Courtney Marie Andrews matures on new album

In her young career as a songwriter and musician, Courtney Marie Andrews has rarely fallen short of brilliance. Her latest album, On My Page, is no exception. Long-time fans will notice a new maturity and polish to her sound. They may also miss the comparatively loud, raw energy of some of her earlier work, but the peacefulness of this album is by no means a detriment to it. Andrews’ vocal performance, always impressive, is virtuosic on this album. The musical arrangements flow beautifully, often featuring sweet, simple strains on piano of violin against Andrews’ complex finger-picking on guitar. The quality is excellent throughout and each song is moving in its own way.

Some brief highlights:

The opening track, “Woman of Many Colors,” which feels like a kind of mission statement, setting up themes of identity and life experience that permeate the album.

“This Time,” which demands a comparison to Joni Mitchell, speaks particularly on life experience. This song has a wonderful energetic sound, making great use of percussion (cymbals!) and happy piano lines.

“Haven’t Seen It” is full of soul, strength and honesty. Andrews’ voice, in the low parts of her range on this song, is powerful.

The delicate interplay of piano and guitar on “500 Nights” is very beautiful. Add in the lyrics and this song is dangerously likely to make you cry.

“Paintings From Michael” has a lovely bright sound, but is particularly notable for its engaging story. Listen to it and make your own interpretation.

Finally, “On My Page” has some of the most beautiful guitar and vocal work on the album, which is saying a lot. Again, Andrews’ vocal stylings remind me of Joni Mitchell in the best possible way. The instrumentation is spare but powerful.

Give On My Page a second listen if the power of these songs doesn’t hit you at once. As I said, it is a peaceful album, but the messages embedded in Andrews’ songs are intense and interesting. On My Page, a beautiful album featuring excellent musicianship, is a work of art you shouldn’t miss.

Photo by Alex Scoville/DD

Record Store Day celebrates classic vinyl

If there’s one thing the young and old can agree on, it’s that vinyl is pretty cool. Even in today’s world of instant music downloads and Internet streams, something is just better about having a huge disc of plastic to play music through.

Record Store Day, held on Saturday, April 20, is an international event celebrating the continuing existence of records and the stores that sell them. Record Store Day features a list of exclusive releases that range from classic rock (Bob Dylan, King Crimson) to modern metal (Between the Buried and Me, All That Remains) to indie mainstays (Phoenix, Titus Andronicus).

The full list of releases is available here. It should be noted that stores don’t know exactly what records they’ll be getting until they arrive – they can put in requests, but they won’t get everything they want.

Thankfully, the light rail gives downtown Phoenix residents access to some excellent record stores for Record Store Day.

(Marianna Hauglie/DD)

(Marianna Hauglie/DD)

STINKWEEDS

The Place: 12 W. Camelback Road. From the light rail, it’s just off Camelback and Central. Stinkweeds feels like home for many of downtown’s record enthusiasts for good reason – they combine the sense of community of a local shop with impressive selections.

The Event: Stinkweeds has an impressive list of local acts along with national headliner FIDDLAR. Food truck favorites Short Leash Hot Dogs, Mama Toledo’s Pies and Pizza People will all be there providing their services.

The Verdict: With quality local bands like Playboy Manbaby joining FIDDLAR and a variety of food trucks, Stinkweeds is probably worth a quick trip down the light rail. They’ve also ordered every single RSD release. While they certainly won’t get all of them, their dedication is impressive.

(Madeline Pado/DD)

(Madeline Pado/DD)

REVOLVER

The Place: 918 N. Second St. Set on Roosevelt and 2nd streets, Revolver is the closest record store to ASU’s Downtown campus and the only one accessible without the light rail. With the beautiful mural on its outside wall and the quirky personalities sure to be inside, it fits in well with the rest of Roosevelt Row.

The Event: Popular local act Dogbreth and the incredibly interesting Minibosses (they play prog metal covers of video game music) highlight a lineup of local bands. For food needs, Revolver is surrounded by RoRo coffee shops and restaurants.

The Verdict: Revolver occasionally gets criticized for only having an impressive selection during First Fridays – they’re likely to pull out all the stops for RSD as well. While it’s unknown what exactly they’ve ordered or are getting, Revolver has posted pictures on their Facebook page with lots of boxes, so there should be something nice.

(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

ZIA

The Place: 1850 W. Camelback Road. There are a few Zia Record Exchanges throughout Arizona and Nevada, but this one – just off the light rail at Camelback Road and 19th Avenue – is large, new and nice.

The Event: Zia hosts a big name headliner for Record Store Day this year in Wavves. The very successful beach punk will be performing there at 3 p.m. and signing autographs. Emerson Fry Bread will be there selling food, but only for the early risers – they’ll be there from 8 to 10 a.m.

The Verdict: A chain like Zia may not have the personality of a more local shop, but it’s hard to argue against seeing Wavves before he performs at Crescent Ballroom that night. Imagining Zia’s huge store full of Record Store Day releases should also be enough to make vinyl fans take a ride to the second-to-last stop on the light rail to check it out.

First downtown McDowell Mountain Music Festival a success

By all accounts, the 2013 McDowell Mountain Music Festival pulled it off.

The festival, celebrating its tenth year and first time in a downtown venue, represents a big step-up for Phoenix’s live music game. A mid-sized festival of this size — equally welcoming to families and younger festival goers — was exactly what the area needed.

Located in Margaret T. Hance Park in the heart of downtown, the non-profit festival did an admirable job of matching local bands with legendary national artists. The balance was perfect for the festival, simultaneously drawing big acts downtown while giving local talent a bigger stage.

That the original plan for Hance Park called for an amphitheater should be no surprise to any festival-goers. The acoustics were absolutely stellar: crisp and propulsive, without ever becoming overwhelming.

The Roots’ Saturday performance marked the high point of the three days, with a tight, funky performance that included their own songs mixed in with covers like “Jungle Boogie,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” and “Immigrant Song.”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes impressed the crowd with their affable indie-barnyard-boogie style on Friday, equaling the performance of that day’s headliner, The Shins.

Other noteworthy performances included locals Dry River Yacht Club and Decker, Dr. Dog, and the always odd bass-slapping wonder Les Claypool trying on yet another new hat with his new Duo de Twang.

MMMF’s announcement this year brought amazement at the quality of the line-up and the new location. It’s a credit to the festival that even before it had wound down, folks were buzzing about how the line-up and layout would shape up next year. With a festival like this calling downtown home, it’s hard not to already feel excited at the prospect of next year.

Photos by Brandon Kutzler/DD

World/Inferno brings punk, madcap circus together at Crescent

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Smashed glasses, police on the street, flustered security, a destroyed heat lamp. This was the scene upon my arrival at the Crescent Ballroom on Wednesday night. With songs like “Just the Best Party”, “Let’s Steal Everything” and “Zen and the … Continue reading