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Throughout over three decades in music, Steve Poltz did it all and more—often shared by way of his rockin’ countrified folk slices of sardonic Americana (hatched in Halifax). Of course, he co-wrote Jewel’s multiplatinum Hot 100-topping megahit “You Were Meant For Me,” but he also went on a whale watch with her and a few federales that turned into a drug bust. The two still share the story at every festival they play together. He made his bones as the frontman for underground legends The Rugburns, who burned rubber crisscrossing the continent on marathon tours and still pop up once in a while for the rare and quickly sold out reunion gig.
In 20 years since his full-length solo debut, One Left Shoe, he blessed the world’s ears with twelve solo records, spanning the acclaimed 2010 Dreamhouse and most recently Folk Singer in 2015. NPR summed it up best, “Critics and fans alike now regard Poltz as a talented and prolific songwriter.” By 2016, he survived a stroke, endured anything the music industry could throw at him, and still performed like “280 days a year.”
However, he still never lived in Nashville, which represents a turning point in the story and the genesis of his 2018 Red House Records debut, Shine On…
“My girlfriend Sharon sold the condo we were living in, and I was ready to live in a van, which seemed like a good idea for one night—then I decided I wanted a kitchen and a closet,” he admits. “Sharon wanted to move to Nashville, because she thought it would be good for me. It caused a huge fight. I’d been in San Diego since 1980, and that’s where I cut my musical teeth. I thought I’d never leave. In fact, at the height of our fight, I said, ‘I’m not leaving San Diego. I am San Diego!’ This makes me laugh now. As soon as I got to Nashville, I immediately knew I wanted to make a record in ‘Music City’.”
So, the man who once protested “I am San Diego” made Shine On in his new home of Nashville with one of its elder statesmen behind the board, Will Kimbrough [Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell]. Holing up in the studio at Kimbrough’s house, nothing would be off limits. Together, they unlocked the kind of creative chemistry you only hear about in band bios—but for real.
“I respect Will so much, and I’d always wanted to work with him,” says Steve. “Like two mad scientists, we just took our time and had fun. We didn’t overthink things. Everything felt organic. We ate soul food and drank lots of really good coffee. We tried out weird sounds, and the songs always started with voice and guitar—no click track, just how I’d play them. I road tested many of them, and they were ripe for the picking when recording time came around.”
Evoking themes of “hope, love, contemplation, celebration of Wednesday, pharmacists, and the fact that windows are not inanimate objects and they sometimes have conversations with each other,” the record represents Steve at his most inspired and insightful. The opener and title track “Shine On” pairs a delicate vocal with lithely plucked acoustic strings as he urges, “Shine on, shine on.”
“The song was a gift,” he recalls. “I woke up really early in Encinitas, California at Sharon’s sister’s house. The sun was just coming up. I was all alone in perfect solitude. My guitar was there. The sky was gorgeous. I wrote it as a poem. Everyone always told me, ‘Never start a record with a really slow song.’ So, seeing that I have O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), I started my record with one. I love the mood it sets. It’s almost like my mission statement, trying to find some semblance of positivity and light in a sometimes ruthless world.”
On “Pharmacist,” rustling guitar and harmonica propel a tale of “this dude having a crush on his pharmacist.” It also serves as an extension of his friendship with neighbor Scot Sax—with whom he shares the podcast “One Hit Neighbors” (since they’ve both had one hit song). Meanwhile, he joined forces with Molly Tuttle on “4th of July,” which, of course, came to life on the 3rd of July. “Ballin On Wednesday” drew its title and chorus from a diner checkout girl (with a super cool gold tooth) who Steve paid with a $100 bill and she replied, “Oooh, ballin’ on a Wednesday.” The finale “All Things Shine” skips along on sparse instrumentation as Steve sends a message.
“‘All Things Shine’ came about after one of the many mass shootings on this planet,” he sighs. “I was feeling overwhelmed. So, I wanted to put my feelings into words and melody. I was thinking that even if we’re feeling hopeless that there is still beauty. All things shine in their own way.”
Who could contend that?
In the end, for everything you can call him “searcher, smartass, movie freak, lover of technology, news junkie, baseball fan to nth degree, lapsed catholic who still believes in god even though all his friends are atheists and think he’s an idiot, and maker of fun,” you might just call Steve that little light in the dark we all need in this day and age.
Or Nashville’s Canadian Jiminy Cricket…
“I hope Shine On makes listeners smile and feel welcome, and they want to share it with their friends,” he leaves off. “Music means energy to me. All things. It connects us, makes us move, helps us relax, and inspires us to change things up.”
“A moving testament to our life and times, Shook Twins’ emotive ‘Some Good Lives’ resonates with warm energy and raw humanity’ – Atwood Magazine
‘Some Good Lives is as affirming as it is magical.’ – Popmatters
‘The Shook Twins tell it like it is while also making us want to dance.’ – Glide Magazine
“I love the harmonies of the Shook Twins, the dreamlike songs that seem somehow permeated by the American Folk tradition, without actually being part of it. They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods.” – Neil Gaiman, New York Times – Best-Selling Author
“The Shooks will Shake you. These ladies have been keepin’ it real since the day they were born and that was only seconds apart from one another I think. Do yourself a favor and check ’em out. I do declare, ya won’t be sorry.” – Langhorne Slim
“The Shook Twins put on a heck of a show. Keep your eyes on these folks. I’m excited to hear what they do next.” – Tucker Martine
“A unique, personal music that lights up the stage with its joy and enthusiasm.” – Mason Jennings
Everybody in your life will write his or her own chapter in your story. Take a step back, and you’ll see the influence of your loved ones, mentors, and friends in your decisions. Shook Twins refer to these folks in the title of their fourth album, Some Good Lives. Throughout fourteen tracks, the duo—identical twin sisters Katelyn Shook [vocals, guitar] and Laurie Shook [banjo, vocals]—pay homage to everyone from a late grandpa and godfather to Bernie Sanders.
“We realized there was a theme,” Katelyn reveals. “Even though our minds are mostly on the women of today and wanting the monarchy to rise up, we have several men in our lives who have been such positive forces. We wanted to thank them and honor the good guys who showed us the beauty in this crazy world we live in. So, it’s an album for Some Good Lives that have crossed paths with ours—and to them, we are grateful.”
Laurie agrees, “It’s also an acknowledgment of our thankfulness of the good life that we get to live.”
However, the pair derived their own strength from these relationships. Over the course of three full-length releases and a handful of EPs since 2008, acclaim would come by way of everyone from USA Today and Baeble Music to Langhorne Slim, The Lumineers, Mason Jennings, and iconic best-selling author Neil Gaiman who enthusiastically decreed, “They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods.” Beyond gigs with the likes of Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani DiFranco, they captivated crowds at High Sierra Music Festival, Lightning In A Bottle, Bumbershoot, Hulaween, Summer Camp Music Festival, and Northwest String Summit, to name a few.
During 2016, they planted the seeds for what would become Some Good Lives by thinking bigger. The girls intermittently recorded at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR. Within this old library building, “which feels full of stories,” they tapped into palpable energy like never before, locking into a groove inside of the spacious, reverberant live room. Moreover, the full band—Barra Brown [drums], Sydney Nash [bass], and Niko Slice [guitar, mandolin]—expanded the sonic palette.
“It took us a long time to find the band that we wanted to record these songs with and for the songs to fully mature,” admits Laurie. “Once Barra, Sydney, and Niko joined us, we really started to explore what our music could be. These amazing players helped us realize that we could be more than just ‘folk pop’. We started adding other genres to the word like ‘disco,’ ‘psychedelic,’ ‘funk,’ and ‘soul.’ We really honed in on a new sound.”
They initially teased that evolution with the single “Safe.” Its airy acoustic guitar and delicate harmonies materialize as a heartfelt and hypnotic rumination on love. The track quickly surpassed 1 million Spotify streams and stoked excitement among audiences for the eventual arrival of Some Good Lives.
“‘Safe’ was written up at a cabin in the woods,” recalls Katelyn. “I had the line ‘a love that feels safe’ in my mind for a while. That’s the only kind of love truly possible and healthy when you’re touring and away from your person all the time. You feel like you can trust it, and it’s not going to change within either of you—no matter how long and far you are away from each other.”
“I was struggling to find that kind of love at the time, and Katelyn had this other perspective,” adds Laurie. “It’s my breakup song my sister wrote for me,” she laughs.
Elsewhere, opener “What Have We Done” struts forward on funky tambourine and boisterous horns before culminating on the shuddering soulful chant, “My God, what have we done?” Inspired by “feeling the Bern,” the track serves as a “wake-up-and-do better social commentary to fire people up.” Meanwhile, the dreamy “Figure It Out” sways from vivid verses into a catchy and confessional hook.
“To me, it’s about being lost and trying to figure ‘it’ out over and over again,” continues Katelyn. “We’re always going to be trying to figure things out, and that’s okay.”
The intimate “Grandpa Piano” draws on 1992 tapes of the girls’ grandpa performing on a grand piano during the final weeks of his life. Such moments thematically thread together the record, following its concept.
Katelyn adds, “You can hear our grandma, uncle, and godfather who have all passed on speaking in those clips too. These are little glimpses of those lives that we are honoring. I knew it was the perfect thing to add and complete the theme.”
Meanwhile, the album concludes on “Dog Beach”—a song penned by their godfather Ted as his only original composition in 1989. Preserving the raw spirit, Shook Twins tracked their background vocals over the initial tape 28 years after the initial recording. As Ted passed away recently, the song possessed a special place in their hearts.
“It’s like our village anthem in a way,” says Katelyn. “We made him sing it, and we’d all sing the responses at every campfire we had growing up.”
In the end, Shook Twins do Some Good Lives justice by reaching new heights themselves as musicians, lyricists, artists, and women.
“I hope people will hear this music as part of the soundtrack to their lives,” Laurie leaves off. “I hope it makes them feel joy, relaxation, or makes them want to dance a little. I hope they’re satisfied with the way we captured these songs.”
“I want them to feel the love that emanates from the songs: the love of the sounds we made and the love of the people we are honoring through them,” concludes Katelyn.
You’re invited to Thursdays Live – free live music, cold beer, food from Hawthorne’s NY Pizza and refreshments from 6 until 8pm. It’s happening all summer, the 3rd Thursday of each month. Come hang out with your MoRA neighbors! At the new Embrace sculpture, located at the intersection of Monroe Rd and Conference Dr. Here’s a short video from last year: https://youtu.be/n_kkmLDi2zc
From the moment Bryce Avary, better knownas The Rocket Summer, exploded onto the scene as a teenager in the early 2000s at the forefront of a wave of indie pop he has been a musical force. Charging out of Texas and onto the international stage he has never been in short supply of ear-worm hooks and effortless charm.Fans have flocked to Avary’s optimistic and exuberant songcraft and the community it inspires for years. Now,with a new album, Sweet Shivers, Avary’s musical evolution and the breadth of his songwriting is on full display.The albumis stunningly expansive, withhallmarks of Avary’s familiar songwriting style in lyrics that manage to be both extremely personal and universally applicable.“Writing is where I feel most normal, it’s where I come alive” he reflects. As with previous records, Avary’s musical virtuosity is apparent. He wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, and performed every instrument on the album. Seven albums into his career, Avary is just hitting his stride and leaving his mark as one of the most reliable songwriters and multi instrumentalists in rock music.
Start Time: 7:30
June 28, 2019–Today Royal Teeth release their long-awaited full-length sophomore album Hard Luck featuring five recently released singles and a slew of brand-new unreleased tracks.
Hard Luck marks the band’s comeback to indie rock, with a progression in their sound that exudes energy and conviction. No stranger to the ups and downs of the music industry, they’re signed to their third label in just over six years. “There were days where I just accepted that this was probably going to be over soon,”vocalist Gary Larsen recalls. “Something finally switched inside of me. I decided that if we are going down, then we are going down swinging.”Feeling inspired to create new songs with a new fresh sound, the quartet whole-heartedly decided it was worth a return to the music scene.
Though as their fans know, Royal Teeth are also no strangers to success. Their 2012 debut EPAct Naturally and their first LP, Glow, in 2013 spawned the hit single “Wild, ”followed by their 2016 EPA mateurs. They’ve turned heads at major tastemakers including Consequence of Sound and MTV, and have been featured in SiriusXM Alt Nation’s Advanced Placement, as well as appearing on Last Call With Carson Daly and American Idol. The group has played major festivals such as Austin City Limits, JazzFest, Bonnaroo, and Firefly; and racked in nearly 15 million streams on Spotify to date. Over the course of the last six years, they’ve supported acts such as The Wombats, Fitz and the Tantrums, The Mowgli’s, Rooney, and just finished a line of dates with Smallpools last month.
Since the group began recording from their homes in New Orleans and Nashville as farback as 2017, they’ve felt revitalized. Unlike their previous releases, the new album is rough around the edges. “We didn’t want to reference anything we had done before. We needed to move on and figure out what we are today,”Larsen explains.
“This line of work can be difficult. It requires you to be vulnerable and put yourself out there to be judged by others. It’s hard to get used to. We are using this album as a platform to face our fears, and to focus on the love we find through the music we create and those who connect along the way. Larsen continues, “I hope that this album gives strength to anyone who has a hard time putting themselves out there for the world to see.”
“Never Gonna Quit,” the first single, serves as a mission statement for the album, boasting loudly the ability to take a shot to the chin and continue pushing forward. Other album hits include the amped up track “It’s Just The Start,” “Show You What I Can Do” with the incredible Tunde Olaniran, the vulnerable ballad “Rivalry,”and theirlatest smashrocker “Get A Load Of This One.”
As a whole, Hard Luck rides the ups and downs of life’s challenges with an uncompromisable ambition that relies heavily on positivity and embraces life head on. Luck may be hard to find in the music biz, but it sounds like Royal Teeth may have found iton their own.
Royal Teeth is composed of singer and guitarist Larsen, singer Nora Patterson, guitarist Thomas Onebane, and drummer Josh Hefner. For more information visit royalteethmusic.com and follow the band on social media@RoyalTeeth and @RoyalTeethMusic for Twitter.