Matthew Logan Vasquez leads Delta Spirit in a performance at Ottobar on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Some rock bands deserve an attached forewarning, even if only half-serious, to help illustrate just what it is they’re doing up there on the stage or in the recording studio.
“CAN YOU HANDLE THE SPIRIT?” has probably been used as a T-shirt slogan or a sticker at some point in the past for some act out there, somewhere. But that could be a good question to pose at the door to who hasn’t yet experienced the furious goodtime that is a live Delta Spirit show.
Led by the energetic and wild-eyed Matthew Logan Vasquez and currently based in SoCal, Delta Spirit was just in town back in the fall but announced another local show at Baltimore’s Ottobar not long ago, and the five-piece group took the small stage at the storied Howard Street venue for what would be a fulfilling, exemplar night led by this consistently thrilling band.
Zachary Williams of The Lone Bellow (Photo courtesy Grandstand Media)
Before he found success as a member of the Americana trio The Lone Bellow, singer-songwriter Zachary Williams made his bones as a solo performer. He put in hard times singing in bars in New York City, where he was not even shown the courtesy of having the basketball game turned down. In 2009, he managed to scrape things together to record and release an album on a shoestring budget, and the printing contained not one but two typos.
During his set at the Miracle Theater on Tuesday evening, the similarity of his name to Christian artist Zach Williams was a bit of a running gag. When he discussed that first solo record, Zachary mentioned that Spotify has misplaced under that other Zach. He also brought up Zach’s recent duet with Dolly Parton, and someone in the audience joked, “Living vicariously!” Zachary wryly observed, “Living vicariously, indeed. He’s a Christian artist, so God only knows what he has to put up with.”
One day, as The Mastersons were driving down that endless highway on the way to another gig, a song came on the radio. As they tell the story, it was a sort of a sort generic Americana tune with a songstress going on about trains and whiskey. Eleanor Whitmore, who makes up half of the duo with her husband, Chris Masterson, said, “If I hear one more fucking song about trains and whiskey…”
This was seed for what would become the title cut of their fourth and most recent record, 2020’s No Time For Love Songs. They released it, and they took off on tour opening for alt-country heroes The Jayhawks, which came to a stop after just a few days. While the record got some strong buzz, the pandemic killed all their momentum in 2020, just as it did for everyone else in a similar situation.
The Mastersons regained that momentum significantly in a star turn at City Winery DC recently, when Eleanor headlined with Chris and then opened for herself with her sister.
Langhorne Slim performs at The Birchmere on March 22, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
I feel a certain kinship with soulful folk-Americana troubadour Langhorne Slim. We’re a couple of Jewish kids who were born just two days apart, and we grew up in neighboring states; he named himself for the suburb of Philadelphia he hails from, while I grew up just outside of Akron, Ohio. We love a lot of the same stuff: Dylan, Waits, Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie, Captain Beefheart, Will Oldham, and Uncle Tupelo.
Langhorne is a high-energy performer, someone who is more than dynamic enough to capture an audience when he’s out there on his own with just an acoustic guitar. There’s a lot of motion in his performance and you couldn’t miss it at The Birchmere in his recent date there: He moved around the stage, he came out from behind the mic, he went into the crowd. Slim had a lot of energy, and I could relate to that!
Foghorn String Band performs a late-night lounge set on March 19, 2022, at the third annual Baltimore Old Time Music Festival held at the Creative Alliance. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Fortunate is the American city brimming with visionary artists who each year stake claim on a weekend to celebrate one of the most underappreciated, yet ubiquitous styles of music being played across the continent.
The third annual Baltimore Old Time Music Festival, held this past weekend at the Creative Alliance, has in just a few years’ time turned into an important gathering of some of today’s most influential fiddlers, banjo pickers, mandolin pluckers and folk guitarists.
Thoughtfully organized and curated by Charm City’s father-son duo of Ken & Brad Kolodner, the Old Time fest featured a packed schedule on March 18 and 19 as artists and fans filled the community arts and performance space for two straight days of live music and an impressive lineup of workshops led by some of the best of their craft.
Trapper Schoepp performs at Jammin’ Java on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Trapper Schoepp established his songwriting bona fides long before co-penning a tune (“On, Wisconsin”) with Bob Dylan in 2019. Trapper self-released his first and second albums, A Change in the Weather (2007) and Lived and Moved (2009), to little fanfare but by his third album, Run, Engine, Run (2011) things began to happen.
Run, Engine, Run was reissued by SideOneDummy in 2012 and Trapper found himself touring alongside Frank Turner, the Jayhawks, and Social Distortion. Trapper recently headlined a show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.
Easing into their third decade as a band, jam-scene pioneers Railroad Earth have been hard at work keeping their bluegrass soul and rock and roll spirit alive and well. On April 22nd, the next chapter of RRE will unfold with the release of their new album All For The Song; a 10-song collection filled with tales of biblical road-trip rainstorms, Louisiana getaways, and losing their brother too soon.
Trapper Schoepp explores themes of ghosts and rebirth, springtime and renewal on his latest album, May Day. You can explore those themes with Trapper yourself in a show at Jammin’ Java on Sunday, March 13.
Parklife DC is giving away up to 10 tickets to the show! To get on the list, leave a comment on this blog post below!
For Allison Russell, taking a chance and sending a message to Brandi Carlile’s Instagram paid off. It started a conversation with Carlile’s wife, which lead to getting detailed, track-by-track feedback on her debut solo album, Outside Child. From there, it led to yet bigger things: a contract with the label Fantasy Records, which released the powerful record to “universal acclaim” (per Metacritic) last May. It has been nominated for Americana Album of the Year at this year’s Grammys, and the standout song “Nightflyer” has been nominated for Best American Roots Song and Performance.
“I have a great team behind me,” Russell told the audience at the sold-out Barns at Wolf Trap recently. “That’s why I’m ’emerging’ at 42,” she said, referring to her nomination for Emerging Artist of the Year at last year’s Americana Music Awards.