Friday, August 27, 2010

Dust Covered Soul - Love.Angel.Music

This is the final album art and title for the album I'm working on that WILL be done in the next hand full of months. I've recorded and re-recorded and re-envisioned a complete record that I'm going to press and distribute to the 5 or 6 interested parties for years now and I'm finally at a place creatively and I finally have the right view of the finish line along with the right songs to do this. I sound very pretentious right now but this has been a long time coming. I guess you could say I'm in the pre-production phase of things, getting the songs and the concept down at this point.

I've decided to go with the band name "Dust Covered Soul" that I came up with five years ago before deciding to just use my name because it won't be just me on this record. The album will have a song co-written and produced by Eric Quimby featuring his guest vocals and the other songs are going to feature my good friend and multi-instrumentalist Bryce Berry backing me up on a handful of instruments ranging from cello to piano to vocals.

The art is hand drawn and touched up in Photoshop. Over the years I have made literally dozens of potential album covers with several potential titles (My Legacy, Courting Disaster, Flannel & Folk Songs, Doing Just Fine to name a few) and I'm sick of using the same old filters and ideas over and over. I wanted to use a title and art work that came from a very real and organic place because that's where I feel like my songs come from. They have their flaws, because I have a lot of flaws musically, but I like to think that's part of my charm.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Music Under the Radar

This will be the first blog of my new idea "Music Under the Radar" It's just me talking about a few groups or artists that I think aren't getting as much acclaim and recognition as they deserve, or at least artists I feel compelled to spread the word about. You may have heard of them and if you have, spread the word, if you haven't, at least give them a try. There are plenty of options for hearing a few tracks before investing in a whole record in the age of computers.

1.) Danielle Ate The Sandwich: DATS is a solo project of Danielle Anderson, a twenty-something from Fort Collins, Colorado who plays an old school folk way beyond her years. Her voice is a gorgeous soprano with serious jazz tendencies that fills you up like the warmth of that first sip of a perfect cup of coffee. The songs are soft folk tunes with jazz, pop, and old school rock thrown in making for a truly perfect and unique throwback indie sound. She favors the ukulele as the main rhythm instrument although there are plenty of songs with guitar and on her newest record (Two Bedroom Apartment) there is a lot of warm bass holding the rhythm on it's perfect course. She has three albums for sale on her website and they are all filled with her beautiful brand of indie folk. Having already told you about the ukulele it probably won't surprise anyone that a large chunk of her fan base comes from here YouTube videos (as YouTube and the ukulele seem to go together quite nicely) and for those of you looking to get a taste of what she is about, I highly recommend going there and watching her wide array of videos ranging from covers to originals.

2.) Ray Lamontagne:
Probably the least "under the radar" of all the artists on this list but still nowhere near as big as I feel he should be. Lamontagne is never going to be a pop superstar, his music isn't like that, but he definitely has a certain appeal that should and could be enjoyed by almost anyone. I fell in love with his music after hearing the song Trouble from his album of the same name a hand full of years back. There is something incredibly soulful and perfect about his voice. His songs and voice sound like early Van Morrison with more control with hints of old soul like Otis Redding, all with vocal cords that sounds like they've been aged in whiskey and perfection. His most recent album God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise was actually number one on iTunes the week it came out and that made me happy but I still think not enough people know about this man's incredible voice and songwriting ability.

3.) Syndicate: Alright, I'm a little biased on this one because they ARE friends of mine but, completely objectively, I honestly feel like their talent warrants them having more fans. I'm not going to say a whole lot because if you want the full details on this group you can read MY REVIEW of their first album The Line Starts Here. I'll simply say that if any part of you misses that sweet spot in the 1990's when radio alt rock was hooky, soulful, and powerful... you will find Syndicate to be a fantastic listen, no question.

4.) Todd Kuffner: Aside from Syndicate, Todd Kuffner is probably the MOST "under the radar" artist on this list. He has a decent sized following on YouTube, but besides that he doesn't really view music as his main drive, more as something he does on the side that people happen to enjoy. He's been on YouTube since February of 2009 and just released his first album Squirrel Hunter In Training this past July. The record contains 35 full songs and is only $9.99 on iTunes... since music is something he does for fun, he seems to not pay much mind to the unspoken rules of the music business like album lengths which is all the better for the consumer because you receive three albums worth of stellar songs for the price of one. The music it's self is a rootsy sounding pop rock that strongly resembles The Dave Matthews Band meets a bit of John Mayer and a lot of Cat Stevens. Kuffner's voice is folky but still very accessible and even a bit soulful at times. The songs are hooky and the lyrics are phenomenal. If any of that sounds at all appealing to you check out his website to hear album tracks or go to his YouTube channel to see him play a few of his songs.

5.) The Swellers: Another band featuring friends of mine. Also The Swellers are, by leaps and miles, my favorite band of all time. They represent a lot to me musically and sentimentally and I don't think any band will ever take their place in that spot. I've written and talked a lot about them in the past so it's difficult to know where exactly to begin but I guess the best place is probably with the basics. They are a rock/punk band from the Flint area that got their start playing shows in the, now virtually extinct, Flint local scene. They began as a three piece but evolved to four as their sound matured and eventually signed with Atlantic Records imprint Fueled By Ramen (launching pad of bands like Paramore and Fall Out Boy). They tour relentlessly bringing their brand of 90's era skate punk to their fans all over the world. There really isn't a lot that I can say without sounding like I'm gushing but they will never be as big as I feel they deserve to be so I figured they definitely needed a slot on this list.

6.) Tim Barry:
Tim Barry is probably the most sonically abrasive artist on this list. His music is certainly not for everyone, but if you're into gruff acoustic folk rock with tinges of punk, then Tim Barry is king, in my opinion. He is one of my personal favorite artists so, again, it is difficult for me to write objectively about his talent without sounding like a gushing fan but I will do my best. Barry is from Richmond, VA and is one of the most sincere and intense performers I've ever seen live or heard on record. Everything he says is real and performed and sang with an amazing earnestness that you simply don't find in music. He is the lead singer of Virginia punk band Avail, and his past and a punk rocker comes through in his songs just like every other aspect of his life and his friend's life. When I listen to my Tim Barry records, two words tend to pop into my mind over and over. They are, as I said previously, "intense" and "sincere". If you go in with the right mind set, there's no way you can be disappointed.

Just Listen...

Now for the portion of the blog I call the "Just Listen..." section. I'm not going to say anything about the artist, just post a video you should watch and love.

Backdoor Slam:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Top 25 Sentimental Albums

This is a list of my top 25 sentimental albums. These are albums that all mean something to me as a music fan, a musician, an artist, and a person. They all either played a roll in shaping who I am as a person or are records I just really REALLY love. More albums may be added to these over time but these are the records I know will always mean something profound to me and will always represent either one period in my life or all periods in my life.

Keep in mind that I don't necessarily believe that these are all among the greatest albums of all time, nor are they even all MY personal opinion on the greatest albums. This list is all about sentimentality. They are in no particular order.

Underneath - Hanson
My Everest -
The Swellers
Ups & Downsizing -
The Swellers
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan -
Bob Dylan
All Killer No Filler -
Sum 41
Blood on the Tracks -
Bob Dylan
Shout it Out -
One Fell Swoop -
The Spill Canvas
Rivana Junction -
Tim Barry
13 Songs -
Highway Miles -
Kid Brother Collective
Through Being Cool -
Saves the Day
Can't Slow Down -
Saves the Day
The River -
Bruce Springsteen
Still Searching -
Senses Fail
The Times They Are A-Changin -
Bob Dylan
Bleed American -
Jimmy Eat World
Sticks and Stones -
New Found Glory
Manchester -
Tim Barry
Something to Write Home About -
The Get Up Kids
Hot and Bothered -
The Hot Flashez
Dookie -
Green Day
Third Eye Blind -
Third Eye Blind
Rockin the Suburbs -
Ben Folds
Casadaga -
Bright Eyes

Friday, August 20, 2010

Travis Valentine - My Angels (Feat. Eric Quimby)

This is a song that I wrote with my friend Eric Quimby (Syndicate) for my wife and I's third anniversary. This is a montage of pictures of my wife and daughter I put together to go with the song as a part of the massive gift I assembled.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Travis Valentine & Bryce Berry - Falling

This is a video of my friend Bryce and I performing a song that I wrote in High School. I tweaked it a little and added a new verse for Loren and I's third wedding anniversary and put this on a DVD compilation that I put together for her as part of her gift (full details of massive gift in an earlier entry) This is the first song that I ever wrote about her after we started dating.

I am by leaps and bounds NOT the greatest vocalist in the world but I try very hard and I like to think that what little I can do, comes from a very sincere place.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Syndicate - The Line Starts Here

Similar to: Matchbox Twenty, John Mayer, The Kooks, Jason Mraz, Third Eye Blind
Record Label: Independent
Overall Opinion: Positive
Genre: Hook Driven Radio Alt Rock

"'The Line Starts Here' is meant to signify how everything we do from here on out starts with this record." This is what Eric Quimby, vocals and guitar of Davison, Michigan's Syndicate told me recently. Right off the bat you get a sense of passion and seriousness from Quimby that most bands at their level in development lack. There is a professionalism to everything they do and nothing is halfway. It's something that a lot of bands either don't have or intentionally avoid.

The band features Quimby on lead vocals and guitar, Patrick Jenkinson on guitar, Chris Keller on bass, Jake Rathbun on drums, and Brandon Mansell on keyboard. The first thing anyone would notice about Syndicate is Quimby's phenomenal voice. It's a bit of a whiskey tenor with grandiose rock tenancies. The tone is clean but still very soulful as he effortlessly does vocal back flips through the melodies like they're his personal playground. '

When you listen past the voice and lyrics you'll hear the gorgeous guitar taking the melodies in directions you didn't expect them to go. Syndicate are a band who wear their influences on their sleeve like a badge of honor, mixing and matching the sounds that inspire them. The tightrope artwork on the cover of "The Line Starts Here" is fitting... they walk the line between paying homage and being unique, beautifully. In the guitar you hear the clean blues of John Mayer and The Kooks as it mixes effortlessly with the naturally distorted chords of radio alternative groups like Matchbox Twenty. In songs like "Hypnotized" you can hear the beautiful crunch and "wah" of Machbox Twenty songs like "Disease". Also I'll just say it... if "Criminal" isn't the Jason Mraz hit that he never recorded I don't know what is.

In the bass and drum you'll hear a perfect two man team in Keller and Rathbun. To the non-musical ear the bass player is essentially the rope that ties the drummer's rhythm to the guitar's melody and Keller plays that role perfect doing exactly what is needed to connect the two. On songs like "Criminal" you hear the perfect laid back groove between drum and bass carrying the song through it's relaxed vibe. In "The Breakdown" you hear the bass rocketing along with the frantic guitar. The bass is arguably at it's best in "Hypnotized" though, where it thumps it's own distinctive leads behind the guitar in the verses before gliding effortlessly into the highly melodic choruses.

Do I think that "The Line Starts Here" is a perfect record? Of course not. Achieving perfection is boring. What you hear on this album is a band launching out of the gate like an animal ready to take on anything. I think that Syndicate said it best in "Crazy Tonight", the record's opening track... "doesn't matter what's wrong... all that matters is what feels right."

Contact the band on Facebook about purchasing the record


Buy the record on Amazon or iTunes

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ART: An Experiment in Love and Friendship

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 was my third anniversary with my wife Loren. In past years we've gone on a vacation of some kind on the day but this year, with the baby and being a generally lowsy time of year for money, I knew we wouldn't have the money to get each other anything fancy. I started to think of how I could inject my usual pomp and flare into something that wouldn't be a big expense...

The first thing I thought of was asking my friend Brian Buckley (BamObituaries!) if he would be willing to draw a portrait of Loren and I that I could get framed and give her. He agreed and I was on my way. I didn't want to just give her something that I asked someone else to do so I thought I would write a song as well and give her that, although I knew that I wanted this song to be different than other one's I've written her in the past. I've written and recorded her dozens of my acoustic folk affairs and I think after a while they've begun to blend together. So I contacted my good friend Eric Quimby of the band Syndicate ( about collaborating on something. He agreed and that was that. I'd give her a song and Brian's portrait and it would be a nice, inexpensive gift that still had a lot of heart... or so I thought.

I went to Wal-Mart to buy a plastic box to put both the CD and portrait in and some paint to decorate the box. As I was getting some bottles of acrylic paint my eyes wandered to the brushes and canvases. I hadn't painted anything since high school when I stopped pretending I was an "artist" for more "sensible" things. I was never good at it in a technical sense because I can't draw but I always felt like there was some merit to the abstract "feeling paintings" I did back then. I bought a canvas, a cheap set of acrylic paints and some brushes and decided to paint Loren something to go with it all. It was about this point that the wheels started to turn and the project began to take on a new life.

Gradually the idea came to me... what did all of this have in common? A portrait from Brian, a song with Eric, a painting from me... all of these pieces of art coming together. That's when I had the idea of getting every artist that I could to contribute something, anything, to this gift. A massive amalgam of music, graphic art, poetry, anything... it would trump anything I've ever done.

I contacted Loren's step-mom who is extremely talented at damn near everything. She can cook, crochet, paint, draw, sew, embroider, I'm sure she can probably sculpt. I asked her if she could make Loren, what I pictured as a sort of cloth poster, with the word HANSON at the top and below it a list of all of the concerts she's been to (there are a lot, she followed them around Europe once) ending with the one that we are going to next week in Royal Oak, leaving room to add more. What I got was an amazing 3 foot by 4 foot tapestry with the words "Hanson Concerts" in six inch letters surrounding the Hanson logo in the center. The name and dates of the concerts are embroidered on badges which surround the entire affair with room to add 7 more at the bottom. Each of the badges is a pocket that can hold a ticket stub or other memorabilia from the concert as well. She gave me this along with brackets to mount it onto the wall and a rod to hold it up. It is, without a doubt, a billion times more than I expected and it is incredible.

I asked Loren's friend Rachel Cary to provide a piece of graphic art because I knew her to be extremely gifted in that field and she produced and incredible piece that I framed for her. My friend Michael Walters wrote a poem. I had my friend Nick Diener from the band The Swellers (The Swellers) record a spoken word introduction that I put on the CD before the song that Eric and I wrote, introducing it and wishing her a happy anniversary. This was my way of getting a "celebrity" involved but Nick is the closest thing to a celebrity I know so he would have to do.

I ended up doing four paintings for her and writing a poem that I had printed in 11x17 and framed. One of the paintings is meant to represent the meaning of the song Eric and I did and another is meant to represent the meaning of the poem. The other two are very colorful, cutesy paintings that are meant to hang in Lyric's room.

One of the biggest things I did was put together a DVD anthology of me and every musician that I could get to collaborate with me, playing a couple of covers. This list includes: Mike DeLorme, Patrick Munley, Eric Quimby (Syndicate), Jason Kotarski, Chris Dunklee, Bryce Berry, and Nick Freakin' Hale. I met up with them, sang and played some covers, recorded them, and burnt them all to a DVD that I made fancy cover art for called "Anthology: Beauty is Imperfect". I figured since I knew so many musicians and it would be difficult and cumbersome to sit and write a song with all of them and probably more difficult to drum up interest in doing it, I could easily hook up with each of them, play a few covers, tape them, and put it all together.

The last thing that I did was put together a "Staycation" to go in place of our usual vacation. Now a "staycation" is a buzz word that the media has invented to essentially mock poor people who can't afford to spend their vacation time actually doing anything or going anywhere because of the economy but they still have to take it so they end up staying at home. They started airing all of these tongue in cheek pieces about a year ago suggesting things you can do for your "staycation". Anyway, I took the word and ran with it though and decided to actually do it. I bought some Lansing post cards and souvenirs and put them in a little wooden suitcase I bought at Michael's Craft's and painted. My mom agreed to babysit Lyric next weekend while I take Loren on a tour of the coolest sights in Lansing, cook her fancy meals, I'm going to re-arrange the furniture in the apartment so it looks like a hotel, we're going to watch movies. This is the plan.

All of this I put in a plastic tub I had painted and labeled "ART: An Experiment in Love and Friendship" and I gave it to her yesterday. I think that she liked it... I really hope I didn't forget anything.