The Mixologist: The Road To California

image4By Antony & Spencer. This weekend, three of our S&N contributors got to catch up in person for the first time in years. The occasion was our editor Spencer’s very first trip to California. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I’m writing about myself in the third person, for reasons that will be obvious later). Spencer is very much aware that it is inexcusable for this to have taken so long, especially now that the trip is over and he’s discovered just how much he loves the West Coast lifestyle. After a multi-day tour of Los Angeles that was (unsurprisingly) heavy on Hollywood history, Spencer’s trip gave him the chance to reunite with longtime friends and S&N contributors Mark and Antony over very large beers at San Diego’s Biergarten and Modern Times, where we talked music, dating, parenthood, tacos, and a whole lot more. And in honor of the trip, Antony compiled a little travel music for Spencer—who couldn’t pass up on sharing with the rest of you. (As you can see, these joint postings cause a lot of awkward drafting issues. Don’t complain, you’re getting free music). Continue reading

The Mixologist: Back In The Old Country

By Spencer. A recent article in GQ Magazine profiled three country artists who are shaking up the Nashville establishment: Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson. We’ve raved about all three on S&N, but the truth is, they’re just the tip of the spear. There are dozens of other songwriters out there defying the cheap conventions of Nashville country. You know what I’m taking about—hokey, jokey, manufactured pop songs about sexy tractors and beer-drinking horses, dressed up in a little steel guitar and just enough contrived twang to appeal to the goatee-wearing NASCAR crowd. It’s this brand of “bro country” that has given the genre a bad name among music lovers, turning a once-thriving strain of quintessentially American art into a punchline (at least outside of the South).

Then came Chris Stapleton, who struck a major blow last year when his album, Traveller, came out of nowhere to sweep the 2015 Country Music Awards—taking down more established (and embarrassing) mainstays like Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean along the way. It was hailed as a possible turning point for country music after years of decline. Meanwhile, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell have each enjoyed adulation even among the indie rock press for recent albums that re-embraced a truer songwriting and a more faithful devotion to vintage country sounds. Continue reading