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Tickets to The Bluestone
September 15, 2022 7 PM
at The Bluestone
THE COUNTRY MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS LONG BEEN FILLED WITH ITS SHARE OF CHARACTERS. FROM WILLIE TO HANK AND DOLLY TO WAYLON, EVERY LEGEND STARTS OUT AS JUST ANOTHER ARTIST THAT DOESN’T FIT EASILY INTO SOME PREDETERMINED BOX. AND AS HARD AS COUNTRY MUSIC MAY TRY TO FIT MATT STELL INTO ONE OF THOSE TRIED AND TRUE BOXES, IT’S DARN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE.
Heck, he’s 6’7.
But more so than the massive physique that helped Stell become a collegiate basketball standout, the Platinum certified singer has proven via the songs he sings and the shows he puts on that he is far too powerful of an artist to ever fit into some sort of singular category. In fact, to describe Stell in a few words would be a complete disservice to the man he is and the artist he looks to become as he releases his new EP Better Than That on October 16.
“If you cut a groove too deep, it’s hard to get out of it,” he remarks with a chuckle. “I’ve never wanted to be some one-dimensional artist, and with this new EP, I think I’m determined to show that there is much more to me than just a guy who can sing a love song.”
Indeed, the Arkansas native comes from a long line of self proclaimed badasses. He can spin a romantic verse as easy as he can rock out an anthem. He can overanalyze a word as easily as he can let the melody ride a lyrical wave. And yes, he gets as much enjoyment out of discovering a hook in the writing room as he does hooking a fish.
“When you step out into that river and the salmon are still swimming upstream like they have for thousands of years, it’s a real cathartic, therapeutic thing for me,” he says of a recent fishing trip to Alaska. “It’s a great reset.”
In everything he does, it’s evident that Stell is reflective and adventurous and funny and pretty damn smart. And if he’s being totally honest with himself, he’s never been one to love a love song.
Yep, you heard that right.
Granted, it was in fact a love song that catapulted Stell to country music success in 2019 via his massive hit “Prayed for You,” a life-changer of a song that spent two weeks at the number one spot. As the only debut single to top Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2019, and one of NSAI’s “10 Songs We Wish We’d Written,” the hit has gone on to rack up some impressive stats with over 270 million streams, his first RIAA Platinum certification and more than 20 million views of its official music video to date.
But there’s a catch.
“If the only thing you’ve heard is ‘Prayed for You,’ you would have a different idea of who I really am,” Stell explains. “Knowing that you are making music that means something to people is the ultimate compliment, but there is so much more to me.”
A few more of the many facets of Stell are currently on display via his current top 10 and rising single “Everywhere But On,” a song that Stell calls ‘autobiographical’ in the way that it tells the story of a man trying to escape the memories of a long lost love.
“Having two songs on the radio is an incredible thing, but what’s even more incredible is finding your own voice and your own identity,” he says.
Stell showcased a whole bunch of identities in another Better Than That EP standout – “If I Was a Bar.” At a time when some of his fellow artists were perfectly content in simply sitting down with their guitar and playing their songs during the pandemic that Stell lovingly refers to as a ‘damn biological hurricane,’ Stell and his rather relentless work ethic turned out a music video that had him playing thirteen different roles in the span of a 3-plus minute song.
“I threw every stitch of clothing I have ever owned into my truck for that video shoot,” laughs Stell of the somewhat restrictive project. “Sometimes creativity benefits from constraints.”
Yet, there were few constraints on Stell’s songwriting during the creation of the new Better Than That EP, which was co-produced by Stell alongside Ash Bowers. Via songs co-written by Stell such as “I Love You Too,” “Chase It Down” and the title track “Better Than That,” the listener can still hear Stell’s distinctive way of wrapping a lyric around a memory and the twist he can put on a phrase.
“Songwriting is a craft that can get better the more time you put into it,” remarks Stell, as he laments to himself about how much he hates clichés.
But for the first time in his still evolving career, Stell relied on outside writers on three of the eight tracks of the Better Than That EP in an effort to fill in the blanks of the overall project.
One of those cuts is “Sadie,” a melodic brain-buster of a song that offers ‘a sparse lyric but one in which every word means something.’ Another outside cut is “Look At Me Now,” perhaps one of the most earth-shattering love songs in recent memory. Yes, the guy who says love songs aren’t his thing just might make history with yet another love song.
But before Stell looks too far into the future, he finds his soul planted deeply in the present. He is praying for the day he can plug his amp back in and jump on the bus with his band and play these new songs for a live crowd.
This new chapter in his journey leaves Stell with a whole bunch more ammunition in the writing room and a unique vantage point to view the characters in his songs…and the character he might ultimately turn out to be.
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Let’s Go Somewhere Tour
with The National Parks
September 23, 2022 7 PM
at The Bluestone
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors is an Americana act hailing from Nashville, Tennessee.
Drawing influence from Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, Drew Holcomb has found his place in today’s landscape of singer/songwriter Americana. He and his band have developed their sound through extensive touring, performing alongside Amos Lee, Willie Nelson, John Hiatt, NEEDTOBREATHE, Don Henley, and more.
The band has sold over 150,000 albums to date and played over 2,000 concert dates in 7 countries. Their songs have received over 60 TV placements, appearing on How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds, Parenthood, Nashville, HOUSE, Justified and more.
Their latest album, Dragons, is available now.
THE NATIONAL PARKS
In nature, wildflowers signify freedom. Nobody plants them. Rather, they blossom on their own. The same could be said of The National Parks. Since emerging in 2013, the Provo, UT quartet — Brady Parks [guitar, vocals], Sydney Macfarlane [keys, vocals], Cam Brannelly [drums], and Megan Parks [violin] — has quietly grown into an independent phenomenon with roots embedded in blissful pop, cinematic electronics, organic orchestration, and rock energy. Racking up over 150 million total streams, selling out headline shows on tour, and acclaimed by NPR, Paste, Atwood Magazine, PopMatters, and more, the group continue to bloom on their two-part independent album, A Mix For The End Of The World. The first half of songs will be released on October 8, 2021, marking their official follow-up collection to the band’s critically acclaimed fourth full-length, Wildflower.
“This album is all about the uniqueness of our day so why not take a new approach to releasing an album too?” states Brady. “We came up with the idea of releasing the album in two parts during the recording process. We felt like the songs we had written fit together so well but that they were only one chapter of the full story. Part 2 coming in 2022!”
Over the past eight years, The National Parks have diligently worked towards their mission statement of creating authentic, heartfelt music that is beautiful, epic and true to them, without chasing any trends. As the story goes, Brady performed at open mics as a singer-songwriter around Utah and often hosted a show at his apartment complex. Sydney attended one of these homey gigs and reached out to jam shortly after. Right off the bat, the musicians recognized they found “a match made in heaven.” After meeting via mutual friends, Megan joined the fold—and eventually married Brady!
The National Parks introduced itself on 2013’s Young, staking out a spot in the Top 15 of iTunes Top Singer/Songwriter Albums Chart. A year later, the filmmakers of Love In The Tetons tapped the band to pen a companion single for the film. Their contribution, “As We Ran,” has not only amassed over 20 million Spotify streams, but the first month of its proceeds benefited the National Parks Conservation Association. Following the release of Until I Live in 2015, Salt Lake City Weekly proclaimed them Utah’s “Band of the Year.” Joined by Cam behind the kit, they unveiled Places in 2017. Securing coveted placements on Spotify’s Pop Chillout, Indie Pop and Morning Commute playlists, the record yielded a series of fan favorites, including “1953” [7.8 million Spotify streams] and “Lights in the City” [2 million Spotify streams]. Along the way, The National Parks packed headline gigs, toured with Andy Grammer and Peter Bjorn and John and performed everywhere from KAABOO Del Mar and SXSW to Snowmass Mammoth Fest and Oyster Ridge Music Festival.
Their 2020 album Wildflower elevated the group and ushered in this new chapter in their growing discography. The album spawned the singles “Waiting For Lightning,” “Wildflower,” ‘Time” and “I Can Feel It” [10 million Spotify streams collectively] along with their own The Wildflower Podcast. The pop-infused “I Can Feel It” not only found success at Triple A radio across the country, but was also prominently featured in Netflix’s hit movie The Wrong Missy.
For A Mix For The End Of The World, the four-piece continues to showcase their sonic evolution along with Brady’s deep and heartfelt songwriting. The 8-track collection, recorded at June Audio in Utah and produced and mixed by their longtime collaborator Scott Wiley, was inspired by love and life.
“I kept having visuals in my mind of life in a small town,” describes Brady. “I pictured old trucks, dirt roads, tape players and actually included a lot of those sounds on the recordings. I wondered what my life would look like at the end of the world. Love, fear, joy, uncertainty, peace…all of it.”
The National Parks first introduced the new collection in July 2021 with the double release of “Headlights” and “Summer Bird.” The folk-tinged “Headlights,” with beautiful harmonies from Brady and Sydney, is a song about escaping chaos to be with the person you love most and trying to shut out the noise of the day for a minute to focus on the beauty of life. The track ended up sparking the inspiration for the rest of the songs featured on part 1 of the album. On “Summer Bird,” warm acoustic strumming and soft vocals soon opens up to a big chantable chorus of “I just want to fly away with you” amidst dreams of brighter days ahead.
“I wrote ‘Summer Bird’ during this past winter,” shares Brady. “In Utah, winter is amazing at first. I love it when the first snow falls and you can feel the magic in the crisp air. Towards the end of winter, it gets old to me. The days are short, the weather is cold and cloudy, and I long for the rebirth of spring and the warmth and adventure of summer. Life can be like that too, so this song is about being with your love and heading for those warmer days.”
The National Parks have perfected their signature style of blending folk/Americana and modern synths and drum sounds with big choruses you can’t help but chant along to on A Mix For The End Of The World as evidenced on the cosmic love song and latest single “UFO.”
“Even though this song isn’t about aliens or UFOs, it was definitely inspired by our government releasing documents and footage of UFO sightings,” Brady reveals. “I started thinking about what that feeling would be like. I used that as a metaphor to describe my experience seeing Megan for the first time. Love at first sight has to be a similar feeling to seeing a UFO, right?”
Adjacent to creating their new music throughout 2020 and 2021, The National Parks have curated their very own Superbloom Music Festival, which they’ll headline. The first-ever event comes to life October 9, 2021 under the stars at Sand Hollow Resort in Utah, near Zion National Park, featuring a stacked bill.
In the end, The National Parks follow a muse of creative freedom to the fruition of a dream and continue to offer glimmers of optimism for our collective future.
“We hope that these new songs can bring a sense of life,” he heaves off. “Although we don’t have the answers to what we are all going through and experiencing, we know that love and joy still exist. This album – both parts of it – is about working through the good and bad and everything in between, so we hope that it helps people to not feel alone in everything they are working through as well.”
September 28, 2022 7 PM
at The Bluestone
“Country music was the voice of the people. It wasn’t always the prettiest voice, but it was an honest voice,” says American Aquarium founder and frontman BJ Barham. “I think that’s where country music has lost its way.” He pauses, then adds, North Carolina accent thick and voice steady: “I operate in the dark shadows of what we don’t want to talk about in the South.”
These days, those shadows are tall and wide, making it hard to recognize a neighbor, family––even yourself. On American Aquarium’s new album Lamentations, Barham shines light on dark American corners with heartbreaking conversations, long looks in the mirror, and empathetic questions, all through songwriting that is clear without sacrificing its poetry, and direct without losing its humanity. “As a songwriter, my number one job is to observe and then translate what I observe into a song, a story, a lesson,” Barham says. “I’d be doing myself and the listener a huge disservice if I didn’t talk about the things I see, which is a country, divided.”
As much as Barham appreciates an indignant protest song or one-sided anthem, he isn’t writing them. Instead, on Lamentations he’s making the political personal, reaching out to humanize folks with opposing viewpoints, and offering dignity instead of demonizing. The result is the strongest writing of Barham’s already stout career. “I’m still very much standing up for what I believe in––I don’t think anyone can question what side of the aisle I stand on,” he says. “But hopefully people listen and at least try to understand why their Sunday School teacher wears a Trump hat.”
Barham has built a fiercely devoted fanbase hundreds of thousands strong, fortified with 15 years of sold-out American Aquarium shows across the country and Europe. The band’s 2018 release Things Change strode confidently into that distinct territory where rock-and-roll and politics meet, prompting Rolling Stone to announce Barham “earns every bit of his Southern Springsteen cred.” In 2019, the American Aquarium lineup also shifted again: Shane Boeker remains on guitar, and bassist Alden Hedges, keys player Rhett Huffman, pedal steel ace Neil Jones, and drummer Ryan Van Fleet joined the group.
A beloved live band known for consistently playing at least 200-250 dates a year, American Aquarium chose to be more selective in 2019, winnowing the schedule to 92 shows. For Barham, sober for six years now, is a dad to a toddler and still happily married, the adjustment was a must. “We’re learning how to balance being in our mid-30s and being rock-and-rollers,” he says. “Being home was the most rewarding experience. It allowed me to be creative and write about things that really matter.”
Lamentations reflects that elevated focus. Barham, who is no longer religious but was raised Southern Baptist, wrote down the word “lamentations” in 2018, and knew it’d be his next album title before he’d written a single song for the record. He felt an anchoring connection to the word itself––defined as “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow”––but also to the Old Testament book in the Bible. “Lamentations is one of the few books in the Bible where there’s this doubt of God––this guy, crying out to the heavens, like, Why? If you love us so much, why did you let Jerusalem fall to Babylon?” Barham says. “I saw a direct correlation between that and a Southern man today who voted for Trump. I wanted to write about a broken America and all the things that lead a human being to doubting something. Every song on this record touches on something a little different.”
Album opener “Me and Mine (Lamentations)” is brooding and stormy, plaintive acoustic guitar undergirding Barham’s weathered vocals. Searching, frustrated, and sad, the song was written from the perspective of a conservative Southern voter who feels unseen, unheard, and short on hope. The broader message is immersive and immediate: Settle in and listen closely. Times are hard, and this record is going to talk about it. Barham, who doesn’t agree with the song’s protagonist politically, imbues him with respect and sympathetic fatigue. “There are so many people who come out nowadays and say, If you voted this way, you’re a racist. You’re a misogynist. You’re a nationalist,” he says. “But that was my teacher, my librarian, my uncle. I know they aren’t bigots. So instead of saying, You’re a bad person because you did this, I want to know why you did this. I want to talk to you about this.”
Upbeat guitar rocker “Dogwood” follows, with a tragic story wrapped up in singalong lines. Barham points to the song and “Luckier You Get,” with its Springsteen vibes and an ear-worm chorus, as two of the album’s more lighthearted moments. “Bright Leaf” is another musical moment ready for a crowd, offering a clear-eyed look at the tobacco farms and industry of Barham’s home through sharp lyrics that thousands will shout-sing right back at him.
Featuring wry pedal steel and a shuffling back beat, “Better South” is an alternative anthem, written and sung by a native Southerner who believes in change. Line after line, “Starts with You” shows off Barham’s self-deprecating wit: “They say you’re only as sick as your secrets / If that’s the truth then, friend, I’m dying / Spent a lifetime salvaging shipwrecks, / Falling so long I thought I was flying.”
Throughout the record, the only victim of Barham’s harsh tongue is himself. Heartbreaking “How Wicked I Was” pleads for narrative omissions when it comes to explaining the past to his little girl. Album highlight “Learned to Lie” cuts just as deep: Barham delivers a gut-wrenching confession over lonely piano. Raw and intimate, its look at how we hurt the ones we love evokes the unblinking candor of 60s and 70s Loretta Lynn––that extreme honesty Barham first valued in country music, and now misses. “That was one of the first songs I played for the boys in the band, and they were like, ‘Are you sure you want to record that?’” Barham says. “It’s a hard song to talk about. It’s a heavy song. For better or worse, I’m going to be real with you live. I’m probably going to make you uncomfortable. And that I think that’s a beautiful part of rock-and-roll.”
“Six Years Come September” is another heartbreaker, masquerading at first as a familiar story before a sobering plot twist. “As a songwriter, that’s the best feeling in the world––ruining someone with lyrics and a well-executed story,” Barham says. He points to album closer “Long Haul” as a frontrunner for his own favorite track. Perhaps the closest the record comes to jubilation, “Long Haul” rolls through three steadfast commitments Barham holds true and dear.
Ultimately, Lamentations is a thrilling portrait of an artist and his band reaching new levels of skill, consciousness, and potential after 20 years in the trenches. Unruly and sincere, Barham emerges as an important American voice––and an unlikely peacemaker. “I’ve had to work really hard to carry water as a songwriter,” he says. “It feels really good to be in my mid-30s, writing songs that I think matter. I think when you listen to this record, something is going to change in you. You’re going to feel something. That’s the most important part of songwriting: making someone feel.
Black Buffalo Presents
with special guest Megan Moroney
Saturday, October 1st, 2022
Larry Fleet | About
Don’t let Larry Fleet’s humble demeanor fool you: the Chattanooga-based Country singer-songwriter is the real deal, with fans in contemporary heavy-hitters like Jake Owen and living Country legends like Willie Nelson. He’s a thoughtful songwriter with a knack for a one-liner, an ear for a good hook and a powerhouse voice that strikes the perfect balance of soul and twang.
You can hear all this and more on Fleet’s new single “Where I Find God.” Written alongside award-winning songwriter Connie Harrington, “Where I Find God” is a beautifully heartfelt ode to family, fishing and Fleet’s unyielding faith. “Sometimes, whether I’m lookin’ for him or not / That’s where I find God,” Fleet sings, with his soul-drenched twang adding an element of gospel to the track’s stripped-down Country arrangement.
“Where I Find God” has already received an immensely positive response from fans, many of whom have shared their own experiences of faith and finding God. Some fans even count hearing the song itself among their life’s religious experiences, a life-changing phenomenon that gets right at the heart of why Fleet writes songs in the first place.
“I’ve had older people tell me, ‘I found God in 1982,'” Fleet says. “They’re telling their stories. Then other people tell me they fought with addiction. They heard this song and turned their truck around and tried to mend some fences with their family and go to Alcoholics Anonymous. To me, as a songwriter, that’s about as good a compliment that you can get: a song you wrote has changed someone’s life, for the good. I’m so proud of this song.”
Here Come the Mummies
October 23, 2022 6 PM
at The Bluestone
Here Come the Mummies is an eight-piece funk-rock band of 5000 year-old Egyptian Mummies with a one-track mind. Their “Terrifying Funk from Beyond the Grave” is sure to get you into them (and possibly vice versa).
Since their discovery HCTM has been direct support for P-Funk, Al Green, Mavis Staples, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Cheap Trick; rocked Super Bowl Village; become a regular on The Bob and Tom Show; played massive festivals like Summer Camp, Common Ground, Voodoo Fest, Musikfest, Suwannee Hulaween, and Riverbend; and sold tickets by the thousands across large swaths of North America.
Maybe that’s why the ladies (and some dudes) can’t stop losing their minds over these mayhem-inducing mavens of mirth.
Some say they were cursed after deflowering a great Pharaoh’s daughter. Others claim they are reincarnated Grammy-Winning studio musicians. Regardless, HCTM’s mysterious personas, cunning song-craft, and unrelenting live show will bend your brain, and melt your face. Get ready, for Here Come The Mummies.
- HCTM “‘KILLED’ it… Not only did they pack their stage – they were the hit of the night when they jumped on stage with moe. in front of 20,000.” – Jay Goldberg, Summer Camp Music Festival
- “Here Come The Mummies are one bad-ass band, a hybrid of Idris Muhammad, George Clinton, Ohio Players, and Earth, Wind & Fire.” -Blurt Magazine
- “A band unlike any other.” -examiner.com
- “That’s the most fun I’ve had in 20 years.” -Bob Kevoian, The Bob & Tom Show
- “Cock wobbling brilliant.” -Joe Elliott of Def Leppard