After being mistaken for a Mumford & Sons cover band, the guys in Hilton Head-based Americana act — and frequent Holy City players — Cranford and Sons knew that it was time for a change. And so singer-songwriter John Cranford and crew ditched the old name, picked up a new one (Cranford Hollow), and tweaked their sound for the their new self-titled disc, the follow-up to their 2012 LP.
"The first record was very 'we don't know what the hell we're doing. We didn't have the chops, and we only had nine days to record," Cranford says. "We had nine months with our new record. It's more in-depth, a lot more going on, and the musicianship has improved — maybe."
The gritty sound of the band's first album has been polished thanks to the extra studio time — and the 700 shows the group has played over the last three years — but Cranford's rocky voice still resonates in every song.
"Drop of Whiskey" is a ol' fashioned 1970s country drinking song, and "Martha" is a tale about a ball-busting woman that kills for fun. "Je Suis un Refugee" brings the Celtic stomp of the first album back with Dropkick Murphy-like fiddles.
"Some people are confused with the new album because it sounds different than out first, that it's good but not 'us,'" Cranford says. "But fans still come to us to say they put it in their stereo and never take it out. We've just amplified some aspects from the first album for this one."
TRIBUTE | Hendrix Birthday Bash
Wed. Nov. 27
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving offers music fans and imbibers a near-perfect opportunity to pre-game with friends before you have to settle down at the dinner table on Turkey Day and gorge yourself on all of that delicious grub. So before you become as full as a tick, you can celebrate the birth of the late, great Jimi Hendrix with City Paper Music Award winners the Dead 27s. The first time the guys played the Pour House they put together a Hendrix set, and it went really well, guitarist Wallace Mullinax says. So make no mistake, these guys know their “Voodoo Chile” from their “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” “We’ll be doing one large set of Hendrix and one shorter set of original stuff,” Mullinax says. The full band will be playing, and the Dead 27s guitarist says they expect to have some special guests. As a fellow six-stringer, Mullinax thinks the opportunity to do a Hendrix set is full of possibilities. “We are trying some material we haven’t really done before, and we’re looking forward to it because it’s out of our comfort zone,” he says. —Corinne Boyer WEDNESDAY
NEW BLUES | Davis Coen
Fri. Nov. 29
Home Team BBQ
Davis Coen may be labeled a blues artist, but that moniker is about as descriptive of his oeuvre as calling something food, because in Coen’s case what he offers is a buffet. Wander over his nine discs and you’ll find loose, rootsy Southern soul, raw acoustic Delta blues, switchback electric blues, old-timey swing, harmonica-laden folk blues, and barroom rave-ups. Coen’s been on the road, guitar in hand or backed by a band, since his teens, and his wide palette seems to be an outgrowth of that boundless existence. He’s not only broadened his sound over the years, but he’s been decidedly prolific, releasing six albums in as many years. They’re all good, going back at least as far as 2007’s Ill Disposition and its album-opening music biz anthem “Busker’s Blues,” where he boils it down: “Brand new corner but the lines are all the same … living with a quarter, feeling like a lousy dime.” His two most recent albums, last year’s Hard Luck Café and this year’s Get Back In, are particularly sharp and feature some keenly drawn portraits. Stand-out tracks include the slinky blues-bluegrass rocker “Brand New Version of the Same Old Thing,” Get Back In’s wistful title track ballad, and the pedal steel country ode, “Good Conversation.” —Chris Parker FRIDAY
’70s ROCK | Cheap Trick
Tues. Dec. 3
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
More than a quarter-century after Cheap Trick’s eponymous debut, the band still delivers a joyous profusion of hooks and power. Formed in the heartland — Rockford, Ill. to be exact — Cheap Trick added a ’70s hard rock throttle to a purring Beatlesque pop engine. Frontman Robin Zander has cock-rock swagger worthy of Robert Plant, but the Cheap Trick frontman has always been more playful than salacious, an attitude echoed in the band’s garb and songs. The hit “Surrender” features the narrator’s parents smoking dope and banging on the couch, “Heaven Tonight” is little more than a come-on, and you probably don’t need a primer to understand what “Stiff Competition” is about. Sometimes Zander and company are like Spinal Tap but with more self-awareness and melody. The first five albums are great, culminating with 1979’s Dream Police and At Budokon, featuring the hit “I Want You to Want Me.” —Chris Parker TUESDAY
MODERN COUNTRY | WEZL Evening with the Stars
w/ Ronnie Dunn, Craig Morgan, Thompson Square
Mon. Dec. 2
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
Three national recording country artists are coming together on Monday to raise money for the MUSC Children’s Hospital as part of WEZL’s annual Evening with the Stars concert. The show is hosted by the station’s own TJ Philips and Ric Rush, and every year, the duo gathers a few of country music’s best singer-songwriters and holds an intimate concert where fans can get to know the artists in an informal setting and hear the hits that everyone loves. Rush says, “I think the audience will get to see why country music is really called a family. The interaction is going to be incredible.” This year, Craig Morgan will be performing some of his hits on acoustic guitar, while Thompson Square will show off its chemistry and delve into the revealing nature of the band’s songwriting. Brooks and Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn will also be performing and sharing the stories behind some of his biggest songs. “Ronnie has had the success that you need to have to be able to have the freedom to experiment with his sound,” Rush says. “Ronnie Dunn has one of the purest sounds Nashville has ever seen, and we are seeing a new side to him.” —Tamara Younkins MONDAY
For rock songwriter Mel Washington, Christmastime is full of contrasts: cherished memories of warmth and laughter with his family coupled with moments of solitary reflection. So when he recorded a Christmas album, he wanted it to sound that way.
"It might seem as if it's all over the place," Washington says of his new record, Celebration, which will be released digitally on Friday. "You know, it starts off kind of somber, and then the next song is like a bossa nova version of "White Christmas.' But that's what it is to me."
Since his years spent touring with indie-rock band All Get Out, Washington has returned to a fruitful solo career and set himself a few musical challenges. This February, Washington's album Houses saw him taking an occasional turn toward Southern rock power-balladry, and this winter, he's got a few new musical endeavors in the works. One is the Christmas album; the other is a project tentatively called Petty Cash, a collection of re-imagined Tom Petty and Johnny Cash tunes. The holiday record was plenty challenging in its own right, he says.
"You'd be surprised. Christmas music is not the easiest music to play," Washington says. "At the same time, I wanted to be careful to have a unique way of presenting it without going too far off the beaten path."
Over half of the songs on Celebration are fireplace fare — the sort of cozy, romantic standards like "Let It Snow" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" that Bing and Frank once used to melt frozen wintry hearts. Washington is joined on several tracks by Athens, Ga.-based singer and blogger Sarra Sedghi, and the two show real chemistry on the duets. Washington recorded the album in Macon, Ga., with the help of Charleston producer Wolfgang Zimmerman (of Brave Baby) and multi-instrumentalist Alec Stanley, and they hired some local Georgia talent as well, including a violinist, a trumpeter, and a few opera singers from Macon.
The oddball standout on the album is "A Chorus of Hallelujahs," a medley of Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah" and the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Washington says he intentionally left his vocals untouched in the studio, imperfections and all. The result is an aching and powerful addition to the ever-growing canon of "Hallelujah" cover versions.
"My voice breaks at the end unintentionally," Washington says. "It's a literal broken hallelujah."
Celebration will be available for download Friday via iTunes, Amazon, and other online outlets. Washington will also play a free Christmas concert on Thurs. Dec. 12 at the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop (377 King St.) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Physical copies of the album will be available for purchase at the show.
The Hootie frontman's mid-song entrance, which riled the auditorium full of Frankie faithful, to Rucker's ballad on growing older, "While I Still Got the Time," set up a special duet with Antonelli, a 16-year old with Down Syndrome, for the song's final verse.
After the performance, Antonelli's mother Debbie, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, took to Twitter in testament to her son's indomitable spirit, "Can't count how many people told us Frankie can't/won't because he has Down Syndrome. WRONG! He can and will."
A video shot by Frankie's mother, originally posted by the Post and Courier, has since been burning up the #chs interwebs.
ROCKABILLY FREAK SHOW | Coney Island Rock ‘n’ Roll Roadshow
w/ Urban Pioneers, Jesse Ray Carter Trio, Skye Paige
Thurs. Nov. 21
If you like some “pretty crazy dick tricks” with your music, then you need to get yourself to the Sparrow on Thursday. The Coney Island Rock ‘n’ Roll Roadshow — a traveling troupe of musical acts, burlesque performers, and freaks — takes to the road for a few months a couple of times each year. They switch up the musical acts with each tour, and for this go-round audience members will hear the Americana bluegrass group Urban Pioneers and the hardcore rockabilly act the Jesse Ray Carter Trio. And sometimes, tour manager and self-proclaimed Weirdo Wrangler Eric Bruce says, if there’s enough time, they add a third group. “They call themselves the Bourbon Pioneers, and they’re this total jam band. They cover anyone from Johnny Cash to Motorhead,” he says. Local songstress Skye Paige will perform as well. Bruce is all about creating a memorable show for his audiences, and this tour’s already made Roadshow history. “Cut Throat [of the Cut Throat Freak Show] has these shark hooks he inserts into his eyeballs, and he lifts anvils, all kinds of stuff with them,” Bruce says. “There was this guy in the audience last night who had these huge nipple clamps — I think he was some kind of pervert. They ran the chains from Cut Throat’s eyelids to the nipple clamps and lifted these outdoor patio chairs.” Ew. —Elizabeth Pandolfi THURSDAY
AMERICANA | Gaslight Street
Wed. Nov. 27
Home Team BBQ (Sullivans Island)
Two years ago after Gaslight Street’s sophomore record, 2011’s Idle Speed, singer-guitarist Campbell Brown and company — Whitt Algar (keys), Dan Wright (guitar), Noelle Pietras (vocals, percussions), Stratton Moore (drums), and Ben Kinser (bass) — are back with a brand-spanking new LP, Heavy Wind. The title track is a weary Southern rock ballad that recalls the Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic. Brown and company allow the music to build bit by bit, and we guarantee the song will still be in your head long after the tune ends. The third track on Heavy Wind, “Uptight,” feels like a straight-up country rocker before it mellows into a Dead-style ballad, while “Blue Skies for Fools” is a country-reggae shuffler featuring co-vocals by Brown and Pietras and “Stone Rollin’” is a good ole-fashioned Little Feat-esque boogie. If you’re interested in hearing the title track, head on over to Gaslight Street’s Reverb Nation page, but if you’re itching to hear the album in its entirety, you’re going to need to throw down some green at the iTunes store. —Stephen Pappas SUNDAY AND NEXT WEDNESDAY
INDIE DREAM POP | New Madrid
w/ Futurebirds, Luke Cunningham
Sat. Nov. 23
Like the wind whistling gently through the trees at dusk, broadcasting news of fall’s approach, there’s something sweet and wistful about New Madrid. Recent transplants to Athens, Ga. from Tennessee, the quartet released its full-length debut Yardboat last August, and the band members’ loose, reverb-laden songs linger and loom, spiraling skyward before swelling back to life in clamorous finales. At times, the group’s dreamy unhurried builds and prog-like structures recall post-rock instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky, while in other cases New Madrid stretches out like a jam band behind noodly riffage. But the Athens outfit also takes time to evoke the cosmic country of Beachwood Sparks (“Country Moon I”), and the bandmates even manage to combine calypso and jangly folk-rock (“Country Moon Pt. II”). Toss in a 10-minute-long ambient track seemingly pitched at the massage therapist market, and you have a rather disparate gumbo. This eclecticism undoubtedly produces lively, freewheeling performances that can keep the audience guessing, but on disc it feels a tad disjointed. Still it’s hard not to marvel at the craft and musicianship. —Chris Parker SATURDAY
INDIE NEWGRASS | Sarah Jarosz
w/ Brian Wright
Fri. Nov. 22
Charleston Music Hall
It’s official: Sarah Jarosz has graduated from child prodigy to a full-fledged adult with her latest album, Build Me Up from Bones. It was released this fall, and music critics have been gushing over it — or, more specifically, over Jarosz’ increased confidence in her voice and songwriting abilities. And they’re right, too. Jarosz has really grown into her sound, which was already quite beautiful, enriching her acoustic bluegrassy style with hints of rock and eschewing the few twangy vocal affectations that were apparent on her previous albums. But the album isn’t the only thing she’s accomplished this year. In May, she graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music and in August moved to New York. The move was followed by the release of Bones in September. “It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least,” she says. “To work so hard for something and have it be so well-received, that’s a great feeling.” Jarosz credits a lot of her growth as a musician to the things she was exposed to in college, especially poetry writing. “Being able to stretch a little bit in my writing, and being able to write poetry and not be tied down to a song form has really been good for me.” You can listen to the full album on her website, sarahjarosz.com. —Elizabeth Pandolfi FRIDAY