Tag Archives: folk

Pretend Sweethearts at Rock Creek Tavern on 2016-07-02


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.






Heartwood – Heartwarming Music to be released May 27!


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!

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-03Elisabeth 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!

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-01The 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.

Heartwood-Heartwarming-Music-02What 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.

Jackalope Saints plays Ivory Crown at Doug Fir 5/6/16


The Jackalope Saints make absolutely excellent music – I met with Clinton Herrick to check in and see what’s next for this bunch! Clinton, on Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica gives credit to his band, saying he’s the “least talented one in the group.” The funny thing is that all the members honor each other this way – the mutual admiration leads to inter-band instrument instruction, cooperative writing, and excellent communication. John Chap plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, and slide guitar. Clinton is grateful to John for all the training over the years. Jay Parshall plays bass and mandolin. Accompanied by Steven Schob on drums, Sharon Cannon on violin, David Celis on trumpet and keys and Lucas Alan on keys – the Jackalope Saints make it look easy…but it’s not. They’re just really, really good at what they do.

The Jackalope Saints are a mysterious bunch with a great story – what’s your favorite line from the story?

Jackalope-Saints-plays-Ivory-Crown-at-Doug-Fir-04JS Bio: Duplicitous, the wilderness speaks half-truths; it calls and goes silent. The Jackalope Saints’ stories are similarly mysterious. From the experience of singer-songwriter Clinton Herrick, the Saints’ music preaches the folklore of Wild America. Herrick’s imagery is elemental—wind and stone, bone and dust—but the lyrical detail guards more than it reveals. Sun-bleached teeth and a shadowed gunshot grow large in the listener’s mind. The imagery, however, only distracts from questions of substance: who, when, and where? But these are tall tales, ghost stories, the true experience of which cannot be found in fact.

Herrick has been drawn to this folkloric imagery since his youth. His grandmother gave him a jackalope postcard when he was ten. It’s still in his guitar case.

Traditionally associated with the American West, the mythical jackalope can mimic any sound. Cowboys around their campfires, echoes, would claim to hear the creatures singing songs back to them in the cowboys’ own voices. It is these uniquely American legends that continue to fascinate Herrick and inspire the Saints’ music.

This upcoming Doug Fir show on May 6th with SASSPARILLA and Water Tower – this seems like a dream bill for all three bands – how did you all come to find each other?

Jackalope-Saints-plays-Ivory-Crown-at-Doug-Fir-01Clinton: I saw both of these bands a pickathon (Sarsaparilla 2008 & Water Tower in 2010) after seeing them, i kinda fan-boy’d out on both bands. Going to a bunch of their shows around town and what not. We actually have been lucky enough to have shared the stage with both of them at this point over the years. This will be the first time we get to harness the amazing power of the two band in the same night though.

Is there another album coming soon? I’ve heard whispers…

Jackalope-Saints-plays-Ivory-Crown-at-Doug-Fir-02Clinton: Soon….. well….. we are going to start working on our new album within the next few months. I think what have learned during the course of the last 3 albums is, for every day you think it’s going to take to finish the album, add a month. BUT, i would love to have a new album out in early 2017….Jesus, that sounds so future.

What bands are you watching here in the NW?

Clinton: The Hill Dogs forever and always, Fruition is incredible…Eldridge Gravy and The Court Supremes are pretty darn amazing, and Nirvana has been killing it recently!

I hear you have a residency coming up at Al’s Den…any ideas about a theme at all?

Jackalope-Saints-plays-Ivory-Crown-at-Doug-Fir-03We are! The last week of June we will be hiding out in the basement! I think the theme of the week is COVER SONGS! In the past 5 years, we have successfully learned and performed 2 cover songs. We are aiming to blow that out of the water and have 1 new cover song for each night of the week at Al’s Dens. Each one of us is bringing a song to the table. It should be a good ol’ time.

That residency does indeed sound like fun – and I can’t wait for the May 6 Doug Fir Show! In the meantime, please enjoy the song “Only Phone Number” from The Jackalope Saints.

McMenamin’s Al’s Den Presents: Ashleigh Flynn’s Songwriter Extravaganza!


Another fantastic choice for the artist residency program at Al’s Den! All week long, from Sunday night through Saturday night, Portland audiences have the chance to hang out and drink beer with musicians of depth and substance- it’s the true essence of community in music. Thank you McMenamins!

Ashleigh-Flynn-at-Als-Den-April-2016-03This program has featured artists from many musical backgrounds, but tends to focus on local flavor, with an emphasis on storytelling and sharing. It’s always a nice surprise to learn what a musician will do when given a week to tell their story! Who will they include…and how? With Portland Notes focusing on local women in the music scene this month, I had to catch an interview with Ashleigh Flynn. This brave woman was biking all day in 80 degree weather – then walked into Al’s Den, set up her own sound system, grabbed a margarita, and proceeded to tell me about her residency, even as the audience filed in. I adore her openness and accessibility – to allow the fans to be included in every part of the evening’s process was generous and delightful.

Ashleigh-Flynn-at-Als-Den-April-2016-02I was so thrilled that Ashleigh Flynn utilized this week’s residency to present what she called a Songwriter Extravaganza featuring some talented local singer/songwriters. Every night, a different guest and a different collaborative song! Monday night’s guest was Nicole Potulsky – watching the interaction between these two filled my heart with joy. Nicole: “When do you want me to go on – 8-9?” Ashleigh: “Sure – or 8:10-8:55…” (Laughter) This week, Ashleigh invited Kathryn Claire to join her on the night of her CD release. The Low Arc of the Sun will be available through Ashleigh’s website and on Soundcloud.. She also hosts Lewi Longmire, Kory Quinn, Virginia Cohen, The Ukeladies, Anita Lee Elliott, Annalisa Tornfelt, and Kate O’Brien! All shows are free, 7-10 PM.

Ashleigh-Flynn-at-Als-Den-April-2016-07In our audio interview (below), Ashleigh and I gush over the value of live performance. Seeing Ashleigh live is an experience to be treasured. Her songs tell deeply emotional stories, and her connection with the audience is constant. Sharp, clever, but warmly motivated humor eased the transitions between emotionally charged songs. Her album was recorded live at Secret Society, and ties deeply to Portland. You can check out a few of her new songs in advance on Soundcloud. Please enjoy the photos and interview, and check out Ashleigh’s website for the new CD and upcoming shows!

Jack Dwyer’s Residency at Al’s Den – Community and CD Releases!

Jack-Dwyer-at-Als-Den-April-2016-FII’ve always been a huge fan and supporter of the famous weekly artist residency at McMenamin’s Al’s Den! The idea dates back to an old history with travelling musicians. No one night stands! Audiences want to get to know the artist by hearing their stories, and learning what motivates them to share their most intimate moments in such a vulnerable way with poetry and melody. McMenamins is THE place to be for local musicians, always a comfortable setting with good hearty food and drinks, attentive service, and a ready audience who are prepared to partake of the music being offered.

Jack-Dwyer-at-Als-Den-April-2016-02Traditionally, the residency at Al’s Den spotlights one artist, who invites his or her various musical friends as guests on each night. This allows Portland a week-long vacation with the host and little musical interludes with visitors each night, keeping the tone consistent, but exciting. Jack Dwyer took a slightly different route, because of his extensive community connections and ties to the cultural roots of his musical genres. Jack has had a long love of folk and bluegrass music – which has a long tradition, based around community, family, and project collaboration. Jack is involved in many Portland bands, in addition to teaching students how to play a variety of stringed instruments at Lewis and Clark College. He’s met other musicians along the way who inspired and encouraged him, joined on many projects, and connected people to play together in events such as this residency.

Jack-Dwyer-at-Als-Den-April-2016-03For this particular week, Jack Dwyer had an ingenious plan. “We have 7 nights to play – let’s invite bands who are releasing albums and showcase their work!” I love this generous, thoughtful, and totally practical spirit! Tuesday marked the CD release for The Brother Cousins, made up of Bobby Winstead, Sam Weiss and Jack Dwyer Thursday night was the Heartwood release – we will be reviewing their CD on Portland Notes this week. Elisabeth Pixley-Fink and Gordon Keepers make up that impressive duo. Friday night features The Rose City Sessions release show with Jack Dwyer, Billy Failing, Sam Weiss, Gordon Keepers, and Bobby Winstead. The closing night on Saturday will highlight Jack’s newest CD Mama’s On the Dance Floor with album art by Noah Cotter. The Jack Dwyer Band will be joined by The Chicken Hill Bandits (Mindy Dwyer, Bill Dwyer, & Eric Prust), Showcasing community in the true sense of the word, Jack has brought family and friends together on stage this week to create an inviting atmosphere. The audience is stomping their feet, clapping their hands, singing along, and adding to the enjoyment of the concerts.

Jack-Dwyer-at-Als-Den-April-2016-01Jack started out in music as a child, playing along with family at community events in his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. He has brought that feeling of family and community with him throughout his musical journey. It comes full circle in this week’s residency at Al’s Den. Jack wants to contribute to the canon of music in his genre. I believe he has and will, but he’s also nurturing the ideas that birthed folk and bluegrass music: family and community connect and grow through sharing story and music together. Please enjoy the interview with Jack Dwyer, a special preview of an advance song “The Mushroom Hunters” from the album Live in Portland, as well as links to his music on Bandcamp and his home page.

Interview with Kelly Jones

Jack Dwyer Band – The Mushroom Hunters