Monday, October 28, 2013

Sights and Sounds: Big Head Todd & The Monsters, John Hiatt, The Milk Carton Kids

Still playing catch up in the wake of so many noteworthy items landing in my inbox earlier today. Roots music lovers really have something to celebrate with news concerning Big Head Todd & The Monsters, John Hiatt, and The Milk Carton Kids.



Los Angeles, CA – 25 years after releasing their first album, Big Head Todd & The Monsters are stronger and more committed to their craft than ever. Their new album, Black Beehive, due out February 4 from Shout! Factory, arrives a quarter-century after the group’s debut album, Another Mayberry, first put Big Head Todd & Monsters on the American music map. Today, the original trio—Todd Mohr on guitar and vocals, Brian Nevin on drums and vocals and Rob Squires on bass and vocals—along with keyboardist/pedal steel guitarist Jeremy Lawton, who joined in 2004, are still on an evolutionary path, open to new possibilities even as they further explore their roots.

Black Beehive was recorded at Butcher Boy Studios in Chicago, Mohr’s hometown of the past seven years, and produced and mixed by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Steve Jordan, whose previous production credits include John Mayer, Keith Richards, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and Robert Cray. Mohr and Jordan first met while planning an 80th birthday party for the great blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who died in 2011. Jordan was the musical director.  Mohr says, “When Hubert passed away it ended up being a tribute concert at the Apollo Theater: Eric Clapton and Billy Gibbons and Keith Richards—there were probably 35 incredible musicians at this thing. I was immediately awestruck by Steve’s command of the material and his understanding of it and his ability to get it done on short notice with all these people. I thought this guy would be an unbelievable producer for me to work with.”

As he began writing material for the album, Mohr drew from both from his own life experiences and from events in the news. The title track, “Black Beehive,” which refers to the late British soul singer Amy Winehouse, was written following her untimely death. “I love her voice and her performances, and obviously her shenanigans were part of her persona,” says Mohr. Several other songs were also ripped from the headlines, including “We Won’t Go Back,” which Mohr penned about the 2010 Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, and “Fear, Greed and Ignorance,” whose topical lyrics declare that it’s those three dishonorable traits that are “driving you America off the edge of the road.”

Not every track is quite so pointed, however. “Hubert’s Dream,” is for the aforementioned Sumlin, while “Hey Delila,” which opens the album, is Mohr’s tribute to another blues giant, Memphis Minnie. “I happened to acquire a great example of her instrument, which was a 1941 Spanish National resonator guitar. Plus, she has an incredible life story,” he says. “Everything About You” is dedicated to America’s space program, a nod to NASA which, in 2011, called upon BHTM (as their fans call them) to awaken the Discovery space shuttle crew with their song “Blue Sky,” the first time live music was ever used for that purpose. Among the album’s other tunes, “Josephina,” and “Seven State Lines” are what Mohr describes simply as “blues-based themes,” while “I Get Smooth” is “a comedy piece.” The cautionary tale “Travelin’ Light” is the story of lovers who “threw away our hearts and fled” and the moving “Forgive Me Bonnie” is based on a true story of a “gentleman who got a love letter delivered to him 53 years later by the Postal Service.”

Guests on the album include Eddie Shaw, who played with Howlin’ Wolf for many years, on harmonica and saxophone, Ronnie Baker Brooks on guitar, and Steve Jordan, who played on almost every track.

For BHTM, Black Beehive serves as both a reaffirmation of the band’s roots and a step into the next 25 years. Founded as a trio in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Big Head Todd & the Monsters quickly built a reputation via their intense, soulful live performances, a signature mix of funky rock and blues, soul, country, folk and jazz, Caribbean and African rhythms and more. They started out on the club circuit and ultimately graduated to larger venues, including Colorado’s Red Rocks, which they’ve now played more than 20 times.

When Big Head Todd & the Monsters launch their extensive national tour behind Black Beehive in January—which will continue through May and hit most major markets—they will be honing the album’s ageless blues along the way, and simultaneously affirming their own longevity. It’s the rare musical aggregation that can not only survive for more than 25 years but still look forward to creating music together night after night. “The other guys have shown great support of my songwriting and what I’m able to do, and all of the band members bring a lot to the plate, both musically and as a unit,” says Mohr. “No one ever expects a band to last this long. We’re very, very lucky.”

Shout! Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform entertainment company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their entire careers sharing their music, television and film favorites with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory’s DVD and Blu-Ray™ offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials in lavish packages crammed with extras.  Shout’s audio division boasts GRAMMY®-nominated box sets, new releases from storied artists, lovingly assembled album reissues and indispensable “best of” compilations.  In addition, Shout! Factory maintains a vast digital distribution network which delivers video and audio content to all the leading digital service providers in North America.  Shout! Factory also owns and operates Timeless Media Group, Biograph Records, Majordomo Records, HighTone Records and Video Time Machine. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention.  Shout! Factory is based in Santa Monica, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit               

Black Beehive Track Listing:
01. Hey Delila
02. Everything About You
03. Seven State Lines
04. Josephina
05. Black Beehive
06. We Won't Go Back
07. Fear, Greed and Ignorance
08. Hubert's Dream
09. I Get Smooth
10. Travelin' Light
11. Forever Bonnie

Black Beehive Tour Dates:
Thu Jan 16      Brooklyn, NY               An Evening With BHTM @ Brooklyn Bowl
Fri Jan 17        Philadelphia, PA         An Evening With BHTM @ Union Transfer
Sat Jan 18       Washington, DC         An Evening With BHTM @ 9:30 Club
Tue Jan 21      Charlottesville, VA     An Evening With BHTM @ Jefferson Theater
Thu Jan 23      Knoxville, TN              An Evening With BHTM @ Bijou Theatre
Fri Jan 24        Asheville, NC              An Evening With BHTM @ The Orange Peel
Sat Jan 25       Atlanta, GA                 An Evening With BHTM @ Buckhead Theatre
Sun Jan 26      Nashville, TN              An Evening With BHTM @ 3rd and Lindsley
Fri Jan 31        Raleigh, NC                 An Evening With BHTM @ Lincoln Theatre
Sat Feb 01       Charlotte, NC             An Evening With BHTM @ The Fillmore
Tue Feb 04      Macon, GA                  An Evening With BHTM @ Cox Capitol Theatre
Thu Feb 06      St. Petersburg, FL       State Theatre w/ Martin Sexton
Fri Feb 07        Lake Buena Vista, FL House of Blues w/ Martin Sexton
Sat Feb 08       Ft. Lauderdale, FL       An Evening With BHTM @ Revolution
Thu Feb 20      Northampton, MA     An Evening With BHTM @ Calvin Theatre  
Fri Feb 21        Port Chester, NY         The Capitol Theatre w/ Anders Osborne
Sat Feb 22       Boston, MA                An Evening With BHTM @ House of Blues
Tue Feb 25      Pittsburgh, PA                        An Evening With BHTM @ Mr. Small's Theatre
Thu Feb 27      Cincinnati, OH            An Evening With BHTM @ 20th Century Theatre
Fri Feb 28        Cleveland, OH                        An Evening With BHTM @ House of Blues
Sat Mar 01      Royal Oak, MI                         An Evening With BHTM @ Royal Oak Music Theatre
Thu Mar 06     Milwaukee, WI           An Evening With BHTM @ Turner Hall
Fri Mar 07       Chicago, IL                  An Evening With BHTM @ House of Blues
Sat Mar 08      St. Louis, MO              An Evening With BHTM @ The Pageant
Sun Mar 09     Council Bluffs, IA        An Evening With BHTM @ Whiskey Road House
Fri Mar 28       Seattle, WA                An Evening With BHTM @ Showbox
Sat Mar 29      Portland, OR               An Evening With BHTM @ Crystal Ballroom
Tue Apr 01      San Juan Capistrano, CA  An Evening With BHTM @ Coach House
Thu Apr 03      Solana Beach, CA       An Evening With BHTM @ Belly Up Tavern
Fri Apr 04        Solana Beach, CA       An Evening With BHTM @ Belly Up Tavern
Sat Apr 05       San Francisco, CA       An Evening With BHTM @ The Fillmore



LOS ANGELES, CA, October 28, 2013 - John Hiatt, who has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "one of rock's most astute singer-songwriters of the last 40 years," will release a Best Of compilation entitled Here To Stay - Best of 2000-2012 onNovember 11 on New West Records. The 17-track collection is comprised of key singles and live show favorites such as "Crossing Muddy Waters," "Master Of Disaster," "What Love Can Do," "We're Alright Now" and the previously unreleased title track, "Here To Stay," featuring Smokin' Joe Bonamassa on guitar. Hiatt, who has been on tour since June in support of the critically acclaimed album, Mystic Pinball, reunited with longtime friend Lyle Lovett last week for the aptly titled tour "An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt." The run, which began October 22 in Vermont, will take the pair across the East Coast, Midwest and Southwest before wrapping up on the West Coast.
The dawning of the new millennium coincided with a new chapter in the career of Hiatt, one of America's most respected and influential singer-songwriters. After a quarter century of releasing records on five different major labels, the Indiana-bred musician kicked off a now-13-year run as an independent artist, recording eight albums (an initial pair of albums with Vanguard before moving to New West, his label home for more than a decade). This collection captures two songs from each of those eight albums, ranging from the pastoral "Crossing Muddy Waters" from the self-produced Grammy nominated album of the same name to the flat-out basher "Everybody Went Low" recorded with his then backing band The Goners.

Hiatt's venerable and prolific New West years are duly represented here with tracks from each of his six releases, Beneath This Gruff Exterior, Master of Disaster, Same Old Man, The Open Road, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns and last year'sMystic Pinball. Among the many highlights are "Master of Disaster," produced by iconic Southern producer Jim Dickinson and featuring his sons Luther and CodyDickinson's band the North Mississippi All Stars, the lilting, redemptive "What Love Can Do" with daughter Lilly Hiatt providing beautiful harmonies and the front porch twang of "Blues Can't Even Find Me," from Mystic Pinball, produced byKevin Shirley (Journey, Aerosmith, Black Crowes).   
Here to Stay concludes with the title song, a smoldering roadhouse blues number featuring slide guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, originally recorded for Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Why Hiatt chose to leave it off that record is unknown but it turned out to be a prescient move. The song and performance serve as a thematically and musically perfect coda to this captivating collection - a batch of songs and recordings as artful, affecting and poignant as any in the nearly four-decade career of this distinguished American roots musician.

Hiatt has long been a favorite songwriter amongst musicians and many of his songs have been covered or recorded by artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt ("Thing Called Love"), Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Milsap, Iggy Pop, the Neville Brothers, Rosanne Cash (the #1 country hit, "The Way We Make A Broken Heart"), the Jeff Healey Band ("Angel Eyes"), Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt, and even the cartoon bear band of Disney's 2002 film, "The Country Bears." He earned a Grammy nomination for his album Crossing Muddy Waters, and shared a Grammy with B.B. King and Eric Clapton for their albumRiding With The King, the title track from which was a Hiatt composition. Hiatt was honored with his own star on Nashville's Walk of Fame and his legacy was even further cemented with the Americana Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting and his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Duo Make Third Appearance On A Prairie Home Companion
Lineup For Los Angeles Revue Announced, On tour now

On Nov. 10, 2013, fresh on the heels of their 3rd appearance on A Prairie Home CompanionThe Milk Carton Kids have been invited to tape an episode of the renowned television show Austin City Limits.
Flat-picking harmony duo The Milk Carton Kids have emerged in the last three years as a powerful voice defining the continuing folk tradition. A refreshing alternative to the foot-stomping grandeur of the so-called "folk revival", an understated virtuosity defines The Milk Carton Kids to the delight of traditionalists and newcomers to the folk movement alike. Indeed, Garrison Keillor has called them "absolute geniuses in close-harmony", while cultural purveyors like T Bone Burnett and Billy Bragg continue to refer the importance of The Milk Carton Kids among a group of new folk bands expanding and contradicting the rich tradition that comes before them. 
The Los Angeles Times lauds their latest Anti- Records release The Ash & Clay as displaying "absolute mastery of their craft" while Paste Magazine emphasizes the "intellectual sophistication of their songs…making The Milk Carton Kids an option for purists unsatisfied with some of the pop tendencies seeping in to the genre." Beyond their inventive guitar lines and intricately interwoven vocals, the road-addicted duo is celebrated for the wry and biting humor that has become a beloved mainstay of their shows, with Fretboard Journal declaring, "The Milk Carton Kids are funny. Seriously funny. And what is only hinted at on their albums and within some of the lyrics is on full display during their live performances." 
On Nov. 12, 2013, the duo will host the second iteration of "The Milk Carton Kids Revue" at Largo in Los Angeles. The collaborative show emphasizes the band's versatility as they play a supporting role to a curated lineup of acclaimed Los Angeles artists. Featured guests this time include Griffin & Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Gaby Moreno, The SongBirds, Leslie Stevens, and Willie Watson, with additional very special unannounced guests. (Past guests have included Ed Helms, Joe Henry, Over the Rhine, Jill Sobule, Joe Purdy, John C. Reilly and Billy Bragg.)
"gorgeous contemporary folk" - NPR
"A sweetly dazzling variation on close-harmony vocals, part Simon and Garfunkel and part Everly Brothers, with occasional acoustic prestidigitation." - New York Times
“Both heartbroken and healed." - Filter
"The Milk Carton Kids transport with heartbreaking understatement. Extraordinary musical facility, both vocal and on vintage guitars, meets humor, smarts and style on an otherwise ordinary stage." - Huffington Post
“The duo makes four sounds - two voices, two acoustic guitars - sounds as big as a prairie. It's modern roots music sung in close harmony with exquisite guitar work, but unselfconscious about any old-timey signifiers." - Los Angeles Times
"Although their songs range from back-porch country to every variety of folk, from flat-out bluegrass to Tin Pan Alley romanticism, there is nothing "old-timey" about The Milk Carton Kids' music. Quite the contrary; their music feels timeless" - Fretboard Journal
"Bittersweet and beautiful" - San Francisco Chronicle
10/28 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
10/29 - Columbus, OH - Lincoln Theater
10/30 - Knoxville, TN - The Bowery
11/1 - Asheville, NC - The Altamont Theater
11/2 - Middletown, OH - DFA at Miami U.
11/3 - Birmingham, AL - Workplay
11/4 - New Orleans, LA - The Parish at HOB
11/5 - Houston, TX - Mucky Duck
11/6 - Dallas, TX - The Kessler Theater (Opening for Sarah Jarosz)
11/7 - Austin, TX - The Paramount Theater (Opening for Sarah Jarosz)
11/8 - New Braunfels, TX - Gruene Hall (Opening for Sarah Jarosz)
11/9 - Elgin, IL - Arts Center at Elgin CC
11/12 - Los Angeles, CA - Largo - The Milk Carton Kids Revue
11/14 - Berkeley, CA - Freight & Salvage
11/15 - Berkeley, CA - Freight & Salvage
11/16 - Los Angeles, CA - Largo

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