Smoking hot, blues-inspired musician Jonah Tolchin deserves a wider audience.
Not only are there no bad tracks on his new folk-rock “Thousand Mile Nights” release, he also journeyed all the way to Alabama to record most of the new release at legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
Some history about the New Jersey native: discovered by blues icon Ronnie Earl while playing guitar at a record store, Tolchin was later asked to perform at the Newport Folk Festival. He had just released his first full-length album, “Criminal Man.”
His second album “Clover Lane” – produced by Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice) – dropped in 2014 to critical acclaim.
Subsequently, his music racked up more than three million plays on Spotify.
On his new album, a deluge of blues makes title track “Thousand Mile Night” a praiseworthy standout. It’s a dark, musical journey featuring choice slide guitar.
Have a listen:
Thousand Mile Night
Last week, Portland Radio Project had the pleasure to talk with Tolchin about his magical new release.
PRP: “How did you first get your start in music?
JT: “I started playing guitar when I was around 13. About a year later, I met guitarist Ronnie Earl in a music shop in Keene, NH. He invited me to play on stage with him a few months later; I’ve always felt like that was my introduction into the music scene.”
PRP: “Were all of the tracks on “Thousand Mile Nights” recorded at Muscle Shoals?”
JT: “All tracks except for “Beauty in the Ugliest of Days” and “Completely (recorded at the Carriage House in Silverlake, CA) were recorded at Muscle Shoals.”
PRP: “How did that come about?”
JT: “I first met (engineer) John Gifford III at FAME studios when I was producing “Bound to Meet the Devil” for Julie Rhodes. We did some overdubs there and John and I really hit it off.”
“It was mostly because of our chemistry that I decided to work there.”
PRP: “Favorite artists and long-time music inspirations?”
JT: “…Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Freddie King, Peter Green, Michael Bloomfield, Ry Cooder.”
“(Also) Bob Dylan, A.A Bondy, Kris Kristofferson, Will Kindler, Lucas Hamren, Shea Vaccaro, to mention a few.”
“I’m really a guitarist first,” explains Tolchin. “So far, I haven’t showcased that on any of my records – which I plan on changing (this year or next).”
“Currently I’ve been listening to a lot of north African artists including Tinariwen, Bombino, and Fatoumata Diawara,” adds Tolchin.
PRP: “Really love the electric guitar about halfway through “Beauty in the Ugliest of Days”…very Clapton-esque! Is that you or a session musician?”
JT: “That was my good friend Danny Roaman. He never fails to deliver.”
PRP: “Completely” is a lovely arrangement with a whole different feel – we’d love to know a little bit about that one!”
JT: “‘Completely’ was one of the tracks recorded at the Carriage House in LA. We must have recorded more than five different versions of the song, at different times in different places with different bands.”
“This particular band consisted of Joachim Cooder (son of musician Ry Cooder, on drums), Dylan Cooper (bass), Marvin Etzioni (keys), Sam Amidon (harmony, fiddle, banjo), and me.”
“Whenever I’ve been in a room with Joachim, the vibe totally changes. He always brings an incredibly unique feel to everything he does. I played off of that…and we built the song from there.”
PRP: “The vibe on ‘Unless You Got Faith’ is very distinct from the others – a bit reminiscent of Bob Dylan & The Band. Is that distinct sound a result of the mixing, the vibe in the room when it was recorded, or something else?”
JT: “There was a lot of raw power going into this song on everyone’s part. We sort of just let loose on it!”
“I think the mixing did have a lot to do with it, both Marvin Etzioni (producer) and I were playing with the faders as we put down a live mix. That’s why you’ll hear different elements coming up and down throughout the song.”
PRP: “Shows or festivals you’re looking forward to playing this year?”
JT: “I experienced some health issues last summer which I’m only now just recovering from – this made it a challenge to really push the record as much as we would have liked to.”
“We’ll be touring in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and possibly a few other locations.”
PRP: “Have you heard of Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival which takes place over July 4th weekend?”
JT: “I haven’t heard about it, but I would love to learn more! It sounds like a blast.”
Also especially noteworthy on the new release is Tolchin’s bare bones “take heart” approach on tender opener ‘Beauty in the Ugliest of Days.’ “It’s up to you to see the beauty in the ugliest of days,” croons Tolchin.
The powerful, subdued track – about patience and courage – features the expert, understated lead guitar of Danny Roaman. Check it out: