Today the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is devoted to local music, made here in West Virginia. I’ve already covered a few notable albums, but there’s plenty to talk about, and much of this music is only available as downloads. I will post links to every album I list here, but be advised that, if there are physical copies, and I don’t provide a link to where you can order them, you may have luck at Budget Tapes & Records, Sullivan’s Records, or Taylor Books. Also be advised that many of these albums are available from iTunes, but since I have not assimilated into the world of Apple, it’s hard for me to get those links.I’m still trying to get used to this post-physical-objects world we now find ourselves in.
I’ve been a supporter of the local music scene for nearly thirty years, as the host of Radio Free Charleston, and also as the author of the PopCult blog, so devoting a day to this topic shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
In no particular order, here’s a list of great recently-released local albums:
John Radcliff “Stupid Mind”
John Radcliff is an old friend, going way back to the original Radio Free Charleston days, and he’s also a hell of a musician and songwriter. His latest album, available only as a download right now, is a priceless slab of pop-rock Heaven. I’m going to quote from Rad’s Bandcamp page now, and apologize because I’m too lazy to change it from the all-caps that used to write his profile:
JOHN RADCLIFF IS A SINGER/SONGWRITER THAT LOVES THE TECHNOLOGY THAT ALLOWS HIM TO RECORD HIS SONGS IN THE COMFORT OF HIS OWN HOME. HIS SONGS REMIND HIM OF NO ONE IN PARTICULAR, AND THAT IS THE POINT. HIS SONGS ARE VERY POP ORIENTED. WHILE HE CALLS HIMSELF A SINGER/SONGWRITER, HE LIKES THE FLESHED OUT FULL BAND SOUND. THIS ALLOWS HIM TO INVITE FRIENDS OVER TO HELP HIM SHAPE THE SOUND OF HIS SONGS.
This is exquisite stuff. It’s pure ear candy, with great music and clever lyrics, and you can download it HERE.
The Heavy Editors
I have fallen into a bit of a trap where every time I play a song by John Radcliff on Radio Free Charleston, I remember to play one in the same show by his former Feast of Stephen bandmate, Joe Vallina. I repeat that quirk of mine here, by mentioning the EP by Joe’s new band, The Heavy Editors, right after plugging Rad’s new album. I raved about this EP back in September, and you can go read that now so that I don’t have to quote heavily from myself.
You can download The Heavy Editors debut EP HERE.
4OHM MONO is the latest project of Huntington maestro John Lancaster, and the band has released two killer digital-only EPs this year, The Death and Resurrection of a Salesman and Dissonant Praises. The band consists of John Lancaster on vocals and guitars, Mac Walker on guitars and synth, Barry Smith on bass and Josh Adkins on drums.
Both releases were produced by 4 OHM MONO, and recorded and mixed by Barry Smith. and they both sport cool covers designed by Justin McCormick. This is pretty epic progressive metal and the band has created a monumental sound, with heavy music and clever lyrics.
Both releases are available on their Bandcamp page but can also be found on just about any digital/streaming platform (iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc.). You can also hit up their website and follow them on Facebook.
Chuck Biel “Mumblety-Peg”
Chuck is a legend in Charleston and has shepherded many incredible bands and projects over the years. His most recent release is available for download from CD Baby, and it’s called “Mumblety-Peg.” This is chill-out music, played largely on his Harpejji, and it’s perfect to relax to while the music stimulates your mind. I’ll go to the description on the page…
Emmy nominated Film Composer Chuck Biel’s recent Musical effort “Mumblety-Peg”, composed, performed, recorded & produced by Chuck, features the new instrument the Harpejji. With 24 strings and a range like an orchestra, the sounds produced go from from happy to energized to caressing and mournful…that is to say, emotion packed. Mumblety-Peg: a game, and an Album by Chuck Biel
You can download Mumblety-Peg HERE, and visit Chuck’s site to hear what he’s been up to lately HERE.
Speedsuit is the latest musical project from Stephen Beckner, another of my old friends from the original RFC days, and one of the finest songwriters this state has ever produced. In Speedsuit Stephen is joined by Dan Jordan, Ryan Jackson and on “WAX,” their debut album, Dave Roberts or Brian Young trading off on drums.
It’s all great stuff, in a classic style influenced by everyone from The Beatles and Stones to Johnny Cash to XTC. You can download WAX HERE, and go out and attend their gigs for the full experience. I do believe that physical copies of this album are available at local music shops and at their shows, but I’m not 100% certain of that.
Todd is another West Virginia treasure, and he doesn’t really have a new release out, but you can’t really go wrong with any of his albums. As it say on his website: “WV Troubadour, Played everything from Alternative Rock to Bluegrass, but is mainly known for the sharp wit, soaring vocal & guitar prowess found in many of his songs while performing his hybrid brand of Contemporary Americana-Folk. He has performed venues as diverse as NPR’s Mountain Stage, CBGB’s, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Kennedy Center. He is about to perform near you”
He’s also offering a remarkable deal on a bundle of his entire catalog. You can read about that HERE, and scope out his individual releases HERE, if you’re afraid of making that big a commitment. These are physical copies of his albums, by the way, so you can actually wrap them and stick them under the tree.
Kerry is a local musician and songwriter who is going through a ridiculously prolific period. He jumps from genre to genre and leaves his mark on each. I think he’s put out at least three albums this year, possibly more, and they’re all filled with terrific tunes from this one man band. I’ve been playing his stuff on Radio Free Charleston for months, and people are loving it.
You can find all of his releases available for download HERE.
This mysterious collective of unspecified individuals produces bizarre experimental electronic music. Not for the faint of heart, this is music for the adventurous futurists on your holiday list. Also, they occasionally use the swear words. You can download their latest release, from just a few weeks ago, right HERE.
Johnny Compton “Last Man Standing”
Johnny Compton is a local legend, a guitarist who can shred your face off one minute, then turn around and play something so tender that it can make you cry the next. In fact, Johnny knows 17 ways to make you cry with his guitar, and only one of them involves physical contact. He’s mastered everything from metal to bluegrass to the blues and acoustic ballads and he’s managed to do it all while maintaining his reputation as a bad-ass >shut yo’ mouf<. It’s why they call him “JMFC.” The MF does not stand for “Mighty Fine,” but that is an apt description of how he plays.
He’s endorsed by Killer B guitars, Von York strings, Spectraflex cables, Checkered pedals, Planet Tone pickups, InTune picks, Corvid enclosures and JN Branding. I will be playing the heck out of his solo album, Last Man Standing, on Radio Free Charleston in the coming weeks, but you can get the whole album HERE, and you might even find physical copies at local music shops or at his gigs, if they haven’t sold out yet.
This Album is a collection of songs written by Johnny Compton throughout his career. Friends and Family came together to help Johnny complete these unfinished works. This project is a look at Johnny in a different light than what his fans are used to seeing.
Wolves of the Calla
While Johnny cut loose with his solo album just a couple of weeks ago, earlier this year he tore a hole in the universe with his metal band, The Wolves of the Calla. You can grab their debut EP HERE. It’s loud and aggressive and is pretty much the perfect gift for any teenager who has to go to high school and needs a release.
Membrane Cell “Caduceus”
Membrane cell is the brainchild of Kenny Booth from Trielement and Harrah and David Synn formerly of Godmode Broadway and StychNtyme. Starting out as strictly an instrumental band, Membrane Cell has, like their name implies, evolved.
Now a primarily vocal band with lyrics and only a few instrumentals, and electronic beats fused with electric leads and synth pads with driving but melodic guitars, Membrane Cell sounds like something from the future while staying familiar with their industrial roots. With the beats keeping the overall melancholy tone of the songs, and the compositions taking the listener between pure sonic mayhem to a euphoric trance- Membrane Cell is part electronic, part rock, and 100% experimental.
Move into the future with new music that doesn’t linger in the past. You can find tracks from their debut EP HERE, or download the entire six-song EP HERE. I’ve been playing a couple of tracks from this on The AIR, and folks are really digging it.
Once again going way back to the original RFC days (actually this band pre-dates RFC), we have legendary band, Stark Raven. Stark Raven, formed in the mid-1980’s in Charleston, WV, was a genre bending band that played for thousands of excited fans through out WV and the US during the nine years that they were together. Combining acoustic and electric guitars, bass and drums, an amplified string section (electric violin and cello), electric dulcimer, mandolin, harmonica, accordion and tight three part vocals.
Just last summer the band reunited for a couple of shows and remastered and re-released their albums, which had been out of print for over twenty-five years. It all still holds up, and just as they always defied musical labels, they also manage to defy time, as their music has not aged a bit. You can download their entire catalog HERE, and check local music shops because I know that there are physical copies of their reunion compilation out there. I just don’t know where you can buy them.
There you go, a dozen great local artists who have new music that you can download, and in some instances buy as CDs. If you want to give locally made stuff this holiday season, this is a great way to do it.
Actually, let’s make that a Baker’s Dozen with an album so new that I almost forgot to include it…
Farnsworth “Elk City”
You can find this new album by Charleston’s favorite retro-rockers, Farnsworth, right HERE. I would write more about it, but I’m downloading it as we speak so I can use it as the big finale on this week’s brand-new Radio Free Charleston.
Don’t forget that I have previously recommended The Company Stores, Byzantine and Scarlet Revolt in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide. That’s three more killer local albums for you to consider giving as gifts.
Also, don’t think that your PopCulteer is omnipotent when it comes to the local music scene. I almost left out Farnsworth, and I love those guys. I’m certain that there is even more great local music out there that has escaped my notice. If that is the case, and you know a local band that I missed, please make use of the comments below and share some info about them and a link to where we may find their music.
On top of all that, please don’t forget that PopCult has a sister internet radio station, The AIR. On The AIR we play more local West Virginia music than any other radio station of any kind. Check out the embedded player here:
…or go visit the website, which looks pretty cool on one of those nifty smartphone things that all the young peoples are using these days.
Due to the excessive workload of producing the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide, it’s been over a month since your PopCulteer has produced a new episode of Radio Free Charleston, but as soon as this post is ready to go, I’m hopping over to the recording studio to see if I might be able to crank out a special episode to air beginning on Tuesday, December 12, the very day this post will go live.
I’ll be including one track from every recommended artist on this list. You can listen at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday, with a replay Thursday at 2 PM, and extra reruns all week long.