"Bohemian, intriguing and introspective, this is an acoustic rock masterpiece. Gorgeously harmonized and deftly orchestrated, the album is a perfect 10. From the sneaky French-bistro sounds of “Go To Hell (With Me)” to the heartfelt, mature poetry of “Walter Whitman,” each track has a unique flavor. The instrumentation is soundtrack quality. Be ready to spend an entire weekend with Beautiful Empty before your ears will accept anything else."
– MUSIC CONNECTION, LOS ANGELES
This critically acclaimed Colorado native brings significantly more lyrical punch and all-around heft than is normally found in the pop singer/songwriter genre, and -- on his just-released third CD, 'Beautiful Empty' -- he further spreads teh court by giving co-billing status to his finely-tuned chamber pop cohorts (including an accordionist, cellist and female singer; very pretty stuff.
-- MUSIC BEAT, IOWA CITY PRESS-CITIZEN
"Beautiful Empty is Rich with songcraft, smarts, and emotion."
-- THE COURIER-JOURNAL, LOUISVILLE, KY
From the Rocky Mountains, straight to your soul
I've been going through Harry Partch's mind-bending tome Genesis of a Music, and all his talk about corporeality and the voice got me thinking, This must be what makes singer-songwriters so attractive: the directness of delivery and just enough accompaniment to support the voice and words. This is exactly what makes John Common's music so good. Check out "Love is a Shark," from his new album Beautiful Empty: the lyrics are full of honest truth, so bare that you can't help laughing to yourself, Yes, that's exactly how it feels. With his band of four "bad motherfuckers" (sorry Samuel L. Jackson) known as Blinding Flashes of Light, the Colorado musician's two decades of playing music has resulted in a perfectly balanced sound and a delivery so clear and sincere, he makes the most offensive words sound like they came from William Blake himself. This guy knowns what he's doing, even if he doesn't always take the credit he deserves.
— UNVEILED ARTS, NEW YORK CITY
John Common has followed a career route that sounds familiar to devotees of Americana. The singer and songwriter led a cowpunk band in Florida before taking on a corporate gig he abandoned to wander through the country doing odd jobs and making lo-fi recordings on his own. Landing in Denver, he fronted an alt-country group called Rainville that received plenty of local notice. Common's latest project uses a loose Denver collection of musicians called Blinding Flashes of Light, who add cello, accordion and organ to their new full-length release Beautiful Empty. His grainy voice combines with the sweetness of second vocalist Jess DeNicola's controlled soprano, and the result is a thoughtful and carefully textured alt-folk record that examines the terrors of adulthood and busted relationships. Common makes maturity sound like a condition that thrives on the distance between us all — and that may be the point.
— EDITOR'S PICK, NASHVILLE SCENE
“John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light emerged through smoke dressed to kill in black and red. From the second they took the stage until the second they left it, they played with the sort of blind joy that will make you believe in whatever they're doing -- it's pure passion and happiness.” – WESTWORD, DENVER, COLORADO
"John's clever lyrics and perfectly crafted songs are outdone only by his huge and prolific body of work. This guy puts out a solid album twice a year. No wonder his songs are good." – DENVER MUSIC SCENE, TOP TEN SINGER-SONGWRITERS
"Beautiful Empty showcases a songwriter of remarkable depth and maturity."
– DENVER POST
“By the third song, I was a fan. By the fifth song, I wanted to join the band. The music was very nearly flawless. It was one of those “good for the soul” music moments for me.”
– THE EXAMINER, DENVER, COLORADO
"Raw, yet sophisticated pop." – THE ONION
John was born in a small fishing village off the coast of Portugal named Uoraguwaogo. His father was a simple fisherman. John’s Mother would awaken before Father and make them all fish cakes mixed with a small, bitter fruit called iquiadita. They were very poor, but blessed.
Yet, something was missing from John’s life. Every evening, he would walk down to the sea and look westward out into the blackness, dreaming of something better. One day, while cleaning fish near the ocean, John saw a big trunk that had washed up from the sea.
He opened it and found a guitar, a film projector and an educational filmstrip entitled "ESP: Stop Laughing, It's Real" inside. He did not fully comprehend what these things would come to mean to him at the time... but he experimented. He played. Lord, he played. He practiced in the day and he practiced in the night, whenever he wasn't helping mother and father with the chores of course. Mother would always say, "Stop that foolishness... go learn how to fish from Father". But as John grew into a man, he knew what his purpose in life was... to make this thing we call the "rock music".
John left Uoraguwaogo with the clothes on his back, his guitar, his film projector and his filmstrip. He scraped together a living by playing music. Barmitzvahs in Tel Aviv. Hindu weddings in Calcutta. Small pubs strewn across Ireland. A line dancing joint in Salina, Kansas. Art openings in Los Angeles. Warehouse parties in London. A small punk club in the Netherlands. Sluggos in Pensacola, Florida. Even the Lion's Lair in Denver, Colorado. Yes... he played them all.
After wandering this lonely world, he ended up in Colorado and found his musical and spiritual brethren. Together they formed a rugged band of minstrels, a "rock group" devoted to sharing the love and the sorrow inside their hearts with all who would listen.
When Jess opens her mouth to sing, something strange happens--it suddenly becomes 1936.
You’re standing at the bar inside a supper club with a name like ‘The Magnolia Room’. It’s a hot and humid summer night. You’ve had one too many gin and tonics. You feel like anything is possible. The woman in the white dress singing on stage makes you blush. Is she singing directly to you?
Yes. Jess is a time machine.
She's been singing since she was about 3 years old. Her voice will break your heart, but you'll thank her. She's also a sweetheart.
Carl is Swedish. But I’ve never once seen him give anyone a massage. This gross oversight on his part is only partially remedied by the fact that he’s one of the most creative, most angular, most non-obvious drummers you’ll ever hear. He’s got wisdom beyond his years. Which is saying something, because Carl is 87 years old. Watch out though. Carl is a violent man. Not personally violent... He wouldn’t hurt a fly. But he DOES wantonly breaks glassware wherever he goes. This clearly belies some unresolved, deep-seated issues. When the band finally “makes it”, they all agreed to fund some intensive reversion-scream-water-ethnospritual-chakra therapy for Carl. Until then however, it’s sippy cups and padded rooms for Sorensen.
Jon Wirtz is a killer. Don’t let his affable nature and “all American boy next door” good looks fool you. He’s a cold blooded killer. Don’t be disarmed by the way he will quietly shovel your snowy walk on wintry mornings, p’shawing you when you offer to return the favor some time. He’s a stone cold killer. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by his willingness to lend you money saying, “Pay me back whenever you can, I’m just happy to help you out.” He’s a maniacal, bloodthirsty sociopath. Don’t believe him when he asks how your Mother’s been doing. He’s just maneuvering you into a position of weakness so that he can pounce on you like a ferocious flesh eating tiger of some sort.
You can, however, believe him when he drops a bad ass Rhodes part on you in the middle of a song. Or flattens you with a Hammond thing that makes you scratch your head. Or whips out an unexpected accordion solo. Or goes all Bach on his xylophone. You can believe that.
But I still wouldn’t trust him. Did I mention he’s a killer?
Casey Sidwell entered the federal witness protection program at the age of five.
Here is what happened:
XXXXX [ CONTENT CENSORED BY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ] XXXXXXXXXXXXX
After making it through that ordeal, barely, Casey decided to pursue a life in music... mainly because he's a people person and also because he views the ridiculous pay as his way of "giving back" after the huge government settlement.
His specialty is the low end... which is more commonly referred to in Mexico as "la cosa espantosa que hace el ruido bajo".
Wes often finds himself staring at walls. This isn’t his fault. It’s the logical result of being a musician who plays cello (a famously sad and contemplative instrument) and saxophone (a famously drunken, promiscuous, aphrodisiacal instrument). Wes is torn between the monkish callings of his cello and the dirty caterwauling of his horn. It’s really tearing him up inside. He spends most days just white knuckling it... until he can channel all that emotion into his playing. It’s really quite something.
Oh, if you see him out on the street, DO NOT look directly into his eyes. Direct eye contact will set him off like a bottle rocket. Like an angry feral cat. One wrong move and he will bust out aikido moves all over your ass. You’ve been warned.
Adam is mute. Oh, he can talk. But he chose to communicate via other means years ago. Let me explain...
Adam's story began with a privileged birth into the 4th richest lumber baron family in North America. Life was lush and easy for little Adam and his silver spoon. Yes it was...
As a young lad, he cavorted and played in piles of antiseptically washed, 100 dollar bills in the back yard of one of the Revell Family mansions. He used to innocently ask his au pairs "Where does all this money come from?" They would just nod and murmer "Trees, baby. Trees."
As a child, Adam excelled at playing piano. He impressed his childhood piano teachers with deft digital maneuvers and impressive displays of compositional theory. Then one day, his father told him "Drop that music crap. It's time to grow up and be responsible."
You see, his mother and father were grooming him to become the Senior Vice President of Operations and, eventually, CEO of the family business. He went to the finest prepatory schools and then, a certain American university whose name rhymes with Barvard. All along the way, he studied in buildings with names like "Revell Hall" and "The International Revell Center for Advanced Lumber Studies". Then one day at the age of 20 years old, Adam (who was then employed at one of the family mills for a summer job) stumbled upon the de-barking process where formerly majestic trees are stripped naked of their bark in preparation for quarter sawing. He was cured of his Siddartha-like naievete in an instant and vowed to a) renounce his family's dirty tree money and b) speak only through music.
Yup, he walked away from all of those pine-scented riches. And he chose to stop "talking" and become one of the most artful and talented ex-lumber baron keyboard players in the world. If you see Adam at a show, feel free to speak to him. But he might just respond with a C#minor add 9 chord, which means "Please buy me a gluten free beer".
Seth has a predilection for wizards.
Daren, a Pisces, is a miracle. His doctors told him he most likely wouldn't see his 17th birthday. You see, tragically, at the tender ate of 12 (just as he was entering the dark forest of pubescence) he was diagnosed with the world's first and only case of Satyrs Syndrome -- a dreadful and cruel disease that began turning him from a manchild into a goatboy. (Look it up -- he's in all of the medical journals.)
In typical Daren Hahn fashion however, he turned his frown upside down, and vowed to beat this pernicious and disturbing case of Satyr's Syndrome. Friends, that little kid with the scraggly tail made a covenant with the moon and stars to defeat this malevolent and repugnant affliction. People, he overcame his aggressive and downright dangerous malady with the healing power of music -- and more specifically, through the cleansing and purifying practice of whacking the hell out of a drum that he found one day while trotting down by the Platte River. Yes, friends, Daren beat SS by beating drums. And other than the fact that on most days his hihat foot could best be described as "a bit hoofy", you'd never even know he was afflicted.
There is a downside however.
Satyr's Syndrome can never be fully cured -- it can only be managed. Daren must play his drums every day -- every single day. For if he doesn't, he will begin to mutate from the handsome devil we all know and love into a half-man / half-beast who will steal livestock and most assuredly perform unsavory acts in the village square.
Thankfully, Daren is a disciplined fellow. He plays drums like his life depends on it. Because it does.
Jed Marrs is not from Mars. Check the spelling. He is however, a man on a mission. What I mean is, Jed is a missionary. He has a personal and very direct relationship with his higher power. In fact, Jed is starting a new religion. It is named Jedaism.
Before founding Jedaism, Jed worked his way through the 22 leading religions of the world, collecting knowledge, understanding and a lot of church hymnals along the way. What Jed found, was that each religion had part of the story right, and part of the story wrong. So he decided to create a new religion by taking all the best parts of the world's leading religions and hand jiving them into a new "Super Religion".
For example, he took Gospel music from Christianity and mixed it with the stable, sensible shoes of Juche. This way, people won't slip and fall when they're singing gospel music. Good idea! Jed will deny all of this of course. He's cagey. He'll just say "Look man, I'm just a musician. I don't know what you're talking about. But, are you going to eat those fries?" Don't believe him. Jed really is a musician though. You should hear him play ragtime on his calliope.
Here are the 23 leading religions of the world that Jed studied, ranked by their "popularity":
Christianity: 2.1 billion
Islam: 1.3 billion
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
primal-indigenous: 300 million
African Traditional and Diasporic: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Juche: 19 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
Baha'i: 7 million
Jainism: 4.2 million
Shinto: 4 million
Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
Tenrikyo: 2 million
Neo-Paganism: 1 million
Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
Scientology: 500 thousand
Jedaism: 7 people
Funny thing about Jimmy -- he never wakes up.
I mean, he sleep-everythings. I mean, he’s never NOT asleep. He sleep walks. He sleep eats. He sleep rocks. It’s amazing. He’s a total zombie. Thing is, he’s been this way so long that he’s adapted a set of behaviors that make you THINK he’s awake and actually interacting with you.
He’s a real chameleon, that guy. He told me once that he was “just doing this music thing until I get a book deal”. I can’t wait to read it. It will have no doubt been sleep-written. In the meantime, he’s an amazing bass player. He also has an ever-growing, encyclopedic knowledge of 80s and 90s T.V. sitcom theme songs. Don't laugh--it's gotten him a lot of work.
Oh, and he sings like a girl.
Tom's life is best understood as a struggle between the scouring pad and that crappy stuff on the bottom of your favorite saucepan. Or, it is better understood as a struggle between disparate, immortal and amphibious comic book heroes, who find their quests for justice splintered by deep personal grudges and an unacknowledged disquiet about their thirst for violence. Or, it is better understood as an arbitrated labor dispute. Or, it is better understood as the internal monologue of a well-groomed young upstart, his ethics crumbling under the weight of his rapacious father-in-law/business partner. Or, it is perhaps more fully understood as a balloon struggling to catch an updraft in a meandering canyon, gradually acquiring altitude between the bright yellow orbs meant to deter low-flying aircraft as the sun is half submerged below the craggy southwestern ridge.
He is often confused with his twin. This is easily remedied, as his buttocks are brazenly tattooed with the words "Dungeon Master". And, he is almost never seen without his pet aardvark, MC Outsource, who on occasion will also act as his interpreter. He likes long walks on hot coals, romantic chats with chardonnay in front of the tire fire, and occasionally plays drums, keyboards, bass, composes, records, sings & produces.
Diana was born inside the fuselage of a single prop Stearman-PT17 airplane. Her father was a crop duster you see. It was a very warm evening. He was taking his wife, Diana's mum, for a short, romantic ride one summer night. He wanted her to see the stars from above the treetops and smell the new corn from up above in the warm evening air.
To this day, Diana swears she can feel the throb and thrum of that Stearman engine whenever she plays the cello.
Kevin was born into a family of displaced gauchos on the tundras of Tierra del Fuego. As a child, his precociousness was ignored and his talents misplaced as an ice farmer's second assistant. His lucky break came when he was accidentally mailed to the United States at age 17.
He quickly learned English, although his accent still keeps him shying away from interviews. He picked up a bass for the first time at 18, thinking it was a balalika whose machining had gone awry.
After some brief stints in hamster obedience class, Central American prisons, and prestitigous Ivy League American Universities, he landed his first paying musical gig: accompanying a deranged street preacher in impromptu sermons. Soon after, he realized the content of the sermons and fled for the saner climes of Denver Colorado, where he carved out a niche for himself designing high-end toilet seat covers.
He "like John lot, think he good music person for play happy song times," and prefers to avoid the spotlight.
Ian is not short. Ian does play violin.
John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light at Red Rocks.
CAN YOU HEAR ME
by John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light. Directed by David Dyster/Umbrella Brigade.