On Stage: No ‘Spin’ zone, Barron goes solo at The Flash

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Chris Barron

Whenever the Spin Doctors come to the area, they draw a crowd – not surprising for a band that has been popular for almost three decades.

One of the main cogs in the success of the band has been Chris Barron, who is the group’s guitarist and main songwriter.

On January 27, Spin Doctors fans will have a rare opportunity to hear Barron perform up-close and personal.

Barron will visit Chester County to present an intimate show at Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org)..

The band’s fans need not worry that the Spin Doctors are hanging it up. They already have big shows booked in Miami in February and Louisiana in March. This show is just Barron doing his own thing.

Barron has just released his newest album, “Angels Are One Armed Jugglers” on Chrysanthemum Records – a tasty collection of 11 songs that show the veteran musician’s versatility and creativity.

“I hadn’t made a solo album in a really long time,” said Barron, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York City. “I’m the primary writer for the Spin Doctors and we’re still together. We’ve made a career with getting out in the summer and playing great gigs.”

Barron’s last two albums without the Spin Doctors were “Pancho and the Kid” in 2006 and “Songs from the Summer Sangria” in 2010 as Chris Barron and the Time Bandits.

“It really had been a long time since I made an album,” said Barron. “I wanted to do a stripped-down thing. I talked to Roman Klun, who had produced the last Spin Doctors album and he smile. We got started on the project – and then I lost my voice for a year.

“I had paralyzed vocal chords and that affected my ability to talk and sing. I was only given a 50/50 chance that I’d ever sing again. But, I recovered and got my voice back.

“Then, it happened a second time. Last year, I lost my voice again last year. It was strange – and extraordinarily rare. I gave singing – and music a rest – and now everything is O.K. again. Still, the whole ordeal instilled this urgency about the preciousness of time.”

When Barron returned from medical treatment to resume the project, he moved with all the urgency of a man sharply aware that life was short and health fragile. As it gathered pace, the album shifted shape and slipped categorization, evolving from the stripped-down solo acoustic approach that Barron had originally envisaged to the more ambitious production conceived by co-producer Klun. All they needed now was the greatest studio band on earth.

“The first thing was to contact Shawn Pelton,” said Barron. “Then, I got pals of mine. The only new guy was Jesse Murphy.”

Having accomplished that first step really set things in motion.

According to Barron, “Shawn is an iconic in the United States as the drummer for Saturday Night Live and a renowned studio drummer as well. Then I went to see Jesse Murphy play bass with a friend. You play music for 40 years, you only need one look to know that this guy can play. I played all the songs into my iPhone and sent those guys the files. The two of them show up with these charts they’d drawn up, with all nuances of my playing, all the funky little fills. It was such a musical compliment. I can’t give enough credit to the players on this record.”

Bolstered by a crack squad of first-call New York musicians, “Angels and One-Armed Jugglers” paints its immersive soundscapes in full Technicolor. And yet, Barron reminds us, beneath the multi-instrumental dazzle lie the kernel of songs that can be served raw with an acoustic guitar and voice alone.

“Roman had this real vision of songs with a much larger soundscape than I had originally imagined,” said Barron. “Losing my voice had a huge impact. I was thinking – this could be the last record you make.

“The record itself was cool because I had so much material to choose from. It’s not a thematically-structured album. A person has a certain limitation trying to set out in this behavior. I didn’t and I ended up with 11 songs that are all very different styles.”

Video link for Chris Barron – https://youtu.be/k1BmYljpMMk.

The show at Kennett Flash, which has Angelee as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at Kennett Flash are “Born To Be Blue – Films & Words at The Flash with Matt Cappy” (Trumpeter, Guest Lecturer) on January 28 and Jane Lee Hooker and Blues Reincarnation Project on January 31.

Jeffrey Gaines

It somehow seems that things are always “a long time coming” for Jeffrey Gaines.

It’s been more than a quarter of a century since Jeffrey Gaines signed his first recording deal with a major label. It’s been 25 years since his debut album “Jeffrey Gaines” was released on Chrysalis Records.

It’s been 15 years since “Toward the Sun” on Artemis Records — his fifth overall and most recent studio album.  And, it’s been 11 years since his last album release — “Jeffrey Gaines Live,” which is also on Artemis Records.

Finally, fans of Gaines can rejoice in the release of a new album by their favorite.

On January 26, Gaines released “Alright,” his first Omnivore Recordings release and his first set of new studio material since 2003. On January 28, Gaines will celebrate the LP’s release with a show at Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

During an interview three years ago, Gaines said, “A new album — it’s not in the works. The new album hype happens every year — but it doesn’t come from me. I’m not reluctant to do it — maybe reluctant to do it myself. I don’t even know how that happens.

“I’ve always made records for labels (recording companies). I just know how to do what I have to do. I go into a performance room with engineers and producers in the other room and big glass separating us. And, they’re assured they’re getting paid. If they’re looking for their money, I can just refer them to the grown men in suits.

“I write new songs from time to time. But, it would have to be a commercial release for me to put them on a record.”

This time, the circumstances were right.

“The album is on the WEA Group and that makes a difference,” said Gaines. “As I’ve always experienced with making records, it’s always been someone coming up to me saying – let’s make a record.

“I played SXSW last year. I met people from Omnivore Records and they were interested. That’s what got me into the studio. That’s how it was in the 80s – record companies saying they wanted to make a record.

“I like playing live and albums create opportunities to play live. They’re a vehicle to get live gigs. And, that’s what I do – travel and play gigs…play gigs and travel.”

Recorded in Los Angeles with producer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Price, “Alright” features an all-star studio band consisting of guitarist Val McCallum (Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams), bassist Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello, Cracker, John Hiatt), and drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Elliott Smith), who also record on their own as Jackshit.

According to Gaines, “The whole experience of making this album was just a joy from beginning to end. We didn’t have a lot of time, so there was no fooling around. We just went in and knocked it out. Everybody played great, so it was an inspiring situation. The musicians have similar influences to me, so we were all on the same page, and I picked the songs I thought would suit this group of musicians. It was cool to have a structure, but at the same time it was also loose and organic.”

“Chris and I have a lot of shared interests, so that definitely helped. And, I had really wanted to work with the Jackshit guys. Val McCallum had played guitar on my album “Towards the Sun’ and I wanted to work with him again. And, I love to record with rhythm sections that already play together, which Davey and Pete do, so they’ve already got the non-verbal communication going.”

The timing and the circumstances were very right.

“It was a very short turnaround from ‘we should be doing this’ to ‘we are doing this,’” said Gaines, who grew up in Harrisburg and now lives in Bryn Mawr. “It was a really great session. It was done at a studio at a private residence – Fox Force Five. It was a great studio – very cozy…very natural. It had great vintage gear. The guy was a collector.

“We did the record in Hollywood Hills – very near the Hollywood sign. Thousands of tourists from around the word line up to take pictures with the sign. I was thinking – I’m working here…I’m part of the Hollywood dream.

“Chris Price is a great producer. We had a lot of things that connected, and I brought the Jackshit guys in. I knew it was going to be fun. I went in with about 14 things and we whittled it down – picked the ones that made the most sense as a group. It’s an album you can listen to all at once.

“For the live shows I’m doing now, it’s just me and my guitar. The new songs are different when they’re done as a solo – different arrangements. The show is a conversation.”

Video link for Jeffrey Gaines – https://youtu.be/n1Pp0oFubUw.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Amy Faden as the opener, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Keys N Krates

Keys N Krates is releasing its debut album “Cura” in early 2018 via Dim Mak Records and has already treated fans to a number of previews.

The Toronto-based live electronic act just released a single “Do What U Do” following its recently-released Boxing Day giveaway “Flute Loop (feat. Ouici).” “Do What U Do” is the third single from “Cura.”.

On January 27, the trio will play at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com).

Keys N Krates is one of the most popular — and creative — groups in the EDM (electronic dance music) scene is Keys N Krates. The Toronto-based trio continually produces great music but in a way different than most electronic acts. Keys N Krates features Adam Tune on drums, David Matisse on synthesizer and keyboards and Jr. Flo (Greg Dawson) on turntables.

“The album drops on February 2,” said Dawson, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Buffalo, New York.

“We’ve been working on it just over a year. We didn’t put any EPs out – no music at all. Just the three of us — we were just focusing on the album even though we never stopped doing shows.

“We’ve been together since 2007. We started as a live act. We didn’t become producers until 2010. Then, we were doing remixes at first. It took us a while to become producers.”

Keys N Krates’ first release was the “Blackout” EP in 2011. Since then, they have released four more EPs — “Lucid Dreams,” “SOLOW,” “Every Nite,” and “Midnite Mass.”

“All three of us are always digging for samples, sounds, melodies, chord progressions,” said Dawson. “Whatever we all get inspired by is what we work with. Then, we all collectively start attacking it — turning it into something we like.

“Sampling is wide open for us. We have no qualms about what we sample. It all comes down to — is it something that sounds like what we want? But, getting clearance to use samples can sometimes be a real pain in the ass.

“Sometimes, we get commissioned to do re-mixes for other artists. We’re doing less of that lately so we can concentrate on our own stuff. We’ve also commissioned friends to re-mix songs from our new EP. We won’t re-mix something ourselves unless we feel that it is original. It has to really feel like a Keys N Krates record.”

While many EDM acts use laptops exclusively to produce the sounds, Keys N Krates have a more organic feel — more of a band feel.

“For the album, we spent a year of making demos and using ideas like loops – picking the best ones and getting them more developed,” said Dawson.

“We’d do recordings with vocalists and then put them over loops. We’d be finishing instrumentals and finishing phases. We did most of the beat-making and production in our Toronto studio and also did vocal sessions in L.A. and Miami.

“We just kept making beats and recording vocals. And, we were doing sessions with different musicians – like guitar and harp. We worked with a few string arrangers and did a lot of string arrangements on our own.”

Finally, the first Keys N Krates LP is now ready for the world.

“Prior to tris, it was just EPs,” said Dawson. “This is our first full-length. It’s definitely a piece of work. Stretching out past the parameters of EDM was the most important thing.

“We’re always going to pivot toward music that inspires us. Music that we’ve always been passionate about is most influential to us. We wanted to translate that whole sound into a different context – not just EDM but also hip hop and sample-based soul. We tried to stay clear of just EDM. We’re making – and we want to make – real music that in 10 years we’ll still be proud of.

Video link for Keys N Krates – https://youtu.be/wXOhUr3YztY.

The show at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com) will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.

The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers also have an album coming out on February 2. And, area fans will have an opportunity to hear many of the songs before that when the band plays a show on January 28 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

The Wood Brothers is a trio featuring Oliver Wood (Vocals and Guitar), Chris Wood (Vocals and Bass) and Jano Rix (Drums). The group will release its sixth studio album,“One Drop of Truth,” on February 2 via Honey Jar Records/Thirty Tigers.

“We just finished a production rehearsal and we’re taking off on tour tomorrow,” said Chris Wood, during a phone interview earlier this week from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We go out on shorter tours – not long out…not long home. It’s always in-and-out. We’re heading to the Northeast for 12 days. Then, we’ll come home for a few days and head back out for a West Coast tour.

“The album comes out on February 2 and we’re going to start adding new songs to the set list as we go. We’ll probably add two or three on this run. Certain songs work when we first play them live. Others take time.”

The first single from the album and its opening track, “River Takes The Town,” is out now. Listen and share here. The song is one of many poignant moments throughout the 10-track, self-produced collection. Written prior to natural disasters that decimated parts of the world this summer, it was recorded just one day after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.

While previous outings by The Wood Brothers have often followed a conceptual and sonic through-line, “One Drop of Truth” dives headfirst into a deep wellspring of sounds, styles and recording approaches, treating each song as if it were its own short film.

“We started the album last January,” said Wood. “It was different this time. We didn’t write the songs first.

“We’d write a few and then go into the cheaper studios to make demos. We’d do a song, let it sit and then go back a little later and listen to it with fresh ears. It takes the pressure off instead of cramming in everything together.”

The band extended this approach to the mixing process, sending tracks to four different mixing engineers, each selected based on what the song demanded.

“The traditional way of writing all the songs at once and recording in one shot – it’s so much to wrap your brain around,” said Wood. “We’d finish a song, rehearse it and then go in the studio. It was always just the three of us.”

Recording in different phases and at different times can be a challenge to an album’s sense of cohesiveness.

“We wondered how it was going to turn out,” said Wood. “We wanted to give different songs different sonic treatments. It’s kind of eclectic. But, even in our lives shows, we like diversity.”

Video link for The Wood Brothers – https://youtu.be/LKIoiVWwF5A.

The show at Union Transfer, which also features the Stray Birds, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.

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