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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Owen R. Smith.

August 12, 2014 at 5:30 AM

Chris Staples doesn’t leave much of an impression | New Recordings

Chris Staples American SoftChris Staples, ‘American Soft’ (Barsuk)

Right about the time Ben Gibbard’s Death Cab for Cutie was getting its start on Barsuk Records in 1997, another raspy-voiced singer, Chris Staples, was recording his first album with Twothirtyeight. Now Staples is getting his own chance to work with Barsuk, which releases “American Soft” Tuesday, Aug. 12.

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Comments | More in Folk, Rock/Pop | Topics: "American Soft", Barsuk Records, Chris Staples

July 31, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Watershed weekend

Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum (pictured) and Jake Owen roll into the Gorge Amphitheatre this weekend for the Watershed Festival. Now in its third year, the country-music shindig has been sold-out for weeks on the strength of a solid lineup that includes Randy Houser, Kip Moore and Billy Currington, plus locals like “The Voice” contestant Austin…

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Comments | More in Country, Festivals | Topics: "Beachin'", Jake Owen, Lady Antelbellum

July 28, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Charles Bradley leads dance party to end Timber! Fest

Charles Bradley performs at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival on Saturday. Photo by Owen R. Smith.

Charles Bradley performs at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival on Saturday. Photo by Owen R. Smith.

Charles Bradley hugged me. Wading into a sea of  ecstatic revelers Saturday night at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival as the final strains of “Why Is It So Hard” played, Bradley cast his arms open wide, pulled me into an enormous bear hug and whispered his sincerest thanks for coming to watch him play. I stood there, as more people pushed to get their moment with Bradley, stunned. I have experienced very few things in my 20 or so years of attending concerts that have given me real pause, but that indelible moment of gratitude from an artist who had just spent over an hour killing himself on stage is something I will carry with me long after I’ve stopped writing about music. It was exactly the sort of moment that organizer Kevin Sur had hoped for when he booked Bradley, whom he called the most gracious performer he’d ever seen.

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Comments | More in Dance, Festivals, R & B/Hip-hop, Rock/Pop | Topics: Charles Bradley, Timber Festival

July 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM

Timber! Festival off to a soggy but inspiring start | Concert review

The Timber! Outdoor Music Festival got off to a soggy start Thursday, but by the time Seattle artist Benjamin Verdoes started playing at around 8:30 p.m., it was dry and Tolt-MacDonald Park had started filling up. Now in its second year, Timber! aims to attract a different sort of crowd than most festivals by encouraging attendees…

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Comments | More in Americana, Folk, Rock/Pop | Topics: Charles Bradley, Damien Jurado, Horse Feathers

July 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Timber! music fest back to rock the forest

After the success of Timber! Outdoor Music Festival last year, organizer Kevin Sur felt one emotion: a deep, abiding gratitude to everyone who had helped bring it off without a hitch.

It was a feeling that stuck with him as he chose soul revivalist Charles Bradley to top a 2014 lineup that includes J. Mascis, Damien Jurado and the Seattle Rock Orchestra. The festival runs July 24-26 and kicks off Thursday afternoon with a performance by the Shumba Marimba Ensemble.

“We felt like we had an overwhelming amount of support from the music community in making our first year a success, and that got me thinking about Charles Bradley,” Sur said.

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Comments | Topics: Charles Bradley, Timber Festival

July 8, 2014 at 5:33 AM

The amazing Mary Sarah debuts with country all-stars | New recordings

Mary Sarah, ‘Bridges’ (Cleopatra)

It seems almost incomprehensible that an 18-year-old singer could earn the respect of some of country music’s biggest living legends, but Mary Sarah makes it seem like she’s known them for years on her debut album, “Bridges.”

Mary SarahDolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and a host of others lend their voices to some of their signature songs, but Mary Sarah’s big accomplishment in her 12-track debut is that she never lets her star-studded guests outshine her.

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Comments | More in Country | Topics: John Hiatt, Mary Sarah, Morrissey

June 17, 2014 at 5:31 AM

Say Hi grows up with ‘Endless Wonder’ | New Recordings

Say Hi, ‘Endless Wonder’ (Barsuk) Eric Elbogen, who performs as Seattle-based indie rock band Say Hi, spent much of his 2011 release “Um, Uh Oh” making pretty, contemplative songs that seemed designed mostly to not offend. “Endless Wonder” keeps its predecessor’s slick production while adding a funky swagger that’s noticeable right from the get-go on “Hurt in…

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Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Barsuk Records, Endless Wonder, New Recordings

June 10, 2014 at 5:30 AM

Craft Spells dreams all run together | New recordings

CraftSpellsCraft Spells, ‘Nausea’ (Captured Tracks)

Apparently Justin Paul Vallesteros hates that his band, Craft Spells, is often described as dreamy — so much so that he added a frosty crispness to its sophomore album, “Nausea.”. Though it does little to eliminate the dream-pop vibe, the overall result is a tighter collection of songs than on “Idle Labor,” his 2011 debut album.

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Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Craft Spells, Nausea, New Recordings

June 6, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Sweet harmonies and stripped-down folk| Concert preview

American folk rock is reaching another apex thanks to bands like The Lumineers and Seattle’s The Head and the Heart scoring big hits with anthemic songs with radio-friendly, pop-driven hooks.

While they may not peddle music as readily accessible as some of their peers, The Milk Carton Kids — who swing through the Neptune Theatre on Wednesday, June 11 — have benefited from the genre’s recent commercial success.

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Comments | More in Americana, Folk | Topics: Concert Preview, Milk Carton Kids, neptune theatre

May 27, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Johnnyswim finds diamonds in hard year | Concert preview

Johnnyswim plays The Triple Door Saturday. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Johnnyswim plays The Triple Door Saturday. Photo courtesy of the artist.

It sounds scripted: at their darkest hour, husband and wife team Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano sit on their living room floor and write an angry song telling off their naysayers, but a trip to a local hospital turns the song into the uplifting title track of their debut album, “Diamonds.”

For Johnnyswim, the reality was much tougher than the soundbite, but they’re left with a brilliant first album full of anthemic tunes that fit well within the current folk-rock soundscape dominated by bands like The Head and the Heart and Mumford and Sons. They bring their new music to the Triple Door on May 31.

“It represents the last three years of our life,” Ramirez said. “These songs were in us and we’d be sick if we didn’t get them out. I lost my dad, Amanda lost her mom and her grandmother, and it all happened within a two or three month period. It was a really hard time of our lives.”

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Comments | More in Americana, Folk | Topics: johnnyswim, The Triple Door

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