The first Local Spins segment of 2019 showcases new music from “The Michigan Songbird,” a Grand Rapids psych-rock powerhouse and the solo debut by an in-demand sideman. Sample the artists’ songs.
The first Local Spins segment of 2019 on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside” was a look back and a look ahead in terms of West Michigan music.
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Two of the featured artists – Heaters and May Erlewine & The Motivations — released buzzed-about new projects at the end of 2018. Grand Rapids guitarist Justin Wierenga released his first solo album in early January to kick off the year.
Listen to the January Local Spins segment of “Stateside” with host Cynthia Canty welcoming publisher John Sinkevics for the West Michigan Mixtape here, and enjoy full versions of the featured songs below.
1. Heaters, “Lysander” – Psychedelic. Mesmerizing. Dreamy. And now, it’s music with some melodic, pop hooks. The Grand Rapids-based rock band Heaters has long been a regional fave – not to mention getting lots of love nationally and overseas for its psychedelic rock, something they describe as “heavy cream.” They’ve released eight albums and EPs since 2014 and this most recent project may not only have been their most difficult to record, but also their most compelling. One of the band members, Nolan Krebs, now lives 700 miles away in Montreal, Canada, so it was pulled together over a long distance in guitarist Ben Taber’s basement, with Krebs rolling in for a week to finish up the recording. The band also features drummer Joshua Korf and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hagan. In my view, the new album takes a step forward because the vocals are more upfront, with some haunting harmonies, and there’s an almost dream pop feel to some tracks with a driving rock undercurrent. The band currently is looking to book some Michigan shows and possibly even a European tour in 2019.
2. May Erlewine & The Motivations, “Tearin’ It Up” – This EP literally came out of nowhere in December. May Erlewine’s super-group The Motivations plays a more soulful, dance-oriented style of music than Erlewine’s usual folk and Americana. The Traverse City singer points out that she grew up in northern Michigan listening to soul singers and Motown music – from the “classic soul” of Irma Thomas and Sam Cooke to Michigan legends such as Diana Ross, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder – so she wanted to create a band that would uplift folks through her dance parties. And she staged those across the state in December with a band featuring Max Lockwood on bass, Michael Shimmin on drums, Phil Barry on guitar, Eric Kuhn on guitar, Mike Lynch on keys and Terrence Massey on trumpet. It was released in early December and the four song EP had an immediate impact, getting placed on a bunch of ‘best music of the year’ lists and also ending up as the most-played local or regional release on Grand Rapids community radio station WYCE for the month of December. The EP also snagged three nominations for Jammie Awards, being presented by radio station WYCE (88.1 FM) on Feb. 8. The bottom line: This is beautiful, magical stuff. Later this month, Erlewine gets a chance to wow audiences overseas, too. Billed on that tour as “The Michigan Songbird,” Erlewine will perform as part of a trio featuring Lockwood and Julian Allen, starting with sets at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland Jan. 18-19. They’ll follow that with shows in Birmingham, London, High Wycombe and Basingstoke before returning to the United States. And on March 1, Erlewine will headline a concert at Grand Haven’s Tri-Cities Historical Museum as part of the “Music at the Museum” series, with Olivia Millerschin also on that bill.
Listen: “Tearin’ It Up”
3. Justin Wierenga, “Smoked Trout” – Justin Wierenga is the ultimate sideman. This talented guitarist, who grew up in New Era and now calls Grand Rapids home, has for years been an in-demand musician for artists such as Hannah Rose & The GravesTones, Justin Avdek’s Underground Circus, Cosmic Knot and Muruga Booker, always providing amazing textures and guitar enhancements to a wide variety and styles of rock and blues and more. Now, he’s finally released his first solo album (“Walking Like He Knows Something”) which is chock full of instrumental gems that span rock, folk, bluegrass, funk, country and avant garde music. He’s joined by longtime musical comrades Justin Avdek on bass and Mario Copeland on drums, partly because these players have a special bond. This is one of those musicians who’s a vintage and custom gear lover because he’s always searching for the perfect sound for his projects and for those of other artists. He joins Eric Engblade and Avdek for a 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 9) show at the Kentwood branch of Kent District Library and is working to set up some shows with his trio later this winter.
Listen: “Smoked Trout”
Read reviews and listen to releases from other West Michigan artists.
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