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Posts Tagged ‘alt-country’

48261_301408206640767_665255221_o*Recently I was asked to write a new bio for a musician friend whose music I have long admired. This is the bio that I sent to him. The entire post below didn’t make it though the editing process, so rather than leave hard-thought words flailing on the cutting room floor, I am posting the bio here. The final version can be found at Billy’s website, billyshaddox.com.

Billy Shaddox is blessed with the ability to blend the Western dualities of coastal dreamer and high mountain drifter into his deep, easy flowing songs.

Rooted in stories of love and fortune lost, perspective and enlightenment gained, Shaddox captures the mystique of the West with indelible lyrical imagery and sharply original musicality: the displaced modern man weary of coping with vanishing ideals, the present-minded realist, the uncontrollable jealousy of the downtrodden miner, and the bright-eyed morning traveler setting out to make his mark on the world.

The characters who inhabit Shaddox’s tunesy tales have a depth of personality and situational believability that leaves the listener feeling affected by their being long after their songs have woven their course.

Golden Fate, Shaddox’s newest record, builds on a strong decade of songwriting and musical performance that has now seen two solo records that easily fit into the Americana genre, along with four releases by his powerful, unheralded San Diego-based country-rock band Billy Midnight.

The record is generously layered with Shaddox’s signature lonesome Telecaster twang, picture perfect acoustic guitar and banjo work, and the soulful wail of his homemade lap steel. The lyrics are neck hair bristling at times, captivatingly laced with references to the wondrous powers of nature and destiny, the joys and travails of living simply, and the introspective importance of home and family. It is one of those rare records that, without being over ambitious in an effort to, seems to eerily match the listeners life circumstances in subtle ways that are revealed deep into multiple listening sessions.

Bouncy and evocative like the best Woody Guthrie dustbowl gospels at times, dark and forlorn in Cashesque grandeur at others, Golden Fate verily demands for to be taken out on a long, thoughtful desert drive where it should be played through barely adequate speakers that compete with the crackling of a sage and juniper campfire, echoing on and on off of steep canyon walls.

Corby Anderson

Emma, Colorado

January 4, 2013

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Travel By Sea is a long distance band. Circumstantially split into two states, and divided by a thousand miles of desolation, singer-songwriter Kyle Kersten and his musical cohort, producer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Kraft bridge the gap over the high wires, using the internet to convene and collaborate on their shared artistic oeuvre – a sparse, detached form of country that wallows in the Western themes of vast, empty nature, distant dreams, and the loneliness that haunts the forsaken.

Their third self-produced record, Two States and the Blindness That Follows, is a cleanly produced, lyrically powerful desert driver that was created in much the same fashion as the prior two records were – by way of Kersten and Kraft’s innovative method of sharing songs parts with one another (the two have only actually met face to face a handful of times, with Kersten family-settled in Southern California, and Kraft happy to pursue side careers in photography, urban farming and goat husbandry in Colorado) and sending tracks digitally for developing and mixing.

But Two States represents a new, definitive direction for Travel By Sea, as Kersten, eager to share his music with an audience wider than what can be summoned by digitalia alone, has formed a live, touring band based in Orange County, employing former 5 Foot Tuesday frontman Dan Moore, who may just be the mellowest dude you’d ever hope to meet in a morning surf lineup. Moore provided his distinctly Californian vocal harmony and a particularly contemplative bass style, while John Phinney delivered the signature pedal steel atmosphere, as well as banjo and 12-string guitar. Mick Cusick applies a steady, understated drumming, and a guitarist named Andrew Morrison rounds out the quintet, sans Kraft, who is supportive in a digital way at present. To honor his contributions, a cardboard cutout of the co-founder has been considered for live performances.

Kersten’s vocal style is calm and collected, measured for effect, and fairly unique in tone and timbre, but if pressed might evoke a few different Tupelonians. The songs here are similar in theme, though not working necessarily for or with one another. Rather, there is a common gone-ness to each, a stripped down, immune dispassion for the dashed dreams and unrealized hopes of the Bailout Generation.  Two States is a unhurried record meant to be heard while rambling on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. Even if that road is exists only on a dog-eared map of your mind.

Two States and The Blindness That Follows is available now. Hardcopy CD’s at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/travelbysea or digital download available at http://travelbysea.bandcamp.com/ and iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/two-states-blindness-that/id398748513.

An excellent video of “Even The Sunrise” can be found here, courtesy of Buzzy Dudley. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GykKSQiq_lo

Review by Corby Anderson, a freelance writer based out of a driftwood lean-to somewhere south of Moss Landing, California.

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