A lonely, isolated closet.  Cables and wires.  The pulse of a drum machine.  “I’ve wanted to make heavy, loud music for a long time…” says John King.  The artist, like many artists, adapting to a new way of doing things; forced by the shutdown to improvise alone.  His frame hung over an electric guitar, his long hair casting shadows on the strings.  DIIV on one shoulder.  Chastity on the other.  Kurt Vile is in there somewhere as well.  “I didn’t have a concept…” he continues.  “…just sort of a gut feeling”.  It’s been a long, strange musical journey for King, taking him from Canton, Ohio to Mexico to the backwater town of Killbuck to a solitary bedroom closet where his newest project was born.  “I just murmured weird sounds into the microphone for hours on loop”.  He made an EP of music, one layer at a time, rocking out against the impeding chaos of a pandemic.  “Dealing with the brink of desperation,” is how King puts it.  The murmurs, the improvisation, the songs slowly took shape, while never sacrificing their looseness.  They move about, like sounds bottled in a lava lamp, fluid, wild and beautiful, straight from the bedroom closet.  His own private Shame Chamber.     

You can stream and purchase the EP here.

Hello dear readers. I’m taking a few short paragraphs out of my regularly scheduled music reviews and write-ups to point you toward a few of my own music projects. I recently released two very different albums that you can listen to or purchase at the links below.

The first is a 70s-style rock and roll project we call “Killbuck”. The album was mostly recorded live onto a Goodwill-purchased tape recorder, at the end of a gravel back road, in a cabin in Killbuck, Ohio.   Matt Kurtz, John Finley, John King, Joe Farr and I collaborated over a love of dark sunglasses, Tom Petty and 3-chord rock songs. The result is our self-titled debut: 11 “heartland-soaked tunes full of Americana angst and Rust Belt blues”.

The second project is a new volume of hymns my friends and I recorded over the past year. Each of us took a different hymn to reinterpret and explore through our individual styles. All profits from the Harp Family Hymnbook: Vol. II will go to Mennonite Central Committee.

You can find Killbuck here , and the Harp Family Hymnbook Vol. II here.

Embleton

This is an older review of the Embleton’s It Did Me Well, originally posted on this site in March of 2015:

In the song, “Leaving for Good”, Kevin Embleton and his band sing of a wandering friend, caught up in a desire to leave town and find meaning in destinations afar. The road-trippy strings of a country pedal steel guide his journey into the unknown while Kevin himself laments over electric chords. The melodies bounce from gentle to melancholic to rocking, like any good alt-country song should. But the lyrics, so full of ambiguity and mystery, set it apart.

“Leaving for Good” is the first single off of the band’s upcoming full-length record, It Did Me Well, releasing March 10. The song perfectly represents what makes the music of Embleton so communal and so relevant: Kevin paints his songs with bold imagery but omits key details. The listener must draw upon their own experiences to fill in the gaps. Amid country waltzes and strummed melodies, everyone shares the same humanity, the same emotions, the same story.

You can listen to and purchase the album at itunes, amazon or bandcamp. For more information, visit Embletonmusic.com.

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It’s late at night and I’m driving home, following the ghost of an old river canal. The sky is close to empty, a few silent stars giving off a dull light for any wayward stargazers that look heavenward. I pass graffiti on concrete. A pine branch sitting in the road. Austin Wolfe is singing Moon Ballads on my stereo. “Could it be now, mama, all that we have loved we’ve loved in vain?” Most of the farmhouses that drift by have a single orange light glowing on the porch. A tiny bit of hope for any wayward prodigals. My eyes grow weary. I consider the trees and the brambles and the loneliness that lives on that road. The loneliness that lives on all roads. Austin contemplates: “I’ll sing to you this longing through the telephone. We’ll think of something warmer and we’ll imagine it until we feel it in our bones”. He sings in fiery metaphors. He mines the ether for truth. The songs…a ray of hope for those late night travelers.

You can preview and purchase the album at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/moon-ballads/id1100707613 or https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/austinwolfe12