Open Air Currents: Pillow Queens, Stephen Clair, Charley Crockett, The Boxmasters
From guitar driven indie rock by an Irish LGBTQ four piece to obscure classic country covers, we have a diverse line up of new albums for you this week on Open Air.
Pillow Queens - Leave The Light On
Co-lead singers Sarah Corcoran and Pamela Connoly also share rhythm guitar and bass duties in this four-piece rock band from Dublin, Ireland. With Cathy McGuiness on lead guitar and Rachel Lyons on drums, Pillow Queens incorporates tight harmonies and pop grooves with grittier guitar rock on their sophomore release, Leave The Light On. Their songs reveal the tension between members’ Catholic roots and out LGBTQ identities as they navigate life and relationships, often touching on the personal reckoning that must accompany social change.
Stephen Clair - To The Trees
In 2012, Stephen Clair founded Beacon Music Factory, a music school for musicians of all ages that specializes in immersive rock and roll boot camps. He’s been touring and making music for over 20 years. His new release is To The Trees. The title track is an interpretation of the 1957 Italo Calvino novel The Baron In The Trees, a story about a boy who climbs a tree one day and spends the rest of his life living in the kingdom he made for himself. In the Stephen Clair version, his sister plays the main character. One day she jumps up from the kitchen table to climb the tree in their backyard and decides to remain there. Clair’s song is an ode to her independence and individualism. His sound has been compared to Wilco and The Hold Steady. In his narratives and vocal stylings, I can hear shades of how Brett Dennen may sound as he gets older.
The Boxmasters – Help…I’m Alive
Billy Bob Thornton, the Oscar winning film star and director, says his first love has always been music, which seems odd given his success in Hollywood. He’s the lead singer/lyricist for the Boxmasters. Though not affecting the music world in the same way he has on the screen, his band is several albums deep into a career that began in 2009. They’ve just released Help…I’m Alive. The group plays tight, catchy alt-country/folk rock punctuated by Thornton's voice which is reminiscent of Jakob Dylan. Help…I’m Alive is a collection of songs celebrating blue collar life in America and existing in the insanity of the 21st century. The title track speaks to the ongoing search for truth in an increasingly confusing world. The Boxmasters are playing at the Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass on May 5.
Charley Crockett – Li’l G Presents Jukebox Charley
The always sharply dressed country crooner, Charley Crockett, is back with a new installment of his series L’il G Presents. This time he’s taken on lesser-known classic country with tunes originally performed by legends such as Johnny Paycheck, Jerry Reed, Tom T Hall, Porter Wagoner and George Jones on the new album Jukebox Charley. Crockett looks and sounds like he was transported in time from a honky tonk bar in the 1960s via a black Cadillac. It’s easy to say his sound is derivative, but that’s the point. These are classic covers done in their original style with Crockett’s smooth baritone sounding right at home. Crockett takes some liberty with the Roger Miller classic Where Have All The Average People Gone, substituting “honest” for “average” in his version of a song about belonging and being unable to be all things to all people as an artist. These days so much of what we hear in commercial country music just sounds like stadium rock with twang. Charley Crockett is a true student of classic country and a much-needed voice in keeping the genre alive.
Next week we have new releases from living legend Bonnie Raitt and a collaboration between Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.
Open Air, hosted and curated by Noah Bran-Linsday, Danielle Kelly and Dave Jackson airs weekdays 9-3 on the Rhythm and News Service of JPR.