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Rainbow Kitten Surprise: Don’t be fooled by the name

When: Thursday, October 12. Doors at 8:00 p.m., show at 9:00 p.m.
Where: The Blue Note
Tickets: $15
Opener: Elliot Root

With a name like Rainbow Kitten Surprise, it’s easy to get confused as far as what these guys are all about, but don’t let that stop you from checking them out.

Their unique blend of indie pop and folk rock makes for a smooth sound combined with a light-hearted atmosphere that they bring to the stage for every show. All of that plus their ability to engage an audience with their fun spirit means that this will be a show you won’t soon forget.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise is in the middle of their first solo tour, and have played several other festivals including Bonnaroo, Loufest and Firefly.

I saw them live for the first time this past weekend at Austin City Limits and they blew me away, specifically lead singer Sam Melo. As a vocalist with no instrumental responsibilities, he engaged the crowd with his high energy and got us all through the unbearable Austin heat.

This post was written by Hannah Greteman, contributing writer for The Blue Note & Rose blog.

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The Carolina Chocolate Drops at Bonnaroo: Melt in your ears not in your hand

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For more info on their Oct. 18 show at The Blue Note, click here. 

Despite the unbelievably wonderful, indescribably magical place that Bonnaroo is, I consider making it to the first set of the day a feat to be applauded. I’d been up until roughly 5 a.m. that morning from the night before, not to mention the sun really loves that 12:30 p.m. slot, wanting to hangout with everyone until they’re, quite literally, strips of bacon. (It knows not what it does.) I was fighting the fatigue of a 4 day-long marathon of travelling, singing, dancing and sweating and the majority of my fellow Bonnaroovians were still slathering on sunscreen and trying to figure out how to enjoy the shade of a tent while also finding comfort in feeling like a rotisserie chicken.

Only one thing could get me to Centeroo that early on Sunday and boy am I glad they did: The Carolina Chocolate Drops. This folk group plays the kind of fiddle music that makes you want to link arms with someone and skip in a circle – which I did, shamelessly, with some strangers. Hailing from North Carolina, the string band continues to draw their ‘20s/’30s jug-band-style inspiration from the folk music that takes root there. Not only do they accomplish that, throughout their shows they manage to highlight the roles African-Americans have played in shaping this nation’s music. For example, at one point, they stopped to give a brief history of the banjo beginning from the 1850s and how it got to where it is now.

Lead singer and banjo extraordinaire, Rhiannon Giddens, captivated the audience with anecdotes, awkward jokes and, of course, the crazy-incredible set of soulful pipes she’s got. Alongside her, Hubby Jenkins and Rowan Corbett provided an extremely entertaining and comedic bones battle mid-set. After explaining the history of the bones, castanet-like instruments made from real animal bone or wood, the two went into full-fledged “this means war” mode throwing solos at each other like it was nobody’s business. All the while this was happening, a tap dancer accompanied The Drops for almost every song, feeding that dance hall vibe in the best of ways.

The Drops’ set flowed from tracks off of their 2010 and 2012 albums Genuine Negro Jig and Leaving Eden to a Hank Williams cover to a song with a warning from Giddens that no, she wasn’t speaking gibberish, the lyrics were in Scotts Gaelic. The set ended with a twangy twisted Blu Cantrell cover of “Hit ‘Em Up Style” which, if they hadn’t gotten you going already, got you to where you needed to be. By the end of the show, most of those who had been lounging were up and shakin’ it.

The Drops actually won a Grammy for Genuine Negro Jig for Best Traditional Folk Album and are continuing to celebrate that success and promoting their new album by touring the country and spreading the folky love. Lucky for me, one of those stops was Bonnaroo and even luckier for us, another is our very own Blue Note, on Saturday, Oct.18. Yeah, yeah, it’s far away, but, hey, it can be your light at the end of the tunnel.

I left the set with a feeling of deep satisfaction, a little more music education and a whole lot of love for the banjo. The Drops are successfully putting a new spin on some old-time Carolina mountain music and gaining some serious recognition as they do it. Rolling Stone described their sound as “dirt-floor-dance electricity,” and thinking back to stomping my feet in that field on The Farm, I agree wholeheartedly.

 


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Railroad Earth debuts new songs at each concert

Railroad Earth

When: Jan. 23, doors at 7 p.m.
Where: The Blue Note
Cost: $20-35, buy tickets here
Opener: Have Gun, Will Travel

It’s hard to pin down Railroad Earth’s style — jam band? Bluegrass? Blues? Folk?

The answer is D) All of the above. And everything in between. Here’s the group playing Bonnaroo in 2011.

The New Jersey band carefully toes the line of an “improv band” stigma, which can curse a band to a singularly particular type of audience. Instead, Glide Magazine writes Railroad Earth has also established their studio abilities are as strong as their stage presence. The band is known just as much for  its recording prowess as its unique and engrossing live performances.

Best of both worlds? Yeah. Exactly.

Last of the Outlaws

Last of the Outlaws

On its current tour, the group slowly leaked songs from its newly released latest album, Last of the Outlaws. A couple new songs were tossed into each set leading up to last weekend’s concerts in Denver — the release parties. Between the two nights, the band released a horde of new material from their seventh album.

Click here for an exclusive preview of a Last of the Outlaws single from American Songwriter magazine.

One track on Outlawis getting quite a bit of attention. And by “track,” we actually meant to say “full, 21-minute, 7-part suite.”

“All That’s Dead May Live Again” is supposedly the crux of masterful musicians Todd Sheaffer, guitarist, and John Skehan, classical-pianist-turned-manodlin-player, coming together for so long.

Bassist Andrew Altman told the Herald Review how the piece came about: “John was carrying the framework of the idea around on a piece of paper in his wallet for like two years, and he would bring it out whenever we were drinking. You can hear his classical influences in it, because he was playing classical piano long before mandolin. We’re not shying away from that side of us.”

For inspirational listening, here’s a video of Todd and John playing together back in 2006.

“All That’s Dead” plays on everything from classic rock to classical piano, from bluegrass to Celtic music, according to the the Herald Review. The band still isn’t sure how it will handle the piece live — break it up and piece it together with other songs or play it full out, in all of its 21-minute glory.