I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS

...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Everyone needs a hobby.

A few of my dear readers have found purpose and meaning in facial hair and have started a blog chronicling their moustache progress from April 1 until May 5 ("growing season"), thus joining the Cinco de Moustache movement. Important topics such as "World's greatest moustaches" (yes, Tom Selleck is in there) and "Take baby pictures of your moustache" are covered. One of these guys won my Stranger Than Fiction book title competition a few months back by saying if he wrote a book of his life, it would be entitled: "Facial Failure: My Everyday Struggle to Grow a Moustache (and Sideburns) that looks neither Pervy nor Predatory." So there's a precedent here.

Good luck, men. Be strong. And may the best . . . follicles win?


Music for the growing season:

Amy (Ryan Adams cover)
Mark Ronson
I don't even know what to think of this concept album as a whole (see tracklist), but darned if I have to admit that I like this reinvention of Ryan Adams as fat-beat bossa nova soul funk from British DJ Mark Ronson. You can dance to it, and I'd never expect it to work but I think it does. Ronson says "With Version, I’ve taken these songs that I love and turned them into Motown/Stax 70’s versions. I keep the utmost respect and appreciation for the original songs I use. I’m just trying to find something in it, add something to the arrangement or change a groove. It’s not like I’m thinking it’s a shit song that I can make good, it’s more like it’s a great song and I’m now going to make it bounce.” Thanks to reader Sara for the download link.

California Saga (On My Way To Californ-i-a)
Beach Boys
With summer coming, everyone should own at least one really good collection of Beach Boys songs. You've got myriad albums and repackaged reissues to choose from - I am liking the sunburned harmonies of their newest money grab album release The Warmth Of The Sun. Out May 22 on Capitol, it's got a few "new stereo mixes," plus some songs notably featured in popular movies lately (Feel Flows from Almost Famous and Sail On, Sailor from The Departed) and lots of oldie goodies. You really can't go wrong. I loved this particular song because listening to it was like playing a game of "Have You Ever" with the Beach Boys, with all the places in CA they're asking if you've been.
I was like, "yes, yes, and yes."

Trouble
Acute
So for those paying attention at home, Los Angeles band Acute (featuring ex-members of Ozma and Poulain) just announced a string of tour dates supporting Jesse Malin. Jesse hasn't announced these dates yet, but let's just say . . . I know where I'll be on June 15. I really like the new Acute album Arms Around A Stranger (May 1, Help Records). It's produced by Dave Trumfio (Grandaddy, Wilco, My Morning Jacket) and shares some of that golden alt-pop goodness.

Destiny Calling
James
I can't believe I haven't posted this song before, but the advent of the upcoming release of Manchester band James' greatest hits double album (Fresh As A Daisy: The Singles, due next month on Universal) gives me just cause. Even though this tune originally came out in 1998 from James (think, "This bed is on fire with passion and love...") I just heard it fairly recently and it's been on one of my most-listened-to mixes in the car for months. A song about fame and being loved (and the fleeting nature of those things) set to these melodic jangly chords that I can always picture being hit with a flourish. I also love to sing the opening lines in my best Mancunian accent (that is to say, not very well).


Diamonds In The Dark
Mystery Jets
I'd read the NME yammering on about the hot UK superstars Mystery Jets for months, but didn't pay much attention until I got their new album (Zootime, on Hollywood's Dim Mak label May 8) in the mail yesterday. This is the lead-off teack and I find myself enjoying the Morrissey-esque vocals and the thrumming bass line. And then . . . I found out that the lead singer's dad is in the band. That is so oddball and rad I don't even know where to start. If I ever started a band and wanted to follow their model that means my dad could join and play trumpet -- from his days in the Army. He does a mean Taps.

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Two "new" ones from Ray LaMontagne, and Jake Troth EP news

Hey kids, I am working on the Monday Music Roundup, but til then, here's some good stuff:

I reupped that new Ray LaMontagne song from the Beacon in December. Thanks to reader Eric, who was there, here is a better version than what I posted before.

You Are The Best Thing That's Ever Happened To Me - Ray LaMontagne

And while I'm at it, here's a fresh mp3 I ripped from his Austin City Limits performance of "Heaven Is A Honky Tonk," which he wrote about his personal heroes like Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt:

Heaven Is A Honky Tonk - Ray LaMontagne

This version above is a more sedate, refined rendition appropriate for the classiness of the ACL setting. I prefer the raucous, soul-reviving live version from January 2005, but the audio quality on that is not as clear and warm, so this makes for some good listening.


Also, an update on Jake Troth, the musician I raved about recently: his EP The Ups and Downs of Being at the Bottom is just now completed -- written, recorded, screen printed, and copied by Jake himself. They're available for a mere $10 by emailing Jake or contacting him through MySpace. Props to Bruce for also picking up on this and giving Jake's music some well-deserved love.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Someone bring it on home, already :: Sam Cooke gets covered

"Bring It On Home To Me" is probably my favorite song that Sam Cooke ever penned and recorded. Even though it's self-flagellating sad sap fare, it always sounds to me like slow dancing barefoot on a dusty front porch somewhere. I am not alone in my love.

Spurred on by the recent cover that Britt Daniel (of Austin band Spoon) contributed to the Bridging The Distance album, I decided to borrow a page from Dodge and started investigating the high points and travesties in the history of covers of "Bring It On Home To Me." The versions are legion. The good ones . . . are few. It's nearly impossible to improve upon the original, so I was pretty hard to please with these.


WOULDN'T HURT TO ADD THESE TO YOUR COLLECTION
Bring It On Home To Me - The Animals
(in their distinctive rising sun style)
Bring It On Home To Me - Britt Daniel (of Spoon) (clapping, egg shaker, minimalist)
Bring It On Home To Me - Eddie Floyd (big bassline, flirty keys, that Stax sound)
Bring It On Home To Me - Otis Redding & Carla Thomas (worth it just to hear Otis sing "bring your little self --fine foxy self-- on home")
Bring It On Home To Me - The Ramones (live, more sedate than I'd think - no "1234!")
Bring It On Home To Me - Rory Gallagher (wailing fuzzy Stratocasters and blues harp)
Bring It On Home To Me -The Von Bondies (winsome garage-girl rock)
You Really Got A Hold On Me/Bring It On Home To Me - The Zombies (hey, that's smoooth)


THE BEATLES GET THEIR OWN CATEGORY
Bring It On Home To Me/Oh! Darlin - The Beatles
(snippet in studio, A/B Road, 1-27-69)
Bring It On Home To Me - Paul McCartney (from his Choba B CCCP album)
Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin' - John Lennon (fantastic)
Bring It On Home To Me/Remember - George Harrison (messing around in the studio)


WHICH LEADS TO SOME MERSEYBEAT VERSIONS
Bring It On Home To Me - The Big Three
Bring It On Home To Me - The Merseybeats



THEN THE "EH" VERSIONS
Bring It On Home To Me - Al Christian
(Georgia harmonica & gospel soul)
Bring It On Home To Me - Aretha Franklin (bring that big band)
Bring It On Home To Me - Back Porch Blues (sleepy harmonica and female vocals)
Bring It On Home To Me - Ben Mills
Bring It On Home To Me - Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band

Bring It On Home To Me - The Commitments (from the movie)
Bring It On Home To Me - Cool Jerks
Bring It On Home To Me - Dave Mason (of Traffic)
Bring It On Home To Me - Diana Ross & The Supremes
(too cloying and sappy - no angst!)
Bring It On Home To Me - Dixie Chicks (pre-Natalie Maines, very twangy)
Bring It On Home To Me - The Drifters
Bring It On Home To Me - George Benson & Al Jarreau
(contemporary gospel/soul-lite)
Bring It On Home To Me - James Cotton
Bring It On Home To Me - Lou Rawls
Bring It On Home To Me -
Louisiana Red (dirty straight blues)
Bring It On Home To Me - Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (beautiful guitar intro)
Bring It On Home To Me - Percy Sledge
Bring It On Home To Me - Robson & Jerome
Bring It On Home To Me/You Send Me - Rod Stewart & Faces
(live)
Bring It On Home To Me - Sam & Dave (brassy Stax soul)
Bring It On Home To Me - Shirley Ellis (as we would expect, peppy and clappy)
Bring It On Home To Me (live) - Van Morrison (yeah, not so fond of this one, Van)
Bring It On Home To Me - Wilson Pickett
Bring It On Home To Me - Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
Bring It On Home To Me - ZZ Hill
(add a little rasp to it)


IN GENERAL I OBJECT TO REGGAE-LITE VERSIONS OF THIS SONG
Bring It On Home To Me - Cornell Campbell
Bring It On Home To Me - Jimmy Clarke


WHAT IS AND NEVER SHOULD BE
Bring It On Home To Me - Michael Bolton
(no comment)
Bring It On Home To Me - Millie Small (deviant chipmunks on crack?)
Bring It On Home To Me - Rita Coolidge (Waaay too pretty and sappy)
Bring It On Home To Me - Rita MacNeil (0 for 2 on the Ritas. Showy gospel vocals that grate me)
Bring It On Home To Me - Sonny & Cher (because it's Sonny and Cher)



. . . But the grandpappy OG sweet fantastic:

Bring It On Home To Me - Sam Cooke

Bring It On Home To Me (live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963) - Sam Cooke

(I think that the first time I heard this version was the first time I realized Sam Cooke wasn't all sweetness, smoothness, and Cupid)

After screening all these cover versions, all I really want is Sam.
Dang, what a flawless song.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

aaand . . . MySpace just keeps getting better

Dude, I totally think I'm gonna go for it.

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Andrew Bird & Apostle of Hustle in Boulder

Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam, as the song goes, and Colorado don't want me for a juror. After lots of waiting and secretive shuffling to various rooms within the judicial complex yesterday, I was told that they wouldn't be needing me. The hardest thing I had to accomplish all day was filling out my juror questionnaire: #8 - "What kind of music do you like to listen to on the radio?" followed by a line about this long __________. Don't they realize that I would need more space than that? I think they wanted a one-word answer. I had to think long and hard on how to answer that one without letting anyone on my iPod down.

Also, I thought the juror video they made us all watch at the beginning of the day was humorously paternal: "Please do not be embarrassed or otherwise upset if you are dismissed from juror selection. This case may not be right for you, but perhaps in the future there will be a jury that is perfectly suited for you." Thanks for not hurting my feelings, jury people! I was about to cry, but now can I just have a lollipop?

Six of us packed in last night for the drive to and from Boulder to see Andrew Bird and Apostle of Hustle (I truly think the road gets longer every time, especially the dark trip home) with a tin of cookies I made during our recent snowstorm. When we arrived in Boulder, we hit up Illegal Pete's, which by itself is practically reason enough to make the drive. Mmmmmm. Then onto the sold-out show at the Fox.

Apostle of Hustle was fantastic -- really impressive, alternating parts Cuban/flamenco, Cake, and Notwist. I'd heard their name bantied about in association with Feist (contributing one of the remixes on her Open Season album) and Stars (loosely related vibe, they've also done some remixes of Stars' work) but to my distinct loss I had not previously listened to any of their own stuff. Apostle of Hustle is from Canada (frontman Andrew Whiteman, also of Broken Social Scene, was telling a story about Stephen Harper and whispered an aside to all of us in a deliberate sotto voce, as if letting us all in on a secret, "He's our prime minister...") and they're also on Arts & Crafts, which has a stellar track record of bringing me artists I like.

Their music fascinated me - rich melody and chimy harmonics, layers of creative sounds piled one atop the other, imaginative lyrics and arrangements. Their sound has been described as cinematic, Latin-tinged and "smoldering gypsy folk," but it transcended all of that into something truly original & fresh. I liked that they had two guys holding down the rhythm section - Dean Stone on traditional 4-piece drumkit and Daniel Patanemo working everything from the shakers to the congas to the cymbals and cardboard boxes. Double the rhythm, double my fun.

Lead singer/guitarist Whiteman physically evoked every note he played with a variety of squints, one-legged jumpkicks, and primal writhes, as if someone was invoking The Great Music Voodoo on him and each note brought an invisible pinprick. Visceral to watch, and highly recommended for fans of Stars (like me).

I regret that I wasn't taping the first few songs because they were heavy on the thumping beats, and I loved that, but these videos will also give you some sense of their fine abilities.
Apostle of Hustle: A Rent Boy Goes Down


Other videos I took last night:
Apostle of Hustle - Haul Away
Apostle of Hustle - Folkloric Feel

Catch Apostle of Hustle on tour if you can (lots of dates and in-stores coming up) and be converted.

National Anthem of Nowhere - Apostle of Hustle
(from the 2007 album of the same title)

Watching Andrew Bird perform, I finally understood the title of his song A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left, as he does that a lot. He is disarming. Diminutive, stick legs, a scarf around his neck, a swath of disheveled hair. In physical appearance I find him reminiscent of the folk-poet fragility of Bob Dylan, with a voice that flat out eerily echoes Jeff Buckley. I had not realized that before in listening to his recorded work, but the way that instrument in his throat soars during concerts, it gave me goosebumps.

Discussion on the way home centered around how his music is so rich & dramatic, and quite esoteric, that one really needs to be focused to fully "get" it. It's not light pop nor hook-filled, but rather soaring and often-dissonant arias, with screaming violins competing with each other on looped audio while drums crash like waves during a storm.

Truthfully I can appreciate this astounding performance more this morning, with a few hours of sleep under my belt:
Andrew Bird, "Armchairs"


And it took about seven false starts to get the loops to "Skin Is, My" up to Andrew's exacting specifications (and this video cuts off abruptly after I was chastised by a Fox employee for filming). Pretty phenomenal, with that double-necked phonograph that would set off spinning to loan the stage an Alice-In-Wonderland feel:


A very talented man, for sure, with music that challenges in a good way. My brain felt full by the end.

Skin Is, My (live at Schuba's) - Andrew Bird

(song from 2005's The Mysterious Production of Eggs; the new Armchair Apocrypha is also out now)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Out on the porch . . . but they don't wave

I'm reporting for jury duty this morning like the good little citizen I am, and then I am off to see Andrew Bird/Apostle of Hustle in Boulder tonight (who else is in? Can I get an amen?) -- but a quick post before I go.

This little video made me cackle with laughter last night. Brilliance:



Make me fries.

-

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New from Paul McCartney: "Ever Present Past"

I'm gonna warn you before you even listen to the new Paul McCartney (from his upcoming first album on the Starbucks label, as previously mentioned): It will totally and completely stick in your head.

You'll think as you listen, "Huh, self. That's catchy. Kinda synthy, kinda Wings-y, a little Devo. Plus, it's PAUL, and you get That Voice, so -- not bad." Then like an hour later you'll be doing something completely different and all of a sudden you'll want to bust out with Paul's double-negative lyrics about "I got too much on my plate, don't have no time to be a decent lover..."

Audio quality fair here, I think it's a rip of a rip.

Ever Present Past - Paul McCartney


The album Memory Almost Full is out June 5th, and will be the follow-up album to 2005's well-crafted Chaos and Creation In The Backyard, and then the classical album in 2006 that you didn't buy. It will be released first through Starbucks in the US, with distribution through Universal.

I'm still ambivalent on the Starbucks thing, and that makes me feel like an elitist but I can't help it. I heard one of Mason Jennings' best songs in Starbucks the other day while getting my toasty beverage (apparently we still need hot drinks this time of the year here, what with the spring snow shower nonsense) and I stood there vacillating between elated (because Southern Cross is a great song) and truthfully a little . . . defiant.

Photo credit Richard Haughton

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I was stoked Saturday morning when I read about a program called Tangerine! that automatically analyzes the songs in your iTunes library for beats per minute (BPM) and then allows you to make playlists based on beats. I've been looking for something exactly like this that will give me the right beats for running different speeds. I've been addicted to lengthening the amount of time I run lately (thanks new shoes!) and always delight in finding the perfect song for the MPH I am going - my feet strike the ground with the drumbeat and compel me to stick with it.

My sheer unbounded joy turned to dejection when I saw that Tangerine is currently only for Macs. Boo for me. Does anyone know of websites or tools for creating running playlists based on the speed you are running? I have quite a few tunes that I personally have learned are the perfect speed for running (Pearl Jam's "Undone" is my current fave), but would LOVE to cull my collection for other candidates. Lemme know what works for you?

Here are some tunes which may or may not work for running.
They're all worth a listen:

Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights
Ike Reilly Assassination
The new album from Ike Reilly, We Belong To The Staggering Evening (May 8, Rock Ridge Music), is very securely in my frontrunners for Best-Of 2007. I've been spinning it at high volumes all weekend long and this is one fantastic album: full of bluesy, boozy, humid, rock riffs and intelligent, biting, evocative, rough-and-tumble lyrics that make me want to take off with Ike through the desert on the run from the cops, with a knowing glance between us and the windows down.

This song starts like a old-time automatic piano in a dusty Western bar somewhere, then busts into a full and marvelous scorcher. Ike sings his heart out, with lines like, "It's those lies you tell that make me wanna be your lover, the crime in your eyes makes me wanna run for cover, the storm in your thighs makes it all feel right . . . ahh those charcoal days and those sterling nights..." I had a ridiculously difficult time selecting which track to feature since they are all so different and excellent - a single track cannot do justice to the album. I literally went back and forth for over an hour here. Depending on the tune, you get the wide-open anthems of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, the ambitious pop harmonies of Oasis, and the bluesy back-porch swampy harmonica of a generation past. Preorder this album immediately.


Ooh Girl
Red Button
A delightful reader who turned me on the to the best Cotton Mather b-side I've heard ("Heaven's Helping") returns to my inbox with a fantastic power pop tune from Los Angeles-based Red Button, the project of Seth Swirsky (who has written songs for everyone from Rufus Wainwright to Al Green) and Mike Ruekberg (who scored the indie film Dummy with Adrien Brody). From the lush string opener that echoes Eleanor Rigby, on into the jangly harmonies, I love the unabashed goodness of this little gem. The album is called She's About To Cross My Mind -- it's 11 songs in 33 minutes. You can sample their other tunes on their website, and how's this for a ringing endorsement: "If The Red Button had beeen around in the '60s when I was producing, I would have signed them to EMI." - Norm "Hurricane" Smith, Beatles engineer (1962-1966) and record producer (Pink Floyd, The Zombies) for EMI. Delicious.


It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Five-Eight feat. Michael Stipe
This CD was released last month with barely a ripple, but it celebrates an amazing evening in Athens, Georgia musical culture. On September 12 of last year, local musicans gathered at the 40 Watt Club in Athens for a big party -- and to record covers of a variety of R.E.M. tunes as a benefit.

Turns out four members performing that night didn't need to rehearse any of the songs: R.E.M. was in town for their induction into Georgia's Music Hall of Fame, and joined in on several tunes. This version is rough and fast, almost punk -- a joyous ending to a fantastic evening. Net proceeds from Finest Worksongs benefits Community Connection of Northeast Georgia and Family Connection/Communities in Schools, so it's a great album for a good cause.


The Harder They Come
(Jimmy Cliff cover)

Pat MacDonald
Speaking of good causes, the Bridging The Distance compilation was released last week on Arena Rock Recording Co. as a benefit for p:ear which works with transitional youth in Portland, Oregon. Very interesting song choices to cover - ranging from Fleetwood Mac and Yes songs to Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, and even Sam Cooke - from a variety of bands like The Decemberists, Chris Walla (of DCFC), The Minus 5, The Dandy Warhols, and this guy who may or may not be the same Pat MacDonald whose future is so bright he's gotta wear shades. A pulsating, fuzzy, supersonic cover of the '70s reggae Jimmy Cliff classic.


Once Bitten, Twice Shy (yep. for real)
Ian Hunter
I've been listening to this cheesy '70s rock winner all weekend because I see that Ian Hunter has a new album coming out in a few weeks. Former Mott the Hoople frontman struck guilty gold in my book with this song, from the opening cockney "Allo" and the Wayne's World-worthy guitar solo in the middle (also unfortunately covered by Great White in the '80s). Nothing on the new album can touch the playful dance-around-and-shake-it goodness of this. Ian Hunter is still rocking the perm and the aviator sunglasses. I guess he figures to stick with what worked with the ladies. Shrunken Heads is out May 15 on Yep Roc.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eddie Vedder @ the Kokua Festival this weekend

Eddie and Boom Gaspar played the Kokua Music Festival in Hawaii this weekend with Jack Johnson. By all accounts, it was pretty rad.

I am sitting here ripping audio from the streaming webcast up right now on the Kokua Festival MySpace: www.myspace.com/kokuafestival. Currently they are playing highlights from Saturday night on loop (and loop, and loop) -- tonight's is supposed to air live soon or so we thought. Looks like it was just Jack's set streaming from Saturday with Eddie dropping in.

It's almost as good as being there . . .


AUDIO:
Breakdown - Jack Johnson & Zach Gill from ALO
No Eddie, but I started recording because I saw the ukulele, and then it was such a truly lovely rendition that I'm sharing here

Soon Forget - Eddie Vedder & Jack Johnson
Ooh, they botch this one so bad...stopped in the middle -- then where to pick up again?

Constellations - Jack Johnson & Eddie Vedder
...with a Hawaiian guy whose name I didn't catch yet. Absolutely stunning and gorgeous with flawless harmonies. Hands down, best of the night that I heard.

I Shall Be Released (Dylan cover) - The whole gang
Grand finale. On the verses we've got Jack Johnson, Zach Gill from ALO, then Eddie taking the last verse. Boom Gaspar and Zach are on keys and various other dudes on percussion, etc (couldn't tell from the video, sorry!)


SATURDAY setlist (Ed & Boom)
Throw Your Arms Around Me (!!!!!!!!!!!)
Don't Be Shy
No More War (new, Ed said he wrote it 3 days ago)
Indifference
I Am Mine (!!)
Betterman/People Have the Power tag
Jack Johnson came out here but the person isn't sure of the song
Corduroy w/Jack Johnson
Elderly Woman w/Jack Johnson
So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star

As linked above, Eddie joined Jack Johnson for:
Soon Forget
Constellations (with Hawaiian guy, I'll get his name!)
I Shall Be Released


New song from Eddie on Saturday night, "No More War":



No More War - Eddie Vedder

SUNDAY setlist (Eddie & Boom)
Hide Your Love Away (started twice for some reason)
Driftin (Oops - Ed screwed this up, started sucking/blowing on the microphone instead of the harmonica)
I Am Mine
No More (the new song, this time with a full band)
Throw Your Hatred Down (full band)
Wasted Reprise
Hawaii 78 (full band)
Betterman (full band, riff on the Ramones "i wanna be your boyfriend" -- Hey mother earth, i wanna be your boyfriend)
Warch Outside (with full band, jack johnson on bass)
Corduroy (full band with jack johnson on bass)
Elderly Woman (full band, jack johnson on bass and dueling vocals)
Indifference (full band)

note from the poster: "2 things to keep in mind. this is all from memory, so the order may be wrong or i may have missed a song. and when i say full band i obviously don't mean pearl jam, i mean the guys he played with last night."


A few good articles from the weekend:


Interview with Eddie in the Honolulu Advertiser: Vedder rocking in a magical place

Star Bulletin feature on native Hawaiian Boom Gaspar: Way to go Boom! Local guy plays with Eddie Vedder at Kokua Festival

Bonus re-up: Remember last time PJ was in Hawaii?



Hey, guess where I got that picture from? Yeah, that's right: Getty Images. There's several good shots from last night up there now.

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I'm (finally) gonna see Mason Jennings

Hip hip hooray for little birdies who let me know when good tours are coming my way. I somehow completely missed new June tour dates from acoustic rock/folk-with-a-beat singer Mason Jennings:

April 22 Latchis Theater - Brattleboro, VT (solo acoustic)
June 1 Fox Theatre - Boulder, CO
June 2 In The Venue - Salt Lake City, UT
June 4 Neumo's - Seattle, WA
June 5 Aladdin Theatre - Portland, OR
June 7 Bimbo's - San Francisco, CA
June 8 The Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA
June 9 Malibu Inn - Malibu, CA
June 10 House of Blues - San Diego, CA
June 12 Rialto Theatre - Tucson, AZ
June 13 Sante Fe Brewing Co. - Sante Fe, NM
June 15 House of Blues - Dallas, TX
June 16 Antone's - Austin, TX

Butterfly - Mason Jennings
Southern Cross - Mason Jennings

Photo credit
Cameron Wittig

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The Shins rove the streets of Paris

La Blogotheque has one of the coolest concepts of capturing live music out there, alongside Daytrotter. Both are run by independent music lovers who entice fantastic bands to perform exclusively for them in a natural setting for the enjoyment of their readers via the magic of the internet.

They coax these intimate and laid-back performances from a range of folks, and then share the resulting songs with us. I could not help but smile for this whole bouncy, swirling, impressionistic serenade from The Shins as they walked the streets of the Montmartre district of Paris with their acoustic guitars, like the best kind of strolling troubadours. Sheer brilliance.


#44 - THE SHINS - PART1
Uploaded by lablogotheque

And the audio rip:
Gone For Good (Montmartre acoustic street version) - The Shins

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The impressive potential of Jake Troth

One of my trusted musical savant pals recommended I take a listen to this San Francisco Bay Area artist he recently saw at an open mic. After taking a few spins, I have fallen for his music too, in a big way. It's got tones of My Morning Jacket vocals, resonant piano chords, and raw doo-wop harmonizing of the 1950s. All this from a kid of nineteen, recorded at home.

Jake Troth is a North Carolina native, currently passing time in the Bay Area before heading out here to Colorado for college. The Ups and Downs of Being At The Bottom is his first EP, and he's putting the final touches on it for a spring/summer release. My friend pointed out the semblance to some of the simpler tunes of Coldplay, but noted that "they don't sound like that anymore so it's good someone is filling the shoes." Personally, I find this stuff more compelling than Chris Martin and Co. in its unassuming purity, although I hear the similarities too.

Gram LeBron of Rogue Wave also helps out with two songs on this EP -- the title track (stream on MySpace), and a lovely tune about songwriting and slick grey streets called "Oakland On A Rainy Day". I would posit that there are far too few songs about San Francisco's lesser known cousin to the East, and Jake's tune is a killer offering.

Check out these tracks like whoa:

Hold You Tight - Jake Troth
The best Under The Sea school-dance music from the '50s sockhop that I never went to. I love how the acapella harmonies are raw and echoey, not glossy, the lyrics endearing. This is one of my favorite songs I've heard in the last few months. Hot dang it's good.

Caroline - Jake Troth
A small, perfect, piano tune about driving out to California, leaving Caroline far behind -- and I just don't want to stop listening to it.
It ends, I restart it.

Make your ears thrilled and head over to his MySpace to check out more of his work (I love all three songs he currently has up, definitely download "Not Enough"). The EP The Ups and Downs of Being at the Bottom is now completed, written, recorded, screen printed, and copied by Jake himself. They're available for a mere $10 by emailing Jake or contacting him through MySpace. I hope Jake keeps doing what he is doing, 'cos this is good stuff with loads of talent and potential.

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Just a little more of me

I am busy all over the place lately. Two other places I've contributed to recently, for those who are following along at home:

۞ The newest Contrast Podcast radio show, regal subject matter Kings & Queens. Someone needed to represent the choice I picked.

۞ And I finally got my act together and posted a little something to the blog all about those songs on TV that catch your ear: The Commercial Music Blog. I watch so little TV (and even fewer commercials: thanks TiVo!) that it's almost comical that I'm even on the contributor board for that blog, but I finally saw something I wanted to post about. Check it out. And don't even try to say that it doesn't make you laugh too.

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Radio rip of "New Monkey," another new track from Elliott Smith

My other Elliott Smith post recently was the actual album mp3 of "High Times" from New Moon, out May 8. I've also just come across this radio rip of one more song from the album, a demo from the Either/Or sessions called "New Monkey."

Because it's a rip of streaming audio, it is lower quality sound-wise (so wait for the album to fully enjoy!), but what a great track. We sometimes forget that Elliott knew how to bring some of that rock too. Plus he actually sings the lyrics here, "He's busy shaking hands with my monkey."

New Monkey (radio rip) - Elliott Smith

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Friends, lovers, and bread.

I literally woke up with this Josh Rouse cover in my head this morning, and laid there barely half-awake with the sun streaming in between that crack in the blinds, these crystalline opening notes running on repeat. It really is a sunrise kind of song. So I decided to temporarily preempt what I was going to post in favor of this cover-licious compilation.

What would possess a bunch of modern-day indie rockers to contribute to a cover album of '70s AM-radio deluxxe group Bread? All of their stuff forever sounds like it should be listened to on a big 'ole 12" vinyl LP whilst wearing platform espadrilles and a loudly patterned shirt. Or maybe just nothing at all. But if you can get past the overarching soft-rockness, the harmonies are tasty, the music has definitely affected the generation of fine music that I like now, and there is a laid-back goodness oozing all over this stuff.

Josh Rouse's lovely cover is pretty much note-for-note faithful of this ridiculously sad-sap, "please walk all over me because I love you, you goddess" song, but it absolutely works with his striking tenor, and is nice to wake up to on brain radio:

It Don't Matter To Me (Bread cover) - Josh Rouse

It Don't Matter To Me - Bread
(add that to the list of worst band names to Google, along with Cake and Live)

Friends and Lovers: The Songs of Bread was released in 2005 (actually, two years ago to the day as luck would have it) and in addition to Rouse also features Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of The Posies, Cake, Erlend Oye (of Kings of Convenience), Oranger, Rachel Goswell (of Mojave 3), and Bart Davenport (of Honeycut).

Friends and Lovers (Bread cover) - Erlend Oye


Man alive, listening to this stuff --the originals and these covers-- makes me feel like an 8-year-old again, riding my bike really fast, or sitting on the cracked tan vinyl backseat of my dad's dusty green Datsun with the radio on. You don't realize how much Bread you've probably passively absorbed in your childhood. Rhino Records recently released a Best Of Bread album as well, if you just can't get enough.

And if you're still too insecure to fully bask in side of your brain that wants to love Bread, let John McCrea of Cake excoriate you as he defends their cover of "Guitar Man":

"Yeah, why make fun of a well-written song unless you're an insecure person that needs to use music almost like insecure middle-age people use fine wine," he said. "You're using music as a badge. And simultaneously I think what you do is drain the actual joy out of it, and it becomes somewhat of a calcified exoskeleton of your pathetic and, I guess, not fully defined ego."
- John McCrea, Cake


So there.

.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oakland's Street To Nowhere covers Leonard Cohen

Last Tuesday I saw Street To Nowhere again, opening for Rocky Votolato. Turns out this was kind of the third time I saw them because they opened for that awesome Format show I was at last year at the Cervantes. But I was either late or not paying attention that night, so my loss. They put on a really good set this time around, showing more of their "singer-songwriter" side due to the nature of the following acts, and less of the Weezer-meets-Bright-Eyes rock. Drummer Joey still broke both snare drum and drumstick by song #3, a foreseeable mishap if you were watching the pounding he was giving to those bad boys. Sweet.

In any case, one of the songs that STN included in their set was a surprising Leonard Cohen cover of Chelsea Hotel #2 (I mean, what are the kids covering nowadays from Cohen other than Hallelujah?). After the show, leadman Dave Smallen told me that at the above-mentioned Denver show last year they were kind of off, partly because Dave's entire extended family was there to distract him. I asked if he was embarrassed or otherwise discomfited by singing Cohen's lyrics about "giving me head on the unmade bed" in front of his mom and family. He just shrugged -- and tells me that his cool mom is actually the one who introduced him to the music of Leonard Cohen. Props to Dave's mom. My mom introduced me to hippie folk and countless lullabies with three-part harmonies, but no Cohen.

Chelsea Hotel #2 (Leonard Cohen cover) - Street To Nowhere

This version was recorded in bassist Bryce Freeman's basement in Oakland. And a word of correction: In my previous post, Dave says I called him a 17-year-old. Ladies, let it be noted that he is actually 22.

Check out their album Charmingly Awkward, out now on Capitol. All the kids love it, 'twas selling like hotcakes at the show last week. And look who wrote something nice about them way back when. Chris posted "Boxcars Boxcars Boxcars" [listen], but they did a smashing job on this one Tuesday night, a real crowd-pleaser that's fun to sing along with:

Tipsy - Street To Nowhere

And completely random side note, but don't you wish every club you went to had one of these pinball machines?

The King sits there brooding, giving his blessing over your music scene as you feed him quarters.

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Damnwells do damn well

From their MySpace blog:

Monday, April 16, 2007

2007 Phoenix Film Festival. Best Documentary: Golden Days.
We won.
Fuck yeah.



Congrats, guys!

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B-sides collection from Superdrag out today

There's a new b-sides and rarities compilation from Tennessee power-punk/pop band Superdrag out today called Changin' Tires On The Road To Ruin. I meant to try and finesse a cool post of rarities for the occasion, but the day snuck up on me. So it's out now, only ten bucks and you can order it here. Even though I was blinded to their wonderfulness when they first hit the ground in the '90s, now I will admit to having seen the light. Superdrag has a crunch and a zing all their own, plus a distinctive echoey drum clatter that I love.

Superfans of Superdrag have told me that this rarities collection is a bit disappointing to the hardcore fans because most of these tracks have been circulating among the rabid for years, but for us non-rabid it looks to be a solid collection. Singer John Davis writes:

When you play in a band for 10 years, you write a lot. Usually, you only get a record out every couple of years so you’re going to end up with a fair number of songs that never see the light of day for one reason or another.

Sometimes the version that’s issued on record will be your second or third attempt to get it “right” so your demos are left behind like pieces of evidence. People sometimes care about ‘em, sometimes they don’t. You’ll wind up with hundreds of live recordings, mostly of dubious origin. A good percentage of these will be terrible, others might be great, and some will hold sentimental value because of the places and times they stand for: good or ill.

These are just some of the things this record is concerned with. Arena Rock Recording Co. put it all together for you, and I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it. There are hours and hours more where this came from... miles of cassette tape.


TRACKLIST
01. Here We Come (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (*previously unreleased)
02. She Says (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (from the out-of-print Rock Soldier CD)
03. My Day (Will Come) (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (from the Rock Soldier CD)
04. Sleeping Beauty (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, November 1997) (*previously unreleased)
05. Doctors Are Dead (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
06. Comfortably Bummed (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
07. No Inspiration (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
08. Keep It Close To Me (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
09. Extra-Sensory (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
10. I Am Incinerator (8-track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
11. Relocate My Satellites (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
12. The Rest Of The World (4-Track Demo, October 2001) (*previously unreleased)
13. Lighting The Way (Live At The Exit/In, Nashville, TN, 6-21-03)
14. True Believer (Live At The Exit/In, Nashville, TN, 6-21-03)

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Monday, April 16, 2007

"High Times" :: First studio track from new Elliott Smith double album

"I kept recording more songs with no regard whether or not they were gonna be on anything. That’s what I’m used to doing, recording all the time and not going, ‘What should I record for this record?’ Usually it’s put out whatever happened in the last six months. With this, I had way too many songs and no mechanism for picking between them."
–Elliott Smith, Tape Op Magazine, 1996, on finishing Either/Or

On May 8th the Kill Rock Stars label will release New Moon, a double disc of mostly unreleased songs which melancholy, beautiful singer-songwriter Elliott Smith recorded between 1994-1997. Only three of these songs have been released before (all on compilations), and while live versions exist of many of these songs, Smith fans welcome the opportunity to enjoy these mastered studio recordings.

DOWNLOAD HERE: High Times (mp3, New Moon version)

A breakdown of which tracks appear on the album (and where they've shown up before) can be found here. A chunk of change from the album sales will go to Outside In, a Portland-based social service organization serving homeless youth and low-income adults.

More info on this album from IODA

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Monday Music Roundup

You may have read about the ooooh-ahhhh coolness of the new iConcertCal plugin you can download for iTunes which will automatically cull all the upcoming concert dates for whatever city you type in, based on who is in your iTunes library. What I didn't know until yesterday is that it is now available for Windows users as well as Mac.

I did actually find myself ooohing and ahhhing when I loaded it -- very cool & helpful and now all of us Windows Luddites can join in on the fun. Plus, it's good for travelling (as I am doing to San Diego next month for my brother's graduation -- I gotta take that kid out and now I have some ideas of where to whisk him).

Here are some new tunes to feed your ears this week.

Look At You Now
Golden Smog
When does a side project become a "real" band? I love side projects for the freewheeling ways that they let the collaborating musicians explore common ground with no long-term commitment -- they're doing it because they want to. Blood On The Slacks (har har) is the second release in less than a year from Golden Smog (a supergroup comprised at times with members of The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run and Wilco -- although this release is Tweedy-less), and it's out April 24 on Lost Highway. There are several great tracks among the 8, including the blush-inducing falsetto ballad "Scotch On Ice" about a bendy and compliant sex partner, and the fuzzy & bright "Can't Even Tie Your Own Shoes." This particular cut is more '60s harmonies and pop-influenced than some of the other more alt-country/rock pieces on the EP -- a great summer song.

Os Novos Yorkinos
Bebel Gilberto
Daughter of legendary bossa nova musician João Gilberto and Brazilian jazz singer Miúcha, Bebel Gilberto has a solid gold pedigree in making music. Momento is her third solo album, a deliciously global and seductive collection of earthy rhythms influenced by her native Brazil and recorded in London, Rio de Janiero, and New York. This track jumped out at me for the acoustic guitar and handclaps+congas foundation mixed with her slyly knowing voice. This song (and the whole album, really) deserves to be liberally splashed throughout all of your summer mixtapes this year - delightful and warm.

Are You Prepared
The Concretes
A charmingly retro-sounding closer to the new Hey Trouble album from Sweden's The Concretes, illustrating the unvarnished '60s girl-group undertones layered with synthy-Scandinavian pop and tambourines. The aforementioned "trouble" refers to the tumultuous year they've had with the loss of lead singer Victoria Bergsman (who is busy whistling and singing about not caring about the young folks lately) and their decision to carry on as a band without her. Her voice is certainly missed on this album, but it's a new era for The Concretes with a new sound that's growing on me. Hey Trouble is out now physically in Scandinavia and digitally elsewhere.

White Headphones
The Mother Hips
I posted a bit from Jackie Greene last week where he mentioned the new Mother Hips album. It sparked something in my memory and I delved into the immense & growing pile of promo CDs sitting on my stereo cabinet, and eureka! there it was. Kiss the Crystal Flake has an odd egg/ocean-themed cover and a psychedelic title, but it's got some good stuff within. I've never seen the Mother Hips live, as everyone says I must, but I very much liked the '70s-Stones swagger of this track, which also features Mr. Greene on piano. It also definitely recalls the opening of the Beck track "Strange Apparition" for me, which in turn also reminds me of the Stones too. All that to say - it's good. Check it out.

Don't Give Up
The Noisettes
Pardon me while I sexually harrass another female. This album from The Noisettes is one, if you get it, that you should buy the actual album. The front cover is the trio busting out of some sort of carnival-mouth thingie. The back cover is a rear view of their exodus, and the central focus is pretty much lead singer Shingai Shoniwa's exceedingly lovely bottom in magenta spandex. I mean come on, you can't help but check that thing out. The Zimbabwean/Londoner yowls on this track with a take-no-prisoners snarl that belongs in the halls of the baddest female punk rockers. I feel fierce just listening to her verbal assault in front of a wall of thick guitar that Brian Setzer would approve of, and unrelenting punk drums. This is fun stuff (even if I think noisette is French for . . . hazelnut?). What's The Time Mr. Wolf (??) is out tomorrow in the US on Universal/Motown.
*

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Vedder surprise solo set at The Croc last night

Ed Vedder (didn't play - see note) a small surprise solo set last night at The Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. I ate breakfast there the last time I was in Seattle (mostly I was being a musical stalker, but in my defense I was also hungry and they make really good omelettes).

Some interesting cover choices, especially the Nick Cave one (which they've not previously done that I am aware of) and the awesome "Don't Wanna Grow Up." I can't wait to hear this boot --surely someone was taping it?

AMENDED: Someone with too much time on their hands seems to have made up this appearance, but I am leaving up the good mp3s and we can all close our eyes and pretend it happened anyway.


SETLIST
Happy Birthday (to guitarist Mike McCready's new baby girl)
I Don't Wanna Grow Up (Tom Waits/Ramones cover)
You're True
Can't Keep
cover/improv/new song?
Gone
Hide Your Love Away
(Beatles cover)
cover/improv/new song? (tag: Modern Girl/Sleater-Kinney)
Porch
Where The Wild Roses Grow (Nick Cave cover, duet with unknown female singer)


BONUS EAR CANDY
Here are some other live versions of a few of these great songs; this mp3 of "You're True" is one of my very favorite PJ boot songs ever:

You're True - Ed Vedder solo 2/26/02 @ Wiltern
Can't Keep - Ed Vedder solo 2/26/02 @ Wiltern
Gone - Pearl Jam @ 10/22/06 Bridge School
Modern Girl - Pearl Jam 9/20/06
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - Ed Vedder solo 2005 Tsunami Benefit @ Wiltern
*

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

I belong with the salt and the sea and the stones...save them all for me

Last weekend I was very pleased with myself that I managed to be on time to a concert (for once) and catch the very first opening band because it was Gregory Alan Isakov -- and he turned out to be the best of the three acts that night.

Originally from South Africa, raised in Philadelphia (and he did a hometown taping there Tuesday night for the World Cafe on NPR), and now living in Colorado, Gregory nonetheless transcends geographical boundaries with this tune that he calls "a love song to the Pacific Ocean." It's unassuming and wonderful -- a shuffling jazzy beat, bold bass line, effervescent strumming . . . I close my eyes and I can literally almost see the ocean lapping at my toes when I hear this. Being the Pacific, the water's cold, as usual.

Salt And The Sea - Gregory Alan Isakov & The Freight

This is from his 2007 EP, self-titled. Another version of it was also on his 2005 EP Songs For October. Gregory has several record release concerts coming up in June for his new album, including ones in Denver, SF, Portland, and the lovely North Bay town of Sausalito in California. He's one of those singer-songwriter types, yeah, but his lyrics are noteworthy in their warmth and richly sweeping scope, with tones of dusky-twilight Americana like Jeffrey Foucault or Josh Ritter (although on this tune he kinda pulls a fantastic Sinatra).

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Friday, April 13, 2007

New tour dates with The Damnwells

I am half-wishing I had a reason to be in Phoenix tonight for the premiere of The Damnwells new movie Golden Days, and also for their late night concert which is buzzed to be an hours-long, energetic affair in the works.

They've announced a string of tour dates (hurrah!), but not in Colorado yet (boo). We've established my budding love for them and I can't wait to catch them live . . . someday.

May 10 - The Triple Door, Seattle, WA
May 11 - Berbatis Pan, Portland, OR
May 14 - Troubador, Los Angeles, CA
May 15 - The Casbah, San Diego, CA
May 16 - Plush, Tucson, AZ
May 18 - The Granada Theater, Dallas, TX
May 19 - The Parish, Austin, TX
May 22 - WorkPlay, Birmingham, AL
May 23 - Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
May 24 - Smiths Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA
May 25 - The Map Room, Charleston, SC
May 26 - Tremont Music Hall, Charlotte, NC
May 27 - Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills, NC
May 29 - The Jewish Mother, Virginia Beach, VA
May 30 - The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
May 31 - Gramercy Theatre, New York, NY
Jun 01 - Middle East (Downstairs), Cambridge, MA
Jun 02 - Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Jun 03 - Tin Angel, Philadelphia, PA
Jun 05 - Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
Jun 06 - House of Blues - Cambridge Room, Cleveland, OH
Jun 08 - Phoenix Hill Tavern, Louisville, KY
Jun 09 - Abbey Pub, Chicago, IL

MUST LISTEN:
I Am A Leaver (alternate stripped version) - The Damnwells
This will absolutely give you chills at the 1:42 mark...

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Dance-tastic new video from Feist: "1234"



Okay, Feist is just wonderful in my book. A little crazy methinks, but in a creative and adventurous way. She carries the mantle now of making these surreal videos where everyone starts dancing in unison, this fantastic dream life, kind of the antithesis of Britney. You can watch everyone twirl in unison and not feel guilty.

Towards the end when everyone is crouched down swirling around her, it's like you've got a tiny Feist in the washing machine. And incidentally, where does one get a suit like that? I can't tell if it's vinyl or sparkles or both.

"1234" is off her addictively engaging The Reminder, out May 1 in the US, and the previous Monday (April 23) in Europe.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

New video from Jackie Greene: I'm So Gone



As if Sacramento blues-rocker wunderkind Jackie Greene didn't already remind me enough of Bob Dylan, this rapidfire montage video makes me half expect him to start tossing hand-lettered signs off to the side with each lyric. Nonetheless I like this new film clip a lot, seemingly part of a campaign to drum up some deserved attention for his 2006 album American Myth, which I really like.

Jackie sounds a little glum:

"I am either up really early, or really late. Honestly I can't tell. Strange things are happening in my world, some of them not so wonderful, and some of them extremely exciting. I'm sure we all feel that way at times. Like we don't know if we're walking into a trap, or a surpirse party. It's an odd feeling...

Last night (or tonight) I played with one of my favorite bands, The Mother Hips, here in San Francisco. They have a brand new record out called Kiss The Crystal Flake which is available now. It's a fantastic record, one of their finest. To really experience the Hips, you must see them live.

We have a nice string of shows coming up that I hope folks will be good enough to show up to. I want to start performing some of the new songs that will hopefully wind up on our next release. Which by the way, will probably not be out for a long time. As impatient as I am, and it drives me fucking mad, it's probably a good thing. American Myth has only been out for about 10 months now. Sadly, it's pretty much dead. It's difficult to realize that a record that I cared so much about gets so little attention, but I guess that's the way it goes. Moving forward is the only motion that counts, I guess.

Tim Bluhm and I have been working on our Skinny Singers record. It's coming along nicely and we hope you'll enjoy it when it becomes available. The songs are different...quirky, sparse. Bluesy, funky. Two skinny dudes singing their skinny asses off...something like that."

I almost want to say something like, "Buck up, camper" and give him a gentle punch on the shoulder. He's got talent, and there are still those of us out here who appreciate that greatly. This video I shot of him performing last August (in a steaming ten-thousand degree club) is still one of the best live shots I've captured in recent memory - just full of life and a great, great song.

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