Blog | Music/Arts: Long Island Sound & Beyond
Welcome Spring with Primrose Green
Ryley Walker plays Baby’s All Right March 15
I’ve seen men crawl on their knees
Just looking for a taste of your skin
Like a summer dress
—from “Summer Dress” by Ryley Walker
“Lost my mind with a headful of primrose green,” sings guitar virtuoso Ryley Walker on the title track to his latest record set for release on March 31st. The 25-year-old grew up steeped in Chicago’s noise-rock scene. He also played acoustic guitar and got into British folk music, which influenced his current sound. Often compared to influences such as Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Tim Buckley, Walker has a post-rock, freewheeling jazz-folk sound. Check him out on Sunday, March 15 when the Chicagoan hits Baby’s All Right with his band of post-rock and jazz titans.
Long Island Pulse: How do you describe your sound aside from folk?
Ryley Walker: Spontaneous.
P: Along with the British folkies, I can hear some Doors-like psychedelia on Primrose Green. Who are your biggest influences?
RW: [British folk and The Doors] are most certainly big influences. I’m a big sponge of music, pretty much all types of music go through my head.
P: What’s the meaning behind Primrose Green?
RW: It’s a mixture of morning glory seeds and whiskey. A fine blend for an ignorant mind.
P: Do you improvise the lyrics as well as the music? The words seem to be free flowing without much detail. Could that change on your next record?
RW: It’s part of what I do. Just kind of a free flowing thing. The band gets in on it too. It keeps everything fresh for us.
P: Why do you get acrylic nails for fingerpicking?
RW: It’s a personal preference. Some people use picks, I use acrylics…
P: Who would you most like to tour with, and why? How did you end up being picked for Wilco’s Solid Sound fest?
RW: I would love to tour with Cass McCombs. Wilco curated the Solid Sound festival. I don’t really know them personally, kind of mutually and just a few times in passing have said, ‘Hello.’ They got the record somehow!
P: What can we expect to hear at Baby’s All Right on Sunday, March 15th?
RW: I’ll be accompanied by drummer Frank Rosaly, bassist Anton Hatwich, pianist Ben Boye and guitarist Brian Sulpizio. And we’ll be playing long versions of the tunes on the new record.
Hot Jazzy Swing!
Bumper Jacksons perform March 14 at the Eclectic Cafe
Well, have you seen Miss Molly?
Her cheeks are rosy red
Her lips are soft like satin
And they taste like gingerbread
—“Miss Molly” by Bumper Jacksons
A six-piece hot jazz/western swing band from the DC area, Bumper Jacksons are ready for their New York debut. Known for their multi-generational audiences and party-like performances (they made Bob Boilen of NPR’s list of top shows) the band—Jess Eliot Myhre on vocals/clarinet/washboard, Chris Ousley on vocals/banjo/guitar, Alex Lacquement on upright bass/harrmony vocals, Dan Cohan on drums/Suitcase percussion, Brian Priebe on trombone/harmony vocals and Dave Hadley on pedal steel/dobro—is reminiscent of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Influences include Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Louis Armstrong, Ray Price, bluegrass and old-time string band music. Co-founders Myhre and Ousley met at a party for bicycle activists in 2012, and after just two years as a duo, they formed a 6-piece with a love of early jazz, swing, blues and old-time country.
Bumper Jacksons’ latest album, Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In, dropped last March and the group intends to release a new record in the summer. Read on to find out why you may see a can of coconut milk onstage during their New York debut Saturday, March 14 at the Eclectic Cafe (located at the Unitarian Universalist Society of South Suffolk).
Long Island Pulse: How did you get the name Bumper Jacksons?
Jess Eliot Myhre: We named ourselves in Louisiana before the band even formed. Chris and I were traveling and stayed for about a week with the Jackson family outside of Lafayette. Their black lab, Bumper, would howl along with my clarinet. The horn was like a pack call and we would play together. When you have dogs or wolves howl like that together it’s what biologists would call ‘chorusing.’ We thought it was hilarious and wonderful, so we decided that when we started a band, we would name it after the Jacksons’ family dog, Bumper.
P: What made you transition from hip-hop and funk to street jazz and country swing?
JEM: In college, I played in an original funk band and a Motown cover band while studying early hip-hop music. I hadn’t discovered how awesome older forms of American folk music were until after college when I moved to New Orleans, not for music, but to participate in the school garden movement that was really thriving there around 2010. Once there, I fell in love with the bands in the small clubs and on the street playing traditional jazz. I took out my old plastic clarinet that I learned to play in middle school and re-learned my scales. I started hanging out in the clubs on Frenchman Street in the Marigny, like the Spotted Cat, hoping that the band would let me sit in. I wasn’t very good, but many folks were very kind and welcoming and I learned to play and sing traditional jazz.
P: Who are your biggest influences?
JEM: One of the biggest strengths of this band is that we each draw musical inspiration and influence from such a wide array of music. My vocal influences are the early American jazz and blues singers like Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald. We all listen to early country musicians as well—Ray Price, George Jones, Patsy Cline—as well as bluegrass and old time string band music. In terms of our sound, our influences tend to be quite early on. And lyric-wise, I’m inspired more by modern writers like Tom Waits or Townes van Zandt.
P: Who would you most like to tour with?
JEM: Everyone has different answers! Lake Street Dive, Madeleine Peyroux, Dr. John and Tom Waits came up. We would want to tour with a group that were high-energy and fun-loving with the potential for collaboration and jamming while we were on the road—even if that never manifested on stage.
P: Does Dan still use empty cans of coconut milk in his “suitcase?”
JEM: We use a lot of ‘found percussion’ objects in our lineup. Dan’s contraption involves empty cans, a spoon taped to a stick and an Amelia Earhart suitcase. My washboard is decorated with frog-shaped woodblocks, bells and old tin cups. I build washboards and will have several for sale at the show as well. Here’s a site to see some of those boards: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Amphibitone
P: What can we expect to hear on Saturday, 3/14 at the Eclectic Cafe?
JEM: We will be playing an array of original and traditional tunes from both Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In and Big Horn Mama. We also just finished recording an album to be released this summer and will be playing songs from that.
For more info: https://www.facebook.com/Bumper.Jacksons
Jukebox the Ghost Haunts Irving Plaza
Join the piano power pop trio Saturday, Feb 28
You want me pounding on the church door
Singing from the streetlight
It’s the kind of love that doesn’t exist anymore
You want Hollywood and this is real life
—“Hollywood” by Jukebox the Ghost
Image: Eric Ryan Anderson
Brooklyn-based power pop trio Jukebox the Ghost got its namesake from a Captain Beefheart song and a passage in a Nabokov novel. Since 2008, the band—Ben Thornewill on piano/synths/vocals,Tommy Siegel on guitars/vocals and Jesse Kristin on drums—has played over 800 live shows with acts like Ben Folds, Adam Green and the Barenaked Ladies. The Washington, DC natives recently appeared on CONAN to perform the song “Postcard” from their latest self-titled disc. Jukebox the Ghost will be headlining NYC’s Irving Plaza on Saturday night with openers Little Daylight and Secret Someones. Find out why Thornewill would like to tour with a high school marching band below…
Pulse: How do you describe your sound?
BT: Piano power pop or, if someone asks at a party I say, “We’re pretty okay at music.” I think we’re progressing as a band, always trying to make something different while still maintaining our identity.
P: Is the use of synths and samples the biggest addition on your latest cd, Jukebox the Ghost?
BT: That’s the biggest definable change but our process was very different this time around. We took more time with the songs and spent months and months on the record. Ultimately, we wanted to arrange each song and each part to be it’s best without worrying about things like if there was enough piano or tambourine.
P: How did you get the name Jukebox the Ghost?
BT: It’s been the three of us from the beginning and we came up with the name in college from a quote in a Nabokov novel and a lyric from a Captain Beefheart song…
P: What was it like performing your song “Postcard” on CONAN in January?
BT: It was a real dream come true. It’s surreal too because there’s all this build up and anticipation and then at the end of the day you play the song once in front of the cameras and a few hours later you’re watching yourself on national television.
P: Who would you most like to tour with, and why?
BT: I would most like to do a small club tour with a high school marching band. I think it would be such a colossal disaster that the stories would make up for the headache of trying to accommodate the needs of multiple 17-year-old tuba players.
P: What’s your favorite song to perform live right now?
BT: We love playing a song off the new record called ‘Hollywood.’ It’s definitely the highest energy song in our set and our drummer comes out to the front of the stage and sings for the first time.
P: What can we expect to hear at Irving Plaza on Saturday, February 28th?
BT: We’ll do a healthy smattering of songs from each record—new songs, old songs, happy songs and sad songs. And we may or may not be doing a Queen cover as well as a big group collaboration with the other bands on tour at the end of the set.
For more info: http://jukeboxtheghost.com
Make your own Soundtrack to Valentine’s Day
Some songs to set the mood
There ain’t no space and time
To keep our love alive
We have existence and it’s all we share
There ain’t no real truth
There ain’t no real lies
Keep on pushin’ ‘cause I know it’s there
—“Space and Time ” by The Verve
Image: E. Jason Wambsgans
“Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)”—She & Him
She & Him’s stellar cover of this Johnny Mercer-penned standard works for those in a new relationship: “Fools rush in where wise men never go/ But wise men never fall in love, so how are they to know?”
“Space and Time”—The Verve
From The Verve’s nearly perfect album Urban Hymns, this song begins with the opening quotation and takes off from there.
“I Couldn’t Love You More”—Sade
Let Sade’s sultry voice and soothing beats take you to the islands in the dead of winter…
One could choose an obvious Cure song (e.g., “Lovesong,” “Just One Kiss,” “Just Like Heaven”) but Robert Smith’s quirky side comes through in this song about an enigmatic crush who “fell down a lot” in the snow… how apropos.
“Perfume”—Jesus and Mary Chain with Hope Sandoval
“Me-oooooooow,” repeats the feline-esque Sandoval throughout this noise pop gem from the Scottish alt-rockers.
“My Cherie Amour” (Italian Version)—Stevie Wonder
We all know the English version of Wonder’s wistful “My Cherie Amour,” but the Italian one is piu romantico.
No date tonight? Treat yourself to some decadent caramel with Vega: “It won’t due to dream of caramel, to think of cinnamon, and long for you.”
Bonus Tracks for the lovelorn:
“So Like Candy”—Elvis Costello (co-written with Sir Paul McCartney)
From Mighty Like A Rose, the right amount of anger ensues as Costello recounts heartbreak from a girl named Candy: “Here lie the records that she scratched/ And on the sleeve I find a note attached/ And it’s so like Candy…”
“Over You”—Roxy Music
On this synthpop tune from Flesh + Blood, Bryan Ferry, the King of Cool, strikes the right melancholy chord: “Oh baby this is nowhere/
Wish I was somewhere - over you” Enough said.
Jessica Pratt is All That
Freak-folk-psych artist releases On Your Own Love Again
People’s faces blend together like a watercolor you can’t remember in time
—“Game That I Play” by Jessica Pratt
California singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt enchants listeners with her fresh, yet retro, sound and inventive vocals. Growing up in a small town, Pratt listened to a lot of California artists—Mothers of Invention, Love, Crosby, Jefferson Airplane and The Beach Boys, in addition to Can, Eno, Bowie and King Crimson.
The guitarist’s eponymous 2012 debut, composed of many songs she wrote at just 19, garnered praise from publications like The Boston Globe, Pitchfork and PopMatters. Living in San Francisco at the time, Pratt was reticent about making a record but Tim Presley from psych rock band White Fence was so into her timeless songs he created a label to release them. Most of her intimate, acoustic debut was recorded at a friends studio, while Pratt’s acclaimed follow-up, On Your Own Love Again, was recorded (digital and analog) in her Los Angeles apartment. Although it still has that intimate appeal, Pratt’s latest effort includes some electric guitar and keys behind that stand-out voice.
While most of Pratt’s songs are enigmatic enough to take you somewhere else, “Back, Baby,” the lovely first single off of her Drag City release, has her reflecting on an undefined relationship that left her praying “for the rain.”
So what made the creative songstress want to become a musician?
“There may not have been one major turning point,” recalls Pratt, “but listening to stuff like Donovan or T. Rex, their brand of whimsy and magic, was very in line with the way I thought about things and I sort of saw myself writing songs like that. Also listening to heavy hitters like Joni, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, their agile maneuverings of words and turns of phrase are so satisfying it inspires you to want to deliver in the same way.”
Look for Pratt to tour the Northeast soon.
Listen to the 60’s folk-infused “Back, Baby” here: https://soundcloud.com/drag-city/jessica-pratt-back-baby
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