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"Eastern Standard Time Review"

Cool Cleveland Review

You might remember them by rollicking sound alone or by their former moniker Roger Hoover & the Whiskeyhounds. Either way, The Magpies' lightheaded fusion of folk, R&B and gritty, blues-based Americana is sure to touch your heartland soul. Eastern Standard Time, the Magpies' "debut" album offers tabula rasa of sorts for Hoover and mates Justin Gorski (accordion/ piano/ keyboards), Chris Yohn (bass) and Dave McKean (drums). With a sound offering less country-fried crunch and more moonshine swoon than the 'Hounds used to deliver, this feels like the transition Bob Dylan made between his acoustic and electric phases -- granted on a slightly smaller scale. The Magpies are an authentic roots rock band and Eastern Standard Time shows there's no doubt about it. You can bet your Olds 442 on it.

These songs are louder, more structured and accessible; they're very much fortified by Springsteen-like flouishes, Wilco-like intentionality and meaty choruses that split those proverbial uprights. Everything about Eastern Standard Time is well-reasoned, making the melodies, poetic compositions and harmonic approach pull together exquisitely well. Songs like "Picture Me in a Love Song, the chiming "Tea Kettle" and "Elizah Jane" sport a roadhouse focus and a dirt-under-the-nails approach, while rootsy folk ballads like "Girl on the Hill" recall the band's earlier moniker and approach. The band jokes that their house was broken when they changed their name and [i]nstead of fixing the house, they burnt the house down. It's hard to argue with that analogy listening to Eastern Standard Time, but if you loved the Whiskeyhounds (see their "Cobblestone Road"), you're not exactly in unfamiliar territory, either.

- Cool Cleveland


"Little Rock show/album review"

Arkansas Times feature by Davis Clement


The sepia-toned, poverty-stricken paradise in the songs of most
Americana artists today has little literary direction, other than to
charm the listener with vignettes quaint and country. This music only
reflects a cultural obsession—reactive to our crisp modern times—with
all things rural and out-of-date and dirty, and with notable exception
rarely goes beyond the merely descriptive. All the world is a
rotten-floored front porch where simple passes for subtle, and true,
coarse human anxiety is scarcely explored or wrestled with.



The shelves are flooded with craftily costumed artists photographed in
boots and lace, pondering something folksy on a lonely haystack with
guitar and tambourine. The saddest thing about this market-driven
approach to indie roots music is that it has roped in a lot of
brilliantly talented musicians. It’s certainly safe to say that most
roots artists with record contracts are, themselves, impressively
skilled on their instruments and backed by musicians of the highest
caliber.



But the soul of American roots music, draped as it is in beautiful
melody, has been the close relationship of that music to its words.
Somewhere the imagery of music has lost touch with its roots.
America’s is a music built not only on lovestruck loneliness but on
social oppression, economic strife, crude sexual expression, common
humanity, and political dissent. These are the elements of American
life—all still present today—that gave rise to the first blues, folk,
country, and rock. Corporate-driven artists shy from these themes,
gilding a rich musical tradition in empty showmanship and forgettable
verse.



Roger Hoover strode quietly onto the Akron, Ohio, scene about five
years ago, with two albums (Golden Gloves and Panic Blues) whose
musical breadth alone should have immediately placed him and his band,
the Whiskeyhounds, on touring gigs with the brightest Americana stars.
It is likely the case that the Whiskeyhounds were lost in a crowd of
beggars at the resurgent roots music banquet. What listeners could
have heard in these albums was tremendous potential for lyrical
complexity, which is the last distinguishing honor to be attained by
artists in any crowded musical genre. Regardless, these were the
Whiskeyhounds who chanced down to Arkansas and established a
connection that would eventually lead to lasting musical relationships
with such Arkansas artists as Hayes Carll, Cory Branan, and Graham
Wilkinson.



"I first met Conway after our drummer booked a house show there for
the Whiskeyhounds," says Hoover. Through a serendipitous punk-rock
connection with Matt White (then a Conway kid spending his spare time
building a music scene in the driest of college towns, now the
booker/manager of Little Rock music institution White Water Tavern)
the Whiskeyhounds made it down to Conway from Akron, Ohio. "We pulled
in the drive in a rusted out Ford van with trailer in tow," Hoover
remembers. "We were instantly greeted with brotherly hugs and
heartfelt conversations by people we’d never met. From that moment on
I have felt accepted. I felt accepted as a writer, as a friend, and a
citizen of Conway."



Since then, Hoover has developed a fan base in central Arkansas that,
he says, easily trumps any reception in his home state. Arkansas is
clearly an artistic inspiration for the band: "Little Rock and Conway
are very similar to Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Since I’m from Ohio I
have a much more romantic view of Arkansas than maybe you have. I see
a land rich in folklore and farming soil that sprouted small American
cities with budding intellectual centers. Not far from the metropolis
of Little Rock you’ll find the Buffalo River and the Ozarks—two places
that are very mystic in my eyes. There seems to exist a constant
struggle between the old and the new."



After building a familial rapport with the Conway contingent, Hoover’s
band underwent some personnel rearrangement which resulted,
ultimately, in the creation of Jukebox Manifesto, one of the finest
roots records since Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker or Gillian Welch’s Time:
The Revelator. Jukebox Manifesto sees Hoover’s poetic tales matched
with music that fully illuminates their literary panache. Songs from
the first half of Jukebox ("Cobblestone Road," "Stone on the Ground")
are instrumentally full, soaring sing-alongs that turn whole crowds
into chanting vagabonds: "Here comes the night, and I’m feelin’ like a
pistol-whipped criminal… from dusk ’til dawn, we ride alone!"



The real gems on Jukebox, though, are the lonelier tales that exist on
a quieter plane, seeming chapters in some funereal saga of unrelenting
existential angst and personal tragedy. The band’s ability to pin
down stark, gothic musical settings that not only emphasize Hoover’s
words, but affect their meaning, really sets Jukebox apart from
Hoover’s previous work. "Down By the Riverside" makes personal regret
sound pastorally nostalgic: "Should time stand still, hindsight
obscure, I’ll meet you where the mountainside meets the water." But
"Drifter" is the album’s piece de resistance, taking a jilted lover’s
confession of stubborn loneliness to filmic heights: "Even though it’s
a club I used to play, they don’t let me walk in for free anymore."
The album winds down with three quiet, wintery odes and closes with a
stiff-lipped dirge that leaves a knot in your throat.



From day one of their encounter, White has since been singing their
praises to anyone who will listen: "Make no mistake about it—Roger
Hoover is one of the best songwriters in the country today. The
Magpies are our absolute favorite band to book at the White Water
Tavern, and getting to see them live is an absolutely moving, and if
you’re like me, a potentially life changing event."



" Justin Gorski is one of the most electrifying live players I’ve ever
seen. He is a wild genius, a classically-trained mad man," says
White. "You never know what he’s going to do next. It almost feels
dangerous watching him play the piano." In live performances Gorski
takes center stage, and his playing appears to be the musical version
of speaking in tongues. In the middle of a perfectly fine
foot-tapping little tune, Gorski will snatch from the vaudevillian
ether a rolling piano solo, transforming the band from any rock
quartet to the sweatiest electric minstrel show this side of Sunday
morning.



Now, Roger Hoover & the Whiskeyhounds have changed their name to,
simply, the Magpies (tagged, as well, as "indiefolkrockrevivalists"),
in effect decentralizing Hoover and drawing focus on the more
collaborative work their music-making process is now. Their new
album, Eastern Standard Time (due out May 15), is completely a
collective effort. "Justin is there with an unlimited knowledge of
composition to help further along the song," Hoover says. "From there
we take it to the rhythm section where we round out what tempo best
suits the story."



Where Jukebox Manifesto had a cohesive dynamic with highs and lows
that combined to create an album that moved fluidly from song to song,
Eastern Standard Time punches each song into your head. Hoover’s
stories, paired with piano, organ, and accordion with
effortless-seeming brilliance make for tales as visually depictive as
they are audibly wrenching.



"Elizah Jane" portrays an epic journey to post-Katrina New Orleans to
retrieve voodoo cures for a dying pregnant lover whose ultimate death
is heralded by stabbing guitar and twisting, morbid organ. "Girl on
the Hill," another highlight, is a paean to a mute muse in the
grandest shape-note tradition. Aside from these, the album keeps up a
rowdy pace and doesn’t so much revisit Highway 61 as repave it with
broken bottles, forgotten promises, and dead lovers. The bulk of
Eastern Standard Time is an exhilarating mix of swampy church house
testimonials doused in whiskey, along with some of the best
fist-pumping arena-style anthems in twenty years. The best thing
about this album is, unmistakably, how well it is going to translate
to live performance.



Just in their last two albums, The Magpies have rounded out a more
contoured geography of American songscape than most artists could
manage in an entire career. Hoover refuses to grant name or boundary
to this world, though. "The characters in my songs exist only in the
eyes of people willing to see them. I just so happen to have been
told their stories and have taken artistic freedom to embellish them
accordingly. Since I am the only singer of my collected embellished
story songs, these characters feel like they exist in a separate
world."



"I have not intentionally set out to create an alternate America,"
says Hoover. "I’m trying to expose the real America." Certainly the
Magpies have hewn out of life’s turmoil a depiction of American life
that , real or imagined, confounds all the clichés of American roots
industry: It achieves timelessness without resorting to tired,
antiquarian romanticism, and reestablishes the vital connection
between our varied roots music traditions and the human stories they
tell.

- Arkansas Times (Davis Clement)


"January 2008 tour reviews"

“The Magpies’ latest album, Eastern Standard Time, is stuffed with Byrdsian jangle, Springsteen-style sprawl and, yes, the occasional Dylan-like wordplay. Songs like “Picture Me in a Love Song” and “The Waiting” underscore Hoover’s rasp and the band’s old-school approach to music-making (they haul organs, accordions and fiddles into the studio and onstage).” - St. Louis, MO - Riverfront Times

“As one of the best touring bands we saw roll through Dayton in 2008, we’d highly recommend you start 2009 off right with these guys.” - Dayton, OH - Buddha Den

“The Magpies are phenomenal. They are a mix of indie and folk rock, but have a flair for the exceptional.” - Little Rock, AR - Little Rock Live

“Blue-eyed soul ballad “Girl on the Hill” actually made Aftermath text a friend, “The band I’m watching right now… Ryan Adams would weep.”" - Houston, TX - Houston Press

“The Magpies rocked an extraordinary one hour show.” - Norman, Oklahoma - Norman Transript - mixed


Discography

The Magpies - Jukebox Manifesto
The Magpies - Eastern Standard Time Teaser (EP)
The Magpies - Eastern Standard Time (Full Length)
The Magpies- Strangers (Full Length)

Photos

Bio

The Magpies bring a new reverent energy to roots music performance.The Ohio four-piece formerly known as Roger Hoover & The Whiskeyhoundsare now four albums into a career that has taken them all over thecountry, preaching a rowdy gospel of sin, redemption, love, anddeath—it's indiefolkrockrevivalism. Without label or professional representation, the Magpies havereleased four outstanding collections of unusual musical breadth andlyrical diversity. Roger Hoover's career as a writer has all thehallmarks of a great American epic. He came into his own after thedeath of his father, leaving the family business to follow hiscreative calling. Teaming up with friend and touring punk veteranDave McKean (GC5), he started putting his words to music and his musicon the road. Hoover & The Whiskeyhounds put out two albums (Golden Gloves, PanicBlues) that challenged the Americana scene's complacency with cliché.Even then, Hoover's words stepped beyond the forced eccentricity of alot of roots music. Having grown up around storytellers lendsHoover's writing style a particular universalism, even as many of hisstories seem to come from some unknown, but very specific, time andplace. His settings are a combination of words and music that evokesthought and action with the cinematic imagination of Tom Waits andGillian Welch. With the addition of Justin Gorski, who jumped onstage with hisaccordion one night in Cleveland and wound up being asked to join theband, the band's sound took a more imaginative turn. Gorski's piano,organ, and accordion turned Hoover's reflective words into prophecy,his confessions into testimony. The resultant album, JukeboxManifesto, was an album of impressive breadth and detail—frompolitical dissent and seductive passion to stark loneliness andfunereal realism, Jukebox Manifesto ran the gamut of the rootstradition. To reflect the more collaborative nature of their music-writingprocess, Hoover & The Whiskeyhounds changed their name to the Magpiesfor the release of their fourth album, Eastern Standard Time. Thisnewest collection, like Jukebox, is alive with characters ofmulti-faceted tragedy. Unlike Jukebox, however, stark and lonelyintrospection is set aside for Springsteen-sized roots anthems ofraucous resignation to the pangs of human folly. It is perhaps theclosest the band has come to fully representing its live energy in arecording. The Magpies' live shows are a spectacle of rare energy, with intimateverse and fist-pumping chorus taking turns across the spectrum ofblues, gospel, folk, and rock. Hoover's electric tenor is ascaptivating as the words he sings—he whispers with the same urgency ashe screams, while sweating out dirty slide guitar solos plucked rightout of the Mississippi River. And Gorski holds his audience in raptattention, squeezing and shaking out accordion and keyboard melodieswith all the charisma of a hexed snakehandler. As writers, The Magpies are twisting Americana's calloused chords intoa redemptive hook that at once recalls the first notes of rock-n-rolland resets the boundaries of what we know as roots music. Asentertainers, they present lyrically heavy, searing Americanrock-n-roll with a contagious fervor that lifts ghosts from thefloorboards and hands them a microphone. They are breathing new lifeinto roots music. Wherever they find themselves, it's the mostunforgettable show in town. It's indiefolkrockrevivalism.