The Congress w.s.g. Kenneka Cook

The Congress w.s.g. Kenneka Cook

Sat, December 22, 2018

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Camel

$12 ADV, $15 DOS

The Congress
The Congress
With the release of their sophomore album, The Game (out September 9, 2016 on American Paradox), The Congress progresses further along a career path that’s taken them from Denver, CO, where they first formed, back to their hometown of Richmond, VA. They’ve followed a circuitous route, one that’s found them touring with high profile bands like Lake Street Dive, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Hard Working Americans, and performing at major festivals like Wakarusa and High Sierra, while still remaining focused on their singular sound, a dynamic mix of riveting rock ‘n’ roll, old school soul, classic country, and searing psychedelia.

Ultimately, The Congress is a band that shows reverence for their roots through both cohesion and creativity. “It’s hard to pigeonhole us one way or the other,” says guitarist/vocalist Scott Lane. “We do what comes naturally, with a lot of focus on song and arrangement, and very little on genre. We’re not great at putting ourselves in one box.” That’s borne out on The Game, even on an initial listen. From the mournful sway of “Home Again” and “Farewell,” to the jazzy, soulful sound evident in “When I Got the Time,” it’s clear The Congress is as versatile as it is unpredictable. The slow, steady glide of “Poison and Antidote” and “This Ain’t Livin’” finds a perfect mesh with spry rockers like “Ain’t It Easy,” “September” and the title track, ensuring a subtle change in tone and tempo throughout.

The Game follows the band’s two EPs (one self-titled, the other dubbed The Loft Tapes) and a full-length debut (aptly titled Whatever You Want). The new record was recorded primarily at Denver’s Macy Sound Studios with occasional sessions at Montrose Studio in Richmond. Bassist/vocalist Jonathan Meadows remembers, “‘This Ain’t Livin‘ came really quickly. We ran through it in 20 minutes and the first take turned out to be the best. It felt very spontaneous.” To keep that fresh feeling throughout The Game, the band stripped down their sound, relying only on the basics -- guitar, bass, piano and drums -- the latter courtesy of band members Chris Speasmaker (keys) and Mark Levy (drums), respectively. The newest member of the fold, drummer Raphael Katchinoff replaced Levy earlier this year.

Although the band produced the album themselves (“Scott has really learned his way around the studio,” Meadows mentions. “He’s really nailed it.”), they opted to turn the mixing chores over to engineer Adrian Olsen. “This was the first time we didn’t do it ourselves,” Meadows continues. “I think that was a more mature decision on our part. It was really exciting to hear the results coming from the hands of somebody else.” In the end, The Game is an accurate representation of the band’s versatility. “We’re obsessive about music,” Lane insists. “We love old R&B. We’re fans of classic country. It’s all rock and roll.
Kenneka Cook
Kenneka Cook
Kenneka Cook has always loved outer space.

Growing up in Richmond, VA, she was obsessed with the moon, staring out her window at the night sky in awe of its mystery. The title track on Cook’s debut record Moonchild, set for a February 23rd release on American Paradox, is both a product of her intense connection with the cosmos, as well as a tribute to the embracing of celestial feminine energy. Musically, Cook bridges the gap between beat-driven sonics and melodic jazz in a brazenly colorful and tonally rich debut album.

Cook’s early training took place in her church choir and school chorus. Her tastes eventually shifted towards heavyweights like Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu, and The Cardigans, informing her confidently playful, harmony-heavy, atmospheric style. Initially she was making acapella songs with a microphone and laptop during the end of her college career out of necessity, describing her voice as “the only instrument I truly had access to” at the time.

She discovered the process of live looping through Reggie Watts, who sometimes uses looping techniques in the songs found in his comedy acts. She covered the jazz standard “Night and Day” using the technique and it turned out better than she ever could have hoped. From there, she began to fully explore creating music and on the new album, she welcomes a variety of live players into the fold to flush out and widen the unique sound she created on her own.

Moonchild is a glimpse through Cook’s lens, exhibiting heartfelt lyrics and melodic themes on spirituality, technology, and social interaction. The album opens with serious meditations on the state of human connection (“My Universe”, “Don’t Ask Me”) and finds its way to a fun-as-hell-take on the now-classic “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” by Vampire Weekend. “Please” transforms a conversation between Cook and her mother into a soft hymn, and “Brings Me Back (111)” depicts the mutual beckoning of soulmates.

There’s a DIY backbone here too, as the album was recorded entirely in producer Scott Lane's living room, transformed into a makeshift studio that was regularly set up and torn down. It was recorded this past summer over 3 months time, and features players Devonne Harris (piano/Butcher Brown), Kelli Strawbridge (drums/Kings), Caleb Knight (drums/Sammi Lanzetta), Chris Speasmaker (piano/The Congress), Andrew Sisk (drums/Angelica Garcia), Marcus Tenney (trumpet/Foxygen), Russell Lacy (guitar/Mikrowaves), Sid Kingsley (saxophone/Sid Kingsley), Jared Pool (mandolin/Larry Keel), and Scott Lane (production/engineering).
Venue Information:
The Camel
1621 W. Broad Street
Richmond, VA, 23220
http://www.thecamel.org