Now Playing: Blankfest!!!

August 26 through 28 will see Blank Newspaper and Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall play host to the biggest and bestest Blankfest yet, the three-year-old fest having expanded to a three-day extravaganza of stellar music, comedy and other foolish fun. Co-headliners this year include perpetual jammers Perpetual Groove along with hard-funkin’ Trae Pierce and the T-Stone Band and our very own neo-soul darlings, Electric Darling.

The following is the first-ever all-singing, all-dancing issue of Scruffington Post, an issue wholly devoted to the artists of Blankfest.

For more information on bands and schedules, see Blanknews.com.

Blankfest: R.B. Morris

Singer-songwriter, poet and playwright, Knoxville’s R.B. Morris is a man of many talents. So it’s no small wonder that his current schedule finds him at pains to keep all his irons in the fire at one time.

“The main thing I’m up to right now is that I’m directing a production of the play I wrote (“The Man Who Lives Here Is Loony,” a one-man play about writer James Agee),” says Morris. “I’ve been in the middle of that, trying to pull it all together.

“But I need to make a new record,” he continues. “I don’t have any exact plans, but I’m just waiting to shift that to the front burner as soon as I can.”

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Morris is a critically acclaimed performer and poet with a handful of publications and a small collection of fine albums to his credit. His recorded output includes a couple of stellar releases on John Prine’s Oh Boy label — 1997’s “Take That Ride” and “Zeke and the Wheel” from 1999.

More recently, he issued the full-length Spies Lies and Burning Eyes on his own imprint, as well as a collection of traditional and mountain music entitled Rich Mountain Bound a couple years back.

Of late, Morris says he’s been playing one-offs and quickie tours with a couple of different line-ups. At Blankfest, Morris will be backed by local rock trio the Tim Lee 3, the 3 having accompanied him on a recent jaunt through Nashville on to Mississippi.

A notoriously deliberate worker, Morris says he’s uncertain as to the timetable for recording his next record, though he already has plenty of songs in the can. “Really, I’ve got way too many songs I need to get recorded,” he says. “I just need some arrangements, and the opportunity to get them together in a studio.

“But the material is there, and the musicians are there. I feel good about those things.”

As to his Blankfest performance, Morris promises a couple of new songs will be thrown into the mix. “It will probably be more of a rockin’ show,” he says. “It’ll be fun. I love playing with Tim Lee 3. They’re always game for anything. We’ll plug it in and we’ll make some noise.”

Look for the forthcoming production of “The Man Who Lives Here Is Loony” at Knoxville Museum of Art, starring local actor Joe Casterline on Oct. 27, Oct. 30, Nov. 3 and Nov. 6.

 

 

Blankfest: Electric Darling

It’s been nearly a year since former Dirty Guv’nahs members Kevin Hyfantiss and Cozmo Holloway joined with powerhouse vocalist Yasameen Hoffman-Shahin to form local neo-soul group Electric Darling. Now with ED on the verge of recording its inaugural EP, guitarist Holloway says the band is truly coming into its own.

“The biggest change from a year ago is that we’re more confident in what we are as a band,” Holloway says. “When you’re in the beginning of a project, you tend to go back and forth about what you are. You think you’re an R&B and soul band, but then you’re not sure it feels right. What’s our voice? What is our brand?

“Now we’re confident in our path. We fit together really well. We’re all strong in different areas, so I think that kind of helps it fit together, almost like a puzzle.”

Holloway says Darling hopes to enter the studio sometime in the next 30 days and put together a six to eight song EP. “That’s the way the industry is right now,” he says. “Most people don’t buy full-length albums anymore. Then in maybe another four to six months, we’ll drop another one, once people have had the chance to digest this one.”

A gonzo guitarist and veteran of a wide spectrum of local outfits, including the Guvs, soul-rockers Dishwater Blonde, and the genre-splicing Aftah Party, Holloway says he’s mined a new vein of inspiration in joining with the other members of Electric Darling.

“The energy and passion of these players, you can’t beat it onstage,” he enthuses. “I love the versatility of this band, and the musicianship onstage. I feel like there’s nothing that we can’t do. We have an incredibly high ceiling.

“It’s fresh. It’s like being in my first band, all over again.”

 

Blankfest: Trae Pierce and the T-Stone Band

If Trae Pierce never played another note of music, he would still boast a more impressive and varied resume than most any other contemporary bass wizard you’d care to name. Having hit the road with the Ohio Players at age 13, Pierce has toured and recorded with a list of luminaries that includes Dr. Hook, Phil Collins, the Blind Boys of Alabama, James Brown’s band, and rapper Flo-rida, to name just a few.

A four-string innovator whose repertoire includes slide-bass techniques and use of the talk box for bass, Pierce is also leader of his own ferocious rap/rock/funk outfit the T-Stone band; their two recent performances at Preservation Pub and Scruffy City Hall were among the hardest-rocking and most volatile that either venue has ever seen.

Pierce says the band’s live intensity owes to his background in church, backing up gospel bands on guitar and piano as a child. “If you went to a gospel concert back in the day, that’s what it was like — it was like one of our shows,” he says. “It was people making noise and having fun.”

Right now, the Daytona Beach-based outfit is on the verge of dropping a six-song EP. Look for the band to drop the first single, “One Nation,” sometime in the coming weeks. “The song is about coming together as a country,” says the burly, be-dreaded bassist. “Hopefully, we’ll se it by the end of the summer.”

Blankfest: Hudson K

There’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde duality at play in the work of Knoxville piano/synth and drums duo Hudson K. The sunny Dr. Jekyll side is represented by unshakably memorable quick-hit rock songs such as “Stuck On Repeat,” informed by singer Christina Hudson and drummer Nate Barrett’s love of ’80s pop. And the darker Hyde side is manifested in grand, almost orchestral laments like “The Knife,” compositions that are perhaps influenced by Hudson’s time as a conservatory pianist.

With the prospect of recording a new album looming, Hudson says those two inclinations are fighting for supremacy. And right, now, Mr. Hyde is winning.

“I love the idea of evolving and doing different things, and maybe now that means moving away from the upbeat, catchy pop song,” says Hudson. “I feel like moving toward the moody, more serious side of our music, the side with more personal themes.

“We all struggle between our serious side and the part of us that just wants to have fun. Our goal is always to do something that pushes the envelope, that stands up as ‘Art,’ but that’s still fun to play and listen to.”

In any case, the follow-up to 2014’s “Ouroborous and the Black Dove” is well underway, with Hudson having penned a number of new songs, a cache that will be paired down to 10 or 11 by the time she and Barrett enter a studio.

“We’re building a bunch of new songs,” Hudson says. “Ideally, I’d like to start tracking the songs in fall, have release in spring and then follow that with as much touring as humanly possible. But it’s still a little abstract right now.”

Some of Hudson’s newest songs will already be familiar to fans of the band, and she says other new tunes will likely debut at the upcoming Blankfest performance. “We love performing, and we like to road-test all our new material,” she says. “We’ve thrown away quite a few songs because they didn’t work as well as we’d hoped.

“We’ll try out the audience, see if they’re open to hearing some more new songs. I haven’t figured out our set yet. Blankfest is kind of a unique situation for us. But we’ll throw body and soul into whatever we do, and hope for the best. That’s what we always do.”