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Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Listening to the music of Trevor Powers, more widely known as Youth Lagoon, is not so much a psychedelic experience as it is an exploration of Powers’ psyche.

Once upon a time bands could wait a few albums before having a hit — U2, REM and Nirvana among others.  This allowed artists to grow, change and most importantly experiment. These days, with the great contraction of the music business, bands-without-hits are signed and dropped faster than ever; many are never signed at all.

With Jason Cowsill's most recent project, Troupe Carnivàle, he joins his wife, Jackie, for an exploration of the Vaudeville aesthetic drawing influence from Old West medicine shows.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Portland’s The Quick & Easy Boys are bringing the party back to Eugene in celebration of their new record Make It Easy. The Boys’ bread and butter is an infamously high energy live show.

For many, Sara Watkins will forever be associated with the bluegrass group Nickel Creek. This is understandable considering how popular the band was, but Watkins has been blazing a solo trail for the last six years straight into the midnight sun.

On May 14, just days after The Bad Plus shook The Shedd, another youngish ensemble that’s reinventing jazz for a new era, Refuge Trio, plays the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall — where the trio’s pianist, former UO piano prof Gary Versace, once dazzled Eugeneans a decade ago.

It’s always a little bit of magic when two people can make music together that is larger than the sum of their individual parts. Such is the case with San Diego folk-pop duo The Lovebirds. 

When Grammy-nominated bluegrass act The Infamous Stringdusters were looking for a producer for their new record they naturally picked ... a hip-hop veteran?

If there is an ocean in outer space, then Man or Astro-man? has clearly outsmarted NASA by about 20-plus years and counting. Though traditional surf rock faded with the British invasion, Man or Astro-man? proved that there was still a place for the genre. 

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford do whatever the hell they want. With Javelin, the pair of musicians explores a variety of sounds, channeling influences from across the spectrum of musical genres. “We were never interested in making a tight, recognizable sound,” Buskirk says. 

Spirit Family Reunion is part of a long line of musicians based in New York City while playing the music of rural America. Like Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan and The Holy Modal Rounders before them, Spirit Family Reunion brings youthful energy and enthusiasm to antiquated sounds.

Rebecca Loeb is a fresh-faced and breezy songwriter with the voice of a pop star. Her sound ranges from indie Americana to confessional ballads to cabaret-style waltzes — encompassing the quirky whimsy of Regina Spektor, the rootsiness of Patti Griffin and the dry wit of Randy Newman.

There are many instruments out there, each with its own timbre, tuning and technique of play. You’ve probably seen or heard some of the weirder ones — dulcimer, tanpura, whamola, etc. — but the Frankenstein creation That 1 Guy brings to the stage will knock your socks off.

Seattle’s The Cave Singers came out of the darkness around the same time Fleet Foxes did. But while the Foxes are all angelic harmony and shimmering guitars, The Cave Singers offer a grittier, bluesy take on indie-folk; if the Fleet Foxes serenade you from the town square, The Cave Singers stomp and clap on the back porch with vocalist Pete Quirk mixing a gruff, unschooled, gospel holler to the mix.

What’s in a name? A lot, if your last name is Guthrie. There are few surnames so loaded with expectation, history and respect, and few people as deserving of that respect as Arlo Guthrie.

Jazz may be America’s greatest gift to music, but since its late ’50s heyday, the art form has too often become marginalized by the same process familiar to classical music fans: devolving into either endless recycling of the same old standards (to appeal to a rigidly conservative audience that basically wants to hear its record collections played live) or an extreme avant-garde content to play shrieky, “out” sounds for a tiny in-group audience. Neither is a recipe for building new audiences or sustainable artistic growth. 

Listening to Threads, the latest album from Minneapolis-based indie rock band Now, Now, you might be surprised to learn that the band was hesitant about working with a producer on this record.

If you’ve never heard Built to Spill, let me first ask you this: Have you been living on the moon for the past 20 years, or in a subterranean cave with no light or sound? ’Cause if you haven’t, then there’s really no other excuse to have missed out on some of the most vital and interesting guitar rock produced in the Northwest since Nirvana. 

Jessica Raymond has gathered several musical influences since she arrived in the PNW: Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, the North Cascades and the Olympic Mountains. “I’ve spent a lot of the past couple years in the mountains,” says Raymond, singer-songwriter and guitarist for The Blackberry Bushes, an alt-folk progressive bluegrass trio based in Seattle.

I noticed a Kickstarter campaign the other day; someone is transcribing the flow of popular rappers into traditional music notation and wants help funding a book about it. I hear you can study “turntablism” at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Does this mean rap is dead — or that it’s finally part of the establishment?

When Jeff Austin roams around the state of Oregon, he feels as if he were in a strange movie. But it’s not just the scenery that keeps Austin and the rest of Yonder Mountain String Band coming back to this fine state; it’s the people.