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Popdose Interview Tag

If you were looking for me the last few months and couldn’t find me, it’s very possible that I was off somewhere, curled up inside “Pick Me Up,” the title track of the new Truth & Salvage Co. album (Megaforce Records). Behind its “Like a Rolling Stone” organ figure, expertly placed melody modulation, and positivity-exuding lyric, “Pick Me Up” is a breath of fresh country air at a time when so much seems stale and stagnant. In a day and age in which hearing “You are not alone” usually provokes a bit of trepidation and a nervous backward look or two, Truth & Salvage wrap the listener in a much-needed cover of Southern sunshine.

I drank the Kool Aid for this band three years ago (it tasted like sweet tea and kicked like a triple Cuervo), after seeing them live and digging the fine songs on their debut (my album of the year in 2010, for those keeping track). I thought then and think now that what Truth & Salvage Co. is, is a classic American country-rock band, one we should celebrate and support, lest they fade away for lack of care and feeding. Pick Me Up has plenty to recommend it, from the turbo-fueled opening of “Silver Lining” to the soul balladry of “Back in Your Love,” to the country strum of first single “Appalachian Hilltop.” There are four songwriters in the band (guitarists Tim Jones and Scott Kinnebrew, keyboardist Walker Young, and drummer Bill “Smitty” Smith), each of whom bring to the proceedings something unique, and uniquely good. If you dig ye olde No Depression-style Americana—with plenty of harmony singing, expert picking, and a perfectly placed organ flourish or three— you will find plenty to enjoy here.

Bill Mallonee is one of America’s greatest living songwriters, and I’m hardly the only one who thinks so. Paste Magazine said as much with a poll in which writers and musicians chose their favorites. Mallonee has released over 50 albums and endeared himself and his music to a fiercely loyal group of fans around the country and the world. Nearly all of those albums are available in their entirety for your listening pleasure at his Bandcamp site. If you like what you hear you can also purchase the albums there. It’s an investment well worth making because Mallonee is one of those artists who is richly deserving of your support. He’s been through it all; the major labels and the indies; big star cameos from people like Emmylou Harris; band recordings with his legendary Vigilantes of Love band and solo efforts. The one constant over a career of more than 20 years has been the extraordinary quality of his work.

These days when Mallonee isn’t recording he’s crisscrossing the country on tour with his wife and musical partner Muriah Rose, winning new fans and delighting his existing fans at every turn. He has just released a new album, Beatitude, and it has already leaped onto my list of the best albums of the year. As you will see from his responses, Mallonee is generous of thought and spirit, and deeply committed to his craft.

Fallen Riviera 2

Will Parry and Steve Ornest from Fallen Riviera are two guys who met as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they forged a friendship borne out of a deep love of classic rock music — well, one half of the duo had a deep love, the other was sort of lured into it. More on that later.

Will Parry is originally from England, and Steve Ornest comes from the Golden State, but despite their disparate geographical origins, they became musical brothers in arms and formed Fallen Riviera. They relocated to Los Angeles after leaving Berklee where they quickly grew their following by consistently playing the club circuit.

The band’s blend of pop with alt rock flourishes caught the ear of producer Ken Scott after the group was recording at Total Access Studios — owned by Wyn Davis. Scott agreed to produce their latest single,“Those Times Are Gone,” and the result is a wonderful mix of carefree pop with lyrics that are more forlorn at times. Wyn Davis produced the rest of the album, Another World, which dropped on March 5th, and Fallen Riviera will be heading out on the road to promote the record later this spring.

Fallen Riviera 3

Popdose writer, Ted Asregadoo, had a chance to talk to Parry and Ornest about their music, working with Ken Scott and Wyn Davis, their partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and there was even time for some lightning round questions.

Lisa Loeb

With the renewed popularity of female-fronted alternative rock, New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert saw a window of opportunity to bring ‘90s alt-rocker Lisa Loeb, a noted influence for many of those same artists, back around to file a new chapter in her own discography of work.

Gilbert, a longtime fan of Loeb’s music, knew exactly the kind of album that fellow fans would want to hear from Lisa and he also knew that fans had been waiting for quite a while. Loeb had been wrapped up in a variety of projects which had carried her away from making the “adult” music that brought her name recognition, starting in 1994 with “Stay,” the  #1 Grammy-nominated hit which served as her musical moment of introduction to the outside world.

Having developed a healthy career of his own outside of New Found Glory as a producer, Gilbert had the right resume and experience to tackle the job and he was bold in his approach. He emailed Loeb to say “I know you do these kids books, but when are you going to let me produce a full-on modern indie pop/rock record for you? You haven’t done one in a while.”

Loeb’s new album No Fairy Tale (in stores as of January 29th via 429 Records) is the result of those conversations and fans will be pleased with their combined efforts, which bring together a healthy batch of Loeb originals with additional collaborations, including recordings of two songs penned by Gilbert’s former New Found Glory tour mates Tegan and Sara.

Gilbert and Loeb also wrote two tracks together for the album, including ‘Walls,’ a track which is classic Lisa, both musically and lyrically, with words that hang and hook in a way that has long been a signature of Loeb’s music.

Co-producing the sessions together, Loeb and Gilbert proved with the new album that they’re quite a winning pair. We were happy to get the chance to discuss the science of how it all came together during a recent interview with Lisa.

This new album finds you working with Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. We live in an interesting time where it seems like now more than ever, if you’re a musician, you have an even greater opportunity to work with your influences and people that you’re a fan of. Did working on this new album with Chad feel like a different experience in comparison to some of your past albums and the way that you were used to doing an album?

Yeah, it’s funny, Chad kind of reminds me of what I’ve heard about Prince. He really has everything thought out. He’s really a great producer. He knows exactly what he wants to hear and he has great ideas for guitar lines, vocal parts, drum sounds – you name it – he’s really a producer. It’s funny, it’s almost like being a guitar player in his band is his first career. I think his second career or continuing career, as it is, will continue to include a lot of producing. He has a really good ear for it.

I’ve  worked with a lot of people who have a good ear for producing, but we did definitely record in more of what seems to be like the punk/pop/rock style – we spent less days in the studio and we did everything quicker. I think that worked partially because I have more experience being in the studio and I was able to get vocals more quickly and guitar parts more quickly and I understand [things] a little bit better now than I did when I started out, you know, when we can get something better and when something is the way it really needs to be.

So I think between the two of us and my experience and also, I’ve produced a lot of records too — it was different — it was quicker, it was faster, I was able to take more vocal direction from him than I have in the past. We were really able to stay focused and get the record done more quickly than any record I’ve made before.

Was there a song which really helped to put down the stamp directionally as far as the style and feel of the record and where it went?

You know, it wasn’t one song as much as it was literally the entire album and all of the songs. We sat down and talked about what kind of record he wanted to make with me and I agreed that that would be a different direction for me and something that I hadn’t done quite like that before. From the minute we started writing songs together for the record [we had a plan and] we also checked out some of my old songs that I hadn’t put on records yet, that I had been working on over the last couple of years and then a couple that he brought with Tegan Quin from Tegan and Sara.

We just wanted to pick songs that fit and that would be able to be produced in this vein. There were a couple of extras that we tried that weren’t working for the record, so it was really an over-arching goal of [achieving] a certain sound and how everything would sound within that sound and usually there was variety within that sound.

If you want to feel inspired, spend a few minutes talking with Debbie Gibson. Certainly, you’re probably aware of the chart success that Gibson enjoyed in the ‘80s, beginning with her first single “Only in My Dreams” in 1987, the first of five Top 40 singles that she would notch from her debut album Out Of The Blue.

The first three singles from Out Of The Blue charted Top 5 and with her fourth single “Foolish Beat,” Gibson would become the youngest artist (at age 17) to ever write, produce and perform a Billboard #1 single, an accomplishment that remains unbeaten more than two decades later.

Gibson faced challenges while working for the chance to record and release that first album and single, but she fought hard and the story of how Gibson stuck with the songs that she believed in — those very same songs that would be massive chart hits only a few years later, is a good one.

Part of me fears for Hayley Reardon. The 16-year-old singer/songwriter’s voice has the same timbre as Kasey Chambers, or a young Maria McKee, and in that voice I hear the echoes of records I’ve loved for longer than she’s been alive. She employs that voice in the service of self-penned songs whose concerns ping back and forth between empowerment and vulnerability, joy and confusion. They are at once universal and unique to her experience as a young woman—open to interpretation, to the layering on of the listener’s experiences and impressions, as good songs often are.

But they are also the work of a teenager, and that is why part of me fears for her. On her fine debut album, Where the Artists Go (Kingswood), she displays an emotional openness typical of a teen’s diaristic tendencies, but with the musical vocabulary of adult pop, throwing open her candid musings to anyone within earshot. Indeed, the marketing of the album seems to aim it directly at grown-ups, even as Reardon engages her peers in anti-bullying efforts (through her “Find Your Voice” program) and plays coffeehouses (and, recently, a middle school in Alaska).

Los Lobos - photo credit: Drew Reynolds
As music fans, bands find their way into our song-obsessed hearts in a variety of ways and some of the best experiences come about very unexpectedly.

I think we all have those early albums that we remember hearing that were different. They were different, because top to bottom, the listening experience provided a sonic knockout because of the quality of the songs and in some cases, where the band took those songs.

Kiko by Los Lobos hit the mark on both of those points. Spanning 16 tracks, it was a remarkably filler-free listen that found the band reaching new creative peaks throughout. Los Lobos were extremely inspired during the recording sessions for Kiko and that comes through in the vibe of the songs which made it to our ears in album form.

And yet, it wasn’t an easy time for the band. They began the sessions for what would become Kiko surrounded by feelings of frustration. The creation of their previous album The Neighborhood had been somewhat of a soul sucking experience on many levels and the touring process to promote the album would leave the group bleeding money at its conclusion.

As saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin tells us, they entered the process of recording their next album “pissed off” about a number of things, but they had a new approach in mind. They were going to do things their way and that artistic leap of faith certainly paid off. Berlin says they knew when they completed recording sessions for Kiko that they had captured “something that was pretty special.”

20 years after its original 1992 release, Kiko is getting a well-deserved ticker tape parade in the form of two new releases from Shout! Factory. The original Kiko album has been expanded with five additional bonus tracks, including previously unreleased studio demos and live tracks.

Additionally, Kiko Live presents a full album performance from 2006 which reveals how perfectly the Kiko album was sequenced. It flows very naturally in the live setting. Available on CD, DVD and CD/Blu-ray, the video component of this package is an essential pickup. Documentary footage surrounds the live performance of the album and tells the complete story of how Kiko came together, featuring interviews conducted with the members of Los Lobos specifically for this project.

We were happy to get the chance to talk with Steve Berlin to talk about the rich history behind Kiko, the nearly 40 year history of Los Lobos and the band’s upcoming tour with Neil Young.

At age 73, Ronny Cox has emerged as a renaissance man. You can still see the co-star of Beverly Hills Cop and RoboCop (and a few movies not about cops, like Bound for Glory) in guest shots on TV shows including Dexter, but these days he spends most of his time on the road. Cox, a singer/songwriter of self-described “folk, western, jazzy-bluesy and just plain cornball stuff,” has released several albums since 1993, and you can give a listen to his latest, Ronny, Rad and Karen, on his website. 

A touring schedule that takes him to Ireland, Oklahoma, Michigan, Kansas, Nebraska, and his native New Mexico this summer sees him in California on July 5, where he’ll be celebrating the 75th birthday of his friend Ned Beatty. (“He gets there before me every time!!!” he jokes on his site.) Cox and Beatty made their film debuts in John Boorman’s masterful adaptation of James Dickey’s Deliverance (1972), a movie that continues to haunt viewers forty years later. In commemoration of one of its most popular titles, Warner Home Video has reissued Deliverance in a Blu-ray book edition that retains a Boorman commentary track and a documentary from prior releases and adds a new retrospective piece featuring Cox, Beatty, Jon Voight, and Burt Reynolds.

The new Blu-ray also sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, the better to enjoy the thrilling “Dueling Banjos.” Cox has never stopped hearing that famed composition, and tells all about the making of the film in a lively new book, Dueling Banjos: The Deliverance of Drew. Prepared to hear from the stern authority figure