Saturday, May 31, 2014

Finding The Way Home, With Stevie Tombstone - From MoonRunners

"When you spend a good portion of your life walking into darkened bars with the intention to drink some beer and listen to music, there are a few things you just expect to see: people in jeans and boots, countless walking canvasses adorned with ink and titanium jewelry, lots of patches, plenty of drunkenness, and a never-ending parade of epic beards. What you do not expect to see is a quiet, comparatively clean-shaven man in a white button up shirt, black suit, stately cane, and an understated hat, but that is exactly what will greet you with a smile when you go to see Stevie Tombstone.

New Blood, New Stories From The Road Less Traveled On Altco Music

Joshua Morningstar heads to New York to record his first single for Altco Recordings at World Class Subcat Studios.
Follow the Altco Recordings posts

Altco Recordings welcomes singer songwriter Josh Morningstar this month as he enters the studio to record his first single. He has been on the road relentlessly for the last year or so working on new songs and making new fans the old school way by playing any and everywhere and winning over new folks every day. He will be recording at Subcat Studios in Syracuse, New York under the direction of Stevie Tombstone. The multi-million dollar facility was the location of Tombstone's last release Greenwood and will be a great change for the up and comer having all the advantages of a modern facility. The "Man from Maryland" hits the road immediately afterwards before resuming pre-production and more song sessions with Mr. Tombstone. More to come about Joshua real soon to be sure and be sure to check out the backstage video clip of Joshua at a recent show in Philly,PA at the Shore Road Tavern below.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Banjo Strap Adapters Handmade in Leather

Need a keeper for your banjo?

If you need a special adapter for your custom banjo strap, we now have ya covered. This strap keeper will allow you to connect to any banjo tension hook and especially if you want to use it as a connector to our soon to be world famous "Buckstache" straps. You keep jammin' and pickin' we'll keep sippin' and designin'! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Electric Motorcycle With Old School Aesthetics

Read about this bike and more on

"Don’t let the old-school aesthetics fool you–this beautiful motorcycle is thoroughly modern and headed straight for the Isle of Man TT race.

The Saroléa SP7 marks the return of a storied Belgian marque after half a century, and it’s easily the prettiest electric motorcycle we’ve seen since Electra Racing brought an electrified Norton Featherbed to the TTXGP. Despite the classic café racer styling, Saroléa has built a leading-edge machine with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm. The motor is good for 130 kilowatts–Saroléa says that translates to 180 horsepower, but our math puts it closer to 173. Whatever the figure, it’s definitely in literbike territory. Saroléa claims the bike will hit 60 mph from a standstill in 2.8 seconds; top speed is limited to 155 mph.

The bike uses an axial flux motor. Most electric motors direct the flux, or the flow of the electric field, outward through air between the moving rotor and stationary stator. The SP7’s axial flux motor sends the electric field on a parallel path, along the motor’s axle, which means the bike can use lighter and thinner “pancake rotors.” These rotors are ideal for producing power at constantly varying speeds, something vital for going fast through turns, dips, and rises along a race course.

Electric bikes have been racing at the Isle of Man TT for a couple years now, but they haven’t hit the same speed and performance benchmarks of their internal combustion counterparts. Electrics have topped 100 mph on the TT course, but gasoline bikes regularly hit 130 mph looping the 37.7 mile course. But with marques like Honda, and now Saroléa, competing in the electric category, expect to see performance leaps.

If Saroléa doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because the Belgian marque is returning to motorcycles after 50 years. The company was founded in 1850 as an arms and munitions maker, then moved on to bicycles and eventually motorcycles. It disappeared after merging with another Belgian motorcycle company, Gillet Herstal. While a motorcycle brand with that history that might be content to revive classic styling with modern engines, Saroléa has instead built one of the most futuristic motorcycles we’ve seen.

Saroléa has signed 35-year-old Scot Robert Wilson to ride the SP7 at the Isle of Man TT, which takes place from May 24 to June 6. Wilson, when not professionally racing motorcycles, works as an architect.

Watch the unveiling in the video below."

Official reveal of the Saroléa SP7 electric superbike from Saroléa Racing on Vimeo.

Stream Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires On NPR

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires'

Link to article on NPR

"In north central Alabama, punk rockers often know as much about football as they do mosh pits. A guy with an arm-sleeve tattoo will open the door for a woman and call her "ma'am." Self-identifying as a blue dot in a red state doesn't preclude Sunday brunch with relatives whose own cars boast confederate-flag stickers. Such differences can arise anywhere, but they can feel more pressing in the Deep South, where history is sticky, like a 90-degree rainy day, and intimate, like Grandma's questionable advice.

Lee Bains III grew up in Birmingham, and he still loves that troubled, currently revitalizing city. "Paris and New York don't have honeysuckle vines like the ones on 32nd Street," he sings to a lover who'd like to go elsewhere in "The Weeds Downtown," as the Glory Fires' members choogle behind him as if they'd just dropped in from Muscle Shoals. But Bains' loyalty doesn't prevent him from calling out Birmingham's political scandals and anti-preservationist sprawl. In the scathing, White Stripes-like "We Dare Defend Our Rights," he calls for justice for the four little who died in the city's notorious Civil Rights-era church bombing, as well as the Latino kids who saw their parents harassed by police during the state's recent conflicts over immigration.

This is what Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires' second album, Dereconstructed, is all about: the fight to claim a home that sometimes drives you crazy. Sounding like Creedence in "The Kudzu and the Concrete" and a little bit like Tom Petty in "Mississippi Bottomland," Bains and his band — the versatile, testy guitarist Eric Wallace and the speedball rhythm section of brothers Blake and Adam Williamson — join a lineage of rock bands who, as another song says, "keep it on the ." In the process, they meld rock's iconoclasm with working people's values: local fun, family ties, the honor of knowing where you fit.

This isn't a new space for Southern rock; in many ways, it is Southern rock, made by rebel sons who question that identity from the Allman Brothers through Skynyrd and on to Drive-By Truckers and Bains' former band, The Dexateens. Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires are intense enough to fully refresh the legacy they've joined. Produced for maximum fuzz and punch by garage-punk elder , Dereconstructed addresses eternal questions with an earnestness and conviction reflective of this century's, direct-action-oriented activists.

This is political music, but it's also here to party. The Glory Fires' members understand that rock's garage is big and full of hidden treasures: Boogie, funk and swamp blues mix with hardcore and classic British snot in their songs. Bains has a voice that could go full country, but he smokes it up with spit and vinegar. If there's one tradition Bains and the Glory Fires unquestioningly uphold, it's the Friday-night custom of burning down the house. They even once got thrown out of a club for being too loud. . "We're going to wash ourselves in fire and water," Bains announces in "Burnpiles and Swimming Holes." Dereconstructed is worth the plunge."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rory Kelly Feature Review On Shutter 16

Rory Kelly feature review on Shutter 16

"North Carolina rockers Rory Kelly’s Triple Threat, which consists of his father on drums and bassist Billy Miller, keep the bluesy, southern rock vibe alive with their latest release Kings Never Sleep. A veteran of several previous metal and rock acts, Kelly finally melds his self taught guitar chops, hard scrabble voice, and southern rock vision into something to behold.

Kings Never Sleep is a nice amalgamation of thick electric blues/rock guitar, contemporary blues sounds, and good ole’ fashioned southern rock. “Laid to Waste” opens the album with a hard driving southern rock groove that one would expect from a blues based act. While not the album’s strongest track, it does get the point across, quite melodically in fact, that you’re in some humid southern territory sonically. “Kings Never Sleep,” the album’s title track, slows the groove down to a slower burn, and unlike Metallica’s attempt at a bluesy sound on “2X4” off Load, Kelly really DOES conjure an “Aerosmith on steroids” sound here that’s much more natural sounding. For “Black Widow,” Kelly pulls out the acoustic guitar and cranks up his gravelly growl a notch for a real down and dirty little ditty about a much revisited, but here fresh sounding, look at an old blues/rock trope. “Walking Wounded” and “Menace to Society” amp up the blues rock stomp and will stoke the crowd into a heated frenzy when played live, but really demonstrate nothing unique or outstanding. “Wouldn’t Listen” with its snaky acoustic guitar is a much better track musically, even if it will probably be regulated to the acoustic break in the show. Clocking in at a scant 1 minute 58 seconds, “Wouldn’t Listen” nevertheless is the strongly beating heart of the album with its stripped down muscle and beat. “Stood Your Ground,” the album’s second longest track at 4 minutes 23 seconds is the album’s most consummate rock track, and its most radio friendly one. “Hittin’ the Bottom” bookends perfectly with “Stood Your Ground” as it delivers some more thick cut southern rock chops. Kelly’s cover of Merle Travis’ “16 Tons” delivers some of the album’s best blues/rock guitar and wraps it all in a Bruce Springsteen-like populist sound. About midway through though, Kelly unleashes some brilliant metal riffing that takes the song to a whole other level before returning it to its chain gang stomp. Easily one of the album’s best tracks (because of what Kelly does with it), “16 Tons” is one of those songs that will get stuck on your MP3 players repeat function. Rounding out the album is “Hasta La Muerta” that, like it’s title suggests, allows the band to dabble in a Southwest sound. It’s an instrumental track that allows the listen to drift off mentally to a landscape full of Gila monsters and cacti. Kelly and company pull off this sound well, and more of this on their next album will be most welcome.

Rory Kelly’s Kings Never Sleep is a great step in the right direction for a talented musician and songwriter. There’s much on this record that warrants repeat listening, and even more scarily, Kelly and company’s best is yet to come based on what we hear here."

Rory Kelly - German Review, For "Kings Never Sleep"

Rory Kelly - Kings Never Sleep

Order your copy of the Album now

Link to original post

"Rory Kelly and his band were probably previously in North Carolina more like local patriots, via a few detours, the band is then advised on a few gigs in Europe and is now here in June have some performances. The matching band now also advertises her third album produced in-house Kings Never Sleep in our latitudes.

Kings Never Sleep comes with eleven songs, which are located at the Hard Rock, but Rory Kelly has this quite strongly perfumed with the scent of Southern Rock. "Molly Hatchet Light" it is probably true quite good, but this is meant more appreciative because disrespectfully.

In contrast to other acts of this genre the songs sound, despite all the roughness, but quite airy and are also easily accessible. Kelly's voice sounds like pure whiskey and thus fits well with the blue-based guitar riffs.

I like this"

Rory Kelly, review from Germany

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blowing An Engine And Having A Team To Rebuild

Blown engine and friends line up to help out

This photo could have been taken from another era, but this is the type of vibe that we had at Steel In Motion, this past weekend. Group of friends gathered around an engine to help out when needed is true solidarity. This is how we operate as a music label and custom manufacturer, along with our friends for any mishap that life throws our way. Mopar Rob was quite bummed to blow his tricked out motor, but in the bigger picture, we are all here to help him rebuild.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Motorcycle Design For The History Books, From Marketplace

The Bienville Legacy built and designed by JT Nesbitt

Read the full story on Marketplace

"This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Jim Jacoby wants to create an American Renaissance of design. He has a plan to give blank checks to master craftsmen, and give them the freedom and the budget to build their dream project. His first commission, a groundbreaking motorcycle by renowned designer JT Nesbitt, is nearly complete. It’s sort of a patronage system loosely modeled after the Medici, the wealthy banking family that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance. This new system is designed to remove the drive for profit from the act of designing. The hope is that through this process, breakthroughs in design and engineering emerge. And those breakthroughs will lead to business opportunities.

This system is called the ADMCi, American Design and Master Craft Initiative, and its first commission is called The Bienville Legacy.

The Bienville Legacy, built and designed by JT Nesbitt

When David Lenk, an industrial design expert, first saw the Bienville Legacy, he was so moved, he cried. He says the design rivaled the great industrial designers of history, “the genes of engineering greats like Barnes Wallace along with the ascetics, the fine touch of Ettore Bugatti. I know that your eyebrows may arch linking JT with these engineering and design icons, but I will stand behind it.”

What he saw, he says, “Was a motorcycle that basically challenges many, many engineering precepts that go back 120 years. This is a guy who not only stepped back to square one, but then he stepped out of the square.”

Let’s go back to square one. The origin of the motorcycle is essentially the bicycle. “Think about the first motorcycle,” says Lenk, “it was a bicycle that they hung an engine onto.” But for The Bienville Legacy, Nesbitt started from an entirely new origin point: The bow.

“The very first man-made spring is a bow and arrow. So this technology is Paleolithic. It predates civilization,” says Newsbitt.

Imagine a bow and arrow pointed at the sky. Where your hand grips the bow is where the engine of the motorcycle is attached. At each end of the bow is a wheel. So instead of having shocks like a regular motorcycle, the entire bike is one big leaf spring. It looks like it's part beast, part machine.

“These are the sort of things you read about in history books,” says Lenk.

Lenk has spent his entire life surrounded by industrial design. His grandfather was at one point the largest producer of soldering irons in the world. Lenk went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. “I guess you could say I’ve been born with this bug and have nurtured it my whole life,” he said.

Today Lenk designs museum exhibits for a living. After finishing a recent job at a museum in New Orleans his employer took him to a French Quarter bar called Molly’s to celebrate. By chance, he happened to sit next to JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby. “It was a real Motorhead moment,” Lenk remembered. “Within two sentences we were talking about French Coachwork of the 1930s and design, and the conversation ended with an invitation to visit his C shop that Saturday. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”

Nesbitt’s shop is called Bienville studios. It’s about a block from the Mississippi River on the edge of the French Quarter. When you step inside, it’s surprising just how spare it is: a small workbench, a few racks with parts, some tool boxes.

JT Nesbitt in his New Orleans, French Quarter studio
But the most striking thing in JT’s shop is in the center of the room, a strange looking motorcycle, balancing on a hydraulic lift like a statue on a pedestal. It’s a prototype that Nesbitt built. He’s named it The Bienville Legacy.

“There’s no example, as far as I know, of anyone else in the world doing that. It’s completely original thought,” said motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart. He’s written about motorcycles for over 30 years. He’s been called the kingmaker because he’s often the first person to ride and review new bikes.

He described Nesbitt’s design as breathtaking, though to most people it simply looks strange.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a strange-looking thing because we don’t have to sell them,” said Nesbitt.

If this were a typical corporate motorcycle, the plan would be to put the bike into production and sell them for a profit. But this is not a profit-driven endeavor. “To look at this for short-term recoupment would be to undermine the overall purpose of what we're up to,” said Jim Jacoby.

He’s put up his life savings to pay for the building of three prototypes. Jacoby gave Nesbitt a blank check and told him build his dream bike without any constraints. The expectation is that by giving JT the freedom to experiment with new ideas and materials, breakthroughs in engineering and design will emerge.

When I visited Nesbitt at his shop, one of the first things Nesbitt showed me was a small box full of bolts

“This is titanium hardware,” said Nesbitt, holding up a wooden box. Nesbitt designed the bolts himself. The bolts and other hardware alone cost $30,000. Boeing's prototype shop in Seattle is manufacturing them.

Nesbitt says this motorcycle is the first to use this much titanium and carbon composite structurally. “I think that all motorcycle designers want to use those materials but they are limited by their budgets. The materials that I'm talking about are radically expensive.”

Motorcyle journalist Alan Cathcart mounts the nearly competed Bienville Legacy Prototpye.

Nesbitt calls titanium a miracle material, “and now it’s available. Ten years ago, I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now because the military industrial complex had sucked up all the titanium. It’s just now becoming available in quantity.”

One of the byproducts of Nesbitt’s motorcycle is eight original engineering patents related to his first-of-its kind suspension system. “The outcomes for the patents might be new ways of doing suspension in automobiles,” said Jacoby.

This is one potential long term source of revenue from the bike. If the automotive industry adopts these engineering ideas, it would have to pay to license the patents. But that’s a big "if." This is one reason this project is a tough sell to investors: It’s unclear if any of Nesbitt’s radical designs will ever be adopted by the wider automotive world.

When Nesbitt was commissioned to build his motorcycle prototype, he signed over the patents and intellectual property to the American Design and Master Craft initiative, the ADMCi. In exchange, he gets his rent paid, but zero salary. If the patents do make money, he will get a percentage. But again, that’s the big if.

“I think on balance, I’m coming out way ahead,” said Nesbitt. “I’m giving everything I can to live my dream. I get to reinvent American motorcycling.”

Motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart has been called \"The Kingmaker.\" Here he is with Nesbitt and the nearly completed Bienville Legacy.

The next step for Nesbitt and Jacoby is to prove that the motorcycle is more than just a beautifully crafted, groundbreaking design; they have to prove that it can perform. So they’re taking the bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to attempt to break a world land speed record.

“The weight advantage, for a variety of design decisions, is tremendous,” said Jacoby, “It’s probably going to net out as a 350 pound bike with a 300-350 horsepower engine which is, by any definition, a rocket.”

Jacoby has decided he wants to be the one to ride the bike across the salt. He’ll have to top 200 miles per hour to break the record in the category this bike competes in. He’s never gone anywhere near that fast on a motorcycle. He admits that this plan is completely absurd, but, he says, it’s necessary. “This is a design that needs to be proven on the field of battle. And the field of battle in this case is the Salt Flats.”

After Nesbitt finishes building the motorcycles, he will remain a part of the ADMCi. “I become one of the people who’s involved with selecting the next project.”

If the ADMCi can recoup the money spent on the three prototypes and attract patrons to fund more commissions, Nesbitt will help seek out another master craftsman to get a blank.

This time he will be the one asking the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?”

“I’m the perfect person to be a judge of character, said Nesbitt, “and when somebody asks you what you would do if you could do anything, you had better be ready with a good answer.”

Two Obsessed Guys And A Radical Motorcycle Design, From Marketplace

Bienville Studios calls their designs "art," and they think of the final products - from motorcycles to cars - that way too.

Follow this conversation on Marketplace

"Ten years ago JT Nesbitt was one of the top motorcycle designers in the world. His picture graced the cover of magazines. Celebrities sought out his extravagantly expensive machines. But in 2005, while he was visiting a prince in the Middle East, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and destroyed Confederate Motorcycles, the company that built Nesbitt’s bikes. Seven years later, his career hadn’t recovered. He was about to take a job waiting tables in the French Quarter, when a stranger showed up on his doorstep and turned his life upside down.

The stranger was a fan of Nesbitt’s work. He wanted to see his latest motorcycle projects. But, Nesbitt explained, he hadn’t designed a bike in seven years, and he was broke. The stranger looked around the shop and offered to buy Nesbitt a drink. So the two of them took a walk down Decatur street, to a French Quarter bar called Molly’s .

They took a seat at a table and ordered beers. And then the stranger asked Nesbitt a question.  “He says, 'What would you do if you could do anything?'”

The stranger says he asked the question on a whim, “I just honestly wanted to know, and [Nesbitt] was momentarily dumbfounded because nobody had asked him that. But strangely, as if it were rehearsed, he had his notebook with him.”

Nesbitt always carries his sketchbook with him.  And so he pulled it out. But before opening it, he made the stranger swear on his grandmother’s eyeballs that he wouldn’t tell anyone about what he was about to show him. The Stranger agreed. So Nesbitt opened up his sketchbook.

Part of JT Nesbitt's sketchbook

The "Stranger’s" name turned out to be Jim Jacoby and in many ways, JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby are opposites. Jacoby loves technology; he thinks it can be used to better mankind. Nesbitt shuns most modern conveniences. He doesn’t have phones that can text. Jacoby is soft-spoken, an introvert. “Even having a conversation like this is outside of what I would find comfortable,” he said in a recent interview. Nesbitt can be blunt and abrasive. “Dude, that’s a stupid question,” he once responded to a question I asked.

But one trait they both share is obsessiveness. “This is the only thing that I think about,” said Nesbitt referring to his design project, “and the only thing I’ve thought about for the last eight years.”

Jacoby says he asked to see Nesbitt’s sketchbook simply out of curiosity. What he saw were the drawings of a bizarre looking motorcycle. But the more he thought about them, the more began to see the motorcycle as a solution to a much bigger problem: The decline of industrial design and craftsmanship in America.

“It's unacceptable,” said Jacoby, “that somebody like JT would be sitting here waiting, unable to do what he’s capable of doing. And if we don’t capture this in people like JT and many other incredibly talented people who work with their hands first and then transfer things to computer, we’ll have lost something incredibly valuable.”

Jacoby is a successful entrepreneur who started a company in 2001 called Manifest Digital. It builds websites and does social marketing for large corporations like McDonalds. He built it from nothing and had 140 employees working for him. But he was starting to have doubts about the life he had built around his company.

“A company that needed to be profit driven and hit certain numbers... and I was trying to [save] the world... those two things are hard to square,” said Jim.

The meeting with Nesbitt pushed him over the edge. He made the decision to quit the company he founded.

And then he took his life savings and handed them over to Nesbitt to fund the building of three prototypes of this unusual machine. But the motorcycle commission is just one part of something bigger.

“The goal is to separate the drive for profit from the act of designing,” explained Jacoby. He wants to remove the corporate constraints that normally hinder industrial designers like Nesbitt.  Nesbitt doesn't have to worry about things like keeping the cost of materials down or designing for mass appeal.

One of the reasons Nesbitt was on the verge of going back to being a waiter is that he is unwilling to compromise.

“If Jim hadn't shown up I would be serving you lunch,” said Nesbitt, “and that’s OK. There’s honor in that. I’d rather be the guy serving you lunch than a guy who is building a compromised motorcycle for mass consumption.”

Jacoby has not given Nesbitt any design restrictions for this motorcycle. Nesbitt has complete and total freedom. “So I don’t have to worry about 'Will people like this or that?', which frees me up to do pure design, pure art.”

JT and Jim are trying to create a new type of patronage system. They compare it to the Medici’s, the wealthy banking family that birthed the Italian Renaissance. They call this system the ADMCi, short for "The American Design and Master Craft Initiative".

“I think we're at the beginning now of what could be another Renaissance,” says Jim. “You have more money sitting on the sidelines through private equity and venture capital and in business profits than has ever existed. My goal is to lead through example and inspiration, and say, 'Let’s believe in great craftsmen first, and put that money to work with them.' And the byproduct will create all kinds of other business opportunities.”

The ADMCi is made up of three entities. One of them is a nonprofit called The Master Practitioner Foundation. This entity will apply for grants, and most importantly seek out wealthy donors, or patrons. JT is building three prototypes. When they are finished, JT and Jim will likely sell them for about $250,000 each. But whoever buys one won’t own it outright. They will be more like stewards of the motorcycle. In the same way an art collector might purchase a painting to be on display to the public, the motorcycle may be part of a traveling museum exhibit.

JT Nesbitt and Jim Jacoby
David Lenk is an industrial design expert who also designs museum exhibits for a living. Lenk thinks the ADMCi could help reverse the decline of industrial design and manufacturing in America, which, he says, peaked in the mid 1950s: “You can walk through any flea market aisle today and find a Sunbeam blender or an Emerson fan or Bakelite Xenith radio from the late '40s to early '50s and, not only do they look good, they probably still work.”

But, said Lenk, things started to change in the mid-50s. “The Harvard MBA grads started fanning out with their evangelizing of planned obsolescence, and finance became more important than corporate traditions of design or quality. And by the mid 60s it was all gone. It’s just junk.”

Lenk believes that if the ADMCi’s first commission is a big enough success, if it makes a big enough splash, it could be a model for a new way to fund innovation and design, an alternative to traditional profit-driven investment models. It’s part of a decentralization that’s occurring, he said, “sort of an anti-corporate, structures that are like virtual teams of suppliers that come together to support efforts that will allow individuals with ideas such as JT Nesbitt to produce.”

Lenk’s involvement in this project happened entirely by chance. Nearly two years after JT first showed Jim his sketchbook at Molly’s, the two of them were back at the bar in their usual spot when Lenk happened to sit next to them. “It was a real motorhead moment. Within two sentences we were talking about French Coach work of the 1930s.”

And then JT told David about his motorcycle prototype which by this point was nearly complete. It was in his shop just a few blocks away.  The conversation ended, said Lenk, with an invitation to visit JT’s shop that Saturday, “but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”


Friday, May 16, 2014

Leroy Virgil Feature Interview On Saving Country Music

Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory
Order a copy of Hellbound Glory's albums

Read more articles over on Saving Country Music

"Reno’s Hellbound Glory has just released a new 5-song EP called LV, named for the initials of lead singer and songwriter Leroy Virgil. The album was recorded in and partially inspired by Leroy’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, and marks the first new music from Leroy and Hellbound Glory in nearly three years.

On the occasion of the new release I gave Leroy a call and spoke to him about the new EP, another EP he has coming out July 3rd called Folk Hero, and what opening for Kid Rock on an arena tour did for his career.

“It’s about a hour-and-a-half outside of Reno on the Gardnerville side, through Gardnerville, then you take 88 up into the mountains,” Leroy tells me about the place he’s living now ouside of Reno. “Just a little town, out kinda in the middle of nowhere. I’ve got a really great view. Hardly anyone lives around me. Just a really secluded little place out in the woods, which is cool by me. I’ve lived up here for about a year.

“Obviously I spend a lot of time out on the road. But my wife and I moved up here to be closer to her family. Just wanted a place where my kid could play out in the woods. The area we can afford to live in Reno was getting a little bit rough. So this was good for the family. My boy is great. He’s a big boy. He knows my music, loves music in general. He’s my biggest fan, and I’m his biggest fan too. Since he’s been born I’ve been stealing material from him.”

Tell us about this new EP you’ve got out, LV.

Last Halloween I wrote this song called “Streets of Aberdeen”. It literally took me like a half hour to put it all together. I wrote it, and later that night I posted it on the internet to share it, and as I started playing it more, I thought, “this has some potential.” I got a hold of an old friend of mine back in Aberdeen that I used to record with when I was a teenager who has a studio there. I just said, “Hey, would you be interested in hitting the studio together?” He’d been out of commission for a while, but he got it all set up. If you’ve heard the song, the storyline’s about an infamous murderer back there in Aberdeen. And the place I recorded it—and this is completely random, none of this was on purpose—but the actual studio is an old union building where Billy Gohl murdered all these people at. That just happens to be where the studio happens to be. So I wrote this song, and I kind of knew in the back of my mind that the studio was in the same place, but the song is about it, and it’s recorded right there. I don’t know, I just thought it was something kind of cool. I’d always heard the story when I was a kid and it was stuck in my brain. It makes for a good story at the very least.

The EP is all tape, all analog studio, and he hadn’t been recording for about ten years or so. So it’s old tape equipment before they started using Pro Tools and stuff. There’s no computers in the whole entire office. And I went there and did a couple of songs with Adam whose playing bass for me, and Marty Chandler who plays guitar for the Supersuckers. They play on a few of the songs, and then the rest of the songs I just did by myself as kind of a one man band.

The “Streets of Aberdeen” song, I tried to get it recorded for a couple of sessions, and it just wasn’t coming together. It got to be one of the last days, and I knew Bryan [the engineer] had to head off to some dance thing for his wife. It got to about four o’clock and he had to be gone by five, so I just tuned the guitar down and started strumming something and I came up with this chord. And after a bunch of tries earlier, I found the right chord, I found the right tempo, and I recorded everything on the song in about an hour.

Tell us about your history with Aberdeen. Hellboud Glory is so synonymous with Reno, but I know that’s the area you’re from.

My mom moved to Aberdeen when I was about three. She met my step dad out there and I lived out there for the most part, with the exception of a couple months here and there when I would visit my real father who lived in Sun Valley, right outside of Reno. So I bounced back and forth between the two places quite a bit. At about 21, I decided to move out of Aberdeen because I wanted to go to Reno to become a big star (laughing). That’s a joke. Nobody moves to Reno to become a big star. But I moved to Reno to pursue music a little bit, and to get to know my dad. But yeah, I grew up in Aberdeen. I grew up on an oyster farm just outside of town, but I also spent a lot of time hanging out in the downtown area with street kids.

And Aberdeen is a strange town because I don’t know that traditionally you would call it a music town, but there’s all this musical history swirling around the area out there.

Metal Church is from out there, which actually Brian Smith who recorded this EP has some ties to. The Melvins are from out there. And of course Nirvana and Kurt Cobain are from Aberdeen as well. There’s definitely something in the water out there I’d say.

So why release a 5-song EP now instead of a full album a later? Do you consider this somewhat of a concept album because it’s so tied to this location?

There would be more songs if I had more songs that I’d recorded. I’ve got to say that LV is the first thing I’ve put out where I’m happy with every single one of the songs. The versions are definitive versions of these songs. Some of the past projects, I’d put twelve songs on it and there would be three or four songs where it was a good song, but I just wasn’t quite happy with the way it turned out, but I put it on there just because I wanted to get the song out. This was the first time I didn’t make concessions to time or anything.

I’ve got another 5-song EP in the can that I’ll be putting out July 3rd. It’s going to be called Folk Hero. It’s going to be a political album. A lot of the songs people have probably heard and there’s a couple of cover songs. It’s more electric than the stuff I have doing with the Aberdeen sessions. It’s a little bit more like what our live show is going to be like. It was recorded out in Detroit.

The “LV” of the EP is for your initials. How much is this LV EP Hellbound Glory, and how much of it is it Leroy Virgil?

I started Hellbound Glory more than ten years ago back in Reno. Hellbound Glory has always been my thing. It’s always been less of a band, and more of a gang. People come and people go, and people come back. Because I recorded this EP back in Aberdeen, and I recorded a lot of it by myself, it is a little bit more of a pure expression of just me. I really put a lot of myself onto the tape with it. Just trying to capture more where I’m from as opposed to where the band is from.

Have you thought about just going under the Leroy Virgil name?

I’ve actually considered it a lot. We’ve talked about it, but there’s so much momentum going with Hellbound Glory and I’ve got so many years of work into it. Within a week or two of moving to Reno, I’d written the song and turned it into a band name. So it’s been something I’m stuck with. Part of me would like a change. But it’s a great band name when you think about it. It’s good and evil, heaven and hell. As I’ve changed lineups, I’ve always called the band something different. For a while we were the Excavators, for a while I was calling it the Damaged Good Ol’ Boys, for a while to was the Damn Seagulls, so it’s always kind of changing up for me. I could see a day when it is called Leroy & Hellbound Glory, or whatever. I have no shortage of good band names. I want people to connect with the songs rather than the band name.

Every time I bring up Hellbound Glory, people ask me what’s going on with those Shooter Jennings sessions that you did out in Nashville. Is it coming in the future, is it sort of in limbo?

You know, I’d say it will probably be out someday. To be honest with you, I didn’t really bring it to the recording sessions. A lot of the songs I hadn’t finished yet, I don’t think. And we were just really limited on time. I’ve heard them, and Shooter did a great job, it was just I didn’t do that great of a job. We drove three days and showed up at noon and started playing. We really partied pretty hard. And you know, I don’t regret doing it because it made the songs better. But I just wasn’t too stoked about what got laid to tape. I love Shooter to death and I wish it would have worked out, but the songs weren’t done yet. There were lyrics on it that were half cooked. I didn’t sing all that great. But I’m looking forward to working with Shooter again. We’ve actually talked about getting back into this studio in Aberdeen.

How much does it concern you that you have songs out there that you’ve created, and maybe you get tired of them, or maybe you’re working on them, and that maybe they’ll get lost?

I’m not afraid of that at all. I like my songs. I’ve got five new ones that I’m polishing up right now. For me, I don’t want to force it in the studio. All of those songs I recorded with Shooter, they’re not off the table. I’m not going to put them out until I’ve got the right groove for them. I’m going to keep on trying. I’m always working on them. I’m still planning to get them out because I like them. I think they’re great songs.

What kind of impact did the Kid Rock tour have on your career?

It put me on stage in front of a bunch of people, and I learned a whole shitload just being around the guy. I don’t know. My life has completely changed since I went on that tour. People may not be able to see it. We’re not selling out big places or nothing. But I’ve got a nice new van, recording in a nice studio. I’ve got a really good booking agent. I don’t know. Every interaction I had with Kid Rock, I learned something. He didn’t make me an overnight sensation, but he definitely put me on the radar.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sturgill Simpson Featured In The New York Times

Sturgill Simpson is a country music shaman

Read more articles over on the New York Times

"Sturgill Simpson is a top-notch miserablist, from the lyrics that pick at scabs to his defeated vocal tone, leaky even when he’s singing at full power. His second album, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” (High Top Mountain), is a triumph of exhaustion, one of the most jolting country albums in recent memory, and one that achieves majesty with just the barest of parts.

“Time and time again, Lord, I’ve been going through the motions/It’s a means to an end but the ends don’t seem to meet,” Mr. Simpson sings resignedly at the top of “Living the Dream.” Even his quick yelp while singing “going” feels doomed, like a pounce on the gas pedal that still doesn’t start the car.

Eventually, he concludes, he’s got nothing to do except “sit around and wait to die.”

This desperation is both felt and a form of drag, rooted in Mr. Simpson’s deep affinity for and understanding of the tattered parts of country music’s past, be it Johnny Cash’s morbid ramblings or Waylon Jennings’s scratched-up heart.

But while plenty of practitioners of classic country see their work as duty, reflecting a need to protect a style that’s beset at every turn by modernization, Mr. Simpson doesn’t have the feel of a preservationist. He speaks the language because he was raised around it, but his dialect is wholly his own.

Similarly, this album — the title is a nod to Ray Charles’s pioneering 1962 album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music,” a watershed of country-soul crossover — doesn’t make an argument about the direction of the genre as a whole. Its relationship to mainstream country music’s increasingly urban core is tenuous at best, even as a response.

Instead, this is a hermetic work, an act of therapy as much as anything. Compared with his debut album, “High Top Mountain,” from last year, which was lonely and desolate, too, this one feels even more skeptical, and is richer musically with only a few extra brush strokes.

Lyrically, Mr. Simpson is deadpan and bruised. “She left my heart feeling taunted/And my memories all haunted/But it’s her I have to thank for all my songs,” he sings on “Life of Sin.” On “Voices,” his voice is sopping wet, low to the ground and bumpy. He sounds peaceful only on “A Little Light,” which is rich with the influence of Southern gospel and the rare burst of optimism on this album.

As a singer, Mr. Simpson is gifted but in an unflashy way, yanking his drawl into sharp shapes when it’s called for, but mostly content to let his dusty luster do the heavy work. The only places he feels vocally constrained at all — and only slightly at that — is on the pair of covers at the center of the album: Charlie Moore and Bill Napier’s trucker anthem “Long White Line,” and “The Promise,” by the new wave one-hit wonder When In Rome. Mr. Simpson’s respect for the originals seem to prevent him from fiddling too much with their structure. (“The Promise,” in particular, feels indebted to Johnny Cash’s late-in-life career turn remaking unlikely artists’ songs in his inimitable style, right down to Mr. Simpson’s pulpy murmur.)

Part of Mr. Simpson’s skill is that he picks his accompanists carefully. This album was produced by Dave Cobb and recorded live to tape with Mr. Simpson’s touring band: the guitarist Laur Joamets, the bassist Kevin Black and the drummer Miles Miller. Mr. Joamets, especially, is vicious, an ostentatious talent given to filling small holes with outsize filigree. He’s almost as able a narrator as Mr. Simpson, as on the opening of “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which flirts with ZZ Top-esque swamp-blues rock, or on “Long White Line,” which opens with four different guitar approaches in four consecutive passages.

Dissenters like Mr. Simpson have occasionally seeped into country’s center, or near it, in recent years. There was Jamey Johnson, with whom Mr. Simpson shares a black cloud overhead, though he doesn’t quite have the full breadth of Mr. Johnson’s dolor. They also share a predilection for mind-bending substances, as Mr. Simpson shares on “Turtles All the Way Down”: “Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT — they all changed the way I see/But love’s the only thing that ever saved my life.” (Or on “Life of Sin”: “The level of my medicating some might find intimidating.”)

And Mr. Simpson toys with the sort of core-values skepticism recently reintroduced to the country mainstream by Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe and others, singing, also on “Turtles,” about how “Every time I take a look inside that old and fabled book/I’m blinded and reminded of the pain caused by some old man in the sky.”

But while big establishment systems discourage Mr. Simpson, his angst is almost wholly internal. And even though he’s fighting himself, he takes pleasure in the challenge. “Woke up today and decided to kill my ego/It never done me no good no how,” he sings on “Just Let Go,” and it sounds like a big old grin."

Sturgill Simpson featured in the New York Times

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Is Corporate Radio Dead? Think Again and Pay Attention To The Actions Of IHeartRadio

IHeartRadio is just Clear Channel flexing its corporate muscle

The music industry never fails to live up to pure entertainment. Varying groups create award shows to potentially portray their niche importance. Then you can have large radio conglomerates that want to leverage their own business model by showing how vast of a reach their business model is by creating an awards show, new theater and a vehicle for huge advertising dollars. Yes, corporate radio is still alive and well in 2014 and Clear Channel wants you to believe they are breaking new music with the syndicated playlists that dominate their 800+ radio station charts. 

This once again proves that ya gotta pay to play. Unless that is, you are DIY and realize that Youtube is by far the largest tv network, radio station and media channel combined and available to anyone and everyone far and wide. Go get creative and make life happen on your own terms.

"The March 26 announcement of finalists for the first-ever IHeartRadio Music Awards featured typical names: Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Drake, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and so on. It doesn’t matter who will win on May 1st. All that matters is the rapid growth of this very unique brand.

Despite its friendly, fuzzy, techy, Apple (AAPL)-sounding name (that little “i” in front—and the “Heart,” of course), IHeartRadio belongs to the biggest and baddest conglomerate in the radio business: Clear Channel Communications (CCMO). Launched in 2008, the IHeartRadio product mixes big media access (content from 800 local Clear Channel radio stations) with the big data analysis featured in the music recommendation systems of smaller companies such as Pandora (P) and Spotify. You can use IHeartRadio both to access your own user-created customized digital stations and to stream good ol’ terrestrial radio. This sets IHeartRadio apart from the pack.

The big budgets of Clear Channel allow you to download an IHeartRadio app for any device you want. Unlike so many tech startups that usually feature apps only for Apple and Android devices, IHeartRadio apps are available on Windows (MSFT), Kindle (AMZN), and yes: Blackberry (BBRY).

The IHeartRadio Theater in Burbank, CA
On the streaming side, the product is already No. 2, behind only Pandora (and ahead of iTunes Radio, Spotify, and Google Play (GOOG)). It has been growing fast, from 10 million registered users in May 2012 to 40 million just 18 months later. The analytical intelligence (knowing to play songs similar to ones you already like) behind the customized streaming product comes from the Echo Nest, which was recently bought by Spotify, a direct competitor to IHeartRadio. For now, Spotify says it will allow the Echo Nest to serve other streaming audio sites. For now.

Having big-wallet backers allows some interesting experiments, such as playing the same song repeatedly in an endless loop for 13 days. It has facilitated cross-promotional branding on Clear Channel’s radio stations, a music festival, and now the award show.

That’s why it doesn’t matter who wins the awards. The true winner is Clear Channel, which has found a way to marry the old-school strengths of ubiquity and publicity with digital, customizable content. Clear Channel manages to stay modern as it expands its streaming site into a full-fledged brand."

Rory Kelly Featured On Itunes Blues, New & Noteworthy

Huge congrats to Rory Kelly for his feature on Itunes - Blues, New & Noteworthy

If you missed our post a while back about the album process and symbology of Rory Kelly's new album dive on in. This was a damn fun project and huge congratulations to Rory Kelly, Pops Kelly and Billy Miller for conjuring up one amazing album.

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In the paragraphs below I get deeper into the meaning and symbolism behind Rory Kelly's new album design. The symbols were drawn together as a way to spell out what exactly Kings Never Sleep can be interpreted as metaphorically. In this case, it's hidden knowledge and the ability to rise up. It is the equivalent of the viewer and or listener to stand on the edge of a high platform and jump into water below for a soothing swim. For many, the symbols are just art placed in an eloquent manner but then again, if you are reflecting on the music of Rory Kelly and his career path paired with his musical prowess, these symbols take on far more of a significant meaning.

Dive in and enjoy as the journey is the true destination.

Follow Rory Kelly on Facebook

Order the new Rory Kelly album

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Anything that is worth having is worth working for. Whether it be saving up for your first new car, buying a home or wanting the sexy new Gretsch down at Guitar Center. Hard work and effort are the only way to achieve these goals along with one other element. That other element is the one for which it is free to obtain and is limitless in scope and can never be taken from you. Knowledge is the great conqueror, the great divider and ultimately the great saviour for anything you set out to achieve.

Conspiracy theorists thoroughly enjoy speaking on the illuminati and clandestine groups with the supposed aim to take over the world. Granted there are individuals that seek ultimate power, but human nature at it's core is forever seeking to be on top of the food chain and remain there. In my rationale this helps to make the struggle for power sensible while looking at it from a the viewpoint of trying to understand what is at the root of the issue, whether good or bad. Does it make it right or just, no so way in hell. But then again, we are just surveying the facts presented and its up to us to create our own judgement.

Rory Kelly album cover coming together

Hidden knowledge is where conversations get interesting and you can learn to decipher an individuals philosophy by the symbols around them. Everything we see and read daily is part of a larger scope of symbolism. Some of the iconography that was present hundreds of years ago, doesn't resonate today. Some of the images are persistent though, as the meaning has shifted within the lenses of how culture gazes upon it. When you see the fish on the back of a car as a bumper sticker or emblem, that individual is representing their Christian beliefs. So have you ever heard of a caduceus?

The hidden meaning within the intertwined snakes reflects a spiritual awakening, while also representing safe passage. In this rationale, thinking on the biblical story, was the snake tempting Eve with the apple of knowledge really malevolent? Remember that history is written by the conquerors so it is always in their favor to shine the best light on their cause. Snakes have been forever painted in a darker shade since then, but they remain a full time tenant in the realm of symbology. The way the story spells out to me is that life is simply about choice and you need to stand on your own two feet and be responsible for your actions. To think that women have been scorned for centuries due to this biblical story is to understand the power of symbolism. The same could be said for the swastika as it was around for thousands of years as a symbol of fertility. Read and interpret the full story as there are two sides to every coin.

Rory Kelly album cover art

The all seeing eye or the Eye of Providence is consistently seen as a symbol of the illuminati but actually represents the sun. The symbol is based upon Egyptian beliefs of viewing the sun for illumination and thusly where the the Illuminati's name is derived. The all seeing eye didn't get a triangular shape around it until the Renaissance period and was used as a Christian symbol representing the triune godhead. As time went on it was then adopted by the Masons as a symbol for the Great Architect. So if you want to really interpret Masonic lore, just ask. The hidden knowledge of all Masonic Rites is that you just have to ask and the gates will opened for those that seek out the knowledge. Thusly, the first step in becoming a Mason is you ask a member to join and you are invited to join as an Entered Apprentice.

Now lets get back to why the there is a triangle in the background. First of all, its not just a triangle but an Alchemical Fire or "Blade". This hidden symbol is based upon the fire within. For the album cover it is a reflection on Rory Kelly and the music he, Pops and Billy invoke. The upward lift of the Alchemical Fire symbolizes the rising energy that helps to bring us to the divine. Can music do this? Damn right it can. Just watch listeners get lost in a trance at shows. This is how powerful of a potion that a musical trance can have on its listeners.

So how does all this relate to the title "Kings Never Sleep"? That is the ultimate hidden symbol and within any individual to seek out. Anyone can be a king as its just a metaphor. As an individual walking the path of enlightenment and continually seeking out wisdom, you are becoming wiser and bolder in your approach. The light of knowledge never goes out or falls asleep as it is omnipresent. It may dim from time to time, but it is and will forever be at your fingertips.

"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey

Custom Leather Motorcycle Tool Bag - Come And Take It

Brand new custom 12" wide leather tool bag

We enjoy creating products that will live on for a few generations. Proud to have made this new tool bag for one of our biker brethren in San Antonio, TX. The tool bag is a custom one off based upon the Slogan "Come And Take It" used in 1778 at Fort Morris in Georgia during the American Revolution and more notably in 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution. Nothing like a bit of defiance in the face of adversity.

Find out more on the original motto and the flag, Come and Take It

Detail of a mural in the museum at Gonzales, Texas featuring the Come and Take It flag.