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Frankie Ballard

Frankie Ballard

Zach Linley & The Rebel Daredevils

Sat, March 25, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Castle Theatre

Bloomington, IL

$22 (Advance) / $25 (Day of Show)

This event is 18 and over

Ticket Prices listed do NOT include additional Ticket Fees added at online checkout & box office

Frankie Ballard
Frankie Ballard
When Frankie Ballard was growing up in Battle Creek, Michigan, his father played him one classic album over and over again: Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, featuring Robbins' signature hit "El Paso." Now Ballard, a quick-draw guitarist and rough-hewn singer, has cut his own metaphorical gunfighter album, decamping from Nashville to a gritty El Paso studio to record the follow-up to his 2014 breakout Sunshine & Whiskey.

For Ballard, who scored three consecutive Number One singles off Sunshine & Whiskey - "Helluva Life," the title track and "Young & Crazy" - it was imperative that he leave behind the safety of Nashville for the wilds of the Mexico border. Setting up shop at the famed Sonic Ranch, just south of El Paso in Tornillo, Texas, Ballard, producer Marshall Altman (Sunshine & Whiskey) and his band threw themselves headlong into the music, eating and sleeping at the studio. Their goal: make a bona fide album.

"I grew up listening to albums and I loved them as bodies of work," says Ballard. "But today, everyone cuts singles. Even Sunshine & Whiskey was recorded in chunks. We'd go into one studio, cut four, then go into another studio and cut another four. It's groovus interruptus, man."

To keep that groove steady, Ballard went on the lam, leaving Nashville for a few days of bare-bones rehearsals at ground zero for rock & roll and soul, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. From there, he continued on to the Granada Theater in Dallas for another workshop session, before arriving at the Sonic Ranch, locked and loaded.

"I spur myself sometimes, like getting a metal cleat kicked into your ass so you can go harder. I do that to myself," says Ballard of the grueling road trip to El Paso. "It's as far away as you can get. I was trying to get my blood moving."

The change of scenery worked. Ballard has created an urgent, thriving record, a project that showcases Frankie the artist. It's the type of album his heroes like Bob Seger and the Rolling Stones made, a collection of 11 songs with a sonic through-line, driven along by swagger but also respect for the music. First single "It All Started With a Beer" is buoyed by equal parts nostalgia and hope.

"On the surface, it's a love story about two folks meeting in a bar and having a beer. From there, the relationship blossomed into something long lasting and now they're looking back, going, 'Man, look at this great relationship we got, and it started so simply, with just a beer.' So many people can relate to the idea," Ballard says. "But also, one of the deeper meanings of that song is sometimes the biggest shit that happens to you in life doesn't start in a big way. That makes me hopeful for the future."

The hard-charging "Cigarette," meanwhile, is unapologetically carnal. With a dirty guitar riff and winking lyrics to match, it's an explosive bit of country-rock, and the first song Ballard worked up at Muscle Shoals.

"It's about lust," says Ballard matter-of-factly. "It's not really about cigarettes. She could have had a toothpick in her mouth. It's just sexy, and it pops. It's a head-snapper."

The crunching "El Camino," however, sets the tone for the entire album. With its escapist message of hitting the road, it mirrors Ballard's own exodus from Nashville. "So get me a dog and an El Camino/roll a couple dice at the Indian casino/take this heartache somewhere you've never been before," he sings in the chorus.

"It is a really definitive song for me, and illustrates the sonic space that I'm trying to establish with this album," he says. "If somebody asked, 'Hey, what is this new Frankie Ballard sound?' 'El Camino' would be the song I played them."

"Sweet Time," one of two songs Ballard wrote for the project, celebrates the joys of taking it slow, in both life and romance, while "Wasting Time," although similar in title, is its antithesis: a straight-up rocker. "It is a ripping take," raves Ballard, pointing out the galloping drums that showcase a band in the pocket.

Ballard also emphasizes the rock on a choice cover: his balls-out version of Seger's "You'll Accomp'ny Me." Recorded at one additional session in Los Angeles, where Ballard, ever the perfectionist, revamped two songs he says "betrayed" him in El Paso, the cover song connects the dots of Ballard's career - Seger once hand-picked him to open his tour.

If Ballard has an endgame, it's the longevity of someone like Seger, a career that continues well into the future and transcends any genre. And returns actual, honest playing to the fore.

"I miss musicianship on the radio. Everyone is doing this digital thing and they're putting all these pop sounds into country music, and I love it. I dance to it at the club. But I don't do that personally. I don't even have a computer," says Ballard, going on to lay out his plan for country music dominance.

"There is something you have to fundamentally understand about me: my dream goes the whole way. It goes all the way. So I want more people hearing my music," he says. "So what are you going to do, Frankie? Well, I guess I'm going to try to make some better music. And if it's not better than what I did before, there's no reason for it to come out. I don't want to maintain altitude - I want to fly, man."
Zach Linley & The Rebel Daredevils
Zach Linley & The Rebel Daredevils
Launching his career as a straightforward rock and roller, Zach Linley took a unique route, both musically and geographically, to discovering his innermost truth as a singer and songwriter and embracing what Willie Nelson once said was the heart of a country song: “three chords and the truth.” Infusing his tunes with the best influences of both genres and sharing his “honest, heartfelt and simple” emotions with audiences throughout his home region of North Central Illinois and throughout the Midwest, Linley and his band The Rebel Daredevils have been caught in a wild whirlwind these past few years, opening for an array of top country artists (Frankie Ballard, Josh Thompson, Keith Anderson, David Allan Coe, Gary Allan, Jana Kramer, Jamey Johnson and Chris Cagle) and earning high praise from the likes of Nyhl Henson, Co-Founder and former CEO of CMT (Country Music Television), who called him “the Garth Brooks of the New Millennium...(whose) songwriting is phenomenal and far ahead of the game.” Such words are only meaningful when an artist receives them as a challenge – and Linley and the band (electric guitarist Jason Beck, lead guitarist Nate Van Vleet, bassist Chad Sherman and drummer Brandon Frederking) are grabbing the bull by the proverbial horns, following their well-received 2014 self titled debut EP with the new five track collection What It Takes. The collection was produced by Erik Nelson, owner of Eclipse Studios in Normal, IL who has written, produced or engineered for everyone from Jason Derulo and Boyz II Men to R. Kelly, O-Town and Ralph Tresvant. Its first single, the high energy title track, is a powerful testament to the work ethic of the classic American working family man. “It’s my way of paying homage to the blue collar backbone of America, those guys who get up day after day, go to work and even if they never earn what they’re worth, they do it anyway to support their families and pay their bills,” says Linley. “What It Takes is a strong push from me and The Rebel Daredevils as to where we would like to see country music headed right now - a little less pop, and a lot more heart, a little less about the girl in the cutoffs drinking moonshine, and more about the hardworking people who are the backbone of this country. These songs are about real people, real struggles, and remembering where you came from and what you stand for.”

As solid as he is as a singer, performer and guitarist, Linley would be happy if people considered him a songwriter first and foremost. One of his strengths there is having the courage to speak his mind about issues that are important to him and share truths about his life experiences that are very personal to him. The raucous excitement of “Cold Dead Hands” is the backdrop for his bold stance about coming from a small town where he grew up with guns and railing against any possible government attempt to limit his freedom as a gun owner now. On the soulful, heartfelt “Honky Tonk Heaven,” he talks about the the long hard road of pursuing the dream of becoming a professional musician. On the hook, he sings poignantly: “If you wanna get into honkey tonk heaven, first you've gotta go thru hell.” What It Takesalso includes “Sick and Tired,” a reflective ballad of addiction and the seeking of redemption; and “Don’t Forget,” a rollicking ride through the wise advice of Linley’s beloved grandmother – including the key line “Don't forget who you are and where you come from, and what you represent.” Growing up in the small town of Effingham, IL, Linley wrote his first song at age eight and recalls that his first guitar lesson came from his dad, who taught him to play four chords on his acoustic. His early musical sensibilities were shaped, in part, by his mom’s side of the family, which was full of singers and musicians. “I was fascinated by music, and it pushed me to learn how to play guitar, drums, and bass,” he says. “I’ve always pushed myself to learn as much as I can musically, so that I can translate the ideas I come up with in my head into songs. From the first serious band I was in, a Tool-like metal group, through my work with the Rebel Daredevils, I’ve never enjoyed playing covers and have had a lifelong passion for songwriting.”Coming of age, Linley enjoyed an eclectic array of influences, beginning with the country music his dad played in the car and on through Motown, 60s and 70s rock, hair metal bands, punk, grunge and alternative. “I’m not surprised that once I grew out of my strict rock phases, I returned to these country roots,” he says. “I grew up listening to everything under the sun. My dad played a lot of George Jones, Merle Haggard, Eagles, and Alabama albums. I can remember sitting around in our barn playing guitar and singing a lot of those songs together with my parents and brothers, and I have gradually gravitated back to that kind of music.”It took Linley a few years to figure out his path and get there, following his time with the metal band by joining folk and rock groups – but he believes his experiences in other genres contributed to his becoming the mature songwriter and artist he is today. “I certainly relate to country more than any other genre, but I feel as though I have taken a bit of every other style I played with and have added it to my own,” he says. “Just sitting down and jamming with so many musicians, I knew I could learn something from everyone.”

A move in the mid-2000s with his wife to Stillwater, OK proved to be the turning point. Linley started hosting open mics at Willie’s Saloon, where Garth Brooks’ career had taken off, and the introduction to a style called “Red Dirt Country” (which he describes as “country infused with rock, folk, and bluegrass while keeping the emotion and soul of authentic country”) opened his eyes to a fresh new way to express his musical heart. He spent a few years honing his songwriting craft, and when he moved back to Illinois, he joined forces with previous band mate Beck as well as new found friend Sherman and started the unit that evolved into Zach Linley & The Rebel Daredevils. They hit the ground running, opening in 2013 for former American Idol contestant and country artist Casey James at The Castle Theater in Bloomington, IL.“Everything really comes together when we’re performing live,” Linley says. “I like to say it’s basically what you’re hearing on the studio recordings, only louder and more intense. I love the way we get to interact with the crowds, and I’m always inspired and encouraged by the way they respond to the songs, both as an audience and later, individually. I love hearing things like, ‘This tune got me through this tough time in my life’ or ‘This song means a lot to me.’ If you can’t invoke that kind of emotion, why be a songwriter at all? It’s all about the opportunity to connect with people and make a difference in their lives.”
Venue Information:
The Castle Theatre
209 E. Washington St.
Bloomington, IL, 61701