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Showing posts from September, 2013

Grace For Saints And Ramblers - Iron & Wine

from the album Ghost On Ghost (2013)

As a rambler of sorts, I welcome any song that offers a bit of grace.  Making matters even better, Grace For Saints And Ramblers by Iron & Wine is a happy song that puts a bounce in your step and a smile on your face.

How fun this song must have been to record!  With its snappy drums, glorious harmonies, and snazzy keys this tune is simply too melodious.  I also enjoy the rapid fire lyrics, sweetly sung by Samuel Beam.  The visual imagery is outstanding, including "jonesed-up punks and Jesus freaks", "hopeless sinners, sweepstake winners", and "budding blossoms blaring Johnny Rotten."

Counterbalancing these wild images is a hook line of "But it all came down to you and I."  I dig that in the midst of all this craziness are two people making their way in the world.  Cool stuff.

Click Here to listen to the album version of Grace For Saints And Sinners.

Click Here to watch the song performed live on KEXP.

Master Hunter - Laura Marling

from the album Once I Was An Eagle (2013)

Side Two of Led Zeppelin III contains five songs - Gallows Pole, Tangerine, That's The Way, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, & Hats Off To (Roy) Harper - that stand apart from the rest of their catalogue for their transition away from blues towards acoustic folk.  Kind of like Dylan in reverse.

The thing I always dig about these songs is the sound of Jimmy Page's guitar.  The tones are so incredibly rich in texture, sounding different from American folk, with a muscularity that I equate with the Welsh countryside where the songs were composed.

On Laura Marling's spectacular release Once I Was An Eagle, my favorite song is Master Hunter.  The primary reason is that this song captures the tone of Jimmy Pages acoustic performance unlike any other song I am aware of.  The recording of the drums also rings of Zeppelin.

Above this musical backdrop is an inspired vocal performance.  It is marvelously well-suited for the music.  Confident, sultry, an…

I Built A Town - Mount Moriah

from the album Miracle Temple (2013)

I Built A Town by Mount Moriah is a special song that contains my favorite lyrics in recent memory.  The visual imagery is goose bump good.  The opening verse:

I built a house behind my eyes
I sewed a veil for you to hide
I grew flowers to cut
Towers to hold you high
But there was nothing I could do
To keep you inside

Oh, that first line.  As Heather McEntire delivers it, sweet and raw, I can see the imaginary cottage, in a sea of blooms, which she hopes to share with someone she loves.  As the song progresses, and her grasp on that unfulfilled love is slipping away, she sings "Tear loose from the stitches and show me how your free."  And finally, accepting fate: "Dance slow through the hollows now / Go on disappear."  I am moved.

The music is equally superb.  Bass, guitar, drums, and organ come together to form the ghostly alt-country vibe that exquisitely frames the vocals.  Each instrument is tenderly played.  The space between the …

Brooklyn Slide - Los Straitjackets

from the single Brooklyn Slide b/w Wrong Way Inn (2013)

How does a band gain notoriety in the surf guitar genre?  I believe that there are three crucial elements.

The first is selecting the right name for the band.  With most of the great surfin' names already taken, you need to get a little crazy.  The Bambi Molesters are an excellent example.  The second is to have a differentiating stage persona.  A bunch of middle aged guys with telecasters resting on their bellies just won't cut it.  You need to be different.  Lastly, you need to have serious musical chops.

Los Straitjackets are a band that have been recognized as surf gods for the past 25 years.  It starts with their name that sounds like the house band in a Tijuana dive bar.  This is reenforced by the musicians all sporting Mexican professional wrestling masks.  But most importantly, they sound fantastic.

Last month, the band released the single Brooklyn Slide, which was originally released on 2012's album Jet Set. …

Captured - Gov't Mule

from the forthcoming album Shout (2013)

When is the last time you listened to a new song that reminded you of Pink Floyd?

Captured, from Gov't Mule's forthcoming album Shout, is a song that has shades of Pink Floyd woven into their Southern Blues Rock stylings.  From the opening measures, the tone of Warren Haynes' guitar channels David Gilmore.  For the next nine minutes, each solo and extended jam bring me back to songs like Pigs (Three Different Ones) off of the classic Animals album.

During the vocal segments, the band shifts into its more traditional southern fare.  I use to compare Gov't Mule to the music of the Allman Brothers, but not so much any more.  They have evolved into a unique package that stands so strong on their own that it is unfair to offer comparisons.

This song is not a rip of Floyd, it is a tribute.  Both to a great band from the past and a great band of the present.  Hope you dig it.

Click Here to listen to Captured on SoundCloud.

7th Floor - Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band

from the album Take Me To The Land Of Hell (2013)

Hats off to Yoko Ono.  She has released an album of new material that is slick, modern, and inspired.  It has a party vibe and is loaded with great musicians, including Mike D. and Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys, Lenny Kravitz, and ?uestlove.  The production is by Yoko, Sean Lennon, Cornelius, and Yuka Honda.

This record sounds great when listened to in its entirety.  However, if I had to pick a single song, it would be 7th Floor.  It is a funky dance number with a beat and synth tracks that remind me of the Tom Tom Club at their best.  The production is outstanding.  Over this groove is Yoko Ono in spoken word, saying things like "Don't cut my tongue, I can't spit on you."

I am awed that this record is the product of an 80-year old artist.  It stands as a testament that with a sharp mind and a forward outlook, your best days always lay ahead of you.

Click Here to listen to 7th Floor on the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band web…

A Song About π - Lucy Kaplansky

from the single A Song About π (2013)

My inner nerd has a thing for silly science songs.  As much as I try to keep it hidden, you can occasionally find me singing lyrics like this one from They Might Be Giants:

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A great big nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen gets turned into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees

So imagine my joy at finding a song about my favorite greek symbol!!!  Hats off to Lucy Kaplansky and Enid Rieser for telling the story of 22 ÷ 7 to such a snazzy jazz piano and cooing vocals.

Hope you dig it.

Click Here to watch the official music video.

Cinco Minutos Con Vos - Elvis Costello & The Roots

from the album Wise Up Ghost (2013)

Back in May, I posted a blog entry on the song Losing Game by the band La Santa Cecilia.  In it, I told how I sitting on my back deck listening to the song when all of a sudden Elvis Costello's voice entered, giving the song an entirely new edge.

Last night, I was on my back deck listening to the new album by Elvis Costello & The Roots when I had the reverse experience.  Track Nine is a cool song titled Cinco Minutos Con Vos with Elvis singing over a spooky vibe, then around three minutes into the tune La Santa Cecilia lead singer La Marisoul enters.  She is singing in Spanish and sounding great.  Holy Deja Vu, Batman!

The pairing of Elvis and The Roots is fascinating to listen to.  Historically, each has the ability to make those they perform with sound better.  And here, they seem to really bring out the best in each other.  In recent years, Elvis has been something of a chameleon, adapting his style to suit the moment.  But on this record…

Double Fist Attack - Daikaiju

from the single Double Fist Attack (2013)

Diakaiju is a Japanesse term for a giant monster of the larger variety.  Think Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, or Gamera.

Diakaiju is also a band from Huntsville, Alabama.  Here is how this four piece band - that dresses in Peter Criss-styled face paint and super hero uniforms - describe themselves:

Who is Daikaiju???  Premium action heroes deliver most high rocket music!  Special reverb skill combo for full impact!  Loud sonic boom for earful pleasure!  Beautiful radiation of hyper-dimensional springy sound creates divine psychic wind for your special defense!  Worship Psycho-surf band Daikaiju daily for good luck and health!

Psycho-surf.  I dig that term.  It is well suited for the fierce guitar mash that they serve up on their latest single, Double Fist Attack.  The song starts with the drummer bangin' hard on the skins followed by a muscular guitar riff with hardcore overtones.  Then enter the second guitar with beautifully shrilling reverb.  …

Fresh Stuff - The Deadbeats

from the album We Are The Music Makers (2013)

To be read in the voice of Don Cornelius

If Curtis Mayfield or Barry White were alive, I am certain that they would create the baddest electronic vibes ever recorded.  Close you eyes and feel their groove...

Now that your eyes are open, reflect on the experience.  Together in a room.  The lights turned low.  Sex is in the air.  The music is perfect.

One new song that I dig is Fresh Stuff by The Deadbeats.  It is a downtempo jam, perfect for a SoHo lounge or a tender rendezvous.  Mellow keys.  A thud in the dope beat.  Trippy guitar.  Hypnotic bass.  And a brother's voice, loadin' smoothies in the blender, saying "You've got the Fresh Stuff."

Love, peace, and chill.

Click Here to listen to Fresh Stuff on SoundCloud.

Click Here to listen to another favorite - Funky For You - on SoundCloud.

Rat Race - Purling Hiss

from the album Water On Mars (2013)

As I wrap up my week in Amsterdam, I wanted to share my most glaring observation:  the only music I heard played in public during the entire trip was electronic.  This includes restaurants, bars, strip clubs, parties, and anywhere else I may have staggered.  Never did I hear classic rock, reggae, alternative, jazz, blues, R&B, or soul.  For that matter, I never heard hip-hop or rap.

Even when I heard Bangladeshi yodeling, it was over an electronic beat.

This led to lots of cool vibes that I quite actually dug.  Electronic music is great for creating an atmospheric world to chill out and enjoy the company you are with.  However, this gigolo needs some good loud rock and roll from time to time.  So, my parting gift to the people of Amsterdam is Rat Race by Purling Hiss.

Bass, drums, and guitar played really loud.  Anthemic lyrics beginning with "Everybody wants to have a good time."  Powerful lead guitar.  Come on my little Dutch friends…

The Real - Derrick Hodge

from the album Live Today (2013)

I believe that the most promising development in the evolution of popular music is the ever increasing collaboration and experimentation between jazz and electronic artists.

I first recall being blown away by the Verve Remix series ten years or so ago.  At the time, I thought that the Dan The Automator remix of Willie Bobo's Fried Neck Bones And Some Home Fries was about the best thing going.

For me, I have always appreciated jazz as the most advanced form of music.  However, I have never fully embraced it because I'm one of those people who needs a catchy beat to stay hooked.  My guess is that I'm not alone.  But if you can combine the superior musicianship with well-conceived, modern beats then you really have my attention.

The Real is a song by Derrick Hodge that helps make the point.  This song contains beats as jazz horn stylings to create a sophisticated groove that contains both musical excellence and catchy beats.  It creates a vibe …

Forbidden Fruit - Tijuana Panthers

from the album Semi-Sweet (2013)

When I travel to a distant city for an important event, I like to arrive early and acclimate.  Amsterdam is a city where acclimating is key.  I have done it very well.

This morning, I took a long bike ride in and around Vondelpark.   Fully acclimated, I was comfortable listening to tunes for the first time this trip.  This resulted in a revelation:  Beach Goth sounds great when you are biking in Amsterdam.

The highlight of this morning was Forbidden Fruit by Tijuana Panthers.  The song has a great surf guitar riff that seemed perfectly displaced from the locals in rain gear riding to work.  Add to it the opening line "Blues everywhere, its gonna be a party" and I am cruising around like a happy idiot.  When the second verse hits and the singer goes falsetto, the scene becomes simply surreal, with people looking at me strange for my high-pitched singing and the stupid grin on my face.

I highly recommend that any Beach Goth lovers fly over here…

Hand In Mine - Jonathan Rado

from the album Law And Order (2013)

Back in March, I was eager to catch Foxygen at SXSW.  I had become enthralled with their record We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic and needed to see them live.  I was drawn by their impressive ability to put a new spin on vintage tones and vibes.  Unfortunately, the show was at a makeshift venue with muddled sound and I was stuck standing off to the side of the stage.    It was a disappointed.

As a result, I found myself skeptical on the first listen to Jonathan Rado's new solo album Law And Order.  This proved unwarranted.  The record is a successful extension of Foxygen's sonic mastery and contains several songs that I dig.

Top of the list is Hand In Mine, a duet reminiscent of the old Lee Hazelwood / Nancy Sinatra stylings of the late 60's.  The tones and vibe of that era are well captured, while keeping a firm, modern edge.  There is also an element of camp in his vocals that makes me smile.  Good song for a par…

California Analog Dream - Vondelpark

from the album Seabed (2013)

At the risk of sounding lame, my favorite thing to do in Amsterdam is rent a bicycle and explore.  It never fails to be an adventure.  Inevitably, I find myself in Vondelpark, chillin' in the grass by a pond, thinking "these geese don't look like the geese back home."

I also dig the British indie-dream-synthpop band that shares its name with this favorite biking destination.  They take their craft serious.  You hear it in the tones and arrangements.  You also hear it when you listen to their albums "cover to cover."  Every song is well considered and the listener is able to enjoy close to an hour of quality music.

I have many favorites on Vondelpark's album Seabed, but the one that hooks me most is California Analog Dream.  The song begins with a minute-long, chill-jam vibe of guitar, bass, and synthesizer/drums.  Everything sounds great.  The drum beat is a real cool pattern that begins on the high hat before taking a trip …

You And I - Foy Vance

from the album Joy Of Nothing (2013)

Foy Vance is a singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland.  I am attracted to his music for its roots rock sound.  It has an empty void that reminds me of driving across Wyoming or Eastern Montana and a warmth that I associate with a porch light from a solitary home you might pass along the way.  It is a similar vibe to the I get listening to The BoDeans first album, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

I have been having a lot of fun dissecting the instruments to his song You And I.  I really dig the guitar tone.  It is clean with subliminal touches that give it a distant edge.  I also enjoy the drumming that gives the song its driving force.  The meter of the beat is well suited for driving on the interstate.  Then there are the subtle violins that I find beautiful.

But what I dig most are the vocals.  Foy Vance has a voice that is incredibly well suited for this vibe.  As he holds the longer notes, you hear grit, longing, and authenticity.  How …

Meet Me In The City - North Mississippi All Stars

from the album World Boogie Is Coming (2013)

Junior Kimbrough was an under appreciated blues legend from the North Mississippi hill country.  Together with R.L. Burnside, they brought the distinctive music of their region to a wider audience and have served as a major influence for many of today's musicians.  Although he recorded only a handful of records, they stand as a testament to the power of raw, authentic blues.

Meet Me In the City by the North Mississippi All Stars is a cover version of one of Junior Kimbrough's most celebrated songs.  They are likely candidates to perform this cover, as they are from the region and the band once included R.L. Burnside's son Duwayne.  Three points of note are:

-->  They have served as the back-up band for John Hiatt.

-->  Guitar and vocalist Luther Dickinson also serves as the lead guitarist for The Black Crowes.

-->  Luther and drummer Cody Dickinson's father played keyboards on Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind album. …

Liquid Spirit - Gregory Porter

from the album Liquid Spirit (2013)

Gregory Porter is a jazz musician from Southern California.  He is about to release his third album, the first on the famed Blue Note label.  The record is titled Liquid Spirit.

The first thing you notice about Gregory Porter is his voice.  There are few human beings who can sing like him.  I find myself listening to his albums in their entirety so I can feel every note.  Each tune's variation in vibe makes me appreciate him all the more.  His voice is crazy good.

The second thing you notice about Gregory Porter is his music.  Although this guy could be an R&B superstar, he keeps his roots in jazz.  I'm glad, because his voice deserves the only highest form of musical accompaniment.  I also dig his compositions and arrangements.  They unleash raw beauty.

For example, on the song Liquid Spirit, the vocals jump right into the first measure, supported by handclaps and an upright bass.  Soon follow horns and a piano track that really jumps o…

One - Yamantaka // Sonic Titan

to be released on the forthcoming album UZU (2013)

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are a six-piece band based in Toronto, Canada.  They come from the world of art and theatre, exploring the boundaries of "East Meets West" by playing hard, psychedelic music that weaves in Asian overtones.  Their production is edgy and modern, with a regard for high fidelity.

On stage, this band performs wearing Japanese theatrical paint.  They describe their style of music as noh-wave, a self-named variation of new wave.  I think of them more akin to a band like Dengue Fever, who describe themselves as a blend of psychedelic rock and world music.  The band also does theatrical work, including Drag Rock Operas.  All in all, this is not the garage band next door.

I have been very tuned in to their song One.  This tune features chanting, heavy guitar riffs, fearless drumming, psychedelic production, and pulsing stringed instruments to create an eclectic romp that sounds great played loud.  I really enj…

Come To My Party - Black Joe Lewis

from the album Electric Slave (2013)

This April at the 420 Festival in Atlanta's Chandler Park, Black Joe Lewis put on the best live performance that I have seen in the past few years.  I am not sure if I have ever been so swept up by a groove.  It was aural ecstasy.

Last Tuesday, Black Joe Lewis released Electric Slave, a collection of eleven frenetic funk rock classics that is a must for anyone who digs the deep groove.  My favorite track on the record is Come To My Party.

Like the best of Sly & The Family Stone, this song introduces the instruments one at a time, only to use them as weapons that hit you like a six-armed Mike Tyson.  It starts with the scratching guitar, muscular drums, booty-grindin' bass, and a rhythm guitar track that might be the funkiest thing I've ever heard.

Then come the vocals, shouted in key, followed by some powerhouse Texas horns.  Each musician hits you with everything he's got, leaving you spent, begging for more.

If you ever have a…

I Threw It All Away - Bob Dylan

from the album Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series - Volume 10 (2013)

Bob Dylan's music has helped me navigate several rough patches in my life.  His records connect with my inner truths.  On late nights, I sit - glass of wine in hand - as he put my past in perspective and sets my future on course.

 I Threw It All Away is a song from 1969's Nashville Skyline album where Dylan accepts blame for a failed relationship.  As I listen, I can't help but recall similar blame I shoulder.  If there is truth in wine, mixing it with Dylan holds truth to the mirror and makes you kiss its festering boils.

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away

This week, Columbia Records released Volume 10 of The Bootleg Series containing two discs of previously unreleased live and studio recordings from 1969 thru 1971.  Track 10 on Disc 1 is an alternative studio recording of I …