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Arts & Life

Mixtape: New music from May Erlewine, Desmond Jones, and Cameron Blake

John Sinkevics works to choose the best local talent of the fall.

John Sinkevics, editor and publisher of Local Spins, which covers west Michigan’s music scene, said his listening suggestions for the month were made with a somewhat higher purpose than normal after yesterday’s events: the largest mass shooting in American history at a Las Vegas country music festival called the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

“Considering the turbulence, the turmoil, and the violence that we seem to be enduring on an almost weekly basis, I’m glad to say I’ve chosen a couple of artists that display the healing power of music and their latest albums certainly are part of that,” Sinkevics said.

From an indie-folk songstress with an album to her name for every year she’s been in the business to a church music minister whose songs grapple with our collective fears, here is the best of the local talent releasing new albums in October and November:

1.)    May Erlewine, Mother Lion

Traverse City-based May Erlewine, is “one of the the standout indie folk artists through the region,” according to Sinkevics.

“She really has set the bar for other artists and she’s gotten attention nationally as well for her song, ‘Shine On,'" he said.

Over the past almost two decades, Erlewine has been a part of the Earthwork Music Collective, collaborated with Seth Bernard and the Sweet Water Warblers, and toured with The Motivations.

Now on her newest release, he says she’s collaborated with Ann Arbor band Vulfpeck to incorporate a new funkier soundscape in an attempt to embrace the range of emotions listeners might have felt over the past year.

“When you got to one of her concerts, you can’t help but go away feeling better about life in general which is why I think it’s important for people to hear this album,” Sinkevics said.

In a nod to her Michigan fans, Erlewine will release the album in the state a full month ahead of its digital, national release in November.

2.)    Desmond Jones, Desmond Jones

Grand Rapids-based Desmond Jones is “a jam band” that formed in East Lansing when its members were still students at Michigan State University. Since then he says they've "really worked hard to develop their live show."

“They take jazz and rock and fun, and make it a fun party for their audiences wherever they play,” Sinkevics said.

He said the band's yearlong residency at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids "really helped them hone their sound." 

"I'm really happy to see that they've finally put out a full-length album and they're doing that later this week, as a matter of fact. And they're really incorporated a lot of that live sound feel into what they've done."

He said the band's new producers helped them include new eclectic sounds. Their new album will drop the first few weeks of October and now that they've returned from New York City will be playing live in Traverse City and throughout the state.

“They’re a fun band to see live.”

3.)    Cameron Blake, Fear Not

Grand Rapids-based Cameron Blake was trained as a violinist before he went back to school at the Peabody Institute of Music, where he earned a master's degree in music performance. After graduation, he returned back home to Michigan, becoming the music director at his local church and recording his first raw, semi-autobiographical solo album, Alone On the World Stage.

All of these experiences, as well as important historical events, influenced his newest album. And he's no longer alone on stage this time with a band of more than 50 fellow musicians that back up him up on the record.

“He tackles a lot of difficult, tougher issues and darker side of life, but in a lot of ways, it’s really hopeful,” Sinkovics said.

On his newest album, Blake reflects on events as far-reaching as the Tiananmen Square massacre to protests in Baltimore earlier in the year.

Fear Not will be released mid-November and has already been called, “poetic and filled with a luminous melancholy” by HuffPost.

“I love the way he writes and really expresses the antidote to fear,” Sinkevics said.

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