On The Radio

Bruce Cockburn, Leif Vollebekk, Mark Eitzel, Birds of Chicago and Allison Pierce on Mountain Stage

Week after September 08, 2017

Bruce Cockburn
Leif Vollebekk
Mark Eitzel
Birds of Chicago
Allison Pierce

Press Release

Bruce Cockburn - One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. “My job,” he explains, “is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal. That scratching and pulling has earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 40 years. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. And he remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth. Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song. Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.” For his many achievements, the Ottawa-born artist has been honoured with 12 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. But he never rests on his laurels. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” says Cockburn. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” His commitment to growth has made Bruce Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come.

Leif Vollebekk - Leif Vollebekk is a Montreal adopted singer-songwriter. He will release his third full-length Twin Solitude on February 24th. Many publications are already falling for his new songs such as NPR, WXPN, Brooklyn Vegan, The Fader, VOIR and Les Inrocks, to only name a few. Since the beginning of his career, Leif has performed at the Newport Folk Festival and shared stages with Daniel Lanois, Beth Orton, Sinéad O’Connor, Patrick Watson, Coeur de Pirate, William Fitzsimmons and Sam Amidon. He released his break-through sophomore album ‘North Americana’ in 2013, while his 2010 debut ‘Inland’ was described as “beautiful, memorable and moving” by NPR and “timeless and monumental” by the Independent UK.

Mark Eitzel - Mark Eitzel’s tenth solo album and his first in three years, Hey Mr Ferryman, will be released on January 27, 2017, by Merge Records. Hey Mr Ferryman is Eitzel’s first full studio album recorded entirely in London. It was made at 355 Studios with Mercury Prize winner Bernard Butler (ex-Suede, McAlmont & Butler), who has produced and/or recorded albums with Tricky, Ben Watt, Bert Jansch, Edwyn Collins, and more. Butler produced Hey Mr Ferryman and played all of the electric guitar, bass, and keyboard parts on the album. Butler wrote of the process: “I spent a fortnight on my own in the studio seeing where I could go, how to expand every mood, make the dark songs darker, the drama bigger, the joy more celebratory. I was elated when I sent initial mixes off and Mark was happy. The greatest gift for a producer is the trust of the artist with their work. I knew from the off with this record that the songwriting was in a different league. It was for me to find beautiful frames for each story.” Hey Mr Ferryman features the vivid melodies long associated with Eitzel’s former band American Music Club (a.k.a. AMC), which remains a cult favorite to this day, as well as Butler’s distinctive guitar that serves to complement Eitzel’s expressive vocals. Of that voice, Pitchfork once wrote: “If Leonard Cohen’s voice is a story about the passage of time and Levon Helm’s is a story about losing what is most precious to you, Eitzel’s is about the circuitous roads we take in search of ourselves.” As both a solo artist and the frontman for AMC, Mark Eitzel is a celebrated lyricist and champion of the downtrodden. A hauntingly evocative singer, he has earned even greater notoriety for his brilliance as a composer, combining the intensity of Ian Curtis, the pastoral beauty of Nick Drake, and the melodrama of Scott Walker and Jacques Brel to build one of the most impressive and darkly poetic bodies of song in the modern pop canon. “The songs on this record are about celebrating musicians and music, about misogyny, the long shadow of history, getting one’s head out of one’s ass,” quips Eitzel on the themes of Ferryman. “Also oceans, blood, skies, hearts, gay pioneers, carpenters, weeping women, and how death waits for you even in the happiest place on earth: Las Vegas.” The album opens with “The Last Ten Years” which includes the lyric “Spent the last ten years / Trying to waste half an hour” which, like the best verses, will leave you pensive and wanting more. The album continues with a sensuous love song (“An Answer”), an ode to the plight of the working musician (“The Road”), the growing political divide in America (“In My Role as Professional Singer and Ham”), the frustration of ripped trousers (“Let Me Go”), and “Sleep From My Eyes,” which Mark describes as “an experiment to write a love song from the point of view of someone in a coma. As you do.” “As I wrote these songs, I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles; painted two houses; spent all my money; threw away everything I owned; traveled to and from London, New York, and Austin; performed various shows; learned ‘I’m Your Man’ by Leonard Cohen for a friend’s wedding (it was so hard); replaced the battery and the hard drive in my perpetually dying computer; gained and lost and gained 20 pounds; went to the doctor a lot; moved to the mountains; moved to New York; and ran my car into the ground,” continues Eitzel. “I just finished writing my next album and have started recording the demos to send to my 50 friends.” Mark Eitzel has released over 15 albums of original material with American Music Club and as a solo artist. The Guardian has called him “America’s greatest living lyricist,” and Rolling Stone once gave him their Songwriter of the Year award. Originally formed in 1983, AMC released seven albums before breaking up in 1995. The band reunited in 2004 and subsequently signed to Merge for two full-lengths, Love Songs for Patriots and The Golden Age. In April of 2012 while working on a solo record, Eitzel suffered a heart attack which forced him to slow down and delayed the album’s release. That fall, Merge put out Don’t Be a Stranger to much critical acclaim, and in 2013, a newly healthy Eitzel embarked on what proved to be the most successful tour of his career to date. In 2015, he wrote music for Simon Stephens’ Song from Far Away, his second collaboration with the English playwright, and began work on the forthcoming Hey Mr Ferryman.​

Birds of ChicagoIn so many ways, we are a word weary culture, ever searching for ways to communicate in fewer and fewer words, letters, syllables...Our online, blogged out, you-tubed attention spans are truncated and fragmented like never before. Birds of Chicago, the collective centered around Allison Russell and JT Nero, reassert the simple notion - radical in these times - that beautiful words and music can still tap deep veins of emotion. Stark, elemental imagery that feels like scripture, or a lost folk song recovered; the Birds draw heavily on the gospel tradition and the music feels like a new, secular gospel of sorts. For Birds of Chicago, every word counts. Every note counts. No gold-dusting, no filler. Music is the good news and Real Midnight, the band’s poignant new Joe Henry produced album, throbs with an urgency that feels quietly seismic. Birds of Chicago was born in 2012 when Nero began writing for his vocal star-muse, Russell. Both were accomplished singer/songwriters with projects of their own, Nero with JT and the Clouds and Russell with the acclaimed Canadian roots outfit Po’ Girl, but together there was an unmistakable chemistry. Nero had found the perfect voice for his rock and roll psalms. Russell moved from being a primary songwriter to an interpreter, and her simmering restraint is deeply refreshing to a landscape scorched by post Voice/American Idol vocal gymnastics and over-emoting. On Real Midnight, Birds of Chicago alternate moody rock swagger with the ghostliest of soundscapes. Produced by Joe Henry, a man who’s expert blending of light and shadow is well known, the album is a melancholy - but never shoe gazing - suite, full of wayward, joyful, lonesome voices raised up against the night. Music this raw and soul-rich demands to be experienced live, and Birds of Chicago have developed a fervent following, touring 200 nights a year since their formation in late 2012.  For these Birds, singing for a room full of new people, hearts wide open, keeps off the cold and chases off the shadows. 2016 will find the band in constant motion - from sea to sea and beyond.

Allison PierceAllison Pierce was born in Birmingham, Alabama to a family of creative individuals. In their teens, Allison and sister Catherine formed the acclaimed duo The Pierces who released five full-length albums, most recently on Polydor/Universal. In 2007 Rolling Stone magazine named the sisters as a Breaking Artist to watch. The duo’s songs have been placed in various network TV shows including the song “Secret” which has been the theme song for the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars for the run of the show. In live performance the sisters have toured as the supporting act for Coldplay and Lissie among others. Allison Pierce now steps into the spotlight as a solo artist with her solo debut Year of the Rabbit. This album feels like the most important creative outpouring of my life so far,” says songwriter Allison Pierce, who is launching the second half of her distinguished career by teaming with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney). “It feels like the most genuine expression of who I am, musically and personally.” Allison’s new video for “Evidence” can be seen here at No DepressionYear of the Rabbit (May 5, Sony Music Masterworks) marks Allison Pierce’s first album as a solo artist, following two decades with her sister in the acclaimed duo, The Pierces. Recorded in analog straight to magnetic tape, the album was mostly performed by Allison and Ethan at Hollywood recording mecca Sunset Sound (much in the same spirit as Johns produced Ray LaMontagne’s debut LP, Trouble). The only outside contributors were GabeWitcher, who supplied fiddle on two tracks, and Greg Leisz, who played pedal steel on another. Over the years, I’d write these songs knowing they weren’t Pierces songs, and I collected them in anticipation of the day when I could record them myself,” says Pierce. “I’d envisioned the whole thing, so I was ready, and waiting patiently for the opportunity to make it.”