FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emily Amos (615) 320-7672
Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker
Plays Bill Monroe
3rd Solo Album from GRAMMY-Nominated Banjoist
Set for Oct 1st Release with Tour to Follow
(Nashville, TN) August 13, 2013 - Widely known for his work in cutting-edge string band music as a founding member of Punch Brothers, GRAMMY-nominated Noam Pikelny has emerged as the preeminent banjoist among a new generation of acoustic musicians. Already praised as “a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision” by comedian/banjoist Steve Martin, Pikelny now presents his new concept album, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe (October 1st), a unique interpretation of traditional Bluegrass through a bold, complete adaptation of one of the most influential instrumental bluegrass records of all-time. Joining Pikelny on this tour de force project are the finest instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass). Listen to the track "Big Sandy River" here.
Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, recorded in 1976, five years before Pikelny was even born, features twelve classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), and performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many fine musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as "the best in bluegrass." Baker’s fiddle brought an elegant and refined voice to Monroe’s music and Pikelny precisely transposes Baker’s versions to the banjo, note-for-note, track-by-track. It is the first bluegrass record that remakes an entire album in sequence, though never drifting into an exercise in musical impersonation; instead Pikelny uses the Monroe instrumentals as blueprints and springboards for his own improvisations and those of his band.
The album’s concept first came about when Pikelny jokingly texted McCoury, asking, “Could I get away with calling an album Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe?” It was over a year later that, upon reflecting on the joke, he began listening anew to Baker’s album, and saw that it offered him an opportunity to develop a unique banjoistic voice for that particular set of bluegrass standards. The end result, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, shows Pikelny at a new pinnacle of maturation as a banjo player and musician, redefining the role of the banjo in his own way with an unprecedented approach to melodic playing and thereby setting a new standard in bluegrass for years to come.
Pikelny will showcase the album on tour this October and November with a band that includes Bryan Sutton (guitar), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Barry Bales (bass), and Luke Bulla (fiddle).
Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “pros’ top banjo picker," Pikelny released his solo debut, In the Maze, in 2004. In 2010, he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass earning him an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2011, Pikelny’s style and solo approach continued to crystallize with the release of his second album, Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail. The album hit both the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Bluegrass album charts and was the focus of a Funny or Die parody video starring Pikelny with appearances from Steve Martin, Ed Helms, Earl Scruggs, Chris Thile, Gillian Welch, and others. Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail went on to garner a GRAMMY nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Noam Pikelny continues to broaden the awareness of the banjo in the mainstream through his work with Punch Brothers, collaborating with Wilco, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, & Jon Brion for the soundtrack to This is 40, a feature song on The Hunger Games soundtrack, and a collaboration with Marcus Mumford for the upcoming Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Noam Pikelny On Tour:
9/21 FreshGrass Music Festival North Adams, MA
10/17 Oneonta Theatre Oneonta, NY
10/18 Chandler Center for the Arts Randolph, VT
10/19 Sellersville Theater 1894 Sellersville, PA
10/20 City Winery New York, NY
10/22 Lincoln Theatre Columbus, OH
10/23 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI
10/25 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
10/28 Hodgson Concert Hall Athens, GA
10/29 Bijou Theatre Knoxville, TN
10/30 3rd & Lindsley Nashville, TN
11/1 The Shoals Theatre Florence, AL
11/4 Manship Theatre Baton Rouge, LA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Texas Troubadour Darden Smith’s Love Calling Now Available
New "Behind-the-Song" Video and Album Release Tour Announced
(Nashville, TN) August 2, 2013 – Singer-songwriter Darden Smith earned his stripes in the in the early days of Americana, building devoted audiences on the Austin circuit in the 80s. Since then, Smith’s songwriting has taken him on a circuitous journey as a performer, philanthropist, collaborator, teacher, and now inevitably back to songwriter as he releases his Compass Records debut Love Calling. Earning accolades from USA Today and CMT to American Songwriter and Roughstock, Love Calling was recorded in Nashville and produced by Gary Paczosa and John Randall Stewart and features 11 news songs, including co-writes with Radney Foster, Gary Nicholson and the late Harley Allen. In a new "behind-the-song" video, Darden discusses his co-write with Allen and gives a very special performance of “Seven Wonders.” Watch here.
Smith kicked off a busy fall tour schedule with a CD release party at Waterloo Records in Austin on July 30th, and will follow with dates in Texas, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia as well as a UK tour this October. View his full tour schedule here.
For Darden Smith, the creatively expansive Texas troubadour, Love Calling represents both a full circle and fresh start. The album opens a new chapter in the artist’s prolific career, and it circles back to his musical roots. The release is Smith’s first in three years and the first for his new label, Compass Records. Surprisingly, Love Calling also represents the first time Smith has recorded in Nashville, co-writing much of the material with some of the city’s stellar songwriters and working with top studio musicians, under the co-production of Jon Randall Stewart and Gary Paczosa.
Yet for Smith, whose career has taken him all over the map, musically as well as geographically, the release also represents an artistic homecoming. The organic arrangements invoke the sound that established him as a breakout artist from the Texas club circuit in the mid-1980s, when he forged his style and found an audience that extended from country-folk traditionalists to those more attuned to contemporary trends.
As a young Lone Star storyteller, Smith’s songs paid proper homage to the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Yet his ear for melodic invention and his embrace of modern recording technology subsequently suggested a pop sensibility with greater commercial potential. His roots nourished his music without inhibiting his artistry. During those formative years, Smith befriended many kindred spirits also getting their start. Some of those same musicians are now among the established veterans whose talents contribute so much to Love Calling.
“I first met (bassist) Michael Rhodes in 1988 on the road with Rosanne Cash,” he recalls. “And Jon Randall Stewart and I met in ‘89, at a festival in Switzerland. Radney Foster and I met in 1989 at Austin City Limits. So, it’s coming full circle with a lot of different relationships and friends. And, in a way, the sound on this record is closer to my first record, Native Soil, than anything I’ve done since. ‘Medicine Wheel’ on Love Calling is not really that different, structurally, from something I could have written when I was 25.”
Born in Brenham, Texas, in the wide-open spaces between Houston and Austin, Smith released the indie Native Soil in 1986. Strong critical response led to a deal with Epic Records in Nashville. His 1988 Darden Smith debut for the label landed two singles on the country charts. But country music was changing, and so was Darden. He switched to the New York division of Columbia Records, began a fruitful songwriting partnership with Britain’s Boo Hewerdine (with whom he released Evidence, 1989), and earned critical raves and a wider audience beyond country with Trouble No More (1990) and Little Victories (1993). The former included “Frankie & Sue” and “Midnight Train,” both of which received significant airplay on the emerging adult album alternative (or Triple A) radio format. Little Victories featured “Loving Arms,” a Top Ten hit. Next, Smith moved to an independent label, Dualtone Music Group, with whom he produced a more personal trio of acclaimed albums: Sunflower (2002), Circo (2004), and Field of Crows (2005).
Smith is known for pursuing new creative paths and pushing himself past his comfort zone, keeping his music fresh long after others have fallen into the recycling routine. One such path was forged in the mid-1990’s when Smith began collaborating on dance/theater productions in Austin. This led to an even bigger challenge when he accepted a commission by the Austin Symphony to compose “Grand Motion,” performed in 1999. Both of these projects, which could be called sidelines, informed Smith’s self-released Marathon (2010), a haunting song cycle named for a remote town in West Texas.
As Smith puts it, “Exploring this other work forced me to look at how I was pigeonholing and limiting myself. Am I just a songwriter? A singer-songwriter? A folksinger? A musician? This opened up how I defined myself, no longer as just one thing. I was about 40 then and the last decade or so has been the most creative time of my work life.”
Smith’s expansive vision for his music extends well beyond being a singer-songwriter. Love Calling developed organically as Smith immersed himself in projects that kept him out of the spotlight but profoundly influenced his music—and the life his music reflects. In 2003, he launched The Be An Artist Program, which uses songwriting to help students discover their own creativity. From there, Smith created SongwritingWith, a program that taps into the power of collaborative songwriting to awaken creativity and give people faith in their own voice. Participants have ranged from homeless youths at Covenant House in Newark, New Jersey, corporate clients seeking conflict resolution, and service members returning from combat. Fall 2013 marks Smith’s second year as Artist-In-Residence at Oklahoma State University’s Institute For Creativity and Innovation, where he explores creativity with students in the classroom and in mentoring sessions.
Recognizing the plight of veterans suffering from PTSD and other injuries, Smith started SongwritingWith:Soldiers in 2012. But the first seed for this program was planted in 2009 with “Angel Flight,” which Smith wrote with his friend Radney Foster. The song honors pilots who fly the planes that bring fallen soldiers home. After Foster’s version and accompanying video achieved wide acclaim, Smith saw the healing possibilities of pairing professional songwriters with wounded soldiers. Smith’s take on “Angel Flight” appears on Love Calling. “Between heaven and earth, you’re never alone,” sings Smith in the voice of a pilot flying casualties from the battlefield. “On the angel flight, come on brother, I’m taking you home.” In its intimacy and purity, it’s another love song of sorts, a love that springs from empathy and respect rather than romance.
“With a lot of the work I’m doing now, these big projects, I kind of had to start operating beneath the radar. This allowed me the freedom and flexibility to look outside myself, says Smith. “I just opened up to these new possibilities, new ways of working. And the more I kept opening up and saying yes to new ideas, the more fun I had, the more creative things got. And the more songs I wrote.”
So, for Smith, Love Calling represents something of a culmination, a milestone, a circle completed. The album finds him pushing forward while looking back, bringing together projects that ultimately share the same creative energy.
As Darden maintains, “To me, it’s all the same, all music. Just music.”
Praise for Love Calling:
"Long considered one of Nashville’s top talents, Darden Smith mixes Country, Pop, Jazz, and Blues—all to sonic perfection...One of 2013’s best album releases (of any genre).” —Roughstock
"His burnished, smooth vocals are perfect…especially over a warm cup of cappuccino on a Sunday morning." —American Songwriter
“Full of top-notch songs–including half a dozen tracks co-written with folks like Foster, Gary Nicholson, and the late Harley Allen–it’s one of Smith’s best albums yet.” —Engine 145
"A mature, substantial, and certainly impactful album with each of the album’s eleven songs standing as sentinels of power, creating a formidable production."