Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams

Blue Merle

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Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams

Blue Merle
Burning In The Sun
Island Def Jam
February 15, 2005

Walking into the club, you look up at the stage in anticipation of the evening’s performance, curious about this band Blue Merle. But instead of the usual array of electric guitars and stacked amps, what you see are acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, upright bass and drums. “The people file in, and they’re looking at the stage, seeing these instruments. And until we step out onto the stage and pick them up, I think they’re expecting something else.” says Blue Merle’s Beau Stapleton. “Something else,” indeed.

Blue Merle is a band that doesn’t simply defy expectations; it renders them irrelevant. Despite its mostly acoustic instrumentation, the band is well practiced at the art of catching an audience unawares and transporting it to a place of pure rock pleasure. It’s a trick they’ve honed through heavy roadwork - whether opening for the likes of J.J. Cale, Badly Drawn Boy and Jem, or playing festivals ranging from Farm Aid to Bonnaroo - and perfect with their Island debut, Burning in the Sun.

Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams
Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams
Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams
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1. Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun - Audio Streams

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Between the scruffy sweetness of Luke Reynolds’ rough, expressive tenor and the orchestral richness of the band’s intricate arrangements, Burning in the Sun is an album that is easy to get lost in. Produced by Stephen Harris (U2, Dave Matthews Band, Kula Shaker), its sound is immediately inviting and disarmingly nuanced. Some songs, such as the string-drenched “Every Ship Must Sail Away” and “If I Could,” are lush with harmony and emotional portent, while others - particularly the insinuatingly propulsive “Boxcar Racer” and “Either Way It Goes” - bubble over with rhythmic energy and melodic allure. Throughout, the music carries the sort of inventiveness and depth of feeling found only in the best rock songwriting.

“We have a rule in this band that the best song wins,” says Reynolds, and whatever it takes to get a song to be as good as it can is what we do. It’s not unusual for us to spend hours in rehearsal, working and re-working a song so that by the time we perform it, everyone in the band is fully committed.”

Blue Merle was born when Reynolds met bassist Jason Oettel, and the two began to work on some of the singer/guitarist’s songs. “We really connected,” says Reynolds, and he wasn’t the only one to feel that way. A friend working at Sony ATV studios in Nashville offered some free studio time, and while the two were cutting demos the president of Sony Publishing unexpectedly dropped by. “He offered us a production deal and a publishing deal,” says Reynolds. They ultimately passed on the deal, but were amazed by the offer. “That was four months into our being a band, so it came really fast,” he adds.

Despite that auspicious beginning, Blue Merle weren’t in a rush to add members. Reynolds met Beau Stapleton - a mandolin-playing disciple of Neil Young and Sonic Youth - on a trip back home to Vermont, and got on so well that he soon invited Stapleton to join the band. William Ellis, a jazz-trained drummer who had become a successful session player in Nashville, was a college buddy of Oettel’s, and came on to complete the rhythm section not long afterward.

It was Ellis who came up with the band’s name. “It’s actually a lyric from a Led Zeppelin song, ‘Bron Y Aur Stomp’ - ‘Tell your friends all around the world/There ain’t no companion like a blue-eyed Merle,’” says Reynolds. “Will is a huge Zeppelin fan, and used to pull out all these fragments from Zeppelin songs, and keep them for potential band names.”

Guitar, mandolin, upright bass and drums isn’t typical rock band instrumentation, but that’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Blue Merle. “There wasn’t a lot of thought put into the instrumentation,” says Reynolds. “We just met musicians we really loved playing with, and whatever they played, that was the thing that came.”

“It’s actually simpler to work with,” says producer Harris. “It’s a fresh feeling, and pleasing on the ear. You don’t have to knock the listener on the head. And that’s the whole thing with the band - they have subtlety, which is beyond many people these days.” “Subtlety is what makes Blue Merle what it is,” agrees Reynolds. “The lyrics, the melody, the musicianship - it’s all there, but it’s never right in your face. There’s a confidence to it, and you can feel it in the music.”

Tour Dates:
Madison WI 3/29/2005 Luther Blues
Minneapolis MN 3/30/2005 Fine Line Music Cafe

Chicago IL 3/31/2005 House of Blues

Detroit MI 4/2/2005 Majestic
Cambridge MA 4/5/2005 Middle East
New York NY 4/6/2005 Irving Plaza
Annapolis MD 4/8/2005 Ram's Head
Philadelphia PA 4/10/2005 Theater of Living Arts

Atlanta GA 4/12/2005 Variety Playhouse

Nashville TN 4/13/2005 Exit/In
Austin TX 4/15/2005 The Parish
Dallas TX 4/16/2005 Tree's
Denver CO 4/18/2005 Soiled Dove
Salt Lake City UT 4/19/2005 In the Venue

Phoenix AZ 4/21/2005 Marquee
Los Angeles CA 4/22/2005 Roxy Theatre, The

San Francisco CA 4/23/2005 Slim's

If you haven't checked out Blue Merle's official site,, they have free mp3 downloads of their live performance at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville, TN - great stuff

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