Local acts ready new releases

Damian Knapp

The Warren blues guitarist called 2016 the busiest year of his 20-year professional career. In addition to performing solo, playing with Betty G and the Harvest, and fronting his Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute act, Testify, Knapp toured the Midwest and Texas fronting the Columbus-based blues band The Drifter Kings.

For 2017 he’ll be re-releasing his 2006 CD, “Will You Cry When I Die?,” with fresh production and a new title, “Maui in the Sun.” Knapp wrote all of the music in 2003 with his father, Peter Knapp, who played in the band I Don’t Care, which was signed to Kama Sutra Records in the mid-’70s.

“The goal was to strip the mixes down and get the songs back to their essence, the way they first sounded when my father and I wrote them back in the summer of 2003,” he said. “Also, by going with a less-is-more approach, the album is now more ambient, and the lyrics and melodies are now the focus. This was the goal in the very beginning.

“I began recording the first release, ‘Will You Cry When I Die?’ shortly after my Dad’s death (in 2003). However, looking back, I didn’t have a clear vision and things got a little out of control with overproduction.

“This time around, I decided that I was going to take charge. I kept the new production a secret early on because I didn’t want to hear anyone’s opinion. I had a vision and I stuck to it. I believe the mission has been accomplished.”

The fact that his father died just a few weeks after they finished an album’s worth of songs tells Knapp that there was a special reason that they reunited during that fateful summer.

“After years of estrangement and turmoil, we wound up together in Warren during the summer of 2003,” he said. “He had just moved back from Maui, Hawaii, and I had just returned from Fort Collins, Colo. He had two notebooks of lyrics and needed someone to bring them to life. He played the trumpet and I formed the chords on guitar. We began experimenting, always working late at night and crafted the tunes together.”

“Maui in the Sun” initially will be released as a digital download, and Knapp will decided whether to release it on CD or vinyl after that.

The Hawkeyes

The rock / Americana band hails from Pittsburgh, but the band plays frequently in the Mahoning Valley with gigs at such venues as The Lime Tree in Warren and Cedars West End and Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in Youngstown.

Lead singer / guitar player Jay Wiley called the band’s upcoming album its most ambitious project yet. The band is working at Red Medicine Recording Studios with Sean McDonald, whose credits include Cowboy Junkies, The Damnwells, Soul Asylum, The Clarks, Ohio Players, Bo Diddley and Sinead O’Connor. In addition to producing and mixing, McDonald was a part of the songwriting process.

“Sean McDonald will be with us from day one to the project’s end,” Wiley said. “We can already feel ourselves expanding our musical minds to places we never thought were there, all the while we are finding that we are able to retool and rekindle our Americana, roots rock and gritty feel. There’s just a feeling in the rehearsal room right now that this record is going to blow people away with a tightness and passionate focus reflected in the new songs.

“The year 2016 was a very beautiful but turbulent year, a lot of change, both good and bad. We have quite a bit to say about that in this upcoming record.”

Wiley said musical influences with The Hawkeyes seem to just change like the weather. He said with the new material the band is influenced by the 1980s Los Angeles bands like The Plimsouls and The Long Ryders as well as traditional alt-country stars such as Whiskeytown, Steve Earle, Drive By Truckers and Two Cow Garage.

Dog OK

Songwriter Patrick Gadola drew inspiration from the political issues bandied about on social media for “Scary, Scary Moon,” one of four albums he has in the works. How much he finishes will depend on whether he works solo or with other musicians.

“The biggest question facing Dog OK is if the band is going to return to largely existing as a solo project, get back to operating as a three-piece, or continuing on as a two-piece, with myself on guitar and vocals and Doug Brickner on bass and vocals, as we have through most of 2016,” he said.

“The last show with Joe Brookhart as drummer was in January. We haven’t pursued band gigs, but Doug and I have made frequent open mic appearances as a duo. So far the title song is done with the band as a three-piece. The rest of the songs are almost done, if we go with my drumming.”

Gadola has led the indie pop project since 2003 and previously was a part of the bands The Spring Beagles and Puzzle DoSometimes the best music comes out during troubled times. Gadola said he was stressed out by the recent election and the album “Scary, Scary Moon” focuses on these themes.

“A song from ‘Scary, Scary Moon’ called ‘Point Of View’ includes the line ‘I couldn’t find room on the right of the left.’ Oddly enough, that song was written over 20 years ago but it’s something I feel even more now. I just think there’s too much generalization, too much denial and not enough real discussion happening in the political world today. I don’t think my songs take a very strong stand on issues, but more often, bring up the questions I have in my mind when I see what others are saying.”

Radio Lark

“Wildflower,” “Lone White Horse,” “Feather” and “(Second to) Last Black Cab in Belfast” are some of the songs written for the next album by the band featuring Chris Rutushin, Rick Deak, Scott Burns and Patrick Majernik.

Rutushin said the new songs share some thematic connections with the tracks on 2015’s “Stolen Oranges” as the band explores new ideas while keeping to the Radio Lark formula.

“The song ‘Wildflower’ is The Verve meets Led Zeppelin with a funky middle eight and is probably going to be the most jam-esque song on the record,” he said.

“With ‘Lone White Horse,’ I wrote this tune in Italy after traveling from Agnone to Pacentro (villages of my great grandmothers) with my good friend, Anthony. We drove through a gorgeous valley with wild flowers and time seemed to stand still. We proceeded down a closed mountain road and came upon a white horse. It felt it was an omen. It most definitely was a spiritual journey.”

As far as musical influences go, Rutushin said that he loves Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher and that Deak is a big Ryan Adams fan.

The singer-songwriter approach layered over Brit-pop is still quite evident in Radio Lark’s sound. “I’d say you can hear those influences in our sound,” Rutushin said.

Shaving Lincoln

The Struthers-based alternative rock act featuring Aly Byerly on vocals, Tom Wolfgang and Jason Hinrichs on guitars, Charles Coriston on bass and Joe Carbon on drums will release the EP “Gettysburg Undressed” in 2017.

Coriston said the title is a pun on the iconic speech and is a tongue-in-cheek use of the image of Honest Abe in the band’s name and promotional materials. Shaving Lincoln integrates different genres into its music while making them cohesively work in melodious harmony.

“The album doesn’t have one genre but spans about six from punk, ’90s alt / indie and a touch of metal,” Coriston said. “What defines the album is a sort of juxtaposition between levity, silliness and dark, deeply personal lyrical themes.

“The album is cathartic. The message is, ‘We can make it! We can sing, dance and scream our way out of the dark places and laugh again.’ My favorite moments of the EP are the track ‘Lost & Found,’ which was sort of our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. No one had great expectations at first, but with a little love, it showcases our best work.”

Byerly said, “Each song brings with it a different sound, but still is very ‘us’. I think we’ve been more interested in nuances and small details that make a difference in these songs. There are more harmonies, more unexpected guitar accents and a little more variety in the lyrics.”

Third Class

The indie pop act will release “Virginia’s Playlist” in early 2017, with the 20-song collection being available digitally and on CD initially with a double LP to follow.

Lead singer Lee Boyle described the new songs as prettier and less percussive than past releases and also more lyrically and vocally focused.

“This collection’s writing spans 20 years, since before the band properly existed, with some songs written weeks before recording and some written at age 12,” he said. “Our old habits have caught up with our new habits. All songs revolve around my own ballads with added assistance from Jack Boyle (drums, bass and vocals) and Pepe Parish (bass, drums and vocals) and a decent amount of guest musicians. In short, this album rocks very little.

“Also, this is our first studio release which departs from Ampreon Recorder entirely and relies on Historian Recording Co. We changed studios as a practicality in that the band was almost never in the same location at the same time for the recording process. Historian was more suited for that type of work.”

Tuff Sunshine

Tuff Sunshine might hail from Brooklyn, but it has local ties. Guitarist / vocalist Johnny Leitera was a member of Youngstown’s early 1990s indie darlings Boogie Man Smash.

The band (Linda Pitmon, drums, and Turner Stough, bass) is readying the release of its second full-length LP, called “Dig Deeper, Peanut.” Leitera said there’s much more diversity on this record, and a lot of the album was written and arranged very quickly before the band came to Youngstown to record it at Ampreon Recorder.

“I think the band is growing with every record as I would hope would be the case,” he said. “As far as sound, there is less concern to stay true to a blueprint or ‘ideal’ of what our sound is and was. That worked for us getting started. We were a three-piece, no-frills kind of deal and the general rule was nothing on a recording that you can’t cover live.

“With each record, I’ve been open to expanding and getting back to some of the things that I love, which means acoustic tracks, experimentation and lots of back-up vocals and harmonies.”

Leitera avoided listening to other music while writing, but he drew inspiration from diverse sources while mixing and producing.

“I have been listening to everything from ’70s stoner rock acts such as Coloured Balls to Thee Oh Sees, to classic country and anything without a lot of reverb. I love reverb, but I think it’s grossly over-used these days, and this record would certainly feel more at home in ’73 than 2016, production-wise. We want to get the record out by late spring or summer and play as much as possible.”


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