Lex Browning was born and raised Maysville, Ky, a small town on the Ohio River where the Browning family has lived since 1820. As a child he fell in love with the local bluegrass and country music being performed and at age 7 successfully begged enough to get a guitar for his birthday. He and his brother Christopher were performing on local radio stations by the time Lex was 9. By age 11 he had wheedled a banjo out of his grandmother and soon incorporated that into the family band. The family sang at home and at church and grade school and after hearing Bob Dylan and the Beatles Lex was writing his own songs.
He attended Reed college in Oregon where he was far more interested in playing music than studying so he picked up mandolin and fiddle. A year off spent performing in Gatlinburg Tennessee convinced him to become a professional musician. Gigs with many local bands soon followed as did a stint as fiddle player for Queen Ida the zydeco accordionist for whom he wrote the song “C’est Moi (which has been featured in the Scottish independent film, “Road to Lafayette); then came the move to Nashville where he was member of the band Great Plains, a staff songwriter, session musician and fiddle player for Tanya Tucker, Pam Tillis, and Trace Adkins. He has also worked with Kenny Rogers, the Nelson twins, Quarterflash, and many other musicians of note.
Returning to Portland, Lex quickly resumed work with his old friends from the Holy Modal Rounders (featured In the film Easy Rider)and continues working today with the Freak Mt Ramblers, Jenny Conlee-Drizos and Troy Stewart of the Decemberists and as a solo singer/songwriter. He was a founding member of the Trail Band and has appeared on countless albums as well as his own solo venture “Good Rain”. A new project is in the works.
Lex and his family have moved to Tucson where he performs with Winfield Flatpicking champion Peter McLaughlin, The Tusconics, the Sonoran Dogs, Greg Morton and his own solo show every Friday night at La Cocina.
Update: Lex is honored and excited to join Poco with the great Rusty Young, Jack Sundrud and Rick Lonow
PORTUGAL. THE MAN RELEASES NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR “TIDAL WAVE”
SELF-PROCLAIMED “LORDS OF PORTLAND” DROP SIXTH CREATIVE COLLABORATION WITH GLOBAL CREATIVE AGENCY WIEDEN+KENNEDY
WATCH “TIDAL WAVE” HERE
October 15, 2018. Portland, Oregon– Grammy award winning rockers Portugal. The Man, who recently won awards for both Album of the Year & Artist of the Year at the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, have released the new music video for their latest single, “Tidal Wave,” from their Gold certified eighth studio album, WOODSTOCK. The video is an impressive claymation sensation created in collaboration with creative agency Wieden+Kennedy.
The use of claymation counteracts the upbeat tempo of the song, making it possible for the band members to become gradually more and more distorted as the song progresses. The work of renowned British animator Lee Hardcastle and his “claymation that’s not for children,” lends a distinctly dark, but humorous vibe to the video.
“Being advertising creatives who sit in dark offices all day, we tend to be pretty jealous of good looking, talented rock stars who tour the world to adoring fans,” explains Wieden+Kennedy Art Director Helen Rhodes. “So when we were asked to create the music video for Portugal. The Man’s ‘Tidal Wave’ track we thought, let’s make them into hideous mutant creations of their former selves. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t up for months of painful reconstructive surgery, so we did it in claymation instead. [Copywriter] Nick Morrissey and I had the loose structure for the video, but the fucked up factor was really turned up to 11 when we got the warped mind of animator Lee Hardcastle on board. He’s a one man claymation band of delightful craziness and we couldn’t be prouder of the music video baby he has birthed unto the world.”
This is W+K’s sixth music video for Portugal. The Man, who earlier this year help launch the band’s eighth full-length studio album, WOODSTOCK, and created the videos for hit singles like Rich Friends, Live In The Moment and their multi-platinum, Grammy-winning single Feel It Still. Beyond videos, the collaboration has also included everything from designing shirts for their late-night appearances; to custom strains of marijuana designed to be smoked while listening to the album; and projected graphics for concerts and festivals.
Band member Zach Carothers had this to say about the latest collaboration, “We’ve been working with Wieden on music videos, custom pot strains, stage graphics, cartoon bunghole reunions and all sorts of funny, creative shit for the last two years. Every time they come at us with something it blows us away.”
Seconds front man John Gourley, “W+K always makes weird shit for us, but this one borders on unacceptable. I don’t dance with my butt out like that. That’s messed up.”
Catch Portugal. The Man, who on tour in Anchorage, Alaska on October 26 & 27.
For additional news and information, please visit PORTUGALTHEMAN.COM and ATLANTICRECORDS.COM.
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PORTUGAL. THE MAN JOINS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & DANNY CLINCH AT ASBURY LANES GRAND RE-OPENING
Bruce Springsteen, Danny Clinch, Eric Howk, Kyle O’Quin, Jason Sechrist Zachary Carothers, and John Gourley of Portugal. The Man attend the Grand Re-Opening of Asbury Lanes at Asbury Lanes on June 18, 2018 in Asbury Park, New Jersey
(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iStar)
Last night Grammy-award winning rockers PORTUGAL. THE MAN performed at the highly anticipated grand re-opening of the iconic Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ. Their high energy set, which opened with a cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” was complete with lasers and a set list that included songs from their extensive catalog including “Modern Jesus,” “Purple, Yellow, Red, Blue,” “Live In The Moment” and their multi-platinum smash single, “Feel It Still.” The night also included performances from famed photographer Danny Clinch’s Tangiers Blues Band with special guest and New Jersey’s own, the legendary Bruce Springsteen.
The thirty-ninth annual Blues Music Awards honoring blues musicians and recordings in 26 categories were held in Memphis, TN, last month. Portland’s own Curtis Salgado was once again awarded the BMA for Soul Vocalist, his ninth BMA award and seventeenth nomination overall. Other local musicians nominated this year were Karen Lovely, Jimi Bott, and The Paul deLay Band. Congratualtions to Curtis and to all the award recipients and nominees.
The night’s biggest winners were Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ for individual awards and for their outstanding collaborative album TajMo, for a total of five awards. Among those Taj Mahal was presented with the prize award of the night, the BB King Entertainer of the Year. Rick Estrin also BMAs took home three himself, including with his band The Nightcats.
Acoustic Album – Break The Chain, Doug MacLeod
Acoustic Artist – Taj Mahal
Album of the Year – TajMo, Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year – Taj Mahal
Band of the Year – Rick Estrin & The Nightcats
Best Emerging Artist Album – Southern Avenue, Southern Avenue
Contemporary Blues Album – TajMo, Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’
Contemporary Blues Female Artist – Samantha Fish
Contemporary Blues Male Artist – Keb’ Mo’
Historical Album – Luther Allison – A Legend Never Dies, Essential Recordings 1976-1997 (Ruf Records)
Instrumentalist – Vocals – Beth Hart
Instrumentalist – Bass – Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female Artist) – Ruthie Foster
Instrumentalist – Drums – Tony Braunagel
Instrumentalist – Guitar – Ronnie Earl
Instrumentalist – Harmonica – Jason Ricci
Instrumentalist – Horn – Trombone Shorty
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player (Instrumentalist – Piano) – Victor Wainwright
Rock Blues Album – We’re All In This Together, Walter Trout
Traditional Blues Male Artist – Rick Estrin
Rock Blues Artist – Mike Zito
Song of the Year – “The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere”, written by Rick Estrin
Soul Blues Album – Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
Soul Blues Female Artist – Mavis Staples
Soul Blues Male Artist – Curtis Salgado
Traditional Blues Album – Right Place, Right Time, Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter
This weekend, the city of Takoma Park, Maryland, will host the Thousand Incarnations of the Rose, the first and only festival dedicated exclusively to American-primitive guitar music. Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington, D.C., is also the home town of the guitarist John Fahey, who, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, helped to develop a particular and idiosyncratic style of fingerpicking that borrowed heavily from the country blues—then a dying music, but one which Fahey venerated, obsessed over—while incorporating prickly, dissonant elements more common to avant-garde composers. American primitive is generally instrumental, and performed by a solo, steel-string guitarist working in an open tuning. The feel is introspective, if not plainly melancholic—like gazing out over flat water.
Fahey took cues from his forebears (Elizabeth Cotten, Lena Hughes, Mississippi John Hurt), but his sadness was prodigious, and his own. It led him to write dozens of albums of odd yet breathtaking songs. The critic Byron Coley, writing in Spin, once compared Fahey’s musical inventions to “those of John Coltrane and Harry Partch, for sheer transcendental American power.” The essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan has described his songs as “harmonic chambers in which different dead styles spoke to one another.” Fahey, who was famously cantankerous—it’s been said that, in his later years, he grew increasingly bitter and choleric, like all men who know too much about things nobody else cares about—explained it only as an expression of his truth: “The pathos of the suburbs or whatever.”
Fahey died in 2001, at the age of sixty-one, after undergoing a sextuple coronary bypass. He had a bum heart, and several decades of rapacious boozing behind him. He’d been renting a room in a Salvation Army in Salem, Oregon, eating gas-station sausages for dinner and occasionally pawning his guitars for cash. I wonder what it would have been like to spend time with him then. I’m nearly certain that he would have found me suspicious—an amateur and an interloper—but I like to think that I might’ve won him over for a minute or three, negotiating temporary access to whatever wild and tangled knowledge that he carried around. Fahey was repulsed by pretension, but he was an intellectual nonetheless, with an M.A. in folklore from U.C.L.A. (His field work included the tracking down and cultural resuscitation of Bukka White and Skip James, two titans of prewar blues.) For a while, he knew more than almost anyone about the music of Charley Patton. I find Fahey’s own work spooky and expansive. His songs make me feel nearer to something, but also, somehow, farther from it.
This weekend’s festival shares its name with a compilation produced by the guitarist Glenn Jones, who will be performing, along with a handful of formative American-primitive players (Max Ochs, Harry Taussig, Peter Lang) and modern interpreters (Nathan Bowles, Daniel Bachman, Itasca, Marisa Anderson, Dylan Golden Aycock, Sarah Louise, and many more). In the liner notes to “The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose: American Primitive Guitar and Banjo, 1963-1974,” Jones attempts to sort out the genre’s name, which has never made a great deal of sense. Mostly, the phrase was a way for Fahey to avoid being called a folk guitarist, an appellation that he found offensive. My sense is that he regarded contemporary folk as corny—somehow both too ponderous and not ponderous enough. (He and his cronies used to heckle the long-haired folk guitarists crowding the parks of Berkeley in the late sixties.) Eugene Denson, an owner and manager at Takoma Records, the label that Fahey founded, in 1959, suspects that he might have been the first to use the term, then a reference to the self-taught painters of the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, and their gnarled, cockeyed canvasses. Of course, “primitive,” with all its Eurocentric connotations, is an awfully loaded way to say, “I learned how to do this myself.” Besides, popular music (in the twentieth century, at least) has never particularly valued or incentivized virtuosity, making the distinction itself seem odd. But there is, nonetheless, a scrappiness and imbalance to the work, a spiritual discord that makes it difficult to emulate.
Steve Lowenthal, Fahey’s excellent biographer—his “Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist,” is out in paperback this month—understands Fahey’s music “as a pastiche, both of his musical influences but also of the time and places he lived.” Though Fahey could be a trickster—in the sixties, he took to performing as Blind Joe Death, tottering onstage wearing sunglasses and pretending to be a decrepit sharecropper, deftly mocking the authenticity-obsessed urban revivalists—Lowenthal finds his work intimate and direct. “One gets a feeling of almost reading a diary,” he told me recently.
“It’s always tricky to pin Fahey down, as he was very much a contrarian and his thoughts reflected his moods, which fluctuated,” Lowenthal said. “Fahey always wanted to be a composer. In fact, he wished his Vanguard LPs were released in the classical series rather than the folk catalog. That being said, Fahey lacked the discipline or skill to learn to read and write music, insuring his exclusion from that particular canon. Perhaps he used ‘American primitive’ in a somewhat pouty, self-deprecating way, which was very much indicative of his personality at many times.”
Two independent record labels featuring new American-primitive guitarists—Lowenthal’s VDSQ and Tompkins Square, run by Josh Rosenthal—will showcase their rosters in Takoma Park. “The idea of a festival devoted toAmerican-primitive guitar is almost counterintuitive in a way, because the music is so inward,” Rosenthal said. “Solo acoustic guitar reaches me best when I’m alone in contemplation or just zoning, greatly enhanced by bad weather outside. It’s not really a communal thing, so the festival should be an interesting experiment.”
The filmmaker and guitarist Jesse Sheppard is one of the event’s organizers. “The music scene behind American primitive is really pretty small, and it can feel like a big extended family,” Sheppard said recently. “It felt like it would be nice to gather everyone together—the players, the devoted listeners, the writers, the folks that run small labels—and just enjoy each other’s company. For a whole lot of reasons and no reason in particular, no one has ever staged this many guitar-soli performers at one event, to my knowledge.”
“This music has been a huge part of my life for more than a decade,” Sheppard continued. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything else that was as honest or evocative as American primitive. Fahey took the guitar and all of its rich history in the blues and folk musical forms and then freed it to be a purely expressive instrument.”
Whether Fahey would get a kick out of his acolytes descending upon his home town to contemplate and honor his legacy is, of course, difficult to say. When Fahey was an undergraduate at American University, he took a job as the night manager at Martin’s Esso Station, in Takoma Park. He pumped gas, chatted with cops, and kept an eye on the quarts of oil. “I became a very important person for the only time in my life. I still dream about it,” he told Coley, in 2001, just a few months before he died. This weekend, at least, he’ll be important again—as spectre and inspiration, enigma and foil.
P.S.: One of the great pleasures of writing about semi-obscure figures is that, on occasion, some very generous person reaches out with a devastating bit of heretofore unknown information—or, if you’re especially lucky, nearly sixty minutes of raw and unseen footage. The filmmaker Erik Nelson shot this videoin John Fahey’s basement in Santa Monica, in the summer of 1981, for an MTV News segment. It was hot—at least ninety degrees, Nelson recalls, under the television lights—but Fahey was nonetheless in enviable form. There’s sweating! A Charley Patton demonstration! Furrowed brows! And, of course, almost an hour of beautiful guitar-playing. “Fahey, who did not suffer strangers nor fools, suffered both with us, and gave us a private concert,” Nelson said. “We filmed on 3/4 video cassette—and, as my company had no money, I have a hunch we filmed on used tape stock. We did have the presence of mind to keep rolling, and the cameraman, John Torcassi, did a brilliant job of filming, and, as we were such a badly dressed, impoverished-yet-enthusiastic rabble, Fahey was relaxed. He had an innate suspicion of TV types, certainly ones working on behalf of MTV, something he probably had never heard of. Note he asks what the taping was for!”
In its seventh year, the annual “Inner City Blues Festival: Healing the Health Care Blues” kicks off at the North Portland Eagles Lodge on April 21.
The one-night concert event is largely a fundraiser for Health Care for All Oregon – a volunteer-run, statewide coalition of over 120 organizations working to bring an equitable, affordable, and publicly funded health care to Oregonians.
With over a dozen acts, the six-hour blues festival will also feature a silent auction, food and beverages, and tabling by community organizations. With around 800 attendees last year, the festival raised $28,000 for the cause.
This year’s installment will showcase performances by Bloco Alegria, I&I Band Reunion with Newell Briggs and Obi Addy, Ken DeRouchie Band with Mz. Etta, King Louie Pain Quartet, and the Norman Sylvester Review with Sarah Billings and Lenanne Sylvester-Miller, plus many more. Inner City Blues will be MC’ed by Renee Mitchell, Ken Boddie and Paul Knauls.
The alliance among health care advocates and blues musicians is a natural pairing, said its organizers. “The blues is about worry, depression, and melancholy. That’s what people feel around our current insurance system,” said Tom Sincic, a retired family nurse practitioner and president of Health Care for All Oregon.
“Whether you go with the Mississippi Delta blues, the Memphis blues, the St. Louis blues, or the Portland blues – it’s all across the country,” continued Sincic. “People have all kinds of worries about whether they’re going to get the health care they need, and about the financial loss attached to it. It causes a lot of stress, so the blues is a perfect type of music to relay that.”
The festival’s performers should know, as many have experienced first-hand the plight of accessing and affording healthcare – in particular, Oregon blues legend Norman Sylvester, who has been a festival mainstay from the start.
“I have played too many benefits for musicians who fell ill or, more tragically, played at their (tributes). They didn’t have preventative care because of years of not being able to afford healthcare,” Sylvester said in the festival’s press release.
But as the state of the nation’s health care system continues to hang in the balance, Health Care for All Oregon falls in line with many local visions of an agreeable and equitable model.
The North Portland Eagles Lodge is located at 7611 N?Exeter Avenue in Portland, Oregon, 97203. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and performances will run until midnight.
Tickets can be purchased for $20 online at Ticket Tomato, or at Music Millennium (3158 E Burnside), Geneva’s Shear Perfection (5601 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd), Peninsula Station (8316 N. Lombard), and Musician’s Union Hall (325 NE 20th Ave). Tickets are $25 at the door.
Over sparse throwback, turn-of-the-century-style production, the MC once again drops clever and catchy bars as Injury Reserve provides an appropriately fiery cameo. Additionally, Aminé also uncovered the hilarious music video for the song this morning. In the video, the artist and his crew take over the wilderness. Rocking neon colored wigs and cruising through a sparse mountain range, they debate how to properly pronounce“rural” between the action.
Watch it HERE.
Just in time for what’s shaping up to be a big month, “Campfire” amps up hype for his upcoming Coachelladebut April 15th and April 22nd. Renowned for insane and unforgettable live appearances, make sure to see what he has in-store in Indio this month.
Get his RIAA Gold-Certified debut album Good For You HERE.
Every once in a while, an artist comes along and rewrites the entire rule book for a genre. That’s exactly whatAminé did with “Caroline” in 2016. Taking rap to a new frontier, it earned an RIAA 4X Platinum plaque as he delivered a kinetic performance of the anthem on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon between constant touring. “REDMERCEDES” and its high-profile official remix with Missy Elliott and AJ Tracey saw him lap the competition yet again.