Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Tennessee Me" - The Secret Sisters

A couple weeks ago I wrote about The Secret Sisters’ 7” single “Big River” that Third Man put out and how I’ve been really excited to hear what their debut album was going to sound like. Well, they’ve released the first single, “Tennessee Me,” and it is truly incredible. Lydia and Laura Rogers have the kind of close harmony blend that other sibling duos like The Louvin Brothers, The Everly Brothers and The Andrews Sisters are revered for. The gentle shuffle of “Tennessee Me” provides the perfect landscape for their pristine vocals to really shine in. The piano, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, brushed drums and quiet bass evoke a perfect, sepia-toned vibe for this ready-for-transistor-radio love song. T Bone Burnett is producing the album and his musical knowledge and Midas touch for vintage sounds promises to be a winning combination for the girls. After hearing this first track, my anticipation level has heightened even more. The Secret Sisters debut album will be released on October 12th on T Bone Burnett’s new Beladroit label. You can find out more about The Secret Sisters and pre-order their new album HERE.

"Tennessee Me" - The Secret Sisters (The Secret Sisters)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Band Of Heathens @ 3rd and Lindsley (Concert Review)

The Band Of Heathens is the type of group whose sound is both heightened and perfectly augmented by the clinking bottles and random “woo hoos” of a place like 3rd and Lindsley. They hit the stage, which looked even smaller due to their plethora of gorgeous guitars and amps, and proceeded to make it theirs for a 2 hour show of their alt-country, southern rock, soul, and blues hybrid of harmony-drenched songs. With triple threat front men Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist trading off vocals and switching up instruments all night, each song sounded fresh and had its own distinct vibe. All three guys are talented singers and passionate players, giving as much to their supporting parts as their lead ones. With a setlist consisting of a mix of songs from their solo albums and their Heathens’ albums, as well as a couple covers and a brand new song, the show was filled with upbeat rockers, bluesy jams, back porch ballads and a lot of Texas spirit.

The Band Of Heathens opened the show strong with “Jackson Station,” a song off of their self-titled album that showcases all of their strengths perfectly. Colin, Ed and Gordy all got a verse, they harmonized beautifully on the chorus and their musical talents and diversity were on full display. In fact, their ability to swap out instruments and use piano, harmonica, mandolin, dobro, acoustics and electrics to flesh out their songs create such a full sound and a unique identity for them. They can play them all really well too! Songs like “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “Shine A Light” included extended guitar solo sections that made the songs rock even harder and songs like “Let Your Heart Not Be Troubled” and “What’s This World” sounded just as soulful and bluesy live as they do on the records. The crowd responded most to “Jenny Was A Keeper,” the hauntingly stark “Hangin’ Tree” and the Hunter S. Thompson splashed “L.A. County Blues.” My personal high note was the junkyard shuffle of “Golden Calf,” which they pulled off beautifully, even without the full-size piano to climb inside to strum the strings. Sprinkled among their originals were two great covers, “Sin City” by The Flying Burrito Brothers and the old prison song “Ain’t No More Cane.” Between the tight mixture of their voices, their creative musicianship and their spirited performances, The Band Of Heathens put on an energetic and entertaining concert that had me singing their lyrics and humming their melodies long after the last notes were played.

Band of Heathens set list:
- Jackson Station

- Talking Out Loud

- Hallelujah

- What’s This World

- You’re Gonna Miss Me

- Jenny Was A Keeper

- Golden Calf

- Free Again

- Somebody Tell The Truth

- Let Your Heart Not Be Troubled

- Say

- Ain’t No More Cane

- Hangin’ Tree

- Rehab Facility

- Sin City

- L.A. County Blues

- Shine A Light

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Truth Is In The Dirt" - Karen Elson

Well, those sneaky cats down at Third Man surprised us again! This time they waited until their shop actually opened to announce that their next 7” single, Karen Elson’s “The Truth Is In The Dirt,” was for sale. While I’m sure this infuriated folks that don’t live near Nashville, I obviously love not having to worry as much about what time I get there and not having to wait so long in line. On lunch, I called Amanda to let her know I was heading up there. She informed me she was already on her way so that I wouldn’t have to take an extended lunch. Reason number 4,868,385,962 to prove that I married WAY out of my league to the most awesome girl around.

“The Truth Is In The Dirt” is from The Ghost Who Walks, Karen’s debut album that was released earlier this year. Her voice and vintage style of music sounds even cooler and eerier on vinyl and the songs take on that cool, antique characteristic even more. Jack White played drums and produced it, with Carl Broemel guesting on lap steel as well. The b-side is a stripped down cover of Donavan’s psychedelic “Season Of The Witch” from the 60’s. I love singles that include new b-sides that aren’t on the album, especially when they are really good songs.

The 7” single of “The Truth Is In The Dirt” can be purchased directly from Third Man

"The Truth Is In The Dirt" - Karen Elson (The Ghost Who Walks)
No matter how many tri-colors you see, each one is stunning and unique:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Nightjogger" - Those Darlins

A band releasing a single to tide fans over between full length albums; what is this, the 70’s? In conjunction with Oh Wow Dang Records and the folks at Record Store Day, local Murfreesboro, Tennessee favorites Those Darlins have put out a 7” single entitled “Nightjogger.” In keeping with their spunky attitudes and lo-fi southern garage rock approach, “Nightjogger” is a short and sweet minor-key opus to…well, jogging at night. Seriously, no metaphors or pretenses here. Shorts on, hair pulled back, headband, Walkman; the checklist is right there in the first verse. “Nightjogger” has a really cool groove to it and they somehow pull off the phrase “feel the burn” in the bridge without it sounding like a cheesy 80's work out video. That takes some talent and moxie folks! So jog on down to your local independent record store, pick it up and don’t forget to breathe!

"Nightjogger" - Those Darlins (Nightjogger single)

I don't think it'll fit in your Walkman, but it's still pretty to look at:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Band Of Heathens - One Foot In The Ether (Album Review)

I was first introduced to The Band Of Heathens via their appearance on Austin City Limits last year and I ended up being really impressed. This three-headed music monster consists of a trio of front men, Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, who can all sing, write and play a wide variety of instruments. While each one has enough talent to pursue a solo career, they decided to join together and have combined their abilities into a multifaceted music group filled with compelling songwriting, genre blurring musicianship and loads of Texas charm. A piece of their identity can also be found in the inability to nail down exactly what label they fall under. Are they rock, country, blues, soul, alt-country, Americana, or something altogether different? After immediately getting lost in the first few songs, you’ll find out the answer is all of the above and then some.

One Foot In The Ether kicks off with “L.A. County Blues,” a song that showcases many of The Band Of Heathens’ strengths. The beautiful vocal harmonies, laid back groove, old country guitar lines, and lyrical winks to both Hunter S. Thompson and John Prine are a great introduction to what this band encompasses. Songs like “What’s This World” and “Let Your Heart Not Be Troubled” follow in the same twangy vein as well. Is southern rock a little more your thing? “Talking Out Loud” and “Look At Miss Ohio” are two of the best Black Crowes song that they never wrote themselves. You like Memphis-based soul numbers? Well, the playfulness of “Shine A Light” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me” should be right up your alley. You want to hear some bluesy shuffles? They do that too on “Say” and “Somebody Tell The Truth.” The Band Of Heathens musical mixture isn’t just for show. Their blend of backgrounds and preferences flow together naturally and really support and enhance the great songs they have written. Each instrument and tone fits into the structure and vibe of the song and there’s not one moment in the variety of it all that sounds out of place or out of context. My personal favorite off the album is the Tom Waits sounding “Golden Calf.” Slightly distorted bluesy vocals, tremolo guitar chords, surreal lyrical images, junkyard percussion sounds and a hypnotic rhythm make this song sound like an outtake from Tom’s Mule Variations album, which scores The Band Of Heathens super big points with me. With everything they have to offer, the common thread throughout the album is the song writing. Since the band was formed when all three of the guys ended up sitting in on each other’s solo sets at a local Austin club, they've developed a unique ability to add their own voice and touches to each other’s songs. This has made the songs richer and stronger than they were in solo form. This strengthening is evident all over One Foot In The Ether. If two heads are better than one, then you know three heathens have got to be good!

"Golden Calf" - The Band Of Heathens (One Foot In The Ether)

To catch the magic live, here's the video of "Golden Calf" from Austin City Limits:

Watch the full episode. See more Austin City Limits.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Blue Blood Blues" - The Dead Weather

Always ones for keeping us on our toes, about an hour and a half before Third Man Records opened shop for the day, they announced that the 7” vinyl single for “Blue Blood Blues” was going to be available today. There’s a term in the corporate world called “extended lunch” and today was one of those days. The tri-color vinyl is as gorgeous as always and the sleeve is a double fold, allowing you to choose which back label you would like. I’m showcasing the “Jack with blowtorch” but if the “Alison with microphone” floats your boat, to each his own. The b-side is a smoking live version of “Jawbreaker” recorded at The Wiltern in LA.

"Blue Blood Blues" - The Dead Weather (Sea of Cowards)

As always, 100 of the tri-color 45s were sold at the store today and 50 of these bad boys will be randomly inserted into online orders. You can go HERE to order one and maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones! Even if you just get the regular black vinyl, it's still a great song with a cool b-side and the double label thing is pretty cool too. It's only $5 bucks to order on online so it's a win-win. Awesome song, awesome price, what are you waiting for?

The other big announcement was a new offering from Third Man called the Triple Decker Record that is going on sale this Friday. It’s described as “a unique 7” version of the single embedded inside a 12” version.” That’s right, you get a 12” single of “Blue Blood Blues” with an alternate b-side with a 7” single of “Blue Blood Blues” (with a secret, unreleased song on the b-side) housed inside. Pick up your jaw and just watch the video, it’ll make more sense.

Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues (Album Review)

With his fourth album, Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle has undeniably stepped out of his father’s shadow and into his own place at the table. Justin’s songwriting and singing has continued to develop with new colors and shades popping up from an already overflowing palette. Recently relocating from Nashville to New York City, Justin has kept all of his twang and southern charm, while adding a bit of soul and nuance to the mix. Everything Justin does well is present on Harlem River Blues and there are enough new ingredients to keep things interesting and surprising. Not that Justin ever really lets you get bored or comfortable anyways.

From the organ strains and gospel choir backing of album opener “Harlem River Blues,” Justin wastes no time letting you know that he’s got some new tricks up his sleeve. The uplifting track has a great upright bass groove and it sounds like the best church music you could hope to find. “One More Night In Brooklyn” brings together the Nashville/New York connection perfectly and has that folky, jazzy vibe that feels like some of Richard Julian’s best work. Fans of Justin’s previous albums will love the country shuffle of “Move Over Mama,” “Wanderin’” and “Learning To Cry,” the bluesy “Slippin’ and Slidin’” and Ain’t Waitin’” and the slow burn of “Rogers Park.” He scores personal points with me by hitting on my love of train songs with the brushed snare chug of “Working For The MTA” as well. Throughout the album, Justin’s trusty acoustic is backed by Bryn Davies on upright bass, Skylar Wilson on organ and Bryan Owings on drums. He also has some great guest appearances by Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show), Jason Isbell (Drive-By Truckers), Paul Niehaus (Calexico) and Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck, Dave Matthews Band). Whether you find yourself on a sunset rooftop in Manhattan or on a back porch in Tennessee, this album could fit either location perfectly, while sort of making you think about the other one.

"One More Night In Brooklyn" - Justin Townes Earle (Harlem River Blues)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Black Pacific - The Black Pacific (Album Review)

When a musician makes the tough decision to step away from their band, most of them usually either head in a different musical direction, get an industry type job, or disappear altogether. Jim Lindberg wasn't content with any of those options. After 20 years and nine albums fronting Pennywise, Jim decided it was time for a change and started up a new band, The Black Pacific. Instead of switching genres or mellowing out, Jim focused all of his attitude, passion, and aggression into what he does well, making great punk rock music. With a new band and a new outlook, Jim was free to experiment and create without any of the constraints or limitations that come along with being in a band for two decades. But make no mistake about it, behind every new guitar effect or sonic texture, there is beautifully brutal music pounding it's way into your head and heart. Jim handles all of the vocal and guitar duties in The Black Pacific, with Davey Latter on bass and Alan Vega on drums rounding out the trio.

Anyone familiar with Jim's songwriting style will find much to relate to in these new songs. The search for something to believe in ("Time Is Not The Reason," "Kill Your Idols" and "No Purpose"), the way people hurt each other ("Almost Rising" and "Put Down Your Weapons"), the meaninglessness in the pursuit of "the American dream" ("The System" and "Living With Ghosts"), and materialism ("Defamer") are just a few of the issues that get a simple, yet nonetheless important, lyrical spotlight. The heavy themes are emphasized by an even heavier musical backdrop. Not sloppy and sludgy heavy though. I'm talking tight, powerful guitar, thundering bass and hammering drums that boom and crash in all the right places. While Lindbergh wrote all of the songs beforehand, he acknowledges that it became a collaborative effort with his band mates in the studio and he credits producer Shaun Lopez (guitarist in Far) with helping him get the right tones and sounds for these songs to live in. The result is an album that will make you feel less like settling for things and more like getting up and doing something, anything, to keep things from staying "as is" when change is needed. The Black Pacific was birthed from, and is a call to, action. So forget just dipping a toe, dive headfirst into The Black Pacific, the water's fine.

The Black Pacific will be released on Side One Dummy Records September 14th and orders for the limited color vinyl can be placed here.

"Time Is Not The Reason" - The Black Pacific (The Black Pacific)

Side One Dummy always puts out killer vinyl colors and this one is no exception. Pressed onto a brilliant blue vinyl with just a hint of white marble, the album evokes the idea of an ocean with a few cresting waves or a sky with just a hint of clouds. Either that or my inner hippie took over and it's just a really cool color combination. Either way, it looks great and sounds even better. As always, kudos to the Side One gang for knocking it out of the park again!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jenny and Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now (Album Review)

Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice have made a lot of music together in various settings and they’ve finally decided to release an intentional, collective project. Under the name Jenny and Johnny, these two multi-instrumentalist songwriters have created an eclectic batch of harmony-soaked indie rock duets for their first release, I’m Having Fun Now. All of their joint creative abilities are on full display as they wrote every song together, sing them all together and play pretty much every instrument you hear on the album. With all of the surf guitar tones, sugary vocals, upbeat rhythms and energetic basslines, you could assume that this album was recorded in their home base of sunny Los Angeles. In reality, they spent five weeks in Omaha during one of the worst winter snow storms the city had ever seen to complete these songs. How they were able to capture blue skies and sunshine in audio form is just one more example of the wide ranging talents of these two.

Jenny’s previous work in Rilo Kiley shows that she has no problem standing on her own while sharing vocal duties. But where Rilo Kiley songs can easily be broken up into “Jenny songs” and “Blake songs,” all of the Jenny and Johnny songs have a distinct duet vibe to them. When they’re singing together, there’s not a lead/background vocal split feeling. They know how to pull off a true duet, ones of the Johnny and June, George and Tammy, Sonny and Cher caliber. While tracks like “Switchblade,” “New Yorker Cartoon” and “Slavedriver” showcase their vocal hand holding for the entire song, every cut has at least one moment where their voices weave around each other and become one sound. The raw lyrical direction of the album contrasts nicely with all of the feel good musicalities as well. Relationships (“Scissor Runner” and “My Pet Snakes”), the recession and bank bailout (“Big Wave”), religion (“Animal”) and even politics (“Committed”) gets honest and gritty attention. With both of them having recorded solo albums before, it seems that they wanted to make sure there was no confusion regarding the status of this album. They’ve truly created something new and original as Jenny and Johnny and after listening through the album a few times, I’ve gotta admit, I’m having fun now too.

(Okay, that was far too cheesy of a way to end it. How about I just leave you with my favorite tune off the album and we call it even. "Committed" is ridiculously catchy and I seriously can't stop spinning it.)

"Committed" - Jenny and Johnny (I'm Having Fun Now)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pixies @ The Ryman (Concert Review)

The legendary Ryman Auditorium is certainly no stranger to ringing out with songs about God, death and characters found in the Bible. The Mother Church just isn’t exactly used to the Pixies’ take on them. Oddly enough though, the wooden pews and stained glass windows provided a perfect ambiance for the melodic abrasiveness the Pixies are known for delivering. Continuing to tour for the 20th anniversary of their Doolittle album, front man Frank Black, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering are treating fans to an incredible concert packed with the entire Doolittle album, B-sides to the Doolittle singles and a few cuts from their other albums. With only one new song released in the last 19 years, there could have easily been a nostalgic air of just running through the hits for some old school fans. This show was anything but that. Fans, including ones that didn’t look old enough to have even been born when Doolittle was released, were on their feet the entire night, even threatening to out sing Frank on most of the songs.

With allusions to surrealism so prevalent in their lyrics, it was no surprise that the show opened with bizarre clips from a surrealist movie playing on the backdrop. The band members appeared to a deafening ovation and opened the show with a quadruple smack of Doolittle B-sides. First up was “Dancing The Manta Ray” and “Weird At My School” from the “Monkey Gone To Heaven” single, followed by “Bailey’s Walk” from the “Here Comes Your Man” single and “Manta Ray,” also from the “Monkey Gone To Heaven” single. With a quick word from Kim Deal, they then launched into “Debaser” and proceeded to play Doolittle all the way through. During the most electrifying moments, the shouts in “Debaser,” the counting section in “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and the sing-a-long chorus of “Here Comes Your Man,” the connection between band and crowd proved that the Pixies still have a strong place in today’s musical landscape. Every section of The Ryman was rocking out and singing along to every wild and unusual lyric. It was incredibly impressive to see such excitement and engagement by the fans for all of the songs, not just the hits. For their first encore, they came back out and played the alternate version of “Wave Of Mutilation” and a fog-enveloped “Into The White,” both from the “Here Comes Your Man” single. For their second encore, they closed the night with some crowd-pleasing cuts from Bossanova, Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa. After exiting the stage for the third time, the crowd, and hopefully the band, knew they had experienced something special.

While they have never been accused of being the most active or talkative band while being on stage, their trademarked “loud quiet” musical dynamics and their quirky lyrical themes and deliveries are enough to generate an energetic and animated atmosphere. Frank’s yelping vocals, Joey’s agitated leads, David’s understated drumming and Kim’s hefty basslines blend together to create passionate, frantic, and wholly original music. Eventhough they have never had a platinum record or a #1 hit, it’s easy to see why the Pixies are mentioned by hundreds of musicians as an inspiring and influential band. From the way they approach their songs, to their stage mannerisms, to their simplistic but entertaining backdrop images, the Pixies forego flash and image for character and spirit. While most bands who play by their own rules end up playing to no one, the Pixies prove that, when mixed with substance, individuality can create a community and a shared experience.

Here's the setlist and a few more pictures:

Dancing The Manta Ray

Weird At My School

Bailey's Walk

Manta Ray



Wave Of Mutilation

I Bleed

Here Comes Your Man


Monkey Gone To Heaven

Mr. Grieves

Crackity Jones

La La Love You

No. 13 Baby

There Goes My Gun



Gouge Away


Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)

Into The White


Cecilia Ann




Where Is My Mind?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Question" - Old 97's

Happy Old 97's day! While I don't think you'll get the day off work or anything, September 7th (9/7, ah yes, now it makes sense) is as good a day as any to listen to the Texan alt-country rockers. If you're aren't familiar with them, here's the cliff notes. Old 97's was formed in 1993 and helped pioneer the alt-country movement of the late 1990's/early 2000's. They've released seven full length albums, a couple EPs, a live album and their next album, The Grand Theatre, Volume One, will be released this coming October. It's never too late to become a fan of a band that's still putting out good music!

While their 2001 album Satellite Rides gets some criticism as being too polished and produced compared to their earlier albums, I have no problems with it. Rhett Miller's voice is as moving as ever and their rootsy influences still show up on every song. "Questions" is probably my favorite track off the album. Eventhough it's just Rhett's voice and acoustic, you really don't need any thing else with songwriting this pure and good.

"Question" - Old 97's (Satellite Rides)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Anberlin - Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place (Album Review)

Anberlin is one of those bands that I have had the fun experience of watching from their beginnings. Back in 2002, I found a few of their demos while digging around the old site. Those demos led to them eventually being signed by Tooth and Nail Records (one of my favorite labels) and to them having their first three albums produced by Aaron Sprinkle (one of my personal heroes who I’ve gushed about on here before). Fast forward to now and Anberlin is releasing their fifth full length album, Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place to a heightened anticipation and a greater expectancy than they have seen before. This is their second album since moving to a major label (Universal Republic) and super producer Brendan O’Brien was brought in to help craft and capture their new batch of songs. Pressures like these might cause a lesser band to crumble and release a dud, but Anberlin has converged their strengths into their most focused and cohesive offering since 2005’s Never Take Friendship Personal.

There are a few things that make each Anberlin album distinguishably “theirs” and each unique element is underscored on Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place. First is their instrumentation. Anberlin usually operates within identifiable riffing guitars with heavy drums or atmospheric ballads with echoed/delayed guitar lines and synth textures. While that may describe a lot of bands, Anberlin’s identity is found in the tones they use. While guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney do play around with delay, tremolo, chorus and other effects, they don’t use a lot of different distortions. The same idea of uniform tones is carried over to the bass and keys as well. This gives the musical bed of the album a familiar consistency throughout. Second is the lyrical direction. Themes of isolation, relational dischord, questions, unsettledness, and a general desire for something more are prevalent issues in Anberlin’s catalog. Though most of the lines can read pretty vague on paper, the inflection and passion in the delivery help relay the ideas and feelings. Third, and most important, is Stephen Christian’s voice. Like it or not preference wise, Stephen’s voice is instantly recognizable. His range is quite impressive too. Stephen can strongly and regularly hit the high notes without resorting to falsetto and the standout color of his voice lends itself equally to bombastic rock songs or quieter, contemplative arrangements. Anberlin has done some really cool covers in their career and each one could stand apart from the original on the basis of Stephen’s voice alone. The album opens energetically with “We Owe This to Ourselves” and closes emphatically with “Depraved.” Standouts in the middle include first single “Impossible,” the radio ready “Take Me (As You Found Me)” and the compelling lament of “The Art of War.” Anberlin has worked hard for their successes and with this fully developed album to stand behind, they are poised to make even greater strides.

"The Art of War" - Anberlin (Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Blow Wind, Blow" - Muddy Waters

It's been crazy hot in Nashville this summer, but when I took my dog out this morning I was finally greeted by the old, familiar feeling of a fall wind on my face. I'm not talking about a breeze that just shuffles the hot air around, but the actual chilled wind that lets you know fall is on the way. It's easily one of my favorite things in the world. Granted, fall is certainly not here yet. The sun is still pretty hot, the car feels like an oven when you first get in and the grass still needs to be cut a couple more times, but that breeze let me know that the seasonal transition has begun. Soon the temperature will drop, the leaves will change color and things will just get cozier. Fall lets you walk huddled together, hold hands without worrying about that sweaty feeling and generally makes you want to just get a little closer. Plus, it leads into winter, which is even better for all those kinds of feelings and festivities. A couple more breezes like today and I'll be all set to kick off my favorite half of the year.

Legendary bluesman McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, released "Blow Wind, Blow" as a single in 1953. If you want to hear the blues, like not someone just imitating the blues, but actually HEAR the blues, you don't have to go any further than Muddy Waters. Revered by musicians for decades, Muddy's brand of electric, Chicago blues and his instantly recognizable voice combined to make him one of the most important and influential figures in musical history. For every big name that has covered one of his songs (Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles shout out in "Come Together"), every one of them would tell you that they could only muster a mere fraction of the soul and spirit of the sound that Muddy embodied. If you've ever wanted to learn about the blues, Muddy Waters will be happy to teach you.

"Blow Wind, Blow" - Muddy Waters (Blow Wind, Blow single)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Greenhornes and Carl Broemel @ The Basement (Concert Review)

Man, last night was awesome and I’m once again convinced that Nashville has some of the greatest shows around. Seeing Carl Broemel and The Greenhornes in a packed, sweaty club is not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night. While I would've enjoyed an earlier start time, that's a small price to pay compared to the incredible show both bands put on. The Basement is one of my favorite venues and I’ve yet to see a bad show there. Occupying a small space underneath Grimey’s, The Basement houses a stage and a bar and you can see the band from pretty much anywhere. It can hold about 150-200 people and all of them were there last night! The Basement is notorious for a few things; heat, b.o., chatty cathies and killer bands. All elements were in full force last night.

Celebrating the release of his new album, All Birds Say, Carl Broemel took the stage a little after nine. Backed by an acoustic guitar, bass, keys and drums, Carl switched between electric, acoustic and pedal steel for his 18 song set. His low key, alt-country tunes eased from the stage and sounded incredible in this setting. He started off with a beautiful rendition of my favorite song from All Birds Say¸ “Carried Away,” and proceeded to play every song off the album and quite a few more. Most songs were with his band, but he still played a few by himself. One thing that blew me away about Carl’s playing is his incredibly smooth tones and his intricate chord formations. Seriously, this guy is like a Mel Bay instructional book on steroids. He also doesn't let the limitation of only having two hands mess with him, as he used foot pedals to record and playback live vocal and guitar loops to build lush, swirling accompaniments. These weren't pre-recorded tracks or anything. He'd play the guitar or sing a vocal while recording it, play it back while playing or singing something new and continue layering the sounds easily and organically, without them ever clashing with each other. For a couple songs, Carl would switch instruments mid-song to play a pedal steel solo or add some electric guitar elements. In one dazzling display during a solo song, he started with a vocal loop, recorded some electric textures, added a "bass line" from his guitar, laid down his electric to switch over to the pedal steel where he played a killer solo and recorded another loop, then finished things off by playing with the tremolo and reverb effects on his amp. It was not only impressive to say the least, it was musical and gorgeous and not the least bit overblown. No matter if he was playing multiple instruments over loops or just singing with an acoustic, he approached each song with a laid-back, come what may vibe. I hope he can find time for more of these solo shows and solo albums because his brand of musicality and lyrical philosophizing has me hooked.

While I'm sure Carl gained some new fans and hopefully sold some copies of his new album, the night belonged to The Greenhornes. With them not having played a live show for close to five years, the anticipation in the room was genuinely palpable. They started the night off with "Can't Stand It" from their second album and immediately let everyone know they hadn't gotten rusty or soft during the hiatus. From the first note, the crowd was engaged, singing and dancing along to every song. Patrick and Jack were having fun, playing hard and letting loose, while lead singer/guitarist Craig Fox let his playing convey his emotional output. If you were to just look at his face, you'd think he'd rather be anywhere else but on stage, but his vocal output and playing approach beg to differ. All three guys are genuinely skilled at their instruments and know how to harness the energy and spirit of the 60's psychedelic, garage rock movement into a raw, powerful party. They whipped out songs from their back catalog and debuted a few new songs that will appear on their new album coming out in October. The crowd literally tripled in size before The Greenhornes started playing and most of them seemed genuinely into the show and pumped about the music. There was a noticeable drop in the level of conversations during their set and I really think that the power displayed in their music commanded the attention. It's exciting and refreshing to see the unrestrained, unpolished side of rock music and if you're lucky enough to have The Greenhornes visit your town, you'd be crazy to miss out on the chance to experience it yourself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Part-Time Cover: "We Used To Wait"

A smart way to build buzz for your upcoming album is to successfully cover a song from a huge album that has just been released. The Drums are releasing their album, The Drums, September 14th on Downtown Records and are currently covering "We Used To Wait" by Arcade Fire in concert. "We Used To Wait" appears on Arcade Fire's most recent album, The Suburbs, which just came out on August 3rd. Arcade Fire's original version is pretty atmospheric and is led by a stabbing keyboard line and an accentuated drum groove. The herky-jerky verse sits nicely against the smoother, ambient chorus. As I'm sure Arcade Fire has seen while touring, these verses are made for dancing and the choruses are made for singing along.

"We Used To Wait" - Arcade Fire (The Suburbs)

For their live cover of "We Used To Wait," The Drums take a more direct approach to the song. Picking up the tempo and ironing out the dynamic musical shifts between the verses and choruses, their version has a more driving, poppier feel to it. Also, the fact that The Drums are a basic four piece indie rock outfit with just guitar, bass and drums has an effect on the interpretation as well. By putting their own stamp on it, it comes across as more of a "tip of the hat" to a killer song instead of just a gimmicky direct copy. I dig it and I'm looking forward to hearing what their new album will sound like.

"We Used To Wait" - The Drums (Live @ The BBC Three Live Lounge)

The Drums will be released on September 14th on Downtown Records.