Wed. Sept. 9: An Evening with WATKINS FAMILY HOUR featuring Sean Watkins & Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Fiona Apple, Don Heffington, Sebastian Steinberg, and Special Guests -7:30pm- $39.50
It has now been more than a decade since Gaelic Storm’s career lifted off with their appearance in the blockbuster film Titanic. Since their big-screen debut 10 years ago, the band’s fan base continues to multiply with each new album, turning the one-time-pub-band into one of the premier touring acts in the Celtic/World music genre. Gaelic Storm’s compelling originals and fresh arrangements steeped in Celtic traditional melody combined with their unique blend of world rhythms continue to broaden the musical horizons of the Celtic music genre creating new standards for generations to come. Highlights from their decade-spanning career include seven Billboard Chart topping albums, a DVD, a full-length concert film featured on HD.net in 2007-2008, song placement on two EA Sports Games, a 2008 Hallmark greeting card featuring their song “Kiss Me I’m Irish”, countless television and radio appearances, and of course, an appearance in James Cameron’s Titanic. Gaelic Storm has sold out hundreds of theatres and performing arts centers and has now played to audiences totaling in the millions.
Gaelic Storm released their 7th album What’s the Rumpus? (Lost Again Records) in July 2008 with a stellar debut at #1 on the Billboard World Album Chart, #1 on the iTunes World Album Chart and #5 on the Billboard Internet Album Chart. Inspired by the music that drives their loyal fan base, What’s the Rumpus? is a wild party of an album, full of colorful characters and outrageous stories, flavored with Gaelic Storm’s signature acoustic sound that gets you dancing and never lets you go. “I think this is some of the best writing we have ever done, everything seemed to come together perfectly for this cd,” says Steve Twigger, “…it is the culmination of a great deal of hard work and a barrel of good times.” From the upbeat opening title track to the final cut, “The Night I Punched Russell Crowe” (a true story involving singer Patrick Murphy), the music captures the contagious energy of the band’s carefree attitude and infectious live performances. With instruments ranging from African drums, Irish bagpipes and Celtic fiddle to trombones and Cajun-style accordions, WTR is a three-ring circus of acrobatic songs, swirling tunes and galloping rhythms. Steve Twigger produced the project with co-production by drummer Ryan Lacey and Pat Manske, and additional production by Patrick Murphy. Returning to The Zone studio in Austin TX where the band recorded their previous release Bring Yer Wellies, Gaelic Storm also enlisted the help of a few select Austin locals including Lloyd Maines and 1960’s psychedelic performer, Arthur Brown, to round out their eclectic Celtic sound. To quote Patrick Murphy, “We have so much fun together as a band, we managed to capture some of the good times we have together on this recording.”
Consistently touring over 125 dates per year, Gaelic Storm routinely breaks attendance and merchandise sales records, headlining the world’s largest Celtic festivals as well as mainstream events such as The Rock Boat, Ships N Dips and the Cayamo Songwriter’s Cruise alongside acts such as Gavin DeGraw, The Barenaked Ladies, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett. Remarkably, the band has headlined the world’s largest Irish Festival, Milwaukee Irish Fest, for 6 straight years, playing to crowds of 15,000 per performance and breaking the festival’s policy of not inviting artists to perform in consecutive years. In June 2008, Gaelic Storm expanded their touring to include Australia, kicking off their tour at the National Celtic Festival outside Melbourne.
Since their eponymous first album reached #5 on Billboard's World Music Chart in 1998, Gaelic Storm continues to consistently climb to the top of the Billboard Charts. The band’s 2006 release Bring Yer Wellies (Lost Again Records) debuted at #2 on the Billboard World Chart, #16 on the Internet Sales Chart and #31 on the Independent Album Chart. Their previous five albums have all charted high on the Billboard World Music Chart, including reaching the #2 position on additional occasions.
Gaelic Storm recorded a very special version of "Scalliwag", an original song off Bring Yer Wellies, for two EA Games Sims video games. All the words were translated into "Simlish" (the official language of the Sims video game world) and then re-sung in "Simlish" by the band. The song appears in both "EA Sports - The Sims2 Castaway" and "EA Sports - The Sims2 Bon Voyage" video games.
In 2008, Hallmark released a special “soundcard” greeting card for St. Patrick’s Day featuring the master recording of the original Gaelic Storm song “Kiss Me I’m Irish” from their album Bring Yer Wellies. The greeting card was released throughout the US and the UK.
On St. Patrick's Day, 1996, Patrick Murphy of Cork City, Ireland (vocals, piano, accordion, spoons, harmonica) officially joined forces with Steve Twigger of Coventry, England (vocals, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki), at O'Brien's pub in Santa Monica, California. In 1997, Gaelic Storm was catapulted out of their formative pub haunts by an appearance in the blockbuster film Titanic. Cast as the "party band" in the steerage scene, they landed the part while still drinking pints and playing weekly at O'Brien's. In 2003, Ryan Lacey (drums and world percussion) became a member of Gaelic Storm. From Pasadena CA, Lacey graduated twice from the Los Angeles Music Academy; once for hands and once for sticks. Pete Purvis of Merrickville, Ontario (uilleann pipes, tin whistle, deger pipes and highland pipes) joined the group in 2004. A Grade 1 piper, Purvis previously toured with award winning pipe bands including the Braemar Pipe Band and performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The newest member of the band, Jessie Burns (fiddle), originally hails from Suffolk England and now lives in Colorado. Prior to Gaelic Storm, Jessie played with Gregory Alan Isakov and The Freight, as well as David Ford in England.
GAELIC STORM WHAT’S THE RUMPUS? Available at all music outlets.
In the course of Chris Isaak's career, he has released nine extraordinary albums, twelve singles, been nominated for two Grammy awards, acted in several motion pictures and starred in his own critically acclaimed TV series. His legendary shows with his longtime band Silvertone have entertained tens of thousands of people for over two decades. Even his hair has its own fan club. And yet, this highly praised herald platinum-selling artist has never released a greatest hits album.
Hard to believe, no? Well, unlike some artists who roll out a greatest hits package after, say, their second album, Isaak waited until he actually had enough hits to legitimately describe the collection as such.
"Shouldn't a greatest hits collection after two records be called 'Greatest Hit'?" Isaak asks. "I guess I've just always been too busy making records. Plus, it takes a while before you really want to compile everything. But after going through all the songs to make the Best Of, I feel like we have good stuff."
Good stuff. That's typical Isaak self-deprecation- it's much more than good stuff. Best Of Chris Isaak-the CD and accompanying DVD, which features 18 video clips by such esteemed directors as Gus Van Sant, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Mary Lambert and Jean-Baptiste Mondino-take listeners on a gratifying musical journey through the Stockton, Calif., native's two-decade career, showcasing his stellar songwriting; smooth, dusky baritone (and tender falsetto that will alert your dog); and effortless brand of stylish retro-cool.
The album displays Isaak's many different musical personas: the rockabilly rebel ("Dancin'," "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing," "Speak Of The Devil"), the brokenhearted crooner ("Wicked Game," "Somebody's Crying"), and the breezy acoustic storyteller ("San Francisco Days," "Two Hearts"). It includes two brand new songs, the elegant "King Without A Castle" and the break-up exhortation "Let's Have A Party," as well as two covers: Cheap Trick's power-pop anthem "I Want You To Want Me," a live favorite previously unavailable on any of his CDs ("It's kind of fun to do something a little different for me," Isaak says), an inspired version of his hero Roy Orbison's classic lovelorn ballad "Only The Lonely," and a stirring never before heard acoustic version of "Forever Blue."
"What a sweet guy Roy was," Isaak says. "We opened for him one time and after the show I said to him, 'I don't know if I write hits or not,' and he said, 'You write hits, you just don't know it.' It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time to keep me going for another year."
That was before noted director David Lynch used "Wicked Game," a spare, moody ballad from Isaak's third album, Heart-Shaped World, in the film Wild At Heart. The song went Top Ten in 1991, and the video, a steamy Herb Ritts-directed clip featuring the singer rolling around on the beach with a topless Helena Christensen, made Isaak a star. "'Wicked Game' really put us out there," he says. "We were on the road at the time, and got to ditch our van and get into a bus. For the first time in years, we got some sleep!"
Another significant hit included on Best Of is the south-of-the-border-flavored ballad "Somebody's Crying" from 1995's Forever Blue (both the single and album were nominated for Grammy awards in 1996). "I wrote that song in a closet," Isaak says. "I had just broken up with someone and hadn't been out of the house much. A friend of mine was having a party and as soon as I arrived I realized I didn't want to be there. The house had this big walk-in closet in the hallway, so I went in, shut the door, and sat down underneath the coats. There was a guitar leaning against the wall in the back. I started tuning it up and wrote 'Somebody's Crying.'"
Then there's the swaggering, bluesy rocker "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing" (also from Forever Blue), which can be heard in Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The director asked Kidman what music she wanted to rehearse the movie's striptease scene to. "Nicole had been listening to the track and brought it in to run through for her rehearsal," Isaak recalls. "Stanley said, 'I love it,' and put it in the film. I owe Nicole Kidman a full body massage."
So what were Isaak's criteria for a song's inclusion on the album? "I wanted it to be a record that people want to listen to over and over," Isaak says. "I tried to pick songs that people request most when we play live, and then make sure it was balanced between slow and fast tunes."
While reviewing tracks, some going back to the mid-'80s, Isaak says what struck him most was how lucky he has been to have the people he works with around him, such as producer Erik Jacobsen ("who taught me everything I know about making records, but not everything he knows"), longtime engineer Mark Needham, and his Silvertone bandmates, drummer Kenney Dale Johnson, bassist Rowland Salley, and guitarist Hershel Yatovitz, who have been with Isaak for years. "People see my picture on the album covers and think, 'Chris goes into a room and he makes an album.' But I go into a room and make it with these guys, who've been supportive, and have good ideas and good energy."
And to what does he attribute the longevity of his career? "You know, I've never tried to jump on a trend, and I've never had to jump off of one," he says. "I try to do what feels right for each song. So I never have to go, 'Well, no more disco for me.'"
Watkins Family Hour:
..Welcome to the new Watkins family hour myspace page. Being that we're taking the fall and winter off from Nickel Creek touring, Sara and I are stepping it up at Largo and doing a lot more shows. So I figured it might be time to try to let more folks know what's been going on with us there and what's on the horizon. For the last four years Sara and I have had a residency at Largo, an uber cool but cozy music and comedy club in Hollywood. We play at least once a month, sometimes more depending on our touring. Its always Sara and myself, usually Gabe Witcher on fiddle, and a group of others including, Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz, Jon Brion, Michael Witcher, that show up when they are in town. Also we've had Jaskson Browne, Dan Willson, Glen Phillips, Mark O'Connor, Ethan Johns, Matt Chamberlain, Tim O'Brien, Gemma Hayes, Tom Brosseau. Although we have a pretty good repetoir built up by now, the show is usually put together on the fly backstage between, sound check and showtime. Its always a ton of fun. And if the music isn't to you liking, Ellen at the bar will make you a killer martini. I promise that. So, here we are..... We'll do our best to keep posting pics and video. The videos up there now are from earlier this month, i think the 6th.... with Greg, Benmont, and Michael. Thanks to Loren Witcher for taking them. Thanks to you guys for checking us out. see you soon hopefully. -sean........Review from LA Weekly:..........Thursday, 9:08 p.m.: "I figured, how can I come to Largo and not sing a
folkie murder ballad?" Willie Watson (of Old Crow Medicine Show) is moonlighting in his two-piece band, Tractor Beam, during the
Watkins Family Hour. It's an elegant, high-class hootenanny. Candles in
mason jars glow like fireflies on the tabletops as he drones on about the
lovelorn suicide of a butcher's daughter. I find his nasal howl equally
suited to sorrowful crooning and pig calling. I'd like to be wearing a
Thursday 9:27 p.m.: Things get adorable. Another Watkins (and fellow Nickel
Creeker), Sara, has just stepped onstage in a calico baby-doll dress,
bearing a ukulele. The crowd hardly breathes as she plucks a few strings and
begins to warble some song about a pony in a voice too delicate and gorgeous
for the mortal world. As she picks up a fiddle, I suffer through a
philosophical quandary: Would I rather be her, or marry her? She's joined by
her brother Sean and a smattering of local musicians for a foot-stomping set
that includes Bob Dylan and Tom Brosseau covers. When local duo the Ditty
Bops guest on a few numbers, the old-timey adorability reaches ridiculous
"All along, I really wanted each song to be its own little world," says Fiona Apple. "Every song that I write, I feel like I'm in a different world. And with this album, because it's been such a long period of time, I didn't want everything to sound one particular way."
It's been a long and tangled road for Apple's stunning, intricate new album, Extraordinary Machine. But over the course of six years, multiple producers, business struggles, and life changes, she has maintained a clear sense of her musical vision-and returned with a collection of songs that reconfirms her place as one of the finest singer-songwriters of her generation. From the fragile music-hall lilt of the title track to the rollicking "Better Version of Me," from the fever intensity of "Not About Love" to the dreamy melancholy of "Oh Sailor," Extraordinary Machine reveals an artist with a sprawling, hard-fought range of emotions about love and identity, and with the musical palette to express them all. These are complicated songs for complicated sentiments.
Almost a decade has passed since Apple, now 28, astonished listeners with her 1996 debut, Tidal. It was almost impossible to believe that a voice and a style so fully-formed was coming from a performer who was so young. Spurred by the controversial video for "Criminal" and such hits as the evocative, flawless "Shadowboxer," Tidal sold over three million copies, landed her on the cover of numerous national magazines, and established Apple as a major new figure in pop music.
The 1999 follow-up, When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and if You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and if You Fall It Won't Matter, 'Cuz You'll Know That You're Right took Apple even further. Produced by Jon Brion (who has worked with artists from Aimee Mann to Kanye West), it was even more mature and realized than the debut, adding moods and tones to her unique, finely-wrought style. The platinum-selling When the Pawn...topped numerous critics' lists as the best album of the year.
When Apple finished touring, though, she wasn't immediately compelled to start writing again. "I had little bits and pieces of songs that will lie around forever unless somebody gives me a kick in the ass," she says. "I don't really worry about it when I don't feel creative, because it always happens in seasons. Since I started playing piano, there would always be a year or two when I wouldn't play at all. Or there would be an art season, where it's not about making music but about making art. But when I'm not in it, I'm not in it, and I believe it's just as important to have those spells in your life. Everything contributes to what you produce."
She was, however, having weekly lunches with producer Brion. "Every now and then he'd ask, 'Are you writing anything?'," she says. "And I'd say no and change the subject. And then one time he was like, 'I think enough is enough-for you and for me, I want to work on something again.'"
And so, in 2002, with the songs and song fragments that she had, they began sessions at Ocean Way studios. Eventually operations moved to the Paramour in LA's Silver Lake region, and they continued working into 2003. But Apple was having trouble finding the album she wanted to make. "Because I was kind of cajoled into doing it," she says, "I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I started feeling panicky, like do I want to do this at all, be a part of this again? So I kind of mentally checked out of those sessions."
As Apple wrestled with her material, the next chapter in this saga unfolded when someone leaked the unfinished tracks to radio-after which they wound up on the Internet. "First it felt like somebody took my diary," Apple says. "And then I started thinking, now I'm never going to be able to do this the right way."
All the while, rumors were running rampant about the insidious reasons that this album wasn't being released. Apple has maintained all along, though, that such responsibility lies squarely with her. "The actual reason it didn't come out is that I wasn't satisfied with the way it was," she says. "I felt really bad because I wasn't really there to captain the ship. I didn't feel capable of doing it. So I left Jon to make all the decisions, and as a result it became more of a Jon Brion record. I still love that version of the album, I'm still proud of it, but I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't at least try to get to a place where I could make my own decisions about it."
Following the Internet leak, everyone retreated to their corners and tried to determine how best to proceed. Apple spent her days watching Columbo reruns and pondering her future. She got as far as applying for an internship with an organization in upstate New York that does occupational therapy with children, incorporating the use of farm animals. "I was really almost to the point where I was going to have a completely different kind of life," she says. "I was starting to get excited about starting over and figuring out what else I can do." Eventually, though, she was able to return to the studio and finish what she had started.
The key that unlocked the project's final sessions was the arrival of producer Mike Elizondo. Best known as Dr. Dre's right-hand music man, Elizondo is also an in-demand session bassist who has played with everyone from Sheryl Crow to Ry Cooder-he had even contributed to When the Pawn.... Elizondo had already presented some rough treatments for the new songs before the leak threw things out of kilter. "When he came in and played some of these skeletal tracks," Apple says, "I remember I was so excited, I called my dad. It made me feel so inspired. And I just know when things are right-I knew, this is how it's supposed to be, and finally it can happen the way it's supposed to happen."
And so, at last, the epic journey of Extraordinary Machine reached its conclusion. Even Fiona Apple, obviously not one who's easily satisfied, was delighted with the results. "There were a couple of things when I would go 'OK, it was worth all of the trouble to get to do it this way,'" she says. "The song 'Red Red Red' we totally took apart-it wasn't right on the first version, and I really wanted it to be right because that song is important to me, it really is exactly what goes on in my mind. Mike played his upright bass and I just went in and sang to that, and then it finally felt right. So OK, if it hadn't been for all this trouble, and I hadn't gotten myself into this mess, we would never have gotten that right."
One thing that never changed in all these years and all these configurations was the album's title-in fact, the title song is one of two tracks from the original Jon Brion sessions that remained on the album's final cut. "'Extraordinary Machine' really says how I feel about myself," says Apple. "I like it when I write a song that if somebody were to ask me a question like, 'how do you feel about yourself?' I could say, 'here.' I like songs that are like speeches or essays, that make a point very tidy and clear.
"I've always had this pet peeve," she continues, "it makes me physically ill when I see somebody looking at me with the worried eye. And I've gotten a lot of it my whole life-partly because, at any given time, I've always been the youngest person in the room. I always want to say to people, even when I'm not alright, I'm alright. My life has taken some pretty great turns, I've been through a lot, I've had some really low lows and some really high highs, but I get better all the time. Whatever people do to me or don't do to me, I want some credit here for being a pretty extraordinary machine. All these things you're trying to protect me from, I make something out of it. So I'm fine and please stop looking at me that way!"
A few other things remained intact through this album's long history, as well. The photograph on the cover is a picture that Apple took of a flower in her yard-"before we even started recording," she says, "I went, 'oh, that's what the cover is going to be.'" She adds that the sly, affirming "Waltz"-a testament to resisting pressure and staying in the moment-was the first song she wrote for this project, and that "I always knew it was going to be the last song on the album, even when I didn't know if I was going to have an album."
Not surprisingly, Apple expresses some apprehension about getting back into the touring cycle, but says she's excited to reconnect with the songs from her first two albums. "I love the idea of applying them to my life now, and I also love being able to dip back into where I was then," she says. At a recent performance at Largo, her favorite LA hang-out, Elizondo asked if she'd sing "I Know," When the Pawn...'s intimate, powerful closing song. "Man, did I go into an emotional place!," she says. "Everything takes on a new meaning and you can still feel the old meaning. It's really a great, alive feeling."
So what has Fiona Apple learned from the making of Extraordinary Machine? She's gained perspective on just where her music fits into her life. She's seen the passion and loyalty of her fans. From all the twists and turns this phase of her life has taken, she's learned, in the end, something like maturity-at least, her own, free-spirited version. "It all just proves that you can grow up and be a happier person and make good things," she says. "You don't have to suffer for it all the time. It's not like my inner basket case is absent, it's just that I've lived with it long enough that I can manage it now.
"I've had a surprisingly Zen feeling about this whole thing," she says. "I kind of always knew that it would work out somehow."