Archive for the ‘Garret K. Woodward’ Category

Americana Outlaws | Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Americana Outlaws – Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

Ray LaMontagne makes me feel like a teenage girl.

Screams of joy escape my lungs when I find out he’s nearby. All my friends grow weary over my constant babbling about him. If there were a life-size poster available, I’d probably buy one.

His music is just that good, just that ideal sense of wonder and comfort, making those dark days seem bright again.

For the better of a decade, LaMontagne (who reportedly heard “Treetop Flyer” by Stephen Stills and quit his job at a shoe factory to pursue music) has won over fans and critics alike with his smoky voice and poignant wisdom hearkening back to an era dominated by Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison.

Though a reclusive artist, he has a bright spotlight aimed in his direction. He symbolizes honesty, clarity and tradition, a perception few and far between in the studio and on the radio. With his phenomenal backing group, The Pariah Dogs, their latest release (God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise) is a shooting star of style and grace across a musical industry congested with the smog of mediocrity and its own inconsequential priorities.

Moseying into Essex Junction, Vermont for a rare performance, LaMontagne found himself at odds with Mother Nature, who teased her unpredictable chaos throughout the day with severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings.

The Midway Lawn at the Champlain Valley Exposition was a fresh vat of mud soup. Innumerable rain boots and Crocs made the hop, skip and a jump around the premises, drenched from weeks of unrelenting rain and improper drainage. Patrons sipped on hot coffee and cold beer in order to find some small piece of luxury amid the dampness.

LaMontagne emerged from the backstage darkness. “Hold You In My Arms”, like gravel wrapped in silk, silenced the raucous beer tent and left burning cigarettes dangling from astonished mouths (“When you kissed my lips with my mouth so full of questions/My worried mind that you quiet/Place your hands on my face/Close my eyes and say/That love is a poor man’s food”).

“Where does that sound come from?” a curious voice was overheard remarking.

Raindrops, teardrops and guitar notes trickled onto the cold ground. Like a farmhouse chimney in the winter, his calming breaths of lyrical magic (“For The Summer”) drifted into the crisp night air (“Can I come home for the summer/I could slow down for a little while/Get back to loving each other/Leave all those long and lonesome miles behind”).

“Thank you very much, thank you,” the aw-shucks singer modestly said after each selection.

The ensemble, resembling a gang of Americana outlaws in tone and appearance, is a well-oiled machine of grit, natural talent and playful ambition, pushing deeper into not only their minds, but also the psyche of those they play for and about.

Though hands held jackets tight against their bodies, gyrating legs in the audience splashed merrily in giant puddles ready to be classified as small ponds. Constantly yearning for the simple life, LaMontagne preaches pure freedom (“New York City’s Killing Me”), one that many often overlook or all too easily forget (“I get so tired of all this concrete/I get so tired of all this noise/Gotta get back up in the country/An have a couple drinks with the good ole’ boys”).

It’s not so much that Ray LaMontagne is doing something new, insofar that it’s about holding onto to something time-tested and aged to perfection. What he represents is sincerity and vulnerability, something missing from modern music that, like good whiskey, will only get better with age as not only he, but us, journey further down the desired path of righteousness and truth.

Lover Of All Things Beautiful | Interview with Fanny Franklin

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Lover Of All Things Beautiful – Interview with Fanny Franklin

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

The crowd buzzed like a frenzied hive.

Though a curious stick or hungry bear didn’t provoke these busy bees, they were prodded by the ultimate tormentor- cabin fever.

With fat snowflakes tumbling from above, I strolled through downtown Boston to Copperfield’s, a venue within range of a wandering foul ball from nearby Fenway Park. The space is full of sweat, spilled beer, sticky floors and unrelenting smiles from those eager to checkout the next big thing to radiate from the stage.

And fate made sure I picked the ideal night to find my soul vulnerable to the unknown.

Huddled in the backroom like a boxer readying themselves to hit the ring, Fanny Franklin sat in a dark corner, hooded sweatshirt pulled over her head, gathering all of her strength, physically and mentally, only to pour it onto the listener until her tank was empty.

These people came here to see something special as she takes that word and twists it into something extraordinary.

Fronting the phenomenal funk/soul project Orgone, Franklin commands the stage in the footsteps of James Brown, Janis Joplin or Sharon Jones. Her steamy voice sends chills up your spine like a cold breeze. Her body shakes, gyrates and mesmerizes any who fall into her trance.

Watching her do what she does best, I was awestruck by the power and style bubbling from her small frame. Her talents and stop-you-in-your-tracks soul conjure the memories and potential I felt upon initial glance of Grace Potter, some five years earlier in the same city.

Now embarking on a solo journey, Franklin is currently putting together a slew of promising material reflecting her life, aspirations and rising career as a polished gem amongst the rockstars and pitfalls of an industry in dire need of pure, honest talent.

Garret K. Woodward: Who is Fanny Franklin?

Fanny Franklin: A mixture of a few things. I’m a teenager, an old lady, a lover of all things beautiful and an artist.

GKW: How would you describe your sound? Who are the influences?

FF: I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Janis Joplin and Motown growing up. Then I got into the whole modern era of the 80′s. When I got out of high school, I met the funk heads who led me to Parliament, Funkadelic and the black rock scene in LA, which included Fishbone, 24/7 spyz, Total Eclipse, Living Color.

GKW: When did you first know you could sing? Did you always want to be a singer?

FF: I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer, ever since I was a little girl. That was my first feeling, looking at a stage and saying, “ooo, I wanna do that” at the age of nine. The talent to be a singer/entertainer naturally had to comply with that little girls dream.

GKW: If your voice were an ice cream flavor, what kind would it be?

FF: Mint Chocolate Chip.

GKW: What do you love about the LA music scene?

FF: My job is to be out on the scene everywhere, so, when I’m home, I don’t really go out much anymore. But, my time on the LA music scene introduced me to all the amazing musician friends I have today. So many of them have gone on to do really big things, like my peeps Fitz and the Tantrums. I can say that anyone living in or visiting LA has the opportunity to see a variety of music on any given night, of almost any genre you could think of, and much of the shows are free. So, in that way, the LA music scene is alive and very accessible.

GKW: Where does that voice of yours come from?

FF: I had a few voice coaches when I was much younger, but mostly it’s been on the job training and absorbing. I went to cooking school, but it didn’t make me a better cook, it just taught me techniques. I think people are born with certain natural gifts.

GKW: What are you channeling onstage? What’s going through your head as you hit those high notes and climax of a melody?

FF: There are some definite moments of high vibration on stage when everything aligns with the instruments and the vocals. In those special moments I’m not thinking, but sharing in a moment. Just feeling.

GKW: How did your relationship with Orgone come about? Why did you decide to take a step back from such an incredible collaboration between you and them?

FF: Back in 2003, Orgone needed a singer to cover a version of “Funky Nassau”. A mutual friend, Dan Ubick (Connie Price and The Keystones), passed my number along to keyboardist Dan Hastie (Orgone) and he called me up. The session went well and they invited me to do some gigs. They had some cool covers they thought would suit my voice and we all got along, which is an important factor in moving forward with any group. From there, the relationship was born. My departure from Orgone happened for many different reasons, but mainly it’s time for Fanny Franklin to do Fanny Franklin.

GKW: Tell me about your new projects. What can we expect? How is this new chapter going to unfold and what are your hopes for it?

FF: I’m super excited about the music I’m writing right now. I can’t wait to put it out. It’s more personal whereas writing lyrics in a group is more edited to fit the group message. Writing for myself is about where I’m at now and how I want to express myself. I have faith that I will satisfy all of my desires as a singer and then some, which includes putting out amazing music and traveling the world playing that music live for people.

GKW: What are you thoughts on the current music industry? How do you want to be different, or contribute to the evolution?

FF: With today’s technology, the world of music is at all of our fingertips. We no longer are subject to what the radio wants to shove in our ears. We are free to explore any country, any genre at free will, and it’s amazing. My hope is that reality inspires people to do the art they want to do without compromise, knowing that it will be heard. Recreating the concept of industry to mean the world of music, not the world of making money over the true expression of the individual or collective group. If people feel forced to make music that they think will sell over what they really want to do, they are shorting the world of their unique vision and of the change that is possible. I just want to be me and spread the message that to be “the best you” is important, ain’t no one else fixing to do it.

GKW: How receptive have audiences been to your creation onstage?

FF: That’s a good question. I’m excited to see the reaction to my new project. With Orgone, my hope was that people would dance and party and have a good time, and that was generally what happened. There are many factors that play a part in how a crowd may react to me, or anyone for that matter. I know the day after New Year’s Eve, opening for the Roots in Reno, the crowd was understandably tired so they weren’t giving it their all. They were burnt, but committed to seeing the Roots and were glad to see a great opening band as well. The experience I plan to have with people, when I perform my music, will be different I imagine. We shall see.

GKW: What do you want the listener to ultimately witness or walk away with when they see you perform?

FF: A really good feeling, a feeling of excitement about his or her own lives and what’s possible for each person, truly. That’s the feeling that I get when I see someone like Sharon Jones or even watching old live footage of Nina Simone. It’s a feeling of connectivity that happens amongst human beings when they come together, all excited about the same thing, whether they know each other or not. And, from that, you feel inspired to do something wonderful.

GKW: How has your stage presence or confidence changed onstage over the years?

FF: I have always felt pretty right at home on the stage, like I was meant to be there.  But, of course, the pure magnitude of shows over the last two years especially has been a great space for me to grow. There is always more to explore when it comes to live shows and stage vibe.

GKW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on tour?

FF: Watching and opening for the Reverend Al Green, who I never saw backstage, he stayed on his tour bus until show time, was life altering. I felt like myself and everyone else in that building had the top of their skulls blown off and there were beams of light being poured in through the tops.

GKW: What’s your state of mind right now?

FF: Positive. Focused on the goal of finishing my record and sharing my music with the world.

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Foo FightersWasting Light

Contributing Writer - Garret K. Woodward
Throwing rock, metal and punk into a garbage bag like three starving feral cats, the Foo Fighters emerges from the vicious fight with Wasting Light, an album perfectly summarizing their illustrious career to this point.

Razor-sharp guitar chords, poignant lyrics, catchy melodies that not only provoke a sing-along, but also a rock-on hand gesture of solidarity- it’s a deadly potency ready to attack and maim the putrid excuses passing for music these days.

A band that I not only grew-up with, but also grew from and sprouted beyond, the Fighters represent my childhood, my adolescence and my emerging adulthood. They were there when I discovered women, pot, rock-n-roll and, most of all, ambition.

And here I am, 26-years-old, wiping spots of moisture away from my eye sockets while listening, stomping my feet to a rock entity that continually stokes the fire in my soul and in the unforgiving music industry which would be navigating like a ship without a rudder if Dave Grohl never decided to walk out from behind the drum-kit and pick up his guitar.

The group stands alone at the top of the rock food-chain. Maybe, if they feel nice enough, they may just throw some scraps of wisdom down to the bottom-feeders wondering how the fuck they continually dig out more gold and platinum in the studio from their time-tested formula of not fixing something if it ain’t broken.

Maybe, if they feel nice enough.

Holding the Golden Ticket | Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble with moe.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Holding the Golden Ticket – Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble w/moe.

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

Contributing Photographer – Andrew “Dirty Santa” Wyatt

My nose was almost touching the windshield.

The road was dark and a slight rain diluted my vision. Desperately looking for the correct address, I was lost on the rural backroads winding around the ancient Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. But, just when it seemed all hope was gone, numerous small red lights could be seen trickling out from the dense woods to the left.

It was a long line of taillights.

I turned down the muddy driveway. My mind raced over the unknown possibilities. I was finally going to see what the fuss was all about.

For the better part of the last decade, legendary drummer/vocalist Levon Helm (The Band) has held a series of intimate performances within a studio in his home. Though not much is known in the media over what transpires on the property, intriguing word-of-mouth rumors have emerged amid social circles in the music scene.

This folklore follows in the imaginary footsteps of The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and along the actual lines of the mysterious Phish barn in Vermont or the living quarters of the Grateful Dead in Haight-Ashbury.

And now, here I am, with the golden ticket in my hand, ready to pull back the curtain and cross the threshold that takes hearsay and molds it into exquisite fact.

The car tires squished through the mud of Helm’s backyard. Dozens of vehicles crammed onto the land. Anonymous faces cracked open cold microbrews. Cigarette smoke, exhaled in haste, drifted into the crisp, starry night. Burn barrels dotted the road to the studio. Laughter echoed into the distance.

Entering the first floor, a potluck was strewn over several tables.

“If anyone is interested, I made potato latke,” a friendly stranger mentions, placing the homemade dish with the other appetizers, entrees and desserts which included local cheese and crackers, chili, pulled pork sandwiches and cheesecake bites.

Bellies now full, the attendees (numbering around 150) made their way upstairs, trying to locate a seat or space along the wall and balconies surrounding the stage.

Article Continues After Photos

Meandering through the crowd like the cool guys at a keg party, moe. quietly picked up their instruments and slid into “Puebla”. Bodies were tucked into every corner and dimly light crevasse of the enormous wooden barn, designed with cathedral ceilings, thick crossbeams and cozy nooks ideal for snuggling with an east coast mama.

The audience surrounds the band in this Mad Max fashion, as if they were performing in the Thunderdome and had to prove their worth before they were allowed to leave. It was a surreal feeling to be within an arm’s length of a group you have the utmost respect and admiration towards.

To watch their fingers flick guitar notes, their feet tap pedals, their voices discuss technique between selections, their hands pound equipment, their faces showing slight wrinkles of years on the road and their mouths smiling in reflection of the moment brings a whole new appreciation to their craft. It’s a rare sentiment, one I can only attribute to the intimacy of the ramble.

Paying homage to their homeland of New York and the northeast, the band thanked the frenzied listeners with a stretched “Rebubula” and poignant “New York City”. The energy of the hour-long set filled the space like an overblown balloon, ready to burst at any given time.

“For musicians, this is a pretty inviting environment. It’s inspiring,” said moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey. “The Band has a big influence on us, just in making everything sound real and earthy and kind of gritty, not overdoing anything. You want to speak plainly with your instrument, sing really well-constructed songs, done directly and getting simple in the best way possible. Being here brings out that other part of our personality.”

Between sets, a cold breeze filters into the sauna-like room when many head outside for another drink or cigarette. A handful of snowflakes tumble from the sky. Downstairs, the curious wander the hallways of the Helm residence, looking at family picture collages, past articles, two Grammy awards or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee honor proudly displayed.

Going for another helping of pulled pork, one finds themselves picking away at the feast alongside moe., who, on top of hungry, also took interest in the artifacts and mementos lining the never-ending walls.

While going to the bathroom, an odd thought occurs, “I’m peeing in Levon Helm’s toilet”. Surely this is a notion shared by many and there are probably all kinds of weird things floating through the minds scattered about.

It is an awkward feeling trekking around the ambiance of revered man only seen from afar, in movies or black and white photos. Helm has created a magical castle for himself and lovingly invites any to partake in his happiness.

But, as soon as I wash and dry my hands, I hear foot-stomps coming through the ceiling. The structure shakes. Muffled voices shout and cheer. It only means one thing.

Levon has taken the stage.

Sitting behind his drum kit, Helm sways to horn section solos, guitar riffs or the soothing vocals of Teresa Williams and Amy Helm (his daughter). The group steps into a variety of territories. In a matter of minutes, they can go from honky-tonk to big band, rock to Latin, alternative country to Bourbon Street mania.

With the most delicate of precision, you can’t take your eyes off Levon. His gentle tapping mesmerizes the audience. I look over and see moe. drummer Vinnie Amico caught in a trance, watching Helm, trying to figure out the tricks of the elder statesman.

“I kept looking at his left hand. He shuffles a lot and being so influential on me, I had to watch and see how he does it,” Amico said. “Since I was 18, I’ve played in bands that play The Band music. All of their stuff has an influence on what I do today.”

Howling into the heavens, Helm has a grin ear-to-ear when “Ophelia” kicks in. The entire barn gyrates and sings together like a church revival on the Louisiana bayou. Guitarist Larry Campbell throws bare-knuckle licks. Pounding the keys with a thunderous fury, pianist Brian Mitchell looks Helm directly in the eye as the two belt out the lyrics burned into the memory of those with good taste in music.

Stepping out from behind the drums, Helm grabs the mandolin and joins his daughter for “Deep Ellum Blues”. Time slows down when the duet sings to each other, radiating a love on found within in the confines of song and family.

Lining the heater bordering one side of the stage, moe. guitarist Al Schnier and Garvey mouth the words to “Tennessee Jed”. Helm hums the Grateful Dead staple with such joy, you start to count your blessings in crossing paths with this unforgettable sight blossoming for all to hold in their hearts from this point forward.

The pure emotion is unrelenting. Proudly introducing his old colleague from Arkansas, rockabilly guitar legend C.W. Gatlin, Helm pats his friend on the back and welcomes him to paint a few strokes onto his musical canvas.

Temptation, isolation and redemption tumble from each selection, an ironic and touching aura. Williams commands the listener. Her chilling vocals provoke not only goosebumps in those around her, but tears in the eyes of those who take her for her word, immersing themselves in the staggering physical and melodic beauty she shares.

Joining the ensemble, Schnier and Garvey strapped on their acoustics, ready to tackle “The Weight”. Trading verses in a round-robin style, the immortal tune forever tied together those onstage and off.

The night was over, but the memories had been set in motion.

Creeping back down the driveway, strangers now friends waved goodbye, wishing others well and making plans for the next rendezvous. The directional light pointed right.

I spent the rest of the four hour drive trying to make sense of the evening. I left with truth and clarity, but what remained was the simple fact I had truly witnessed passion in its purest form.

Winter Carnival 2011

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Medieval Times – 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Contributing Photographer – Andrew “Dirty Santa” Wyatt

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

In it’s 114th year, the renowned Saranac Lake Winter Carnival showcased the best, brightest, and boldest of the Adirondack Mountains. With “Medieval Times” as this year’s theme, the spectacle once again became a beacon-of-light for Upstate New York.

The centerpiece of the festitivites, the Saturday afternoon parade operated at full-strength with viking ships, lawn-chair ladies, and hordes pillaging the streets in the name of old-time debauchery and mischief.

Reuniting for a rare two-day run, the Ominous Seapods rode into the raucous mountain community on Feb. 11th and 12th. On hiatus for the better part of a decade, the jam-rock group has been dearly missed in these parts.

Mixing a unique brand of progressive rock and backwoods folk (akin to moe., Strangefolk, and Phish), they provided an endless stream of soul and passion for the overzealous audience packing into The Waterhole, a venue as beautifully aged and revered as the band itself.