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Kansas City music

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Album review: Katy Guillen & the Girls - Katy Guillen & the Girls

(Photo by Michelle Bacon)
Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” (Note: The Deli KC premiered this song when it was first released as a single back in January. Here’s the link.) It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
--Barry Lee

Barry Lee is an occasional contributor to The Deli KC and can often be found on the radio Sunday nights at 8 pm on KKFI 90.1 as host of the long-running free-form show,
Signal To Noise. In the daytime he attends to many tasks as Station Manager for KKFI. 
This weekend, Katy Guillen & the Girls will play two special performances at Knuckleheads. On Saturday, September 6, they will be throwing a CD release party with special guests The Old No. 5’s. Facebook event page. On Sunday, September 7, they will play an unplugged show for the first time, in Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge. This is a special benefit show for KKFI 90.1 FM. Facebook event page. Both shows begin at 8:00 p.m. Go see them and indulge yourselves.

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Spotlight on CMF artist: Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear

This week, we are highlighting some of the artists playing the 10th annual Crossroads Music Fest. For more info or ticketing information, please visit cmfkc.com.
Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear quietly released their first album, We Burned the Cane Field, in 2012 (recorded/produced by Joel Nanos at Element Recording). It was relatively unknown and received very little press (The Deli KC published a review in 2013). The mother/son duo of Ruth and Madisen Ward continued performing week to week in coffeehouses and smaller venues, gaining a reputation for its profound songwriting, having two intriguing powerhouse voices, and an earnest charm that connected with audiences.
Mostly by word of mouth, Madisen and Ruth’s music has captured the attention of many in the KC area and beyond. We talk a bit with Madisen Ward about how the band came to be and what they have planned.
The Deli: How would you describe your music in one sentence?
Madisen Ward: An organic tribute to imperfection.
The Deli: Give us some background on the band. Why did you and your mom decide you would play together?
Madisen: We have been a band for 4 years now. My mother started singing at the age of 19; living a semi-nomadic life, singing in coffeehouses throughout the US. I grew up listening to her sing in coffeehouses, never realizing the impact her music and inspirations would have on me in the future. I picked up the guitar in my later teens and started singing even later. After high school, we discovered how much we enjoyed performing together, so I began writing music for both of us to sing in coffeehouses. We've been playing wherever we can, and as much as we can ever since.
The Deli: Madisen, what’s it like to be in a band with your mom? And Ruth, what’s it like to work with your son?
Madisen: It's a very interesting and unique experience working with my mother. We were already connected as mother and son, so connecting as musicians was a very natural process.
Ruth: It's a great experience, and I'm learning a lot from my son while enjoying the process as well. I feel like we're tackling music in ways I never have before.
The Deli: Your first album, We Burned the Cane Field, came out in 2012. Do you have any new stuff in the works?
Madisen: We have lots of new material. Songs that we're real excited to share with everyone, but the actual recording date is undetermined at this time. We're looking forward to recording as soon as possible!
The Deli: What has been your biggest accomplishment as a band?
Madisen: We just recently announced that we'll be opening for the legendary B.B. King on October 1 at The Midland (Facebook event page). This is probably our greatest accomplishment so far. It is a humbling honor to share the evening with such an amazing blues icon!
The Deli: What does the future hold for Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear?
Madisen: Touring and recording is what we're wanting to accomplish for the upcoming months. We just recently signed on with the William Morris Endeavor Agency, and we couldn't be more excited to embark on this journey!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
Madisen: A couple of Mama Bear's favorite musicians are Tracy Chapman and John Gorka. A couple of mine are Nick Drake and Tom Waits. Kansas City has a very unique and vibrant music scene; we'd rather not pick any one local musician as our favorite.
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at Crossroads Music Fest this year?
Madisen: I'm excited to see many bands, including The Philistines whom we're sharing a venue with. Me Like Bees is a band I'm excited to see as well.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Madisen: No matter what you pursue; respect others while pursuing it. With all due respect, We're all due respect.
Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear will be playing at The Tank Room for Crossroads Music Fest on Saturday. They will be playing at 10:00 pm, right after Maria the Mexican and right before The Philistines.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.

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Artists on Trial: Doby Watson

(Photo by Alison Claire Peck)
Doby Watson has been writing songs since he was a child. His songwriting invites—or rather, pulls the listener in to the miserable but beautiful world in his mind. Though sparse in instrumentation, his music is poetic, shrouded in a dense fog of melancholy and pain. A young but seasoned songwriter, Watson has gone on numerous US tours and released several albums. With his next album, Live-In Son, being released in October, we asked him a few questions about what he has happening.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Watson: One of the only things keeping me from killing myself.
The Deli: You mainly work solo, but do you collaborate with other musicians very often?
Watson: I’ve historically avoided accompaniment (with the occasional exception of my dear friend Austin Swearengin). However, lately I have been lucky enough to play alongside Adam Brumback (guitar, vocals, percussion), Grant Buell (keys/piano) and Chad Toney (bass) live. And on record Grant Buell (My Oh My, Kansas City Bear Fighters), Jerad Tomasino (Everyday/Everynight), Chad Toney (Hidden Pictures, Leering Heathens), Lennon Bone (Ha Ha Tonka), Ryan Brewer (Hank., Good Night & Good Morning), Richard Gintowt (Hidden Pictures), Austin Swearengin, Matt Dill, Margo May, and a multitude of others have joined me. There are countless other folks I’d love to work with, as well.
The Deli: What is the heart of your songwriting all about?
Watson: Just a beer-soaked, privileged white guy complaining about his relatively nice life, I suppose.
The Deli: You're releasing Live-In Son on October 17. What can we expect from this?
Watson: Imagine the emotional equivalent of locking yourself in your parents’ bathroom for 5 years, filling the tub with terrible beer, getting in said tub while chain smoking, occasionally letting loved ones in and asking them to hold your head down in the tub until you drown in beer, but instead of helping you drown (or lifting you up from the tub), they simply walk away in disappointment and shame.
I recorded the songs live in Ross Brown’s basement about a year ago here in KC. The following day, Grant Buell (Rhodes) and Jerad Tomasino (vocals) came in and improvised over the live recordings, having never rehearsed with me or each other. Hannah Jensen added some viola drones at Ross’s, and Richard Gintowt added additional vocals at his home in San Francisco. The songs sat for some time until Ryan Brewer was kind enough to mix them and add some electric guitars, field recordings, and auxiliary percussion, etc., in Champaign, IL. Finally, Cory Schulz has been kind enough to beautifully master the results in Milwaukee. Essentially, I’ve been riding on the backs and good will of my talented friends to piece together a slow, creepy, sob-fest about some of the most unpleasant years of my life (so far).
Not to mention the visual side of the record, which has been/is being put together with help from Alison Claire Peck, Adam Brumback, Tim Williams, Megan Inghram, as well as my parents.
The Deli: You are releasing the album on Error Records and Double Shift.
Watson: Error Records is an amazing record store, venue, and DIY label based in Champaign, all masterfully run under the ironclad beard of Nathan Landolt. Double Shift is a new label based in Queens, NY, operated by Cameron Matthews (as fantastic a journalist as he is a musician) of which I am lucky enough to be the flagship artist. The two labels are working together to release a cassette and digital version of Live-In Son.
The Deli: You're kicking off an extensive tour soon. What are you looking forward to most?
Watson: Seeing all of the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years and miss dearly. At that, making new wonderful friends as I get back on the road.
I’m also thrilled to be accompanied by Adam Brumback on this tour. He brings a lot to the songs, so much so that I wish he was around for the recording sessions. I’m equally excited to be joined by ZXO on this tour, a new solo project from Ryan Brewer, who was also heavily involved in the completion of the record.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Watson: That’s a hard question for me to answer. I don’t feel like I’m very involved in much “local” music or go to enough shows in KC. I should fix that.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Watson: There are so many. I feel like Kansas City is in a bit of a renaissance. I have so many amazingly talented friends and am introduced to countless wonderful performers I was previously unaware of every time I go to a show. So, really, anyone who is trying and cares about what they are doing is my favorite. That being said…
Manipulator Alligator (Matthew Hoppock). He doesn’t play much, if at all anymore. But he’s one of the only artists I have ever covered and has remained one of my greatest influences. I sincerely believe he is one of the greatest songwriters to have ever lived. It amazes me that I am able to call someone so talented a friend as well. Honestly, that goes for all of my musical friends, local or not.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Watson: Again, there are so many. I will simply list what I’ve most recently listened to: Mandarin Dynasty, Pill Friends, What Moon Things, Blood Orange, Shahman, Gem Club, Stars Of The Lid, Temple, Year Of Glad, Inc., Nevada Greene, The Body, Portraits Of Past, CJ Boyd, Brambles, FKA Twigs, American Football, ZXO, Scott Walker, Olive Drab, and Grouper.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Watson: Well, considering I don’t want to shatter the deity-like status I have attributed to most of my favorite artists... I would love to play a show with myself from 10 years ago and myself 10 years from now. I guess I could also just masturbate in front of a mirror while holding up old pictures of myself. That would probably be more entertaining.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why? 
Watson: John Prine. Just four giant sculptures of John Prine’s face. Listen to John Prine and you’ll know why.
The Deli: What other goals do you have for 2014?
Watson: Not die. Get sad about more sad stuff. Make more sad songs about being sad. Repeat.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Watson: Don’t talk during anyone’s set. Ever. They worked very hard to share something very important to them with you. It means a lot if you pay attention. If what you are talking about is so important you can’t shut up long enough to watch a set, go outside. If you simply don’t like what you’re hearing, leave. Don’t be the asshole who fucks up the show for everyone else.
Also, fuck the police.
The next time you can catch Watson will be this Friday, September 5, at Prospero’s Books. The show starts at 8 pm. He’ll be performing with Shahman (Toronto), Nevada Greene (Columbia), and Not Like Igor. Facebook event page. Then, on September 13, he’ll be at Art Closet Studios with Temple (Milwaukee) and Riala. Facebook event page.

--Michelle Bacon

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Album review: Diverse - Our Journey

If you’re looking for a Thelonious Monk reincarnate jazz style, you’ve found it in Diverse’s Our Journey.
Hermon Mehari’s raw trumpet, Ryan Lee’s toe-tapping drums, and Ben Leifer’s soulful bass all create a groovy, vibrant experience. This album is a serene soundscape of honest-to-roots swing jazz, while incorporating a soulful Kansas City 18th and Vine roots heritage. It’s a technical collection and in some ways experimental. Also on the album are pianist Tony Tixier (from Paris) and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. It was recorded by Andre Charlier in Paris, mixed by Brendan McReynolds, and mastered by Mike Nolte. Our Journey is a follow up to Diverse’s first self-titled album released in 2009.
Take a breath and listen to this wise and prophetic classical jazz journey. It’s like walking into true legendary jazz at The Blue Room or Green Lady Lounge, a more recently opened downtown hot spot. So while you’re at home cleaning the dishes, playing with the cat and relaxing, take the dazzling ride and listen to this album. Let it take you. It begs to be seen live. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting at the back of the Foundation catching a whiff of Kansas City tradition. 
Because I wanted to get a sense of how the album was recorded, I asked McReynolds what direction Mehari gave him when mixing the album. According to McReynolds, his motivation was “to just mix it like it was a jazz club in Kansas City. Very intimate and very tight. It’s like walking into a place you have never been before and feeling comfortable.”
Whether it’s the time signature changes and beautiful technical work, or the sometimes wildly manic nature of jazz itself, each track is an imminent adventure. “Motherland” is a spirit awakening exploration. It’s a night dressed to the nines at a martini bar probably, having the time of my life, or maybe a night spent writing by the light of the moon. The final track on the album, “Rest in Peace,” offers a unique two-stick lassoing of the beat and melancholic trumpet. A funky groovy bass line bathes the soul with a warm dance to permeate the senses.
Our Journey is a testament to Kansas City’s rich jazz and blues culture and connects with a wide range of audiences. Choose your own journey with this album. It is a must listen.
--Chris Wenske

You can catch Diverse at The Riot Room on Thursday, September 4. Reach will be DJing the first set, followed by Diverse, and then New Orleans duo Hildegard, led by Cliff Hines. Doors open at 7:00.

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Album review: The Sluts - Loser (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
Lawrence, Kansas (affectionately to be referred to henceforth as LFK) continues to be a source of the kinds of music that I want to hear more of and know more about. One band in particular has really caught my ear of late with a sound that’s raw, dirty, energetic, and undeniably attention-grabbing: The Sluts, a bare-bones twosome consisting of Kristoffer Dover on drums and Ryan Wise on guitar and vocals. Two musicians, no more, no less … but as the sounds you’ll hear on their new EP Loser will demonstrate, two musicians is plenty when it comes to making a substantial sonic statement.
Their mix of garage, punk, and grunge kicks things off with the opener, “Let Me Go,” as The Sluts tear things up with a grimy bounce firmly entrenched in 4/4 time. “Loser” starts with a tip of the cap to upbeat new wavey rhythms, but 25 seconds into the track, the boys re-establish the power presence that is their raison d’etre (how’s THAT for some damn NPR-speak, kids?). “Green” and “Linger” wrap up the four-track, barely-more-than-ten-minute EP with the sound that I’ve most commonly described as “Nirvana without Krist Novoselic,” as Wise’s sneering vocals and snarling guitar combined with Dover’s relentlessly on-point percussion give the music just a bit of Bleach-era homage while sounding very much of the present day.
I had the honor of introducing The Sluts during this year’s Midcoast Takeover at SXSW; they were on the roster of the I Heart Local Music / Whatever Forever day-party that featured more examples of LFK’s finest (Black on Black, Shy Boys, Josh Berwanger Band, and Oils/CS Luxem). After a couple long days of music and food truck fare and drinking, the abrasive grind of The Sluts was a much-needed Brillo pad to the brain. Give Loser a listen, and keep an eye out for this band.
Love me some dirty, filthy, nasty The Sluts. Awwww yeahhhhhh.
-Michael Byars

Michael can use the phrase “raison d’etre” in the same review as the phrase “awwww yeahhhhh,” because that’s how he rolls. 




Editor’s note: Loser was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording. Photos taken at Element by Todd Zimmer.

Catch The Sluts this Friday at Liberty Hall; they’ll be playing #ASSJAMZ: Bands That Will Make You Dance, along with Approach, Paper Buffalo, and Spencer Brown. Show starts at 8 pm. Facebook event page. If you’re in KC, see them this Sunday at Vandals. They’ll be joined by fellow LFKers Mr. and the Mrs., Mannequin Pussy (NYC), and KC’s Anson the Ornery. Facebook event page. 

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