The Sam Chase & the Untraditional, San Francisco’s raucous Americana outfit, never shy away from the chance to ruffle a few feathers, or make a strongly worded point. This attitude reached a fever pitch with the release of their latest album, “Great White Noise” back in late April. It is a sarcastic and unapologetic look at the societal effects of the constant bombardment of information that we have to wade through as a culture today.
It is only fitting, that their music videos match the subject matter. The official music video for the title track, “Great White Noise,” is best enjoyed with a stiff drink. It is visually as heavy and confrontational as the lyrics. It starts with a helping of sweet nostalgia, and melodic major key optimism in order to lull the viewer into a false sense comfort of a simpler time, before bashing you over the head with the ugly side of our American dream and projecting the side of us that we try so hard to look away from on a giant screen behind our prophetic anti-hero, Sam Chase.
Upon the release of this video, the band will be heading out on a 17 date East Coast tour through the month of October. They are sure to raise some eyebrows with this video in the towns they will be hitting through the bible belt. Perhaps they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Their triumphant return will be just in time before election day and Sam’s birthday, on November 4th at The Mystic Theatre in Petaluma. Joining them on the bill will be the North Bay’s “best folk band” according to this year’s NorBay Awards, The Crux.
Fairfax songwriting partners Velvy Appleton and Anita Sandwina have spent more than a decade making harmonic folk under the moniker of Spark & Whisper. Their rhythmic tunes stand out from the crowd thanks to transformative melodies and undeniable chemistry. This month, Spark & Whisper released their third, already acclaimed album, Monument.
Available now on bandcamp, the record of 11 original compositions continues to advance the pair’s mature, eclectic songwriting and assured aural aesthetic. With Sandwina’s expressive vocals and Appleton’s sizzling guitar solos, this is a modern, rock-tinged take on traditional folk, presented in a fresh and engaging arena.
Though the band doesn’t have any live dates until the new year, you can stream Monument now and mark your calendars for February, when Spark & Whisper return to the stage.
San Francisco folk ensemble the Sam Chase & the Untraditional have a new album, Great White Noise, on the way and this week premiered the music video for the record’s first single, “There For Me.”
For the video, the band invited several musical friends to listen to the song for the first time and-as the video description says-do whatever they want. The result is a montage of pure joy expressed in myriad ways. Look closely and you’ll see popular North Bay luminaries like Josh Windmiller rocking out to the epic Americana ballad.
The Sam Chase & the Untraditional perform in the Bay Area next on April 29, sharing a bill with Dead Winter Carpenters and Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
Folk and acoustic duo Misner & Smith, winners of a Norbay Music Award last year, are sharing their latest music video, a sweetly simple performance of their song “Lovers like Us.” Produced by Pint of Soul, the video shows off the pair’s perfectly-pitched harmonies and effortless instrumentation under the shade of trees.
Misner & Smith’s next North Bay performance is scheduled for March 6 at Rancho Nicasio, 1 Old Rancheria Rd in Nicasio. Tickets available at 415.662.2219.
Petaluma folk quartet Trebuchet have a new collection of harmonious music for you, just in time for the holidays. Rivers Out of Streams is a collaborative effort between the band and and the Santa Rosa Young People’s Chamber Orchestra. Filled with string arrangements and melodic wonder, this new release expands the group’s already lush acoustics into a swell of symphonic joy.
You can order Rivers Out of Streams on the band’s site here. It comes as a 10″ vinyl and includes unlimited streaming of the record online, which is good because you’ll want to listen to this one again and again.
Folk and Americana duo Eight Belles is made up of Michigan-born and longtime Bay Area-based singer Jessi Phillips and Sonoma County native songwriter and guitarist Henry Aloysius Nagle. The pair met in 2010 and first made noise in 2012 with their debut album, “Girls Underground,” hailed as a vividly beautiful country rock record.
Now, Eight Belles is back in the spotlight with a new self-titled album on Saint Rose Records, a recently premiered music video and an upcoming record-release show at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Dec 12, at 2pm.
Even with their impressive debut, the new self-titled record proves to be an even stronger effort, with Phillip’s lovely voice sounding like a mixture of Patsy Cline and Carol King, and evolved melodic arrangements performed with a full band of popular Bay Area musicians.
To get a taste of the new album, Eight Belles offer up a music video for their single, “The Old Life,” that matches their timeless country folk with enchanting black-and-white visuals, click on the video below to watch.
This weekend’s release show at the Last Record Store will feature the pair playing in an intimate setting, with Sonoma County songstress Ashley Allred opening. Vinyl and CD copies of the self-titled album will be available. The show starts at 2pm and is free.
Back in July, I spoke with Santa Rosa indie folk rockers Rags about their DIY approach and upcoming debut album. That record, Grounding, finally has a release date of November 13, and today the band unveils “Piece Together,” their first music video off the album.
“Piece Together” is a beautifully melancholic acoustic dirge. Singer and songwriter Charlie Davenport’s rhythmic riffs are buoyed by the swelling cello of Jiordi Rosales, while the drums and bass of Zak Garn and Travis Hendrix fill out the spaces in between the group’s stirring vocal harmonies. Directed by Jim Shoop, the visuals here are hazy, hypnotic and intensely intimate.
Rags are celebrating the long-awaited release of Grounding with a show on Nov. 13 in Santa Rosa. Details are here.
Scottish-born and London-based, KT Tunstall has achieved a swell of success across the pond with emotional folk rock songwriting and a strong, sonorous delivery that rocketed her to the top of the charts. While this may the point where a lesser talent hits cruise control, Tunstall two years ago did the opposite, putting her musical pedal to the metal and roaring headlong out of the dreary, cloudy skies of England straight for the hot, dry deserts of Arizona.
The result of her sojourn was the critically-lauded album Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon. Tunstall is a gem of a songwriter, lyrically raw while poetically sublime. Her deft guitar melodies and her ethereal voice, with just a slight Scottish brogue popping up every so often, is one of the sweetest in this or any hemisphere.
Tonight and tomorrow, Tuntall brings her globe-trotting style to Napa for two nights of dusty, shimmering indie folk rock before she joins pianist and bandleader Jools Holland back in the United Kingdom. Check out the music video for her single “Feel It All” below and pop on over to City Winery to catch Tunstall before she skips town.
Born in the United States and raised in Paris by a French father and Chinese mother, Jessica Fichot is a multicultural chanteuse, singing in several languages and playing a worldly blend of pop, jazz and folk. Her latest album, “Dear Shanghai,” is a collection of 1940s Chinese jazz. Fichot and her band perform at the Cotati Accordion Festival, this Saturday, Aug 22 at 11:30am.
Now based in Los Angeles, Fichot spoke with City Sound Inertia about how she tunes into her musical heritage for an authentic, yet accessible, chanson sound.
City Sound Inertia: So Jessica, you grew up in Paris?
Jessica Fichot: “I was born in upstate New York, but I moved to France when I was two years old, all my memories of childhood are from France.”
CSI: What was your relationship to music like as a kid?
JF: “I played piano, but growing up, I didn’t really listen to music in French, it was considered lame to be listening to French music when I was a kid, so I listened to a lot of music from the United States; Tori Amos, Madonna.
It was only after I moved back to the United States and went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, that I re-discovered French music, because I wanted to so something different, try to find my identity. And of course France is very much a part of my identity.”
CSI: And how did you start playing the accordion?
JF: “After college, I moved to Los Angeles and I put a band together performing my own French songs. I sing mostly in French, recently a lot more in Chinese, and a lot of different languages. And when I put my band together I was looking for an accordion player, but I couldn’t find one, so I bought an accordion and just played the right hand. I just got more and more into it and, to be honest, I barely play the piano now.”
The heavenly harmonies emanating from the folk gospel duo MaMuse has steadily built a following around their spiritual and sonorous songs. They have appeared numerous times at folk fests like Kate Wolf and won best duet performance on “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2012. This year, the Chico-based Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker have released their most personal and ethereal album to date, Heart Nouveau. Featuring collaborations with songwriter Molly Hartwell and a deep percussive rhythm throughout, the new record is emotionally charged and resonant.
This week, MaMuse celebrates the new album with a performance in Sebastopol. Hartwell will be on hand to lend her voice, as will longtime friend and musician Mike Wofchuck. Lauren Brown opens the show on Saturday, July 11, at Subud Hall, 234 Hutchins Ave, Sebastopol. 7:30pm. $18-$20. Get tickets here.