Holidays are especially exciting times for children and, given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., kids all over will likely be going to be getting a little extra love this season.
Zak Morgan knows kids. The Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter has already had an amazing career in children’s music, with his second self-financed album, When Bullfrogs Croak, earning numerous awards and acclaim, including a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Album for Children, a remarkable feat for an independent artist.
Morgan’s accomplishments and hard work (he notches over 200 shows a year for kids across the country) paid off with a contract with Universal Music’s kids’ music imprint, myKaZoo Music. His debut for the label, The Barber of the Beasts, came out in late October and would make a fantastic stocking-stuffer for the little ones this Christmas.
Like his previous releases, The Barber of the Beasts features artwork by famed local illustrator C.F. Payne and contains an extensive booklet of lyrics and drawings. The album also features some notable guests, from local musicians like Dan Dorff, Paul Patterson and Josh Seurkamp to nationally acclaimed artists like Robbie Fulks and locals Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine) and the iconic Bootsy Collins.
But it’s Morgan’s magical stories and songs that are the focal point. There is a perfect formula for children’s music; like with kids’ films these days, many artists try to hard to make their albums “parent friendly” and tend to go overboard, while those who “dumb things down” tend to be the most annoying. Morgan’s gift is finding the perfect balance.
The Barber of the Beasts is for smart and imaginative kids and parents, seeming designed to be enjoyed together. Morgan is great with clever word play and he isn't afraid to drop a few “big words” (or at least unfamiliar words). That’s where the booklet’s excellent vocabulary guide comes in handy. Parents can go over words with their children, who will have not only been entertained by Zak’s fantastical storytelling, but will also learn something in the process.
Many of the tracks on Barber feature gorgeous chamber string arrangements, but there are also tunes like “Snow Day,” on which Morgan channels his inner Tom Waits (vocally), the shuffling, jazzy Pop cut “Swinging On A Star,” the Country-esque “Nancy Jane” and the great Bootsy collaboration, “The Case of the Dry Markers,” a swingin’, “spooky” Jazz struttin’ mystery with a Halloween vibe.
Here is the debut music video from the album for "The Case of the Dry Markers":
The songs and music are elegant and often downright majestic (particularly the ones with the spine-tingling string arrangements), while Morgan’s clever stories are loaded with a silliness that the young listeners will gleefully embrace.
I believe The Barber of the Beasts (which will specifically appeal to kids between around the ages of 1-8, but certainly fits the "fun for kids of all ages" bill) was released in time to make next year’s Grammy nominations. It will be a crime if it doesn’t make the cut. When it comes to children’s music, Zak is like the Bob Dylan of the genre — minus the curmudgeonly grumpiness, of course.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Morgan and a host
of special guests will present the local release party for the album at
The Monastery recording studio (2601 Stanton Ave., Walnut Hills), the
performance/recording space owned and operated by producer/guitarist Ric
Hordinski (who also performed on, produced and co-wrote material on the album).
Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com for $10 (or $20 for families of two-five people). Remaining tickets will be available at the door the day of the show for $15 (or $25 per family). Your ticket also includes food and admission to the post-show pizza party.
One of the strangest word combinations to ever create a band name, Death Cab for Cutie controls the alternative music scene across America. They have been a nationally touring band since 1997 with their first release. Now in their 14th year, Codes and Keys has been one of the band's most successful offerings to date. The first single, “You Are A Tourist,” received a lot of airplay on Rock radio across the country reaching number one on the Alternative charts in the U.S. The band recently released the video for its latest single, "Stay Young, Go Dancing" (view it at the bottom of this post below).
CityBeat recently spoke with bassist Nick Harmer to discuss the new album and it’s critically acclaimed reception (as well as a very scary moment on their festival run this past summer). Death Cab starts their latest tour on Friday night in Cincinnati at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center.
I love the first night of MidPoint; the anticipation, the excitement, the friends, the music, the potential for getting wetter than you’ve been since the birth experience. It’s magic, a sensation perhaps intensified on Thursday, being the first night of the festival’s tenth anniversary.
Everybody has their own parameters for summer these days. Schools are gradually starting earlier every year, so many students’ “last day of summer” was in early August, while the calendar says it’s not until Sept. 22. But if you declare summer as “everything before Labor Day,” this is the last weekend of the season. And it seems like many “summer” music festivals are coming in just under the wire — this weekend sees the return of several fests (Ohmstead, Whispering Beard Folk Festival, Swinefest, Taste of Blue Ash), as well as the debut of a brand new one — the Feywill Music Festival, which shines a spotlight on some of Greater Cincinnati’s finest original artists Friday-Saturday at various venues in Covington’s MainStrasse Village.
"The Bubblegum Masquerade," you say? Indeed. A local gentleman named Paul O'Moore has put together the Saturday show under the banner of his Vibrant Fringe Productions group, an essentially pro bono, one-man promotions organization founded to "exclusively support local and regional music" and to be "a partner in rebuilding Greater Cincinnati's music scene," according to the Vibrant Fringe Web site.
And looking at the generous lineup of local acts that O'Moore's ambitious two-stage, twelve-hour, multi-genre Masquerade plans to offer, he's clearly living up to his own mission statement.
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name).
The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.
Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.
Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)
Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.
And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:
If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.
The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
Did you miss out on getting tickets to Jimmy Buffett's annual summer concert at Riverbend Saturday morning? If you didn't get them within the first 10 minutes they were on sale, you were shit out of luck because they once again sold out almost immediately. Of course, you can still pay scalpers or online "resale" sites (a.k.a. "scalpers") a couple of hundred dollars to get into the show. Or you could do ten shots of tequilla and hit yourself in the head with a hammer. Same dif.
Or you could go see a good concert this summer.
Hip Hop star Young Jeezy performs tonight in Corryville, bringing his tour behind the recent Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition album to Bogart's for an 8 p.m. show. The Def Jam Records recording artist released his major label debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, in 2005, spawning the hit single "Soul Survivor," featuring singer Akon. The South Carolina-born, Atlanta-based MC (once a member of the group Boyz n da Hood) put out two more albums — The Inspiration and The Recession (in ’06 and ’08, respectively) — which featured guests from R. Kelly and Keyshia Cole to Nas and Kanye West (their collabo "Put On" was nominated for a Grammy), and he's appeared as a guest himself on singles by Usher ("Love in This Club") and Rihanna ("Hard"). The Thug Motivation masterclass skipped ahead to 103 (perhaps Thug Motivation 102 is audit-only?) and was released late last year after several announced release dates came and went. The album landed at No. 3 on the album charts its first week out (in the midst of holiday shopping fever, making it more impressive).
TM 103 once again features a pretty heady guest list, with cameos by Yo Gotti, Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Jill Scott, Snoop and Ne-Yo, who appears on the most recently released single "Leave You Alone." Check the video below (NSFW for language, excessive head tattoos and gratuitous product placement for Crown Royal and Ciroc vodka). Tickets for tonight's show are $25 (plus fees). Read more about Jeezy here.
• Indie rockers Brighton MA — neither from Brighton nor Massachusetts — hit MOTR Pub tonight for a free show with great locals The Mighty. The Chicago band was formed by two members of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir upon their departure from that acclaimed Indie Pop ensemble, emerging as a successful and acclaimed unit in its own right not long after. An intense mesh of Folk, Rock and Pop, the band's songs have been used on TV shows (like Gossip Girl and Community) and in a successful Jack Daniels ad campaign last year during the holidays. The band also scored a sweet tour van to take a trip on Route 66 for an extensive promotional web series called "Rock the Route," which was sponsored(-the-hell-out-of) by Red Bull. Earlier this year, the group released a new 7-song EP called Billboard Sun, a warm-up for their second full-length, due later this year. Tonight's show starts around 10 p.m.
Oh, and Brighton, Mass., is the neighborhood in which singer Matt Kerstein was born (in case you were wondering).
Here's the band's "Good Kind of Crazy" (aka "the song from the Jack Daniels commercial"):
Cincinnati's Walk the Moon has been on a roll for about the past year and half but now that the band has a physical release out on its new major-label home, RCA Records, things are starting to move even faster and more and more people are discovering the young Alt/Dance/Pop band's charming sound and great, energetic live show. Having already mastered the fine art of blanket social media marketing (few acts are as interactive and accessible to fans), WTM is now set to conquer late-night TV and add even more new fans. Wednesday night, Walk the Moon made its second appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC. The first time was when they were scrappy young lads at South By Southwest looking for a record deal. This time, they're RCA recording artists working a big theater in L.A. and looking already like confident, veteran Rock stars performing to a mob of adoring (and sweaty) fans.
The group will perform LIVE for the first time on network TV on April 5, appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And you can catch them in the flesh next Friday (Feb. 24) at the Madison Theater with current tourmates Young the Giant. If you have a ticket, that is. The show is sold out, no doubt helped by WTM's appearance on the bill (the group's own homecoming show a couple months ago at the same club was also a sell out).
Here's Walk the Moon playing "Anna Sun" at The Wiltern in Los Angeles from Wednesday's Last Call:
The old saying goes that everyone complains about the weather but no one ever does anything about it. Well, MidPoint is doing something about the crummy weather: They're having the music festival anyway.
Come down to Fountain Square at 5-7 p.m. for two performances by MPMF.09 acts: Shanya Zaid & the Catch from New York City (5:00), followed by The Young Republic from Nashville (6:15). Grab a beer and food and plot your MPMF itinerary for the rest of the evening.