Sun Jul 17 2022
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM (Doors 6:30 PM)
1604 Eighth Ave South Nashville, TN 37203
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Boulevards w/ Eric Slick, Love Montage
“I was born in the North Carolina mud,” says Jamil Rashad, better known as Boulevards, one of the most idiosyncratic artists making music in the Tarheel State. “That’s where I have my roots. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York, but I keep coming back here. This is home. This is where I’ve learned the most.” His fourth album, Electric Cowboy: Born in Carolina Mud, is caked in the soil where he grew up, mired in the muck of this place—not stuck but freed. “A lot of artists who are coming from smaller cities like Raleigh get overlooked, so a lot of us are underdogs. North Carolina doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves, but there are all these amazing people doing it a very particular way that is very inspiring. It’s always been at the center of so many different scenes—soul, country, jazz, hip-hop, indie rock. I wanted some of that dirt on this record. I’m leaving my footprint in that mud.” All of those styles and genres inform Electric Cowboy, but the dominant sound—the dominant mindset—is funk: gritty, warm, weird, charismatic. The music unfolds kaleidoscopically, giving Rashad the space to face up to his own demons while showcasing the energy and charisma that have made him a mainstay in the North Carolina music scene. It’s a new sound for him, but not an unexpected one; he’s been building toward this album for several years, showing new facets of himself with each new record. While drawing from different eras of pop history, he never sounds retro and never loses himself among the references. “On Electric Cowboy I wanted to make some modern funk that the kids would enjoy, but still have some soul elements and some punk elements,” he says, listing James Brown, Shuggie Otis, and Baby Huey as well as Bad Brains, Gang of Four, Television, and The Cramps among his heroes. “That’s what I’ve always aimed to do since the beginning, since writing my first song, but I had to make all those other records and go through all that stuff to get to this point. A lot of artists come out hitting with that first record, but for me, I had to take those risks and take those chances to get to where I am now.” Where he is now is funk: a place he can be truly and most authentically himself. Grounded in personal experience and haunted by personal demons, Electric Cowboy is an album that reaches out, that embraces the world, that mixes the confessional and the communal. “I want to stay true to myself and talk about my own struggles, but I want to do it in a way so that people can relate to it. It’s about keeping strong, holding your shit together. I like making music that is very straightforward. I don’t want to overcomplicate things when it comes to the songwriting process. I want the people to hear where I’m coming from.” Boulevards is a musical act, but it’s also a state of mind, an approach to making music that prizes freedom, flexibility, and friendly collaboration. Rashad once again composed and recorded with Blake Rhein, guitarist for Durand Jones & the Indications, after they had worked so well together on 2020’s Brother! EP. They corralled an all-star team that included Adrian Quesada from the Grammy-nominated neo-soul act Black Pumas and Colin Croom from the Chicago indie-rock outfit Twin Peaks. Sketches and ideas were traded back and forth, gradually forming songs that bent into unexpected shapes. “In order to make the best record possible, I learned that I had to let go a little bit, which is hard,” says Rashad. “I had a vision that I was keen to realize, but I also wanted those guys to express themselves. They pushed me to do better, but they also pushed me to keep being myself.” After he traveled up to Chicago to record his vocals at Treehouse Records studio and Palisades Studio, Rashad set about caking these songs in more mud, adding flourishes and embellishments to make them funkier. Chief among those elements was backing vocals, courtesy of Ashley Wilcoxson and Leisa Hans. They’re two of the best-regarded and busiest vocalists in Nashville, working frequently with Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound. (They’re featured on recent albums by Tony Joe White and Yola.) “I’m a nerd for reading album credits, and I would see their names everywhere. So I decided to see if they wanted to work together. I honestly thought they would say no, especially with the pandemic. But they said yes and it was so dope, man. They bring those choruses to life!” The other outstanding voice is a little more unexpected, but demonstrates just how open the Boulevards mindset is. With its Fantastic Planet fanfare and slow-motion groove, “Better Off Dead” is an addiction saga featuring vocals by Rashad’s New West labelmate Nikki Lane. It’s an affecting duet, each bringing both a charisma and a world-weariness to their performances. “She’s got some soul in her voice. I’m excited for my fans to hear that song, and I’m excited for her fans to hear her on it. I feel like it could make a fight for the Americana charts. It’s about two people, it’s about that day after, when you’re coming down after using, when you’re hung over, when you’d rather just be dead. But you keep living and go through the pain and deal with the itch, you know.” As that song attests, this is an album full of demons. Rashad sings about some of the same troubles that shook his idols: drug abuse, racism, violence, systemic oppression, professional and romantic self-sabotage. Electric Cowboy doesn’t wallow in the darkness, but counters those tribulations with wild, electric grooves. “On the cover you see a black man on a horse running away from his demons. That’s me. You can hear it all in the songs – struggling with demons and still coming out on top of it all. That’s what funk is! You got some heavy, dark shit, but you also got some joyful compositions, funky basslines, dope harmonies, infectious hooks. So that’s me on the cover, the Electric Cowboy, slaying anything that comes in my path. I gotta keep riding, keep trucking, keep fighting, keep pushing."
LOVE MONTAGE is the solo recording project of Nashville songwriter and producer Solomon Bernard Smith. Influenced by a combination of R&B, Dream Pop and Garage Rock, LOVE MONTAGE combines simple melodies, danceable grooves, and production that is stripped back, yet engaging.
Blissfulness is at the core of Wiseacre, the strikingly purifying sophomore record from Eric Slick. Wiseacre is a location, literally. It’s the place he married the light in his life, Natalie Prass, and titling the record after it is an attempt at bottling the euphoria of his wedding day. The record isn’t just about the joy that comes from a loving existence blossoming out of a new relationship, it’s also about the hard work that it takes to get to that place.
“I’ve always been known as somebody who is on the sidelines,” says Slick, seeking to step out of the shadow of his previous roles. The majority of his time has been behind a drum set, spending the last decade rounding out the industrious outfit Dr. Dog, and as of late, touring as a newlywed alongside his wife. Ironically, the two met on Valentine's Day at a Dr. Dog show before Slick had even joined the band.
Slick’s previous solo work - his debut Palisades, the orchestral Bullfighter, and Out of Habit, a John Fahey inspired EP pedaled as dollar bin ephemera - established the framework for the most significant project of his career thus far.
While with Palisades and Bullfighter Slick mined his subconscious for the moodier and more abstract side of the coin, Wiseacre is a technicolored exaltation. It reads like a novel, sequencing in chronological order the ups and downs of self-acceptance before fully committing to someone else. “Before you get married, you’re going through all the motions in your head,” tells Slick, “Am I worthy of marriage? Do I have the personality for this?” Across 10 songs, Slick artfully sheds these insecurities resulting from fractured relationships (“Over It”), childhood trauma (“Children”), and his parents' own hiccups (“Kind Of Person”). It’s an album about overcoming apprehensions so that he can find solace, not only for himself, but for the person he is now devoted to.
By asking the question, “Why did I think loving you was above me?” on “Haunted”, Slick acknowledges that you don’t have to have a dark cloud hanging over your head to make meaningful art. “You can’t keep up chaos for your whole life, it just doesn’t work. I’ve seen it my whole life with bands that we’ve toured with where it becomes this unsustainable, untenable thing. So yeah, fuck that.” This album comes as a welcomed rejection of the cliche that an artist needs to be a mess in order for their music to hold substance.
After a year of false starts the LP was primarily recorded in a week alongside burgeoning producer Jeremy Ferguson at Nashville’s Battle Tapes Recording. From a rare and custom built Spectrasonics mixing board to just about every guitar pedal imaginable, Ferguson had the tools to inspire moments like the off-kilter guitar solo in “Closer to Heaven”, applying a pedal that starved its own power supply, intermittently shorting it out. “I think it’s just a matter of time before everybody starts recording with him,” predicted Slick, “He’s a genius.”
In addition to efforts made by one of his oldest friends and an indispensable guide for the record, Andy Molholt of Speedy Ortiz & Laser Background, vocal contributions were made by Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips , the prolific Butch Walker, and a central force in Wiseacre’s DNA, the radiant Natalie Prass offering a shimmering duet on the record’s apex single “Closer to Heaven.” The story behind “Closer to Heaven” stems from a recurring dream of being trapped in a three-story house with the bottom floor representing hell, and the subsequent levels symbolizing purgatory and heaven. Each floor was dotted with the characters from his past, sorted into their respective levels dependent upon their influence on his life. Prass’s voice is like an extended hand, pulling him upward past the destructive faces and into the plane of proverbial Eden.
After a heady first half, the record begins to wind down a bit, blossoming into something prettier. If the start of Wiseacre is peeling away at life’s chaos, the latter half is welcoming the moments of cohesion amongst the chaos, namely, his own wedding. Singing “Tears streaming in the sun, and you are the one,” Slick reflects on when he was left uncontrollably crying as the woman he was about to marry walked down the aisle towards him on the touching track “Someday.” The song continues to ruminate on the couple’s destiny - growing old together, finding joy in each other, and eventually fizzing out with a mind at peace. And as much as that song is about his wife, the most affecting line is a love letter and a gift to everyone important in his life, assuring them “I’ll be in the air with you.”
Boulevards w/ Eric Slick, Love Montage
Sun Jul 17 2022 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
(Doors 6:30 PM)