Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three Circles: Local Musicians Help Kids

By Matthew Little
                                                                                                                              (Photo By JoAnna Little)

“I don’t know if there is any way to describe what Three Circles has done for my child,” says Lori Yonts, foster mother,. The Three Circles Foundation, located in Summerville, Georgia, is a day camp founded with the purpose of educating and empowering disadvantaged boys ages 12-18. At this 23 acre farm, foster and single-parent boys learn trade and social skills that build confidence and character. Jeremy and Jessie Collins started the foundation in 2009 to engage these youth in a monthly camp and community service projects, all aimed to encourage growth in community, environmental, and spiritual awareness. 

"This camp is about changing lives,” says Jeremy Collins, who built the foundation from the ground up with his wife, acting on a deep-rooted desire to help the unfortunate children around their rural community. In two years, the foundation has reached out to boys from Walker, Chattooga, Floyd, and Polk counties, teaching hiking, carpentry, mechanics, and other skills while surrounding them with positive role models. “I could tell story after story that I’ve learned about these boys,” says Collins, who has seen visitors come away with skills and knowledge that will benefit them for years to come. “In the end, they all need a little attention and a lot of love.” 

Collins hopes to transform the camp into a permanent establishment by purchasing enough land to host a sustainable program. Unfortunately, due to the economic condition of Chattooga County, where Three Circles is located, funding for camp programs and community service projects is limited. The foundation must first meet its operating costs, and save what it can for future improvements.

To help meet this need, a group of Birmingham musicians have come together to present a series of benefit concerts at historic locations across the city. Heading up the series is Stephen Collins, Jeremy’s brother and member of the Alabama folk duo, The Clay States. Stephen has been to the farm himself and has seen how the boys benefit from the experience. “What they learn in one day at TCF could be more meaningful and cultivating than the opportunities they may receive in a month’s time elsewhere.”

When he learned of the financial challenges facing the foundation, Stephen sought the help of his musical contemporaries, including Birmingham’s War Jacket and Neil Couvillion. He then selected venues distinctive of historic, industrial Birmingham such as the Peanut Depot, the oldest business on Morris Avenue. Stephen hopes to combine scenes of the old South with new music in order to raise awareness and funds for Three Circles. “What we need are attendees with the perfect combination of ears for sincere music and hearts for sincere causes.” 

Stephen and singer Lauren Little began writing songs as The Clay States in Birmingham before briefly moving to Arizona, where they found inspiration in the desert landscapes and mountains of Flagstaff. They returned to Alabama with a mysterious and eclectic unification of Southern and Western Americana.

Joining the Clay States is Atlanta folk singer/songwriter Lauren-Michael Sellers, whose honey-smooth voice has entertained audiences around the Southeast. Noticeably influenced by the likes of Regina Spektor and Allison Krauss, Sellers has found her niche “where soul meets folk.” She is a member of Birmingham’s Grey Haven community of musicians (along with Stephen and Lauren) and has performed in a number of the city’s popular venues, including Matthew’s Bar & Grill and Bottletree CafĂ©.

The Clay States and Sellers will kick off the first show of the benefit series at the Peanut Depot on October 21. The Peanut Depot, located at 2016 Morris Avenue, is one of Birmingham’s oldest operating businesses. The top floor has recently been renovated, now featuring an entertainment venue. The show will begin at 7 p.m. with The Clay States. Between sets, Jeremy Collins will give a presentation about the foundation, followed by Lauren-Michael Sellers.

The second event will be at the Cahaba Pumping Station at 4012 Sicard Hollow Road on November 18, at 7 p.m. The one hundred year old pumphouse-turned-museum was an obvious choice for Stephen, who aimed to fuse the historic character of Birmingham with the new culture of artists performing today. “I can't emphasize enough how these events combine Birmingham's already present aesthetic of industrial spaces with its budding music scene, all working toward the greater good,” he says. “The sounds of New South music resonate with the acoustics of the buildings of the Old South to inspire events that renew our culture.”

The Matchcoats, an acoustic folk and blues duo and new members of the Grey Haven community, will be performing with The Clay States at the Pump Station. Guitarist Gabriel Akins specializes in alternating bass blues, inspired by traditional blues artists such as Mississippi John Hurt. He delivers vocal and guitar melodies, while Sarah Akins provides rhythm and harmony. The duo met Stephen and Lauren at Grey Haven’s monthly show in January, and agreed to play for the Three Circles benefit when the need arose.

The benefit series will announce one more show by December, and resume in 2012. Jeremy Collins is grateful for the help offered by the participating musicians, and is hopeful that The Three Circles Foundation will find the support it needs, “We hope to raise as much as we can through these concerts,” he says. “With the bands that are playing, I think we will all have fun doing it.”

With the funding generated by these events, The Three Circles Foundation will continue to operate on a monthly basis to provide orphaned, single-parent, and at-risk boys with teaching and support that may change their lives. Jeremy and Jessie Collins are reminded by every visitor of Frederick Douglass’ belief that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Find out more about The Three Circles Foundation at threecirclesfoundation.com.

BFP Music Biz: Press Release from Workplay


Who:               Kaki King
When:                         Monday, November 14, 2011 @ 8pm
Where:            WorkPlay Theatre

Ticket Information   
·         $15 adv/ $15 dos - General Admission
·         Tickets on sale now!
·         Available through www.workplay.com or with no service fee, in person, at the WorkPlay Box Office
·         This is an 18+ show! ($3 surcharge for patrons under 21)

BIRMINGHAM- October 11, 2011

Espionage, particularly the idea of living a double life, was the basis for Kaki King’s brand-new, stunning album Junior. And like a tantalizing spy novel that’s full of surprises, Junior delivers twists-and-turns: lyrically from exuberance and anger to heartbreaking melancholy; and sonically from experimental pieces to accessible pop. While there is some of the dazzling musicianship King has been renowned for, Junior showcases her further maturation as a well-rounded artist that defies categorization and expectations.

“I never made records for other people,” she says. “My evolution from record to record has been personal not commercial. For example there’s none of the “guitar tapping” that I’m known for. There not a single bit of it on the record except for a half a second on ‘The Hoopers of Hudspeth.’”

As with her previous album, 2008’s Dreaming of Revenge, Junior was produced by Malcolm Burn (Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris) and recorded at his studio in Kingston, New York. But in contrast to that record, which was marked by deep textures and layers as well as unusual instrumentation, Junior was specifically made with only three musicians in mind—in this case, King, multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson. The result was something more direct. “Prior to this I would have written a lot in the studio and played all the instruments myself,” King says. “This time, I really leaned on Dan and Jordan to help shape the songs and help me get the record written.”

Kaki King
The nearly-D.I.Y. aesthetic employed by King can be found on a couple of Junior’s tracks starting with the album’s punkish “Falling Day” and the noisy “Death Head.” “I was dragging this little ukelele around with me,” she says of the former song. “I tuned it weird and I came up with this one riff. The lyrics are basically nonsense. It’s a kind of rumination on a weird dream I had and imagery from that. It’s also got all these strange sounds that Dan came up with.”

Longtime fans may be surprised to hear a different side of King with the dance rock of “Spit It Back In My Mouth.” “I really wanted that to be my Cure song,” she says. “Like how the Cure would write these really happy, jangly songs and the lyrics would be utterly depressing. When I came up with that little groove, I thought this is way too happy, so I changed it to make people depressed.”

King’s mesmerizing guitar playing continues through Junior with a few instrumental pieces, including the electrifying number “My Nerves That Committed Suicide.” “I found a tuning on the guitar,” King says of that track, “and I was writing a little theme and a little melody. All of a sudden I thought, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ and it really took off. Part of it is ear candy and a part of it is emotive air candy. You just go with that anthemic feeling and it kind of wins every time.”

The rawest song on Junior in terms of King’s passionate singing and wrenching lyrics is the folkish ballad “Sunnyside,” which is about the end of a relationship. “It happened very close to the time I was making the record,” the artist recalls. “It’s a very personal story about something that I went through with another person. Every reference to every lyric is true to life. I’m hoping there’s something universal in that song that someone’s gonna listen and think ‘Wow, I can relate to that,’ because I don’t want it to by my pity party.”

Contact: Ken Weinstein

Monday, October 10, 2011

BFP Music Biz: Press Release from Jonathan Laird

Contact Info: Jonathan Laird / Jonathan Laird / (256) 783-0994 / jonathan@jonathanlaird.net / www.jonathanlaird.net


HUNTSVILLE,AL (October 1, 2011)  — With a chill in the air, and a turn of the seasons, Nashville artist Jonathan Laird celebrates the first leg of his Southeast regional “Tangled Up In Me” tour celebrating his critically acclaimed EP, “Tangled Up In Me.”

Consisting of original music inspired by pop culture heroes, both young and old, this young music aficionado puts his own twist on some very familiar sounds.

Huntsville's publication, “Valley Planet” voted him “Best Jazz Artist” in their “Best of the Valley” reader's poll in 2010.  His songs have been spun on independent podcasts in Germany, New York, and the United Kingdom, and two songs from his current EP release, “Tangled Up In Me” have been aired on 104.3 WZYP out of Huntsville. His EP was produced by Cam DeVaney. (Flyleaf)

Jonathan delivers a hooky slice of happiness by combining head-bopping grooves, silky vocals and picturesque lyricism. It's a style of modern pop that meshes elements of Paul Simon and John Mayer with George Benson and Jason Mraz. He is currently writing songs for his first full-length recording, performing with Chopper Wilson of the Jason Albert Band (Heartland), Bonner Black and is co-writing with Lee Pinson and Sarah Ray Causey. In addition, Jonathan has shared the stage with Independent Christian artists Jonathan Lee, Kathleen Carnali, Jason Albert and Norris Jones (Michael Jackson). He has shared the studio with Buddy Hyatt (Toto) and Bruce Boughton (Reba McEntire). He currently performs as a solo artist and is also a supporting musician for other artists. Jonathan has also played benefits ranging from The Arthritis Foundation to Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen.

Jonathan is available for interviews and appearances. Contact Jonathan at (256) 783-0994 or jonathan@jonathanlaird.net for more information.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lydia Loveless Can Drink Now!

By Lee Waites

I blurted out, unceremoniously and without a bit of smooth, “So do you like the term country punk, or cowpunk or any of those things to describe your music? I don’t mean to be offensive. I just don’t hear any punk.”

“No,” she said. “I would probably say more rock-n-roll.”

“I was thinking more like power country,” I said.

“I’ve never heard that one before,” she laughed politely.

“Nope, nope. I just made that one up. Somebody has to make shit up.”

She’s been compared to Neko Case. That’s fair. “It’s a flattering comparison.” Lydia says. There is a similar sound, though she doesn’t consider Neko Case one of her major influences.

“So who do you like to sit around and listen to when you’re having a beer?” I asked.

She thought for a second “I like Sunny Sweeney a lot lately. It really depends on my mood.”
I told her that “depending on my mood” thing was cheating.

“OK. She said, “Sitting around drinking beer I would have to say Hank Williams.” I made sure she meant Senior. She did. 

I listened back to my interview and realized how completely dorky I sounded, which made me feel great. I mostly write. So I can read what I’m saying and realize how dorky it is before I put it out there to be read. Of course, I put it out there anyway. I would be lying if I said I didn’t love dorky.

I completely sounded like I was being fatherly to Lydia. I’ve always been worried I would never stop being attracted to girls much younger than me. My voice was almost like a grandmother. I’ve always found women my own age attractive, still do. The field of potential embarrassment has just seemed to always grow and grow. It’s always just started at 21 and worked its way up to whatever age I happen to be. So I figured I would just be some creepy old dude who never stopped liking 21 year olds, even when I got to be 80 or something. But my conversation with Lydia clearly showed that I am becoming appropriately old. 

In my ridiculous fatherly voice I asked her about touring with her dad. She tours with her dad you see. He is her drummer. She writes her own songs. She’s cute as a button but tough as nails. That sort of thing. Those sort of questions. 

I feel I’ve buried the lead though. In September Lydia Loveless turned 21. Now some of you may have forgotten that feeling. But to someone her age, man. POW! She can step up to the bar and order for herself . Now, she can legally booze it up at the venues where she plays. So when you go see her show at the Nick this coming Friday, the 14th, buy her a drink.

Friday, October 7, 2011

BFP Music Biz: Press Release from Synical Deliverance

Synical Deliverance is one of the premiere electronic/industrial acts out of Birmingham, AL. They self-released their debut album Hades back in 2008, selling over 200 copies, and playing over 50 live shows to support the local and regional music scenes.

Now in 2011, 3 years have passed and their sophomore album -Chronos- will soon see the light of day, after many release issues due to funding, etc.

Anyone that enjoyed the live shows, or was lucky enough to obtain a copy of Hades is urged to please help out Synical Deliverance by Pre-ordering their album at the ridiculously low price of $8 (includes shipping and handling directly to your address in a VERY LIMITED custom package).

We'd like to thank the Birmingham Freepress, and any other local organization and music groups who have helped artists do what they do.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Price of Not Being a Human Jukebox

The Price of Not Being a Human Jukebox

by M. David Hornbuckle
Birmingham is a weird town for original bands. Most of the bars that have live music feature cover bands. They start at 10 and play until 1:30 or later. Or in some cases (Marty’s), they start after midnight and play until morning. The bands are human jukeboxes, or noodlers who fill the time with solo after solo. Generally, they are more concerned with keeping the music going and pandering to the crowd’s requests than they are interested in artistic expression. 
There’s no doubt, though, that original music has a much higher cool factor. Even when it isn’t as sing-along friendly as yet another rendition of “Wagon Wheel,” it has the potential to be an extremely captivating and memorable experience for all who see it. Bars are aware of this, and they want original bands, but there’s a disconnect between the bars of the “cover band” scene and the bands who play all original tunes. The bars don’t understand that a full show for one of these bands is a 45-minute set, an hour at the most.
Think about it this way. For the average competent musician, it’s a lot easier to learn three hours worth of other peoples’ songs than it is to come up with 45 minutes of original material that is energetic and engaging. Cover bands might feature incredible musicianship. They might not play the same covers as everybody else, or they might have their own take on the standards. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that. But if you are a musician focused on playing original music, you are working under a completely different paradigm. 
Granted, some bands that play the three and four hour gigs around town do some original material. But let’s be honest. They still play mostly covers and sneak in a few original songs when they can get away with it, most of which are likely to be pretty derivative of the kind of stuff they are covering.
If these bars want to move toward having original bands, they should get used to having three bands a night instead of just one. Sure, the bands won’t make as much money. Most original bands know this and are comfortable with it. But with three bands, you also triple the potential audience. Instead of one band doing promotions for the show, you have three. Venues that are known for featuring original music, like the Nick and the Bottletree, have always done the three band thing. It's rare to see a single band play more than an hour at those places. 
Or you might have only two bands, and the music might be over earlier. That’s really okay too. After the bands are done, you put on a jukebox or somebody’s iPod, and people keep drinking and hanging out until closing time. Personally, I'd rather see 45 minutes of punchy energetic rock than three hours of covers or noodling any day. And I'll happily pay five or ten dollars to see a good band do that.

Dateline, October 6th: Movie Info - BFP Style

TONIGHT! "Jaws" at Railroad Park's Sunset Cinema. 7:00pm Free admission
The only thing scarier in the ocean than a BP oil drill. Classic Spielberg characters and plenty of suspense. Rated PG.
Movie trivia question: The shark actually had a name. Be the first person to answer and win 30 seconds of smug self-congratulations. No, it wasn't "Jaws".
Park is located at 1600 1st Avenue South Downtown. (1st Avenue South, between 14th and 18th Streets) Food and drinks available for purchase. For more info and list of upcoming films, click on this: