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The Deli KC

Spotlight on CMF artist: Onward Crispin Glover

(Photo by Mark Peterman)
This week, we are highlighting some of the artists playing the 10th annual Crossroads Music Fest this Saturday, September 6. For more info or tickets, visit cmfkc.com.
Onward Crispin Glover released its first and only album, The Further and the Faster, in 2001 on Anodyne Records—a Kansas City-based label that has released albums from the likes of Shiner, The Architects, Roman Numerals, and Meat Puppets. The band had a punchy, glammy pop vibe infused with boisterous punk, starring a cast of experienced musicians from groups such as Frogpond, TV Fifty, Truck Stop Love, and Rocket Fuel is the Key. And though it released just the one album, Onward Crispin Glover has remained on the minds of many in KC music ever since.
One of those minds was that of Bill Sundahl, who has organized every CMF since its inception in 2005. Sundahl specifically requested for OCG to reunite for this year’s festival. “Every now and then I would run across The Further and the Faster, put it in my CD player, and it always held up,” he comments. “I can't think of many recordings from 2001 I can say that about.”
And it certainly does hold up, even 11 years after the band’s demise. Though OCG’s style was heavily rooted in ‘90s power pop/punk—comparisons to Superchunk and Archers of Loaf have often been drawn—it was far more expansive than that. The members cite Elvis Costello and The Afghan Whigs as influences, which immediately eliminates them from being stuck with a simple power pop branding—something you can tell after a single listen to The Further and the Faster. Costello had a penchant for writing some of the hookiest and most timeless pop songs ever, with a new wave/punk attitude; this is absolutely evident in OCG’s songwriting.
“It began with a very pop-oriented sensibility and progressed toward a noisier, more chaotic sound,” says bassist Kristin Conkright.
Elements of that chaotic but catchy sound has manifested in Knife Crime; three of the band’s four members are also original members of OCG: Byron Huhmann, Conkright, and Brad Huhmann. With Byron’s striking, pronounced vocals at the helm—he is also primary songwriter of both bands—Knife Crime is something of a modern-day, slightly more grown-up version of its members’ previous incarnation.
Onward Crispin Glover formed in 1999, with Byron on vocals and guitar, Brad on guitar, Conkright on bass, and Billy Johnson on drums. Brad chose not to tour with the band and was replaced by Marty Robertson—who, along with Johnson, was in Frogpond. Robertson later handed the reins off to Steve Tulipana. In 2003, the band folded and went on to a number of other successful projects, such as Federation of Horsepower, Anvil Chorus, and Red Kate
Conkright also lists “the KC affinity for really, really fucking loud guitars” as one of the trademarks of OCG’s sound. On Saturday’s reunion show, the group will once again deliver on this promise more than ever before. The lineup will include a triple axe arsenal of the Huhmann brothers and Robertson. Conkright tells us that the biggest, yet most rewarding challenge is “figuring out how to work all three guitar players into one set without smashing eardrums.” Chris Fugitt of Federation of Horsepower will be sitting in on drums, as Johnson will be out of town.
For now, old and new fans will have the chance to experience Onward Crispin Glover at Crossroads Music Fest this weekend. But the members note that they’ve had so much fun revisiting the songs that they might play more after the reunion show. And as well as OCG’s songs hold up more than a decade later, we’ll probably want them to.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli KC and plays in bands. Crispin Glover scares her a little.
Onward Crispin Glover will be playing in the Mercy Seat Alley for CMF on Saturday, kicking off the evening at 7:00 pm. Don’t miss it.
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Album review: Katy Guillen & the Girls - Katy Guillen & the Girls

(Photo by Michelle Bacon)
Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” (Note: The Deli KC premiered this song when it was first released as a single back in January. Here’s the link.) It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
--Barry Lee

Barry Lee is an occasional contributor to The Deli KC and can often be found on the radio Sunday nights at 8 pm on KKFI 90.1 as host of the long-running free-form show,
Signal To Noise. In the daytime he attends to many tasks as Station Manager for KKFI. 
This weekend, Katy Guillen & the Girls will play two special performances at Knuckleheads. On Saturday, September 6, they will be throwing a CD release party with special guests The Old No. 5’s. Facebook event page. On Sunday, September 7, they will play an unplugged show for the first time, in Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge. This is a special benefit show for KKFI 90.1 FM. Facebook event page. Both shows begin at 8:00 p.m. Go see them and indulge yourselves.

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Spotlight on CMF artist: Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear

This week, we are highlighting some of the artists playing the 10th annual Crossroads Music Fest. For more info or ticketing information, please visit cmfkc.com.
Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear quietly released their first album, We Burned the Cane Field, in 2012 (recorded/produced by Joel Nanos at Element Recording). It was relatively unknown and received very little press (The Deli KC published a review in 2013). The mother/son duo of Ruth and Madisen Ward continued performing week to week in coffeehouses and smaller venues, gaining a reputation for its profound songwriting, having two intriguing powerhouse voices, and an earnest charm that connected with audiences.
Mostly by word of mouth, Madisen and Ruth’s music has captured the attention of many in the KC area and beyond. We talk a bit with Madisen Ward about how the band came to be and what they have planned.
The Deli: How would you describe your music in one sentence?
Madisen Ward: An organic tribute to imperfection.
The Deli: Give us some background on the band. Why did you and your mom decide you would play together?
Madisen: We have been a band for 4 years now. My mother started singing at the age of 19; living a semi-nomadic life, singing in coffeehouses throughout the US. I grew up listening to her sing in coffeehouses, never realizing the impact her music and inspirations would have on me in the future. I picked up the guitar in my later teens and started singing even later. After high school, we discovered how much we enjoyed performing together, so I began writing music for both of us to sing in coffeehouses. We've been playing wherever we can, and as much as we can ever since.
The Deli: Madisen, what’s it like to be in a band with your mom? And Ruth, what’s it like to work with your son?
Madisen: It's a very interesting and unique experience working with my mother. We were already connected as mother and son, so connecting as musicians was a very natural process.
Ruth: It's a great experience, and I'm learning a lot from my son while enjoying the process as well. I feel like we're tackling music in ways I never have before.
The Deli: Your first album, We Burned the Cane Field, came out in 2012. Do you have any new stuff in the works?
Madisen: We have lots of new material. Songs that we're real excited to share with everyone, but the actual recording date is undetermined at this time. We're looking forward to recording as soon as possible!
The Deli: What has been your biggest accomplishment as a band?
Madisen: We just recently announced that we'll be opening for the legendary B.B. King on October 1 at The Midland (Facebook event page). This is probably our greatest accomplishment so far. It is a humbling honor to share the evening with such an amazing blues icon!
The Deli: What does the future hold for Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear?
Madisen: Touring and recording is what we're wanting to accomplish for the upcoming months. We just recently signed on with the William Morris Endeavor Agency, and we couldn't be more excited to embark on this journey!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
Madisen: A couple of Mama Bear's favorite musicians are Tracy Chapman and John Gorka. A couple of mine are Nick Drake and Tom Waits. Kansas City has a very unique and vibrant music scene; we'd rather not pick any one local musician as our favorite.
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at Crossroads Music Fest this year?
Madisen: I'm excited to see many bands, including The Philistines whom we're sharing a venue with. Me Like Bees is a band I'm excited to see as well.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Madisen: No matter what you pursue; respect others while pursuing it. With all due respect, We're all due respect.
Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear will be playing at The Tank Room for Crossroads Music Fest on Saturday. They will be playing at 10:00 pm, right after Maria the Mexican and right before The Philistines.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.

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Spotlight on CMF artist: Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits

(Photo by M. Krebotchnik)
This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the artists playing the 10th annual Crossroads Music Fest next Saturday, September 6. Please visit cmfkc.com for more information.
Scott Hrabko has been making music for over 25 years now, but only recently released his debut album in late 2013. The singer/songwriter composes thoughtful, reflective tunes with a backing band that provides the soul, swing, and twang that gives his music a classic country feel. We talk with Hrabko about his history and how he got back into the music scene.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Hrabko: Singer/songwriterly, semi-autobiographical songs with rambling lyrics, played in a somewhat offbeat country/folk/blues hybrid with an emphasis on soulful three-part harmonies.
The Deli: How did you get back into writing and playing your own songs again?
Hrabko: After I moved from KC in the '90s, I had some good bands in Chicago and Austin that maybe 20 people knew about. When I came back, though, I was having trouble meeting musicians who had any interest in the kind of stuff I write. I grew kind of disillusioned about writing songs for awhile and my only connection to music was this cover band, The Original Sinners, playing semi-obscure R&B songs from the '50s a few times a year at parties. When the urge to write started pestering me again, my wife strongly suggested that I get out and play some solo acoustic shows. That was when I asked Howard Iceberg for advice and he introduced me to Elaine McMilian. Elaine booked gigs for me and helped get my music back out in public. She and her friend, the late Tom Ryan, were huge supporters early on. That helped because I was very nervous about the whole thing and had no idea how it would be received. It's not easy to go out and perform without a band, but I'm glad I did; I really learned whether my songs can stand on their own, without all of the seductive instrumentation.
The Deli: How did you hook up with the rest of the Rabbits?
Hrabko: I met Emily Tummons a few years ago at the Howard Iceberg tribute show at Crosstown Station. My old band, the Splinters, was invited to play a couple of Howard's tunes; Emily and her sister Beth sang a couple by themselves and with Scott Easterday. Their sound really knocked me out. It was very old-timey—the kind of harmonies you just don't hear these days. I thought, “I have to find a way to sing with those girls, somehow.” I figured we might run into each other eventually, but right after the show as I was loading up my car, Emily came right up and introduced herself and asked if I ever needed any backing vocals. Beth was too busy with her home life to commit to anything, but Emily wound up singing on my album and then joined the Rabbits.
Josh Arnold was the first musician who joined us after that. He had gone to school with Emily and played bass with the Tummons Sisters. He and Emily had sung harmonies before, as well, so they already had all this history. I knew immediately that we had a good combination. He's a great, intuitive bass player, and the two of them just have this telepathy when they sing together. With previous bands I was probably guilty of micromanagement, not letting the musicians be themselves and find a flow, but with Josh and Emily I just say, “here's the song—go to it,” with only an occasional suggestion of what they should do. They're also great people, and very funny.
We just lost our badass guitarist, Kirk Scott, who moved with his family to Massachusetts, so we're a trio now, but we have a fourth member lined up; it’s just not official yet. Emily sang some harmonies on my CD, Gone Places and we started rehearsing with Josh about a year ago in preparation for the CD release, which was last November at Coda.
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
Hrabko: I think it has been developing our own unique sound in a very short period of time. I always dreamed of having a band with a strong element of harmony and the first time we sang together I knew it could be something special. And, for me, personally—I was really out of the music scene for years, so getting back into it and being so warmly received is really gratifying.
The Deli: You released your debut album Gone Places last November. What can people expect from it?
Hrabko: Gone Places came out late last year. That one was me and some old friends and some guest musicians I'd just met, recorded mostly in my basement. Scott Hrabko & The Rabbits are putting the finishing touches on a new album which will be out some time this fall.
The Deli: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Crossroads Music Fest this year?
Hrabko: There are a lot of bands I already like that I want to hear, as well as some I'm curious about. It's very nice that it all takes place within a few city blocks. After our set I think I'm just going to go wherever the wind takes me. It all sounds good.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Hrabko: It's about acknowledging how lucky we are to be in a small-to-mid-sized major city smack dab in the middle of the country and we're absolutely surrounded with good music. Can't swing a dead cat. I'll give you an example: we have this local, non-touring band, Dead Voices, who are making music that is just historically good, and they're like our little secret. For the time being we have them to ourselves. It's really lovely to see all this music happening here, because I can remember a time when it wasn't, aside from a handful of true believers.
It's not the product of hype, or a response to some kind of market pressure, either. It's just growing on its own, taking its own quirky course.
The Deli: What has changed about the local music landscape? Why do you think it’s growing at a rate it wasn’t before?
Hrabko: There seems to be a convergence of musicians who came up together in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, who are all friends and play in each other's bands. Many of the bands just seem to be part of one organism! It kind of sustains itself. It helps that the music is worth listening to.
Second, it seems that there are more entrepreneurs around who are musician-friendly or musicians themselves who are starting up venues and record labels, organizing festivals, etc. That infrastructure definitely wasn't around back in the day when a band like mine could play a Monday night at The Grand Emporium or maybe open for somebody at Parody Hall.
Third, the internet. Being able to post your music online for anybody to check out has been a godsend for socially challenged musicians like me, and all of the social media has made it much easier to get the word out. Going around, stapling fliers to telephone poles seems very quaint now. I would also add that there are more true music lovers—especially for live music—than you would think there would be in a town this size, so people do come out. And of course we have KKFI!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Hrabko: It kills me to leave so many out, but I am a huge fan of Mikal Shapiro, Dead Voices, of course -- anything David Regnier is involved in, Jason Beers, Marco Pascolini, Howard Iceberg, Brent Jamison, Kasey Rausch, Old Sound. John Greiner, but he just moved to the east coast, so he's no longer local. Emily and Josh from my own band kick my ass on a regular basis.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Hrabko: Lately I've gotten into these mysterious, English folky women, like Cate LeBon and This Is The Kit. Also digging back into the late Townes Van Zandt's early catalog and finding I really didn't know all I thought I knew about him. What a lyricist... like William Blake or something! Fred Neill, early John Martyn (a lot of dead guys, I guess!), Michael Kiwanuka.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Hrabko: Leonard Cohen, Robert Johnson, Joni Mitchell, Jimmie Rodgers, Captain Beefheart (I know, that's five): great music that has stood the test of time. I've had so many musical heroes that I've either outgrown, disavowed, or gotten sick of, but I still get chills when I listen to these people’s songs. It still has as profound an impact on me as it did when I was much younger and knew even less.
The Deli: What other goals does Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits have for 2014?
Hrabko: Stay healthy, stay busy, stay visible, write great songs, and grow as a band.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Hrabko: If it's crap, don't be deterred.
Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits are:
Scott Hrabko: acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Josh Arnold: bass, vocals
Emily Tummons: accordion, ukulele, vocals
Scott Hrabko & the Rabbits will be playing at The Tank Room for Crossroads Music Fest on Saturday. Their set is at 6:00 pm, followed by Old Sound. Facebook event page. You can also catch Hrabko at Coda every fourth Saturday, where he hosts a happy hour songwriter showcase.
--Michelle Bacon

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Album review: Diverse - Our Journey

If you’re looking for a Thelonious Monk reincarnate jazz style, you’ve found it in Diverse’s Our Journey.
Hermon Mehari’s raw trumpet, Ryan Lee’s toe-tapping drums, and Ben Leifer’s soulful bass all create a groovy, vibrant experience. This album is a serene soundscape of honest-to-roots swing jazz, while incorporating a soulful Kansas City 18th and Vine roots heritage. It’s a technical collection and in some ways experimental. Also on the album are pianist Tony Tixier (from Paris) and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. It was recorded by Andre Charlier in Paris, mixed by Brendan McReynolds, and mastered by Mike Nolte. Our Journey is a follow up to Diverse’s first self-titled album released in 2009.
Take a breath and listen to this wise and prophetic classical jazz journey. It’s like walking into true legendary jazz at The Blue Room or Green Lady Lounge, a more recently opened downtown hot spot. So while you’re at home cleaning the dishes, playing with the cat and relaxing, take the dazzling ride and listen to this album. Let it take you. It begs to be seen live. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting at the back of the Foundation catching a whiff of Kansas City tradition. 
Because I wanted to get a sense of how the album was recorded, I asked McReynolds what direction Mehari gave him when mixing the album. According to McReynolds, his motivation was “to just mix it like it was a jazz club in Kansas City. Very intimate and very tight. It’s like walking into a place you have never been before and feeling comfortable.”
Whether it’s the time signature changes and beautiful technical work, or the sometimes wildly manic nature of jazz itself, each track is an imminent adventure. “Motherland” is a spirit awakening exploration. It’s a night dressed to the nines at a martini bar probably, having the time of my life, or maybe a night spent writing by the light of the moon. The final track on the album, “Rest in Peace,” offers a unique two-stick lassoing of the beat and melancholic trumpet. A funky groovy bass line bathes the soul with a warm dance to permeate the senses.
Our Journey is a testament to Kansas City’s rich jazz and blues culture and connects with a wide range of audiences. Choose your own journey with this album. It is a must listen.
--Chris Wenske

You can catch Diverse at The Riot Room on Thursday, September 4. Reach will be DJing the first set, followed by Diverse, and then New Orleans duo Hildegard, led by Cliff Hines. Doors open at 7:00.

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