While working on their third album, Orb Weaver, the Parson Red Heads weren’t interested in taking their time. In fact, they were dead set against it. Having released a painstakingly handcrafted LP in 2011’s Yearling, the band had established a mode of meticulousness. On Orb
Like the famed British Invaders of a generation earlier, songwriter/musician Nick Lowe has mined the various strains of American popular music, purposefully ignoring the lines demarking separate genres. Among the most prevalent influences on his style has been country music.
Lowe Country presents 13 artists--most of them up-and-coming and/or left-of-center--interpreting songs from Lowe’s 4½-decade career. They range in age from 23 to 48 and reside in such disparate locales as Glasgow, Toronto, Austin, Portland, Raleigh and Music City. They are the leading lights of a new generation of artists who use classic country music as a springboard for their unique musical explorations.
As a group, they have taken to heart Lowe’s equal opportunity source mining. And in these new, never before released tunes, they vividly display Lowe’s trademarks: catchy melodies; clever word play and wit; a sense of fun and musical adventure; and the appropriate delivery of a lyric, whether it be outlandish or heartbreaking.
Lowe Country artists: Caitlin Rose, The Parson Red Heads, Robert Ellis, Amanda Shires, JEFF the Brotherhood, Hayes Carll, Erin Enderlin, The Unsinkable Boxer, Colin Gilmore, Chatham County Line, Lori McKenna, Griffin House, Ron Sexsmith.
Weaver, the focus on recreating the improvisational bombast of their live show was stage center, resulting in flashes of sun-stroked auditory maelstroms and expansive blotter-pop Americana previously missing from the band’s recordings.
Over a nine-year career that’s seen the band form in Oregon, then move to Los Angeles for nearly six years—where they were influential in a burgeoning music Silver Lake scene still seduced by the specters of Love and Buffalo Springfield—the now Portland-based Parsons have established a well-deserved reputation as an uninhibited live group.
As vocalist/guitarist Evan Way explains, Orb Weaver was all about bottling that energy into one explosively off-the-cuff record.
“We’ve always made records that were more thought-out,” says Way. “When we play live, we play more like a rock band. We wanted to show that more aggressive side of us, the more rock-oriented side.”
Producer Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) was all-too-happy to steer the ship when it came to capturing the album’s spontaneity.
“The band had a vision for the record before we started,” says McCaughey. “A few songs took some exciting and possibly unplanned turns, but it all fit into the whole that we'd imagined.”
“[Scott] was great about being very vocal and honest, saying, ‘Don’t ditch that, it has character and that makes it way cooler,’” adds Way.
The song “Lost Again” was originally a demo Way had discarded for contention to make the album. McCaughey, struck by the tune, suggested a different angle and encouraged the group to record it right away with a new and still very foreign arrangement. With Brette Marie Way—Evan’s wife and The Parsons’ vocalist/ drummer—providing typically dynamic harmonies, the result speaks volumes of the immediacy of Orb Weaver. It’s a gorgeously sprawling composition, replete with reverbed guitar squalls and a saccharine-sweet melody that’s belied only by its sly psych fringes.
“Borrow Your Car,” a breakneck power-pop scorcher penned and sung by guitarist Sam Fowles, ushers in the kind of fiery tune expected from The Parsons’ live show, Fowles and bassist Charlie Hester forming interlocking melodic runs that strike out toward Nick Lowe terrain. Interestingly, McCaughey and The Parsons’ only other collaboration before Orb Weaver was recording Lowe’s “Don’t Lose your Grip on Love” for Lowe Country, a compilation of country-tinged Lowe covers released on Fiesta Red Records.
“Times” begins with all the minimalist groove of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” opening up only after Way croons, “I try to turn my back on you/but I forget to tell my heart,” then moves into their oft-cited harmonic telepathy with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Despite the modest homage to their influences, the Parson Red Heads are a band forging their own musical identity with each new album.
“More and more of the personality of the band itself has come together because we’re comfortable,” explains Way. “Everybody is settling into their roles; it’s a natural result of playing a ton together.”
For someone who came of age
in late 20th century America,
glorious songs provided a constant
soundtrack to a life that raced by
at 45 revolutions per minute. Or
so it seemed. As tune after tune
poured forth, sonic revelations
took place at a blinding pace.
That sensation became the
springboard for Original Sins for Copycats, the second album by Globe Factory No. 23, the solo project of Rob Seidenberg, a veteran producer and record executive in Austin, Texas.
Released August 26, 2014 on Fiesta Red Records, the album begins in “The Summer of ’72,” referencing the early sounds that shaped Seidenberg’s sensibility, and concludes with a real-life story of music tragically silenced: the horrific assassination of a popular Mexican band (“Lament for Kombo Kolombia [The Day la Música Died]”). In all, the album’s 13 songs form a narrative birthed at a time of relative innocence and extinguished in an exceedingly more complex, bedeviled age.
The music roves far and wide, incorporating the guitar pop of Big Star and Badfinger, the rock of T. Rex and the Rolling Stones and the grooves of Bill Withers and Joe Tex (all of whom are referenced in “The Summer of ‘72”).
Original Sins for Copycats covers just as much ground lyrically. There’s a wistful paean to a good tune’s staying power (“The Music Lives On”); a loping carpe diem anthem (“Grab It Now”); a Memphis-style R&B workout about break-up challenges (“The Right Way to Do Wrong”); along with tales of mysterious female espionage (“The Girl with the Crooked Nose”), political mendacity (“Everything That I’ve Heard”), comatic reveries (“Sleepwalking”) and the art of mooching (“Catch Ya Later”).
In the late 1800s, Globe Factory No. 23 in New York City was the leading producer of clear Havana cigars for the Seidenberg Cigar Co. Almost a century and a half later, Globe Factory No. 23 reemerged as the solo recording project of Rob Seidenberg, scion of the original cigar family.
The debut GF23 album, The Rut Not Taken, released in April, 2013, began as an outlet for some of the ideas Seidenberg developed while working with other artists as a producer, writer and record company exec. Before moving to Austin, the Buffalo born and bred Seidenberg spent many years in New York and Los Angeles, where he worked as president of Mammoth Records and a senior A&R man at Hollywood Records and Rykodisc. As an exec and/or producer, he has worked with, among others, Fastball, Cody Chesnutt’s band The Crosswalk, Colin Gilmore, Los Lobos, Amanda Shires and John Wesley Harding. In 2013, he founded the Fiesta Red Records label, which has released music by, among others, the Parson Red Heads, Full Service and Blank Slate and Lowe Country, an album of Nick Lowe compositions performed by the likes of Robert Ellis, Hayes Carll, Caitlin Rose and Ron Sexsmith.
Notorious for operating largely and intentionally outside of the music business establishment, Full Service opts to build national fan-base via direct interaction. Though they tour the country extensively, it’s just as possible to catch the Austin-based band in a performing in a fan’s own living room (on what the band calls the “20 Tour”). The first artist signed to Fiesta Red, Full Service is also the subject of a new full-length documentary film called Takeover (More Film Details Here). Influenced by the Chili Peppers, the Beach Boys, Meat Puppets, Faith No More, Flaming Lips and many others, the Full Service sound and performance is one of unpredictable fun, with a surprisingly deep and thoughtful underbelly.
Melodic (with touches of classic metal) and potent (yet capable of emotional subtleties), Blank Slate revels in the many flavors of modern guitar rock.
The band was formed in Austin, Texas in 2011 by singer/guitarist/songwriter Steve Glazer, bassist Rene De La Mora and drummer Matt Slack. In November, 2012 and April, 2013, the band released two 5-song debut EPs.
BLUE (November, 2013)
Track listing: "Zen?," "Russian Roulette," "Beaten Up," "Ups & Downs," "I’m Fine (Bugger Off)."
RED (April, 2013)
Track listing: "Anemic Souls," "Sameness-ness," "Fracture," "Better Than Nothin'," "Sneaking Suspicion."
Credits for both EPs:
Produced by Steve Glazer & Rob Seidenberg
Recorded by Rob Seidenberg at Waller Sound, Austin, TX
Mixed by Chico Jones at Ohm Recording, Austin, TX
Mastered by Andy Gallas