The Mercy Alliance and Joe Rathbone
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The Mercy Alliance and Joe Rathbone

Burke, Virginia, United States | INDIE

Burke, Virginia, United States | INDIE
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Joe Rathbone has hit all the requisite points on the mid-tier alt/folk circuit; Mountain Stage, Starbucks compilation discs, etc, but where he’s ended up, with his most recent release Mad July, is tremendously well positioned in that critical radio-friendly zone, with a diverse mix of solidly written pop songs, and arrangements that are just different enough. FREE // 154 Ludlow Street (upstairs @ the Living Room) - THE LO-DOWN news from the lower east side


Given the title of Joe Rathbone’s third album, it’s hard to believe the wayfaring artist has stood still long enough to enjoy any lunar sightings. A Philadelphia native, Rathbone’s made his way from New York to Atlanta, working as a wedding singer and music teacher, and now calls Nashville home. But don’t think that his time in the trenches providing tunes for father-daughter dances makes him comparable to a castoff from an Adam Sandler flick. Rathbone’s songs mix melodic, heartland rock with atmospheric flourishes, calling to mind Tom Petty and Joseph Arthur. Tracks such as "Mercury" and "Beautiful Noise" incorporate inventive sonic landscapes, but even among the samples and grooves, Rathbone’s inviting, often tender vocals keep the proceedings human and heartfelt. For an artist who’s seemingly chased his musical muse across the Eastern seaboard, Rathbone’s an engaging, burgeoning talent who has his feet firmly planted on this Moon. - The Performing Songwriter


SINGER-SONGWRITER-GUITARIST Joe Rathbone has seen his share of praise from rock critics who've drawn flattering comparisons to Elvis Costello, Paul Westerberg, Tom Petty and the like. But the best thing about Rathbone's "Under the Scorpio Moon" is that it doesn't attempt to live up to the kudos accorded to his previous CDs with anything other than a series of well-crafted and often subtly arranged songs. In fact, the album's atmospheric moods help set it apart as much as anything else. Augmenting the core roots-rock lineup are cellist David Henry, who also plays keyboards and guitars here, and reedman Jimmy Bowland, on sax, flute and clarinet. Henry's ties to the Cowboy Junkies are evoked from time to time, but Rathbone's songs are solid enough to stand on their own. And never more so than when they come equipped with hook-laden choruses and punchy, Petty-like guitar riffs, as on "Angel," or offer a soaring melody to go along with Rathbone's alternately poetic and pointed lyrics. For a dreamy, guitar-resonating example of the latter, check out "The World (Never Gonna Be the Same)." While Rathbone's voice isn't particularly distinctive, it's soulful enough to get the job done on all but a few songs here. Most of what remains is redeemed by an unusual weave of shimmering and percussive sounds. - The Washington Post


Somewhere between Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson lies the voice of Joe Rathbone. The Nashville-based artist sails from atmospheric falsettos to gritty, low refrains, always with an ear for catchy melodies and a clever turn of phrase. “I’m really not so bad, I’m just bad-looking,” he sings in “I’m Gonna Make It Up to You,” attempting to forge a new start with an old love.

Rathbone can marry lyrics and melody together as effortlessly as a Las Vegas preacher, making the solid unions seem fluid and easy. “Love is like a costume, go and hang it on a wall / You can tell your mother that you lost your favorite doll,” Rathbone sings in “You Make the World Go ‘Round,” while bass, drums and piano float sweetly along, dotting the sonic landscape like cotton-candy clouds. Longing for music that’s well-crafted and refreshingly original? Take a listen to this record, and watch out for shards of glass as Joe Rathbone breaks the windows of your heart. (www.joerathbone.com)
- Performing Songwriter


Joe Rathbone, I Can Hear the Windows of Your Heart Breaking

“Learning to fly / Dipping a wing in the ocean / No, you’re not high . . . Your heart is finally in motion,” Joe Rathbone sings in the opening track of his second album. Over waves of distorted guitar chords, his falsetto vocal melody glides along as gracefully as the gull described in the lyrics. On the instrumental break, cello and guitar lines follow and circle each other like birds in formation, giving a subtle new dimension to the words. Throughout this CD, Rathbone shows a remarkable knack for this kind of synergistic songcraft. The arrangements are taut yet spacious, occasionally dressed up with masterful cello work by coproducer David Henry, and the recording eschews flashy studio gimmicks; it simply lets you inside the songs and leaves you humming the choruses, especially on cuts like the title track and “Lookin’ for Me.” Most importantly, it captures key sonic details, such as the crack of the snare and the crunchy tone of Rathbone’s Gibson ES-125, edging the songs toward the rock side of folk-rock. (Zakz, www.joerathbone.com)
- Acoustic Guitar Magazine


When it comes to pop/rock comparatives, three always get my attention: Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty. Atlanta transplant Joe Rathbone occasionally sounds like an amalgam of the three. His music unites top-shelf hook-a-minute pop songwriting and a pleasing soulful voice. The sensitive-guy vocal chops include liberal use of falsetto that adds moments of call-and-response or ear-catching tonal color a la Brian Wilson.

While there is a certain sentimental façade, producer David Henry manages to keep the arrangements firmly locked into rock grooves, and the result is an album on which every song sounds like an adult alternative radio single. Rathbone’s modus operand us is the intimate conversational touch, but beefy grooves and the crunchy ring in his electric guitar keep the music from swerving across that deadly saccharin center stripe.

Songs such as ‘Learning to Fly’ and ‘You Make the World Go Round’ make it no stretch to believe Rathbone is a former wedding singer turned music teacher, while ‘Take Me With You’ rocks hard and shows he can spin an edgy hipster tale when he’s not in love song mode.

The incredibly catchy ‘Everything’s About to Be Beautiful’ is a cutting snarled-lip narrative that would fit seamlessly into Costello’s classic ‘This Year’s Model.’ “You spent seven years workin’ on a brand new style/Big bad eyes, big bad beautiful smile/Everything’s about to be beautiful.” Just more pure pop for now people.
- No Depression


Joe Rathbone projects a tempered hopefulness in his songs. In the opening tune, “Learning to Fly” he establishes the album’s low key, gently self deprecating mood intoning “ I’ve been waiting for you / You’ve been waiting for me / Let’s go for a walk / Forget about these terrible things.” There’s something simple and eminently real about understated sentiments such as these. Echoes of Tom Petty, Marshall Crenshaw and the Finn Brothers permeate the disc and an Elvis Costello influence occasionally surfaces. Rathbone however carefully shuns Costello’s tendency toward verbosity and vitriol.

The moving portrait “Hometown Queen” reveals another of the album’s strengths: Rathbone’s and co-producer David Henry’s (Guster, Josh Rouse) attention to detail. The subtle use of strings deepens the tunes inherent melancholia……he’s fashioned a thoroughly winning pop album filled with strong melodies and well-turned lyrics.
- Paste Magazine


The trick to creating a perfect pop confection revolves around getting the mix between sweet and sour just right. Joe Rathbone's songs prove that he has the recipe down pat. Every song on his second solo release, I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking, displays a level of songwriting savvy usually associated with contemporary masters like Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Rathbone's songs are both fresh and familiar, groundbreaking yet classic.

Great pop music requires that songs be mated with performances and arrangements that "deliver" the music. Joe Rathbone's voice, with its strong falsetto, reminds me of Joe Jackson grafted onto Brian Wilson. The arrangements echo back to the Knack, Beatles, Todd Rundgren, and ELO. Layered musical textures combining dual keyboard and guitar solos, all mated with crunchy electric guitar sounds, make every song a sonic treat, a rocky road ice cream bar full of complementary tastes. Every song displays an attention to sonic detail that borders on excessive. No song escapes getting the star treatment complete with cleverly multi-tracked and carefully processed vocals. But all this studio effort succeeds spectacularly. Instead of sounding fussy and rarefied, the final result yields vibrant yet sophisticated rock and roll.

Obviously producer/engineer David Henry should share in the kudos for this album. All the songs were recorded in his studio. Without his superb production skills and extensive hours of production time this album couldn't have turned out as sonically stellar as it has. Other members of the David family also contributed their skills. Brother Jeff, played cello, bass, and mandolin, while his twin brother Ned added violin parts. The only other musician was Craig Wright on drums and percussion. Joe Rathbone handled all guitars, piano, keyboards, and vocals besides writing all the songs. Whew!

I'm a jaded old sod. On average I listen to ten new CDs per week. Although I listen to everything that comes in the mail chute, many releases get only a perfunctory listen because they don't have the musical substance to grab me. I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking was an exception. It caught me within the first ten seconds and didn't let go till the last cut. Great pop music can do that. I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking has the right stuff.
- Vintage Guitag Magazine


Discography

2007-Current -- Mad July EP
2005 -- Under the Scorpio Moon LP (picked up by Starbuck's Music)
2002 - I Can Hear the Windows LP ...

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Bio

After catching the ears of Starbucks/Hear Music with his 2007 release Under the Scorpio Moon, resulting in their licensing several songs for play in stores nationally, Joe Rathbone is back withy Mad July; a 5-song EP that runs from a rememberance of a desert trek ('8 Years Ago'), to the death of a former colleague ('Mary'), to landing in the modern era 'half naked in a bistro' ('Mad July'), to realizing 'we're finally where we should have been('Moving with You').

Recorded in the attic loft of musical renegade/producter Josh Fuson and ending up in David Henry's haven aka True Tone Recording, what happened was madness and love in sound and words. In the summer of 2008, Daniel Dennis, owner of Prime Cut Records in Nashville, teamed up with Joe Rathbone to release his new EP, featuring Steve Bowman's tribal drumming, David Mead's soul/choral backing, cardboard box drum loops, 10-watt Gibson amps, a string section, metal ductwork on 2 and 4 and a belief that all these folks you never heard of sound better than the famous ones, the priveleged anointed ones. Here's to friends and Mad July.

Mad July follows 2007's Under the Scorpio Moon, 2004's I Can Hear the Windows of Your Heart Breaking and the 2002 debut, Welcome to Your New Life. All three received very favorable reviews in national media and extensive airplay on AAA radio stations, most ntably WFUV in NYC, WXPN in Philadelphia, WNCW in Charlotte, NC, KUT in Austin, WRNR in Maryland, WMNF in Tampa, KXCI in Tuscon and XM Satellite Radio's Cafe' Channel throughout the US and were lauded as an impressive showcase of Rathbone's songwriting skills.

Joe has appeared on The Mountain Stage and tours in the US and UK, opening for Shawn Colvin, Chuck Prophet, Rock Four, Peter Mulvey, Robbie Fulks, Jeff Lang, Amy Rigby, Greg Trooper, Jim Lauderdale and Ben Weaver.

Starbucks/Hear Music licensed 'The World' from Under the Scorpio Moon for plays in 10,000+ stores nationally in 2008 and Paste Magazine featured 'Like Some Angel' from Scorpio Moon on it's May 2007 CD sampler.