Johnny Irion is preparing for a May 17 release of the long-awaited solo album, Driving Friend, recorded with his friends from Dawes, Wilco, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, produced by Tim Bluhm and renowned filmmaker/cinematographer Alan Kozlowski, and backed by Blackwing (the makers of the pencils with which Irions great-uncle John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath). The album is lovely California influenced folk-rock reminiscent of the best of Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and the Beach Boys. This Binghamton houseconcert is Irions only Northeast performance before he heads to California for the album release tour with Jay Farrar of Son Volt, and its your chance to own Driving Friend even before its May 18 feature on NPRs Weekend Edition.
Now and then in American culture, the written word fuses the worlds of music and literature. Bob Dylans Nobel Prize is only the most obvious example. An individual singer songwriter can sometimes embody that fusion in his life and work. Thats Johnny Irion, whose family tree includes John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, and whose new record Driving Friend was backed by Blackwing, the artisan pencil makers with a diverse musical heritage. The record, which includes members of Dawes, Wilco and the Mother Hips, ranges across a wide expanse of roots genres, from blues and gospel to folk and country. Everything about it feels authentically crafted, a carving out of raw, lived American experience that goes to the heart of the Blackwing ethos. Whether Irion is singing about Santa Barbara, Pittsfield or the Rapture, his sharp wit, telling description and brief character studies take us to a musical hometown of his own.
Its been a long time between solo albums for Johnny Irion, more than a decade in fact, since Ex Tempore won critical acclaim upon its 2007 release. AllMusic praised that album and its songs, delighting in how tuneful they are, how easy to catch onto, even on first listen. The same is true of the handful of harmony-rich folk-tinged records Johnnys made with his wife, Sarah Lee Guthriethe most recent being 2013s Wassaic Way, recorded at Wilcos Chicago studio and produced by Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone. And that can also be said of the rocking music he recorded with his band, U.S. Elevator, whose celebrated self-titled album hit the ground running in September 2015. In his January 15, 2016, review for Rolling Stone, Will Hermes wrote, [Johnnys] new band, U.S. Elevator, looks back even more evocatively, and boisterously, with songs that feel as lovingly hand-crafted as the jeans on the back of After the Gold Rush.
Which brings us to Johnnys eagerly awaited new Driving Friend album. Like Wassaic Way and U.S. Elevator, Driving Friend appears on Johnnys custom Rte. 8 label, and it is set for a May 17 release, coinciding with Mother Hips Hip Nic Music Festival in Big Sur, California. The new album boasts A-list credits including drummer Griffin Goldsmith and pianist/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith from big-time folk-rockers Dawes; the aforementioned Pat Sansone (Wilco); James Raymond (David Crosby, Warren Zevon); singers Sarah Lee Guthrie and Nicki Bluhm (Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers); and producer/multi-instrumentalist Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips).
Chenango Craftsman Houseconcert (View)
Address provided upon purchase of ticket
Binghamton, NY 13901
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