Knitting Factory Presents

Donavon Frankenreiter, Grant-Lee Phillips

Event Info:

Knitting Factory Concert House - Spokane
Spokane , WA
Thursday Mar 16, 2017
Show: 7:00 PM
Doors: 6:00 PM
All Ages
$18.00

Additional Info:

All Ages
Donavon Frankenreiter
(Jam Bands)
Donavon Frankenreiter's new album, The Heart, officially marks the start of the singer-songwriter's second decade as a solo recording artist. It's been over ten years since the release of his self-titled debut, and in that time he has grown, not only as a musician, but also as a man. He's raising a family and nurturing two creative careers-one onstage, one in the waves-but on top of all that, he's still learning what makes him tick. And so, naturally, he named his album after his ticker. ...
Donavon Frankenreiter's new album, The Heart, officially marks the start of the singer-songwriter's second decade as a solo recording artist. It's been over ten years since the release of his self-titled debut, and in that time he has grown, not only as a musician, but also as a man. He's raising a family and nurturing two creative careers-one onstage, one in the waves-but on top of all that, he's still learning what makes him tick. And so, naturally, he named his album after his ticker. ...
Donavon Frankenreiter's new album, The Heart, officially marks the start of the singer-songwriter's second decade as a solo recording artist. It's been over ten years since the release of his self-titled debut, and in that time he has grown, not only as a musician, but also as a man. He's raising a family and nurturing two creative careers-one onstage, one in the waves-but on top of all that, he's still learning what makes him tick. And so, naturally, he named his album after his ticker. The songs here are seriously sentimental, without question the heaviest material he has released to date. Part of that inspiration came from his co-writer, the prolific songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips, with whom Frankenreiter had collaborated in the past on his album Pass It Around. He recognized the ease with which the two worked together and sent Phillips a handful of new tunes and ideas. He was astonished at the brilliance of the songs that came back, and so quickly, but also by one of Phillips' suggestions in particular. To record them, Frankenreiter booked two weeks of studio time in May of 2015 at Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley, Texas. But unlike the privacy afforded by most studios, these sessions were to be live-streamed on the Internet in a soul-baring exhibition for his fans-talk about intimate and honest. With just two bandmates and a studio engineer, Frankenreiter knocked out a song each day and recorded the entire album in full view of a watching public. He had never been so inspired, and embraced every aspect of the situation: the landscape, the lodging, the isolation, the overall challenge.   The nature of the recording environment removed any "fuck-around" time and replaced it with the utmost efficiency and excitement. As Frankenreiter says, it was an experiment, and it invigorated the band, resulting in their most cohesive process to date. Throughout the process, he continued to have more encounters of the heart-some more literal than others. While recording "Woman," it was noticed that a Tibetan singing bowl found in the studio was in the same key as the Heart Chakra, one of the centers of spiritual energy in the body, and both just so happened to be in the same key as the song. Someone played it, and the sound made the final cut on the album. Elsewhere, the song "Little Shack" was culled from someone who shares Frankenreiter's heartbeat: his 12-year-old son, Hendrix. "One night, at home in Hawaii, I was trying to write songs and my son was jamming on his electric," he says. "I was like, 'What is that song?' and he said, 'It's just something I've been working on.' He taught it to me, and I recorded it that night and sent it to Grant. Twenty-four hours later, Grant sent back the words. It kinda has that vibe of two people getting together: it doesn't matter where you are in the world, I got everything I need right in front of me. It sounded like I wrote it, and Hendrix wrote the music. That was the first time that's ever happened." Other moments on the album, like Sleeping Good Night, The Way You Catch the Light, When the River Bends (co-written by Graham Colton and Phillips), and the aforementioned Big Wave, highlight emotions but also have about them an ease, a familiarity, a confidence that only comes from experience. These are songs that Frankenreiter could not have pulled off in his first decade. There is a rollicking comfort to them, but also those serious sentiments of love and loss, faith and joy and, more than anything, self-examination and freedom. And, for now, Frankenreiter's "thing" may be compassion. Perhaps most heavy on "The Heart" is its final song, "California Lights," a tune written about Frankenreiter's father's battle with Leukemia. "It was written about my dad, who was dying during the making of this record. He died about two weeks after we finished it. It was pretty intense, a heavy song to record. I did that song in its completion three times, that's all I could only make it through. The live take of me playing the guitar and singing was the only way I could do it. I was seeing the heart everywhere." In those moments of emotional heaviness, Frankenreiter reaches for his guitar to guide him, for an escape. "I felt like I was completely in a bubble the whole time I recorded, I was so inside the music. I cried when I left the studio, and the guys in the band did, too; it was radical. It was like going back to reality. That's what music does, you can definitely escape." A decade into his career, Donavon Frankenreiter has learned to listen to his ticker above all else. Doing so has allowed the light to come in from all the corners of his world, even those where there is darkness. Sharing the load with those he trusts, and especially with those he loves, he has seized the opportunity to take control of his craft, on his own terms, and to follow his own beat. 

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Grant-Lee Phillips
(Singer-Songwriter)
In a career defined by risk and reflection, Phillips only just recently took on the biggest gamble of his life…and with the wager comes The Narrows. ...
In a career defined by risk and reflection, Phillips only just recently took on the biggest gamble of his life…and with the wager comes The Narrows. ...
In a career defined by risk and reflection, Phillips only just recently took on the biggest gamble of his life…and with the wager comes The Narrows. For practically all of his time on Earth, songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips has reconciled widescreen mystery and wonder with his own experiences from a fixed vantage point. Not that California is such a myopic perch: The state whose very name implies the promise of reinvention and potential wealth encompasses such varied terrain as Stockton (the hardscrabble port town of Phillips’ birth), the now-fleeting bohemia of San Francisco, and the sprawling industry capitol that is Los Angeles – his home since age 19. “Los Angeles is a desert,” he explains from the road in Oslo, Norway, “It’s a hard place to plant your roots and a harder place to pull ’em up after some thirty years.” In 2013, he did just that: The lifelong California resident transplanted himself and his family to landlocked Tennessee. Reasons why abound, but answers to the questions the relocation posed are still emerging. His last LP, Walking in the Green Corn was a resonant meditation on translating his own ancestral legacy into the present era. As he was listening to the past, he heard echoes of his own experience – and those of his descendants – rolling off the Tennessee hills. “It held the promise of a quieter life,” he says, “something resembling my own rural upbringing in the San Joaquin Valley. And the people of the mid-south reminded me of home – my dad being from Arkansas, my mom from Oklahoma. And the soundtrack of my boyhood was so often tethered to Nashville…” This concentrated nexus of romance, recollection, historic struggles and tragedies, and peerless craftsmanship – coupled with the hopes, fears, and isolation that accompany transition – formed the backdrop of The Narrows, Phillips’ latest dispatch on Yep-Roc Records. Bathed in a woody, warmly reverberating sonic signature, the album’s thirteen songs are marked by longing and a resolute sense of purpose: As though hurling yourself full-force into the unknown is as sensible as any other more commonly prescribed course. After all, what feels unknown may be residing just below the surface – should you be willing to dig for it and be open to discovery. “Discovery is what I love the most about songwriting,” Phillips shares. “When it comes to albums, I tend to let the through-line reveal itself as I gather a collection of songs. Recurring themes tend to arise organically, and I enjoy encountering them like fresh webs in the morning.” The lure of Tennessee, the longing for change, trusting some sort of ancient unknown and a willingness to set out onto new paths are imprinted in the subtext of The Narrows, with the opening “Tennessee Rain” ringing out like a manifesto: “I’ll get to where I’m going,” Phillips sings assuredly. “The sun is still plenty high.” The power and substance so ably, tangibly imparted by The Narrows is humble validation of Phillips’ instincts and his subsequent decision to uproot. One of the first people to reach out to Phillips in Tennessee was drummer Jerry Roe – grandson of eccentric guitar virtuoso and songwriter Jerry Reed. Phillips had met him years before, when Roe told him, “If you ever want to make a record down here, I’m in – and I’ll help you find the right players who’ll get your stuff. But I wouldn’t move here.” “About a year later,” Phillips recalls, “I rang him up to say that I had ignored half of his advice, but wanted to take him up on the other half.” Roe introduced him to multi-instrumentalist Lex Price, who plays electric and upright bass throughout The Narrows, in addition to a bit of guitar and banjo. “As a trio, we were off and running.” Tracking live, vocals and all, from the studio floor of Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Studio, the core trio display uncanny sensitivity – mining their unfamiliarity with one another as a virtue that lends depth and humanity to Phillips’ observations. “This set of songs,” Phillips observes, “seem to pivot between the personal and historical – like a lens, focusing in and out. The Creek and the Cherokee, of which I’m descendent, called this land home before the removal. I’m captivated by the stories and the energy here.” The Narrows balances that history with Phillips’ own severance from his birthplace, his continued journey into marriage and fatherhood, and the passing of his own father. “Moccasin Creek,” delivered by the band with a daring sense of space and a vivid, clear-eyed vocal from Phillips, mines those emotional and geographical intersections. “I envisioned myself one day venturing into the Arkansas land where my father’s side of the family sprang forth,” Phillips explains. “There’s a part of the river down by the old family home known as the Narrows – the unfriendly part where you fight against the current and try to not to be pulled under. I saw in this a metaphor…” The tension between past and present, foundations and freedom, embodies nearly every song on The Narrows. The elliptically rolling, marimba-laced “Cry Cry” sings out from the perspective of one who’s ancestral home and culture has been lost. “Same people said that I was godless, same people showed me how to pray,” Phillips intones wearily, but with pronounced determination, “same people with a pen or a rifle, same people took it all away.” Riding in on a mid-tempo three-finger banjo roll, “Rolling Pin” turns the focus to the more quotidian, presenting a sonic scrapbook of Phillips’ early misadventures with his wife. “Heart don’t fail me now,” he prays, looking back at the fractured exhilaration that somehow congealed into something solid. The Narrows’ depth of subject matter, starkly dynamic performance, and uncluttered poetry put Phillips’ gift as a vocalist – as translator and living vessel of these ideas – to the test. His burnished tenor rings simultaneously confessional and confident, bringing an off-hand candor to his songs heaviest moments while imbuing the smaller moments with palpable awe. Occasional overdubs – keys, pedal steel, fiddle – enrich the song’s textures without detracting from the absorbing immediacy of the performances. Having access to Dan Auerbach collection of museum-quality vintage equipment (much of which has also been heard on records by Auerbach’s band the Black Keys) didn’t hurt either…and, cementing The Narrows’ Nashville bona fides, drummer Jerry Roe’s dad Dave, who played bass with Johnny Cash for eleven years, dropped in to add upright to the gently propulsive “No Mercy In July.” Thus far, Grant-Lee Phillips’ new home has lived up to its promise, the change of scenery producing an evocative, profound record that extends the city’s legacy of homespun craftsmanship and off-the-cuff recording methods. “True to his word,” Phillips concludes, “Jerry Roe turned me on to this other Nashville, which I suspected might exist – the kind of creative community I was yearning for. There’s a reason that Bob Dylan and Neil Young were drawn here to make seminal albums…but wherever you’re coming from, music has a way of transcending a lot of boundaries. It needs no passport, but if it did, it would have a stamp from every place on the green earth….”

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