The Grand Rapids group fronted by singer-songwriter Nicholas James Thomasma releases its sophomore album, ‘Tall Tall Tales,’ at Founders Brewing on Saturday. (Story, podcast, video)THE BAND: Nicholas James & The Bandwagon
THE MUSIC: A mix of country, folk and rock
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE BAND: 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids; 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Grand River Water Festival in Grand Rapids’ Riverside Park; 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for Tuesday Evening Music Club
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As Nicholas James Thomasma perceptively points out, Americana is a “really loose term” that can include everything from country to folk to rock – all styles embraced by Nicholas James & The Bandwagon.
So nothing perhaps describes the band’s music better than “hippy-tonk,” a term coined by Bandwagon pedal steel guitarist Pete Weatherhead.
With the Grand Rapids band ready to uncork its second studio album, “Tall Tall Tales,” it’s an apt description for an approach that’s been honed and solidified since release of the group’s first album, 2011’s “Saturday Night,” which was recorded “in the midst of some lineup changes” with two different drummers and two different bassists.
The new album produced by Greg Baxter features a band that’s performed together regularly for a few years.
“This record just seems a lot more focused. It’s a lot more like our sound,” Thomasma said. “Now that I know what the band really is and what it sounds like, it was easier to make a record that sounds like us.”
“Tall Tall Tales” – which officially gets released Saturday at Founders Brewing Co. where Thomasma also hosts Tuesday night open-mic sessions – also represents an upgrade in writing and arrangements, he said.
“We did a really good job with this record. The writing has improved and I think it’s very well done. I can’t wait to release it,” Thomasma said.
“The most satisfying thing about this album is knowing that as a band and as a songwriter, we’ve taken a step forward. The new album is much more cohesive than our first and I think the writing is better, too.” (Listen to the full interview with Thomasma here, with a video of his solo performance of “Bus Life” below.)
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with Nicholas James Thomasma
The Bandwagon features Weatherhead on pedal steel guitar and violin, Baxter on guitar, Joe Hirschmugl on bass and Steve Minor on drums.
Although violinist Clouds Elliott is no longer with the band, she’ll appear as a special guest on some songs at Saturday’s show, with saxophonist Rolly Smith sitting in on the final song of the evening. Smith will follow that with a set featuring his new psychedelic prog-rock band, Cosmic Knot.
Thomasma performs frequently as a solo act and released his “Long Story Short” solo EP in 2014. But he said he’s concentrating this summer on performing with the full band to help promote the new album, which is the group’s first release on the Earthwork Music record label.
In addition to Saturday’s Founders show, the group will perform Sunday at the Grand River Water Festival in Riverside Park, Aug. 16 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as part of the Tuesday Evening Music Club series, Aug. 20 at Hoxeyville in Wellston and Sept. 17 at Earthwork Harvest Gathering outside Lake City.
“I’m not really booking any solo gigs at the moment,” he said.
“I’ll take them when they come up, and as you can see, I have a few on the calendar, but I am actively promoting the Bandwagon this summer and trying not to play without them.”
VIDEO: Nicholas James Thomasma, “Bus Life” (Local Spins Live)
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