Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Eric Clapton,
Unplugged

Well here you have it–the most feckless, no account, totally useless dog turd of an album it has ever been my displeasure to hear. On 1992’s Unplugged axe legend turned pop hack Eric Clapton plays the blues with far less passion and commitment than your average 94-year-old lady puts into a game of Mahjong, laying waste to “Layla” and adding his live version of “Tears in Heaven” to the short list of contenders for worst song ever in the process.

The joke’s on me, I suppose. Here I’d been begging somebody to unplug old Slowhand for years, and when they finally did I got… this monstrosity. Be careful what you wish for.

Robert Johnson–whose “Malted Milk” Clapton does a grave disservice to here–sold his soul to the devil; Clapton sold his soul–or what little was left of it–to MTV. As it turns out, one is much safer making deals with the Lord of the Underworld. But I’m not blaming MTV; its corporate heads didn’t force E.C. to go the adult contemporary, easy-listening route. The decision to sleepwalk his way through the LP’s assortment of hoary blues covers and lackluster originals was all his.

Champions of this bland excuse for an album–and there must be legion, given it’s the best-selling live album of all time–will no doubt argue that Clapton had every right to play like a guy who’s taken too many muscle relaxants, and they have a point; Clapton’s mid-1970s conversion to the easy-does-it Tulsa sound is a matter of historical record, and you can hardly fault a guy for digging the likes of Clyde Stacy and J.J. Cale.

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TVD Radar: Teddy Pendergrass – If You Don’t Know Me Blu-ray, DVD in stores 8/23

VIA PRESS RELEASE | If You Don’t Know Me is the powerful and moving story of R&B star Teddy Pendergrass (Theodore DeReese Pendergrass), who was on the brink of global super-stardom when tragedy struck. A compelling tale with surprising twists and turns, the film is an intimate portrait of one of the greatest singers of his generation. It also tells how Teddy fought for the rights of African-American artists in a 1970s music industry prejudiced against black performers and reveals how, aged just 31, Pendergrass overcame terrible tragedy to get back on stage against all the odds.

The film’s triumphant world premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival (Teddy’s home city), resulted in an Audience Award and a nomination for the Pinkenson Award. The film also had successful screenings at DOC NYC, Minneapolis Sound Unseen Film Festival, and San Francisco Black Film Festival. Earlier this year, If You Don’t Know Me was shown to sold-out cinemas in the UK, on Sky Arts, and also aired on Showtime in the US. Director and BAFTA award-winner, Olivia Lichtenstein conceived, researched and directed the film, which reveals Teddy’s meteoric rise from his tough childhood in Philadelphia to become the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. His was the voice of worldwide hits, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “If You Don’t Know Me by Now.”

Olivia recalls: “I grew up listening to soul music and I’d just started listening to Teddy again when I saw a documentary about Shep Gordon, the legendary artist manager who worked with everyone from Blondie to Alice Cooper – and Teddy. It included a little bit about him working with Teddy Pendergrass and it made me realize that I didn’t know what had happened to him. I had a really strong sense that I had to make a film to tell his story.”

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TVD Premiere: AstroLogical, “Symbiosis”

Vancouver-based producer Nate Drobner, aka AstroLogical, crafts dreamy electronica that navigates between jazz, soul/funk, ambient, and future-beat.

TVD is pleased to premiere the newest single, “Symbiosis,” which bops along to an elegant mix of glowing synths and hushed vocals. AstroLogical is clearly not out to hijack anyone’s attention, but here to provide a mellow escape for those looking for an evocative soundscape to accompany their morning coffee or evening cocktail. It’s a lush and unhurried production which lends itself to a magic hour listening session.

After releasing a number of solo instrumental hip-hop projects through the label Jellyfish Recordings in the early 2010s, Drobner began focusing his energy within the production duo Potatohead People; a collaborative project with his old friend Nick Wisdom, eventually getting noticed by Brooklyn-based record label Bastard Jazz. The label is now backing AstroLogical’s solo output, beginning with the debut EP “Private World,” due in stores June 21st.

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TVD Radar: Hamell On Trial, Choochtown
20th anniversary vinyl edition in stores 7/19

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Hamell on Trial, the musical alias of New York-based poet and folk punk hero Ed Hamell, is set to release Choochtown (20th Anniversary Edition) on July 19th via New West Records.

The deluxe edition of the album has been remastered from the original tapes and will be available on vinyl for the first time. Choochtown (20th Anniversary Edition) features 11 previously unreleased bonus tracks including the original basement recording sessions produced by Billy Nicgorski (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) which offer a raw, new perspective of the songs that made the final record. Uncut magazine in the UK named Choochtown their #6 “Best Album of the Year,” stating “This album’s rough-edged enough to make Limp Bizkit sound like the Cocteau Twins.”

Of Choochtown (20th Anniversary Edition), Hamell offers, “20 Years! Wonderful to know that Choochtown still holds up, continues to roam the streets at midnight, spray painting slogans of rebellion on corporate store fronts. Really proud of this beautiful package New West is releasing for the 20th anniversary—and I certainly called it with Uncle Morris huh? For those of you that champion the disenfranchised, the square pegs in the round holes, those gazing from the shores of sanity and witnessing the tides of hatred and facism slithering closer to the sands, Bobby, Chooch, Nancy and all the gang down in Choochtown that refuse to be blown to the dusts of oblivion want to buy you a drink. They welcome you…and on shocking pink vinyl no less!”

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Graded on a Curve:
Bob Dylan,
Hard Rain

The most excellent Martin Scorsese Rolling Thunder Revue documentary on Netflix is most definitely a must see, but I won’t be buying the accompanying box set Bob DylanThe Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings; sitting down to listen to 14 discs and multiple versions of the same song (eight of “Isis” alone) is a fatiguing proposition.

There are, of course, two other ways of aurally reliving Dylan’s traveling folk-rock circus of a roadshow, which made the rounds of smaller halls in two legs in 1975 and 1976. Like the box set, 2002’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue captures the roving band on merry minstrels on the first, Northeastern leg of the tour; 1976’s Hard Rain documents the second leg.

Hard Rain received poor reviews upon its release and never shows up on lists of great Dylan albums–as many have noted, the second, Southern leg of the Rolling Thunder tour did not go as well as the first. Call it road fatigue or a simple case of pushing a good thing too far, but the consensus is that Dylan and his band mates were tired; enervated is a word often used to describe these performances.

But–and you can call me a contrarian if you want–I enjoy Hard Rain, and would argue that, at least in parts, it’s better than the other two live recordings. Why? A simple case of song selection. No, Hard Rain does not include versions of the revved-up and extraordinary “Isis,” the impassioned and angry “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” or the divinely lovely “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” on which Dylan and Joan Baez’s vocals mesh so beautifully.

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Needle Drop: Historian, Spiral Again

PHOTO: ANNA MARIA LOPEZ | The work of Los Angeles psych outfit Historian is moody, strange, and strikingly poignant.

Five releases in, it’s now clear that a Historian album is always a cohesive work where the sum is greater than the parts. Spiral Again is the newest edition to their catalog, and possibly the most personal and paired down release to date. Glowing organs have replaced the full blown orchestral arrangements which usually accompany the shamanistic poetry of band spearhead Chris Karman, resulting in a level of intimacy that previous records failed to capture.

Karman has a knack for turning a phrase, and his doomsday prophesies are often imbued with grace notes of beauty and hope. The music is couched in warm analog production, inviting the listener to melt away in the blissful repose of a man who is dealing with his worldly anxiety in the most elegant of ways. According to Karman, “Spiral Again is really my attempt at capturing the feeling I get, alone in the middle of the night. There’s an air of mystery, sadness, longing, and tinge of joy. It’s a fairly indescribable moment that I feel I was able to tap and sustain for an entire record.”

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Graded on a Curve: Michael Winograd,
Kosher Style

When clarinetist Michael Winograd’s new record entered this writer’s reality as an upcoming release, some form of coverage was basically inevitable. That its arrival on June 21 includes an attractive vinyl edition surely aided in securing it a long review, but the foremost reason is the quality of its 13 tracks. Worry not, for this isn’t an example of the slightly above-average getting thrust to the forefront for simply being amongst the best the contempo scene has to offer; just for starters, Winograd has played with the great violinist Itzhak Perlman. As the words below illuminate, he is the real deal, and Kosher Style is masterful klezmer. The record is out now through OU People.

Record release PR regularly comes attached with quotes of positivity from relevant parties. These additions range from superfluous to insightful, but they are rarely worthy of non-promotional citation. However, the statement accompanying Kosher Style from Canadian accordionist and klezmer man Geoff Berner is an exception: Winograd is not a dabbler. He isn’t an aspiring 12-tone composer who can play some klezmer. He isn’t a punk-rocker looking for a new angle on approaching his songwriting. He IS a klezmer. He knows klezmer. He fucking blows away the room at klezmer.

Listening to the opening title-track here, one need not be a klezmer expert to absorb the rightness of Berner’s statement, as the virtuosity is undeniable, and just as important is a palpable joyous assurance; at a smidge over two minutes long, “Kosher Style” wiggles and soars as a statement of intent. Along with establishing the band’s overall prowess, the highlights are Winograd’s clarinet runs and a sweet solo from trumpeter Ben Holmes.

Berner’s words could insinuate that Winograd is a stern purist. Track titles like “Bar Mitzvah Bulgar” might strengthen this implication. Indeed, Winograd has been long based in Brooklyn, and it’s doubtful there is a locale in the US where a klezmer specialist could close themselves off from contempo influences in the desire to replicate and preserve the sounds of an earlier era.

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TVD Radar: SQÜRL, The Dead Don’t Die: Original Score in stores 9/13

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The Dead Don’t Die is writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s unique, semi-comic take on the zombie apocalypse genre. As with his recent efforts Only Lovers Left Alive and Paterson, the film’s score was composed and performed by SQÜRL, the band Jarmusch and producer Carter Logan founded in 2009. Sacred Bones Records, the same label that released the band’s EP #260 in 2017, is releasing the LP edition of the score.

The score to the The Dead Don’t Die is a true expression of where SQÜRL stand at the center of a decade of sonic exploration. It is the culmination of their passion for analog synths, with guitar violence reverberating from the darker corners of Americana. It is at once a tribute to the classic sounds of horror and sci-fi, as well as a decapitation of traditional film scores. It is naturally supernatural. From their arsenal of tools, Jarmusch and Logan pulled electric guitars and basses made by Rick Kelly and Cindy Hulej at Carmine Street Guitars, an acoustic resonator, Moog Minitaur and Theremini synthesizers, Fender Rhodes electric piano, an old Ludwig drum kit, cheap vintage Casio and Yamaha keyboards and new synths from Critter and Guitari — all sculpted through a collection of effects pedals, notably from Earthquaker Devices.

The inspiration for SQÜRL’s score for The Dead Don’t Die came from some of the most iconic soundtracks of the past half-century of genre cinema — Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer, Bebe and Louis Barron’s Forbidden Planet, Ennio Morricone’s The Thing and Once Upon a Time in the West, Goblin’s Dawn of the Dead, and all things John Carpenter. The singular Theremin work of Samuel J. Hoffman on films like Spellbound and The Day the Earth Stood Still also made its way into Jarmusch and Logan’s consciousness. The result is a new horror soundtrack that stands shoulder to shoulder with the great works of its genre.

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Graded on a Curve:
Neil Young + Stray Gators, Tuscaloosa

With Tuscaloosa, the Neil Young Archives continue to grow. Documenting a night on the road in 1973 with his band the Stray Gators post-Harvest and prior to the arrival of Time Fades Away, this latest installment is intrinsically tied to both of those celebrated records while presenting broadened and toughened aural portraiture of the artist. The results, incomplete and partially the byproduct of Young’s frustrations during this period of newfound success, cohere quite well and should make a nice addition to the shelves of devoted fans; more casual listeners might find its succinct range appealing. It’s out now on double vinyl (with an etched side four), compact disc, and high-res digital through Reprise.

Neil Young is a musician I respect quite a bit, with a large percentage of his output held in at least fairly high esteem, but somewhat predictably for a music nut, I remain largely indifferent to Harvest, the record that will likely endure as his highest-profile work. Every few years I go back and check out the whole thing again to see if my feelings have changed. Thus far, that hasn’t happened.

Unlike some folks, I don’t dislike Harvest as much as I’m just underwhelmed by its abundantly clear and undeniably effective commerciality. I bring up my lukewarm relationship because that album is a major component in Tuscaloosa’s whole. Of the 11 selections captured in the gymnasium of the University of Alabama (again, not the whole evening, as the soundboard recorder apparently wasn’t turned on at the beginning of the set and ran out of tape before the end; additionally, a few songs were simply omitted by Neil), five are from Harvest.

But partially due to the performance circumstance (delivering these songs in a building intended for playing basketball games), there’s more heft and edge to the Harvest tracks; in the order of their playing, “Out on the Weekend,” the title track, “Old Man,” and “Heart of Gold,” all unraveling as a lump after two pre-Harvest solo songs, “Here We Are in the Years” from his ’69 debut and a solo piano “After the Gold Rush,” and toward the end of the album, “Alabama.”

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TVD Radar: The Stan Getz Quartet, Getz at The Gate 3LP in stores now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Previously unreleased live recording of Stan Getz at New York’s Village Gate to be released via Verve/UMe on June 14th. Features an all-star, rarely-heard quartet with pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves, and drummer Roy Haynes.

On November 26, 1961, saxophonist Stan Getz and his relatively new quartet of Steve Kuhn, John Neves, and Roy Haynes performed at New York’s Village Gate. The show was professionally recorded, possibly for eventual release, but was soon forgotten and the tape languished in the vaults for almost 58 years. On June 14th, Verve Records/UMe will release the 2-CD, 3-LP Getz at The Gate, which includes every note recorded that night. This recording and this quartet both serve as a sort of “road not taken” for Stan Getz. Having just returned from living in Europe, Getz assembled a new quartet and was exploring a slightly more modern and aggressive sound with this group. Steve Kuhn had only recently finished playing with John Coltrane’s quartet and a more modern music and sound – personified by Coltrane – was gaining popularity.

By 1962, though, Getz’s album Jazz Samba, with guitarist Charlie Byrd, released and motioned the bossa nova boom, followed by the groovier Jazz Samba Encore! (1963) album featuring Luiz Bonfá. Another significant Getz Verve release was Getz/Gilberto (1964) with Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, which included 1965’s Grammy Record of the Year “The Girl from Ipanema.” The break-out hit dictated the course of Getz’s career for the next few years.

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Demand it on Vinyl: Steve Miller Band, Welcome to the Vault 3 CD/DVD rarities set in stores 10/11

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Renowned guitarist, multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter, bandleader, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller has opened up his voluminous archive of recordings for the first time ever to present a milestone 3CD + DVD box set.

Welcome to the Vault covers Miller’s genre-blurring six-decade career over 52 audio tracks, pairing a number of greatest hits and certifiable rock ‘n’ roll classics with 38 previously unreleased recordings that span demos, rehearsals, outtakes, vintage concert performances, and 5 newly uncovered original Steve Miller Band songs recorded in the 1960s and 1970s. The accompanying DVD collects 21 live performances, among them legendary rare TV appearances and concert videos. Welcome to the Vault is accompanied by a 100-page hardbound book of photos, memorabilia, and artifacts from Miller’s personal collection, as well as an exclusive 9,000-word essay by renowned rock journalist David Fricke. Steve Miller Band’s Welcome to the Vault, also available as a 52-track digital collection, arrives Friday, October 11 via Sailor/Capitol/UMe.

Fricke writes in his liner notes: “Miller wrote ‘Rock’n Me’ with a different setting in mind. He was still without a working band when the English prog-rock giants Pink Floyd asked him to be their special guest at a massive festival on July 5th, 1975 at Knebworth, England. Miller called Lonnie Turner, Les Dudek – a guitarist in Boz Scaggs’ band – and Doug Clifford, the former drummer in Creedence Clearwater Revival. They rehearsed for a single afternoon, working up a half-dozen R&B standards, a couple of Miller hits, and a surprising debut, ‘The Window,’ an early version of which appears on Welcome to the Vault.

“‘But I knew what was going to happen,’ Miller says. The Floyd ‘were gonna put me on at sunset. There won’t be any lights, and I’m just chum. I needed a song to rock the whole joint.’ Miller showed ‘Rock’n Me’ to the band at practice; they played it live for the first time in front of 100,000 people at Knebworth. ‘We closed with it, and it killed them,’ Miller says proudly.”

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Diplomats
of Solid Sound,
The TVD First Date

“My first introduction to vinyl records came through the mysterious RCA console in my parents’ living room and the modest stack of records they owned.”

“The console looked like a piece of furniture, but if you slid the top panel back it revealed a record player, a radio tuner, and some dials for EQ. It truly was a work of art. Inside the compartment was an assortment of 45s and LP records. My parents had rock-n-roll 45s including Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Bill Haley and the Comets. They had pop classics like The Crew Cuts, Harry Belafonte, Trini Lopez. They even had some big band jazz like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller

They had fewer LPs: Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the film soundtrack to West Side Story, Henry Mancini, some Christmas albums, and a few kid’s records like The Chipmunks. Their collection was somewhat eclectic and arbitrary.

My brother and I flipped out when we first heard the Elvis Presley 45 “Heartbreak Hotel.” What a menacing tune! It had dark lyrics about loneliness and despair. The spooky sound of the record set a brooding mood, and Scotty Moore’s staccato guitar breaks are the stuff of legend!

Back in the day, we had limited access to the music we wanted to listen to. That’s why vinyl took on such an esteemed position in a music lover’s life. Sure, you had the radio at home and in the car, jukeboxes at a diner or pizza place, and the sounds emanating from your TV or local movie theater screen, but vinyl records were your possession. You’d listen to them over and over, gaze at the artwork, and read the liner notes. Fascinating!

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Graded on a Curve:
Little Feat, Little Feat

Little Feat’s eponymous 1971 debut may not have changed the world, but to those who were listening it must have come as a revelation–here were four guys, two of ‘em Mothers of Invention alums, boldly staking their claim (and a decent claim it was) as America’s very own Rolling Stones. Not bad for a first outing.

Fronted by guitarist/vocalist and native Angeleno Lowell George–who with his gutbucket growl was the youngest white old black bluesman ever to graduate from Hollywood High School–Little Feat laid it on the line on their first LP. You get lysergic blues, trucker toons, some Sticky Fingers-school country honk–these guys took Gram Parsons’ concept of Cosmic American Music and ran with it. This is edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold music, the sound of the Mississippi Delta on hallucinogens–a mythical collaboration between Don Van Vliet, Dave Dudley, Mick & Keith, ZZ Top, Slim Harpo, and Harpo Marx.

Robert Christgau opined that these guys could “pass for” the Band, but he’s fulla shit. The Band always held things in check; they were as tightly wound as a clock, and clocks aren’t in the business of howling. They never hit as berserk a note as the Feat do on “Hamburger Midnight,” and there’s simply no mistaking the very agitated freak looking for safe harbor in “Strawberry Flats” to Levon Helm’s resigned drifter looking for a place to lay his head in “The Weight.” And the Americana-loving Robbie Robertson never could have come up with as song as bizarrely lovely as “Brides of Jesus,” which is set where exactly? In Lowell George’s LSD-scrambled mind?

No, the early Little Feat was a freak’s dream’s come true. Just check out the sorta Captain Beefheart-esque “Hamburger Midnight,” on which George plays some truly frenzied slide guitar and delivers the most unhinged performance of his career. Or “Strawberry Flats,” wherein poor Lowell (who’s been “ripped off and run out of town”) knocks on a friend’s door in search of succor only to discover: “His hair was cut off and he was wearing a suit/And he said not in my house, not in my house/”You look like you’re part of a conspiracy.”

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TVD Radar: This Is
The Town: A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 2)
in stores 7/21

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The forthcoming album release, This Is The Town: A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 2), out June 21 on Royal Potato Family, celebrates the songs of the legendary Harry Nilsson with performances by Cheap Trick, Martha Wainwright, Lauren Ruth Ward and more. Throughout this captivating set, defying expectations is a continuous theme. The 14 kindred spirits of Nilsson assembled on the collection are as stellar as they are varied in their art, each underscoring different facets of his songwriting. A follow-up to the initial This Is The Town tribute released by Royal Potato Family in 2014, Volume 2 once again finds producer Kenny Siegal at the helm, capturing the album’s vibrant and diverse performances at Old Soul Studios in Catskill, NY.

Kicking things off in grand fashion is Mikaela Davis’s rendition of “Take 54,” the opening cut from Nilsson’s 1972 release, Son of Schmilsson. Davis—a classically trained harpist—injects her own brand of feminist swagger, turning the masculine bravado of the original inside out. Equally intriguing is Martha Wainwright’s take on “Daddy’s Song”—a standout that is particularly revealing in its approach. Here Wainwright opts to slow the tempo and strip away the ’60s psychedelia of the original to reveal the heartbreak of abandon ensconced within Nilsson’s lyrics. It serves as a reminder that even though Nilsson was a pop artist, he was always conscious of the depths of his emotions and surroundings; being one-part troubled troubadour, one-part song-and-dance-man never seemed in conflict.

Legendary rockers Cheap Trick get down and dirty with raucous guitars that emanate manic fuzz on their reading of “Ambush.” Vocalist Robin Zander’s sublime vocals are unparalleled in their expression of the anxieties of war. But the tension is far from bombast, as the performance does everything it can to convey Nilsson’s wry wit, something he was able to masterfully weave into even the most contentious of topics. Elsewhere, indie rockers Invisible Familiars add swirling synths and a percussive march to “Old Forgotten Soldier,” while Valley Queen uncovers a darker, more haunting depth in the Nilsson hit “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City.”

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TVD Radar: My Morning Jacket, The Tennessee Fire: 20th Anniversary Edition 3LP in stores 8/2

VIA PRESS RELEASE | My Morning Jacket is proud to announce the release of THE TENNESSEE FIRE: DELUXE EDITION, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their now-classic debut album. The newly expanded edition includes all 16 original tracks alongside 16 previously unreleased and unheard, lost songs, demo outtakes, alternate versions, and more. THE TENNESSEE FIRE: DELUXE EDITION arrives via Darla Records on August 2, 2019. You can pre-order the record here.

Furthermore, My Morning Jacket will commemorate the momentous occasion with “My Morning Jacket Presents: A Tennessee Fire 20th Anniversary Celebration,” a one-night-only live event set for Friday, August 9 at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY where the band will perform the album in its entirety, along with songs from that era. A special pre-sale for all ticket holders for the band’s performance at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens on August 10 will begin on Thursday, June 13 at 12pm local and ending Sunday, June 16 at 10pm local. Any remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday, June 17 at 12pm local. For complete details on tickets and VIP packages, please visit www.mymorningjacket.com/events.

“Wow. I cannot believe it has now been over 20 years since we recorded THE TENNESSEE FIRE on my cousin John’s grandparents farm out in Shelbyville, KY in a little studio called “Above the Cadillac,” says James. “What a life changing time that was for me — a cosmic door opening to a new universe, thanks to the generosity of family and the spirits of music and connection, I have been so lucky to encounter. We tried to do as many fucked up things as we could that we loved and hoped folks would enjoy. We laughed a lot and we cried some too, ha. We are so grateful and humble that people are still enjoying it so many years later, and we also really love playing these songs live still after all these years, ha ha ha.”

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