Billy Iuso –
New Orleanian transplant by way of New York, Billy Iuso, self-taught guitar player and songwriter has been on the music scene for over 20 years. Iuso’s first band, Brides of Jesus, formed in the early 90’s and was right in the heart of the genesis of the jam band genre, including a slot during opening week at the legendary Wetlands. Brides have shared the stage with Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band, but an exploration into the New Orleans funk architects, the Meters was the catalyst for Billy to move to New Orleans in 1996.
Iuso formed Restless Natives in 2002, a band able to weave originals and covers in their live show showcasing Iuso’s abilities as a player, bandleader, and lover of music. Restless Natives still perform in New Orleans, but Iuso has stretched his wings a bit, playing with the Wild Magnolias, Anders Osborne and a project with members of the Grateful Dead and Little Feat as well as releasing several solo albums.
As a lover of music, I am always excited to come across an artist, such as Billy Iuso, who grabs your attention and keeps you interested as he evolves, over the years, as an artist. I look forward to his projects with an excited curiosity, asking what is he going to bring this time. I have always been stoked on the covers Billy chooses because I enjoy the songs he chooses and an intimate connection is created between musician and listener (check out his version of Eric Clapton’s “The Core” on his solo album Trippin’ Billie’s featuring Meschiya Lake.) Billy is still crushing the music scene and he can be frequently found all over New Orleans stages.
Another artist to watch for as she quietly blows our minds is Valerie June. A multi-instrumentalist from Memphis Tennessee, June describes her music as “organic roots moonshine music.” A fitting description as she incorporates folk, gospel, Appalachia and soul into her music and can best be heard on her 2013 solo release Pushin against a Stone.”
Valerie June began her musical journey in Memphis, but spent some time on the west coast as well as Brooklyn, which led to a meeting with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) who ended up co-producing Pushin against a Stone. Valerie has also worked with Old Crow Medicine Show and Me ‘Schell Ndegeocello as well as being a member of Luther Dickinson’s project, The Wandering (an amazing group.)
I was first introduced to Valerie June through the Wandering recording, Go on Now, You can’t Stay Here, impressed by Luther’s ear for putting a group together and choosing the material. I listened to each track to know who sang what and Valerie’s voice stuck out as moonlit night cross between Eartha Kitt and Dolly Parton, a sound both raw and seductive. The arrangements on Pushin against a Stone can be full tilt (You can’t be told) to sparse (Trials, Troubles and Tribulations,) but with each track you can hear her command of the material and her confidence in the performance. Pushin Against a Stone is an album not to be missed.
Gene Clark –
Hailing from Missouri, Gene Clark was one of the founding members of the folk rock group the Byrds, and considered the primary songwriter, until his departure in 1968. Gene embarked on a solo career as well as recording an album with Doug Dillard. An amazing songwriter who never received the recognition he deserved, I was super excited to discover his music, by listening to the Black Crowes. Chris and Rich Robinson had done a Brothers of a Feather tour, and one of the tunes on the album, was “Polly” a Gene Clark tune, a song I was immediately drawn to. So I began to research Gene Clark and get a few of his records and research his career. I found Gene to be an engaging songwriter and one of the first songwriters to really bring country and bluegrass into the rock n roll world. Coincidentally, the Byrds “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” is considered one of the seminal recordings for artists who later wrote under the alt-country moniker.
Around this time, Gene Clark hooked up with Doug Dillard and recorded a couple of records together, highlighting their mutual love for bluegrass and country. The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark released in 1968 has become a must for musicians exploring the alt-country, bluegrass genre. Also check out Doug Dillard’s Previous band the Dillards The Wheatstraw Suite.
After Clark left the Byrds, he moved to Mendocino Ca. and with his royalties was able to relax and let the songs flow onto several albums recorded in the early 70’s. There was also a Byrds reunion (sort-of =$) Albums like White Light, No Other, and Roadmaster (actually a collection of recording done over time with several different lineups.) White Light stands out especially, with an easy grooving up the coast feeling. Echoes of Dylan come through on several tracks including “The Virgin” and “White Light” (think When I Paint My Masterpiece) and the harmonica takes the forefront, in several of the songs, especially “For A Spanish Guitar.”
Another album No Other, released in 1974 finds a Clark really honing in on his sound. The tempo is slightly slower and the opening number “Life’s Greatest Fool” has a country gospel feel, with help from the background singers. “Silver Raven,” the second track has those harmonies made famous by the Byrds, in fact one could maybe hear a David Crosby singing background on the chorus, don’t quote me. A great blend of an electric and acoustic guitar. “No Other” has a rainy feel, almost like the Door’s “Riders on the Storm,” and one can hear the highways of California as the backdrop for this and many other Clark tunes. I won’t bore you with a play by play, but Gene Clark was a songwriting force and unfortunately it is only after his death that his music started to reach a larger audience.
Check out his bio on Wikipedia
www.geneclark.com - fan created website