Q&A with the Sadies’ Mike Belitsky at the Pitch


It’s tempting to call the Sadies’ music Americana, but that label just doesn’t feel right. First, the Sadies are from Toronto. Second, the quartet’s music incorporates all things twang: country, surf, rock, rockabilly.

The Sadies recently finished recording a yet-to-be-titled 11th album (more, if you count collaborations with Neko Case, John Doe, Jon Langford and Andre Williams), which is slated for a November release. The Pitch caught up with drummer Mike Belitsky about the band’s music as he was driving his son to his first Blue Jays game.

Read the complete interview at the Pitch. Published 8/16/16

Ensminger’s “Mavericks of Sound” succeeds in spite of its author

The new collection of David Ensminger‘s interviews, entitled Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with the Artists Who Shaped Indie and Roots Music (out now from Rowman & Littlefield), is a mixed blessing. The insight one gets from the artists with whom he speaks is deep and interesting. It’s rare that artists such as Jason Ringenberg of Jason & the Scorchers, the Reverend Horton Heat, or the Nerves and Plimsouls’ Peter Case get the sort of deeply-introspective and serious discussion presented here.

To see Ensminger go beyond the superficial interviews most of these artists receive — if they’re ever spoken with at all — is heartening. Mavericks of Sound is best when it allows these rarely-heard musicians to go beyond discussing their latest album, and dig deep into the influences which shaped them, and the particulars of their journey to now.
book cover - mavericks of sound
That said: Ensminger can go on. When he does something like laying out a lengthy Woody Guthrie quote in his interview with Robert Earl Keen, you’re not quite certain as to whether that’s meant to elicit a certain response from his subject, or if it’s simply meant to show the depth of Ensminger’s own personal knowledge. Rarely does it seem that the author achieves much connection with the artist he’s interviewing. Reading the short pieces toward the end of Mavericks of Sound reveals a certain terseness of response from some of his subjects.
Continue reading

The Folk Alliance International Conference starts today in Kansas City

folk alliance
Rock Star Journalist has been suffering a little lately, as I’ve been working a lot of freelance for the Pitch in advance of the Folk Alliance International Conference. It’s a five-day conference taking place in Kansas City this week, starting today, and running through Sunday. I had the fun job of interviewing some of the showcasing artists in order to help promote it, and that’s pretty much sucked all of my energy lately. However, I’ve gotten to speak with people like actor / musician Ronny Cox about the new Robocop remake, ask BR5-49’s Chuck Mead about his work on Broadway, and so much more. You can check out all my interviews (sans one, which hasn’t run yet) after the jump, as well as details of how to attend the conference.
Continue reading

The Westport Saloon aims to bring roots music back to Westport

westport saloon 01Kansas City’s The Westport Saloon (located in the former Dark Horse Tavern space at 4112 Pennsylvania) has only been open a scant few months, but it has a focus in mind: to spotlight each and every night of the week the incredible roots music that was crossing owner Travis Field‘s path.

“When we opened our doors in early September, it was my intention to offer American roots music in a high traffic area in Westport,” said Fields in an e-mail interview. “With our location, we have the opportunity to showcase these acts and this genre to people who are often coming to Westport as a destination, and then stumbling across original music that they wouldn’t have known to go out of their way for.”
Continue reading

Hank III at the Granada

hank iii header
Country punk and all-around shitkicker Hank III played the Granada in Lawrence last night, and for a Tuesday night, the venue was crammed full of folks ready to get rowdy. It’s an interesting mix — hippies, dudes, good ol’ boys, rockers, metalheads, and the occasional older couple seeing him because of his granddad’s legacy. Because of this, he plays two sets. The first one’s a country set, and he gradually works up to the more hellbent material.

I’d not seen Hank III live before, and I can recommend it highly. He’s got a crack squad of musicians, and while the lyrics are mostly about getting fucked up and starting fights, you can’t really go wrong with those particular topics, at least as far as country’s concerned.

“Right By Her Roots” focuses overly on criticism, rather than interviews

book-cover-right-by-her-rootsMuch as I wanted to enjoy Jewly Hight‘s Right By Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs, I just couldn’t. The book — out now via Baylor University Press is a bit of a mess.

The book is front-loaded with the major interview subjects, leaving the back half of the book to founder. While none of the artists featured are household names by any stretch, putting Victoria Williams, Lucinda Williams, and Michelle Shocked as three of your first four chapters doesn’t leave a lot of meat in the back end.
Continue reading

Podcast #52, “Grass of the Plains”

ike-sheldonIt’s been a while since we ran an interview as part of the podcast. I’ve been doing most of my interviewing for Wayward Blog, which – despite the fact that they get the hits instead of me – gets them read by more people than the folks who peep at this website. They also pay me, whereas this whole chunk of the Internet is a labor of love. In other words, it costs me money to keep it going.

My personal issues aside, there’s a fantastic piece of audio in the middle of this week’s episode in the form of an interview I did last week with Ike Sheldon of the Wilders. He talks about the band’s new self-titled album, their history, and it’s really quite a wonderful discussion. Other than that, there’s lots of old-timey country and bluegrass.

Podcast #52, “Grass of the Plains”
Continue reading

CD Review: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – “Sunday At Devil Dirt”

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – “Sunday At Devil Dirt”
(Fontana International)

This is some sad bastard music. It sounds like something that’d be the background music for the modern-day remake of a Douglas Sirk movie. If they remade Imitation of Life, they’d have these two sing the theme song, and everyone would commit suicide before the opening credit roll had finished. Lanegan’s best known for his work with Screaming Trees, and Campbell got her start with Belle & Sebastian, so this is an interesting pairing. Sunday At Devil Dirt is their second outing together, and it works that beautifully orchestrated pop angle like no other. With all the strings and orchestration, it goes back to the Sirk analogy, but the whole effect is something that sounds like Portishead minus the trip-hop plus Leonard Cohen. Creepy, pretty, not for playing after a breakup (especially when you consider that “Shotgun Blues” is just a dirty, dirty number that will leave you feeling achingly lonely).

Download “Trouble

Capsule reviews

The Capsules – “Long Distance Dedication”
(Vespera Records)

Pretty, pretty pop is always the name of the game from these former local mainstays. Featuring Julie and Jason Shields, the Capsules can no longer to be said to feature “former members of Shallow.” The Capsules have become an act in their own right, and even though it’s been nearly five years since their last record, and they’ve moved out of the area, and haven’t really played any shows in over a year and a half. This is what used to be called “space rock,” and it’s all swimmy and pretty and sounds like what music ought to sound like when you’ve just drank an awful lot of very expensive vodka tonics. Julie’s voice is, as per usual, childlike, yet knowing, and the instrumentation ebbs and flows gorgeously. This is one of those records that doesn’t really do anything the previous one’s haven’t, but it’s done well, and there’s no one else doing it.

Split Lip Rayfield – “I’ll Be Around”

Is it wrong to judge a band based on what they now lack, rather than what is still extant? Because it seems like Split Lip Rayfield’s remaining members are mourning the loss of Kirk Rundstrum, and it’s really affected the state of their music. Now, albums to a fallen a band member are nothing new, and musicians from AC/DC to Ozzy Osbourne have moved on after the tragic death of a treasured band member. Still, the mood always tends to be somewhat somber, if not downright dark. I’m not saying that this is Split Lip’s Back In Black or anything, but it’s certainly not as upbeat as past efforts. This isn’t necessarily surprising, considering the band lost not only one of its founding members, but their primary songwriter (although, all things considered, I’ve always like Gottstine’s songs better). But, if you’re looking for balls-to-the-wall bluegrass anthems, here you’ll be a little let down. This is probably the closest the band’s ever been to “traditional” bluegrass.

Something Fierce – “There Are No Answers”

Leather jackets? Strange sunglasses? I think we’ve got ourselves a new wave punk band, kids. Take equal parts the Briefs and Teenage Bottlerocket, and you’ve got Something Fierce. They sound like a band you’d find on Dirtnap, with garage-y recording levels, some new wave accents, and snotty, snotty vocals. It’s ridiculously fucking fun, and while I’ve probably got seven bands on my shelves that sound just like this, it’s hard to say no to a formula that works so well. The Buzzcocks and dBs used it to great effect, and lord knows the Spits and the Ergs have taken it to the logical extreme as of late, but there always seems to be a band that puts a new twist on it, and Something Fierce is just the latest in a long line. You might be able to dance to this if they slowed it down, but in the meantime, just bounce around the room like a five year old who got into some espresso beans.

The Fake Boys – “Pop Punk Is Dead”
(Cheapskate Records)

It’s really never fair to judge a band by the album cover art, but man… this is fucking AWFUL to look at. Seriously, it hurts my goddamn eyes and offends me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. Not surprisingly, there are no art credits in the CD. I wouldn’t take credit for this crap, either. The music doesn’t fare much better. There’s a lot of good bands keeping pop punk alive right now, but the Fake Boys hew closer to the pop edge of the equation. The band sounds a lot like New Found Glory, and while that sound has its fans, I’m not a big supporter of the nasal whine school of pop punk vocals.

The Prozacs – “Playing the Chords We Love”
(Cheapskate Records)

Basic pop-punk. It’s good, it’s catchy, it’s fast. If you like the Queers, Screeching Weasel, the Mr. T Experience, or any other Lookout Records stalwart of the 1990s, then you’ll like this. Other than that, it’s not really anything that jumps out ahead of the pack a la the Ergs or Teenage Bottlerocket. Capable, but not extraordinary.

CD Review: Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher

Old Crow Medicine Show – “Tennessee Pusher”
(Nettwerk Productions)

What happened here? Can someone explain where all of Old Crow’s energy went to? They went and made a record that’s essentially a concept album about drug dealers in the South – which is a great idea. The whole thing draws parallels to the idea of bootlegging, and the people who are hurt and harmed, the folks who are pushers and profiteers, and the addicts and others.

However, as I said, it’s a great idea. The actual execution leaves something to be desired. The energy on Tennessee Pusher never comes anywhere near the energy like O.C.M.S.’s “Tell It Me.” It almost seems like a waste to have laid back tunes get titles like “Alabama High-Test” or “Methamphetamine.”

If you’re playing a song like the title tracks, about a woman who done gone to the law while you were out on a run, give it some teeth, man. Make me understand that the “short run” you’re going on you is for revenge. Ratchet up the suspense, and make me gasp when your woman, the deputy and you are all dead in the valley. Don’t put me to sleep before you’ve managed to make me care about the characters you’re giving me.

Basically, what you’ve got here is a good album, but nothing near what either of its predecessors could bring. I think Don Was heard “Wagon Wheel,” knew how well it did, and tried to replicate that sound over the course of an entire album.

from Tennessee Pusher: