A-Mac & The Height Reach New Peaks With New Record 'Part of It All'

By: Will Baumgartner

The ridiculously talented Denver band known as A-Mac & The Height have made a lot of noise over the past year, with a sold-out album release show at the Bluebird Theater, performances at their own Spread the Word Music Festival as direct support for the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, and a two-month fall tour which took them from the Midwest all the way to Florida. Behind all this activity is the group’s frontman and songwriter Alex MacKenzie-Low, a musically driven young man whose contagious energy not only drives the band, but has been an important part of the Denver area music scene for several years. I first met Alex when he booked my band at Moe’s Original BBQ in Englewood and the relationship has continued through a few years of the Spread The Word Festival, an annual event which is MacKenzie-Low’s personal labor of love and has been a vital and energizing part of the local live music landscape for the past five years.

A-Mac & The Height. 

A-Mac & The Height. 

Having seen the band (formerly known as A-Mac DZ) a number of times, I was not at all surprised to find that their current album Part of It All is filled with the same great songs and stellar musicianship I’ve come to expect from this band. The genre description on their Facebook page- “upbeat folk rock, reggae/world, hip-hop, jam” prepares the listener for a rather common combination of sounds in today’s music landscape, but the album itself is much more than the sum of these parts.  

Listen to Part of It All:

“Sun Comes Up” kicks off the musical journey of the record appropriately enough with a driving mashup of reggae and hip-hop, and a story of finding oneself and one’s family of friends through persistence and music. It begins with hopping on a train, facing loneliness and pain with the line, “‘Til I find my friends, my motivation/Music, yes, my inspiration.” These are lyrics that anyone who has chosen the challenging life of a musician can understand: we feel so much, and life can be so frightening and difficult, but music and the people we play it with makes it all worthwhile. From the drum and bass intro through the masterful rapping in the middle, all the way to the end, this is a great song performed by a super-tight band.

The second song, “Ends I’ll Never Know,” takes us into distinctly brighter territory. If “Sun Comes Up” is about climbing out of the darkness, this one is about dancing in the sunlight. It’s a happily grooving song with a bouncy guitar line that sounds like it could have come from Paul Simon’s Graceland or The Rhythm of the Saints albums, at least to my ears, it definitely has that happy South African/Latin-inspired feel. It’s also a markedly pop-sounding song, with its catchy chorus and hook-driven arrangement. You can practically hear the smile on MacKenzie-Low’s face as he sings “Oh I, oh I, ready for whatever comes my way today/Yes I, yes I, ready to grow to ends I’ll never know.”

21741053_1551414484916965_6966400288393092265_o.jpg

 “Indica From Heaven” is, not surprisingly, a feel-good party track. If weed is your party, blaze up and groove on down. The deeply funky reggae feel, horn lines, keyboard solo, and the lyrics all encourage the listener to just have a good time and not think too much. It’s also one of the most danceable tracks on the album, so don’t get too stoned to get up! The syncopation and breaks in the arrangement make it perfect for busting some moves.

The fourth track, “It Would Be Easy,” starts off in a sadder place. It’s a breakup song with lyrics like, “All our friends know you crushed my soul,” so the musical feel is appropriately wistful, at least at first. But the song is also about letting go, so there’s a break in the middle that suddenly feels like a Calypso/Salsa dance party, with a rolling Latin-sounding piano line and horns bouncing merrily over the top. You never know what to expect with these guys!

21319037_1543332685725145_4844694378884965649_o.jpg

“Streets of Colorado” is a homecoming anthem from a traveler who has gone away, but come back to where he’s from and feels most at home there. It’s the most rock-sounding track on the album, and the band ably supports the singer’s story with another tight arrangement and more excellent playing.

The album’s penultimate track, “Back On My Own,” revisits the theme of lost love while still emphasizing the singer’s drive to pick himself up and keep moving, which seems to be almost the theme of the whole disc: persistence, as Calvin Coolidge said, is omnipotent. As with all the songs on this album, the arrangement is a big part of what makes this song work: the individual instruments and the way they play off of each other, the musical dynamics, and the juxtaposition of different musical styles stacked together to create a balanced structure. The casual listener doesn’t need to “get” what’s going on behind the music to enjoy it, but musicians, songwriters and arrangers will find much to appreciate and admire. 

20229913_1495915783800169_7345411780709286692_o.jpg

And so we come to the final song on the album, “Here’s to the Love.” It’s a testament to the strength of MacKenzie-Low’s spirit that while he’s writing a song as a requiem to a dear friend, he still insists on not wallowing in the pain of his friend’s passing: “I will remember the good times always/No one can take away your memory, so here’s to the love.” You can hear the pain in his voice and in the music, and still, there’s that insistence on finding the good in everything, even death. So, ultimately, it’s not a sad song, but a celebration of life and love.

Again, I can’t overemphasize the strength of the musicianship on this record, and its importance in making it a successful recording. Drummer Matt McElwain, bassist Stephen Edwards, keyboardist Karl Rivers, saxophonist Joey Bean, and lead guitarist Ted Kleist are all great musicians, period. Colorado is lucky to have such talent in our midst, and A-Mac & The Height are blessed by the way they work together.

19388580_1466106026781145_1495695879250664434_o.jpg

Part of It All is available on Bandcamp. A-Mac & The Height are just returning from their fall tour, and will perform next in Colorado on Saturday November 25th at Mother Muff’s in Colorado Springs. Keep up with the band on their Facebook page and website.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.   

Homevibe for the Holidays: Taylor Carson This Saturday!

By: Hannah Oreskovich

We're featuring all the bands on Homevibe's Holiday Show bill this week. 

Happy Hump Day! We’re just FOUR days away from our holiday show with Homevibe Presents and we’re getting pretty stoked. The magic happens Saturday at The Walnut Room in Denver and you can still get tickets here. We’ve been bringing you exclusive content on all of the artists involved in the show every day this week, so let’s get to it! Today we’ve got Taylor Carson in the hotseat. Read on:

Taylor Carson. 

Taylor Carson. 

Virginia-based Taylor Carson first rose to fame in 2010 with the release of his record Defending the Name. The album won an independent music award, put him on stage with artists like Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers and Eric Hutchinson, and launched him into the life of a touring musician. When it comes to sound and influences, “Carson hails from the land of the Dave Matthews Band, Virginia Coalition, and O.A.R. [and] while he built his musical chops on the shoulders of these acoustic rock superstars, his lyrical inspiration comes from timeless wordsmiths like Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, and Martin Sexton.” Sweet.

So Taylor! It’s rumored that Saturday’s show is ski-wear themed. We’re excited. You’re excited. Any plans for a ridiculously awesome ski ensemble that you can share with us?

I plan on heli-skiing through the roof of The Walnut Room and landing perfectly behind the mic.

We like your style. Tell us what you’re currently working on.

I have a new record called Go Amaze coming out in early 2016. My writing is maturing with me, and that is satisfying. I am a lot more grounded at 33 than I ever dreamed I would be. We are also back in the studio [already] making another record. For me, writing is the most enjoyable part of being a musician.

Taylor and Abe.

Taylor and Abe.

Sounds like you’ve been in the studio a lot- awesome! If you had to record one holiday song, which one would you choose?

I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” It’s a perfect song. Did you know that a large number of Christmas songs are written by people who celebrate Chanukah? Fun fact.

Haha good to know! So what are you most looking forward to about Saturday’s show?

The pizza at The Walnut Room is superb.

Hell yes. Pizza on pizza. Can’t wait.

Come grab a slice with Taylor Carson this Saturday. Get your tickets here. And join the Facebook event here.

Watch a T.C. vid in anticipation for the show:

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 12/4, 12/5, & 12/6

By: Hannah Oreskovich

You sure have kept us busy this week Boulder! There have been so many performances and music happenings- and now it’s time for the weekend! Here are our picks:

Today (Friday, 12/04)

Derek Weiman and The Farmer Sister at The Laughing Goat 8PM-Close

For the ladies: Derek Weiman.

For the ladies: Derek Weiman.

Sometimes you just wanna ease into your weekend. We get that. But don’t Netflix and chill all night frand! Get out and check out Boulder’s Derek Weiman at The Laughing Goat tonight instead! You can sit down, drink some coffee, and enjoy Weiman and The Farmer Sisters bringing you sounds on vocals, guitar, and piano. Did we mention Weiman allegedly played Red Rocks at 12 years old with Santana? Yeah- that allegedly happened. This show is officially the perfect start to your evening.

Envy Alo at The No Name Bar 10PM-Close

Are you one of those music nerds who has to know what’s up with the newest of the new? Then tonight’s for you kid. Envy Alo, a supergroup comprised of members of Boulder’s Booster and Tenth Mountain Division, have joined together to bring you funk! And tonight is their debut show. So be that cool guy or gal telling everyone about the new group you just heard. Head to The No Name tonight.

Asalott at Bohemian Biergarten 11PM-Close

It’s hard to say whether or not it will be Asalott or das boot putting you in a trance tonight, but one thing’s for sure: it’s gonna be a realllll good one. This Boulder-based trio will be breaking beats and hearts on stage while you bust a move on the Biergarten dance floor. They’ve got a sweet set planned, so pencil them into your Friday night holmes. See yah there.

Tomorrow (Saturday, 12/5)

The Midnight Strange at Taco Junky 8PM-Close

Allegedly some of the members of The Midnight Strange.

Allegedly some of the members of The Midnight Strange.

We told you to go to the first Midnight Strange show back on Halloweekend and there was a reason Boulder: we really dig these boys. The Midnight Strange (formerly The Almond Butters) are rumored to have a lot of awesome new music written under their new moniker and they’ll be playing a ton of it for you tomorrow night. You can have it all: tacos, margaritas, and Jean du le Monde yelling at you from his drum kit. It’s gonna be a good one. Stop by the Junky.

Cold River City with Lula Granji and Tenth Mountain Division at The Fox Theatre 830PM-Close

Yes please Cold River City.

Yes please Cold River City.

Boulder’s own Cold River City are headlining The Fox for their third time and it’s going to be amazing folks. CRC, “the lovechild of funky soul and dirty blues,” are pumped to be playing a show at home and we’re told their set is going to be one of “the heaviest and best to date.” Boulder trio Lula Granji will be blasting you with some psychedelic jam rock after Boulder bluegrass/rockin’ funk group Tenth Mountain Division opens the show. It’s going to be a serious party. And we might even be bringing you some press on the event. Stay tuned.

The Next Day (Sunday, 12/6)

Willy Porter and Dave Tamkin at Shine Gathering Place 7PM-Close

Willy Porter rockin' out.

Willy Porter rockin' out.

Did we mention we’re partnering with Homevibe Presents to bring you some seriously awesome shows over the next few months? Well it’s happening. And Sunday is the first of the series! Willy Porter, the Wisconsin-bred singer-songwriter who has been touring internationally for 25 years with legends like Paul Simon and Jethro Tull, is playing Shine Sunday night. And Boulder-based musician Dave Tamkin, who will be playing some Chicago-fueled acoustic rock for your eardrums, is opening the show. Want more details? Then read our interview with these two here.

STACKED. This weekend is STACKED Boulder. Get out there!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.