Biography Spin Doctors

You think you know the Spin Doctors. Think again. When the legendary New York quartet release If The River Was Whiskey on May 06th through Ruf Records, casual fans will discover the secret past the hardcore have never forgotten. To the wider world, the Doctors might be the multi-million-selling icons behind hits like Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, not to mention the classic Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. But in 2013, Chris Barron (vocals), Aaron Comess (drums), Eric Schenkman (guitar) and Mark White (bass) are reconnecting with the flat-broke twenty-somethings who scraped for dollars at the sharp end of the Big Apple blues circuit. The Spin Doctors have come full-circle.

“We were four guys in our twenties,” remembers Aaron of early days in the late-’80s, “and our goal was to write our own songs and make a living doing it. The blues is such a big part of our roots, but one of the reasons we came up with such a big catalogue of blues songs back then is that we’d play these downtown blues bars in New York. You were supposed to play blues covers… but we were actually playing our own songs!”

We all know what happened next: the hits, the hysteria, the fame and the money (“When were selling 50,000 records a week,” remembers Chris of the band’s explosion circa 1992, “I’d walk into a mall to buy underwear and 300 kids would surround me!”). If The River Was Whiskey hits rewind. It’s the deep-blues album the Spin Doctors almost made before megastardom came knocking. It finally bottles those near-mythical songs from that sweatbox circuit. It’s simultaneously a tipped hat to the band’s lost past and the freshest record you’ll hear all year. “Every note feels dangerous,” smiles Chris. “It’s just like this ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby…”

The concept to revisit these songs struck as the Spin Doctors toured Europe to toast the 20th anniversary of Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, and polled über-fans David Landsburger and Daniel Heinze on what they’d like to hear as the encore that night. Their answer – So Bad – was a song so old that Chris had almost forgotten the verses, but when the venue exploded, a lightbulb lit over the band’s heads. “We had such a good time playing these tunes,” the singer explains, “that we thought, ‘We should go make a record of this stuff’. It’s really brought us back as a band, musically and interpersonally.”

The songs on If The River Was Whiskey are different vintages. “
Some Other Man Instead and the title track, I wrote those lyrics in the last year or two,” explains Chris. “But Sweetest Portion, I wrote that song when I was 19. I’d run away from home, and when I got back, my friends were really upset and there was a rumour going around that I had died. So I wrote that song – and I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a better one since.”

The material might be a quarter-century in the making, but If The River Was Whiskey took just three days to record when the four members convened last summer in New York. The original plan was to get together at Aaron’s His House Studios in Manhattan and work up some demos – no pressure – before heading upstate to a boutique analogue facility and start tracking in earnest. “We didn’t expect to make a record,” smiles Eric. “We were just going to make a demo and play at the Rockwood. And then, lo and behold…"

Instead, without the pressure of the red light, the sessions began to unfold with an effortless magic. “We just kinda winged it, man,”says Mark.  “This album sounds exactly the same as it does onstage, because we recorded it live, which is the way it should be done. There’s no overdubs. Anybody that tried to do an overdub was gonna get whacked!"

“We really kinda fooled ourselves and tricked ourselves, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it sounds so fresh,” picks up Aaron. “Because there was absolutely no pressure on us of any kind. We just hit a moment. Everything came together and we got this great record. Usually, the best things happen when you’re not trying… and that’s what happened here.” The band quickly realised the supposed rough-cuts captured by engineering ace Roman Klun couldn’t be topped. “By the third day,” reflects Chris, “we’d recorded all ten of the demos. We went out to dinner that night, we were all having a cocktail, and someone was like, ‘Gentlemen, I believe our demo is a record’. And we all just laughed.”

Take a spin of If The River Was Whiskey and you’d have to agree: they aced it. The Spin Doctors might have given you the soundtrack to the best nights of the ’90s, but with this new album, they’ve rediscovered a strand of their musical DNA that melds perfectly with the hits you know and love.
“It’s been so refreshing to go back to this material,” says Aaron. “It’s just brought everything that’s good about the band out again. I can honestly say that we’re playing better than ever right now, and I think a lot of that is because of the material on this record: it’s just really opened things up. Some bands, you go and see them 25 years later and they’re up there going through the motions. But to me, we sound better than ever. We sound world-class now, I think.”

“We play about four or five tunes a night from this new album and they all work,” says Eric. “It just feels seamless, like any of the new tunes can sit with any one of the Kryptonite songs. And the band is just playing amazing now. It’s a pleasure to play with people that you’ve been playing with so long… and everybody’s still breathing!”

Likewise, when If The River Was Whiskey arrives on May 06th it’ll be a pleasure to toast the return of the Spin Doctors, and a new album set to score new fans while making the hardcore love them more than ever. “I don’t care about sales, man,” states Chris, honestly. “I mean, it’d be awesome if it sold millions of copies, but honest to God, I just want to keep making a living playing music. We get up onstage and we turn it on, and sing and play our hearts out. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do: just make real music, give people something from my heart.”           

Henry Yates

Biography Bart Walker

Walker isn't yet a household name, but he's not a newcomer, either. A guitar player since the age of four, he’s already logged plenty of road miles as the right-hand man to country-rocker Bo Bice and collaborated in the studio with such heavyweights as Steve Gorman (Black Crowes), Audley Freed (Cry Of Love, Black Crowes) and Robert Kearns (Cry of Love, Lynyrd Skynyrd). He's played with Stevie Ray Vaughan's original back-up band Double Trouble and until recently had Double Trouble keyboarder Reese Wynans as a regular member of his own touring outfit.
With that kind of resume, expectations were high when Walker journeyed across the state to Jim Gaines' studio in Stantonville, Tennessee in the fall of 2012. There, he hooked up with the first-call Memphis rhythm section of Steve Potts on drums and Dave Smith on bass – a duo that has already graced albums by Luther Allison, Jonny Lang, Michael Burks and countless others. The eleven songs Walker cooked up with this pair of studio veterans (as well as keyboarders Rick Steff and Dave Cohen on selected cuts) manage to exceed those lofty expectations.

Biography Devon Allman

Desperate times call for dazzling records. Released on Ruf in September 2016, Devon Allman’s Ride Or Die acknowledges that life on Planet Earth is no picnic. On the flipside, this third solo album from one of America’s best modern writers reminds us there’s always hope. “The world is getting crazier by the minute,” says Allman. “These songs are about pain, addiction, storms, lust, death, and feeling sometimes that you’re utterly lost. But conversely, it’s about finding your place in the universe, rebirth, strength, redemption, vindication…”
    Allman has walked many roads to earn his place at the head of the Southern rock scene. Followers of the US bandleader’s thrilling two-decade career have come to expect the unexpected, from his post-millennial breakout with Honeytribe, through chart-topping hook-ups with Jack Bruce and Javier Vargas, to acclaimed solo albums like 2013’s Turquoise and 2014’s Ragged & Dirty (praised by the UK’s Blues Magazine as “reminding you why the blues can be, quite simply, the best thing in the world”).        
When the vocalist/guitarist parted ways with Royal Southern Brotherhood in 2014 – having played a pivotal role in the supergroup’s all-conquering early material – there was an audible gasp around the world. Thankfully, one spin of Ride Or Die vindicates Allman’s bold step into the unknown. “I needed to have my own canvas,” he explains, “to stretch out and paint on with no rules, only my visions. Freedom in artistry is essential. Who stands behind a painter and says, ‘Hmmm, no, maybe you should use blue there, not purple’? That’s not anyone I wanna have coffee with!”
Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studios and Switchyard Studios in May, Ride Or Die found Allman in good company, with the bandleader guiding the core lineup of Tom Hambridge (drums/co-production), Tyler Stokes (guitars) and Steve Duerst (bass) – and enlisting fairydust from Ron Holloway (saxophone), Bobby Yang (strings) and Kevin McKendree (keys). With the chemistry fizzing, it’s a mix that lives, breathes and grooves, the antithesis of the cut-and-paste jobs that hold sway in the Pro Tools era.
Writing all but two of the songs – either alone or in partnership with his compadres – Allman showcases his ability to catch what it means to be human, while following his muse wherever it leads him. On songs like the thumping opening gambit “Say Your Prayers” or the brittle jab of “Galaxies”, he invests blues-rock traditions with modern attitude and smarts. “Blues was born down South,” he says, “and it’s a massive part of the culture. But blues is a very open entity in my mind.”
Beyond the blues, this is a showcase for an artist with every colour in his palette. As you’d expect from a man with a famously sprawling vinyl collection – and a tattoo of Curtis Mayfield inked on his left bicep – there are nods here to every genre and era. “This album is really about mixing all of my influences,” says Allman of the varied mood. “Soul, rock, blues, alternative and more. It’s about making an artistic statement, not about fitting into any category. I produced this album to be an eargasm of emotion.”
On a tracklisting that runs the gamut, you’ll find the upbeat, horn-bolstered soul of Find Ourselves, alongside the rueful lyric and poignant lilt of Vancouver (“If I had a time machine, if I could get back somehow, I’d change so many things, and she’d be with me now”). “Live From The Heart” is a twelve-string acoustic stunner with one eye on the apocalyptic newspaper headlines, while “Butterfly Girl” is a smitten ballad warning of a woman who’ll “seduce and hypnotise you when she enters your world”.
Sonically, too, Ride Or Die is a record that pushes the envelope, whether that’s the pumping synth line that opens the cover of The Cure’s “A Night Like This”, or the Talkbox guitar solo on Lost that supports a lyric about fading dreams. “I haven’t produced my own record since 2010’s Space Age Blues,” says Allman. “We had a blast making this record, using the Talkbox for Lost and laying down the Hendrix-inspired section on Find Ourselves.”
Some musicians are content to simply spin their wheels, rehash the hits and pick up the pay-cheque. With Ride Or Die, Devon Allman announces once again that he’s an artist on the move – and invites you to ride shotgun as he takes this career-best new album out on the road through 2016. “You can expect pleasure, pain, and energy to soothe your troubled soul,” he says. “Come take the ride…”

Biography Skinny Molly

The American South isn’t just a point on the compass. It’s a state of mind and way of life. It’s the way you think, drink and tip your hat. It’s the land where music is king, and the bands who make it are gods. When you strum a guitar south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re running with a rock ‘n’ roll baton that’s been carried by everyone from the Allman Brothers to Lynyrd Skynyrd. It takes a special kind of modern band to walk in those footsteps, but in 2012, Skinny Molly are back to storm the podium and ram-raid a rock scene crying out for heroes. Batten down the hatches: there’s a Haywire Riot goin’ on…
The four members of Skinny Molly might have heavyweight history, but Haywire Riot is all about the here-and-now. Released in early-Fall through Ruf Records, this is a follow-up record that hijacks the modern rock scene, via the old-school values of stellar songwriting, white-hot chops, lyrics wrenched from the depths and performances that leave it all the studio floor.
Step into Skinny Molly’s world and you’ll come face-to-face with the deceptive lover from Lie To Me, the girl hiding a gun in her glovebox on Too Bad To Be True, and the poisonous call of liquor on Devil In The Bottle. With music that swings from the wrecking-ball riffs of If You Don’t Care to the reflective acoustic vibe of None Of Me, this is maximum rock ‘n’ roll, zero pretension, and when Mike Estes roars: “Hey rock star, just shut up and rock!” on the track of the same name, there’s no doubt the Skinny Molly singer is leading by example.
But killer songs were only half the equation. Great rock ‘n’ roll is also about chemistry, and if the walls of Alabama’s Swamper Sound Studios could talk, they’d tell of a recording session where four world-class musicians collided and caught the sparks. On soaring vocals, slide guitar, mandolin and baritone, Mike is a force of nature. Jay Johnson delivers sizzling fretwork and supporting vocals, while the rhythm section of Kurt Pietro (drums) and Luke Bradshaw (bass) crank out the swing and sting with grit and grace. Haywire Riot is the album that Skinny Molly have promised us since 2004, when Mike hooked up with Kurt and original guitarist Dave Hlubek for a ‘one-off’ tour of Europe that never stopped. Soon enough, a debut album – No Good Deed – was pricking ears with its early signs of greatness on cuts like Straight Shooter and Better Than I Should. Now, with the lineup cemented and dedicated to the cause, it’s time for the knockout blow of this new release.
Haywire Riot is sure to recruit new fans on the strength of the music, but it doesn’t hurt that all four Skinny Molly members are legends in their own right. After striking up an unlikely friendship with Allen Collins while still a teenager, Mike’s first band, Helen Highwater, was both christened and given guidance by the late Lynyrd Skynyrd icon (who once gave him an eight-hour guitar lesson), and the bond deepened when the young band opened up Skynyrd’s ’87 Tribute Tour.
Post-Skynyrd, Mike has smashed the Billboard chart with his co-written White Knuckle Ride single, and released two solo albums under his own steam – Driving Sideways and Brave New South – while remaining a fixture of the planet’s magazine covers and music channels on the strength of his prolific talent. Back in 1995, he was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk Of Fame, but with Skinny Molly, you sense he’s only just getting started.
Kurt has been Skinny Molly’s big-hitter on the drumstool since the start. Fusing the influence of players like Jakson Spires of Blackfoot and Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee into his own stellar technique, Kurt soon graduated from a bedroom wizard to a revered Michigan studio ace and a live powerhouse with early outfit Crystal.
Kurt’s skills demanded a ground-shaking bass talent, and in 2012, Skinny Molly’s rhythm section is thrillingly completed by Luke Bradshaw. Equally adept on electric or standup bass, and able to bend his talent to any project, Luke is arguably never better than when giving a fat low-end to Skinny Molly.
With Mike Estes in the lineup, some guitarists might feel the pressure. Not Jay Johnson: the band’s six-string stinger missile and perhaps the only player capable of standing toe-to-toe with his frontman.
Apart, they’re awesome. When these musicians come together as Skinny Molly, it’s a molotov cocktail of talent that’s sure to blow the roof off when they take this second album out on the road. Sure, things may go a little haywire when these boys roll into town. But trust us – you’ll definitely have a riot…

Biography Wentus Blues Band

Finnish group Wentus Blues Band's seventh studio CD "Woodstock" was recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY in the autumn of 2010.
"Woodstock" includes 12 new, original songs. Band members Juho Kinaret, Niko Riippa, Robban Hagnäs and Pekka Gröhn wrote the majority of the material. Producer Clas Yngström penned one song. Lyrics to three songs are written by former Cream lyricist Pete Brown.

Clas Yngström has collaborated with Wentus Blues Band earlier, as he produced their album "No Beginner" (2001). Yngström is a musician himself; he has fronted his own band Sky High for more than 30 years.
Wentus Blues Band was formed in Finland's midwestern city of Kokkola in 1986. Its name derives from the Kokkola village of Ventus, where their rehearsal room is still located. In addition to their own career, Wentus has backed up several world-class blues and rock acts. Tours have taken the band to numerous countries in Europe.

Wentus Blues Band celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a three-night concert in Helsinki in September 2006. Along with Wentus, long-time collaborators like Louisiana Red, Lazy Lester, Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), and Sven Zetterberg took the stage.
Director Heikki Kossi and his film crew were there to shoot a documentary of the event. The resulting film, "Family Meeting", was nominated for two national film awards in Finland. "Family Meeting" has screened in several European countries as well as at festivals in the USA and Canada.

Wentus Blues Band are Mikael Axelqvist (drums), Pekka Gröhn (keyboards, backing vocals), Robban Hagnäs (bass, backing vocals), Juho Kinaret (vocals, percussion), Niko Riippa (guitar), and Kim Vikman (guitar). Axelqvist, Hagnäs, Riippa, and Vikman are founding members.

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