Jason Isbell and John Prine: An Unlikely But Essential Connection

Categories: Story Outtakes

Eric England

When you think of the music of Jason Isbell, as a solo artist or with Drive-By Truckers, the first influence that comes to mind probably isn't John Prine. But the dean of tragic-comic songwriters has served as a kind of mentor, or at least a role model, for Isbell.

Finding the unconventional poetry in small, pure, utterly conventional moments of everyday life is what the Chicago native has been doing since the '70s. And it's what Isbell is aiming for, in his own way and in his own voice, in his mostly spare recent songs. And Prine is there in the melodies as well. Just listen to the standout track "Traveling Alone" from Isbell's breakthrough album Southeastern. The tune pays tribute to Prine's classic song of human isolation "Hello in There."

See also: Redemption Songs: Jason Isbell's Latest Work Tells a New Story

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Watch Film and Commercial Clips Featuring Songs by St. Louis Bands

Screenshot from preview below.
This scene from The Last Time You Had Fun features the song "Now Is Not the Time" by St. Louis' own Pretty Little Empire.

Most local musicians don't aim to have their songs on Dance Moms and other reality shows. Sometimes they're just lucky that way.

Actually, a bit more than luck brought indie-pop band Scarlet Tanager together with the Lifetime television program in 2013. As we note in this week's feature story, the St. Louis group had licensed songs to a major music library that places tunes in television shows. Rock group Pretty Little Empire also has had success placing songs on TV and in film, though that band accomplished the feat not via a song library but through people already familiar with its catalog.

So what's the deal? Do musicians give up the rights to their songs when they let an entertainment entity use the tunes?

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Justin Townes Earle on Billie Holiday and the Song "White Gardenias"

Categories: Story Outtakes

Joshua Black Wilkins

In this week's print edition, senior RFT Music writer Roy Kasten interviewed Justin Townes Earle about his forthcoming album, Single Women, a record that proves that getting married, staying clean and loving your mother aren't the artistic death-knells they might seem.

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Tom Hall and Alice Spencer Cover Randy Newman

Categories: Story Outtakes
Sara Finke

In this week's print edition, senior RFT Music writer Roy Kasten profiles the latest project by veteran blues guitarist Tom Hall and St. Louis ex-pat Alice Spencer, who perform a handful of shows in town this week. Going under the name T&A (a moniker they first used for occasional gigs in Soulard in the '90s), the musicians, who first worked together (and continue to do so) as part of the Geyer Street Sheiks, stretch out from classic blues and jazz material into covers by songwriters like Randy Newman, whose "Last Night I Had a Dream" is one of the highlights from the duo's new album "The Kitchen Record."

Stream the song and read what Spencer has to say about it below.

See also: Return to Form: Tom Hall and Alice Spencer of the Geyer Street Sheiks Reunite

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Scott McCaughey on Henry Aaron: "So much of it was manufactured. It wasn't him."

Categories: Story Outtakes
Joe Mabel
Scott McCaughey
When Scott McCaughey isn't producing, recording and writing songs for his bands the Minus 5, the Young Fresh Fellows and the Baseball Project, he's probably following the major league box scores and stats and working up his fantasy baseball strategies. He may have gone so far down the rabbit hole of our national pastime that he could very well forget all about our national music, rock & roll.

See also: The Minus 5's Scott McCaughey Talks Baseball, Uncle Tupelo and Trusting Your Friends

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"Blooms" by Chris Mills and the Distant Stars: Listen to the New Track

Press Photo
In this week's print edition, Senior Writer Roy Kasten tackles the musical career of Collinsville, Illinois native Chris Mills and his latest album Alexandria. Mills, now based in Brooklyn, New York, will be appearing at Off Broadway on Thursday, January 23.

In this outtake from the interview, Mills details the evolution of "Blooms," one of his catchiest new songs, and shares a stream of the track after the jump as well.

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Scott Kempner of the Del-Lords on Songwriting, Dion and the Day the Music Died

Categories: Story Outtakes
Frank Funaro, Scott Kempner and Eric Ambel of the Del-Lords

A band as influential as the Del-Lords always has stories behind the stories. But leader Scott Kempner, who first made a name for himself with New York band the Dictators, found some of his best stories late in life, when punk rock was decades behind him but his songwriting was still waiting for the right vehicle. The Del-Lords provided that spark, as did an unexpected midlife friendship with one of Kempner's personal heroes, Dion Francis DiMucci. Kempner loved the records Dion made in the '60s, but Dion admired the Del-Lords' leader's recordings just as much.

Roy Kasten interviewed Kempner and guitarist/producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel for the print edition this week, as the Del-Lords visit St. Louis on its reunion tour for a show at Off Broadway on Friday night. In these outtakes from the feature, Kempner tells the tale of working with Dion on one of the band's best new tracks, the Buddy Holly-inspired "Every Day (That I'm With You)."

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Escape From New York: Charles Bradley on Moving Forward in Music

Categories: Story Outtakes

Press Photo
Charles Bradley is a hell of a soul singer and a hell of a story. In this week's print edition, Senior Writer Roy Kasten interviews the New York soul man and Daptone Records artist about the making of his new album, Victim of Love, and his long road to musical redemption. Bradley makes his first headlining appearance in St. Louis at the Old Rock House on Sunday, May 5.

Listen to the lead track "Strictly Reserved For You" -- which starts with declaration "I'm tired of the city life/I'm tired of the city people/Trying to get in my business" -- and read Bradley's take on the origin of the song after the jump.

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More Than a Missing Link: Widowspeak and the Dear Records Connection

Categories: Story Outtakes

In this week's print feature, Widowspeak lead singer/songwriter Molly Hamilton spoke both about Almanac, her band's excellent new album, and the band's Pacific Northwest roots. Hamilton is from Tacoma, as is current bassist Dylan Treleven. Original Widowspeak drummer Michael Stasiak grew up in Lakewood, Washington. Musically speaking, the City of Destiny is often overshadowed by its neighbors in Seattle and Olympia, but it has its own proud musical heritage. In the 1960s, the Wailers and Sonics helped paved the way for half a century of punk and garage rock. Instrumental surf kings the Ventures, known for "Walk Don't Run" and the original Hawaii Five-O theme, originated in Tacoma's nontropical environs. More recently, Girl Trouble has kept alive the original Sonics/Wailers spirit with its garage-surf ditties and onstage abandon, and Oberhofer has received some modest hype.

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Video: New Grace Basement Song, Featuring Dave Anderson of Tritone Guitars

Categories: Story Outtakes
Roy Kasten
Dave Anderson in the shop
In this week's RFT, Senior Writer Roy Kasten tells the story of Dave Anderson, owner/operator of Tritone Guitars, a music community-focused repair shop (and teaching and session-work business) in St. Louis. Anderson currently plays guitar (and mandolin, banjo and pedal steel) with Tenement Ruth, Magnolia Summer, May Day Orchestra and Grace Basement. More »