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Mixtape: New albums from Bigfoot Buffalo, Joshua Davis, and Blushing Monk

Nov 7, 2017

This week, John Sinkevics introduces us to three new albums coming out in November. Sinkevics is the editor and publisher of Local Spins, which covers west Michigan’s music scene. 

Bigfoot Buffalo, The Sun is the Moon

Singer-guitarist Kyle Brown is the frontman and chief songwriter for this Grand Rapids-based roots rock band that’s been inspired by the likes of The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and The Band.

The band released its first album in 2015 and for its sophomore full-length project, the group “road-tested” the songs before going into Ben Zito’s Centennial Sound studios in Grand Rapids to record them, something Brown says made it feel like it was “the first full real album” they made. Some of the songs have a Southern rock feel, others swing toward Americana, others sound psychedelic and jazzy even, with a definite retro feel. And when they play live, they definitely stretch out in classic jam band fashion.

The band plays the last of several CD-release shows on Fri. Nov. 10 at Union Street Station before taking a hiatus from performing. The drummer is relocating to Peru this winter, so expect the group to be adding a new member down the road, but definitely will be continuing in 2018.

Joshua Davis, The Way Back Home

Two years after making a much-buzzed-about run on NBC’s The Voice, where he finished third in the nationally televised competition, northern Michigan’s Joshua Davis has finally released a full-length album – his first since 2013’s acclaimed A Miracle of Birds and his fourth solo album.

For this project, released on the Earthwork Music label, he called on producer Steve Berlin of the band Los Lobos to create what’s been described as a “more intentional, polished” album than what Davis has released in the past. And he readily admits that his experience on The Voice forced him to reexamine and hone his singing skills and to consider his voice as another instrument. That certainly shows up in these tender and fetching tracks.

Now, based in Traverse City, the veteran singer and writer has been a beloved mainstay in Michigan’s music scene, first making a splash with the popular Steppin’ In It in the early 2000s and now calling on an established crew of well-known talented musicians to help in the studio on this solo effort, including Dominic Davis on bass, Michael Shimmin on drums and Michael Lynch on keyboards, along with Drew Howard on pedal steel, Joe Wilson on Dobro, Steve Berlin on keyboards and singers May Erlewine, Jen Sygit, Laura Ann Bates and Rachael Davis.

Joshua Davis is playing a series of album-release shows in Michigan this month, including Nov. 10 at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Nov. 11 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Nov. 16 at the City Opera House in Traverse City and Nov. 18 at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids.

Blushing Monk, Blushing Monk

And now, shining a spotlight on the growing legion of talented young jazz players coming out of West Michigan. Interestingly, Sinkevics first got a taste of this burgeoning talent through a band called Brad Fritcher + trois, which later morphed into Brad Fritcher’s MOODs, an improvisational bunch led by Grand Rapids trumpet player Brad Fritcher and featuring keyboard player Dutcher Snedeker.

Sinkevics says watching these guys create songs on the fly, jumping genres and otherwise just bringing a wonderful freshness to every performance, has been a joy. Snedeker, an amazing keyboard player in his own right, recently formed a sort of all-star modern jazz group made of young jazz players who’ve been trained at Michigan State University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University and they recorded this debut EP which explores “the different sounds and styles found within jazz history,” including Thelonious Monk, Modeski Martin & Wood, Duke Ellington and more, and then putting their own spin on the genre by meshing modern swing, hip hop, and funk.

And like all top-drawer jazz players they trade off and contribute to a variety of different bands and combos in the Grand Rapids area, including Benjaman James, Speak Easy, Corey Kendrick's Trio, WMU and MSU Jazz Orchestras, Hannah Rose and The GravesTones, Dan Willenburg's Trio, The Underground Circus, and Cameron Blake.

The core of the band on this debut album features Snedeker, Fritcher, Caleb Elzinga on sax, Olin Clark on guitar, Joe Vasquez on bass and Jordan Otto on drums. For the most part, because these guys are spread out all over and play in other projects, the only place you can really hear them is on this CD, although they did play the Lamp Light Music Festival this past weekend in Grand Rapids and will be playing again here in February. The CD is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon, CDBaby and elsewhere online.

Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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