Displaying items by tag: gypsylifter

  • Published in Music

Word on the Street: Picking up the Pieces

"credit" Jeff HarpHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/28/13) – The last couple of weeks have been really hard. I’m not only speaking for myself here, but for many others as well. Recently, our local music community was stricken with heartbreaking news: one of Hopkins County’s most talented and genuine individuals had been taken from us. This loss has made a huge impact on me. This tragedy has deeply affected the lives of many people I hold dear to me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Nobody likes to talk about suicide. Why would we? It’s a dark topic that is easily avoided. Suicide rarely comes up in conversation. Nobody likes to think about the disturbing depths a person can sink to. We wrestle with our own forms of loneliness and despair on a daily basis. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a close friend, or a family member for that matter, could be in such a hopeless place that they feel they have nowhere to turn, no other option.

"credit" Jessi Smith
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I didn’t see it coming. None of us were prepared for this. How could we be? A sharp, sudden, emotional impact—then hollow silence. That's how I felt when I was hit with the news that Landon Miller was gone. I am still waiting to regain my balance. I don’t know how long that may take. What I do know is that I, like many of us, have been searching for closure. Up until recently, I had turned up little to nothing.

"credit" Jessi Smith
After Landon’s funeral was over, we were informed that the service had concluded as we all stood graveside beside our longtime friend. The heavy atmosphere stuck to me like humid glue. My feet refused to budge. Nobody was moving. We all stood there shattered, confused, drained, empty, and emotionally wounded. I couldn’t leave. It just didn’t feel right leaving Landon up there on that grassy hill all by himself. Shouldn’t he be following the rest of us out of here? He’s part of our crew, after all. Closure—where is the closure?

"credit" Jessi Smith
I’ve been searching for that closure ever since. I know I am not the only one. I’d hoped the funeral would be the answer, but it left me feeling more discontented than before. It seems to get more difficult as time continues to pass by. The reality is starting to sink in on multiple levels. I will never see Landon Miller again. That fact torments me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Recently, on Saturday, August 24th, local musicians from within our community came together to collaborate on a benefit for Landon Miller’s family, all of us grieving on different levels, trying to help in any way that we could while attempting to make sure that things were being handled respectably.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Many of us were quick to pick the benefit apart. It was going to be an all acoustic show? Is that what Landon would have wanted? GypsyLifter wasn’t headlining? That just didn’t seem right either. Did all of the performers have a personal connection to Landon and his family? How could this benefit be improved? I was right there with them, infected with sadness, selfishly pointing out what I would do differently if it were up to me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Regardless of my confliction, I went to honor Landon and to support his family, as well as other mutual friends and musicians. Upon entering the Green Dragon Tavern, I was surrounded by friends, and music filled every bit of the remaining space.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Now, it has been scientifically proven that music has healing properties. Studies have shown that music levels out anxiety, causes the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, and has an association with higher levels of immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity. Even if I hadn’t been aware of that fact, I still would have realized that the music emanating from the Green Dragon Tavern was healing me.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Once there, I wasn’t worried about whether or not the benefit was an all-acoustic show. I wasn’t concerned about the band line-up or any of the previous flaws I had managed to dredge up in my grief-inflicted state. I was completely immersed in the therapeutic guitar riffs, the restorative powers of well-written lyrics, and the many soothing hugs from friends and loved ones.

"credit" Jessi Smith
The most memorable part of the benefit, for me, was when GypsyLifter took the stage. Although their familiar sound was indeed altered by the lack of their late friend and bassist, Landon Miller – aka “the original groove mechanic” – his spot was filled by his equally talented older brother, Faren Miller. It broke my heart, yet simultaneously comforted my soul, to see this band, left to pick up the pieces, putting everything they had out there for the whole audience to see. Equally so, to see Faren onstage, honoring the life of his little brother by playing a familiar song Landon had written so many years ago. The group was utilizing the stage and the music as a way of getting one step closer to closure, while supporting the audience as well.

"credit" Jessi Smith
I know for a fact that hearing “Crutch” was a moment in time that I never will forget. As soon as I heard the first two notes of the song, I started frantically motioning to Sugg Street Photographer Jessi Smith to catch it on video. This is a song easily recognized by anyone who knew Landon. It’s a song of Landon’s that many have loved for a long time. I wanted this moment captured, and I wanted to be able to share it with those of you who I know will hold it near to your hearts.

"credit" Jessi Smith
To everyone who came together and participated in this benefit to support Landon’s family during this difficult time, I thank you. To those of you that are still hurting, I am hurting with you. I wish I could tell you that this pain is only temporary and that your emotional wounds will heal with time, but I am not in any position at this point to do so. What I can do is provide you with this article, which I’ve written out of love for a very dear friend. I will continue to support Landon’s family, as well as GypsyLifter (Chad Estes, Randy Stone, and Michael Miller), who I also consider Landon’s family, in any way that I can. I can share photos of GypsyLifter at the event and I can share a moment in time. Below this article I have included an embedded video of GypsyLifter, as well as Faren Miller, performing “Crutch” at the benefit.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Closure? I’m still searching for it and it may never come. I’m sure it will be a long painful process at best. The greatest outcome I can see coming from this heartbreak is that the community has truly come together out of both love and necessity. As artists and friends, we support each other, but it’s easy to forget just how much support we are truly receiving from one another sometimes. We have been able to grieve as a family of friends and to recognize each other openly in ways we haven’t before. It is so important to let others know how much they are truly loved and cared for. That being said, if you need a friend, you can call on me, and I’ll be there. Lord knows we could all use a shoulder to lean on from time to time.

"credit" Jessi Smith
Below you will find some links to previous articles both by and about Landon Miller:

RabCab Rock & Roll Review - Soundgarden, "King Animal"
RabCab Rock & Roll Review - Avett Brothers, "The Carpenter"
RabCab Reccomendation - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
GypsyLifter - It's Good to be Home
Creating Community with Electric Synergy
Gear Guide - Landon Miller's Custom G&L

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos and video by Jessi Smith

  • Published in Music

Creating Community with Electric Synergy

MADISONVILLE, KY (4/18/13)—Technically, we experience synergy to some degree every day. Yet, every so often, we dig right into the exceptional reality of the term. And it is in these rare instances, when just the right mix of timing, emotion, and situation intermingle, that we truly experience what it means to collectively create something amazing, something that reaches into a shared consciousness both within and beyond our sense of individuality. It’s an electric sensation that reminds us that we’re human, that we were once a civilization rather than a menagerie of disjointed beings basking in the pale blue glow of smartphone screens. It creates an undeniably powerful buzz within us and those in proximity, and it is usually so striking that what was perhaps only a brief moment in time—at least in relativity—may impress upon us a lifelong stamp of consideration for our potential as a single race.

It may at first sound like the ranting of a lunatic, but coin these remembered, hindsight moments as “nostalgia” or “the good ol’ days” and it all begins to make perfect sense.

In the opinion of this writer, modernity and all its intricate, fast-paced trappings are paradoxically stifling and furthering the frequency with which these collectively cathartic moments manifest. Social media and other forms of publicly accessible mass communication are powerful tools for distributing ideas and creativity, but they can also keep us at odds; they can keep us faceless and disconnected, prostrate in mindless entertainment, while ironically connecting us in ways we would have never imagined 20 years ago. Whereas mail once took weeks, or even months, to reach its recipient, we can now send messages to the other side of the globe instantaneously. At the click of a button, we may purchase the latest pair of designer jeans or we can spark a revolution, and therein lays the terror of the modern generation’s responsibility. It’s up to us whether we use what we have at our disposal for the progression of communal thought or for the bliss of ignorance.

Fortunately, there are many who understand this concept and are actively utilizing the technology-bound power we all wield for the betterment of our species. They are creating real events where people can not only interact, but can share and synergize with other like-minded people, and they’re using technology to spread the word.

Yet, no matter how much a person or group may plan an event, the role of those participating—and how much they actually participate—as well the circumstances that are ultimately involved, are always the uncontrollable variables in this equation. They are the anomalous factors no individual or organization can completely gauge beforehand. With this in mind, those who take the time and initiative in hopes of achieving such a collaborative communal effect deserve our applause more so. Why? Because much of their fuel is a mix of blind faith and ambition.

Fortunately, as a writer and general community supporter, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing and being a part of these electrically-charged moments several times over the past few years—and they’ve almost always been sparked by the talents of creative people.

Thankfully, I was able to be a part of this effect once again this past Saturday, April 13th, in Madisonville, KY at Legends Bar thanks to the efforts of local rock band, gypsyLifter, and a handful of other local performers.

With the promise of 100 free beers, a striking lineup of “guest” performers, and the mission of simply having a good time standing as the impetus for participating, over 250 people turned out at the venue throughout the four-and-a-half-hour set with high hopes—and they weren’t disappointed.

As the night rolled on, talented performers like Pat Ballard and Johnny Keyz (aka PB&J), Mollie Garrigan, Vince Bedwell, Chris Branstetter, Cody Melton, and Even Faulk, as well as some new groups formed partially by members of gypsyLifter—Toredown/Brown (Landon Miller, Kyle True, and Matt Parker) and The Dead Sea Squirrels (myself, Jessica Dockrey, Landon Miller, and Randy Stone)—took to the stage alongside one another as friends and collaborators rather than rivals.

And while I’ve been to similar events in the past—ones where everyone hopes to work together effectively—Robert Burns’ quote says it best: “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” To put it bluntly, sometimes things just click organically and sometimes they don’t, a fact that is especially true with artists and musicians. It’s just the way of fate. Fortunately, this event was that of the former, and the people in attendance became just as much a part of the performances as those under the swirling, iridescent lights of the stage. Friends were there showing support with claps and yelps; strangers applauded from behind raised, ice-clinking glasses; revelers swayed and nodded in time adjacent to the onstage monitors; and a horde of respect was shared by all those involved.

Though I can’t personally speak for everyone there that night, the event will personally go down in my memory banks as one of the best times I’ve ever had creating something beautiful with the help of other, like-minded people.

Pat Ballard, a seasoned musician and supporter of local artists and performers—a man who partially inspired me to get on stage for the first time this past Saturday night—leaned over during the first portion of gypsyLifter’s multi-part set and told me, “When I walked in the door tonight, I felt like I was walking into a community that I truly belonged to.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

Though there were a bevy of talented musicians from our town and region who weren’t able to attend the show, there’s no doubt in my mind that what we shared was just as much a part of their spirit as our own.

As residents of Madisonville and Hopkins County, we should never take what we have right here in our community for granted. It’s not just musicians either. It’s an eclectic group of artists; it’s a variety of non-profit organizations; it’s volunteers; it’s rich history; and it’s unique culture. It’s here at our fingertips, but it’s up to us to energize the beast and bring it to life.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith


Gear Guide—Landon Miller’s Custom G&L

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (12/20/12)—Good music is born from a musician’s experiences, feelings, or ideas. Yet, without the proper instrument, attaining the desired expression and personality of a song can be difficult or nearly impossible. Fortunately, modern musicians have a plethora of finely tuned options at their disposal. From variations in tonewoods, string gauge, and speaker construction, to the customization of electronic pickups, drum heads, microphones, and beyond, contemporary players have the ability to dial in exactly what they want or need to get their “dream tone.”

But, on the flip side, figuring out the differences between each of these options can become a major, and often times confusing, learning process. That’s the beauty of it, though—it takes time to age into a fine musician.

So, instead of trying to lay everything out on the proverbial table, the Sugg Street Post would like to bring you periodic information about the instruments area musicians use to get the sound you hear live or on their records. Enter: The Gear Guide.

For the first installment of The Gear Guide, we would like to bring you a closer look at Landon Miller’s coveted G&L custom ASAT-style bass (seen in photos).

A talented and dynamic player of over 15 years, Landon “The Original Groove Mechanic” Miller handles some serious low-end thump as the bassist for rock trio GypsyLifter, provides bass and guitar lessons to local up-and-comers, and even finds the time to contribute music and entertainment content to the Sugg Street Post.

So how does he get such a deep and fluid tone outside of his singular playing technique? Read on.

Custom Built G&L ASAT Bass - Tech Specs:
Pickups—Two G&L “Magnetic Field” humbuckers
Body Wood/Design—Swamp Ash with dual “voice chambers” and “f” hole 
Neck Wood—Hard rock maple with maple fretboard (abalone dot inlays)
Neck Shape—Narrow “C” shape
Tuners—Custom G&L “Ultra-Lite” machine heads with tapered aluminum string posts
Bridge—G&L “Saddle Lock” with chrome-plated brass saddles
Volume/Tone Controls—G&L “Tri-Tone” active/passive electronics, 3-way mini-toggle pickup selector, series/parallel mini-toggle, and preamp control mini-toggle (off/on/on with end EQ boost)
Finish—Belair green with white binding

The amplifier head Landon uses with his G&L—both live and while recording—is a David Eden WT500 model, which incorporates a tube preamp in conjunction with a solid-state power amp. A 410XLT 4X10 speaker cabinet projects the sound.

But how did Landon acquire the custom-made, four-string bass? And why did he choose the aforementioned specs?

As he explains, “The G&L ASAT bass is my prize possession. I ordered it custom from the company through ABBA Music in Henderson, KY. They were awesome, and they gave me the best deal I could find. It took three months to receive it since they actually had to build it for me. It was well worth the wait, though.”

“The tones I can conjure from this bass are amazing,” says Landon. “I can dial in a good passive Fender P-Bass or Jazz Bass tone, or I can go more modern and have a souped-up Musicman ‘Stingray’ tone. It's all I need.”

To check out more on Landon Miller and GypsyLifter—and music in general—check out the Sugg Street Post’s “The Lounge” section by clicking here. Want to find out more about bass and guitar lessons offered by Landon? If so, click here or call (270) 676-8182.

Want us to feature your favorite piece of gear? Contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through our official Facebook page.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp

  • Published in Music

GypsyLifter – It’s Good to be Home

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (11/13/12) – Not quite sure where I was going due to a last minute heads up, I drove through the Kentucky countryside awaiting a phone call that would determine my destination.

All I knew was that I was headed towards White Plains to sit in on a recording session with local rock band, GypsyLifter. I continued to call drummer Randy Stone without luck, not yet realizing that he had no cellphone reception deep in the rural hills where the band was recording their newest album.

I finally hit White Plains with no real plan. I’d simply hoped to hear back from Randy by the time I’d arrived so he could give me further directions. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and my aging Cadillac was without air conditioning, so the strategy quickly changed. It was time to hit up the gas station to beat the heat, grab a soda, and ask the employee behind the counter if they knew “the original groove mechanic,” AKA Landon Miller, the band’s bass player. The recording session was actually going to be taking place in his home.

Walking in, my hopes weren’t terribly high that the lady behind the counter would know who I was talking about, but I asked anyway. I noticed her name tag said Michelle. At first, she seemed confused by my question. As I went on to inform her that I was a reporter and was supposed to be sitting in on their recording session, her facial expression quickly changed.

“Are you talking about Landon who is in a band with Chad Estes?” Michelle inquired.

I nodded as my optimism fluttered.

“Chad is my brother,” she replied smiling.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I swear, sometimes the cosmos aligns.

Michelle drew me a crude map on a yellow post-it note and I went on my way. I glanced down at the directions as I left the gas station. A post-it note is 3 inches by 3 inches. Michelle had only managed to map out half of my journey to Landon’s. The rest of the directions she had relayed to me vocally. So I hopped back in the Caddy and hoped for the best.

Once I’d arrived near the described location, it became a matter of finding the correct house. Michelle had specifically pointed out that I was looking for a trailer. I pulled into a long gravel driveway, parked my car, and walked towards what I hoped was the right place as two dogs running up the driveway verbally assaulted me.

Approaching the single-wide trailer, I could hear a steady drum beat and Chad Estes’s voice over the band as they rocked out to “Confidential Blues,” a song I’d heard before. Relieved, I knew I’d found the right place. I waited until the song was finished to avoid messing up the recording and then knocked on the back door.

The band welcomed me warmly and offered me a beer. We all sat down together and listened to the powerful lyrics and commanding bluesy melodies of the recently recorded tune. Pleased with the track, the group decided to take a little break, giving me a chance to kick back on the front porch, enjoy the rustic solitude, and speak with the guys.

“We got started this afternoon around 1:30,” explained Landon. “Today we are going to try to get down four tracks, which is really ambitious.”

Although the group does not yet have a name finalized for the album they are recording, they do have a name for the studio they are recording it in

“Tin Can Studios,” grinned Landon. “We’re in a trailer, so when the studio is here it is Tin Can Studios. I’ve lived out here for about five years or so. All this is family out here, too, so we don’t get any flack from anybody. This is our sanctuary.”

“We get no signal out here, which is cool in a way because we don’t get interrupted,” said Chad. “The only calls that come through here are telemarketers and bill collectors.”

GypsyLifter singer and rhythm guitarist, Chad Estes, has been playing guitar since he was 12 and writing music since he was 17 years-old.

“We actually still play some of the songs I wrote when I was 17,” said Chad. “I was more prolific back then, but most of it was terrible. We’re starting to work more as a group, but right now what we are doing is pretty much my compositions.”

Randy also began his musical journey at the tender age of 12. Coincidentally enough, Landon actually gave him his first pair of drumsticks in 1993.

“By Christmas, I had a new drum set thanks to my dear old Grandma,” Randy smiled.

Chad informed me that the name of the band has changed three times since the group got together last November of 2011. The trio is currently undergoing multiple epic recording sessions with Steve Smith of Nashville, TN.

“I’m just an independent guy,” Steve pointed out. “I just have some equipment and I really love recording undiscovered bands. It’s great fun. You meet nice people that way.”

Steve works as a touring concert sound engineer and a recording engineer. Steve has worked with Shooter Jennings, The Mavericks, Suzy Bogguss, Dwight Yoakum, Reba McEntire, Don Williams, Tom T. Hall, and Uriah Heep, just to name a few.

“When I first moved to Nashville in the 80’s, I was lucky that I met all the old school musicians like Johnny Cash and all those kind of people,” said Steve. “I was pretty young then, and I was exposed to the golden age of country before it became a real pop thing. That was great fun. Before that, I worked with English rock bands and punk bands and stuff like that. I still tour with an Irish punk band called Stiff Little Fingers. They came out in ‘77. They were kind of contemporaries of The Clash and the Sex Pistols and all that stuff. They just never became quite as famous here, but in Europe they are into that kind of thing.”

GypsyLifter will be unleashing the sound on their new album by recording as a full band, unlike many groups recording today who record individual musical components separately.

“We’re doing more of the live thing,” explained Chad. “The song we recorded previously, before you came in, ‘Magnet,’ we play as a full band all the way through. The only thing that will be overdubbed is the vocals. The only reason you can’t do the vocals live is because they bleed over through everything else.”

Steve’s easygoing style of recording and his love for working with undiscovered artists in their element is a respectable and refreshing aspect to GypsyLifter’s new album.

“It’s been fun to me since I was a kid in the seventies,” said Steve. “I grew up recording bands in garages, in house trailers, and that kind of stuff. I started learning how to record and everything because I wrote radio plays, comedy skits, and stuff like that. I grew up way out in the country and there weren’t any kids around me that were kindred spirits creatively. I got a tape recorder that I could do overdubs on so I could do all the voices and parts myself. That is what kind of got me started. After that I started recording music and stuff when I started playing guitar, and when my friends started tragically attempting it at the age of 14.”

“Steve is a true professional,” said Chad. “He comes to us, the way he records is better for me, and it works better for us as a group. It’s more relaxed and we’re in our element.”

“I enjoy recording people like this,” explained Steve. “Recording people that I just met through someone else, and kind of catching them at that moment. To me, GypsyLifter, they are just kind of what I call ‘rootsy’ in general. The songs are really excellent and the lyrics are great. Everybody is playing real well and they’ve got a great idea of an uncluttered, real arrangement. All that kind of stuff appeals to me.”

Unable to keep my toes from tapping to the catchy rhythms, I sat back, laughed, and enjoyed myself while watching the group banter back and forth. The driving pulse originating from one band, in one trailer, way out in the Kentucky country was wholly comforting. Watching these talented musicians do what they love, in the place they are most comfortable, was really a natural pleasure. I felt as if I was simply sitting on my own front porch, eyes closed, enjoying some good old homegrown music.

Steve shared a story with me while I was there about an encounter he’d had with Johnny Cash that speaks volumes when it comes to my experience with the guys from GypsyLifter.

“One time I was just standing in the Nashville airport waiting for my bag after I got back home,” said Steve. “I look over and standing next to me there waiting for his bag is Johnny Cash. He was like, ‘Waiting for your bag son?’ and I was like ‘Yup.’ He asked, ‘Ya going home?’ ‘Yup’, I replied. ‘It’s good to be home,’ he said. He grabbed his bag and walked off.”

GypsyLifter’s rich and diverse sound is proof that they are doing things their own way. The new album, recorded completely in Tin Can Studios will, as their official site claims, surely bring “chaos to the order of the music scene today.” GypsyLifter is kicking up the dirt in their own back yard. All in all, it reminds me that it certainly is good to be home.

Sugg Street Post
Article and Photos by Jessica Dockrey

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