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The Whistles & the Bells
The Whistles & the Bells

The Whistles & the Bells — The Whistles & the Bells (August 7, 2015)

  The Whistles & the Bells — The Whistles & the Bells 
≡   The gospel–tinged indie folk solo vehicle of singer/songwriter and ex–Cadillac Sky frontman Bryan Simpson. The Whistles and the Bells is the redirection of artist Bryan Simpson, formerly of Cadillac Sky.
≡   The eponymous debut released on March 4th, 2014 was engineered by multi–Grammy winner Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Thile, Keb Mo, Jars of Clay).
≡   “Just like said noisemakers on a train hope to serve as an alarm for those on the track, I do hope, however foolishly it might be, to sort of stab a Pulp Fiction–like shot of adrenaline into this strange, glossy–eyed, zombie–hearted people we’ve seemingly become,” Simpson reveals. “I sincerely believe there is something wildly beautiful about people, and I think that it is when we get into the ugly junk, that we find it. This record is a treasure chest of my … stuff.”
Location: Nashville, TN
For fans of: Cadillac Sky, Jack White, Mumford and Sons, John Mark McMillan, Wilco
Album release: August 7, 2015
Record Label: New West Records
Duration:     48:40
01. Mercy Please      4:29
02. Transistor Resistor      4:23
03. Ghost Town      3:49
04. Canary Cage      3:57
05. Two Elephants      3:46
06. Skeletons      3:31
07. Ghetto Gold      4:36
08. Cosmic Torpedoes      3:12
09. Last Night God Sang Me a Song      5:20
10. Love in a Minor Key      2:40
11. Bad Superheroes      5:00
12. Shadow of Death      3:57
℗ 2015 New West Records, LLC
©2015 New West Records
Written by:
••  B. Simpson     1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12
••  Thad Cockrell / B. Simpson     3, 7
••  Ben Kyle / B. Simpson     9
••  Nathan Belt Choir/Chorus
••  Billy Brimblecom Jr. Drums
••  Thad Cockrell Composer, Vocals
••  Phoebe Cryar Deffenbaugh Vocals
••  Doctor Proctor Choir/Chorus
••  Matt Gordon Engineer
••  Jim Hoke Saxophone
••  Ross Holmes Fiddle
••  Byron House Bass (Electric), Bass (Upright)
••  Brittany Jenkins Choir/Chorus
••  Matt Jenkins Choir/Chorus
••  Bruno Jones Choir/Chorus
••  Caitie Jones Choir/Chorus
••  Taylor Jones Choir/Chorus
••  Fats Kaplin Guitar (Steel)
••  Ben Kyle Composer
••  Rob Lckes Dobro
••  Melvin "Maestro" Lightford Organ, Piano (Upright)
••  Aaron Mandalak Choir/Chorus
••  Me Fiddle, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Mandolin
••  Matthew Menefee Banjo, Mandolin, Six String Banjo
••  Nathan Meredith Choir/Chorus
••  Ben Phillips Engineer
••  Casey Pierce Artwork, Photography
••  Chris Powell Drums
••  Vance Powell Engineer, Mixing
••  Doberman Region Yells
••  Kristen Rogers Vocals
••  Brent Rupard Choir/Chorus
••  Debra Sadler Choir/Chorus
••  Gary Sadler Choir/Chorus
••  B. Simpson Composer, Producer
••  Kristi Simpson Choir/Chorus
••  Nat Smith Cello
••  Eddie Spear Engineer, Gong, Mixing
••  Edward Spear Yells
••  Adam Stockdale Guitar (Electric)
••  Jeff Taylor Accordion
••  Kai Welch Trumpet
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming;  Score: ****
≡   For some artists, a spiritual awakening fills their work with hope and sunlight. For others, the more they focus on their relationship with the Lord, the more they see the darkness and chaos in the fallen world around them, and it takes their art to places that are both fascinating and troubling. Bryan Simpson left the successful bluegrass combo Cadillac Sky in 2010 after he reached a crossroads in his faith, and the self–titled debut album from his solo project the Whistles & the Bells is a set of songs that explores his own take on Christianity in ways that are both exhilarating and uncompromising. With a large rotating cast of musicians and vocalists backing him up, Simpson kicks up a dusty cyclone of rootsy sounds on these sessions, with rock & roll, country, bluegrass, blues, and soul all swimming through these tunes, and even the quietest moments on The Whistles & the Bells are filled with energy and passion. But Simpson clearly meant the music on The Whistles & the Bells to serve the message of his lyrics, and the high, fierce tone of his vocals is a impressive fit for these stories, which deal eloquently with the certainty of Simpson's faith and the mysteries of how God's will manifests itself on our temporal plane. Simpson tells the unlikely story of how he accepted the Lord on "Transistor Resistor," scoffs at the temptations of worldly satisfactions in "Ghetto Gold," weighs the comforts and the uncertainties of a life of faith in "Cosmic Torpedoes," and acknowledges the challenges meted out to both the faithful and the faithless in "Bad Superheroes." Simpson doesn't spend much time castigating sinners (at least those other than himself), but he isn't hesitant to call out the moral failings of our culture as he sees them, and anyone who doesn't care to ponder such matters might feel a bit uncomfortable with The Whistles & the Bells. But musically, this is a powerful and exciting set of songs, and Simpson sings of his relationship with the Lord with passion, sincerity, and genuine wit. The Whistles & the Bells may not be for everyone, but few works as uncompromising as this ever are, and it's certainly too thoughtful and well–crafted to ignore.  ≡   http://www.allmusic.com/
Website: http://thewhistlesandthebells.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/whistlesandthebells
Label: http://newwestrecords.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/whistles_bells
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theWhistlesandtheBells
Press: Tim Plumley | New West Records /
≡   Whether it be The Louvin Brothers’ “Satan is Real” fire and brimstone notions or Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” more amoeba–like concepts — my favorite music is like life — with an unrelenting yet humble, take it or leave it approach. Violently delicate and poignantly excavating. And that’s what I want to be when I grow up. A soul with a peep hole. This is my best attempt towards that kind of transparent liberation. I sincerely believe “The Whistles & The Bells” is the sound of something stranger and stronger than me prying the plywood off the windows of my little frame house. The echo of a tear–soaked .22 caliber bullet thru my trusty old foaming mouthed dog; silencing the barks of “no trespassing” at all who would wander near my rusty old gate. No doubt, this will either be my wax winged trip around the sun or my drowning sea. Those pages are left to be written.
≡   But some have been. In fact, in writing this bio, the most nauseating of narcissistic pilgrimages, one realization has made it worth the trip. To see the sonic high cotton I’ve stumbled into over the past half decade. Afforded oppurtunities to make records with dragons slayers as diverse as Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and boyhood hero/bluegrass giant Ricky Skaggs and, most recently, to be a touring partner with the thundering herd that is Mumford and Sons. Working mainly as front man for alternative/bluegrass quintet Cadillac Sky — it has been a musical life working above my skill set. A bewildering, steady ascension on the proverbial line graph of conquests. But then in 2010 it nosedives. For just as my singing/songwriting snowball seemed like it might survive the fiery pit it had long defied — I dropped out. And proving once again that bumper sticker truths are usually more successful at brevity than accuracy, my exit was erroneously billed on most digital street corner rags as “lead singer gets religion! — leaves music”. Some tossed bouquets, some stones. But I knew it was time for me to chase a different mystery.
≡   All cards on the table… in 2008 the God of the scriptures made a believer out of me. And a season in the wilderness, re–evaluating, re–constituting, re–channeling, was the required response to its royal beckoning. And those first few years, played out like the time lapsed film of the birthing of a giraffe. Awkward and invigorating. Uncoordinated orchestration. “The Whistles & The Bells” is the autobiographical snapshot of the personal earthquake surrounding the education that studying my Creator has been. The soundtrack of the potter molding its clay. So much so that, perhaps “Letters from the Potter’s Kiln” might have been an appropriate title for this record; had I not fallen on the more lethargic option of “self titled”.
≡   These nine numbers, birthed out of that proverbial kiln, and held thru the stained glass filter that is the engineering work of the legend in making – Vance Powell – are kind of my fourteen year old musical fantasy league — when I was chopping my Harmony mandolin and sawing my great uncle’s Verbens fiddle to Bill Monroe and Country Gazette LPs while chasing it with the more unnerving energy of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” or Pearl Jams “Ten”. Strange bedfellows perhaps. But I didn’t worry about that then. I’m always seeking to regain that innocence lost. When the pigeon hole was a prison cell. Unconformity was my comfort zone.
≡   The whole thing almost never started. If not for a continual, seemingly supernatural shove I might never have made it inside those colorful, cramped walls of Sputnik Studios on the outskirts of Nashville. But, with some of my favorite people that just happen to be my favorite musicians in tow (banjo beast Matt Menefee, bass monster Byron House, piano maestro “Maestro”, electric inspiration Adam Stockdale — to mention only a handful) the bullet left the gun. Twas an embarrassment of riches, no doubt. And their outspoken talents have helped me avoid the dreaded solo record that I was seeking to allude — for this is, for certain, a tapestry of fingerprints. Nine songs, two days, in Feb 2013, and it was done and I breathed out and sat on it like a mother hen. The question resonating “do I wanna do this?!” My last aforementioned foray left a bad taste in my mouth and I blamed it on music. I waited for this quick grab and gulp from the milk jug to sour and it didn’t — or it hasn’t. So almost a year has gone by and I’ve realized I’m the perversion. I’m the monster I hunt. Music has always been a gift.
≡   And I guess if life, as George Carlin puts it, for most people is a “series of dogs”, I have to think for musicians it is a “series of bands”. So why “The Whistles & The Bells”?! Why not “Bryan Simpson”?! Simply put: he has too much me for me. Too many communist party papers in the dead grandpas attic. Too many bones under the quiet neighbors bed — simply, too much context for me alone to hurdle. So “The Whistles & The Bells” is my divergence….my musical Damascus Road.
≡   And so it begins.

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