Dog Drive Mantis premieres vibrant “Volta” video here on OTBEOTB

Instrumental-based music is a fascinating case study that really exposes the true nuts and bolts of a song and how it functions from a dictionary A-to-Z.. And that all gets started with the group’s players. Because for every high-power vocalist and scene-chewing frontman holding down the spotlight, there’s guys (and girls) playing pivotal roles like drummer, bassist and guitar player out there excavating their own bits of melodic truth.

While Robert Plant will always be Robert Plant, it certainly didn’t hurt to have Jimmy Page and the rest of Zeppelin around making sure the whole rocking production didn’t go sliding off one big crashing, musical cliff. 

By letting the instruments handle the “singing”, I feel as though that grants a greater window into the true artistry gifted musicians present in their work. It’s a lot of time, attention, detail and PRACTICE to be good at the sound that you play and aspire to put out into the world. Then, once that happens, its the job of fans like myself to witness as much of it as possible and rave about it in writeups like this. As any good diehard does of course.

Luckily I have that privilege once again with the group I present you now: Dog Drive Mantis with the music video for their new single “Volta”, premiering right here on OTBEOTB.

While I must admit at initial introduction the band’s rather heavy-metal-sounding (and awesome) name and song title had me thinking of a slightly different sound, what I discovered left me impressed.

“Volta” begins as a dreamy, humming psychedelic lullaby as the band starts to settle into their groove. The track then proceeds to dip into moody, rising rock, Dave Clark 5 jazz-isms aided by some stellar saxophone lines, and a dipping, darting pace that keeps the track’s ultimate vision fun and excitingly upbeat. The boys in DDM seem to have a tight, well-honed chemistry together as well as they handle all the song’s rhythmic twists and turns with ease and spread a wealth of influences out on the table while doing it. 

And when it comes to the video, while there’s still something to be said in art for productions in music, sometimes the best thing is simply being able to witness the live performance, unadorned. Getting to see those slivers of a show’s intimacy and/or bravado as though you’re right there in the room with that vibe. It’s also a sign that the talent you’re hearing isn’t staged or endlessly studio enhanced to sell a digital single. It’s a real, spiritual thing wrought from hard work and the love to create art.

So if you haven’t already, check out the electricity of Dog Drive Mantis and how it sparkles here. You won’t regret watching them go to work.

Check out DDM all over social media as well as on https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/dogdrivemantis/volta where you can buy or stream the new single to your heart’s content!

The week ahead, in music…

As we sit upon the cusp of a week just starting to peek its wayward head above the horizon, my music-worshipping brain has decided to ship a few (newer) musical selections your way to help make the days more bearable. Those commuter treks don’t just soundtrack themselves after all.

But anyway.

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Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You

First #realtalk moment of 2018: I was clearly napping at the wheel to not have seen how amazing Brandi Carlile has become as an all-around musician. Not that she was any slouch when her album The Story made waves in 2007, but while some might call that period of time a popularity “peak”, Carlile’s had other plans in mind. BTWIFY captures her hitting all the right notes, with tracks like “The Joke”, “Party of One”, “Hold Out Your Hand” and “Sugartooth” leading a list of music that could rank #1 for the year when all the votes are cast.

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Leon Bridges, Good Thing

There seems to have been some initial objection to Leon Bridges shifting to a more shine ‘n’ buffed production veneer on his latest LP Good Thing, but chalk it up to typical fan resistance to change: Bridges works this direction well. Not every track lands, but the album is still a well-crafted relationship of modern hooky textures (“Bad Bad News”, “Shy”) with plenty of endearing throwback (“Beyond”, “Shy”, “Georgia to Texas”). I don’t recommend getting through a few listens of this album unless you plan on having a good portion of it stuck in your head by the end.

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Brent Cobb, Providence Canyon

Brent Cobb may have only just dropped 2nd LP Providence Canyon last week, but upon first listen he doesn’t seem to have missed a beat (or chapter) between now and debut record Shine On Rainy Day. Cobb has the same given knack for blue collar, salt of the earth storytelling as classic country artists like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, without wasting time on any of the tropes dragging down the modern version of the genre. Another fine installment of folk-rock finery here.

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Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, “Ohio (Single)”

Now, for the final entry in this quick list of weekly musical choices, I’ve selected Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness and his new single “Ohio”. I was first exposed to McMahon when his track “Cecilia and the Satellite” was a consistent figure for radio airplay, and I could see “Ohio” ultimately being on a similar trajectory. It doesn’t hurt that musician Butch Walker’s onboard as producer, which always gets my Spidey senses tingling after Walker’s work with the likes of Brian Fallon. Either way, a bit of piano, a lot of nostalgic heart, and a few hooks for the road propels “Ohio” to the good listening list this week.

Now, get out there, enjoy your week, and make sure to bring the music!

Ryan’s “Travelers” Shine In Debut Sneak Peek

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Music journalism is a business that has a tendency to be feast or famine. One day you might strike a big success that everybody loves, and the next you might find yourself on an empty oasis doing it just for the pleasure of creation.

Thankfully I’ve never lost that sense of enjoyment. Mostly because it’s always been a passion of mine, but also because of how this blog and these writings have connected with people. It used to happen periodically back in my Youtube days, but I’ll tell you this… Youtube is one of the most singlehandedly lonely experience for a creator trying to find an audience.

I’ve had videos get thousands and thousands of views, but not a single comment or interaction from another person. And I always hated that considering how much I always wanted to interact with people who had the same interests that caused me to make what I did in the first place.

But luckily that wasn’t always the case, thanks in part to people like Ryan Hahn. I first became acquainted with Hahn years ago because he was looking for someone to review the band he was playing drums in at the time called The Difference Engine. That eventually parlayed itself into an email interview with the band, which was big for me at the time considering it was only the second time I’d ever done such a collaboration.

That was a major benchmark moment as you might imagine, and thankfully I’ve been in touch with Hahn in the years since on a variety of projects (including another still to come on this blog). But my favorite in the early going has to be the first batch of songs he recently sent me under the new moniker “Andrew Ryan & The Travelers”.

It’s essentially a solo project despite the band name (Hahn recorded/sang most everything himself with help from ex-Difference Engine guitarist Nick Vanderveldt and vocalist Marie Marotti). And instead of working in the background as a multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter, this effort rebrands Hahn not only in name but as an assertive frontman as well.

This first trio of songs (“Out Of My Head”, “Town & Country”, “Disingenuous”) are confident in their direction and very well-nuanced in both instrumentation as well as songwriting. These are tracks that are just mellow enough to suit Hahn’s well-weathered vocals, yet still bleed their influences all the way from Americana to Alabama Shakes-style moody blues rock.

Listen here: http://www.soundcloud.com/andrewryan-thetravelers

“Out Of My Head” is a slow burning emotional thunder strike following the death of a close friend, “Town & Country” embodies a yearning hometown restlessness amidst sinewy slinking drum lines, while “Disingenuous” is a hook-happy piece of sprightly folk with a darker depth than it initially lets on. These are songs that are very certain in their direction, and show a stylistic range that’s indicative of Hahn’s great skill as both a producer and musician.
I’m always extremely proud of any person that isn’t afraid to make their voice heard. Just being unafraid to sing is impressive enough (no matter how good or bad you sound). But to exist in the background and gradually build yourself up to the point you’re ready to write and shape and create your own music and put yourself in the spotlight is worthy of great praise.

That takes a lot of surety in yourself as well as vision and confidence in what you’re trying to achieve. And I hope for Hahn’s sake he doesn’t let off the throttle in acting on those creative instincts.

He and The Travelers certainly have something special waiting in the offing here. It’s efforts like these that will never put a stop to the faith I have in the music world. Just because it’s not on the radio…. doesn’t mean there aren’t enough gems in the rough to make a diamond blush.

Here are three reasons to prove it.

Snider Emerges With Brilliant “Bulldog” Of A New Solo Album

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Todd Snider has always been a musician who simply seemed to let conventional labels slide off of him like oil to water. He is a folk singer yes, but he’s also been a rocker, a country crooner, a stoned out hippie jam band leader, and a storyteller not expecting to be around long so it’s time to party fast and party hard.

He’s a novelist, a comedian, a joker, a smoker, and a midnight toker. That last bit was just a Steve Miller Band lyric, but you see what I’m getting at here.

The point is, Snider has been around long enough to be able to call the shots his own way. Already this year (back in March) his jam band Hard Working Americans released the superb Rest In Chaos, an LP of nearly all original material. It saw the band evolving from a simple fun-loving cover group into a unit that not only SOUNDED tighter, but felt like it as well. It didn’t hurt that Snider brought along some of his best (and most openly vulnerable) songwriting too following a messy divorce and a lot of personal unrest swirling around in his own life.

Now: enter Eastside Bulldog. It’s classified as the first solo album for Snider in four years following 2012’s Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, although technically the honors go to Elmo Buzz for this one. Buzz is the alter ego Snider concocted years before to play shows in Nashville when contractual obligations would have otherwise prevented it, while Eastside Bulldog is a band name/now album title that came from the school mascot Snider made up to represent his home of East Nashville.

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If Rest In Chaos was top notch blues/acid rock cut with a fair dosage of levity and wit, Eastside Bulldog is it’s sloppy drunk cousin after finishing a joint and a stack of rockabilly records. It’s Snider at his screwball finest as he and his band of Bulldogs plow through lyrics made up on the spot, all while trying to play in the style of recordings like “Louie Louie” and “Wooly Bully”.

On paper, it’s the type of arrangement that seems almost destined to be a highly uneven mess (or just an all out trainwreck). But this is Todd Snider we’re talking about, and I highly doubt there’s an artist more qualified to not only come up with such a scenario after being given free studio time, but to make it into something worth listening to.

And Bulldog more than delivers on that. With it’s blasts of saxophone, funky Jerry Lee Lewis pianos and party-like reckless abandon, the album is flat out one of the most entertaining pieces of music in 2016. Not because of it’s precision or a lengthy lyrical monologue on the human condition, but just because it’s a damn fun time wrapped into a turbo-sped 25 minutes of stoned out Buddy Holly-esque good time rock n roll.

Bulldog makes you feel like you’re right in the room with a group of people who are just clearly enjoying the hell out of playing music. And honestly, amidst all the Pitchfork reviews and critical album darlings that emerge in this era of music, it’s important to not to forget what makes it all so fun (and not so serious) in the first place.

So sit back, relax and crack open a cold one. It’s time to get down with “The Funky Tomato”, and Eastside Bulldog.

Grade: A

Standout Tracks: “Ways And Means”, “Enough Is Enough”, “37206”, “Come On Up”

Festival Fun: Previewing The Catskill Chill….

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By the time the leaves begin to change and fall makes it’s first wave onto our seasonal shores, most thoughts of music festivals have disappeared along with the vague memories of another summer gone too soon. Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, most of the major players tend to lock the doors and hide from the neighbors to plot next year’s lineup before the microphones even get cold. Thankfully for those of us who still need a music fix no matter what the calendar may say, there are the arrival of fall festivals with well-stocked lineups to help keep those potential deprivation blues at bay.

Take the 5th annual Catskill Chill for instance, which takes place in Hancock NY this week from September 5th to the 7th. The Chill is held at the beautiful Camp Minglewood, which is not only a fitting play on words for festival life but is also an intimate lakeside spot where one can easily behold the breathtaking Catskill Mountains. Having a capacity of less than 5,000, Minglewood reflects this rustically laid-back atmosphere at the fest through activities not related to live music such as camping, drum circles, evening bonfires, open mic stages and even yoga to settle the mood properly.

And once inner peace has (hopefully) been achieved, festival attendees will be able to move beneath covered outdoor stages and experience music across a three day span from the likes of bluegrass champions Yonder Mountain String Band, jammy prog-rockers Papadosio, and singer-songwriting pianist Marco Benevento. Catskill Chill Music Festival covers a winding road of genres that lead from experimental folk all the way to blissed-out electronica, and the event certainly promises to be jam-packed all throughout the weekend!

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