Modern Kin’s sweeping 12 song debut begins with singer Drew Grow’s ardent wail, and expands into heady and tilted harmonies that scrape around rowdy guitars.
These are songs that push forward and take up space, that celebrate the primitive thrill of being loud when you are expected to be quiet. Spinal drums bend under the weight of probing riffs that snap back toward indelible, rousing melodies. At its core, however, this is a live band. And as most great live bands attempt, Modern Kin has successfully turned their recorded work into a mirror of the hot lights, quavering strings and communal experience. What emerges is an expansive album that deeply explores the instinctual, essential connection music can make between us.
The band formed in 2007, in a SE neighborhood of Portland, OR. They were called Drew Grow & the Pastors’ Wives then, a sort of imaginative and sensitive family. Propelled by leader Drew Grow’s extraordinary songwriting, and armed with shared hopes of honoring a sustainable life dedicated to music, the four members worked tirelessly together to bring their vision to life. Their communal house served as a kind of DIY factory – a record label (Amigo/Amiga) was formed by drummer Jeremiah Hayden, songs were written, practiced and recorded, t-shirts screened, tours booked, all within their four walls. And they experienced some successes – their gritty, soulful, self-propelled album earned them national tours with Wild Flag, and The Head & The Heart.
In 2012, the band trimmed down to its three core members (Grow, Hayden, and bassist Kris Doty) entered the studio, and emerged with a new name, a recombined sense of purpose, and a record spun with the elbow grease and fervent drive that had first brought them together. Modern Kin’s debut was also the debut of Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Wild Flag) as a producer. Basic tracks were recorded in a blazing eight days at the now-defunct Hangar Studios in Sacramento, CA, with engineer Bryce Gonzales (Here We Go Magic, The Breeders, Devandra Banhart) before the band returned home to their refuge, their basement studio, to put the finishing touches on the songs. Two of the tracks, Abandon and Big Enough to Cook, were mixed by Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Tame Impala) , while the remainder were mixed by K. Evan Hodge III and Drew Grow.
Bound by tenacity, friendship, and a compelling desire to make formidable music together, Modern Kin released their self-titled debut album October 22, on Amigo/Amiga Recordings.
While Brown might describe himself as a folk singer at heart, Realities of Grandeur is not your standard singer/songwriter fare.
While often technically accurate, “singer/songwriter” fails to adequately portray the complexities of a fully realized epic that plays as a veritable journey through the history of American (and British) music. Classical string arrangements here, big band jazz piano and horns creep in there, the aforementioned folk influence, and then the whole thing seems to teeter on the edge of exploding into one big musical, show-tune. But in only the best way possible. Though the influences are undeniably there and the quality of songwriting may allude to familiar classics at times, (Harry Nilsson, McCartney, Paul Williams, Dylan, The Muppets…) any familiarity of Realities of Grandeur is hinted at- more like the memory of a memory than a derivative sum of the parts.
After a writing and recording process that spanned nearly three years, the 11 songs contained within the album possess a strong continuity of music and subject matter that document the struggle to completion. “I discovered at some point that the main reason I write songs is to remember things that are important to me… things that I tend to forget,” says Brown. Topics range from prime numbers to recipes for simple living, or perhaps more accurately; recipes for simple dying. In fact, inevitable absolutes, like death, are a main thematic element of Realities of Grandeur. “This album is often about absolutes and learning to accept or deal with them… because they certainly do exist and are often inconvenient. But it is my intent, in life and music, to find the purpose and hope implied in absolutes.”
One part of The Blaqks.
As folk as any alternative musician and as alternative as any folk artist, singer/songwriter Gregory Rawlins is tougher to pin down than a feral cat.
His inventive compositions, austere command of language, and homegrown honesty translates to what one coined as, “Alternatively Bestial Truck- stop Folk.” While his subject matter falls somewhere between the natural reverence of the incorruptible John Denver and the unsettling introspection of Leonard Cohen, Rawlins’ playing style courts quick, jangly, Guthrie- like strumming and delicate alternating thumb finger picking that recalls a Southern country/blues tinge of Townes Van Zandt or R.L. Burnside– beneath it all is a genuine wordsmith.
Musik is the heartbeat of the soul. Through it, we want to change the world and make it a better place. Bring people together 4 a common purpose. Make people dance and get off. “I have been into all the various types of electronica 4 a long time and have wanted to bring my studio work to an audience”.
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