The March Local Spins segment on ‘Stateside’ showcased new music from four attention-getting West Michigan acts at different ends of the musical spectrum: pop to country to soft indie-rock to funky blues.
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Call it West Michigan’s musical version of Mardi Gras.
The March edition of Local Spins on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside” aired on Fat Tuesday, so it was only apropos that Local Spins publisher John Sinkevics and “Stateside” host Cynthia Canty would showcase an eclectic, party-starting blend of new West Michigan music, from sousaphone-inspired funky blues from a band that just played New Orleans to lilting anthemic pop from a rising star on the scene.
Listen to the latest Local Spins segment of “Stateside” via the West Michigan Mixtape here and enjoy full versions of the featured songs below.
1. The Strapping Owls, “I Wish I Was a Bird” from “Live Wire Soul” – Since it is Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras is in full swing, how about starting off with a West Michigan band that just played New Orleans on tour behind its latest studio album? I’m talking about The Strapping Owls, led by Fennville’s Fred Bueltmann. Imagine a funky blues power trio featuring a tuba. That’s The Strapping Owls. Bueltmann had been playing bass but resurrected his sousaphone for this band project instead after he actually majored in the instrument in college. The idea took off (“We felt like had something kind of unique,” Bueltmann conceded) and now the band which also features Chicago musicians Nicholas Barron on guitar and vocals and Larry Beers on drums has been getting notoriety for this unusual approach and touring the country. The new album titled “Live Wire Soul” is a live affair recorded during performances at several different Michigan breweries and bars including Final Gravity Brewing, Haymarket Brewery and The Red Dock. Interestingly, Bueltmann also has a fascinating back story: The beer connoisseur was once VP of sales and marketing at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and a minority owner in Holland’s New Holland Brewing who also wrote a couple of books – “The Beervangelist” and “A Rising Tide: The History of Michigan Craft Beer.” They just completed a tour and have no upcoming performance dates, but you can get the latest schedule at strappingowls.com.
2. Deep Greens & Blues, “Roll On” from “Roll On” – As a country band with folk and alt-country leanings, Grand Rapids’ Deep Greens & Blues has grown a lot as a band over the past eight years – not only when it comes to their songwriting but in sheer size. They first performed as a duo featuring guitarist Travis Atkinson and singer Kelsey Gustafson. They soon became a trio with bassist Jason Upton, then added drummer Ben McNeil a couple years later. Now, with release of their third – and most ambitious studio album – they’ve morphed into a six-piece band with fiddler Susan Mora and lead guitarist Matt Young. And their recent album-release show in Grand Rapids was a sold-out jam-packed affair. What hasn’t changed: The group’s distinctive harmonies. According to Atkinson, “Roll On,” also represents the “most musically and emotionally complex” collection of songs yet. The band next performs on March 16 at Elevation in Grand Rapids with Domestic Problems.
3. Political Lizard, “Separate Minds” from “Joy the Dog” – For a new soft rock/folk pop act, Political Lizard – featuring singers and guitarists Jenna Olson and Caleb Waldvogel of Rockford – has gotten some pretty impressive endorsements as well as radio airplay. For one, Traverse City’s The Accidentals asked them to join them on tour last summer, an experience that the duo said really gave them a head start and kicked them to the next level. What resulted was their first studio album titled “Joy the Dog,” which is chock full of intoxicating and atmospheric songs that show off the young songwriters’ catchy melodies and lyrics. They’ve also expanded into a four-piece indie-rock band with multi-instrumentalist John Bomer and drummer Miles Ferguson, which they say, lets them “expand our options” and grow into new areas. The band recently hosted a jam-packed album-release show in Grand Rapids and play Rockford Brewing in Rockford on March 22 and Mustang Junction in Edmore on April 20.
4. Michigander, “Circles” (Single) – Michigander, aka singer-songwriter Jason Singer and his band, are familiar to Michigan Radio. The anthemic pop and indie-rock artist continues to make a splash and he just released a new single last week, so it’s appropriate to wrap things up with a little update on this talented young artist. A native of Midland, he recently moved back to Kalamazoo, and in early February, he also won three Jammie Awards from WYCE-FM in Grand Rapids for “best album by a new artist” for his 2018 release titled, appropriately, “Midland.” He’s headed later this month to the giant South by Southwest festival and music conference in Austin, Texas, and is one of 10 Michigan acts who will perform at an official showcase hosted by the Michigan House organization on March 11. His new single has all the familiar markings of Michigander – striking melodies and lush production. (He also plays March 30 at the Blind Pig with Joe Hertler and April 18 at The Loft in Lansing for the Capitol City Film Festival.)
LOCAL SPINS “STATESIDE” PLAYLIST: March 2019
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