Showing posts with label Zephaniah OHora. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zephaniah OHora. Show all posts

Aug 28, 2020

Album Review / Zephaniah OHora / Listening to the Music

By Megan Bledsoe

Music Row is rife with country artists either obsessed with proving their Southern street cred or lamenting the restrictive boundaries of country music and forsaking their musical roots in the name of evolution. Across town in east Nashville, the Americana world has been flooded in recent years with musicians and songwriters who are more concerned with making records that sound old rather than records that sound timeless. And all across the country, more and more artists are taking political stances which are alienating their audiences rather than seeking to speak to us all and change hearts through artistic expression. Somehow, Zephaniah OHora manages to be the antithesis of all of this at once, the cure for every issue plaguing country music in 2020. This record comes out of New York City, and yet it’s more country and more authentic than the majority of the music coming from Nashville. And OHora is not looking to divide, but rather is proud of being "an all American singer,” as he announces on the track of the same name. For so many reasons, this is the album we desperately need in this moment.

It’s hard to believe this really came out in 2020. Whereas OHora’s first album felt like it came straight out of the 1960’s countrypolitan era, this one feels a bit more reminiscent of a few years later, mixing the best of both the Bakersfield and Nashville sounds. The writing and in some cases the vocal delivery recall vintage Merle Haggard, and a song like “Black & Blue” could have been a long-lost Merle album cut. Yet the production is clean and polished, and although the songs could have been written fifty years ago, the recordings are stellar, thoroughly denouncing the idea that purposely producing a record poorly somehow adds authenticity or quality to the project.

The obvious concern when writing and recording within these boundaries and when trying to perfect the classic country style is that the songs may feel more like an interpretation of the style rather than a true representation of the artist and revitalization of the sound within a modern context. But Zephaniah OHora does a nice job keeping these songs relevant to the modern ear. The best example of this and indeed the album’s greatest strength lies in a trio of tracks in the heart of the record. “All American Singer,” as mentioned above, takes the radical position of taking no political position, but rather seeking to unite all people through the music. Some may say this is OHora choosing to "shut up and sing,” as many people on social media have unfairly asked artists to do, and OHora himself says that he’ll get "back behind the guitar” rather than on a soapbox. But this song is more about Zephaniah OHora making the choice to reach out to all people and recognizing music’s power to do so. This is further evidenced in the next song, the albums title track, as he declares that in a time of "evil that plagues the earth, it’s hard to find anything of worth” and that music is his escape from all the pain of this world. We can all certainly relate to these sentiments, as well as those expressed in the next track, “Living Too Long,” wherein OHora reflects on the times changing and local bars shutting down. Regardless of our backgrounds or political stripes, we can all understand this uncertainty, particularly this year. Life is hard, and we all have days where we feel like we’ve been living too long. Music, and especially country music, is unique in its ability to speak to us and sustain us through these times of trouble, and as the album’s title suggests, this is what OHora is seeking to accomplish with this record, and in so doing, he makes these songs and these ideas as relevant and important in 2020 as they would have been in 1970.

The one thing missing from OHora’s excellent debut album was a bit more variety in tempo, and this record provides that. This album embraces a little more of the Bakersfield flavor, and that is certainly an asset. “Black & Blue” and “Living Too Long” are instantly replayable, lively numbers that add an intangible dose of color to the album, as well as another dimension for listeners who may prefer this style over the smoother countrypolitan sound. It will be interesting to see if Zephaniah explores this sound further in the future.

Listening to the Music is a refreshing record on several levels. For one, its incredible to hear something this country being released in 2020. This is not country rock or country pop or Americana or Red Dirt; it’s just stone cold traditional country—and credit to a guy from New York to be the one to show us all what it means to stay true to your roots and not abandon the traditional sound on subsequent projects. This album knows exactly what it is and pretends to be nothing else, and this is a beautiful thing. But beyond all that, it’s just simply a fine album. The production is flawless, and the songwriting is strong. In a world of turmoil, Zephaniah OHora quietly reminds us that we still have music, and though everything around us may seem uncertain, music remains unchanging in its ability to bring us escape, unity, and healing.
Listening to the Music is available today on Bandcamp and everywhere else.

Apr 18, 2019

Video Premiere / Nicholas Mudd / "Sit Right Here"

Photo by Shalon Goss

Today, we’re debuting the “Sit Right Here” video from Nicholas Mudd. The song is a driving barroom anthem with fiddle, steel, drinking, heartache, and hope. The video follows suit, making the best of a bad time. RIYL: Charley Crockett, Dwight Yoakam, Colter Wall, Margo Price, Paul Cauthen, Zephaniah Ohora

From Nick:
“We shot the video in my living room. I live in a house that was renovated in the 70s for the purpose of throwing swingers parties - The living room is actually a full bar like you’d find in a decent sized restaurant, with a rotisserie in the wall, a big stone hearth, and drop panel ceiling lights. And of course it’s got floor to ceiling dark wood paneling. So all I really had to do was get the cameras and lights and invite a bunch of friends over to party. Had a real good time.

The video was shot and edited by my friends Adri DeGirolami and Nick Ducassi. The musicians were Kenny Feinstein (pedal steel), Claire Oleson (fiddle), Jush Allen (drums), Michael Gomes (bass), and Steve Dannemiller (guitar).

The bartender was played by the uncommonly interesting Vejay Kesh, and “my buddy Eric” mentioned at the top of the song is played by my actual buddy Eric, who flew in from London to do the shoot. That good lookin’ redhead is my girlfriend Claire.”

More information about Nicholas and his self-titled album (out this past Friday!) below the video!

Nicholas Mudd // Nicholas Mudd (April 12)

When the road calls, you’ve gotta go. Neo-traditionalist Nicholas Mudd hopped on his Harley and hit the open highway, plotting a 10-day trip from Lexington, Kentucky to sunny Los Angeles; a 2011 pilgrimage west that would prove to be a pivotal turn in his musical journey. His upcoming self-titled album spins like a top between themes of heartache, romance, the thrill of the sea, and booze-soaked youthful sensations.

Criss-crossing state lines and camping out to save money, Mudd hatched a journey down to Memphis, then through to Texarkana and Denton just outside of Dallas, and then inched his way across New Mexico and Arizona before finally arriving in California. “Waiting on Me” is a free-spirited, twinkling dance-hall cut, in which the singer-songwriter yearns for his former life back East, all the while knowing he’ll never return to it. “Well, it’s been five years now / And I can’t help but wonder / If she would even know me, if I came back home,” he sings.

Opener “Come with Me Tonight” jingles and jangles in true neon-strewn, boot-scootin’ fashion, while “High Lonesome” breathes in the expansive scenery and woodlands rolling like thunder down and away from him. Over the span of these eight songs, produced and mastered by Eric Rennaker, Mudd runs the gamut as a country songsmith, contrasting heart-torn whimpers with canyon-sized caterwauling.

Growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, surrounded by horse country and lush farmland, Mudd found himself immersed in country, southern rock, and traditional folk music. It was evident from a young age that he had inherited his grandfather’s musical interests. Leonard Mudd, now 92, always had a collection of guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dulcimers, and banjos sprinkled around his home, and still manages to make music from time to time. 

Mudd’s exploration of music continued into high school when he formed The Blue Barrel Band, a cheeky nod to the fact they lacked an actual drum kit. “There was this giant blue plastic barrel in dad’s garage,” he recalls, “And we used it as a bass drum for our really bad folksy rock ‘n roll.”

Later, he took to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University where he earned a degree in theatre, alongside another folksy music endeavor with some classmates. After graduating, he spent a few months back home before his cross-country trip to Los Angeles, where he took up an unpaid internship with a prominent casting director. The role soon led to a full assistant’s position, allowing him just enough of a financial foothold to get by in the City of Angels. 

Music took an unexpected back seat for several years as he began his film career. Ultimately, two key events in 2015 spurred him to return to the musical fray: His first weekend trip to Bandit Town USA and his discovery of the Grand Ole Echo (a celebrated weekly summer country show in Echo Park). Surrounded and inspired by these communities of like-minded musicians, artists, and urban outlaws, he picked up the old ax and got back to it.

In late 2017, Mudd stepped into Bedrock LA for his first proper studio recording session. A daunting task ahead of him, the Americana troubadour suited himself up for a record that faithfully adheres to the neo-traditionalist style of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. But he’s got a fire in his belly for gale-force songwriting and catchy melodies. His voice is ripe with emotion, from the teary waterfall of “Lady of the Night” to the ethereal bliss with closer “Sailing Song,” an almost post-apocalyptic fever dream. “I’ve seen mountains on the sea / I’ve seen fire in the sky / I’ve outrun southern gales / I’ve cheated death,” he sings, in whimsical swoons, as if gliding away on tides ripping out to sea.

Mudd lands somewhere amidst contemporaries like Joshua Hedley, Margo Price and Colter Wall. He’s never tied to convention, even when he leans so unapologetically into sturdy classic country structures. His voice, as much as his penmanship, stimulates the senses with the most universal human emotions spanning pain, loneliness and abject fear. Furthermore, his album rekindles the kind of raw storytelling for which the genre has long been desperate, and 2019 might be the year the industry finally pays attention.

Dec 22, 2017

Ten Best Songs of 2017: Another Perspective

The Best Songs of 2017 

By Kevin Broughton

Trailer’s list was okay, but just. It demands a response, so here are the ten best songs of 2017.

Good talk.

Come for the 1½-minute intro of standup bass, brushes & organ. 
Stay for the good-time rock, sassy-ass blues & rockabilly.

Sure, “White House Road” gets all the hype. For straight-up poignance, though, give me this as the best cut on the smash debut album Purgatory. Well, this one or “Lady May.”

The opening track on what I voted the No. 1 album of the year. The richness of this full-grown folk singer’s baritone speaks for itself and nearly defies substantive description. It simply is. PS, he’s 22 years old. I think we’re done here.

The best voice in all of country music.

On an album full of gems from some of the best musicians in Texas, here’s a real treat: an acoustic version of “Superstition,” featuring virtuoso pianist Daniel Creamer on vocals. It’s sublime.

Two years ago these guys had our album of the year, and Trailer in his autocratic grace declared, rightly, “The Bird Hunters” our top song. Which makes it so shocking he would put “Pay No Rent” (respectfully, maybe the third-best cut on FTM’s #2 Album of the Year) so high, to the exclusion of the clearly superior “The House Fire.” A disturbing lapse in judgment at best; one hopes there’s not a deeper character flaw in play.

“I heard the judge ask the jury, ‘which one’s the one to go?’ Then I heard them say my name, and why I’ll never know.” A song of guilt, forgiveness and redemption, from the point of view of the criminal pardoned while the Savior bought ours.  

Carve out some of that kindling. There’s plenty of wood around.

Pure, country authenticity. It tastes like honey.

“We could steal some Keystone Beer from an A-rab liquor store.”

Jul 6, 2017

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Country Reaction Gifs

How Kane Brown fans flirt

When your friend says he likes Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford

But wouldn't you agree that even if he's not country,
Sam Hunt makes good music?

Oh, you haven't heard Zephaniah OHora's album yet?

When some Reckless Kelly comes on at the party

When you're in a store and can't get away from the bro-country, what do you want to do?

When mainstream country songwriters visit the country...

When the weekly discussion on "what is country music?"
hits social media.
(okay, I'm lying)

Jun 23, 2017

Reckless Fulkin' Rose: Kevin's Interview Playlist

Kevin has interviewed a lot of cool people since he started with us a couple of years ago. He's also reviewed a few live events and albums and angered a few people along the way, ha. Here's a sampling of his work and a playlist of the "Best of" his interviews and reviews that he put together. Give it a listen!

Zephania OHora

Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly

Kelly Hogan of The Flat Five

Robbie Fulks

Chelle Rose

Brent Cobb

Kasey Anderson

Jason Eady

Album Review: Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Jun 9, 2017

Way Down in His Soul: An Interview With Zephaniah OHora

By Kevin Broughton

Zephanaiah OHora has made a remarkable album, one that recalls a golden era in country music. This Highway – released today – oozes authenticity with its silky smooth vocal phrasing and warm instrumentation, and captures a time when the Bakersfield sound intersected with the “country-politan” vibe of late-60s Nashville. But OHora poured himself into a decade-long study of the classics before putting this record together.

Ray Price, Hank Snow and Gram Parsons were just a few of the icons who informed his immersion.  A hair stylist by day and band-booker by night, OHora eased into being a recording artist by first playing with a group that did classic trucking songs – his backing band is The 18 Wheelers – and a Haggard cover band as well. It was Merle’s records that “taught me how to sing.”

And a quick study he was. His vocals are the genuine article, and take you seamlessly back to a simpler time. There’s not a weak cut on the album: ten originals – any of which could’ve been recorded by the aforementioned icons of traditional country – and a lovely cover of the duet “Somethin’ Stupid” from Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Fans of the golden era of classic country will put this one in heavy rotation for a while.  

You’re apparently at ground zero of a roots-country scene in Brooklyn, New York. It’s not a place associated with country music, nor is your native New Hampshire. What kind of music did you listen to growing up, and how old a fellow are you?

I grew up listening to a lot of old stuff because of my dad. He and my older brother listened to a lot of sixties jazz, and of course the Allman Brothers. At the same time, I also grew up in a very religious household and wasn’t allowed to listen to “modern music” per se. I’m 34.

You have a distinctive name. Were you named for the Old Testament prophet?

That is correct.

Did you know he’s the only prophet of royal lineage? Great grandson of King Hezekiah.

I actually did not know that. When I was a the kid when I had nightmares, my mom would say, “Go read the Bible. Read Zephaniah.” Not an uplifting book.

Yeah, well Zephaniah was bringing the heat. Didn’t like the pagans, and he meant business.

This Highway evokes a blend of country styles and eras. There’s a strong Bakersfield element, and some of that late 60s/early 70s “country-politan” Nashville feel. Your band is called the 18 Wheelers, & you started out doing the old trucking songs for fun. Walk me through the process of how this all got synthesized into an album.

I got introduced to this guy Roy Williams, who was playing in this band called Honey Fingers, that did a lot of old stuff like Ernest Tubbs, the The Texas Troubadours…the band is named after the song. And I was booking bands at this place in Brooklyn called Skinny Dennis, which has gotten to be pretty successful now.  Bands from around the country that play the old Texas sound play there when they’re on the East Coast.

I had been a DJ and had been collecting records for years, and wanted to put together a band and have something like old Midnight Jamboree show that Ernest Tubb did, except kind of in reverse. I would be a DJ and the band would be a guest. So that was going on, and I mentioned that I could sing a little bit. And I sang a few George Jones songs, then guested with them, and it became a regular thing.

I was writing some, and over time we’d drop a few of those into a set, and before long we weren’t doing truck driving covers anymore.

Your phrasing brings a lot of the classic artists to mind: George Jones, Merle, a hint of Glen Campbell. Heck, I could imagine Gram Parsons singing the title cut had he stuck around a little longer.

Yeah, right.

Who are some of your stronger vocal influences? I mean, I think I’ve named a couple of them…

Yeah. I got really big into Marty Robbins. I didn’t know as much about Merle at that point. But Marty had such a range: country to pop-jazz vocals. The album Marty After Midnight is still one of my favorite records; it’s just ridiculous.  And yeah, Merle…I’ve had this Merle Haggard cover band that’s made me a much better singer.

And I was really into George Jones, too. And of course, the Flying Burrito Brothers. But Merle really put it all together in the right way.

Any truth to the rumor that “Way Down in My Soul” is a love note to blotter acid?

Ha ha. Yeah, maybe a little bit. I did a lot of psychedelic drugs in my twenties. And I always like the whole “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” thing, like there was a female energy to it. It’s sort of a goddess who guides you through the whole experience; not necessarily a love song, but a deep spiritual thing.

When’s the last time you dosed?

Um. It’s been…well, I don’t know. Several years. Been a while. I guess things get complicated as you get older. But I’m a huge Dead Head and there’s a new documentary coming out about them. Makes me wish I could just drop some acid & walk around the park.

Pedal steel is a pretty trippy instrument, when you think about it, huh?

Yeah, totally.

Was this album crowd-funded at all? How did that go?

I crowd funded a little of it; probably a third of the cost. It cost a good bit, because I don’t think it’s possible to make an authentic-sounding sounding country record without a really good band.

I’ve been to see “vintage” bands like the Derailers before, and the whole show is a scene: people with rockabilly pompadour hair do’s, dudes with gas-station shirts with their names stitched on the front. I see your picture on the album cover, with your jet black, swept back hair; are you playing a part? Is this to blend in to a scene, and do you walk around like that all the time?

Well, I don’t necessarily wear the suit every day, but it was when I first moved to New York about 10 years ago that I started getting into it. That was when I heard the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Really? And you just kept drilling, digging down into it?

Yeah, and then I got some Hank Snow albums, some Jimmy Rogers stuff. But it was Neil Young where I first heard steel (guitar), and the Dylan Hard Rain album. I was obsessed with that album when I was 20 or 21. But I was hanging out with a girl and we had been out all night and around 5 in the morning she put on Sweetheart of the Rodeo and I was like, “What the hell is this?” It literally changed my life

What are your plans and goals after the release of this album? Do you have any sort of distribution deal?

Yeah, I’ve got a distribution deal with an imprint of Sony records. It’ll be physical in Canada and the U.S., digital in Europe. But I don’t have like a fancy booking agent to push me to the next level, so it will be up to me to schedule dates and stuff like that. Hopefully people will like it and that will open some doors along the way, and I can afford to make another one.

I truly think this album speaks for itself. But tell me one thing everyone should know about Zephania OHora.

Basically, that I love this music, that I’ve studied it, and I don’t go for this bullshit idea that you have to be from a certain region of the country to be a part of it. This is American music and we all have at least a little bit of it inside of us.

Has there been some skepticism based on geography?

Well, yeah, and it’s bullshit. If you decide to be in a rock and roll band, are people gonna ask you where you’re from? Where is rock and roll from? Should we base the answer on where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is right now? I guess you can trace it to a couple of different regions; are people gonna say you have to be from that certain region to be authentic?


This Highway by Zephaniah OHora and the 18 Wheelers is available everywhere fine music is distributed, including Amazon and iTunes.


Related Posts with Thumbnails