Ashleigh Flynn grew up in Kentucky and cut her teeth on local bluegrass music. She arrived on the national scene in 2008 with the release of her third record, American Dream, and continues playing national and international stages with the release of A Million Stars (2013). A prolific songwriter, Flynn is also an electrifying performer blessed with unbridled charisma. Other full-length studio records include Chokecherry (2002) and Ashleigh Flynn, self-titled (1999) and a live record, Sneakin’ Out with Ashleigh Flynn (2005).
I was fortunate to catch up with Ashleigh last weekend as she played the first annual Sundown Grand Ol’ Country Festival on July 22nd at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove with her all-girl band the Riveters: Nancy Luca on lead guitar, Carmen Paradise on bass and Jolie Clausen on the drums.
Portland’s Mexican Gunfight was formed in 2006 by four old friends and musical brothers in arms who had worked together in various combinations since around 1985. While definitely a rock band, the band’s stylistic influences abound: blues grit, country lyricism, the soulfulness of gospel, a rare jam thrown in … occasionally even tinges of Latin and jazz.
Mexican Gunfight is:
Vocals, Bass / Dave Coey
Guitar, Vocals / Alan Toribio
Piano, Hammond Organ / Mike Walker
Drums, Vocals / Ned Failing
As part of the McMenamin’s Great Northwest Music Tour the Freak Mountain Ramblers returned to Grand Lodge for another stellar show. They have been with the tour from the beginning (at least 10 years) and are invited back every year. They showed us why Friday night as they parading their wide assortment of music ranging from classic pop & rock, modern pop and Rock, and (their specialties) country and swing (which they often combine). This has got to be the most versatile band in the Northwest. These guys know how to fill a dance floor and there are a lot more shows coming up on this tour so I hope you can make one. In the mean time, have a look at some photos from Friday night.
Pretend Sweethearts is a duo of singer/songwriters/multi-instrumentalists based in Atlanta who play a wide range of music from roots to blues to folk to country. Brianna Blackbird and Drew de Man met while studying music therapy here in Portland. In the course of writing songs together, releasing recordings and touring like crazy, they became “real” sweethearts. I have been a fan for a while and was glad to catch up with them for the first time last night at McMenamin’s Rock Creek Tavern. They were joined by their friend Rochelle Muzquiz handling the percussion duties.
Bri was born and raised in Portland, so this summer tour brings her back home. Drew is from Georgia forming his first band No River City in 2001, spending six years recording and touring. He is wildly talented on the guitar, she sings like a bird, and their mix of music will keep you engaged for hours. They’ve got a few more Northwest dates before they fly away, so check them out if you can.
The scene on a memorable Thursday night in April 2016 was intoxicating from start to finish – I was lucky enough to catch Jack Dwyer before he began his mid-week residency show at McMenamin’s Al’s Den. Then, I hopped on a bus down to Portland City Grill for their delicious Happy Hour and saw a rainbow flirting, then fully displayed, then doubled – all within an hour!
Grabbing my umbrella, I flew back to Al’s Den to catch Jack’s show…whew! Just made it! And then came Gordon Keepers and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink with their duo EP release: Heartwood! The rainbow paled in comparison to the natural beauty these two created with their perfectly blended vocals. The room literally vibrated when they gently slid from some chords into unison or vice versa. They sang as two people with one voice, one breathing pattern, one manner of phrasing. Perfectly in tune in every way!
Elisabeth and Gordon opened up with her singing alone over his bass playing. The contrast between her pure high tones and the deep resonance of the bass completely silenced the rest of the room. Then, they quickly moved into more animated pieces, adding drums and mandolin, inviting the audience to stomp, clap and dance along. Staying true to folk roots, Heartwood reflects the spirit and ambience of Portland, Oregon, and the Northwest. Every song on the CD references something we can all relate to: naturally occurring tangibles like water and dust, or natural feelings we’ve all had. The music is in and of the Great Northwest, with songs that reference even specific intersections in Portland. The song “Burnside and 17th” was about a spot within very easy walking distance of where we sat to hear them perform it!
The songs are based upon themes we can all identify with – coming from a variety of emotional birthplaces. Gorgeous vocals blend beautifully with classic instrument choices. The EP was engineered by Evan Mersky at Red Lantern Studio in Portland. Joined by string genius Jack Dwyer on electric guitar and mandolin, and Sam Weiss on fiddle, the combination is absolutely stunning.
What a lovely night – I wasn’t expecting to hear anyone other than Jack and his band. Gordon and Elisabeth’s Heartwood was a treat, and I’m so happy that I was able to hear this fresh project! You can find the band online at Facebook or on Gordon’s homepage. Look for the new Heartwood CD, available for pre-order on Earthwork Music’s website.