Macalester-Groveland singer-songwriter Joe Carey will celebrate the release of his new album, "Comeback", in concert on Saturday, January 28, at Minneapolis' Aster Cafe.  In the same vein of Cat Stevens or Neil Young, Carey's "Comeback" is a classy recording with well-crafted musicianship and sage lyrics, all penned by Carey.  His high tenor voice tends to soar over the instrumentation.  Primarily a guitarist, he also plays the harmonica and Irish bouzouki.

 

"The Band, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Neil Young all influenced me," Carey said, "as well as the country guys -- Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard.  But I've got my own stylistic thing going as well."

 

Carey was born in St. Paul, and except for a few years in Rochester, Minnesota, has always hung his hat in the capital city.  His first guitar arrived on Christmas Day when Carey was 10.  It was an Eddie Van Halen replica from the Sears catalog.  He tok a few lessons and picked up pointers from his guitar-playing friends.  He could torture "Twist and Shout", "La Bamba", and "Louie, Louie" like a million other aspiring rock guitarists.

 

Carey got his start playing in front of an audience with his older brother, Jim, a pianist.  "Jim joined up with me on keyboard and vocals," Carey said.  "We played the usual neighborhood gigs, mainly parties and barbecues -- anything we could find, actually."  As the Carey Brothers, they eventually made the transition to coffee shops, nightclubs, and saloons, morphing from dilettantes into experienced professionals.

 

"I loved working with Jim, and he taught me a lot," Carey said.  "He's working a full-time piano bar gig in Claremont, California, now.  Jim was built to live in California.  Cold weather makes him grumpy.  Otherwise, we might still be playing together."

 

In the late 90's, the brothers formed a band called Loft, which recorded two albums in two years and enjoyed a reputation as one of the hardest working bands in the region.  After Loft folded, Joe and Jim formed another band, the Careys, with their younger sister, Jessica, as a third vocalist.

 

"I was writing my own songs then," Carey said, "and I released my first solo recording, called 'Wondervibe'.  I also worked with Nick Hensley in 'Love Songs For Angry Men'."  It was a very busy period for me, but I learned a lot about performing.  Then I recorded a second solo CD, 'Sunflower Soul', which I wrote, produced, and engineered."

 

"Joe is one of the best performers we have," said Aaron Branum, manager of the Dubliner Pub on University Avenue.  "He's a great singer and musician, but he's also a born entertainer.  When he plays here with his sister, it's almost a comedy act.  Joe really knows how to handle an audience."

 

Carey doesn't have a day gig.  "I'm stuck," he said.  "I really don't know how to do anything outside of music.  I'm fortunate that my wife has a day gig in the corporate sector.  My day gig is being a stay-at-home dad with two children.  And I do like the arrangement.  I used to be a fix-it type of maintenance guy, but not a very good one or a very happy one."

 

Though Carey loves performing solo, he can't abandon his passion for playing in a band.  "I just love playing with other musicians," he said.  "The interaction feeds creativity."

 

"After 'Wondervibe', we put together a band called the Chinwaggers with bassist Nick Salisbury, guitarist Blair Krivanek, and Jordan Carlson on drums.  They were guys I'd been working with, backing up singers.  It was Blair who suggested getting together to record my songs.  That was something I'd wanted to do for a long time.  We released our album, 'Wayward Son', in 2014."

 

"Comeback" is another solo effort for Carey.  "I recorded the 10 songs up on the Iron Range," he said, "at Rich Mattson's recording company, Sparta Sound.  Sparta rates as a ghost town.  I guess it was thriving in the heyday of iron mining, but now it's not much more than this little church where Rich built his studio.  There's nowhere to stay in Sparta, so Rich built living quarters for the musicians that he calls his rock 'n' roll bed and breakfast."  And it's a popular studio.  A lot of good musicians, like Trampled By Turtles, have recorded there.

 

"Mattson rounded up the musicians," Carey said.  "I didn't even know the guys, but I trust Rich.  He's a great guitarist, and plays a couple of great solos on 'Comeback'.  I made three trips to Sparta over a three-month period to get this recording in the can."

 

"Joe is an incredible singer and musician," Mattson said.  "He's nearly a first-take kind of recording artist and has impeccable intonation, great range in his singing and, best of all, an original voice.  It's Joe's voice and no other.  That's the mark of a real artist."

 

This week, a last minute cancelation of scheduled band La Madness could have spelled disaster for the show, but luckily a great set allowed for another great episode. Those listening to “Live From Studio Five!” got the chance to listen to a solid solo acoustic performance by Joe Carey of the band the Chinwaggers. We're all looking forward to La Madness being able to reschedule their performance, but in the meantime, Carey did a great job carrying the show on his shoulders. He hung out and chatted with the usual cast of characters: Cher Dial, Dewglass, and, of course, Doug the Thug.

Carey played tunes that sounded great on just an acoustic guitar, despite the fact that he’s usually part of his “gritty rock” four-piece band. He played and sang songs off the band’s new CD, Wayward Son, as well as its older album Sunflower Soul, tunes like “Burned” and “My Love, My Best Friend,” the latter of which he accompanied himself on the harmonica. He also played a song called “I Got Your Back,” an anthem to his kids, and a pair of songs called “Beautiful Stranger” and “The Redemption,” inspired by a trip he took to a supposedly haunted hotel.

The night’s performance also included music from the Chinwaggers’ new album, so even though the other members of the band weren’t actually in studio, they certainly were present in spirit.

Brothers James and Joe Carey will each release new albums this month, and the Rochester Lourdes graduates will celebrate the new music with a CD release party on Saturday in the Twin Cities.

Joe Carey, who graduated from Lourdes in 1993, is the lead singer of the band, The Chinwaggers. The group's latest CD is "Wayward Son."

James Patrick Carey, 1991 Lourdes graduate, has toured with Brad Paisley, Johnny Lang and Martin Zellar. This winter, 12 years after his solo debut, Carey released, "Scoundrels and Saints."

At 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, the brothers will play music off the new albums at the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis. Tickets are $8; seating is limited.

In the past, the brothers were part of several Rochester-area bands, including Loft, a "power pop" band, from 1999 to 2001, and hosted open jams at Rookies and the North Star Bar.

But since James moved to southern California, the brothers don't get to play many shows together, though Joe did travel to California to produce his older brother's album.

"We haven't talked about doing a collaboration together but it was nice working together on his record because we really put our heads together," Joe said. "We worked on the CD together and formed the songs into what we both could agree on. We thought it would make a complete, well-rounded record."

As far as his own new material, Joe said, in the age of digitally downloaded gems sung by auto-tuned pop idols, The Chinwaggers wanted to make a statement. So in late 2012, he and guitarist Blair Krivanek, bassist Nick Salisbury and drummer Jordan Carlson began laying down tracks for "Wayward Son."

"It was sort of like a guerrilla operation," Carey said. "We kind of recorded it wherever we could, whenever we could."

Carlson, Carey and Krivanek all recorded their parts in their homes while Salisbury recorded bass tracks in Okaboji, Iowa. Last year, the band members took the files to a professional mixer and engineer to finish the project. The result, Joe says, doesn't fit any single musical style.

"The new record is a concept album," he said, having written all 10 songs for "Wayward Son."

"It doesn't really stick to one genre because it's telling a story, so the songs cover a lot of different genres," he said. "Whatever is needed to tell the story. A couple of the songs are straightforward rock, some have an Irish folk feel, and some have a classic country vibe."

Fronted and formed by veteran singer-songwriter Joe Carey, the Chinwaggers specialize in back-to-basics blues rock, influenced by old-school country and folk and sprinkled with classic bar song melodies. The Chinwaggers’ latest, Wayward Son, rings with the energy and swagger of a band of sailors in a crowded Irish pub. The group’s seaworthy rock and folk instrumentals collide with Carey’s raspy, bombastic vocals and heartfelt lyrics, all to an intriguing and subtly debaucherous effect. Wayward Son is stylistically diverse, but big and bold from start to finish.

St. Paul rock ’n’ roll singer-songwriter Joe Carey has got his own thing going on. A self-proclaimed “soulful roots rock” performer, Carey plays vocal-driven, guitar-heavy stuff reminiscent of what would happen if The Black Crowes played a friend’s barbecue. It’s upbeat, driving rock for the kind of folks who say the Foo Fighters are the best thing Dave Grohl has ever done, and the kind of folks who mean it. That’s the thing to take away from Carey: He knows what he likes, and that’s what he plays. And he’s not alone; there’s a good portion of America represented by this guy—that’s both Steve Perry’s America and REO Speedwagons’. Does that America belong to all of us? Maybe a little, if we’re kind of drunk.

A One-Man Show, And Then Some

 

Joe Carey takes the term "one-man show" to another level. Not only did the long-time musician write all of the songs on his latest album, Sunflower Soul, he also played all the parts (the guitar, bass, drums and vocals) on the roughly-hewn classic rock album. And he did it all from his unheated garage, in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

 

"It just so happened that when I got to guitar parts, it got cold," Carey said laughing. "When I needed my fingers the most, I could hardly feel them."

 

Carey's do-it-yourself approach was prompted, the musician said, by finances. Recording his 2003 solo album, Wondervibe, at a recording studio cost $10,000, Carey estimates...an expense the musician didn't want to front a second time around. Instead, Carey bought some vintage recording equipment online, set up shop in his garage and invited in a friend to help him mix and master the album. Then he started laying down his tracks, written over the last six years, one instrument at a time. To combat the cold, he even outfitted his garage with space heaters and made a habit of drinking hot tea.

 

"I just kept pushing the envelope," Carey said. "It was a personal challenge to myself, something that I had never done."  

 

Crafting his album from start to finish, Carey said, gave him absolute freedom to pursue his vision for Sunflower Soul. The result is a 10-track throwback to an older era of rock and roll that the St. Paul Pioneer Press calls a "soulful rock record with a distinctly '70s vibe." Carey, who will perform on Saturday and Dec. 19 at the Tavern Lounge in Northfield, says his solo work on the album let him branch out musically and taught him how to envision an album as the sum of its parts. Plus, it only cost Carey $3,000 to $4,000 to produce the album...space heaters included.

3 Spin Review:  Joe Carey "Sunflower Soul"

 

Length of first spin: I should eliminate this catagory. Only in extreme cases of ADD do I not listen to a CD all the way through the first time. So ... I listened to this all the way through, too.

 

Working knowledge of Joe Carey: Joe Carey graduated from high school a year ahead of me -- a fact that may seem normal to Duluth natives who see their, like, lab partner on various local stages. But not for me. Does anyone from Rochester even live here?

 

Brief Bio: Carey comes from a musically-inclined family and sometimes performs with various siblings. In fact, his older brother Jim Carey was the first person I ever knew of to actually release music. It was a two-song tape that included an original song ... Something about the moon ... and a cover of "Saturdays in the Park." I listened to that tape a lot. Today is obviously memory lane day.

 

My assessment: Joe Carey has that classic rock sound you grew up listening to, whether you were a 70s child listening to your dad rock out while he washed the station wagon, or if you were propped ear-first against a boom box in the 1990s.

 

My picks: "Sunflower Soul," "Only You Know" and "Radio Titans," which is as smooth as it is kind of funny. (I hope it's supposed to be funny. It's a self-aware song about itself. Like when Ferris Bueller addresses the camera).

CD REVIEW: Made in a St. Paul garage, one-man band's music is worth a listen

 

You have to be really driven, and fairly brave, to record your new release in an unheated garage in mid-winter in St. Paul. Joe Carey did that, and said: "I did have to simplify some guitar parts during the colder months, since it was like 30 degrees and I couldn't really feel my fingers."  

 

"Sunflower Soul" is the result. It evidences, in this one-man project, a rough-hewn vocal style sitting on top of 1960s and '70s guitar-driven music, with lyrics that paint vignettes of friends and loved ones. Carey is St. Paul-based, and got his first Eddie Van Halen replica Sears-Roebuck guitar at age 10. He and his brother/keyboardist, Jim, were the backbone of the group Loft for three years and two albums. Carey released his first solo project "Wondervibe" in 2003 while working his way through Twin Cities groups such as Minnesota Gold, the Porn Thieves, the Careys, and Love Songs for Angry Men. Writing, producing, playing almost all the instruments and doing the engineering is a tall order, but Carey comes up with an oddly interesting disc. It isn't strummy singer-songwritery, but much more in the soulful rock vein. Ballads seem to reign supreme, but there's an electric guitar edge that gives the project a band feel that's lacking on most one-man DIY efforts.

 

The title track has an early Joe Cocker-doing-John Sebastian's "Darlin' Be Home Soon" kind of feel, with some nice electric slide guitar playing from Carey's friend and guest, Jeff Ray. "Only You Know" is an ode to a friend who has sacrificed in some far-off land: "You always stand tall while I can't stand at all, giving all your heart." It has a bit of the '60s CCR guitar-driven anthem rock sound to it. The chords of "Live for You" bring to mind the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" in a tune about expectations and devotion.

 

With limited (by his own admission) technical chops, an even more limited budget, Joe Carey has come up with a disc worth talking about. On the next one, who knows what he can come up with, if he just times his recording of those complex guitar parts for the mid-summer months.

Carey Blossoms With "Sunflower"

 

When Joe Carey goes solo, he means it. For the former Rochester-based musician's latest album "Sunflower Soul," Carey wrote, produced, engineered and even played nearly all of the instruments. Fortunately, it's not his first time at it.

 

Carey, 34, has been involved in the Minnesota music scene for more than 15 years. He started performing professionally at the age of 19, and in 1998 helped launch rock band Loft in Rochester with his brother Jim Carey. In 2003, he released his first solo album, "Wondervibe," which was recorded in Minneapolis at Oar Fin Studios. From there he went on to perform extensively with a number of artists/bands, including Minnesota Gold, the Porn Thieves, the Careys, and Love Songs For Angry Men. During that time, he also began playing as a solo act and developed a knack for producing and engineering. With a garage full of used recording equipment at his St. Paul home where he lives with his wife and two children, Carey got to recording on his own with the exception of some back-up vocals and a few guitar and keyboard solos. After wrapping up recording in early 2009, he enlisted the help of former Loft bandmate Steve Digre for the mixing and mastering. "Sunflower Soul" was released on May 16.

St. Paul singer/songwriter Joe Carey has been kicking around the local music scene for more than 15 years. Some folks might remember him as a member of Loft or from his current project, Love Songs for Angry Men. He released his solo debut, "Wondervibe," in 2003 and has finally gotten around to finishing its followup, the new "Sunflower Soul." It's pretty much a one-man show, with Carey recording most of the music himself. Yet it's not a collection of acoustic love songs, but rather a soulful rock record with a distinctly '70s vibe. Carey's rough, raw vocals might be an acquired taste, but his songs hit all the right marks.

Joe Carey "Sunflower Soul", 2009, Self-Released

 

St. Paul-based rocker Joe Carey kicks off his second solo effort, Sunflower Soul, with all the manic musical exuberance one might expect from a guy who spent most of last winter in his garage, recording these ten tracks on vintage equipment he picked up on e-Bay and Craigslist. Joe, whose first guitar was an Eddie Van Halen replica he picked up at Sears, says in his rather humbly-worded press kit that he considers some of his biggest influences to be the Black Crowes, the Jayhawks, and Lenny Kravitz, and those artists have definitely made an impact on his style, but the six-string assault/massage he alternately lays down, along with a distinctive vocal range, more brings to mind material from such transcendental icons of the guitarist/songwriter contingent as Terry Reid or Tommy Bolin.

 

Though Carey's been around for some time now (he was a member of Loft and Love Songs For Angry Men,) on this album he both stakes out his own slice of local turf and surrounds himself with family and sympatico friends - his brother Jim adds keys and vocals, Jessica Carey and Nick Hensley sing back-up, with Nick adding some harmonica, Jeff Ray plays slide guitar on one cut, and Luke Kramer lends lead guitar on a couple - to showcase his unique and original talents.

 

The anthemic title opener rings out with Teenage Fan Club-meets-Neil Young axe-play and universally-resounding lyricism, and hearkens the inevitable coming of summer with a joyful howl, a groove that flows almost seamlessly into the paranoid, desperate pop nugget "Panic Attack." You can almost hear him muttering over an old analog tape recorder in his garage- "Why shouldn't this song be on the radio? I ain't shavin' no more time off- it's over four minutes and that's the way it is!" "Get the hell off my back," he finally barks, and the song bristles down with an extended amp-moan.

 

One thing that makes this recording stand out from the dozens of 651-hopefuls out there is that Joe obviously doesn't give a whit about today's image-based music scene- his press photo comes with the description "...my ugly ol' mug..." and in these wacked-out days of my-digital-shit-is-hipper-than-yours, it's truly refreshing to hear somebody really be who they are, say what they want, and play what they want. If American Idol gave out record deals on the basis of talent and originality instead of style and conformity, Joe would already be recording- oh hell, face it, it would just be in a bigger garage, but like I said, that's what makes this record stand out.

 

"Change Of Seasons" finds him adding keys to his already finely-layered studio approach, and it's here where the ghosts of respected pioneers like Terry Reid start to appear more frequently in the mix. Carey is one of those rare artists who can record with nearly the same enthusiasm and gravitas as they do in a live setting, and more than a few of these pleasant little gems prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

 

"Only You Know" reveals Carey's softer side, a shimmering, brave nod to the sacrifices of brothers, sisters, and comrades during the war-torn past decade that stands all the truer simply because the artist resolutely refuses to inject politics into the storyline. A few searing blasts from his formidable six-string arsenal make it clear that this is a subject he holds near and dear.

 

"About To Fall" is a whirlpool of mixed emotions, swirling guitars, and lulling rhythms, "Live For You" an almost-painfully personal musical promise to his child, and "Apologize" sees him seriously working the frets while he (and here's that Terry Reid vibe again, popping in and out like the crackles on an old vinyl album) spins a classic tale about the rocky terrain of committed love.

 

The Yacht-rockin' "Radio Titans" nails Steely Dan with a wink and a nod, and could've been a serious contender for the soundtrack to the film FM if it had dug a bit deeper into the movie's subject matter- "I'll admit, I'll sell this damn song right now for the highest bid/So let the bidding begin/Do I hear fifty grand? Oh yeah, fifty grand in my hand/From the radio titans..." This bittersweet ode goes beyond its' spot-on lyrical message and unabashedly showcases Carey's command of his instruments and the board.

 

The disc takes a bow with two songs that are completely opposite musically, yet manage to hit on a myriad of the things in life that haunt him enough that he's compelled to spend a long, dark (in more ways than one) winter getting them all down on tape and sharing them. "Unity's Fading" is a vicious growl- both vocally and sonically- at the injustices that have been eating away at this country's core for longer than we'd like to think about, while "Timid Child" is an after-hours, bottom-of-the-glass tip of the bottle to lost, love-lorn souls everywhere that would've undoubtedly caught Ted Templeton's ear as he was making the studio transition from recording the Doobie Brothers to attempting to contain "Diamond" David Lee Roth's high-flying in-studio antics.

 

All in all, Joe Carey displays an undeniable knack for writing, recording, and playing songs that may finally find folks on both sides of the Mississippi agreeing that the talent pool in our Capitol city is nothing to take lightly- as Carey sings in the final line on this recording- "Now you've got a song..." 

After Joe Carey's solo release, his heart's still with the band

 

Joe Carey, always the second half of the Jim and Joe Carey equation, arrived as his own man on his first solo CD, "Wondervibe." Well, he was his own man at least until the CD release party at O'Gara's in St. Paul a couple of weeks ago.

 

"It was billed as my CD release and the introduction to the band," Carey said.

 

But being back in a band feels right. "I always knew we'd keep playing as a band," Carey said. "I wanted to record a CD before we got too deep into it."

 

Carey is best known locally for his group work, including playing guitar in the defunct pop-rock band Loft. Since Loft broke up in 2001 and brothers Jim and Joe Carey moved to St. Paul, Carey's been a part of collaborations playing everything from pop to rock. There's the short-lived group, Shag Jeans; regular acoustic gigs with Jim at Sebastian's; a stint as host of open mic night at Rookies with his brother and other regulars, and his current role in what they call, "The Carey-Sorenson-Miller Extravaganza Bonanza." That's the open mic night at the North Star Bar, which Jim and Joe host with Scott Sorenson on bass and Steve Miller on drums. Now call him a member of Sister Doris, which is Jim and Joe Carey, their younger sister Jessica Carey, 21, on vocals, Sorenson and drummer Mike Molzahn. As a band, they play "straight-out roots rock, with vocal harmonies, guitar and piano," Carey said.  The songlist is a collection of a few covers and Jim and Joe's originals.

 

For his CD, Joe Carey adds a variety of tones, from thought provoking to just fun. "The Divide," for example, was inspired by a Ku Klux Klan rally on the stairs of the state capitol a few summers ago, he said. It begins: "Ignorance upon the steps. Preaching from behind the mask."

 

Then there's "Wondervibe." The song idea came simply from his desire to evoke a Stevie Wonder style, or Wonder vibe, Carey said. "I thought about how it would feel," he said. A laid-back, 1970's kind of groove, is how he described the end product.

 

"Superhuman Strife," a tale from the point of view of a superhero, was another challenge. "I rap on that song," Carey said. "I never rap, but I wanted to challenge myself to rap a song that still fits our type of rock." It's just one way Carey proved he's his own man.

Artist of the Month--February 2002

This month we have selected two artists to share these honors; Jim and Joe Carey. These brothers are the epitome of what this text represents. We found them holding an open jam at Rookie's in Rochester last month. I've got to say: "They were quite impressive!" It seemed they were able to help calm, and in a lot of ways, help fortify the guest artists to better perform. I mean, let's face it, if you're not on stage regularly, it is tough. Jim and Joe take the edge off, and keep the tunes rolling. They have a clever, humorous, and very enjoyable stage presence that should be witnessed. These guys are great. I should also mention they are extremely talented musically, and have been part of three CD productions. On Tuesday night in Rochester however, the theme is fun, and you'll find it there. Whether you're simply enjoying from an observer's stance, or you're up there jamming with them, I'll bet you agree these guys are worth the trip.

Get on the email list!

Get connected!

Twitter -- http://www.twitter.com/joecareymusic Facebook -- http://www.facebook.com/joecareymusic