The August Local Spins segment on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside” showcased the sophomore album from a jam band, the debut from a veteran blues outfit and some lively bluegrass. Listen to the podcast.
New releases by West Michigan artists continue to flood the scene this summer, with Local Spins publisher John Sinkevics introducing Cythia Canty, host of Michigan Radio’s “Stateside,” to a diverse blend of music for the August Local Spins segment on the program.
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This month featured the sophomore album by Grand Rapids jam band Desmond Jones, the debut from the long-running West Michigan blues group James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers and the latest EP starring the Grand Haven-based Full Cord bluegrass.
Listen to the radio show segment here, then read more about the bands and bend an ear to full versions of songs from each of the featured artists.
LISTEN: Local Spins on Michigan Radio’s ‘Stateside’ (August 2019)
1. Desmond Jones, “Still Creatures” (from “Hello, Helou”) – It’s the perfect time to revisit popular Grand Rapids jam band Desmond Jones now that they’ve just released their sophomore album, “Hello, Helou,” which certainly represents a step forward for this talented bunch of instrumentalists who continue to push not only the boundaries of their musicianship but the genres that they unleash in the studio and on stage.Today’s featured track may be kind of jazzy and kind of funky, but the group also touches on prog-rock here and is testing out material in the direction of Americana, folk and country music. In fact, they’re already working on a third studio album that will focus on that end of the musical spectrum. The band of five multi-instrumentalists – Chris Bota, John Nowak, Isaac Berkowitz, George Falk and John Loria – has played about 200 shows across the country over the past year (including their first-ever shows at Electric Forest), so they’ve become very comfortable with each other and their ability to improvise and jam and feed off of each other musically. Vocally, the new album represents a step up, The band will play three straight nights (Thursday-Saturday) at this week’s Cowpie Music Festival south of Grand Rapids, and has a full slate of Michigan shows over the next month to support the new album, including the Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series in Lowell on Aug. 15, Otus Supply in Ferndale on Aug. 23 and Union Street Station in Traverse City on Aug. 30. They also have a special vinyl-release show on Aug. 24 at Elevation inside The Intersection in Grand Rapids, along with The Hacky Turtles and Earth Radio.
LISTEN: “Still Creatures”
2. James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers, “Kickin’ You Out” (from “Live Now, Pay Later”) – The lakeshore and the Grand Rapids area have long been a hotbed for the blues owing to the location midway between Chicago and Detroit. James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers have been pumping up audiences across this region for many years, so it’s good to see that they’ve finally released their debut studio album. Propelled by the harmonica playing and singing of frontman James Reeser, who’s a native of Chicago, the band blends several different styles of electric blues, swing and rockabilly, with vocals that will elicit comparisons to Los Lobos. The band also features Robby Jewett, the producer of the album and a veteran bass player formerly based in Austin who’s performed with the likes of Buddy Miles, Dale Watson and Long John Hunter, drummer Dan Mish and up-and-coming guitarist Marcus Giddings. The album was released on Dekkm Records. The band just wrapped up a series of album-release shows, but they’re also performing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 7) outside the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker for WLAV-FM’s Summertime Blues series, opening for British blues guitarist Davy Knowles, and then Sept. 8 in Dorr for the Salem Township Park Concert Series.
LISTEN: “Kickin’ You Out”
3. Full Cord, “Boneyard Vamp” (from “Choreomania”) – One of the things I’ve found intensely intriguing over the past decade or so is the resurgence of bluegrass music, which appeals to young audiences who appreciate the live jamming and communal nature of the genre to old-timey music fans who may have grown up on the music of artists such as Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. West Michigan has no shortage of wildly talented bluegrass players, including the guys in Full Cord. The group was formed a dozen years ago and the current lineup features guitarist Eric Langejans, upright bassist Todd Kirchner, mandolinist Brian Oberlin and fiddler Grant Flick (with banjo player Luke Gitchel also performing with the band at times). The band’s new studio album, “Choreomania,” features everything that makes this group a joy to listen to and watch, including lightning-quick instrumentals, engaging vocals and a style that swings between old-school and newgrass. As Kirchner puts it: “Every member of this band was born into bluegrass and has a very deep understanding of the etiquette and musical skill behind a traditional jam and how to get lost in a vamp that shows off our skill.” This band even brings influences from jazz, Italian and classical sounds into their performances. Full Cord plays Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo at 8:30 p.m. Friday, opening for iconic Michigan band Grasshoppah (which features Oberlin) and then Aug. 16 at the Hoxeyville Music Festival in the Manistee National Forest outside Wellston, Michigan, which will serve as the official album-release show. They also play the Mitten Bar in Ludington on Aug. 23.
LISTEN/WATCH: “Gainesville Rain” live on Local Spins on WYCE
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