Liner Notes highlights new record releases by touring songwriters

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April 25, 2013 by Jay Minkin

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It’s time to get out and bask in the sunshine of springtime.  The days are getting longer and temperatures are on the rise, but still a bit chilly to hang outside with a makeshift beer pong table and a case of PBR tallboys.  With many bands making their final push through the area before breaking out onto the festival circuit, here are a few under-the-radar performances worth penciling into your calendar.

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  The Pines play a special concert in celebration of the vinyl release of their new album Dark So Gold at the beautiful Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Friday, April 26th.  Showcasing their distinct blend of dark atmospheric indie-folk, rock and blues, The Pines’ new album shows a young band that has fully arrived with a sound and song craft that stands apart on the indie music landscape. Frontmen Benson Ramsey (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and David Huckfelt (vocals, acoustic guitar) lead up the expanded seven-piece band that includes Alex Ramsey (keyboards, vocals), J.T. Bates (drums), James Buckley (bass), Michael Rossetto (banjo) and Jacob Hanson (guitar). Together they create a cinematic soundscape of radio-friendly songs and beautiful instrumentals that display all the grace and sensibility of a truly great record.

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Playing Wilberts on Tuesday, April 30th will be Coastwest Unrest touring behind the newly released High Times On Lonely Street.  Layered, textured, complex, melodic the band’s third album is equal parts electric and acoustic with an underlying hum of punk – and surprises await in every song.  Robert Root, who had worked extensively with The Killers, co-produced the album with the band.  The main character of the album is Las Vegas where the band is based. Coastwest Unrest members are: Noah Dickie (Guitar, Bass, Harmonica, Vocal), Alex Barnes (Violin, backup vocals), Josh Dickie (Percussion), and Zoe Kohen Ley (Cello, Backup vocals). The beautiful interplay between cello, violin, guitar and drums can be heard and felt on songs like “Empty Handed Painter,” “Still Frightened” and “Henry Miller Library Incident.”

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  Bearfoot fans will be happy to know that one time lead vocalist Nora Jane Struthers will be playing the Blue Sky Folk Festival in Kirtland, Ohio on Saturday, May 4th.  Along with her new backing band The Party Line, guitarist Nora Jane Struthers fronts a collaborative ensemble that both embraces the evolution of present-day Americana and champions the traditional influences that is at the core of the April release of her latest record Carnival.  Struthers eponymous debut established her as an up-and-coming voice within the bursting Americana scene highlighted by best band accolades at Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  She has been absorbing her experiences between her two solo albums while methodically sculpting both Carnival and her new partners-in-crime P. J. George (bass), Joe Overton (claw hammer banjo), Drew Lawhorn (drums), and Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle).

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Last, but certainly not least has Emily Wells playing in the tavern at The Beachland on Sunday, May 5th.  She’s putting out an acoustic reworking of her 2012 record, titled Mama Acoustic Recordings on June 11th and will be highlighting much of this during her intimate performance.   She’s typically known for being this genre-agnostic multi-instrumentalist,  using all kinds of synths, effects pedals, toy instruments, and electronics. A classical violinist who first broke out with a classical cover of Notorious BIG’s “Juicy”, Wells recorded a completely stripped down album with just her ethereal voice, an acoustic guitar, and a Fostex Spring reverb unit as a way to expose new meanings in her songs through stark minimalism.

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