New Hartford/Focht, Whipkey, Lightning Junkyard, Shaun the Loud; #BSSF?…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:03 pm January 8, 2021
Hartford/Focht have a new record.

I’ve been waiting all week to write about these releases because I thought we were coming up on another Bandcamp Friday, but it turns out that Bandcamp is skipping January and relaunching the promo in February. Why skip January? Who knows. Regardless, I can’t wait another month to write about these new tracks and releases, so…

First up is the new one by Hartford/Focht. The core of the band is the singing duo of Matt Focht and Crystal Hartford, but as Matt said in a super-long IM in Facebook, “Our band is basically backed up by Head of Femur and Ben Armstrong’s father on piano and organ. (We) also had special guests like the Mike Mogis and the Fink sisters.” Sort of an indie folk supergroup if you ask me.

The self-titled album was recorded and mixed in Omaha this past November at The Library and ARC by Adam Roberts, and mastered by Dan Dietrich at Wall to Wall in Chicago. In addition to originals by Focht, there’s renditions of songs by Lowell George, Rick Roberts, Laura Nyro, Larry Murray, Al Kooper and Bob Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”). The whole album has an early ’70s Laurel Canyon vibe, thanks in part to Hartford’s Joni-esque vocals and the overall arrangements.

Wherein I like the covers, the originals really shine, like “Chico Hot Springs,” “Standing in the Light” and “Capitol Sunset.” Check it out here on their Bandcamp page and buy a download. It’s also at the usual streaming services.

. * * *.

It’s been awhile since we heard from Matt Whipkey. There have been trials. There have been tribulations. And coming out of all that is a new album due later this year.

I wrote and recorded an entire new album throughout the course of this last year / quarantine. The tracks were completed via email with my good friends and collaborators Scott Gaeta and Ian Aeillo. When I thought it was finished it was screaming for something more.”

Here’s an early sneak peek – a track actually written back in 2016, long before the troubles. Best sounding Whipkey track I think I’ve heard. So yeah, Whipkey’s back.

. * * * .

What do you get when you mix broken-bottle country with an Omaha punk superstar? You get Lightning Stills and Junkyard Dan on the new track, “Passed Out on the Bar.”

Lightning Stills is Craig Fort (actually a punk dude in in his own right), while Junkyard Dan is Dan Maxwell of Little Brazil and Leafblower fame. I think this is the first time I really heard DMax’s vocals in all their glory. Yeah, he’s sung on plenty of albums, but the mix and the contrast with Fort make his vox stand out like never before.

This one comes with a video that’s pretty weird, actually. Can’t wait to see these two on an Omaha stage.

. * * * .

Finally, Shaun the Loud sent an email to me out of the blue and I’m glad he did. I hadn’t heard of him, though he released an album on the late Eric Medley’s Tremulant Records last year. Shaun the Loud is Shaun Sparks. And while 2019’s Galaxy Particles was a twangy singer/songwriter band-driven collection, Sparks has gone almost all digital on this new one, thanks, in part, to the pandemic.

The result, the self-released Cosmic Barbecue, sounds like a dance album sung by one of Glen Campbell’s sidemen. Sparks said his teenage kids along with a few contributors, including a handful of players, Christopher Steffen, who mixed the album, and Doug Van Sloun, “encouraged the electronic thing.”

The original concept of the project was to make dance music but it took a life of its own from there, mainly because Idk how to make that and I’m normally into songwriting, so that’s why there’s more emphasis on beats, synth and bass lines rather than the more songwriter-y structure in the previous release,” he said.

Call it a singer/songwriter electronic dance music, if you will, and definitely worth checking out, but not on Bandcamp. Sparks’ albums are released on Distrokid, which includes every streaming service but Bandcamp.

. * * * .

It’s the second Friday of the month and you know what that means — Blackstone Second Friday or #BSSF.

Well, I don’t know if #BSSF is a thing yet, but maybe we can get the ball rolling, especially tonight when The Little Gallery Blackstone hosts an opening reception featuring the works of artist Jeanne Pittack. Titled “Heimweh,” the show features Pittack’s black-and-white photography.

It’s the first new opening at the new Little Gallery space in Blackstone, located at 144. So. 39th St., which is inside the Blackstone Mansion just east of Night Owl. The show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and admission is free. Masks are required, as is social distancing, and there’s a 5-person limit inside The Little Gallery. See you there.

Have a great weekend.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.