Monthly Archives: January 2021

Danny Kroha (The Gories) Announces Solo Album ‘Detroit Blues’ on Third Man Records

Danny Kroha, founding member of Detroit minimal garage rock trio The Gories, is excited to announce his sophomore solo album Detroit Blues, due February 5, 2021 via Third Man Records. Limited edition turquoise vinyl will be available at TMR storefronts and select indie stores in the US & UK on release day.

Photo courtesy of Zack Kraimer

The album is largely comprised of Kroha’s interpretations of traditional folk, blues and gospel songs from the public domain, created with an assortment of anachronistic DIY instruments like the one-string washtub bass, jug bass and The Diddley Bow.

Kroha has recently been spending time learning and recording more traditional folk, blues, and gospel tunes from the public domain. His upcoming Detroit Blues could be considered part two of his debut solo LP, Angels Watching Over Me

In his own words, “It was me in a room playing acoustic instruments and doing my own arrangements of some old songs.” 

Not so fast, buddy! When you hear this record and dig a little deeper into the facts, you’ll have a heightened awareness of the sonic beauty found in the simplicity. On many of these traditional songs, Danny dropped, added or rearranged verses from various sources, mixing up music from one song and words from another creating his own amalgamation of early blues and country.

Keep your ears peeled for familiar and wild homemade sounds. There’s a DIY one-string washtub bass made from a fire snake rail-heater that can found on some railroad tracks. There’s a lot of jug bass, blowing the bass notes over the jug opening, frequently heard in early rural American music but also with the 13th Floor Elevators, who ran their jug through an amplifier.

The one string guitar, aka The Diddley Bow, on “Come Out Of The Wilderness” is rare. Aside from Danny, one of the last times we heard one was on One String Sam’s “I Need A Hundred Dollars.” You have your traditional assortment of washboards, tambourine and other percussion instruments, but during one session, Danny and the album supervisor tried out several pairs of Danny’s work boots to find the best tone for the foot stomps. We’ll report back soon on what brand was chosen. 

Instead of following all the rules rooted in early blues and old time country, Danny Kroha mixed up all the traditions and kicked out a new old sound that could really only happen in Detroit: “I listen to both genres, for sure. I just wasn’t TRYING to make a record that sounds like that. It just came out more like a field recording than a studio recording.”

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Poor Howard

Detroit Blues

I’ll Be Rested

Way Down In Florida On A Hog

Oh Death

Reuben, Oh Reuben

Come Out The Wilderness

Leavin’ Blues

Little Lulie

Adam and Eve

Rich Girl, Poor Girl

Run Johnny

House of the Rising Sun

Up Above My Head



Lumineers Drummer Jeremiah Fraites Makes Solo Run With New Album ‘Piano Piano’

As the drummer and co-founder for indie folk rock band The Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites has co-written songs such as “Ho Hey,” the debut single that brought the band international fame in 2012. On January 22, Fraites will reveal another side of his musicianship when he releases Piano Piano, his debut solo album (out on Dualtone Records). As the title suggests, the songs on this release are piano-based instrumentals.

Prior to the album’s release, Fraites is premiering the track “Chilly” here at American Songwriter.

“I think that it’s a part of me that not a lot of people might be aware of,” Fraites tells American Songwriter, though he adds, “With the Lumineers, there’s been some little hints that I really love the piano,” such as the tracks “Patience” and “April,” which are both instrumental piano pieces.

Although Fraites has been through three album releases with The Lumineers (most recently in 2019 with III), all of which were met with significant chart success and critical praise, he admits that releasing work under his own name is a new experience. “It feels massively different than releasing a Lumineers LP,” he says. “This was my first solo project—the first time I was going to release something without the safety net and protection of The Lumineers, so it was kind of scary, in a way. But [I’m] excited, too.”

Piano Piano has been a long time coming: Fraites says he first started writing some of these songs a dozen years ago. As he wrote material that didn’t seem right for The Lumineers, he set it aside and began thinking of doing a solo album—but between his band work and becoming a father a couple of years ago, it never seemed like the right time to do it. That changed when the pandemic forced The Lumineers to cancel the remainder of their 2020 world tour dates.

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“I got home [to Denver] in the middle of March and tried to understand how long we were actually going to be home, and when it became apparent that days were going to turn into weeks and weeks into months, my wife Francesca was like, ‘You know, I think you should really do your solo album now,’” Fraites says.

Even though he finally had the time to do the album, Fraites admits that he still resisted getting started on it. “I was sort of like, ‘I don’t want to do it in the house. It’s going to be crazy: we have a two-year-old. We have a dog who likes to bark when I play the piano.’ There was a house literally being built right next door.”

Finally, Fraites relented and began working on the album. To start things off, “I really sat down and thought, ‘What do I want the album to sound and feel like?’ Because I think that’s really important before you start recording: you should have a decent idea of what you want the album not only to sonically sound like, but emotionally, what do you want it to feel like?”

With Piano Piano, Fraites says, “I wanted it, at times, to feel like you’re right there next to me on the piano bench, and other times I wanted it to feel like you’re watching a movie with no name, really high-fidelity quality.”

Fraites says he is especially pleased with how his musical vision came out on “Chilly,” which he wrote while on tour with The Lumineers. “I remember finding these chords and going, ‘Well, I think that’s beautiful,’” Fraites says of the song. He immediately recorded the melody in a voice memo. “I recorded it as quickly as the idea came. It’s crazy that quite literally a life-changing idea can happen in a matter of seconds, so you’d just better have your phone handy to record it.”

The spaciousness in “Chilly” is, Fraites says, entirely intentional. “I’ve always been attracted to music when I hear big spaces. The composer John Cage, who I think is a genius, talked about this idea of, ‘Don’t interpret space as a negative.’ What I took away from that quote was, don’t interpret [silence] as, ‘Well, you didn’t know what to write; you didn’t know what to put in that space.’ It’s more, think of it as an intentional positive void.”

Fraites feels “Chilly” captures this ideal, as it “reminds me of the epitome of minimalism, the epitome of really trying to find a simple idea and moving and expanding and letting it evolve very slowly. I think honestly it’s my favorite track on the album currently,” he says.

This same level of thought and care went into aspects of the album beyond the music itself. “Without lyrics to guide the themes, I think the song titles meant a lot to me and I really spent time making sure they were just right,” Fraites says. “Even the album title Piano Piano has a lot of meaning to it,” he adds, explaining that his wife Francesca, who’s from Italy, told him how the word “piano” has multiple meanings in her native language. “So in Italian, if they say ‘piano piano,’ it means ‘little by little.’ I thought was so quirky and cool,” Fraites says.

The album title’s meaning also perfectly summed up the way in which Fraites approached this project. “I really tried to have patience with the album and little by little construct it, instead of trying to force these songs out of me,” he says. “I really tried to make sure that I was almost having them transmitted to me and I just needed to get them down.”

While writing songs comes relatively easily for Fraites, recording them on his own was initially problematic. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from working in a recording studio, so he had to learn about home recording for the first time. “The biggest struggle in the beginning was setting up the microphones,” he says.

Fraites credits David Baron, who has previously worked with Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes, with helping him figure out the correct way to do things. “I worked a lot with David, who co-engineered and co-produced the album from Woodstock, New York,” Fraites says. “We would FaceTime and I would record a piano take and he would say, ‘What the hell is that crazy truck [noise] in the background?’ [I’d say,] ‘I am so sorry, that’s the house being built next door.’ He was like, ‘Holy cow.’ It was pretty crazy. It was a lot of stress, a lot of me not knowing what the hell I was doing.”

Learning recording techniques is just the latest music-related skill that Fraites has mastered: he began learning to play drums and piano when he was growing up in New Jersey. His family encouraged his interest in music (his parents, brother, and grandmother could all play instruments). While he would go on to find fame as a drummer, Fraites recalls that piano music was a big early influence on him: “I fell in love with Beethoven’s songs, particularly his sonatas. So it’s been deeply ingrained in my musical background, the piano.”

Since then, Fraites says, “My passion, my obsession, for music never really waned. Even eight or nine years ago, when I was a busboy at a sushi restaurant in Denver before [The Lumineers] made it, I still was a musician—I just wasn’t a successful one. I really think, had we found success or not, I always would have been obsessed with music.”

Fortunately, Fraites did become successful with The Lumineers, and now Piano Piano reveals more facets of his talents. “I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he says of this solo album. “It’s actually something to look forward to for me. I’m excited it’s coming out!”

PHOTO BY: Roberto Graziano Moro

‘The Box’ Was the Song of 2020

When we look back on 2020, many sounds will come to mind. The 7 p.m. cheers for frontline workers, Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight’s voices mingling together, the deafening silence of existential unraveling. But perhaps most of all, it will be “Eeh-uhrr.”

“The Box,” Roddy Ricch’s unrelentingly popular, unrelentingly squeaky breakout hit, takes Number One on Rolling Stone’s Year-End Top 100 Songs chart, pulling in 866 million on-demand audio streams in 2020. Proving that sometimes it isn’t so much what the words mean as the way they squeak out, like a cat toy or an old door, “The Box” clobbered any other song in 2020 by more than 750,000 song units and 210 million streams.

While the song rose to the top early — reaching Number One on the weekly RS 100 in the first week of the year and going on to spend 10 nonconsecutive weeks there — it proved hard to beat as the months rolled by: No song was able to eclipse it by year’s end. (The only one that came close was DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” which features Roddy Ricch; that single managed to tie “The Box” with 10 weeks at Number One.)

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Taking second on the year-end RS 100 is the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” which saw 5.7 million units in 2020. “Rockstar” and Drake and Future’s “Life Is Good” follow at Numbers Three and Four. Rounding out the Top Five is Kentucky-born rapper Jack Harlow, who was one of the biggest breakthrough artists of 2020. His piano trap breakout “Whats Poppin” pulled in 4.6 million units in 2020.

The Rolling Stone Top 100 chart tracks the most popular songs of the week in the United States. Songs are ranked by song units, a number that combines audio streams and song sales using a custom weighting system. The chart does not include passive listening like terrestrial radio or digital radio. The Rolling Stone Top 100 chart covers streams and sales from January 3rd, 2020, through December 31st, 2020.

The Top 10 is, at it tends to be, hip-hop heavy, including two back-to-back Megan Thee Stallion songs: “Savage” at Number Six and her Cardi B collaboration “WAP” at Number Seven. Four years after its initial release, Brooklyn rapper Saint JHN’s “Roses” takes Number Nine thanks to producer Imanbek’s sticky remix, while Post Malone’s “Circles,” released in September 2019, sticks around at Number 10.

But a country newcomer manages to break through the top 10, as Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” takes Number Eight with 3.6 million units. Overall, like on the year-end RS 200, country makes a stronger showing on this year’s RS 100 compared to 2019. Overall, 14 country songs make this year’s chart, compared to last year’s 11. Established streaming star Luke Combs has two songs on the chart, with “Beautiful Crazy” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart” taking 61 and 78. And up-and-comer Morgan Wallen  launches three songs onto the year-end tally with “Chasin You” (Number 29), “Whiskey Glasses” (Number 48), and “More Than My Hometown” (Number 71). Overall, country saw a 19-percent increase in on-demand audio streams in 2020, more than the overall increase of 16 percent.

And 43 years after its release, Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” rides a wave of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice to the year-end RS 100. After being featured in a viral TikTok video, the Rumours hit reached Number 64 on the RS 100 this summer. All told, “Dreams” saw 1.9 million song units in 2020.

Lil Baby, Pop Smoke, Juice WRLD and Post Malone tie for the most songs on the year-end RS 100, with four each. Post Malone’s biggest song of the year was “Circles,” at Number 10. Pop Smoke’s “For the Night” takes Number 17, while Lil Baby’s “Sum 2 Prove” finishes at Number 31 and Juice WRLD’s Marshmello collaboration “Come & Go” takes 51st.

See the full year-end RS 100 here.

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