The Band of Heathens sitting with Gianluca before a show

Americana troubadors The Band of Heathens started almost by accident when three songwriters on their own independent career paths started sitting in on each others’ sets. Since their last CD one of the founding songwriters left as well as the band’s rhythm section “we basically lost sixty percent of the band” quips founder Gordy Quist who continues to co-front the band with fellow co-founder Ed Jurdy. I caught up with Ed and Gordy and spoke to them about the band break-up, touring, songwriting and the new CD. “There’s no light without dark” muses Ed about the latest events.

Ed & Gordy warming sitting with Gianluca before a show

Ed & Gordy warming sitting with Gianluca before a show

 

Ed & Gordy warming sitting with Gianluca before a show

Ed & Gordy warming sitting with Gianluca before a show

Vincenzo Castellana

IMG_3303 Vincenzo on the Sicilian tamborineVincenzo is a multi instrumentalist who plays roots music from his native Sicily. He is especially knowledgable but without a whiff of academia to him. We cover the super-natural and mystical side of roots music and how many early musicians were almost like shamans. Among the instruments he plays in our sit-down is a Sicilian tambourine. If you think the tambourine is just a prop and could never be a  virtuoso instrument then think again!

Maga Bo

Maga Bo relaxing at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Maga Bo relaxing at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

 

Maga Bo relaxing at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Maga Bo relaxing at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It’s one of the first things you notice when dj, composer, producer, drummer, laptop musician Maga Bo opens the door of his modest top floor apartment in Rio de Janeiro. Though he is Seattle-born and raised there is not one whiff of ex-pat to him. One doesn’t imagine him glued to CNN quaffing cheeseburgers or cheering in front of the super bowl. After a few minutes of conversation on his veranda, his mellow Carioca vibe even extends to his conversation. His English has different phrasing, the extended or shortened vowels in some words. It’s quite obvious he speaks more Portuguese than English these days. Even his name is transglobal: Maga Bo – meaning “skinny Bo” in Jamaican patois – a nick-name he was given in Jamaica. It’s crystal clear that he feels perfectly at home in other cultures with the ability not only absorb them, but to be equally absorbed into them. Last year Bo released Quilombo Du Futuro. A release of traditional rural roots music, grafted onto urban rhythms and midwifed by a dj raised on a diet of dub, reggae and hip hop.

Justin Townes Earle

Justin Townes Earle sitting with Gianluca

Justin Townes Earle sitting with Gianluca

“You’d have to be deaf dumb and blind and then you probably still have a chance of this city influencing you,” says tall, lanky songwriter Justin Townes Earle about New York City, his new adopted home. We are in an apartment about a block from his and -appropriately for someone who describes himself as an American music preservationist – around the corner where Leadbelly lived in the forties.
It’s only been a couple of years since Justin Townes Earle and this correspondent first discussed his life and music as well as his background – He’s Steve Earle’s son, songwriter Stacey Earle’s nephew and is named after his father’s mentor Townes Van Zandt. His debut CD, The Good Life, had just been released and we were talking backstage before Justin was about to play a 160 capacity venue people of which maybe a half might have been paying customers. A lot’s happened in the two years since. He picked up a Best Emerging Artist award from the Americana Music Association, and has seen his star rise from strength to strength with his third CD – ‘Harlem River Blues’ – receiving accolades and five star reviews across the board. The 160 seater half-filled room has now been replaced by 1400 seaters.
Though much has changed, much is the same. The easy confidence and low-key demeanor has remained though the clothes are decidedly alternative new yorker. Shoulder-length straggly hair has won over the short gelled hair from when he still lived in Nashville. Back in 2008 he had been four years sober and drug free. This particular day he is four weeks sober. He had barely started his tour last year when he was arrested for battery, public drunkenness, and resisting arrest after a show in Minneapolis and returned to rehab to clean up again. We get this out of the way at the very beginning.

Chris Smither

I’ve never miked a musician’s feet before let alone asked any of my interview subjects about his two appendages but when the artist in question is Chris Smither, then it’s as much a part of his music as his deft finger-picking guitar playing and masterful / lyrical songwriting. “Well there’s two of them!” he laughs. Careful examination by your correspondent confirms this. Two feet in fine black leather Italian shoes laying on a sandwich board – expertly miked by your correspondent – in wait of a song. “I wear them till they’re falling apart and I take them back and back to the cobbler. I have a cobbler in massachussettes who knows exactly what in want.” What Smither wants, for any future shoe tech, would be very well worn souls so their thud doesn’t interfere with the guitar in any way. It has to be soft in tone – like a muffled ‘thud’. Loud enough to weave in an out of his guitar lines but not loud enough to interfere with them.

Listen to the whole conversation at www.SittingWith.com

William Elliott Whitmore – Parking Lot Pickin’

You can listen to this conversation and a couple of songs here.

It sounded bizarre on paper, William E Whitmore playing in a Winery. Yes, that William E Whitmore, full sleeve tattoo-wearing, weather-beaten former rodie for hardcore Iowa bands like Ten Grand, playing in a wood panelled winery and fancy food in SOHO, New York City among the $300 chablis and $700 Chateau Rothchild. Ten minutes before his set he came crashing through the door with a banjo and a guitar. He had woken in his recently converted (“This summer I just put in electricity”) corn crib that stands on the Whitmore family hundred and fifty acre farm in Lee County Iowa. Well the man travels light. He is taken past the rows of tables, waiting to be filled that evening with Amy Mann fans and through where He has been booked to play: on the loading doc in the winery’s parking lot, during an afternoon weekly mini-festival at which wine (and some premium beer) and snacks are served – Now that’s more like it!
The humor is not lost on William. With the exception of a performance at Bonaroo he has spent the last two months on the farm “not really seeing that many people”. It was an exuberant set with as many guffaws of laughter coming from the stage as off the stage. during which he came out into the audience and shook hands. He has good reason to be in such a good mood these days. The tragic circumstances that informed his first three albums is much behind him. He has signed to major label Anti Records. The new record is still carries the sparse, weather-beaten, son of the soil material delivered with shovels of Iowa dirt.

The Proclaimers

You can listen to The Proclaimers talk about and play music here.

Well what more can I say? Their songs do all the talking. They are true gents and were a pleasure to have on.