While National Bohemian evokes a lot of hometown pride around these parts, Kenny Liner of The Bridge feels that the concept was a perfect fit for the title of his band’s fourth album, and more than a tribute to a Baltimore-born beer.
“We lay it all on the line for the art and that’s what we do,” he said. “We travel around and have taken that sort of attitude.”
The Bridge truly are national bohemians; actually, international since they’ve toured Europe.
For about 10 years, the Baltimore-based sextet has been playing and touring relentlessly, and the work has paid off in the form of more tour dates in far away places, West Coast residencies, spots at big festivals and packed hometown shows.
As a Baltimore-area resident who goes to a lot of local shows, I’ve seen The Bridge’s popularity and musicality grow exponentially since I first heard about them, when a co-worker at Record & Tape Traders told me to check out this new band his friends were playing in.
For those readers who have never heard The Bridge, I’ll try to give you some idea of what to expect: think about a soulful hodgepodge that includes sounds of bluegrass, funk, rock and blues. You should probably just check them out to really get it.
This past summer, The Bridge really got around. While they’re a longtime staple of West Virginia music festival All Good, they made it down to Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Wakarusa in Arkansas and several other big national music festivals.
The album was recorded this past summer in Portland, Ore., with well-known producer Steve Berlin, a member of Los Lobos. It was the band’s first time working with a producer.
Liner said it took a lot of pressure off of him, since he produced previous Bridge albums himself.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “It was great to have somebody else throw their stamp on it and come up with a lot of ideas.”
Berlin fed the band ideas throughout the process, tackling song forms, instrumentation, vocals and different instrumental lines.
When asked what the music sounds like, Liner did not put any restrictive labels on his band’s eclectic sound. As someone who thinks of genre names as a necessary evil, I admire the following description.
“They’re just really honest songs that we wrote and recorded in a way that makes them make sense,” he said. “There’s some chances we took.”
One of those chances was recording the album live in the studio, rather than recording each instrument and part separately.
“It’s much more natural sounding than our last [album],” he said. “I learned how to, sort of, not be perfect, and, in a lot of ways, it’s almost better. It allows for there to be some kind of special moments.”
Having seen The Bridge countless times over the years, I know this band flourishes in a live setting, where improvisation is employed and encouraged.
Although Liner didn’t produce National Bohemian, he’s keeping busy producing an upcoming album from another local band, Yellow Dubmarine. As its name alludes to, the band plays reggae interpretations of The Beatles.
“I saw them play a show and I was really blown away by it,” Liner said. “I thought the potential to make The Beatles and reggae together was just a fabulous idea.”
Yellow Dubmarine, who opened up one my festivals, The Rez Ball, in April 2009, opens Saturday night’s show. Its members couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m really psyched to be playing with The Bridge,” said Mario D’Ambrosio, sax player with Yellow Dubmarine. He also lends his sax skills to my band, Joe Keyes “The Late Bloomer” and The Late Bloomer Band. “Kenny’s giving us a lot of opportunities and I’m grateful he extended his hand to us.”
Liner, with his partner Phil Chorney, manage Yellow Dubmarine under the name Baltimore Management Agency. He recently brought Yellow Dubmarine into the studio with the intention of recording a few songs from The Beatles’ Abbey Road for a demo, but got some funding for the band to record the entire album at Cockeysville’s Bunker Recording Studio.
“[We’re] taking a really close look at each song, making sure that we’re putting our absolute best energy into it,” vocalist/bassist Aaron Glaser said.
The band takes the foundation The Beatles laid - great chord progressions and melodies - and puts their own spin on the grooves, he said.
“We’re playing songs that everyone knows and can enjoy, but we have ownership over what we’re playing because we have put our own creativity in the songs,” he said. “We can put something extra into it because we’re offering our own interpretation of it.”
The Bridge CD release party is at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Baltimore. Doors are at 8 p.m., tickets are $15 plus tax and the show is all ages. Tickets can be purchased here.