Chely Wright - The opening chords of the first track, “Inside,” on award-winning, singer-songwriter, author, and activist Chely Wright’s new record, I AM THE RAIN, are direct, purposeful, and intense – a sound that defines the brilliant album. After more than five years away from the spotlight, and through a heroic personal and creative journey, Wright has returned with the release of a long anticipated new CD. And as she begins to sing the lyrics of “Inside,” her confidence, intelligence, and poetic ambition quickly come into focus. When it came time to record her new album, Chely knew it was going to be different from everything she had done in the past. Scheduled for release on September 9th, Wright and multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning producer/artist Joe Henry (Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, Carolina Chocolate Drops) approached the work as a new beginning. Her recent songs were coming from a place of total openness and spoke to the kind of self-discovery that changes lives. Putting her talents as a singer-songwriter to the fore-front, the beginnings of which can be seen with producer Rodney Crowell on her 2010 record LIFTED OFF THE GROUND, becomes fully formed on I AM THE RAIN. Crowell actually pointed Chely to Henry and he quickly became a vital influence and contributor to I AM THE RAIN. “Joe’s a visionary,” Wright says. “He taught me to understand that a great deal of making music is intention, and then to trust those intentions all the way. As terrifying as it could be expressing some of these feelings, those have become my best moments. That let me reach for my best self and trust what I found when I did that; and to not be afraid about being imperfect. Instead, just be able to let go.” On her new album, Wright finally realizes all those dreams of making music that comes from her deepest soul. She has arrived, and we are among the lucky beneficiaries.
K.T. Tunstall - Two years ago, KT Tunstall thought she was done with music. Not done as in she’d never again play guitar or sing, but done playing professionally, at least for the foreseeable future. “As an artist I feel like I died,” she says. “I didn’t want to do it anymore.” It had been ten years since she’d released her multi-platinum debut, Eye To The Telescope (2004), and twenty-some years since she started playing gigs as a teenager back home in St. Andrews, Scotland. She’d lived a decade in obscurity and a decade in the brightest of limelights, releasing three more critically acclaimed albums – Drastic Fantastic (2007,) Tiger Suit (2010,) and Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (2013) – and playing everywhere from the rooftops of splashy Las Vegas hotels to Giant’s Stadium. She’d been nominated for a Grammy, won a BRIT and the Ivor Novello, and seen her songs used everywhere from opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign theme. She’d had a good run, Tunstall thought, but it was time to take a serious time out. “I was utterly burnt out,” she says. So the singer put her stuff in storage, sold all of her property in the UK, and started again, at what felt like the ends of an entirely different earth, in a little house in Venice Beach, California. She lived a quiet life for the better part of a year, until, like a little imp waiting in the wings for Tunstall to get really comfortable in her state of blissed out California calm, one day the urge to rock began to return. And once it took hold, it just wouldn’t let go. “My physical body was telling me that what I should be doing is sweating onstage,” she says. “It turns out, if I can’t do that then I’m just a racehorse in a stable.” Almost against her own will, Tunstall found herself picking up her guitar and writing riffs. And they came, one after another after another after another. The music that Tunstall has written since moving to California is, she says, the most impassioned and inspired of her life; these songs were fueled by the openness of desert spaces and wild ocean cliffs, the intimacy of being snowbound in Taos, New Mexico during winter writing retreats, and the freedom and mystery of driving too fast on canyon roads late at night listening to Neil Young and Tame Impala at top volume. A new full-length album coming this September, is, in spirit, the follow-up, to her debut. A edge-of-your-seat, psychedelic rock record rooted in classic songwriting, but infused with the sense of wonder and beneficent chaos Tunstall has reconnected with since untethering herself from her past. But first up, a little teaser of what’s to come: Golden State, a four-song EP out this June including a remix of “Evil Eye” by critically acclaimed UK band Django Django.
Mark Erelli - Erelli’s work to date has led to a number of varied and critically-acclaimed releases, beginning with a self-titled debut in 1999. He recorded an ambitious four-day session in a Civil War-era memorial hall in 2002, which was filmed for a documentary that later aired on PBS. He delved into traditional country music and western swing onHillbilly Pilgrim in 2004, leaned in a somewhat more political direction with Hope & Other Casualties in 2006 and focused on gently romantic songs and lullabies with Innocent When You Dream in 2007. Yet as he drew nearer to For A Song, Erelli sensed that this would be an especially challenging project. “I worked harder on these songs than I had on any previous batch of material,” he says. “I kept going back over them, revising and rewriting. When I made Milltowns, my tribute to Bill Morrissey in 2014, it was actually kind of about taking a break from that process. When I came back to my own material with a fresh ear, I drew on what I’d learned from studying Morrissey’s simple and concise style. I took whole verses out of my songs — verses that I loved — and lo and behold, the songs improved. The message was distilled and amplified.”
J.D. Hutchison & Realbilly Jive - J.D. Hutchison and John Borchard first met in 1969 in Athens, Ohio. Although they ran in the same musical circles (some say they’re still running in circles), their bands frequently sharing the bill and spending untold hours playing together with many musician friends at parties and potluck get-togethers, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that they actually started gigging as a duo. This was the beginning of Realbilly Jive. In time, John suggested they enlist the musical services of his Wingnuts band mates, Dave Borowski and Jim Smailes on bass and guitar. A bit later, a succession of drummers was added, with Geoff Goodhue being the longest tenured. Even a little farther down the road, long-time friend and musical collaborator, singer Mimi Hart, joined the band, producing the current lineup. The members of Realbilly Jive bring together a wide range of musical influences, tastes, and experiences to form a singular and expressive whole. Blues, bluegrass, folk, country, R&B, ‘50s and ‘60s pop, Western swing, and Appalachian mountain music are apparent in their repertoire. When added to J.D.’s lyrical and musical sensibilities, the result is a unique amalgam and expression of a large swath of American music.
Johnny Staats & Robert Shafer - Mandolin player Johnny Staats and guitar flatpicker Robert Shafer are two of West Virginia's most decorated pickers. They've both appeared separately on the Grand Ole Opry, and both have won multiple awards for their work on their respective instruments. The duo has recorded numerous CDs together, and though they can be classified as bluegrass players, Staats and Shafer draw from influences far beyond the boundaries of bluegrass.