Blues Traveler Signs To Verve Forecast
After selling ten million records worldwide, six gold or platinum albums, and 2, 000 shows in front of three million fans, Grammy Award-winning Blues Traveler ventured out of its creative comfort zone to explore some adventurous new horizons for its new album (and Verve Forecast label debut). The resultant North Hollywood Shootout is a landmark in the quintet's large and widely loved body of work, demonstrating the enduring strengths of the band's songwriting while capturing the spontaneous spirit of their legendary live shows.
According to frontman and harmonica slinger John Popper, "We're still trying to cultivate what we're individually good at into something that's bigger than the sum of its parts. When we're all playing and it's working, it becomes this separate entity, and that's still the thing that we're chasing."
North Hollywood Shootout — produced by Grammy Award winner David Bianco, whose diverse resume includes work with the likes of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger and Teenage Fanclub — draws its curious name from the fact that the band recorded the album in the NoHo district of Los Angeles. Street date is August 26, 2008.
Such memorable tunes as the uplifting road-trip anthem "You, Me and Everything, " the playfully romantic "Love Does, " and the elegant, evocative "Orange in the Sun" boast infectious melodic hooks while showcasing the interactive instrumental chemistry that originally endeared the band to its rabidly devoted fan base.
The new material also makes a strong case for the introspective side that's always been a key element of lyricist Popper's persona. The heart-tugging lyrics of the opening track, "Forever Owed, " were inspired by the singer's recent USO trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, while the poignant "Borrowed Time" is a bittersweet meditation on mortality and transience, inspired both by the recent passing of bandmates Chan and Tad Kinchla's father and by Popper's feelings for his beloved and aging dog. The album's biggest sonic curveball is its closing track, "Free Willis, Ruminations from Behind Uncle Bob's Machine Shop." The six-minute spoken-word sound collage finds the band jamming over an insistent drum beat, while actor Bruce Willis, a longtime friend and fan, delivers a colorful freeform monologue/rant.
As guitarist Chan Kinchla explains, "On the last few records, we concentrated so much on the crafting of the songwriting and arrangements that we started losing some of the live spontaneity that the five of us created onstage. So on this album, instead of doing the usual pre-production process, where we really worked out the songs before taking them into the studio, we decided to go straight into the studio and do songwriting there. We recorded all the parts as we were working them out, and then built the songs from there."
North Hollywood Shootout also found the band ceding more authority to Popper to create the melodies that carry his lyrics. "The main thing that we wanted to emphasize on this record was melody, and I think that aspect of it turned out very well, " Popper states. "The guys took a real risk in trusting me to run with that."
"I think you have to be constantly reinventing things and discovering new aspects of what you do in order to keep things fresh, " Kinchla adds. "This lineup (John Popper, Chan Kinchla, Brendan Hill, Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson) has been together for eight years. We've spent a lot of time sorting out everyone's role and learning how to listen to each other and get out of each other's way. It's funny, but right now the band is feeling a lot like it did in the early days, when we were just playing for the sake of playing, and we were hitting on all cylinders and the communication was fresh and alive. The shows have been really kicking, and the new songs have been going over great."
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