Charlie Oxford, JD Eicher and Russell Howard will play at the Camp House on Monday, March 24.
Review for Charlie Oxford:
It’s not often in post-millennium times that an 11-year-old guitar player has his life changed through hearing an iconic 1960s soul song. Charlie Oxford was woodshedding on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan CDs when he first heard Sam Cooke’s “That’s Where It’s At.” And that 1960s buttery soulfulness has become a main ingredient in Oxford’s home-cooked, modern soul-pop. His self-titled debut is sweet and simmering. It’s comfort food for the modern listener, tracing a line from Sam Cooke to pop contemporaries like James Morrison and John Mayer.
In the fall of 2011, Oxford completed a Kickstarter campaign and raised an impressive $10,000 to fund his debut. The Nashville-based artist has grown his fan base organically through live performances and word-of-mouth exposure. A highlight for him was performing on the BMI Songwriter Stage at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, as well as performing twice at the annual BMI Key West Songwriters Festival. Oxford’s album was produced by Adam Smith (Jason Reeves, Jordin Sparks, Kara DioGuardi, Danny Gokey, L.E.D., Krystal Meyers, The Veronicas, Lovedrug, Megan and Liz, and Britt Nicole) and recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios and the Evil 8-bit Robot Factory in Nashville. The album features a stunning array of Nashville’s finest musicians playing with sympathetic grace, imbuing each song with just the right dash of musical vitality.
Charlie Oxford is an album of love and self-discovery. “I write love songs and songs about finding yourself and getting up and doing something with your life,” Oxford explains. Though he showed promise early on as a gifted guitarist, it would be years before his creativity blossomed into singing and songwriting. “I remember being in Nashville thinking ‘Charlie what the hell are you doing with your life?!” he says with both earnestness and laughter. In a fevered burst of creativity, he penned 50 songs, many through collaborating with his ace producer Adam Smith. Oxford and Smith handpicked 10 of the finest tracks to comprise Charlie Oxford.
The album’s opener, “Waiting For,” cooks with poignancy and purposefulness. Oxford sings with honeyed urgency and plays searing blues guitar with authenticity and authority. The track grooves with pent-up but polished musicality, punctuated by a taut horn section and positively redemptive Hammond B3 organ playing. “This is song about seeking out what’s holding you back—be it a day job you hate or your lack of confidence—and freeing yourself to pursue your dreams,” Oxford says.
The goose-bump-inducing “Letting Go” begins with moony atmospherics and then swoops up to liberated love transcendence with a soaring chorus. “That’s about being humble and fighting selfishness to embrace love,” Oxford says. The quaint folk of “You & I” is about the flood of light that streams in when you knock down the walls obscuring true love. “It’s a letter about how afraid I am to lose love,” Oxford confides.
If Oxford’s writing is confessional, it’s because he discovered his singing and songwriting while in college when he was coming of age. “It was so therapeutic expressing myself in song, it was like conversations with my soul. That period helped define who I am,” he says. Charlie Oxford grew up in Dallas listening to the local oldies station with his dad. As a searching artist, Oxford explored classic 1960s soul and blues rock, the elastic pop-funk of Prince, and the refined modern sensibilities of aforementioned singer-songwriters James Morrison and John Mayer. From age 12, he began his journey, making aesthetic connections to tie these diverse but refreshingly complimentary influences into the distinct sound he’s developed on Charlie Oxford. His time spent in college in New Orleans—he was there when Katrina hit—was extremely influential on his musical self; both the city and the musicians there helped to shape Oxford.
“It wasn’t until college when I said, ‘Okay I can do this’ that music really become a calling,’” Oxford says thoughtfully. “To hold the CD in my hands justifies the process of growth. It feels so good to have done this record. I’m so proud of it, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone and show my gratitude for their support.”
Charlie Oxford’s Charlie Oxford is being released March 11. www.charlieoxford.com.
Review for JD Eicher:
Pittsburgh, PA and Youngstown, OH-based quartet JD Eicher & the Goodnights released their third album, the pop-rock effort Into Place, in September via Rock Ridge Music (with distribution through ADA). Grammy-nominated producer Dustin Burnett (who has worked with the Newsboys, Augustana, Rush of Fools, Moriah Peters, Darling Parade, Dave Barnes) produced Into Place, guiding Eicher in realizing his aspirations for a rich sonic tapestry to enhance the core band’s stellar musicianship.
Into Place’s poise represents a coming of age, comfort in who you are. “The main themes are love, hope, and acceptance,” Eicher says. Into Place is both adventurous and assured. The songs are tastefully layered with otherworldly electronic ambiance and programmed drums. “Ode To Underdog” is sunny modern rock with a hypnotic acoustic guitar groove that surges expansively with chiming guitars and imaginatively arranged twists and turns. The undeniable “Give It Up” balances smoky, soulful sections with portions that rocket to euphoric highs, showcasing Eicher’s blue-eyed soul falsetto.
JD Eicher & the Goodnights’ soaring and graceful pop-rock songcraft has garnered the group favorable comparisons to Coldplay, Keane, The Script, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. The band has received an impressive outpouring of regional acclaim, earning raves from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Uniontown, PA Herald-Standard, Pittsburgh City Paper, and The Erie Times-News. Nationally, Alternative Addiction named them one of the top 10 unsigned bands. Virgin America Airlines used one of the band’s songs in the teaser for the airline’s movie Departure Date.
The band is JD Eicher (vocals/guitar), Ben Portz (keys), Jim Merhaut (bass), and Dylan Kollat (drums/percussion). Live, JD Eicher & the Goodnights has shared a bill with such diverse and respected artists as the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Hot Chelle Rae, Pete Yorn, Anberlin, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Cartel, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, and Matt White, among many others. Frontman JD Eicher has also done acoustic solo dates, including a tour with Todd Carey. The band plans to tour extensively in support of Into Place, both as a quartet and with Eicher performing acoustic solo.
For more information visit www.jdeicherandthegoodnights.com.
Review for Russell Howard:
Charlotte-based singer-songwriter Russell Howard released his album, City Heart +, in July via Rock Ridge Music. His debut EP, City Heart, had such a positive reception that Howard released it in an expanded edition as City Heart +, and the new incarnation augments the EP with freshly recorded acoustic versions of the core tracks (each acoustic version will be paired with a video) and masterfully crafted bonus cuts (“Too Far” and “Find Me”) that showcase Howard’s artistic growth.
His irresistible and intimate blend of indie, folk, and pop with a touch of honeyed 1960s soul colors the songs on the record, which address the rewards and struggles self-discovery; they shimmer with awe, melancholy, and steely optimism. “I wrote these songs at a time when I was playing colleges and traveling a lot,” says Howard. “The feeling of being far from home was setting in, but writing was really grounding. It’s like that saying ‘You play the blues to keep yourself from feeling the blues.’ I pulled myself up by writing this record.”
Howard has shared the stage with such diverse and respected artists as The Lumineers, Sister Hazel, Teddy Geiger, Griffin House, Greg Laswell, Brendan James, Matt Hires, Tyrone Wells, Ari Hest, Ernie Halter, Red Wanting Blue, and Michael Tolcher. Howard plans to tour in support of City Heart +, with dates already being slotted in.
Born and raised in Dallas Texas, Howard grew up the only child of two professional symphony musicians. As a child he was immersed in classical music and played violin and sang in the school choir. In high school he began playing along to pop rock records with a ukulele, and later a guitar. By college he was regularly performing at open mics. His most profound artistic growth has been through working with producer and, good friend, percussionist Lawson White (Norah Jones, Shakira, Santigold, Chromeo). The two met at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado where Howard’s father has taught for 30-plus years. Howard was a kid then but the two musicians kept in touch and forged a strong personal and creative bond. Howard is currently signed to White’s production company, Good Child Music. The duo spent a year finessing the songs on the City Heart EP.
For more information visit www.russellhowardmusic.com.