Craig Finn, Langhorne Slim, Turnpike Troubadours, and More

Mountain Stage with Larry Groce

Craig Finn, Langhorne Slim, Turnpike Troubadours, and More

Sun · November 1, 2015

7:00 pm

$15.00

Tickets at the Door

This event is all ages

Craig Finn
Craig Finn
Faith in the Future is the second solo album from Craig Finn, and it's being released on Brooklyn-based indie label Partisan Records. Josh Kaufman produced the record in the cozy, rustic confines of Woodstock's The Isokon recording studio and helped Finn stretch the boundaries of his songwriting with confidence, invention and ambition to realize what will be a defining moment in his career. At times stark and spare, at other times vibrant and dynamic, Faith in the Future is Finn's most compelling collection thus far, each song a powerfully alluring and subtly nuanced composition wedded to his distinctive short story narratives. Much of the material on Faith in the Future was written after the passing of Finn's mother, and while none of the songs directly address that loss, the themes of perseverance and finding redemption can be found throughout the album. "I had both the music and lyrics to these songs, though they changed a great deal in the studio," Finn explains. "There's a grandness to The Hold Steady that tends to make me write about bigger, more dramatic themes. Some of these songs are more mundane, with minor slices of life that wouldn't best be supported by the hugeness of a rock group. It wasn't always about what we wanted to put in, but what should we leave out? We didn't want to sermonize or moralize. Just let these songs, and characters, be."
Langhorne Slim
Langhorne Slim
Sometimes, truth can’t be explained. But it can be felt, running wild through a song. “I don’t want to tame myself. I want to be wild,” says Langhorne Slim. “If I can continue to refine the wildness but never suffocate or tame it, then I’m on the right path. Because it is a path. I feel it.”

The Spirit Moves is Langhorne’s newest artistic attempt to refine the wildness. The result is an effervescent collection of his now-signature, cinematic, joyful noise, rooted in folk, soul, and blues. Out on Dualtone Records on August 7th, 2015, the album marks his second with rock-solid band The Law, and the highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed The Way We Move.

The Spirit Moves is a stunning portrait of Langhorne’s life in transition: the “born to be in motion and follow the sun” rambler found a home in Nashville, Tennessee. While he’s put down roots in a place, he’s unattached to a person, single for the first time in recent memory. The Spirit Moves is also the first album of his career written and recorded entirely sober. Together, the record’s beautiful glimpses of bold beginnings and risks taken create an ode not only to a better life, but to the vulnerability needed to live it.

“I’m a strong believer that sensitivity and vulnerability are not weaknesses. They’re some of the greatest strengths of man and woman kind,” Langhorne says. “And that’s what a lot of the record is about.”

Langhorne and The Law sought out engineer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and recorded The Spirit Moves at Tokic’s studio, the Bomb Shelter, in East Nashville. Producing duties were shouldered by Langhorne, the band, and trusted cohort Kenny Siegal, reuniting the family behind The Way We Move.

“I went to battle with my demons, and I’m still doing it,” Langhorne says. “My brothers stood beside me and kicked ass on the record.” Three of his brothers are The Law: drummer Malachi DeLorenzo, bassist Jeff Ratner, and keys and banjo player David Moore. “My band is not a hired gun group of guys,” Langhorne says. “They are my band and they are uniquely spectacular.”

And then, there’s brother Kenny Siegal. “In Kenny, I’ve found a musical brother,” he says. “We drive each other crazy, but the man understands me somehow in an energetic, spiritual sense, more than most anyone I’ve ever met.”

Langhorne wasn’t looking for a co-writer, but that’s exactly what Siegal became for eight of the record’s songs, making The Spirit Moves the first time Langhorne has ever written with someone else for an album. For Langhorne, writing is often an arduous process.“I rarely write a complete song immediately,” he explains. “Every once in a while, one hits, but songs mostly come in pieces. Those pieces build up and start to taunt me as they swirl around in my head. Eventually, they make me feel like I’m going totally crazy. It’s like they’re gonna devour me––eat me alive.”

He pushed through alone to pen some of the tracks, chasing each song’s individual truth. In creating others, Siegal helped him put the pieces together.

What emerged is a record that delights in contradiction: freewheeling but purposeful; celebratory but confessional; looking to light even when it’s dark. Langhorne’s voice––an arresting howl sublimely at home in a Mississippi roadhouse or on a Newport stage––has never sounded better.

He wrote the title track just weeks before entering the studio, “terrified that I didn’t have enough and what I had wasn’t good enough.” The song is no mere reflection, but a manifestation of unbridled joy, and a celebration of opening up oneself to the supernatural that surrounds us.

“Changes” is an intimate look at a soul being reborn, but Langhorne hopes each listener can hear something of their own in it. “When I’m writing, it’s coming from a heart or soul kind of place, not the mental zone of ‘Well, I moved to Nashville and I got sober and I’m single and I’m going through changes, so let’s write a song about it,’” he says. He calls infectious garage-pop growler “Put it Together” “the most painful song I’ve ever written,” not because of the subject matter, but because of the process. He found the opening lines and crunchy chords while seeking relief after his beloved 1977 Mercury Comet was stolen. But then, the song took months to complete. “I’ve never worked that hard to get a song,” he says.

The refusal to let a heart harden helped bring about “Life’s a Bell,” a dreamy call-to-action that nods to 50s rock-and-roll and Sly and the Family Stone. “A lot of my music is celebration of light,” he says. “It’s a horrible thing to shield our hearts and not be vulnerable.”

“Wolves,” based on a James Kavanaugh poem, tackles similar subject matter, and Langhorne feels it’s the “truest expression of myself that I’ve put into a song.” “I’m tough enough to run with the bulls, and I’m too gentle to live amongst wolves,” he sings, his soul-shouting subdued to a hush that’s just as powerful.

The rollicking “Southern Bells” pulses with the optimism of a new day, while “Strongman” and its piano pay tribute to perseverance and seizing the moment. “Whisperin’” captures another kind of breakthrough, relatable and intense, while “Strangers” is classic Langhorne Slim, and begs to be danced to, uninhibited and free.

“Airplane” is a poignant example of his ability to capture the redemptive hope in desperation. Part meditation, part urging of an unnamed co-conspirator, the song puts his defiantly tender vocals front and center, hugged by a rotating cast of instruments that kicks off with stark guitar and piano, swells into lush strings and percussion, then ebbs back into its stripped-down beginning––like the waves of confidence and doubt that make up faith itself.

The song is undoubtedly a career standout for Langhorne, and creating it was a long road. Three key “muses”––his Grandma Ruth, dear friend Joel Sadler, and another confidant––gave him encouragement along the way. “I kept going for ‘Airplane’ because it made sense to me and there were people around me who were moved very deeply by it,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.”

With a new home and a clear head, Langhorne is exhilarated thanks to the realization of what he knew was possible. “I had a problem with drugs and alcohol from the time I was 15 until I quit last year on my 33rd birthday,” Langhorne says. “I was hitting my head against the ceiling. I knew all I had to do was quit, and my head would burst through that ceiling. I didn’t really know what would be there, but I knew it’d be something greater.”

For Langhorne, something greater includes making the best music of his life.

“By opening myself, I’m vulnerable and I’m fearful, but I start to get real. And in that realness, there is immense strength that I wish for everybody,” Langhorne says. “Maybe everybody’s scared to be a freak. But when you live as a freak––” he laughs––“it’s so much more fulfilling.”

– Elisabeth Dawson, 2015
Turnpike Troubadours
Turnpike Troubadours
Times are tough for just about everyone these days, especially for those who live in what is often referred to as the "flyover states," in the heart of the country. People have become tougher, their skins have grown thicker and they have become much harder to win over. That especially holds true when it comes to the music that rolls into the bars, music halls and honky tonks of their towns. The overwhelming success that Turnpike Troubadours have had on the so-called Red Dirt circuit of those states says a lot about the quintet's authenticity and fire, particularly because their music is not exactly what that scene in known for producing.

"When we first started playing, people couldn't have cared less that we were there," recalls Troubadours' frontman Evan Felker. "They were there to drink beer and raise hell and they didn't really care what music was playing while they did it. But as we went on and as we got better, they started to listen. I mean, they were still drinkin' plenty of beer, but before too long, they were actually coming to hear us and asking us to play our songs, and not just covers of traditional favorites and all the other stuff we'd been doing."

Not only did the crowds get more attentive, they kept getting bigger. As time went on, and the Troubadours broadened their touring circle, they moved on from tiny clubs in the more obscure corners of the Sooner state and started hitting – and selling out – prestigious venues like Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, the Firehouse Saloon in Houston and Antone's in Austin.

Over the course of the past five years, Felker, bassist RC Edwards, fiddle player Kyle Nix, guitarist Ryan Engleman and drummer Gabe Pearson, have honed the rowdy, quick-witted sound that's brought folks of all stripes together in front of those stages.

And on Goodbye Normal Street, the Troubadours' third full-length album, the band takes that blend of nice and easy and nice and rough and distills it into a 43-minute ride that takes in the scenery of America's Heartland and the inner workings of a group of 20-somethings on a quest for something better.

"This time around, we tried to balance things out," says bassist Edwards, who shelved a steady gig as a pharmacist in late 2011 to concentrate on the band. "We wanted to combine the idea of getting something perfect, the way you can only do in a proper studio, with the energy of playing in front of a thousand people jumping around and screaming."

They attack that goal with gusto on Goodbye Normal Street, putting the pedal to the metal on "Before the Devil Knows We're Dead" (a breakneck romp about regular folks who lived hard and died in a blaze of glory) and dialing back to a sensual closing-time waltz on "Call a Spade a Spade" (a cheater's lament on which Felker duets with Jamie Wilson of the Trishas).

Felker, who writes the majority of the lyrics – with an assist from Edwards, who penned the semi-autobiographical "Morgan Street," about the band's hardscrabble early days – has a knack for capturing slices of life in vivid detail. He can hit hard emotionally with a song like "Blue Star" (a bittersweet tale of a veteran returning from war) or tweak the listener with something like "Gin, Smoke and Lies" (on which he contrasts his own romantic plight with that of a rooster who manages to satisfy 20 partners, and not just one).

"All the songs are about people we know," he says. "And yeah, some of them are probably about me to some degree – the guy who ticks off the wrong girl from Arkansas, and the guy who doesn't always like what he sees himself becoming. Mostly though, I think they're just honest."

The band – which took its name from the Indian Nation Turnpike that connected so many of the smaller towns where they cut their teeth – gradually evolved from offering acoustic explorations of tunes by Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker to kicking out three or four sets a night of full-throttle roadhouse country – tinged with the punk rock attitude that was in the air during the members' teen years.

"We all pretty much grew up with hardcore country music around us," says Felker. "I mean, sure, there was rock stuff in there, but the real old-school stuff, plus exposure to folks like Jason Boland and Cross Canadian Ragweed, really affected what we were playing. We're really a product of both our influences and our environment. It wasn't something that we sat in a room and dreamed up in one day."

That's clear. The raw-boned energy of their 2007 debut, Bossier City, cut on a shoestring budget and aimed squarely at getting boots on the dance floor earned raves from many corners, including No Depression, which dubbed it "a testament to the small towns in which they were raised … with stories of longing, humor, tragedy and general life in rural America." The quintet broadened its horizons on its sophomore outing, Diamonds and Gasoline, which spawned the Americana favorite "Every Girl" and brought them to the attention of folks throughout the country, and overseas.

And with Goodbye Normal Street – the name a reference to another longtime band residence as well as a state of mind that they left behind long ago – they set their sights on conquering even more expansive territories. With songs like the blue-collar anthem "Southeastern Son" and the universally understandable breakup plaint "Wrecked," they look pretty likely to conquer them.

"This music, at its best, can put into words what we have been thinking for our entire lives," says Felker, "and even at its worst, it gets people drinking beer and makes people happy. Either of those is fine with me."
Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter's anticipated new full-length album, Imaginary Man, is now streaming in full exclusively at The New York Times. Of the music The New York Times praises, "Nashville may be the capital of country music, but it's also seen its share of top rock acts, including Jack White's Raconteurs, Kings of Leon and Paramore. Rayland Baxter sits between those two worlds, as evidenced on his second full-length release…On this album, Rayland builds melodies with lush guitars, keyboards and harmonies far closer to the Shins than Blake Shelton."

Out next Friday, August 14 on ATO Records, Imaginary Man is already receiving widespread critical attention—of the first single, "Yellow Eyes," NPR Music's Ann Powers asserts, "Many musicians can craft about one-third of an excellent pop song. Some write beautiful bare melodies that drip into your head like honey into cake. Others are masters of tone, using genius arrangements and technical wizardry to craft a sound that transports, no matter the shape of the tune. Still others employ wit to craft characters that feel like friends. Rarely, a musician manages to do all three. On the new 'Yellow Eyes,' Rayland Baxter comes pretty darn close to such perfection." Additionally, GQ calls the album track "Young Man," "The Best Song From Fashion Week."

In celebration of the release, Baxter is currently in the midst of nationwide tour, including three shows in L.A. next week—Tuesday, August 11 at The Hotel Cafe and Thursday, August 13 and Friday, August 14 at The Fonda Theater with Grace Potter. See below for more details.

Recorded in Nashville, the 11-track album was produced by Adam Landry (Deer Tick, Diamond Rugs) and Eric Masse (Andrew Combs, Robert Ellis) and features Bucky Baxter (Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams) on pedal steel as well as Jessie Baylin, Isaaca Byrd (MYZICA), Mikky Ekko, Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Steelism) and Matt Vazquez (Delta Sprit) on background vocals.

Of the album, Baxter comments, "To me, Imaginary Man is an audible record of my journey down the bright blue river of imagination. It is a multicolored dream of song, a sonic birdbath if you may. The sounds and songs are as visual as they are tactile and it shows a bit more of who I have become as an artist, as continual and never ending as that process is."

Imaginary Man follows Baxter's highly praised debut feathers & fishHooks, which was released in 2012. Since then, Baxter has toured alongside Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Kacey Musgraves, The Head and the Heart, Shakey Graves, Boz Scaggs and Tedeschi Trucks Band, among many others.
Tall Heights
Tall Heights
"Folk" has become a funny label for Tall Heights. It felt right when they went all-in on a career in music, street performing over 100 days in 6 months to fund their first recordings. It felt right when their plucky single, "To Be Young," worked its way into the hearts of their hometown, Boston MA, and spread to the nation on Pandora and Spotify. It felt right when they played 300+ shows in ​20​13 and ​20​14 all across the United States. However, as sounds from their looming October ​20​15 EP, Holding on, Holding Out, begin to surface, Tall Heights is staying true to their harmony, cello and guitar laden souls, while creating something ​brand new.

"It's a contemporary sound that is not without its ageless qualities." – Chicago Sun Times

"Tall Heights employ a collection of acoustic guitar, cello, and electronic drums,​ ​reminiscent of contemporary indie folk giants like Justin Vernon and Fleet​ ​Foxes."​ ​-XPN

​"Certifiably Unclassifiable" -Boston Herald
Venue Information:
Culture Center Theater
West Virginia State Capitol Grounds
Charleston, WV, 25305
http://www.wvculture.org/agency/cultcenter.html