Craig Brown Band: Detroit Country Rock City

Detroit is rightfully considered one of America’s great music cities, counting Motown, MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and The White Stripes among its notable exports. Now go ahead and add Craig Brown Band to Motor City’s roster. Their effortless and ragged mix of classic rock’n’roll, honky-skronk and garage rock follows a proud lineage, and Brown and his band have naturally found a home at Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Craig Brown is no newcomer to the scene, having played in various Motor City punk bands through the years, most notably the trashy electro-punk outfit Terrible Twos. But with Craig Brown Band he’s adding some country/folk twang into the blue-collar rock mix, described by the Detroit Metro-Times as “straightforward without being boring; as composed as it is relaxed; a touch of folk and heartland rock, just enough to remind us a little bit of Tom Petty here and a dash of Nashville Skyline-Dylan there…”– and we have to add for the record that Craig Brown Band also shares a similar raucous barroom feel to, say, The Replacements or Danny & Dusty.

Recorded by Warren Defever (Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Iggy & the Stooges) and loaded with classic songwriting and wry and humorous observations on fishing, baseball and drinking, their new album The Lucky Ones Forget is a one helluva debut. We had the opportunity to chat with Craig Brown about his new album.

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Who is Craig Brown Band – can you please introduce yourself?

My band consists of Jeff Perry on drums. He is one of my oldest friends. We’ve been playing together since 6th grade. Eric Allen on rhythm guitars. He is a great front man and I’ve played guitar in his band throughout the years. He’s a great friend and player to have around. Andrew Hecker is on the bass. He’s the youngest member by a handful of years. Bass is in his blood. His dad is an incredible player as well. Andrew has all the talent in the world and is just as much a total knuckle head… I’ll leave that at that.

Lastly, I have been graced with The Drinkard Sisters. Bonnie and Caitlin Drinkard singing on backup harmonies. Being sisters they’ve been singing together their whole lives and it really shows in their almost effortless work ethic. They’re just great!

I’m Craig and I play all of the bendy guitars and just about everything else you hear on the record: all the acoustics, some harmonica, some organ, some percussion, bells, etc.

Congratulations with a great album. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thank you! Well… about that… You get an album that is basically mixed of some songs I’ve had for over 5 years, and some really new ones. It’s hard for me to label it myself in any sort of category. Some people say country. Some say just rock ‘n’ roll. I’m fine with either.

The record is a lot about relationships, insecurities, and basic wonder about past and future endeavors.

Can you share the story behind the album cover?

[Laughing] Sure, I guess. The album cover was just a shoot with my friend Zak and me in the middle of this field at this old school in Detroit. It was actually a shot for the gatefold in the inside. Which it still is. He wanted to try me hiding under it. So we kept that as the inside and that was supposed to be that.

We had a completely different idea originally for the cover. One day I was showing the fotos to my friend Dan Clark and he had the idea for the cover being just a zoomed in version of the inside. I liked it, Third Man loved it. And there you go.

What inspired you the most when you started writing the songs that ended up on The Lucky Ones Forget?

Girls.

What can you share about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?

We recorded with Warren Defever. He’s just fantastic! He’s brilliant and he has been doing it for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing and he’s also open to suggestions, which is usually a very hard combination to come by these days. We recorded it all as the four guys live. Then I came in and did all the extra little things and lead vocals. Then the Drinkard sisters came in and sang their parts with brief run-throughs before every one of their takes with me on a baby grand piano and us just singing. I wish there was some recordings of that actually.

The final sessions was just Warren and me mixing the record together. The record was mastered for vinyl down in Nashville. We recorded the album at Warren’s studio here in Detroit.

Did you have a clear idea or vision on how the album should be from the get-go, or did it develop along the way?

Yes I did. I did because I recorded over half of the record by myself in a little 4-track studio at my house throughout the years playing all the instruments. I never really dreamed I would land a band as good as mine and these were just songs I’d make and record sort of as a hobby. Basically, I knew what I wanted because I already did what I wanted. Just not with a totally pro sound.

What kind of feelings or sentiment do you wish leaving for the listener after hearing it?

Man… Hopefully a whirlwind of emotions. Or maybe just makes you hungry. I dunno…

Please describe a preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the album?

Driving, or loud as fuck in the other room while taking a shower I guess.

What’s the best debut album ever made and why?

Well, three really come to mind and I feel I can list all of them because they are all from different worlds:

Ready to Die by Biggie
It’s just my favorite rap album. It makes me feel cooler than I am when I listen to it. It really set the bar so much higher for rap and it all stopped being cute at that point forward. He was just so damn smart lyrically. He’s truly inspired me in being funny and dead serious at the same time.

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. by Dwight Yoakam
This album is just perfect sounding and written. Every aspect seems nothing of a debut. This guy and his band really had their shit together from the very start. Pete Anderson (fellow Detroiter) who produced and played lead guitar for Dwight’s band for years has really inspired me in playing country guitar. It’s just so fun to do once you “get it.”

Kill ‘em All by Metallica
It is just incredible from start to finish. It was such a life-changer for me growing up. So powerful! Also, I just can’t believe it’s the same band now. Wow!

Bjørn Hammershaug

Reklamer

Whitney Rose of Texas

It’s a long way from Prince Edward Islands, Canada to Austin, Texas. But honky-tonkin’ chanteuse Whitney Rose has not only packed her boots and moved south, she’s managed to soak up huge slumps of her new home state’s rich musical culture and heritage.

Rose’s new EP, South Texas Suite, is a romantic and nostalgic love letter to the Lone Star State, penned by someone of profound Texan insight.

Following her acclaimed 2015 album Heartbreaker of the Year, produced by Raul Malo (The Mavericks), Whitney Rose headed to Texas on what was supposed to be a two-month residency at Austin’s The Continental Club. Smitten by the town’s friendly atmosphere and vibrant music community, she had no intentions of leaving. Since then, she’s toured with Sam Outlaw, made her European live debut and signed with Thirty Tigers-distributed Six Shooter Records.

Rose recorded South Texas Suite over two days at Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Studios, accompanied by ace players such as Redd Volkaert, Merle Haggard’s former guitarist; Earl Poole Ball, who spent two decades tickling keyboards for Johnny Cash; Kevin Smith, now playing bass in Willie Nelson’s Family Band; and Tom Lewis, who’s drummed with the Mavericks. Even though it’s only 6 songs and 25 minutes short, it covers two-steppers, Tex-Mex, Western swing and barroom waltzes.

We took the opportunity to chat with Whitney Rose while on tour through Scandinavia.

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Who is Whitney Rose – can you please introduce yourself?

I’m a gal from Prince Edward Island and now I Iive in Texas. I write and sing songs and get up to no good most of the time. My first crushes were Dwight Yoakam and David Bowie.

Congratulations with a new EP. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thank you! You get a mini collection of tunes that I either wrote or love relating to my new home state of Texas.

Can you tell the story behind the wonderfully drawn album cover?

I got sick of seeing my own face on album art and elsewhere so I wanted to do something different. I guess it’s still my face… kind of.

What inspired you the most when you started writing the songs that ended up on South Texas Suite?

The simplicity and pride of Texas. And two-stepping.

What can you share about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?

Recording this EP is something that will stay with me until the day I die. The musicians who were recruited are all world class and brought so much experience collectively to the studio. I learned a lot in those two days and had to pinch myself a few times to remind myself that yes, that is indeed Johnny Cash’s piano player (Earl Poole Ball) playing my songs. We recorded at my pal Dale Watson’s place so everything was very relaxed, too. Just a great experience overall.

What kind of feelings or sentiment do you wish leaving for the listener?

It’s a record advocating simplicity and autonomy. So I guess I want people to feel at peace and to be their damn selves!

Please describe a preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the album?

Anywhere as long as there’s something to drink and something to smoke! And if you can, listen to it on vinyl – that’s how it sounds best.

You’re stranded on an island for an indefinite period of time, only allowed to bring one book, one album and one other person. Who and what would you bring?

I’d bring “How To Not Go Crazy Stranded On An Island For An Indefinite Period Of Time” (assuming it’s been written) for a book, Pieces of the Sky by Emmylou Harris for a record and Mammy Darlin’ (my grandmother) for a companion.

What’s coming next for Whitney Rose?

I get back to Texas in June then I go on the road again. Then I get back to Texas again, release a record in the fall and then go on the road again! Wanna come?

Whitney Rose, Gamla Mai 2017 (Bjørn Hammershaug)

Bjørn Hammershaug

The Weeks: Easy Like Southern Morning

The Weeks make energetic, back-to-basics southern rock. Comprised of identical twin brothers Cyle and Cain Barnes, Sam Williams and Damien Bone, the band grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and formed back in 2006 while attending high school. They quickly gained notice as bearers of the southern torch, making a seamless mix of contemporary southern swagger and modern indie, touring with the likes of Kings of Leon, North Mississippi Allstars and Meat Puppets while amassing a huge fan base.

Following their relocation to Nashville in 2010, The Weeks released their breakthrough album, Dear Bo Jackson (2013) – a fully realized LP recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Paul Moak that blended classic flavors of R&B, boogie, soul & funk and country with greasy guitar rock.

Recorded over the course of two weeks at Memphis’ legendary Ardent Studios with producer Paul Ebersold, their slick and streamlined follow-up, Easy, is out now

We hooked up with the band for a chat about the new album.

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Congratulations on another great album. What do we get on Easy and what’s it about?

With Easy, we tried to make our most cohesive record to date. We spent a lot of time pow-wowing over what we do best and how to improve on it to be as efficient as possible with our songwriting. It ended up being about exactly that.

We were watching a lot of bands break up because they couldn’t look around the room and be honest. We were trying to proactively attack the usual problems that start to knock bands down after 10 years together. We definitely made our best record to date.

Did you have a clear idea or vision on how Easy should be from the get-go, or did it develop along the way?

It took a few turns here and there for sure. We spent a summer literally having slumber parties and writing all different types of music. Escaping the reservations of creating a 10-song album always helps the process stay organic. We wrote about 30 songs so it wasn’t until the final track listing that the picture came together.

We knew from early on though that we wanted a straightforward, glammy record with minimal instrumentation and chord changes, unlike our last record Dear Bo Jackson.

Nashville seems the place to be these days. Why did you relocate there, and has this move affected your music in any way?

When we moved here in 2010, the ‘It-factor’ had not quite taken place. We were looking to get out of Mississippi before we got complacent and comfortable at home. L.A. was too far, we were too young to survive in N.Y.C. and Chicago is too cold…but Nashville had sweet tea.

The only way it’s affected our music is by the amount of inspiration we’ve gotten from our friends. This town has so many musicians doing incredible things it’s easy to take it for granted, but when you make an honest attempt to look for it, it’s everywhere.

What can you share about the process around the recordings and studio time this time around? And, how cool is Ardent Studios?

The producer we were working with cut his teeth under all the legendary producers at Ardent (Dickinson, Frye, Hammond) and we all agreed it was best to get out of Nashville to escape the everyday stresses that can make recording feel like a job. We lost a little funding right before we left and had to decide if we wanted to call an audible and stay out, but we knew it had to be Ardent.

Having Jody Stephens from Big Star checking in, Luther Dickinson dropping off old reel to reels from his dads studio, staring at Tommy Stinson’s vomit stains on the wall, you can’t escape the rock and roll juju that permeates those halls.

What kind of feelings or sentiment do you hope leaving for the listener after he or she has worked through Easy?

I want people to immediately want to turn the record over and go again. There’s hidden details in the subtleties. Memphis is good at that.

Please describe the scene of the perfect listening session for the album.

In a 1991 Dodge Cummins Diesel, one friend on the bench seat driving Highway 61 between Rolling Fork and Clarksdale, MS. Shirts not allowed of course.

What meal or beverage would you pair with your album?

Willet Family Estate Bourbon neat with Pastrami Panini from Finos in Memphis.

What’s the most perfect album ever made and why?

The Band: The Band. It just is. It’s science.

How do you view the status of the album format in 2017?

I think it’s as relevant as ever. Obviously there are circles of the industry where it’s non existent, but I think the hip hop albums of the last few years and the uptick in vinyl sales have really been the impetus for the albums continued relevance.

What are your next moves for this year?

Mostly just touring the U.S., U.K. and E.U. Hoping to get to Australia and Asia too. We’ve still got a big pile of songs from the Easy sessions that we’ll probably release in some form or fashion.

Bjørn Hammershaug