On Stage: Garlands Jeffreys’ love letter to NYC

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Garland Jeffreys

Garland Jeffreys, who has been making interesting music for close to five decades, has just released his 15th studio – “14 Steps to Harlem.”

“This is one of the best records I’ve ever made,” said Jeffreys, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in New York City.”

On June 8, Jeffreys, who has played the area countless times over the last 47 years, will return to the Delaware Valley for a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

“I just made it recently and we released it about a month ago,” said Jeffreys. “I cut it here in the city about six months ago.

“I co-produced the album with James Maddock at Brooklyn Recording. It was recorded almost entirely analog and it has also been pressed directly to vinyl.”

The album is Jeffreys’ first recording since his “Truth Serum” album, which came out in 2013.

“The time was right and I just got right into recording this album,” said Jefferys. “I liked what was happening and one thing led to another. It just recorded itself.

“For an artist, every album is important. For me, this was a very important album. I really like it. You make a record and it gets released and it’s like your child going off.”

“14 Steps to Harlem” sounds like Jeffreys’ love letter to New York City.

“Every record I make is a love letter to New York City,” said Jeffreys. “But, this one is more than that. It’s a powerful record.

“It’s really like a love letter to my father. He was very ‘old school.’ He came from Harlem. He had a very rough time – including sleeping on roofs when he was kid.

“My grandfather owned the house I lived in out in Sheepshead Bay. He won it in a poker game. He was quite a gambler.”

Jeffreys was born and raised in New York and has always called the city home.

Jeffreys first came into his own as a professional musician in New York City in the mid-1960s. He released his first solo album “Garland Jeffreys” on Atlantic Records in 1973. Around the same time Atlantic also released a Jefferys 45 titled “Wild in the Streets, a song that was not on the album.

The guitarist/singer/songwriter wrote the song after hearing about a pre-teen rape and murder in the Bronx. He was joined on the record by a number of top musicians including Dr. John, David Spinozza, Rick Marotta and the Brecker Brothers on horns.

“Wild in the Streets” has continued to have iconic status in the skate community and been covered by a variety of musicians including The Circle Jerks, Chris Spedding, Hurricanes, British Lions and Hot Water Music.

Jeffreys has always been aware of social issues – especially racism. One song on the new album is titles “Colored Boy Said.”

“For the longest time, race has been my topic,” said Jeffreys. “I’ve always felt the issue of race ever since I was a young kid. I’m a light-skinned black.

“When I was a kid, I remember going into this candy store across the street from my public school in Brooklyn. The guy behind the counter said — what are you doing in here? It was because I was a black kid and I felt offended.

“Racism is still very real today. I was in Nashville last year and did a show. I could see the racism. I could feel the vibe there. It’s still definitely anti-Black. I’m always aware of racist issues because I write about things. My daughter, who is also a singer, is hip to it too.

“I write about other things too. I had a great, great experience of living in Italy. I was in Florence for undergrad school. I was really interested in painting and sculpture and Florence has great museums.”

In 1992, Jeffreys released his “Matador and More” album in the states. The two albums after that were only released in Europe. Finally, he came back with a pair of stateside releases. He put out the “The King of In Between” album in 2011 and followed with “Truth Serum” in 2013.

“The King of In Between” was hailed by NPR as “as good a classic roots rock record as you’re going to hear from anybody” and earned glowing reviews from a number of publications.

It also led to a performance on David Letterman as well as appearances onstage with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Levon Helm, Lou Reed, Alejandro Escovedo and Chuck Ragan. “Truth Serum” was equally well-received.

Jeffreys, who will be 74 in July, is showing no signs of slowing down. He keeps making and playing music — and his 19-year-old daughter doing the same. Savannah Rae Jeffreys recently released her own album titled “Ask Me Anything.”

“My direction is very clear — to get onstage and play my songs,” said Jeffreys, who has recorded more than a dozen albums on his own, including the classic “Ghost Rider.” “I’m grateful to still have an audience after all these years.

“I’m doing as many shows as I can do. I have all the vitality I need. I’m blessed with that and blessed with my health. I travel a lot and play everywhere.

“I always like to use different musical styles. It helps solidify the variety. For me, variety is so important because I’m telling a story.”

“14 Steps to Harlem” features a variety of styles such as the island-influenced track “Reggae on Broadway.”

“People really love the new album and they’re responding,” said Jeffreys. “It’s going to have a good life. Everything about the r4ecord is good. The album sounds great.”

Video link for Garland Jeffreys — https://youtu.be/4HGNM45L63A.

The show at the World Cafe Live, which has the DuPont Brothers as the opening act, will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.

Another interesting concert on the schedule for June 8 is the show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com) featuring Rare Futures and Gavin Castleton.

Rare Futures

Rare Futures, which was formerly known as Happy Body Slow Brain, is a “GrooveRock” band from New York City founded by Matt Fazzi. In the past, Fazzi has been a journeyman musician with Taking Back Sunday, The Dear Hunter, RX Bandits, Atlas Genius, Envy On the Coast, The Movielife, Facing New York, Gavin Caslteton, A Great Big Pile of Leaves and Into It Over It.

Fazzi’s current band Rare Futures blends a heavy prog-rock groove with 80s synthesizers and rich melodies and has been compared to bands such as Soundgarden, Tears For Fears, Jellyfish, and Sade.

Rare Futures, which released its sophomore album “This Is Your Brain On Love” via Cerebral Music Group in March 2016, features

Fazzi (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Rich Bozek (drums, guitar, vocals), and Ari Sadowitz (guitar, bass, vocals).

“On this tour, we’ll have Nick Sollecito on bass and Gavin Castleton on keyboards and vocals,” said Fazzi, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from his home in Queens, New York. “But, the core is me, Rich and Ari.

“Happy Body Slow Brain has morphed into Rare Futures. I made a second album that was supposed to be a Happy Body album. Instead of releasing it, I took time to be a touring musician with Atlas Genius, RX Bandits and Taking Back Sunday.”

When Fazzi joined taking Back Sunday as a full-time member, he replaced Fred Mascherino, a Coatesville resident whose current band is Terrible Things.

“After I got done touring, I came back and worked on finishing the album,” said Fazzi. “I had been recording it in little pockets. I have a little home studio in my apartment in Queens.

“When it’s time to get real recording done, I go to Marc Jacob Hudson’s Rancho Recordo Studio in Fenton, Michigan – to do drums and other stuff you can’t do in an apartment in New York City.

“I did the Rare Futures album ‘This Is Your Brain on Love’ last year and it came out in March 2016. Before that, I released the ‘Sleepy EP’ in 2012 and the ‘Live EP’ in 2014.”

Fazzi explained the vibe of his new band.

“We’re trying to make a more palatable rock version of prog-rock – prog-rock that the average listener can get into,” said Fazzi. “And, we include other elements of soul, R&B and nostalgia.

“With both Happy Body and Rare Futures, I haven’t really had a touring band. This tour in June is with my friend Gavin Castleton.”

Castleton, keyboardist/backing vocalist for The Dear Hunter and pop solo artist, has released a slew of bizarre concept records over the past decade.

He has worked with Seal, performed on the Jimmy Fallon Show, and toured the world both as a solo artist and member of Sage Francis, Courtney Marie Andrews, Paranoid Social Club and Gruvis Malt.

Rare Futures and Castleton joined forces to reinterpret four songs by 80s recording stars — Sade, Chicago, Hall and Oats, and Tears For Fears.

The “FutureCastle” EP will be available on a month-long US tour featuring a space-age boudoir-themed collaborative headlining set. In the Clouds Records, a boutique vinyl and screen-printing shop, will sell 20 limited edition merch bundles (comprised of a screen print, t-shirt and hand-pressed 10” vinyl EP) for each show on the tour.

“We made the “FutureCastle” EP as a studio collaboration and this will be the first time playing it live,” said Fazzi.

Video link for Rare Futures – https://youtu.be/lBmdcInF6e0.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

In recent years, solo musicians who make albums using additional musicians frequently opt to use a band name rather that their own name.

Given a choice of listening to an artist they are unfamiliar with, most music fans would opt for an act with a group name – Nine Inch Nails or Trent Reznor, Bright Eyes or Conor Oberst, A Fine Frenzy or Alison Sudol – it’s an easy choice.

Deadfellow

A recent example is the Philadelphia-based act Deadfellow – which is the musical vehicle for singer-songwriter-guitarist Hayden Sammak.

“Deadfellow is more a moniker,” said Sammak, during a phone interview Wednesday night from his home in Wyncote. ‘It’s like St. Vincent.”

Deadfellow will headline a show on June 9 at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).

“I have a friend Karl Rieders – a bass player who organizes all the stuff with putting together my backing band,” said Sammak.

“Everyone switches instruments around – keys, drums, guitar, bass and a lot of horns. We have auxiliary players who can play anything.

“In the show at MilkBoy, ‘Mescalifornia: A California Dream’ is going to be played in its entirety. We’ll have 10 people in the band for this show – including two horns and two string players.”

“Mescalifornia: A California Dream,” which will be released on June 9, is the second in a trilogy of EPs.

The first EP “Love Songs for the Contemporary Listener” was released in December 2016. It featured the single “Machine,”  which was WXPN’s “Gotta Hear it Song of the Week” in January 2017.

“We started recording ‘Mescalifornia: A California Dream’ in January,” said Sammak. “We finished it in late February.

“We recorded it at Kawari Sound in Wyncote. Rich Muir is the engineer there and I’m good friends with the owner. And, I now live across the street from the studio.”

Musically, ‘Mescalifornia’ is heavily influenced by Sammak’s ambivalence towards The Beach Boys.

According to Sammak, “I had always heard how great the Beach Boys were when I had always been lukewarm about them. I decided to try and qualify myself by exclusively listening to the Beach Boys — and only the Beach Boys – for six months and then interpreted those sounds on this record.”

For many, six hours of nothing but Beach Boys music would start to be torturous. But, Sammak persevered.

“I hated the Beach Boys,” said Sammak. “But, I listened to them exclusively for six months. Then, I went into the studio and interpreted their sonic palette.

“On the last day of tracking the EP, we were in a diner in Glenside and looked over to see one of the Beach Boys at the diner. They were playing at the Keswick Theater and Bruce Johnston was eating at the diner.”

After talking for a few hours about Sammak’s newest recordings, music, and the California of the 50s and 60s, Johnston gave his blessing and wished Sammak luck with the project.

According to Sammak, “The songs in ‘Mescalifornia’ are about the idea of environmental and cultural influences changing a person. They’re about a cultural shift away from love.”

“Mescalifornia” features Sammak’s dark vocal style and acoustic guitar work juxtaposed against shimmering strings and bold horn arrangements which he explained as “mostly my way to sonically represent the dichotomy between the heartfelt and the glitzy nature of places like Laurel Canyon.”

“Mescalifornia: A California Dream” explores the shifting ideals of love, the new California dream, and the impact of environment and culture on an individual.

The third part of the concept trilogy of EPs “Millennials In Love” is currently in production and is tentatively slated for release Fall 2017.

“I’m going to do the shit I want to do,” said Sammak, who grew up in Ambler. “I’ve always thought I’d be some kind of creative artist – someone who has that motivating factor and the creativity to go for it.

“I play guitar and a little piano but I’m mostly a singer. I just bang it out on guitar and figure out the music. I live across the street from the studio and I have keys to the studio.

“If I have an idea I want to record, I can go over to the studio in the middle of the night – which is cool when you’re trying to get away from people.

“I get real bored with things real quick and like to work fast. If I have a concept, I can knock it out quick. I made ‘Mescalifornia’ in one weekend.”

Video link for Deadfellow –https://youtu.be/stn8HYX40GQ.

The show at MilkBoy Philadelphia, which has The Classic Hunt as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets, which include a free download of “Mescalifornia,” are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Iration

Iration will make a return visit to Philadelphia on June 9 as part of a huge show at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing (601 North Columbus Boulevard at Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215- 629-3200, www.festivalpierphilly.com) that also includes Slightly Stoopid, The Movement and j. Boog.

Iration is a reggae-style band formed by six friends who grew up together on an island. But, the island is not Jamaica — or even another Caribbean island where the sounds of live reggae music constantly fill the air.

The band is from Hawaii, the home of traditional slack key guitar music and highly commercialized hula songs.

Even though the members if Iration attended the same high school in Waimea, Hawaii, they did not come together to form a band until they were all attending college in California.

What started out as a hobby grew into a band. Iration, whose sound draws direct inspiration from roots reggae bands like Culture and Black Uhuru, is out on tour with several like-minded, reggae-influenced alt-rock bands.

Iration released its all-acoustic album “Double Up” digitally in December 2016 via its own Three Prong Records.

The 10-track album features a mix of the band’s hits from previous releases, including “Reelin” off the most recent full-length “Hotting Up” (2015); “One Way Track” and “Back Around” from “Automatic” (2013); “Summer Nights” from the “Fresh Grounds” EP (2011); and “Time Bomb” and “Falling” from “Time Bomb” (2010).

Both “Hotting Up” and “Automatic” peaked at Number 1 on Billboard’s Reggae Albums Chart with “Time Bomb” reaching  Number 2 on the chart.

The group currently includes Joseph Dickens (drums), Joseph King (engineer), Cayson Peterson (keyboards), Micah Pueschel (guitar, vocals) and Adam Taylor (bass).

“Making an acoustic album is something we’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Pueschel, during a recent phone interview. “Our fans have been asking for it for a long time.

“In the past, we’ve done some acoustic shows – online and also radio shows. With the album, we wanted to wait until we had the right songs to do it.

“This release is good for the interval between ‘Hotting Up’ and whatever we do next. And, it’s a good time for songs from ‘Time Bomb’ and ‘Automatic’ to have a new life.

“We cut it very quickly. We had a week down in Newport Beach. We wanted to be simple about it and keep the drums out.

“We took five songs that we felt were our most popular songs. And, we took five songs that we felt didn’t get to wherever we wanted to get on the original recordings.

“It was half and half – lesser-known songs and hits. The five lesser-known songs were almost like new songs because they’re such different versions.”

Iration, which performed in Chester County six years ago at the now-defunct club The Note in West Chester, plays roots music even though the roots are not on their home island.

“We all are familiar with Hawaii’s great music,” said Pueschel. “If you grew up in Hawaii, you’ve listened to Gabby Pahinui, Koala Beamer and Cyril Pahinui.

“That’s the sound you grew up with. You hear slack key (music) all the time. We go back to Hawaii a few times a year.”

Musically, they go back to the sounds of the West Indies every time they play on stage.

“What we want to do with the new album was to make a definitive recording of our sound,”

“We came from playing roots reggae and then created our own sound,” said Pueschel. “We added more rock stuff. We wanted to show our versatility.

“I think our sound has definitely come around to a broader spectrum of sound — less reggae. It’s a wider range of music but still has the elements of reggae. We’ve always been a band that listens to everything. We like good songs. We’re not genre purists.”

Video link for Iration –https://youtu.be/DpMuRO_oDUc.

The multi-act show at Festival Pier will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $37.50.

Stephen Kellogg

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Craig Bickhardt featuring Michael G. Ronstadt and Beacoup Blue on June 9 and Stephen Kellogg & The South West North East along with Native Run on June10.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host the Greg Farnese Trio on June 9 and Cliff Hillis & Amy Fairchild on June 10.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present The Wavy All-Stars: Steve Kimock + John Kadlecik + Reed Mathis + Jay Lane + Kenny Brooks + Leslie Mendelson on June 9; Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe & The Gravy All-Stars: Karl Denson + Michael Travis + John Kadlecik + Marc Brownstein + Aron Magner + Vinnie Amico + Tom Hamilton on June 10; and Broken Arrow (Neil Young Tribute) and Jimmy Wallace & The Stratoblasters on June 11.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Magic Men Live on June 9.

Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org), will be presenting the hit show “Motown the Musical” now through June 11. Ticket prices range from $37-$132.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting “Crazy for You” now through June 25.

Video link for “Crazy for You” — https://youtu.be/FsUwE4R4oXk.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Danielle Nicole (formerly of Trampled Under Foot) and Laura Cheadle on June 8; Rik Emmett of Triumph – Acoustic Duo Performance with Dave Dunlop on June 9; Brand X: Reunion Tour on June 10; Nick Lowe and Eli “Paperboy” Reed on June 12; Gaelic Storm on June 13; and Bobby Whitlock & Coco Carmel with Lou Maresca (of Live At The Fillmore) on June 14.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Joe Jackson in June 9.

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