POSTED ON OCTOBER 5, 2011:
A New Chapter
Ben and Noelle Kilgore release a new album while The New Tulsa Sound gets a vinyl release
Most of Tulsa is already aware of Ben Kilgore's talent. As lead singer for The Hero Factor, he fronted one of Tulsa's most popular local rock bands of the past decade. And although his solo performances continue on a limited basis, he still pops up annually on the ABoT Music Awards ballot as a reader picked nominee for best male vocalist.
After The Hero Factor split up, Kilgore followed his roots back to the church to lead worship, initially at GUTS church and in 2008 released The Good Shepherd EP, a five track digital release that broke stereotypes and proved that worship music (and specifically locally produced Christian music) didn't have to sound stale and trite.
In March of 2010, he quietly put out the three track EP The Forgotten People with a digital release, letting his skills as a writer and worship leader (now at Asbury United Methodist's Venue 68, for the Sunday evening contemporary service) continue to develop. Both of those releases were just a stepping stone, however, to what was just beginning to bubble under the surface.
Roughly a year ago, Kilgore made a trip to Nashville to begin writing sessions with producer Don Chaffer. During that time, the two of them wrote three songs, including "Your Sympathy" and "I Am Yours, You Are Mine." After sending an album's worth of demos to the players that he wanted to work with, Kilgore commenced to sit down with them to continue developing the songs as they prepared to enter the studio.
Recording began last spring in Amarillo, Tex. at brother-in-law Teel Merrick's studio in late March. Week-long sessions in Norman and Nashville followed as Kilgore completed recording before summer had arrived. Those sessions, when combined with the input of the musicians, proceeded to produce Kilgore's most fully developed worship album to date.
The new disc, Sacred Songs, proves to be something more than just a worship album, however. It's something of a mile marker and a new chapter for Kilgore. Recorded with his wife, Noelle Kilgore, Ben shares the spotlight with one of Tulsa's best, albeit previously overlooked, female voices. As a whole, the disc crosses genres musically, continuing to push the envelope of what could and should be expected of Christian music as a whole and worship music in general.
Personally, "I Am Yours, You Are Mine," a song which has become a staple in worship at Venue 68 is an immediate standout of the disc.
Likewise, "You Love Me Still" also jumps forward with its familiarity and a fresh and more fully developed production than what I've heard previously. Outside of what is more traditionally accepted as worship music, however, Kilgore and his accompaniment expand beyond acoustically based arrangements over the album's cycle, giving it a more complete feel.
"I Won't Let You Sink" continues in a vein most fans of Kilgore's work with The Hero Factor will recognize and immediately be drawn to. A driving beat, and soaring chorus pushes in a more rock driven direction. Elsewhere, the disc moves in a more layered pop direction.
"Holy" specifically stands out with a layered, Beatlesque quality that Kilgore described as "Regina Spector meets the vocals of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois." As an older listener and fan of Christian pop, my reference points reach back further to Charlie Peacock and Terry Taylor's solo work.
The true strength of this disc, however, is the fact that Kilgore steps back in places to share the spotlight with Noelle. The two have an undeniable chemistry that Kilgore acknowledged in conversations last week. "I have a tendency to over sing and overpower other people," he said. "It takes someone very special to not try to compete with that. Noelle's vocals are very delicate and peaceful."
"It's a perfect balance and she's helped me sing more delicately, because I don't feel like I have to overpower everything," he continued. "It's a perfect union of voices when were together. It's just hard to describe, but I'd be a fool to not step on stage with her because she makes me sound good and she makes me a better singer."
Indeed, it's the tracks like "I Am Yours, You Are Mine", "Oh Great Merciful God" and "Psalm 26", where Ben gives way and lets Noelle's voice stand next to him that proves to be the most engaging.
To some degree, the closing track, "My Sympathy" stands out as the understated highlight of this set of songs as Noelle takes the lead. Her voice fits the song's lilting and tender melody perfectly and ends the disc with the tender quality that Ben referred to.
Perhaps more interesting to music fans, however, are the doors this collaboration has opened for Kilgore. "This disc is entitled Sacred Songs because we lead worship," he said. "That's who we are and we'll continue to record worship music."
He also noted, however, the interest he's taken in The Civil Wars (featuring Joy Williams and John Paul White) and the response that duo has received.
Kilgore has offered that he envisions his partnership with Noelle also moving in that direction and has already begun writing the pair's first non-sacred album. "I'll just be concentrating on the voices, so it won't be a strong instrumental album," he said. "I just want to make a great vocal album."
That project will prove to be yet another stepping stone in Kilgore's development as an artist and one in what should eventually become a long series of collaborations between Kilgore and wife Noelle.
As for now, the pair will be celebrating the release of Sacred Songs with a CD release show at Venue 68 on Thursday evening, Oct. 6. Admission is free and doors open at 7:30pm for the 8pm concert which will feature a full backing band for Ben and Noelle and The Brilliance (featuring James Gungor) opening the evening. Sacred Songs will be released via iTunes the following day and physical copies of the disc will be available exclusively at the show.
New Vinyl Sound
By now, most of Tulsa is already aware of The Colony Presents: The New Tulsa Sound, the compilation CD that was released in June of 2010 to spotlight a cross-section of Tulsa's developing local artists. The disc has sold incredibly well, even calling for another pressing as the initial shipments sold out.
The disc has continued to gather steam and is carried at variety of locations around town including Dwelling Spaces, Ida Red and now Whole Foods, with its own display. As interest in the project has continued to build, however, the music called for something special.
When speaking with Brian Horton, who paired up with Brian Fontaine to help make the album come together, last week, we discussed the release of The New Tulsa Sound on vinyl.
"We've talked about this for a long time and I researched different ways to produce it. It's an expensive endeavor, but I finally just made the call to make it happen."
The final product is a two disc, gatefold album with an included download card for a digital copy of the music. Complete with new, more fully realized artwork by Greg Williams, the vinyl project is now a reality and after initial shipments arrived less than two months ago, a proper release party is being held this Friday night, Oct. 7 at Fassler Hall.
Cover is only $5 and the music will start at 7pm with nearly every artist on the disc performing 2-3 songs, culminating in a jam session at the end of the evening. Fassler Hall will also be celebrating Oktoberfest that evening with additional activities inside and outside, so it will be the biggest party of the weekend.
When discussing the project and why a vinyl release, Horton said "I thought back to the old 70's Tulsa sampler -- the one with a white cover and black print and it ended up a cool collector's item. Sonny Landreth even played on it."
"It just seems like a cool time in the Tulsa music scene right now and I thought it would be cool to have a vinyl document of that. People can look back and have a cool piece of Tulsa history. All of the bands were really into it and they had never heard themselves on vinyl before, so they've all been really excited about it."
Plans for the next Tulsa sampler are already underway with a couple of different concepts or directions being considered, but this weekend is about the vinyl release. Two discs were needed to accommodate the original sequence and the fourth side allowed for some additional bonus tracks, adding Adam Lopez, Moai Broadcast and OK Sweetheart as well as previously unreleased tracks by Pilgrim and Wink Burcham to the mix.
Cover is only $5 at the door and will include a night full of music as well as some door prizes and album giveaways. The vinyl will also be available for a reduced price of $20 at the show only, so don't miss the party and an opportunity to celebrate Tulsa's music scene.
It's yet another busy week in Tulsa with touring acts, the State Fair's conclusion and plenty of local artists packing out the clubs. Of course, this isn't a comprehensive listing -- you can reference our concert calendar for that -- but here are the highlights to get you pointed out the door with a jumping off point.
• Thursday, Oct. 6 -- We've already discussed Ben & Noelle Kilgore's CD release at Venue 68, but that's not all. Blue October returns to Cain's Ballroom with IAMDYNAMITE opening and America plays the Fair, while The Pons and Forever Blowing Bubbles play at Soundpony.
• Friday, Oct. 7 -- Soundpony turns it up again with Rude Amps, The Escatones and Taifus while Vore holds a CD release party at The Marquee with Inoperable, Submerged in Dirt and Reborn in Fire opening. Meanwhile, Monte Montgomery returns to Cain's with Corey White opening and Styx plays the Joint at Hard Rock Casino.
• Saturday, Oct. 8 -- The night's biggest local show is the Fall Bash at Hunt Club with RadioRadio, Chase Stites and Jason Ferguson. It's an all-ages show on the patio with a $5 cover and 9pm start time. Other highlights include Algebra with Daniels at Soundpony and true country royalty when Dolly Parton performs at BOK Center.
The rest of the week is fairly quiet, but Dark Star Orchestra brings the Grateful Dead's spirit to town with a show at Cain's on Tuesday night. All of you old 80's kids won't want to miss Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark at the Ballroom with Recorder opening on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
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