4WedMay 4, 2016Walter Trout
Contrast that to early 2014, when Trout was lying in a hospital bed without the strength to move or speak, unable to recognize his own children, as he observed his body waste away. But on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, Trout underwent liver transplant surgery and the slow process of healing began. "At first I wasn't strong enough to play a single note on the guitar, but as I regained my strength, the music came back to me. Now when I pick up the guitar, it is liberating, joyful, and limitless. I feel like I'm 17 again."
Initially, Trout hoped to capture his renewal and positivity in the songs, "but," says Trout, "they were coming out cliché and I wanted to write something deeper." After Marie, Trout's wife and manager, suggested that he revisit the difficult experiences of his illness, the songs began pouring out. The first was "Omaha," which resonates with smashing chords and vibrating low strings: a solo packed with pealing midnight howls. The lyrics tell a tale of a man haunted by death. "I was in UCLA for a month, and later at the Nebraska Medical Center for five months in the liver ward -- first waiting for the transplant, and then recovering from the surgery," Trout recounts. "There were days when somebody in the ward died while waiting. I'd hear families out in the hall crying and doctors trying to comfort them. And I knew there was a good chance that I'd be the next one to go. For 'Omaha.' I wanted to capture how that felt and sounded."
The opening song "Almost Gone" is equally potent. As the fingerpicked introduction intones, Trout lays his cards on the table: "Now I get the feeling/Something's going wrong/Can't help but feelin'/I won't last too long." The fatalism is balanced by the music -- from the exquisite roar of Trout's harmonica that follows those words to the ebullient, soaring six-string that gives the tune a tsunami of uplift. "Almost Gone" captures the strength I got from my wife, urging me to go on fighting when I was in pain, and on the verge of death," says Trout. "I looked up into her eyes, and she gave me the power to carry on. That experience is reflected in my playing on the song." Another key track is "Gonna Live Again," which gets its organic grounding from Trout's acoustic guitar and the gentle quiver of emotion in his voice. "That's me asking God, 'Why me?' When so many people died waiting, why did I survive? I've been given a chance to try again -- a chance to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man."
Battle Scars is Trout's 18th album released by the Netherlands-based Provogue label and his 42nd overall, counting his pre-solo-career recordings as a member of the historic groups: Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Trout fell headlong in love with the blues in 1965 when his brother brought the first album by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band into his family's New Jersey home, and Trout heard the twin-guitar magic of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, combined with Butterfield's gut-deep harmonica-and-vocal performances. In his music-loving home, Walter was raised to the sounds of records by Ray Charles, Hank Williams, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, John Coltrane, Bo Diddley and many other musical giants. Trout's practical schooling started in earnest when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1973 and got gigs backing Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Finis Tasby, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulsom, Percy Mayfield and Joe Tex. In 1981 he joined the remaining original members of Canned Heat. But the real turning point was his five-year tenure with British blues giant Mayall. Trout became part of the Bluesbreakers' lineage of great guitarists along with Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.
Trout founded his own band in 1989 and cut his debut album Life In the Jungle, rapidly becoming a star in Europe. His first U.S. release, 1998's critically heralded Walter Trout, also made him a fixture of the American blues-rock scene.
Over the decades Trout has accumulated numerous honors. He is a two-time winner of the "Overseas Artist of the Year" title at the British Blues Awards, and is a three-time Blues Music Awards nominee. Trout's six-string prowess earned the number six slot in BBC Radio 1's "Top 20 Guitarist" listener's poll, tying with Queen's Brian May.
Just prior to his illness, Provogue records was poised for a major "Year of the Trout" marketing campaign and worldwide tour celebrating his 25 years as a solo artist. The label released Trout's then newly recorded album, When the Blues Came Calling, and reissued his catalog on 180-gram vinyl. Additionally, Provogue published his autobiography penned with British music journalist, Henry Yates: Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout. "Unfortunately, that tour didn't happen," Trout says. "Instead I had to cancel an entire year of touring. That's what the song on Battle Scars, 'My Ship Came In' is about: My ship came in and I missed it! I'd waited all my life for a record label to get behind me to that extent, and then that plan fell apart."
Trout is now moving triumphantly forward in his 50th year as a guitarist. He is in the midst of a global tour with his band: keyboardist Sammy Avila, drummer Michael Leasure, and new bassist Johnny Griparic, who joined in time to record Battle Scars in Los Angeles' Kingsize Soundlabs with Trout's longtime producer Eric Corne. "I don't take this lightly," Trout declares. "Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses" -- which generated more than $240,000 -- "bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have."
6FriMay 6, 2016
Born in Boston, Tony Levin started out in classical music, playing bass in the Rochester Philharmonic. Then moving into jazz and rock, he has had a notable career, recording and touring with Peter Gabriel, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Yes, Alice Cooper, and many more. He has also released 5 solo CDs and three books. In addition to touring with Stick Men, he is currently a member of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel Band, and jazz bands Levin Brothers and L'Image. His popular website, tonylevin.com, featured one of the web's first blogs, and has over 4 million visits.
Very rarely does a drummer go on to forge the most successful career on the demise of their former hit band. Phil Collins and Dave Grohl have managed it, so too has Pat Mastelotto, a self taught drummer from Northern California, who has also been involved with pushing the envelope of electronic drumming. Pat has spent a lifetime jumping genres from pop, to prog, to electronica to world music with -- among others -- Mr. Mister, XTC, David Sylvian, The Rembrandts, Kimmo Pohjonen, and for the last 20 years with King Crimson.
Markus is a composer, guitarist, and producer. Initially trained as a pianist, he subsequently studied Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft and learned to play the Chapman Stick, later moving onto the U8 Touch Guitar. Reuter has released several solo recordings and worked extensively with other musicians. He is one of the core members of the experimental band Centrozoon, is half of the duo Tuner (with Pat Mastelotto) and was also a member of Europa String Choir. Reuter has collaborated with Ian Boddy, Robert Rich, No-Man singer Tim Bowness, and many others.
7SatMay 7, 2016
It's that ability to please, entertain, and amaze audiences with his staggering guitar skills that make the 16-time Blues Music Award nominee one of the top draws on the blues circuit and most exciting, dynamic performers working today. Noted author and historian Bill Dahl has praised Nick's "mastery of the classic Chicago sound" and declared him "a prolific songwriter, and the most exciting blues guitarist we have around here." That's quite an accolade from a man who has interviewed icons like Bo Diddley, written liner notes and overseen massive retrospectives of giants like Freddie King and Sam Phillips' historic Sun Records label, and written a respected book about the history of Motown.
Nick Moss demonstrates his mastery of the classic Chicago sound and so much more onstage -- and has also been recognized by the International Songwriting Competition for his ability to add amazing new songs to the venerable blues canon. His creativity, which has advanced his sound to incorporate new styles and ideas, has made an impression on blues master Jimmy Thackery, who says, "Nick is at it again, pushing the evolution of his music, stylistically as well as sonically." His recording career has brought him numerous accolades and his albums have been staples at blues radio nationwide, but he crosses boundaries now, and his songs have scored at rock and jam band stations as well. As a result, 2011's release Here I Am debuted at #2 on the Relix/Jambands.com Radio Chart.
Moss' aptness to please purists and cross boundaries that have helped him connect with audiences worldwide, winning fans and making friends every night in every city when he and his band take the stage. All the great ones make their mark onstage and that's where Moss is at his best. His superior talent is evident on his studio albums but it's his live albums and performances that put him in the rarified territory with the greats. Discovery for yourself what Bill Dahl, Ronnie Earl, Jimmy Thackery, Hall of Famer Buddy Guy, and audiences the world over already know: an evening with Nick Moss is an unforgettable experience and one not to be missed!
12ThuMay 12, 2016Whitehorse
Ryan Boldt (of Deep Dark Woods)
Whitehorse's story has been told as two acclaimed musicians joining forces under one new name -- no drummer, no keyboard player, violinist or even bass player on call, and no producer. Just Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland The first album and EP demonstrate the success of this simple equation, one plus one, with an abundance of guitar slinging, songwriting expertise and white-hot desire.
Of course, the live show has been anything but simple. Melissa and Luke present a full band sound using live loops, bits and pieces percussion, and swapping guitars left right and centre on stage. By the time Whitehorse took to the stage at Toronto's esteemed Massey Hall for their sold-out debut in 2013, the edge of the ledge effect of their earliest shows had transformed into a nimble ballet of moving instruments, layers of percussion, voice and keys, layered upon each other.
Now, with the sophomore LP "Leave No Bridge Unburned," Whitehorse messes with the math. The duo hired ex-pat producer Gus Van Go to make the record. The three met at the 2013 Polaris Music Prize Gala, where Whitehorse performed as a Short List nominee for "The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss." With this move, Whitehorse's studio team instantly doubled -- Gus and his frequent collaborator Werner F transformed the duo's song-making dynamic into a group conversation. Fans also know that the band's family life has grown with the arrival of a baby. "Leave No Bridge Unburned" signals a new era for Whitehorse, a time of expanded musical influence, community, and kin.
"Leave No Bridge Unburned" boasts more of everything that makes Whitehorse exciting and innovative -- it's Whitehorse amplified, increased, intensified. If "The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss" was Whitehorse's urgent, romantic statement on uncertainty and impending disaster, "Leave No Bridge Unburned" is a reckoning, a confrontation. The smoulders on "Fate" have become a full-blown blaze, a wall of heat. "Leave No Bridge Unburned" is all about surging ahead; there's nothing to lose and no way to return.
There are songs that tap into Luke and Melissa's shared fascination with the American south. Opening track "Baby What's Wrong" is the story of a creepy lover told with an evil twang, an even darker version of Calexico's "desert noir." The mariachi trumpet of "You Get Older," about a human smuggler with an existential side, also conjures the burnt-out border towns, stray dogs and rooster crows that populate Spaghetti Westerns, Southern Gothic novels and dusty post-apocalyptic landscapes.
Another recurring Whitehorse theme is the urban/suburban divide which clefts political, social and artistic factions. Cities, specifically New York and Toronto, never cease to inspire the two. "Downtown" points to Toronto's mayoral debacle, a local media circus and international embarrassment, but also the loneliness of urban living and the gulf between left and right. "Dear Irony" romances detachment while also wondering what good comes of it, a song also peppered with New York references and a city street vibe.
And then there's the love song. "Leave No Bridge Unburned" contains what Melissa calls her first real love song for Luke. "Sweet Disaster" channels slinky, stylized Bond themes and Sixties R&B in a story about one rich man's quest to send a couple to Mars. Fitting, for a band best described as "space cowboy lovebirds" (Now Magazine, Toronto).
Whitehorse formed in 2010 by husband-and-wife solo musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. The two toured in each other's bands for years, but they put aside their award winning individual careers to build a new band out of their exceptional guitar playing, his and her harmonies and a flair for dramatic, narrative songwriting. Whitehorse has since been nominated for the Polaris Short List (2013) for "The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss," played sold-out shows across Canada, and established itself in the USA as a band to watch with stellar reviews for "The Fate of the World...," only their first full-length album.
"Leave No Bridge Unburned" sees Whitehorse shaping a bigger, bolder rock sound. Any lingering assumptions that the two are working within the boundaries of a folk duo should be put to rest. "Leave No Bridge Unburned" is a fiery, forceful and finely tuned album. While there's more in the mix now, more people at the board, more sonic swagger in the ears, Whitehorse will continue to be a story told of intimacy and passion. Two musicians, one band, no looking back.
13FriMay 13, 2016The Living Statues
Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shears, guitarist Zak Rickun, bassist Alex Thornburg, and drummer Chris Morales, on stage they've been compared to "a shot of adrenaline" and described as "edgy, dangerous and unpredictable," yet in their own words they're just "a rock-n-roll band from the Great Midwest."Their debut single, Our American Cousin, was released in June 2013, followed up in April 2014 with their official debut - the Knockin' EP - recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn, NY. Knockin' drew nominations for 2014 Radio Milwaukee Music Awards Song of the Year and Independent Release of the Year. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tagged the band as 1 of "6 Wisconsin Bands to Watch for in 2015."
In 2015, the band released three well-received singles and was named Band of the Year at the 2015 Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. 88Nine Radio Milwaukee PD Jordan Lee named their latest single release ("Valicity") #1 on his list of "Top 5 Milwaukee Songs of 2015."
Live, TLS has played back-to-back Summerfests as part of the Emerging Artists Series (2014) and direct support for OK Go (2015), the legendary School Night in Los Angeles, and toured their show with Mountain Dew. They've shared stages as direct support for other major artists' Banks, Best Coast, Hanni El Khatib, Mayer Hawthorne, OK Go, The Vaccines, Tokyo Police Club, and Walk The Moon. They've been featured by Entertainment Weekly, Filter Magazine, and RedBull.com, amongst others, as the list continues to grow and their popularity continues to KNOCK.
14SatMay 14, 2016Kofi Baker's Cream Experience
Tom Fuller Band
The dynamic three-piece - Kofi Baker, Fran Banish and Rob Pagliari - effectively capture Cream's mood and energy, adding their own distinctive styles. Front man Fran sings and solos with virtuoso ease; Rob lays down strong and innovative bass-lines complimenting Kofi's complex polyrhythms, learned from his father. Kofi Baker's Cream Experience includes songs from Blind Faith and Jimi Hendrix - an original Cream tribute band that truly rocks!
20FriMay 20, 2016The Mosleys
Terry Vittone8:00pm $10.00Power-pop trio with amazing musical talent. Hand-crafted songs with rip-your-heart-out melodies and harmonies to make the birds stop singing.
Prior to forming the Mosleys, Mike Fredrickson (bass, songwritter) and Dave Braun (drums) were with the Spanic Boys and appeared on "Saturday Night Live." They left the Spanics & teamed up with monster guitarist Royce Hall Jr. and began on a journey that lead to ABC's "World News Now" sending a crew from New York to Milwaukee to shoot a video! They have been featured on the "World Cafe" national radio show and in other national media.
21SatMay 21, 20168:00pm $6.00Pundamonium is a slam-style pun contest. One by one, 15 contestants make puns based on prompts. Then they do it again.
Each contestant is immediately judged by five members of the audience, who have been selected before the show to be judges. They rank each punner on a scale of 1 to 10, often with hilariously long decimals and other commentary.
The top four contestants go head to head in a final pun-off.
Want to compete? Just show up! It's first come, first served.
24TueMay 24, 2016Billy Joe Shaver
Liar's Trial (solo)
One of the best synopses of Shaver's upbringing is his own song, "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train." When he sings, "my grandma's old-age pension is the reason that I'm standing here today," he ain't kidding. The "good Christian raising" and "eighth grade education" -- not to mention being abandoned by his parents shortly after being born, working on his uncles' farms instead of going to high school, and losing part of his fingers during a job at a sawmill -- are all part of his life story. "I got all my country learning," he sings, "picking cotton, raising hell, and bailing hay."
After several trips between Texas andTennessee, he appeared one day in 1968 inBobby Bare's Nashville office, where he convinced Bare to listen to him play. Bareended up giving him a writing job and soon his songs began to see the light thanks toKris Kristofferson ("Good Christian Soldier"),Tom T. Hall ("Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me"), Bare ("Ride Me Down Easy"), and later,the Allman Brothers ("Sweet Mama") and Elvis Presley ("You Asked Me To"). Shaver's real breakthrough, though, came in 1973 whenWaylon Jennings recorded an album composed almost entirely of Shaver's songs, Honky Tonk Heroes -- largely considered the first true "outlaw" album.
Shaver's own debut album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, was produced by Kristofferson in 1973. Along with the title track, it contained now-classic Shaver songs "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me" and the aforementioned "Georgia on a Fast Train." In 1978 Johnny Cash recorded "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)," a song Shaver wrote just after he chose to give up drugs and booze and turned to God for help.
All Music Guide lists 23 albums, from 1973's Old Five & Dimers Like Me through 2007's Everybody's Brother. Among his many classic songs are "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)," "Honky Tonk Heroes," "Georgia on a Fast Train," "Live Forever," "Tramp on Your Street," and "Try and Try Again."
In 1999, Shaver was invited to perform at theGrand Ole Opry. In 2005, Billy Joe Shaver performed on CMT Outlaws. In 2006, he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. He recently served as spiritual advisor to Texas independent gubernatorial candidateKinky Friedman and his 2007 album "Everybody's Brother" was nominated for a GRAMMY. For his efforts, the Americana Music Association awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting.
Shaver is truly one of the most respected living figures in American music. Bob Dylan, who rarely covers other writers, has often played Billy Joe's "Old Five And Dimers Like Me" in concert. Johnny Cash called him "my favorite songwriter." TheWashington Post noted, "when the country outlaws were collecting their holy writings, Billy Joe Shaver was carving out Exodus."
27FriMay 27, 2016
An early belief in the value of the Internet, however, led to the creation of an official website, and the band's heavily trafficked website, trashcansinatras.com, helped unite the Trashcans's global fan base, which stood devoted and zealous behind the group's shift to independence.
The fan support would prove critical, as the Trashcans would enter their most trying times, including growing financial burdens, moving out of their Shabby Road Studios and an extended separation between band members. Feeling an obligation to their partially-completed songs and inspired by their fan loyalty, the band pushed onward, writing new material and working to come together for performances in bars and at festivals in Scotland, London and the Far East.
Fans rallied for the release of copious demos, rarities and obscurities and the Trashcans responded with a number of free downloads and internet-only releases, including 2003's double CD compilation, Zebra of the Family. Few things are more precious to a dedicated music fan than tracks from their favorite group's vault and the releases continued to ignite the band's online following.
Preparing for the release of a new album, the Trashcans travelled to the United States in March, 2004. A session on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and sold out (in just two days) concert at the Troubadour in Hollywood, were followed by five appearances at the SXSW music festival. Billboard commented on the band's "dreamy melodies for a drizzly night," with two of its staffers naming the band to their SXSW top 10, while USA Today named the Trashcans one of "10 bands you must hear right now!"
Out of this highly turbulent period came the Trashcan Sinatras' long-awaited, deeply crafted fourth album, Weightlifting. The independently funded album was released in North America on August 31, 2004, to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Praise flooded the music magazines: "[Weightlifting is] chock-full of well-textured pop reveries" (Rolling Stone); "Their songs are rife with inexplicable magic" (Filter); "A joyful and reflective string of smart, gentle pop songs" (The Onion); "Weightlifting [was] worth the fight" (Billboard); "A must-have gem" (Under the Radar); "[we have it in] heavy rotation" (Spin).
The Trashcans embarked on their first North American tour in over ten years, covering 26 dates, nearly as many in-store and radio appearances, and drew sold-out crowds, including New York City (Bowery Ballroom), San Francisco (Slim's) and Hollywood, where they played three shows at the Troubadour in just two days.
March 2005 saw the U.S. release of the 21-track acoustic album Fez, recorded during the previous winter's acoustic tour of the States and marked a return engagement at the SXSW music festival with a total of five appearances. Rolling Stone's SXSW wrap-up named the Trashcan Sinatras "Best Party Band."
In 2010, after more than two decades making music and twenty years after their debut release, the guys from Glasgow have finished recording their newest album, In the Music. The album features a new collection of songs brimming with the band's signature melodies and relaxed harmonies. The band recorded the album in New York City and Martha's Vineyard with producer Andy Chase (Ivy) and were joined in the studio by long-time friends, bassist Grant Wilson, keyboardist Stevie Mulhearn and guitarist Jody Stoddart.
One very special guest, the iconic American singer-songwriter Carly Simon (who happens to be a neighbor of Chase), connected so strongly with "Should I Pray?" that she later added her own backing vocals in Martha's Vineyard. This tone of community and optimism runs deeply throughout the album, mirroring the positive life progressions of songwriters Frank Reader and Paul Livingston, both of whom recently married their American sweethearts and now reside in sunny southern California. The connections run even deeper -- the band's other songwriter, John Douglas, has settled down in Glasgow with his long-time partner, well-known singer Eddi Reader (Frank's sister).
The album itself could be read as a love letter to the unrelenting Trashcan supporters, comprised of countless music fans and industry veterans around the world. Now, with the clouds parting and sun shining, it is time for the music community to again feel the warm sounds of their cherished Scottish-soulsters, and again lose themselves In the Music.
Sophie Auster released her self-titled debut under the French label Naïve when she was only 18 years old. While still at Sarah Lawrence College, Sophie toured and played festivals across Europe and South America on her school vacations. In 2007, Sophie appeared on the cover of Spanish Rolling Stone. She has also been featured in Vogue, Elle, Les InRocks, Spin, Glamour, Paris Match, Rolling Stone, Velvet, Paper, Nylon, Porter, and was spotlighted as one of W Magazine's rising young stars.
In 2012, Red Weather, was released as an EP. The music highlights her visceral vocals and heart-wrenching lyrics. "Sophie Auster is not the kind of singer likely to come up too often. Like a cross between Fiona Apple's righteous rage and Gillian Welch's homespun folk yarns, her bittersweet alto's deft sense of delivery is a shot to the scull, wrapped up in some of the most alluring, seductive torch songs you're liable to find..."(Mike Levine, The Deli).
Sophie's showcase at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC earned rave reviews. "From track to track, Sophie whipped her hair, swayed her hips, and jerked her body around as the band struck gold after gold. Her voice ranged from a sensual rasp to a growing melodic boom that commanded the attention of everyone one in the venue" (Stage Buddy). As always, Sophie writes her own music.
Dogs and Men, Sophie's latest full-length album, has been praised by The New York Times for its "sultry, folksy vocals" and W Magazine calls it "soaring." John Osburn of the acclaimed music blog, Obsburt raves: "Each song was a realization, and a high point. Her voice is relentlessly surprising, shimmering with folk, blues, concert rock, and cabaret. She fills up lyrics like balloons, every word a bubble of meaning, smart in the way that denies distinction between thought and feeling, impulse and enunciation...Something in her voice prompts synesthesia: her lyrics are, in their writing, expert, in their singing, polished like silver.
Says Auster: "The new album is called Dogs and Men. The title represents the two halves of the album. The subject matter is split in two. Men represent love and heartache and Dogs the more surreal and dreamy side of the album." The album was produced by Jared Samuel.
28SatMay 28, 20168:00pm $8.00The area's most gifted vocalist and showman is back in town and on a mission from God. To bring back Classic Rock hits and good-time Rhythm and Blues, lightly seasoned with sophisticated Jazz. He has gathered the original lineup to revive what was one of the most popular acts at festivals and nightclubs throughout the Midwest.
Originally formed in 1982 at a small hall on 22nd Street in Milwaukee, the group has amazed audiences with their superb musicianship and dynamic stage show. They have played to wildly enthusiastic crowds at virtually every major festival, opened for many national acts, and been nominated four times for the Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards.
If you enjoy the music of Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen this is one act you will not want to miss.
30MonMay 30, 2016
The follow-up to their 2013 album Just One of Them Nights, Labor of Love came to life over the course of a year-long process of exploring new sonic terrain that included everything from Phil Spector-esque pop to dreamy psychedelia to Motown-inspired soul. "In the past our approach was always to just get in the studio and get it done, but for this one we decided we were going to take all the time in the world to make the album great," says Anderson. Teaming up with engineer Justin Phelps (Amanda Palmer, Jolie Holland, Chuck Prophet), Fruition self-produced Labor of Love and mined major inspiration from the inventive precision of longtime Beatles producer George Martin. "This is the first album where we made a point of bringing out the character of each song to the fullest," says Thompson, who helmed the mixing of the album. "With our previous albums we tended to treat each song the same, but this time we really went all the way with whatever sound we were going for."
Despite pushing into so many disparate directions, Labor of Love emerges as a wholly unified album that subtly imparts the sense of being swept along on a journey. That unity's got much to do with an open-hearted spirit that sets in from the first notes of the dobro, mandolin and electric guitar driven title track, carries on to the sleepy soul of "Santa Fe," then unfolds into the beautifully epic balladry of "The Meaning." Another key factor in the album's journey-like feel: Fruition's ingenious use of between-song transitions, such as the Brazilian- style percussion that lifts Labor of Love from the breezy R&B of "Above the Line" to the joyful worldbeat-folk of "The Way That I Do." "We brought in a local band called Tapwater one night and enlisted their samba line," recalls Asebroek. "They taught us all the drum parts and about ten of us formed a whole drumline, which was just a really fun and unique experience for the band."
Though Anderson, Asebroek, and Naja each bring a distinct sensibility and boldly nuanced lyricism to their respective songs, a mood of warm melancholy instills much of Labor of Love. "A common theme for all three songwriters is trying to embrace being out on the road all the time, but also feeling like you're missing out on the everyday lifestyle that most people get to have," says Leonard. Embedded within that tension is a wistful romanticism that imbues many of the album's songs. "Most of the love songs are very much about those rare moments of getting to be with the people you love," says Anderson. "And then other songs are about coming back to the people you love, and trying to deal with the strange ways things change because of being apart." The band chose Labor of Love's title to reflect that balance of sacrifice and satisfaction, Naja points out. "We don't sleep nearly enough and we're away all the time and we do work really hard," she says, "but that's our job, and it's pretty much the best job in the world."
All near-lifelong musicians, the members of Fruition came to Portland from varied corners of the country and gradually crossed paths by way of their adopted hometown's music scene. "Mimi and Kellen were going to busk one day and I went along with them, 'cause that's what we always did to pay for that night's dinner and drinks," says Anderson. "So we started playing and just instantly nailed these three-part harmonies, to the point where we'd get done with a song and burst out laughing at how good it sounded." The magic of those harmonies ended up proving instrumental in rounding out the rest of the band. "The first time I ever played with them, we were jamming in a friend's attic and the harmonies surrounded me," says Thompson, who joined Fruition in 2011. "I had goose bumps for an hour afterward, and I decided right then I was quitting my other band and moving to Portland." Releasing their debut EP Hawthorne Hoedown in 2008, Fruition devoted the coming years to relentlessly writing and performing, the band moved from busking on the street, to scraping their way onto the lower levels of festival lineups, to opening tours for bands like ALO and Greensky Bluegrass and onward to being invited to play bigger festivals with ever bigger billing on those lineups. Last year saw them appear at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit and Telluride Bluegrass where Rolling Stone cited their artful choice of covers and "raucous originals filled with heartfelt lyrics and stadium-worthy energy." This year will see them share a Red Rocks bill with JJ Grey and Mofro and The Infamous Stringdusters, along with a full headline tour of the United States.
That breadth of touring experience has steadily reshaped the band and ultimately allowed them to achieve a sound they've long aspired toward. "A few of the songs on the new album actually came from years ago, in an era when we were much more of a string band," says Thompson. "We'd imagined the songs in a particular way but didn't have the ability or experience to get them where we wanted to be--we didn't even own the right instruments." But despite broadening their repertoire, a certain spirited simplicity still forms the heart of Fruition. "We all tend to write on acoustic guitar and let things start in the same stripped-down, folky sort of way that we always did," says Naja. "So where the songs come from hasn't really changed much at all. What's different is where we let them go from there."