you risk elbowing someone in the gut.
The first band to play was One Four Fives, the quartet was comprised of four boys, a few of which I recognized from my days in high school. Their loud and intense set was full of energy and ear-piercing guitar riffs, the banging drums drowned out most of the vocals, but it did not hinder their performance, it just lent to the cataclysmic, raucous affect that the music delivered. After a short twenty minutes, One Four Fives was done playing. The crowd dispersed for some smoke and gossip in the small parking lot that was segmented off with ominous barbed wire and featured a bed of gravel for the cars to rest.
I stayed inside and snatched up a seat before they were claimed, I needed that perfect spot to photograph the next band, Colorado-born septet Ska Skank Redemption. The front line of musicians appeared from the side door and set up the instruments, a menagerie of pretty brass: trombones, saxophones, and trumpets; along with the usual stuff like guitars and a pristine drum-set. Vocalist, Mark Kinz, riled up the crowd immediately, rousing everyone to get energized as the music began to play; the crisp slams on the drums rendered a perfect upbeat sound that had the small audience clapping within seconds.
The trumpeter, the pixie-haired and adorable, Hannah Lewis, played off to the right side of Kinz, dancing in all her bare-footed glory to each song. Ska Skank Redemption is a smooth blend of ska, rock and reggae infusions, which combined with infectious, thrilling energy had their fans captivated: by the third song, the front of the crowd started a congo-line around the small venue, led by Kyle Etges, the alto saxophonist/vocalist. The band was directly involved with each passing second of the melody and crowd reception, Kinz even jumped to the ground as he played the trombone, spinning on his back to the uproarious respond of the fans: both old, and you new enthusiasts would be impressed. Their music swept up the room in brassy, funk energy that I can only compare to that of Sublime at both their “Caress Me Down” and “Seed” moments. I was thoroughly impressed with the performance. Proceeding the encore, they thanked the audience and complimented us on our ability to withstand the summer heat in Phoenix, for they were set to leave the valley the following day, to travel to the next stop on their tour.
After a brief chit chat with the Ska Skank Redemption, I went out to bask in the swampy August air before returning ten minutes later for the final band, newcomers Rabid Whole Logic who played an alluring blend of indie trip-hop infused with funk rock. There synchronized playing would often be broken up by rap verses similar to early Gym Class Heroes. The ginger-haired violinist was absolutely captivating, along with the rest of the musicians who maintained exciting energy and expressed immense gratitude for the audience from the first song to the last. A friendly and jovial group, they passed out free CDs to the spectators and promptly disbursed as the lights went up. The crowd vacated The Trunk Space and vanished into the night, “great show, yeah great show” I could overhear the many conversations, as I left the venue with free music in my hand and a smile on my face.
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The opening act for Thursday’s musical lineup at the Rhythm Room, in Phoenix, was a musician playing an acoustic guitar and singing by himself. I was busy surveying the atmosphere and did not catch his name. Grey-haired and bandana-clad, the man on stage strummed along , playing his original works and engaging the small crowd that was cloistered in the room. The full bar was separated from the main performance area and there were people lining the edges of the walls watching silently in a collective hipster grimace. The vibe of the place was rather pleasant and quiet, mostly comprised of people ages twenty-eight and up with varying tastes in fashion and personal style. It was very dark inside with only the bar light and the pink and teal spotlights that illuminated the platform where the musicians stood.
I ordered a Desert Dream IPA and positioned myself right beneath the stage-which was not difficult to do: the actual stage was only a few feet from the ground. The nameless musician sang and played for twenty minutes and filled the space with soothing acoustic music that was so pleasant that it coaxed my eyes to shut within minutes… but in a good way. His sound was reminiscent of Donovan but the style was more strained, as he enunciated his words with an awkward twang at the end of each syllable.
Next up for the night was the foursome Biologia (biology in Spanish); I swear I was staring at a Freddy Mercury reincarnate when the guitarist/vocalist stepped on stage with a bright orange t-shirt and prominent facial hair (practically a handlebar mustache). Although an odd group, the band possessed a surprising amount of cohesion and energy, mostly due to the guitarists’ infectious dancing, gesticulating and thrashing, his lithe and excited movements matched the pulse of the music. The stony-faced bassist strummed along without so much as a twitch and the front woman sang with a gusto that could crumble buildings. Biologia could be described as funk rock, like Parliament Funkadelic meets the Red Hot Chili Peppers– all dance and groove with a little more punk-rock grit. You would have to be comatose to not nod your head to the beat. After their lively set of seven songs that they streamed through a white Macbook, they exited the stage to make for the next band, Tierra Del Fuego. (Sand of Fire)
The clock read 10:45 p.m. when they stepped to the stage, with their brilliant cherry-red drum set and matching red guitar. These guys had style, which was apparent through their lyricism which touched on familiar topics such as drug use and heartbreak; and their raw emotional delivery inspired the audience to clap along to songs from their upcoming LP and loudly applaud at the finish of each tune. Tierra Del Fuego reminded me of alternative music mixed with a pinch of reggae, they certainly had perfected their unique sound that stood out on its own, practically incomparable to anything I have heard recently. With a two song encore, the band dispersed from the main stage after praising the next band that had yet to appear, but was scheduled for 11:30 p.m. By then I decided to exit and head home, with intention to return next weekend. The Rhythm Room is a comfortable, inviting space that features amazing bands and just might be my newest favorite spot to enjoy live music out in downtown Phoenix.
For additional photos of the event (in HQ):