The Metro Gallery (Photo by David LaMason)
Baltimore has been host to some legendary musicians and, I’d say, just as legendary music clubs. In addition to being a gallery space for the visual arts, the Metro Gallery, which is a mixed media space in the heart of Baltimore’s Station North Arts District, has been putting on some of the most eclectic performances by the best artists — local and international — you’ve ever heard of (or shortly will).
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with Emmett Kelly perform at the Lincoln Theatre on March 7, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
When I think of Will Oldham, whether it’s by his stage name, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, or the number of other names he’s recorded under (Palace Brothers, Palace Music), I think of a musical force that I’ve known for years but always seems to be around. What’s distinct about Will’s music is in the poetry of his words; the pastoral tones of his music; and that distinctive voice that sounds much older than its owner.
Sloan rocks the Union Stage on Feb. 22, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
Okay. So, I admit that I’m a fan, so saying that Sloan is one of the best bands around and that next to the term “power pop” in any reputable encyclopedia are the names Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, and Andrew Scott is a little biased on my part. Four songwriters and musicians who have been writing and performing for nearly 30 years and right on the heals of releasing their twelfth LP, aptly titled 12, the band is in the midst of celebrating the 20th anniversary of their fourth record, “Navy Blues,” with an extensive tour.
And Saturday night at the Union Stage the quartet rocked the roof off to an awestruck audience.
Sammy Brue performs at the Lincoln Theatre on Feb. 12, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
Sammy Brue has been called an “American prodigy” by Rolling Stone and, well, that feels like an understatement. The 18-year-old Utah-based artist put out two EPs before he was 14, his first LP, I Am Nice, by 16 and is on the edge of releasing a new album on venerable New West Records, home to many artists whom he has performed with and who call themselves fans, including Justin Townes Earle.
Michael Kiwanuka performs at the Lincoln Theatre on Feb. 12, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
To say that the music of Michael Kiwanuka is cinematic isn’t a stretch. The British songwriter and performer has been building on his song craft since his debut LP in 2012. Often compared to Bill Withers, Kiwanuka takes pop songs and creates layers, motifs, and repetition to build mood. Listening to the popular “Cold Little Heart” or “Solid Ground” or “Hero” and it’s hard to pull yourself away.
Raphael Saddiq performs at 9:30 Club on Feb. 9, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
A few years ago, I was a commuter, making the trip from Baltimore to DC every day through rush hour traffic and some time on my hands while stuck in that bumper-to-bumper grind. My one saving grace was this album, “Stone Rollin'” that I became obsessed with. It felt old but in a new way — bright production with an old soul.
I knew of Raphael Saadiq’s group in the late 80’s, Tony! Toni! Toné! due to my brother’s R&B CDs (I was more of a punk rock youngster myself), but there was something about Saadiq’s solo work that clicked with me.
J. Roddy Walston and Palm Palm rock a sold-out Ottobar on Jan. 19, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
In October of last year, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, posted through social media that “after 14 years, four albums and 889 shows of being creatively betrothed solely to each other, now feels like the time to explore other possibilities…” After sold-out sets in Baltimore and Richmond, J. Roddy Walston and the Business and their raucous brand of Southern rock and Stones-inspired music was on an indefinite hiatus.
But the story doesn’t end there.