Since 1988, Gritty McDuff’s has been creating fine, handcrafted ales and traditional pub fare. From our humble beginnings as a small brew pub in Portland’s Old Port, we’ve grown to become the brew pub of choice for Mainers and folks “from away”. From the start, Gritty’s was at the forefront of the brewing renaissance in the Maine. Founders Ed Stebbins and Richard Pfeffer had two simple goals in mind: to create a true, English-style pub serving fresh ales and great food, and to have fun doing it.
Very few things last forever. Family does though. In the face of trauma, trials, and tribulations, it weathers every storm. Eric Krasno consecrates, commends, and celebrates the permanence of family on his fourth full-length solo offering, Always. The Soulive and Lettuce co-founder, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and two-time GRAMMY® Award-winning songwriter-producer defines himself as not only an artist, but also as a husband, father, and man across these ten tracks with inimitable instrumentation, eloquent songcraft, and raw honesty.
“Before 2020, I was having a good time, but I wasn’t grounded at all,” he explains. “I was going from gig to gig. I was always running around without a purpose. During the last year, I found my people in terms of my wife and son. I’ve created a family who will always be there for me. That’s what the album is about.”
A dynamic career thus far positioned him to present such an everlasting vision. Something of a musical journeyman, his extensive catalog comprises three solo albums, four Lettuce albums, twelve Soulive albums, and production and/or songwriting for Norah Jones, Robert Randolph, Pretty Lights, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Aaron Neville, and Allen Stone. As a dynamic performer, he’s shared stages with Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, and The Roots. Out of seven nominations, he picked up two GRAMMY® Awards for his role as a songwriter and guitarist on Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Revelator and guitarist on Derek Trucks Band’ Already Free. In 2019, he served up Telescope under the KRAZ moniker. The cinematic concept album earned widespread acclaim from the likes of Relix and Salon who hailed it as “a timely New York story.”
As the Global Pandemic irrevocably changed the world’s plans, he found himself thinking a lot and writing just as much. At the suggestion of old Lettuce bandmate Adam Deitch, he followed musician and producer Otis McDonald on social media. They conversed online until Otis asked him to contribute to the SongAid performance series. Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me” had recently taken on a deeper significance for Eric, so they covered the tune in support of NAACP and uncorked instant creative chemistry.
“During the past two years, my wife and I got married, bought a house, and had a baby,” he recalls. “When she was pregnant, I kept hearing ‘The Man In Me’. I had heard the song many times before, but it had never quite hit me the way it was hitting me. I recorded it with just acoustic guitar and vocals, and I loved what Otis did to it. He sent it back to me, and I thought, ‘This is exactly how I want to make my next record’. I wanted it to sound like a band but knock like a hip-hop record. We didn’t even have to talk about it. We were going to do the album.”
The initial sessions took place virtually, but as life took on some semblance of normalcy, Eric ventured up to the Bay Area’s legendary Hyde Street Studios famous for 2Pac, Grateful Dead, and Digital Underground to record face-to-face. Even though “90% of the record happened online,” they managed to tap into a shared spirit as co-producers. They also formed Eric Krasno & The Assembly with Otis on bass, Wil Blades on keys and organ, Curtis Kelly on drums, and James VIII on guitar and vocals.
“My goal was for this to feel like a band record, and I ended up with a great band,” he smiles. “You’ll hear a lot of guitar harmony or what I like to call ‘guit-harmony’,” he laughs.
On the first single “So Cold,” an icy beat bolts down the groove as Eric’s soulful intonation cools the tense riff. In the wake of a hummable hook, a bluesy guitar solo takes hold as each bend wails.
“It’s about a relationship,” he explains. “This girl takes out her anger on other people, and the guy is trying to get to the bottom of what’s wrong and why she’s so cold. You’re trying to leave dark things behind and move into a more positive place. It has a hopeful tone because I’ve gotten past it.”
Head-nodding handclaps, horns from Jazz Mafia, and a funkified bass line drive “Lost Myself” as the track spirals out into a wah-drenched lead.
“It seems negative, but it’s not,” he observes. “It’s about losing your ego when you find someone who works for you. It’s the funkiest track on the album.”
Then, there’s “Leave Me Alone.” The up-tempo song hinges on an unshakable bounce with a catchy hook that “addresses people who love gossip.” The opener “Silence” leans into a laidback pocket before unspooling another simmering solo. He wrote the heartfelt “Hold Tight” about the birth of his son, while the finale “Always With You” also pays homage to his family.
“The first verse was about meeting my wife,” he says. “The second is about how we created a child during this dark time in history. Something beautiful came out of it.”
In the end, Eric welcomes everyone to be a part of his family on Always.
“If you take away a message of love and the Always concept, that’s great,” he leaves off. “Most of all, I want to put you in a happy place. In the past, I personally just felt like I was a guitarist, songwriter, and a producer. Now, I feel like a fully formed artist.”
aloha, the latest album from Son Little, the musical nom de plume of LA’s Aaron Earl Livingston, is available now. As previewed with the release of the invisible EP and early single, “hey rose,” which The New York Times described as comprising “bluesy distorted guitar chords, a hint of Latin rhythm and perhaps a distant echo of the Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season’,” aloha blends classic soul and old-school R&B into a timeless swirl fueled by gritty instrumental virtuosity and raw, raspy vocals. Recorded at Paris’s iconic Studios Ferber with producer Renaud Letang (Feist, Manu Chao), aloha is Little’s first album to be recorded with an outside producer. The result is his boldest, most self-assured statement yet. It’s an ambitious work of vision and reflection, and an ecstatic testament to the freedom that comes from trusting the currents of life to carry you where you belong.
In order to create aloha, Little began writing and assembling album demos in Petaluma, California. However, after his hard drive fried and he lost nearly a dozen detailed demos, he was forced to begin with a blank slate, leading him to write aloha in only eight days at a tiny house and its adjacent barn. While Little plays nearly every instrument on the album himself, he put his songs in the hands of an outside producer for the first time here. The entire project was an exercise in letting go, in ceding control, in surrendering to fate.
Recognizing the power of our own self-destructive tendencies is a recurring theme on aloha. Little mourns the suicide of a beloved uncle on “suffer,” using addiction and mental illness as a lens to explore forgiveness and empathy, laments the rapidly deteriorating world his two children are set to inherit on “o clever one,” and meditates on the dangers of succumbing to passion at the expense of reason on “belladonna.”
It would be easy to feel helpless in the face of such inexorable forces, to feel as if we are prisoners of fate rather than masters of our own destiny, but Little instead finds peace in perseverance on the album. “Hallelujah,” he sings on the gorgeous “neve give up,” “though I’m battered and blue / feel like I’m born to lose…Never will I give up.”
It is a potent reminder that letting go doesn’t mean giving in; in fact, quite the opposite. Letting go can be an act of defiance, of growth, of empowerment. Letting go requires a leap of faith, and, in Son Little’s case, that faith has been richly rewarded. Whether that means this album represents the end of one chapter or the beginning of the next is impossible to know just yet, but in either case, there’s really only one thing to say: aloha.