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Decade of Difference: Old Crow Medicine Show

From busking in North Carolina to induction in the Grand Ole Opry and winning Grammys, Old Crow Medicine Show has popularized many old pre World War 2 songs with their old time sound fuzed with modern music.

Doc Watson heard the band busking in Boone, NC where the band had moved after forming in New York state. Watson invited the band to play at MerleFest, a show the band credits as having changed their lives. From there they relocated to Nashville, performing their street act at Grand Ole Opry summer music events.

In 2001 they got their first spot on the Grand Ole Opry. The four minute performance drew a rare first time standing ovation from the audience.

Old Crow Medicine show has struck a balance between playing old tunes and writing new ones that draw from that heritage. The bands most famous song Wagon Wheel is a great example. The chorus and melody comes from Bob Dylan’s work on the Pat Garret and Billy the Kid soundtrack, although it was never released. Ketch Secor of OCMS heard the demo and wrote verses around it.

The combination of new and old is important to the bands sound. Fellow songwriter Dave Rawlings agrees, stating: “I’ve always thought that a really important thing that the Old Crow Medicine Show brought to the table was new songs—some reinterpreted old ones, some really nicely written and brand new—with the old flavor, but also with that vitality.”

2021-04-07T08:51:54-04:00April 9th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Joe Ely

Joe Ely has collected a lot of labels over his more than five decade career. Initially labelled a Texas music rebel he is now considered one of the states elder statesman – all without changing his style in any significant way.

Ely grew up in Amarillo before moving to Lubbock where he got his first interest in music sparked by seeing a Jerry Lee Lewis concert. After his father died when he was fourteen and his mother was institutionalized for a time from the trauma, the children scattered to various locations. Ely eventually returned to Lubbock, dropped out of school and began playing professionally.

Eventually Ely formed his permanent band and a demo got to Jerry Jeff Walker who recommended him to his record label. Ely’s first album came out in 1977.

Joe Ely toured heavily in the 70s and 80s opening for some unlikely acts, including the Clash. As he appeared to be close to a mainstream breakthrough, Ely’s band broke apart due to the burden of all the touring.

Ely’s membership in the early 70’s Lubbock Americana band the Flatlanders paid dividends in 1992. Asked to write songs for the movie The Horse Whisperer, Ely reformed the band for that work, and found a renewed interest in the band which greatly exceeded their success first time around.

Over this past pandemic year, Ely has focused on completing the audio version of his recently released autobiography Reverb and preparing for another reunion album for the Flatlanders.

Photo Credit: Matthew Fuller

2021-04-08T10:28:10-04:00April 8th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Neon Indian

Alan Palomo began composing and performing as a high schooler in San Antonio before moving to Denton to enroll at the University of North Texas. It was there he teamed with long time friend Alicia Scardetta to form Neon Indian as a multimedia project since Scardetta was a video artist.

They paired on a single Neon Indian album, 2009s Psychic Chasms. The album drew critical praise and was seen as a pioneer in the new but short lived style of music referred to as chillwave. For the second album, Palomo moved to Finland to record Era Extrana.

Neon Indian incorporated more elements of new wave and reggae into his music, moving the act from chillwave to electronic dance music. After releasing a third album – this time under the name VEGA – in 2014, Palomo had his laptop full of new music stolen. It led him to focus on other work including remixes for other artists, film scores and collaborations including some work with the Flaming Lips.

After five years, Neon Indian released a new single in 2019 and a following album is reportedly in the works.

2021-04-05T08:09:31-04:00April 6th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Tori Amos

Born in North Carolina and growing up in Maryland, Tori Amos taught herself piano as a two year old and started composing at three. At five she became the youngest student ever at the Peabody Conservatory where she studied classical piano for six years. Her interest in pop music combined with a dislike for reading sheet music may have contributed to the withdrawal of her scholarship to the school.

In 1986 Tori Amos formed a band and released one album which was a failure. Forced to regroup and fulfill her record label obligations, her first solo effort was also initially rejected. It took a second try to expand and rework it into the mega successful Little Earthquakes that was released in 1992.

After 1992s’ Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos continued a run of popular albums and singles fueled by her success with videos on MTV. Her second album Under the Pink sold more than one million copies.

In 2002 Amos released Scarlet’s Walk, a concept album centering on Amos’s alter ego Scarlet and her US tour following 9/11. It was her last album to achieve gold sales status.

Now with sixteen albums and a loyal fanbase, Amos shrugs off critics saying “When you’ve been around for as long as I have, even if somebody doesn’t really like what I do, they have to acknowledge that I’ve lasted. I mean, I turned pro at 13 and I’m 57 now,” she adds proudly. “You do the math.”

2021-04-04T09:01:09-04:00April 5th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: LCD Soundsystem

Like yesterday’s Decade of Difference artist TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem came out of the Brooklyn music scene. James Murphy had already played in two bands in the indie rock scene in the 90s before giving up what would have been a lucrative gig as a writer on the TV show Seinfeld to focus on music. He built his own studio and worked as an engineer and producer and met Tim Goldsworthy.

Together they released some critically praised singles in 2002 through 2004 before recording their first full length album in 2005. Building on their success the pairs’ DFA record label had many popular remixes and LCD Soundsystem was commissioned by Nike to record a lengthy composition intended as music for joggers, eventually released as the album 45:33.

After three studio albums, LCD Soundsystem announced that the band was shutting down with a final show in New York. When that show quickly sold out, they added five ‘warmup’ final shows before the previously scheduled date.

By 2015 rumors circulated that the band would return with new music, a rumor that they quickly denied – only to later reveal that the denial was intended to divert attention from the actual plan to release new music. Finally in 2016 they did return to headline both the Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals. The reunited band won a Grammy in 2018 for best dance recording.

2021-04-01T22:19:28-04:00April 2nd, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Violent Femmes

Teen angst combined with a raw and jittery style made the Violent Femmes the textbook cult band of the 1980s. Their debut 1983 album set the standard for a generation of sardonic alt rockers.

Formed in Milwaukee, the Violent Femmes got their break when James Honeyman-Scott found them busking in front of the theatre where the Pretenders were playing and signed them to a recording contract. Despite a loyal following that knows the bands’ best songs by heart, the Violent Femmes never cracked the top 40 although their debut album reached Platinum in sales.

The Violent Femmes continued recording consistently through 2000, with two minor hits coming in 1985 and 1991. Gradually building up from their spare three member sound, they ultimately reverted back there.

In between the Femmes disbanded and engaged one another in lawsuits over song rights in 2007. Finally in 2013 the band reconciled and reunited to tour and record new music. Lead singer Gordon Gano says he is surprised by the bands’ audience. While many aging alt bands retain their core audiences from their youth, he says it is not that way for them. They see an audience that stays the same age as they get older.

2021-03-31T07:08:34-04:00March 31st, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Phosphorescent

Songwriter Mathew Houck began performing as Phosphorescent in 2001 touring and recording throughout the decade while organically building his audience. This culminated in 2013s Muchacho which sold better than all of his previous releases and included music licensed for multiple movies around the world.

Phosphorescent was not Houcks first musical alias. He initially played under the name Fillup Shack but after switching to Phosphorescent his hard work and touring paid off in that 2013 album. Unfortunately it also resulted in exhaustion, the loss of a relationship and signaled to Houck that the lifestyle he was building was not sustainable, long term.

Phosphorescent went on a five year recording hiatus after 2013s Muchacho, while Houck reorganized his life. He married and fathered two children, moved from Brooklyn to Nashville and built himself a new recording studio.

Phosphorescent released C’est La Vie in 2018 and although Houck said there were stretches as long as four months where did not pick up a guitar, he feels he was working on the new album for the whole five years.

Part of that process was building his studio, after which he discovered that he still had his broken four track recorder from 20 plus years ago. With his new electronics knowledge he fixed it and played the tape of his work still in the recorder from back then. While he found it to be terrible, unbelievably bad, he could remember even then being absolutely certain that music would be the one constant in his life.

2021-03-29T16:33:57-04:00March 30th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Rubblebucket

Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver first met as students at the University of Vermont, where they both played in college musical groups. Soon they were in a romantic relationship and pondering music options after college. Both played in John Brown’s Body, a roots reggae band prior to recording their first self produced album as the Rubblebucket Orchestra in 2008.

Their sophomore album was self titled with the band dropping Orchestra from the name, and a third release propelled the group into a national presence, earning them a spot on late night TV shows. The group also appeared at Bonnaroo whose sets Rolling Stone described as “revved up like an indie-rock Miami Sound Machine” .

2013 brought highs and lows to Rubblebucket. In the same month Kalmia Travers was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and would require chemotherapy and the band received word of an offer of their first record contract. Toth and Travers worked together to address both challenges, helping Travers through treatments while recording and releasing Survival Sounds in 2014.

In 2016 the romantic part of their relationship ended but the musical collaboration remained. Rubblebuckets’ most recent album, 2018s’ Sun Machine is clearly a result of this change in their couples status. Sun Machine is undoubtedly an album full of heartache, yearning and self-reflection, but it’s hardly a downer. Traver and Toth’s newfound personal and creative freedom led them to take some musical chances on these songs, but Rubblebucket’s upbeat, danceable core is decidedly intact.

2021-03-25T08:12:15-04:00March 26th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Cold War Kids

The band name Cold War Kids came long before the band. Matt maust thought it up on an Eastern European trip in 1997, but it was not until 2004 that he and friends from Biola University formed the band that took the name. The group recorded a pair of EPs before releasing their first full album Robbers and Cowards in 2006.

Sales were good and reviews were mixed but generally positive and the band proceeded to tour worldwide for about two years. The following two albums Loyalty is Loyalty and Mine is Yours were the best selling from the band so far. It also were the last to be released by the band’s original lineup.

Cold War Kids has grown from a band playing backyard jam sessions to one that can fill an auditorium and through their first six studio albums they have built on their basic formula to create a body of work that some described as becoming predictable. Front man Nathan Willett says that now for the band to grow, they need to hit the reset button.

Now in the middle of a new album trilogy called New Age Norms, Willett says that they need to play and impress each other before they can be confident in the music they are releasing.

2021-03-24T08:38:11-04:00March 25th, 2021|Decade of Difference|

Decade of Difference: Boy & Bear

Boy & Bear started as a vehicle for the solo performances of Sydney Australias’ Dave Hosking in 2009. Soon the effort turned into a quintet which released their first recordings in 2010. By 2011, the band’s first album was released and it went platinum in Australia, winning four Australian music awards.

The band had its first lineup change prior to their second album recorded in 2011. A bigger problem loomed when bandleader Dave Hosking started to suffer medical problems while on tour . Hosking was suffering from periods of weakness, fatigue and confusion that continued sporadically for months. After many doctors’ appointments, with no obvious diagnosis, he reached a point of self-doubt. Maybe it was all in his head?

After many doctor visits, Hosking was diagnosed with Chronic Dysbiosis, a condition involving an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.

For a while Dave Hosking was unable to play music while recovering from his illness, leaving the remaining four members of Boy & Bear to ponder how they would continue without their leader.

Fortunately, treatments began to positively impact Hosking in 2018 and he began to feel that his mind was working normally and he would be able to continue with the band. Naturally, the bands 2019 album Suck On Light ended up being a product of Dave’s health struggles (something he feels was “inevitable”), documenting the good, bad and ugly.

2021-03-23T08:32:28-04:00March 24th, 2021|Decade of Difference|