Showing posts with label song premieres. Show all posts
Showing posts with label song premieres. Show all posts

Nov 17, 2021

Exclusive Song Premiere / Jason Scott and the High Heat / "The Stone"

Photo by Brittany Phillips

New from Jason Scott and The High Heat, FTM is proud to premiere "The Stone," from the forthcoming album Castle Rock. It's an album full of Oklahoma heartland rock that manages the difficult feat of sounding fresh and original, with big hooks and razor-sharp lyrics. It would easily be in my top 10 were it a 2021 release; you'll just have to wait till February.

Here's what Jason Scott had to say about the dark, jarring anthem:

"The Stone" is more or less a commentary on the effects of war, and the very little we offer our service men and women after they've returned home from combat long term. The suicide rate of our Veteran population is heart wrenching, and there hasn't been much success in lowering that number for years now. I think this duty falls on all of our shoulders, not just the church or government. Raising awareness with this song seemed like a way we could lend a hand. 

Oct 13, 2021

Song Premiere / Matthew Check / “Lovely to Have Met You”

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Today, we’re premiering a new song from Matthew Check called “Lovely to Have Met You.” It’s an acoustic guitar driven confessional, heavy with emotion and dripping with melodic hooks. It is at once sparse and incredibly catchy. It’s a thinking man’s drinking song about his own specific heartache, and yet never gets too particular not to be accessible. RIYL: Tim Easton, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Fauss. 

Here are some thoughts from Matthew himself about the song:

"'Lovely to have met you' is an old song. It was written in the fall of 2011. Back then, when I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I hung out at lots of drinking establishments, and particularly at this one awesome piano bar called 'Brandy's' on 84th and Third Avenue. Inspired somewhat, from all the time I spent at Brandy's, I always imagined 'Lovely to have met you' being performed on the piano, especially with the lyrics, 'You'll still be sure to find me any given night / drinkin' on the east end of town.' Brandy's is still going strong. These days they have outdoor seating, piping the piano through speakers into the streets and finding a way to survive like so many New York businesses have done in the past year-and-a-half."  

More information about Matthew and his upcoming album below the song. 









"I can write about anything if I have an assignment," says Matthew Check, a longtime singer/songwriter whose career encompasses everything from Emmy-nominated bluegrass to critically-acclaimed American roots music. "I write Jewish music. I write kids' music. But when I'm writing for myself, I usually write about love, traveling, relationships not working out, and life throwing me curveballs."

Those themes take center stage on The November Album, whose songs were created during a period that found Check turning to alcohol to numb the pain of a broken heart. Recorded in 2013 as both the follow-up and sonic foil to The Amazing Worth, the EP receives its long-overdue release in 2021. Like a recently-discovered Polaroid from an older era, it shines a light on a bygone period of Check's career, serving as a time capsule for an artist who has continued to evolve, expand, and electrify as his career progresses. 

This isn't the first time Matthew Check has offered a peek into his personal archives. The November Album's counterpart, The Amazing Worth, was recorded in 2008, back when Check was in the throes of a romantic relationship that vacillated between arguments and adoration. Like The Amazing Worth, The November Album also deals with romance and rejection. Unlike its predecessor, though, the EP embraces a stripped-down sound rooted in acoustic guitar, upright bass, and dusky melodies. A bluegrass banjo player for more than 20 years, Check creates his own version of Americana on these songs, both saluting his influences and forging his own path. 

The November Album was created during Check's first decade in New York City, as well as the final throes of his drinking habit. A native of Newtown, Pennsylvania, he had moved to New York to pursue opportunities as a musician and Jewish educator. He landed a job at the Park Avenue Synagogue in 2010, overseeing various programs for families with young children. Those programs often involved music, which Check wrote and performed in collaboration with Joanie Leeds. Meanwhile, his drinking habit had gotten out of control.

"It was at the heart of my alcoholism," he admits. "I was a blackout drunk most nights of the week, and lived a double life of having a respectable job during the day while being a neighborhood barfly at night. I always had Josie in the rearview mirror, thinking about the relationships that didn't work out." Did he drink because he was heartbroken? Or was it the other way around? The two were inextricably linked. While struggling with his vicedemons, Check remained as prolific as ever, writing songs whose autobiographical lyrics never shied away from hard truths. 

"You’ll still be sure to find me on any given night, drinkin' on the east end of town," he sings in "Lovely To Have Met You." Songs like "Josie Revisited" were retrospective examinations of the broken relationship that had inspired his previous EP, The Amazing Worth, while tracks like "Sometimes a Woman" were inspired by more recent rejections, with Check singing his melodies in a voice both tender and tired. Even the EP's most deceptively happy song, "Couple of Reasons," was grounded in lyrics that contrasted its upbeat vocal harmonies and jaunty tambourine.

"In the summer of 2013, after a breakup and a long bender, I for some reason felt that it was time to record these songs that were simply lying dormant on my computer in demo form," Check remembers. Working with Greg Barbone, who'd previously played piano on The Amazing Worth, he recorded The November Album at a home studio in Forest Hills, Queens. Drummer Nick D’agastino joined them, as did upright bassist (and frequent Carolina Chocolate Drops performer) Jason Sypher. Americana singer Alec Gross contributed harmonica to three tracks, while Matthew's brother, Jon Check, played the EP's sole guitar solo on "Couple of Reasons." Backup vocals were provided by Grammy-winning artist Joanie Leeds.

Shelved for eight years, The November Album sees the light of day in 2021, nearly a decade after it was created. Matthew Check is now sober, having released a string of diverse records — including 2014's bluegrass/Jewish hybrid The Bluegrass Kabbalat Shabbat Experience, 2019's Sterling (recorded as part of the folk duo Joanie & Matt), 2020's collaborative The Condesa Queen, and 2021's The Amazing Worth — after kicking his vices to the curb. Prolific and adventurous, Check is still moving forward. At the same time, The November Album reminds us that glances of the past can be helpful, too — particularly if they help inform our next steps.

"I felt the necessity to tell the story that wasn't told — now that Josie and I are friends, now that I'm sober, and now that I have more perspective on my life," he says of The November Album. "I have even more unreleased material that I might unleash, but I'm planning on cutting a fresh record in 2022. It's time for something new."


May 13, 2021

Exclusive Song Premiere / Bill and the Belles / "The Corn Shuckin' Song"

Photo by Billie Wheeler

Got a fun song premiere today from Bill and the Belles. It’s a plain goofy Roger Miller-esque double entendre of a song and I think you’ll get a kick out of it. It’s a welcome reprieve from the always raging storms of life. RIYL: Roger Miller, Pokey LaFarge, Carolina Chocolate Drops. More information about the band and their forthcoming album Happy Again (out May 21) below the song player.

QUOTE from Kris Truelsen about the song

"A lot of things can be shucked and this is a song about just that. It was written in about five minutes which is probably the most organic songwriting experience I’ve ever had. What came out is undeniably ridiculous and fun! And we all like fun. I tried to harness all my Roger Miller Chi for this one. This was initially written as a jingle to be performed on my show Farm and Fun Time following a story delivered by a local chef who talked about creamed corn and corn shucking parties. Sounds filthy." 



Happy Again isn’t exactly happy. But the delightfully deadpan new album from roots mainstays Bill and the Belles is full of life, humor, and tongue-in-cheek explorations of love and loss. Out May 21, 2021 on Ditty Boom Records (distribution and promotion by Free Dirt Service Co.), Happy Again marks a new chapter for the group by featuring eleven all-original songs penned by founding member Kris Truelsen. There’s no dancing around it: this album is about his divorce. But the group has a knack for saying sad things with a bit of an ironic smirk, pairing painful topics with a sense of release and relief. Anyone who’s been to one of their shows can attest that you leave feeling lighter and refreshed. The band often jokes that their setlists appear mournful and angry, but if you don’t listen to the words, you wouldn’t know it. “One of the darkest times of my life turned out to be one of the most creative,” says Truelsen. “I realized, ‘My life is chaos. I need to write about this shit.’” This personal loss turned out to be a creative boon for the band. Many of the songs were cranked out in just a few months, two were even written the night before they were recorded. This raw songcraft, along with the deft production touch of Teddy Thompson, son of Linda and Richard Thompson, who encouraged using only first or second takes, gives Happy Again an emotional punch that deepens with each listen.

The core of Happy Again is the foundational Bill and the Belles quartet sound featuring Truelsen on guitar, fiddler Kalia Yeagle, bassist Andrew Small, and banjo/banjo-uke player Helena Hunt, recently replaced by Aidan VanSuetendael. The album is also gently supported by Nick Falk on electric guitar and percussion and Don Eanes on piano and B3 Hammond. Early fans of the band were hooked by their singing, and Happy Again continues to deliver stellar vocal trio arrangements, honed by Yeagle, that nod toward groups like the Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. ​The band began as a project to explore the sounds between rural and urban music, between vaudeville and down home roots, but they’ve arrived somewhere wholly their own. They revel in the in-between: deeply engaged with the stringband tradition and eager to stretch those influences to contemporary settings. Happy Again is the latest chapter of that ongoing story: what happens when a stringband from East Tennessee lays down a session at Motown. It’s a welcome evolution that feels familiar and timeless.

With all their tongue-in-cheek quips, you’d think Bill and the Belles avoids the tough stuff, however, that’s far from the truth. “Never Be Happy Again” is a laundry list of existential woes, and “People Gonna Talk'' profiles some of the frustrations of small-town living. “Make It Look Easy” is both an anthem for apathy and a proper “fuck off” to those who’ve got something to say about your life choices. And of course there’s “Sobbin’ the Blues,” Truelsen’s homage to the ‘talking blues’ numbers of the past, neatly tied up with a moral-of-the-story twist. Tucked in amongst the grief and jubilation of Happy Again are some noteworthy oddballs, including two songs that began their lives as jingles on Farm and Fun Time (the band’s live variety radio show now syndicated on PBS, reaching over 20 million homes): “Bye Bye Bill” (a tale about a pale ale drinking whale) and the “The Corn Shuckin’ Song” (make of it what you will). The band presents these themes simply and playfully, inviting listeners to reframe their own burdens and look to the future. “This was one of the first times I felt like I was writing country songs like my heros that were actually from my own perspective,” says Truelsen. “I quickly realized it made sense for us to break the rules.” The group subverts expectations for a stringband, taking a page from some of the finest early country and rock songwriters that drifted happily between genres. Truelsen describes the band’s mission: “One of my ultimate goals is to write songs that are hard to classify in a certain time period. To transcend the now.”

Nov 12, 2020

Exclusive Song Premiere / The Flat Five / "I Don't Even Care"

Chicago supergroup The Flat Five will release its second album, Another World, on Friday. To whet your appetite, FTM has the exclusive premiere of “I Don’t Even Care,” penned by the enigmatic Chris Ligon. 

The Flat Five are a sui generis, impossible to pigeonhole into any genre. 

Just a little over four years ago, we talked with Kelly Hogan on the eve of 

the band’s debut album. Check back here Friday for our follow-up 

interview with Hogan – including some input from Ligon – to see how two 

albums that sound alike can be so completely different.

-- Kevin Broughton


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