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C. D. Harvill
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This past week I had the opportunity to meet with someone who is, arguably, one of the best guitarists to come out of the Gulf Coast. Many along the Florida-Alabama shore may have heard of Guthrie Trapp.

From a young age, Guthrie, was intrigued with music. He grew up listening not to the radio, but his family’s collection of bluegrass, folk, and rock and roll records. While hanging around his uncle, who was a self-taught musician, he started playing around with different instruments.

Although Guthrie did attend some workshops, he mostly honed his musical abilities by going to live shows, listening to different music, and hanging out with his uncle. “I just picked up on it. Those are the things you can’t teach somebody. You can’t learn how to play with soul or feeling from a school, you just have it.”

First Guthrie learned to play the harmonica. He quickly grew bored with the instrument’s simplicity and picked up guitar and later the mandolin.

Unlike most musicians trying to make a living along the Gulf Coastal region, Guthrie never had to play Jimmy Buffet covers. “Most people have to play cover music. I never did down there. I was so lucky I never had to. I was either playing with Gove (Gove Scrivenor), or with the Filthy Rich Band. We played all of our own music.”

Barely an adult, Guthrie was paired up with Nick Branch, playing original music in the Filthy Rich band. They shined throughout the region with their intense blues, roots, and swing guitar power. They even traveled overseas.

Being such an accomplished musician and having his pick of places to live, why did Guthrie pick Nashville to call home? Guthrie explained he never had a thought of moving to New York or Los Angeles, partially because Guthrie does not read music and the Nashville Number System is not frowned upon in its name sake town, but also because Guthrie, despite his success, is a laid back guy.

While kicked back on his couch he shared, “I just knew that Nashville was happening. I never had a thought of moving to one of those places… I never had a plan, it just happened, I was in my early twenties and it was time to move away from that hometown. I’m glad I did”, he also stated, “People here are from small towns, I’m from a small town”.

Due to his career really kicking off in Nashville, and his touring with Patty Loveless, some people pigeonholed Guthrie, as a guitarist, in the country/bluegrass genre. Guthrie made it very clear it’s just not true. His current personal project, “18 South”, where he has equal footing with the other members (including: Larry Atamanuik on drums, Mike Bub on doghouse bass, Jimmi Wallace with piano and vocals, Jon Randall with vocals and rhythm guitar, and Jessi Alexander’s vocals.) may give him a bit broader palette to express his versatile guitar skills, but it is still not a far cry from bluegrass, nor is it precisely what Guthrie would put together if given free reign. Guthrie opened his laptop and put on a video to help describe to me what he would enjoy playing the most. The sound I heard was more of a funk/experimental jazz, a description with which Guthrie agrees. Such a sound would truly give Guthrie the room a guitarist of his caliber needs to stretch himself as a musician.

If you don’t recall hearing Guthrie play with Allison Kraus, Jerry Douglas, Patty Loveless, Earl Scruggs or various other artists, then I suggest you check out “18 South” on Myspace. With Jon Randall having written a hit like Whiskey Lullaby, Jessi Alexander having written one of the latest Miley Cyrus chart toppers, The Climb, and Guthrie Trapp’s guitar runs, you better believe you will want to be at the front of this band wagon.

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Less Than Jake will be headlining at the House of Blues in New Orleans on 12.10.09. This will be an all ages show. Doors open at 4:30. Tickets are $20 and $15.50. The concert is in support of their most recent release GNV Fla. An added bonus will be the a pre-show screening of Van’s Warped Tour 15th Anniversary Celebration which is scheduled for release on DVD and CD in march. Also performing will be Cage and The Swellers. For more info call 504.310.4999 or click here.

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The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) has a newly formed MS Gulf Coast chapter. Never heard of NSAI? According to their mission statement they consist of “…a body of creative minds, including songwriters from all genres of music, professional and amateur, who are committed to protecting the rights and future of the profession of songwriting…”

As the only active chapter in the state they will be holding a Songwriters Showcase on December 1st at Coffee Fusion in D’Iberville at 7pm.

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DSC_0278For 25 years the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival has been rocking the Florida/Alabama coast, and this year is no exception. Running for two weekends, the festival started Thursday night and will run till Sunday the 22nd.
The festival offers workshops, performances from a wide array of known artist and open mic opportunities for budding songwriters. Multiple venues are listed with a schedule of acts on the festival’s website. A few of the venues, including the festival’s birthplace, the Flora-Bama, Janna’s Market & Deli, Pirate’s Cove, and the Silver Moon, Then, of course, there are venues, not a part of the festival, that compete by bringing in acts such as Grayson Capps.

Saturday evening at the Silver Moon and Janna’s Market & Deli began with musicians jockeying for their chance to perform during the time allotted for open mic. If sitting at the bar in the Silver Moon, one would have witnessed the many artists rushing to write their name on the list assuring their chance to perform 3 songs for the gathered audience. At either venue you would have to suffer through quite a few, to put it politely, less-than-stellar acts, and some that were just plain boring. But, if you sat there long enough, and endured the awful onslaught of old men whining out “woe is me, nobody loves me,” then you would have the pleasure of hearing noteworthy performers such as: Riley Yielding, Sassafrass, Daniela Demaria, and Mark Green.

Yielding shined, with solid vocals and guitar work, but really earned his applause with catchy, fun lyrics like: “so fine but she was someone else’s wife” and “the sweetest thing she does is call me her man.” He then wows with a blues number that sounded almost like a dead on rendition of the classic St. James Infirmary, off by a note or two, that pairs the classic tune with worthy lyrics.
Unique among the typical open mic performers was Sassafras. The environmental folk duo grabbed the audience’s attention with a message of protest, prodding the audience to become more Earth-friendly, with interactive songs like Wolves, guitar runs that become ingrained in ones head via such tunes as Rainforest and the more light-hearted, yet still somehow ominous Water Wars.
Young but filled with potential, Daniela Demaria entered the stage a bit nervously, but when she opened her mouth the crowd knew she was worth staying for.

Owning a voice with the timbre of an unpolished Regina Spektor, Daniela and her guitar reduced our hardened minds to a fluid state of sublime relaxation with a song she wrote about New Orleans street musicians, Wrapped Up in Blue, and one called It’s Not Fair. She may have low ambitions, to become a New Orleans street musician, but her voice may have other plans.
If blues and folk music aren’t your preferred genres maybe Mark Green’s definite country flair is more up your ally. Mark Green opened the open mic session at Janna’s Market & Deli. He may have appeared somewhat unrefined, but once his set started. if you closed your eyes, one would think they were listening to a member of the Nashville elite, someone who had already arrived.

All of the above were a true pleasure to anyone’s ears, but no one can put you in a trance like Grayson Capps. Ending the night at The Reef was definitely worth the second-hand smoke. Grayson puts on a live show like no other. The bar was packed to capacity with some of his biggest fans, there to revel in the experience. Despite being quite popular in Ireland it is no shock he’s southern made. Grayson’s recorded music doesn’t do his live show justice. Though his recordings are consistently good, there is just no way they can capture the raw energy of his live show. You just have to be there.

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Click here for free downloads of Dead Girls Are Easy by The 69 Eyes, as well as, My Heart Your Hands by Dommin.

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by: C. D. Harvill

Tuesday night, as it does on just about any given night, High Ground in Metairie, Louisiana, hosted an “all-ages” rock show. The evening’s lineup was comprised of headliners Hit The Lights, joined on the tour by the pop groups I Rival, Sparks the Rescue, Fireworks, and There For Tomorrow.

All of the bands were decent musicians and tight, as a whole. However, some aspects of certain bands’ stage shows should be noted. It needs to be understood that the High Ground is an ALL AGES venue.

Sparks the Rescue obviously misunderstood the nature of their audience, to stand on a stage and feel the need to announce what each song is about with descriptions such as: “This next song is called Skeletons. It’s about bone-rs….” Then, when there is a blatant awkward vibe in the room, the front man feels the need to explain himself to a room full of 14-year-old girls and a few mothers, “the song is about bones….. boners.” One would naturally think that, after his first attempt at humor wasn’t appreciated, he would back off, but, to the audiences misfortune, he did not. He went on to explain another song as being about oral pleasure and, if anyone would like to see the group of guys giving each other oral pleasure, they could find them in the van. He went on to open another song by saying it was about having too much of “the devil’s lettuce” and announcing that, if anyone knew where they could get some “devil’s lettuce” to come find them after the show. As if the band’s stage manners weren’t appalling enough, it is to be said that, as a pop band, you are expected–at least to some degree–to be heartthrobs. Showing up for a gig with greasy hair and having forced your, by most standards, chunky body into a pair of skinny jeans doesn’t usually scream heartthrob.

Although the next band, Fireworks, would neither be classified as heartthrobs, by most girls’ standards, nor as flawless musicians, they were at least a wholesome-looking group of guys who put on a show that had even your most unlikely audience members, with their hands in the air, singing along. Near the end of their set, the band suddenly stopped playing for one of the guitarists to ask everyone to chill out (a fight had broken out in the audience). Upon being cursed at by one kid involved in the fight, the guitarist shouted “my bad I thought he had something of value to say” and the band once again started playing. The kid continued to provoke the band, looking for things to throw, according to guitarist Chris Mojan. Once they had finished their gig, multiple fights broke out. The the drummer asked the kid if he wanted to go and just talk but, according to Mojan the kid started trying to fight again. The High Ground’s security and one of the sound guys had to help break up the evening’s violence. Mojan stated how embarrassing it was for them to be the band up there when everything broke out “we don’t support violence in any way; our music doesn’t provoke violence, it’s not even aggressive”.

Once the audience had settled down from the fights, the band that shined above all took the stage. There For Tomorrow holds the complete formula for a pop band. Each member is attractive, appropriate, charming and, not to be forgotten, the music is up to par.

The quartet has been together since 2003. Upon graduating high school they decided to start touring. They have won multiple upcoming artist awards, played Van’s Warped Tour this past summer and, upon finishing up this tour in their native Orlando, will be heading out again with Mayday Parade. Despite all the positive attention, they are still looking for more. Even though Maika Maile says he doesn’t want them to come across as needy and wanting to be in the limelight, as can be expected, the young musicians want success and deserve it. Their songs are well written, with catchy lines, not so typical minor harmonic lead riffs and flattering rhythm partnered with tight backing-bass and drums.

If you’re looking for the next band to follow until they hit it big, it would be recommended you jump onboard with There For Tomorrow as fast as you can.

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by: C. D. Harvill

Some of you older music fans may remember a time when a certain local environmental/political folk musician graced the Marquee and other media outlets. Karen Harvill, once a Mississippi Mama, is now teamed up with long-time friend and fellow folk musician Jo Billups. The pair make up the recently formed group, Sassafrass. With all the talk of global warming, the two passionate artists could not simply sit back without saying a word; so, once again, they’ve picked up their guitars and started singing. Most of their gigs have been in coffee shops in the Pensacola area; however, they have traveled as far as Ohio to perform in “green” festivals. This past Saturday was International Climate Day. To call for a clear solution to the climate crisis 350.org organized 5200 rallies in 181 countries around the world, the most widespread political action in history. The New Orleans rally, which was Sunday in Congo Square, featured Sassafrass, Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown and the marching bands from Sophie B. Wright School, Martin Behrman Charter School and O. Perry Walker High. There were speakers from 350.org, Alliance for Climate Protection, Alliance for Affordable Energy and The Coastal Restoration Network.

Sassafrass performed before and after the marching bands. Their theme-appropriate lyrics, voiced as sparkling harmonies riding on top of catchy guitar runs and compelling rhythms, served as good background music for the opening of the rally. Even for those in the audience who might not have been environmental loonies or lovers of folk music, it was a welcome respite from the foul-mouthed snowball saleswoman heaping abuse upon a fellow street vendor just outside of Armstrong Park. Once everything got started you could hear such poignant songs as “Water Wars” and the more eloquent “White on White” and “Wolves” projecting across Congo Square.  This might not have been their most energetic performance, but it was still clear that the ladies are musicians first and foremost; definitely not your average coffeehouse band.

As a former band geek, one must give kudos to “Kid Chocolate” Brown’s mad trumpet skills and, of course, to the middle and high school bands that performed as well.

With Sassafrass at the head of the parade (sporting gold umbrellas with scenes of melting ice caps and sad polar bears) the group danced second line through the Quarter to DBA on Frenchmen St. to watch the Saints play the Dolphins.

Whether you are interested in saving the environment, or simply a folk music fan, Sassafrass is a must listen.  You can check out both Sassafrass and Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown on MySpace.

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