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Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Release Q&A - Sonja Sofya answers some questions for "Patterns We Know"

The buzz has been all about Sonja Sofya and her new album The Patterns We KnowTonight Sonja Sofya and band take to the stage at Boot & Saddle in South Philly along with a great line-up featuring Arc Divers and the dove and the wolf.

Right off the top we have some great reasons to expect great things from this album, such as produced by Ross Bellenoit at Turtle Studios and excellent musicianship by guitarist/producer Ross Bellenoit, bassist Jonathan Colman, and drummers Matt Scarano and Jonas Oesterle. But we at Root Down In The Shadow wanted to dig further and see what Sonja had to say about the album.

Here's 3 questions we had for the songstress Sonja Sofya:

RDITS: What was the impetus to make a full length record and why did you pick the people you worked with?

At a certain point, playing and writing as much as I was, it felt like the logical next step, but I waited for a while, trying to find the "perfect" time to go into the studio, and then one evening I had a conversation with Pete Donnelly -- he probably doesn't remember this -- about recording. We were both at Johnny Brenda's for a show, and he graciously asked how my music was going. I lamented that I was having trouble pulling the trigger on making a record, even though I pretty much knew the material and the people I wanted to work with, and he essentially told me to quit waiting, to capture the moment my collaborators & I were having before it slipped away. A few months later we were in the studio.

As far as people are concerned, well, I couldn't have imagined recording with anyone else! Ross and I have been musical collaborators and friends for about six years, so we know each other really well. I trust Ross musically, artistically, and personally, and since he's been playing with me since I started doing shows with the full band, it all felt natural. Jonas Oesterle (drums) has also been playing with me since the beginning, so between him and Matt Scarano we couldn't go wrong, and Jon Colman -- well, what's not to love there? I'm honored to play with these guys. They're phenomenal musicians.

RDITS: People can get a a lot of misconceptions about a singer/band's sound just by the association of who they play with. Tell us something unexpected about your album?

I cut all the vocals naked.

Just kidding.

Well, I guess maybe first is despite the fact that two-thirds of my bandmates are also two-thirds of Muscle Tough, it is not a particularly jammy kind of album. Everything is through-composed and deliberate. Probably most unexpected, especially for people who have known me for a while, is that if you've heard me at solo shows, on Kettle Pot Tracks, or on my previous EP of 2011, you'll be surprised by the guitar-heavy indie-pop sound. This is not a "girl at the piano with feelings" kind of record. This is meant to be played loudly.

RDITS: 20 years from now when the magazines are ranking this album among your career catalog.. what are they going to say is the shining moment for Patterns We Know?

It's hard for me to grab one thing because there is so much to love (in my humble opinion). I think Ross's horn arrangement & Scott Stallone's mixing of "Devil Dancing" is absolutely dangerous fun. I love the shimmery harmonic changes of "Eastern Gardens" and the brooding guitar line of "You Are Who"...But if I had to pick one favorite moment, it might be the final track, "Small Satellite" -- for the lyrical content, the easy accessibility with just a bit of quirk, the intimate yet expansive scene we were able to paint. It's probably the most uplifting song on the album, and one that kind of sets out an artist's manifesto, I think, about the beauty of things barely noticed and the peace that can come from relaxing into the world around you. I hope when you get to the end of it, and the final sparkles of guitar loop fade away, you take a deep breath, and start the album over again.

Click here for tickets tonight at Boot & Saddle

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Chris Kasper single - City By the Sea

Here's a wonderfully bluesy tease to the upcoming Chris Kasper album.   New single "City By The Sea", is just enough to keep fans from getting restless, while he tours with Carsie Blanton along the West Coast.  Hopefully there will be some local dates soon, as 2017 seems so far off right now.

Bandade Presents: the dove & the wolf and Dirty Dollhouse

Bandade Music is very aware of the power of music in our lives. Formed in Nashville in 2015 and now located in Philadelphia, Bandade works to build community, raise awareness, and fight cancer through music. So far, they’ve had support from Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell, Florence Welch, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, and more; and since their move to Philadelphia, local artists are playing a major role in the Bandade community, helping to raise funds to fight cancer, and transforming an ordinary Wednesday night into an opportunity to be part of a larger purpose. Last month, Philly artists the dove & the wolf and Dirty Dollhouse highlighted the most recent Bandade benefit, and Root Down in the Shadow was there. Learn more about Bandade and see their calendar of upcoming shows at MyBandadeMusic.com.

the dove & the wolf

the dove and the wolf - photo by Dan McGurk
Upon first listen, Paris turned Philly expats the dove & the wolf stir something gloriously familiar.   The duo of Paloma Gil and Lou Hayat sings in tight, almost unison harmonies, and their guitars, in a sweeping wash of chorus, tremolo, and reverb recall the onset of dream pop and alternative rock -- an already too long ago time when artists such as Galaxie 500, Slowdive, Mazzy Star, and later, The Cranberries and Sixpence None the Richer went from cassette tapes to the airways.

the dove and the wolf - photo by Dan McGurk
And while their understated vocals and the intricate interplay of the guitars are enough to capture the nostalgic ear, it soon becomes clear that the dove and the wolf are the kind of artist rooted in our own time. Unlike many of their predecessors, songs and lives shows do not swell into big choruses or sing along hooks. Instead, the drums and bass boil beneath the dreamy surface, building a tension that reflects a theme in their music, one that seeks to place the introspective heart within the chaos and immediacy of our world.

Nowhere is this more clear than in their song, “Seven Days”. Written after the attacks in Paris as the duo were grounded in their home country, the lyrics question:

i cannot stop thinking about it 
and i don't know what to feel 

do i want to stop thinking about it? 
what am i supposed to feel? 

These lyrics are straightforward, present, and immediate, and like so many found on their latest release EP, I Don’t Know What to Feel are content to be questions. The songs are reflections of the quiet moments, the unforgiving seconds that turn to sleepless hours. They do not search for answers, they do not offer us any, nor do they expect any from us. And in this way, the music of the dove & the wolf is our sonic consolation, a slender thread in a sea of invisible wifi waves.

the dove and the wolf - photo by Dan McGurk

Dirty Dollhouse 

Dirty Dollhouse - photo by Dan McGurk
When Chelsea Mitchell released her EP Married in the Aviary in 2013, she orchestrated a star-studded group of musicians to perform alongside of her at World Cafe Live. Joining her that night were Amber Twait and Vanessa Winters; and since then, the three have come to form Dirty Dollhouse. Standing on stage, the trio of could easily remind one of the original Trio. And like Dolly, Emmylou, and Linda, the soaring harmonies of Dirty Dollhouse have become must hear entertainment.

Dirty Dollhouse - photo by Dan McGurk

 Two weeks ago at Milkboy, the trio took another step forward in their evolving their sound when Eric Lawry (formerly of Kalob Griffin Band) and Joshua Machiz (TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb) accompanied the group on drums and upright bass. Often, the addition of a drum and bass section can be a danger to artists unaccustomed to the shift in dynamic a driving rhythm section will produce. But rather than be drowned out, Dirty Dollhouse rose to a new level. After a brief soundcheck of Mitchell’s “Nobody’s Daughter” teased the audience with a taste of the airy, cascading harmonies we’re used to, the quintet launched into “25 Shades” and the power and prowess of the vocalists punched forth, igniting the songs with a fresh energy that can drive even the largest stage.

Dirty Dollhouse - photo by Dan McGurk
Whether solo, as a trio, or with the full band, there is never a bad time to see Chelsea Mitchell. Her signature hooks, melodies, and the wide array of jazz, folk, and pop will always shine. Count Lawry and Machiz as two more reasons to add Dirty Dollhouse to your concert calendar.

Joshua Machiz of Dirty Dollhouse - photo by Dan McGurk


Check out the dove and the wolf upcoming in Philly at First Unitarian Church 9/30/16 with Shivers and Hand Habits

Also in October they join another amazing line-up at Boot and Saddle for the Sonja Sofya record release show with Arc Divers.  

Chelsea Mitchell of Dirty Dollhouse plays a Candlelit house show this Sunday 9/25 at W/N W/N Coffee Bar with August John Lutz II of Levee Drivers as Cheap Dates and the talented Ladybird.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Arc Iris - Moon Saloon

Arc Iris returns to Philly this Wednesday, at Boot & Saddle with friends Superhuman Happiness and Birdie Busch.  To catch you up to speed, here's a little review of Moon Saloon to get you excited about the show.

If a well crafted album is meant to be a journey and an exploration, Arc Iris' Moon Saloon manages to accomplish both for its musicians and listeners.

Opening with a simple four-tap count-off from a gently gated hi-hat, "Kaleidoscope" kicks Moon Saloon off with Ray Belli (drums) and Zach Tenorio-Miller (keys) digging into a syncopated boom bap groove as Robin Ryczek (cello) surges in with her own sonic undertow. With a single, shimmering guitar chord, Jocie Adams is introduced as the narrator. Her lyrical foundation is paved with questions and reflections. As the track pushes forward, the original lines are spliced with slight variations and embellishments as a larger form takes shape. The track grows exponentially as single-line melodies and riffs erupt into soaring choral breaks. As the crescendo fades, a punchy, scattered ending reminds us not to get too comfortable...there’s more to come.

Splashed throughout the tracks of this album are vocal and instrumental bursts that possibly began as impulsive utterances and were then crafted into cathartic, joyously expressive moments. "Kingdom Come" presents a taste of this and captures the spontaneity of their musically playful side. In contrast, "Paint with the Sun" and "She Arose" serve as excellent reminders that Arc Iris isn’t messing around. At the appropriate time and place, they can throw in the kitchen sink with musically spectacular fashion.

The ideas and sounds crafted into the rest of the album, described as “dream-folk” by NPR, display a compositional creativity and musical growth for Adams’ that extends galaxies beyond her previously designated role in The Low Anthem. There is tremendous teamwork and musicianship that proves Arc Iris has arrived. Jocie, Zach, Ray and Robin achieved this by inviting their tremendously talented friends, Mike Irwin (trumpet), Charlie Rose (pedal steel. banjo) and many others to join them in front of and behind the microphones to help create something beautiful. Moon Saloon is the culmination of relentless touring and sculpting their sonic identity, along with growing in front of their fans and friends. With the album ready and released, we can now walk away from an Arc Iris show with an album that matches the intensity of what we just saw. It has happened just in time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Five to See Live at Philadelphia Folk Festival 2015

It's Folk Festival Time for everyone in the Philadelphia area.  Have you checked out the newly updated Philadelphia Folk Festival website?  The site is so easy you can personalize your own schedule for the festival.   Other fests say you can do it, but they still end up being super cumbersome. You can sort this by stage or date, or just select a bunch of favorites from any page and have them show up as highlights to the schedule with the "Show My Schedule" button.

But even if you a super easy site isn't for you, here's Root Down In The Shadow's "Five to See Live" at the 55th Philadelphia Folk Festival presented by Philadelphia Folksong Society. 

Hurricane Hoss  Friday 3:30 Martin  Guitar Main Stage: 
Hurricane Hoss is everything country & folk music needs. None of this bro, country-pop with bimbos in the videos. Hoss brings back swagger and sass and has the chops to back it up.

The backing band this year is a veritable "who's who" of Philly, which people have come to expect of the Perfect Storm. Erik "Slim" Sayles is slinging electric, Hannah Taylor is providing harmonies, Josh Machiz of TJ Kong on bass, Eric Lawry (formerly of the KGB) singing and drumming, Isaac "Slowey" Stanford on Steel, Rachel Icenogle of Cast Shadows and Upholstery on cello, and Jaron Olevsky (Amos Lee, Birdie Busch) on keys.

If you're not one of the smart ones camping at Philadelphia Folk Festival this year, this is going to be a hard set to make early in the afternoon on Friday.  Fortunately, Hoss is playing all over fest this year and you'll have six more chances to see Hurricane Hoss.

Anderson East  Friday 9:45 Martin Guitar Main Stage:
Festivals are wonderful. It's a great time to catch a summertime set from your favorite bands. Festivals are also great for watching a set of your friends favorite band risk-free. Our pal Carolyn Lederach, who has introduced us to more bands than NPR has a favorite for the fest and it's Anderson East.

Here's what Carolyn has to say: "Anderson East hails from Nashville via Arkansas. As someone who's not usually drawn to Country infused music, I was completely won over by Anderson on his debut album 'Delilah'. Anderson has a special way to bring a modern twist with a retro Southern sound. Not to mention his live shows are not to be missed. If you want someone who will pour their heart out on stage and give a stellar performance to boot, DON'T miss Anderson East on Friday night. "

Anderson East - Photo by Carolyn Lederach

Tall Heights Saturday 1:40pm Lobby Stage
Tall Heights brand new album Neptune comes out this Friday... and just hours later they take to the Philadelphia Folk Festival stage for the 2nd time in just as many years.  Tim Harrington and Paul Wright return to Philly for the 1st time since their Milkboy Philly and Sofar Sounds Philadelphia appearances last October and it should be magical.

Tall Heights - Only | Sofar Philadelphia

Driftwood Soldier Sunday 2:45 Front Porch Stage   
Driftwood Soldier is Root Down In The Shadow’s new folky favorite on the Philly scene. Listening to Scavenger’s Joy you're immediately drawn to a mix of Owen Lyman-Schmidt’s funky mandolin with Bobby Szafranski’s slick bass.  Next take Owen’s cerebral lyrics, integrated with an intense yet mellow delivery much like Neil Fallon of Clutch and David Lamb of Brown Bird, and your hooked. If you haven’t checked out, Scavenger’s Joy, what are  you waiting for?

Heart Harbor Saturday 12:00pm Camp Stage
Taking part of the Saturday tradition that is the WXPN Presents Helent Leicht showcase, is Heart Harbor joining Katie Barbato and Matt Duke. Fresh off of her Key Session debut this Tuesday and her debut EP Tender Trap (released this April, produced by Erin McKeown), Kerri Mallet and co. makes their large-stage Heart Harbor debut.

Heart Harbor - "Hating Nothing"

Honorable Mention:
Darlingside Friday 8:45 Martin Guitar Main Stage
I only give the fellas from Darlingside an honorable mention as by this point you should know this band.  I'm guessing this is likely Darlingside's last Philly appearance for the year.  After being XPN's album of the month in February, these XPN favorites have taken part in nearly every major event this year including Non-Comm and XPoNential Festival.