December 9, 2004
Neko Case at the El Rey, Los Angeles - Dec. 4, 2004
Not the (Neko) Case
Neko Case is nervous. She can’t seem to get her guitar tuned just right, and the way she’s fiddling with it, I know she’s nervous. See, she’s playing a Gibson SG that only has three strings, the top and bottom strings have been removed. The man next to me, Steve, tells me this is an old Velvet Underground trick, to take off the top and bottom strings and tune the three remaining strings the same. I don’t know about that trick, or any of the others that will be perpetrated on me this night, but I was watching the night that Ashlee Simpson ran off stage on Saturday Night Live, and let me tell you – she was lip syncing. And I don’t think that Neko Case, even if she can’t get her three-stringed guitar tuned, will have that problem.
Even though Case admittedly sings and writes “little songs” about bees, and sparrows, and tigers and then jokes – “see, they’re all sad little songs about animals on this tour!” – there is nothing little about her voice. This is a voice with power and range – the voice of a chanteuse, but also a bee, a sparrow, or a tiger, as she sees fit. Travis/Dallas Good makes his Gretsch sound like a slide guitar; The Sadies seem perfectly matched for Neko’s voice and the songs she has written with them are outstanding. The way they elevate country music goes something like this: Neko Case has a voice that’s transcendent, phenomenal, and ethereal – take that as a given and a starting place. Then put her on a little four-stringed acoustic guitar, while Travis Good plays fiddle, Sean Dean bumps out the stand up bass, Mike Belitsky keeps time, and Dallas Good adds this amazing layer of electric sound on top.
And just in case you need to die happy that night going home from the El Rey on slick, rain-soaked Los Angeles freeways – ask Dexter Romwebber to come up on stage and sing with you during the encore. That’s right – he got up there and sang “Lucky Eye” with The Sadies and Neko Case! I should start wearing a heart monitor to shows, really. I have to wonder – what if God gave you a voice like Neko Case, and you decided not to sing? Luckily for us, that’s not the Case.
Posted by DJWanda at 11:31 PM
The Sadies at the El Rey, Los Angeles - Dec. 4, 2004
The Sadies Roll Along
Bill Gentry told me that The Sadies reminded him of The Byrds, “if The Byrds were a wagon wheel.” But The Byrds were a wagon wheel, weren’t they? And The Sadies are a wagon wheel, too, if that wheel were on a semi hauling 90 miles an hour down the Interstate and the driver were all jacked up on coffee and speed, carrying a little pot under the seat.
The first time I saw this band play, I was so blown away I couldn’t speak. Spaghetti western meets western swing, smokes some pot, and has a hoedown. The term “insurgent country” doesn’t seem to do it justice. Now, some five years later, I am blown away again. Amazing covers? Try “Pretty Polly” (traditional – the Byrds did it too), “Stay All Night” (Bob Wills), “Higher Power” (Louvin Brothers), and “Wearin’ that Loved On Look” (yes, a song made famous by Elvis). Amazing songs? Try “Lay Your Arms” (from 2002’s Stories Often Told), “Dying is Easy,” (from 1998’s debut Precious Moments) “1000 Cities Falling” (from 2004’s Favourite Colours). Let’s just say all and call it a day.
Like Dexter Romwebber, who melds blues, surf, punk and rockabilly, The Sadies are creating a musical fusion of spaghetti western, 60s psychedelia, American Cosmic Music, country and western, old spirituals, and traditional music. But what does the band sound like? Like the love child of Ennio Morricone and Gram Parsons, with the vocals of The Supersuckers. Not to mention the guitarist has Peter Frampton hair. And they’re tall. And they wear amazing suits. I’m telling you – this is the best thing that Canada has ever given us.
Posted by DJWanda at 11:24 PM
Dexter Romwebber at the El Rey, Los Angeles - December 4, 2004
What I Like About Dexter Romwebber
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he totally looks like someone you’d work with at your boring cubicle job – a middle-aged guy in navy Dockers and a cotton oxford shirt, and then he gets up there and rocks your pants off!
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that his drummer Sam “Crash” Laresh has the best glasses ever – always – and that he tapes his shirt shut, but the tape keeps popping off as he gets progressively wilder on the drums.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that when he breaks a string, he doesn’t miss a beat, he just keeps playing and then switches guitars on the next song. No spending ten minutes tuning up. He’s not a pussy.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he is the only one on the face of the Earth that can do a guitar solo without being a total wanker about it
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that you can see the waistband of Sam’s Sponge Bob Squarepants boxers under his jeans.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he plays the blues, surf and rockabilly with the raw energy and passion that it’s supposed to have, and a guitar that sounds slightly out of tune, but on purpose.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he plays all these really dreamy ballads and slow songs, but they’re not that slow, and when he sings, he sounds like he means it
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that the new album is so good I have two – one for my car and one for my dj case. I meant to give the extra one away, but I never did. And I don’t feel guilty.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he’s probably the only real psychobilly artist out there in a sea of posers.
• What I like about Dexter Romwebber is that he surprises people: the woman next to me, Amy, said she was afraid when he started playing. Afraid for him, and then, ultimately, afraid for us. Scaring the shit out of people by looking so normal and rocking so hard is probably the most subversive thing I’ve seen in a long time. And I like it that way.
Posted by DJWanda at 10:58 PM
December 8, 2004
Flogging Molly - Within a Mile from Home
(Side One Dummy)
by Brian Yaeger
When Flogging Molly singer Dave King moved to the United States 15 years ago, George Bush was president and he was excited to work on his music career in a metal band that was signed to a major label. Today, he’s enjoying tremendous success with an Irish folk/punk/soul band whose latest album, Within a Mile of Home (Side One Dummy) debuted atop Billboard’s Independent Album chart. And now that Bush, Jr. got (re)elected, he’d like to move back to Ireland.
When Flogging Molly performed the leadoff track, “Screaming at the Wailing Wall,” at an in-store, King found it hard to believe he “could write such a happy song about such a miserable fucking cunt like George Bush. It all balances itself out.”
Unlike their first two studio albums, Within a Mile doesn’t click at first listen. They branch out from their patented sound a bit. “Factory Girls” is a duet with Americana/folk singer Lucinda Williams. “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering” is a tribute to country legend Johnny Cash. “Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon” sees accordionist Matt Hensley adding some Cajun-flavor along with a guest musician on washboard. Nathan Maxwell gets to do another pirate song like he did with “Cruel Mistress” on Drunken Lullabies, but “Queen Anne’s Revenge” mixed with equal parts Clash. King goes a cappella on “The Wrong Company.” Still, while it is not immediately as likable on first or even second spin, each cut certainly does grow on you to the point where it’s as much a necessity for your collection as their past efforts. It’s tempting to describe the album as more mature, but there was nothing immature about their previous recordings, so let’s just say that on the whole, it is a mellower, folksier album. The messages are still powerful.
I liberate your people's fate, spoke the burning bush/ But the song of beasts, drown their oil-soaked teeth/ Their dollar is mighty and true/ Now the eagle soars the sky over refugee and child/ And to all there is no end, another day in perfect hell
The above lines from “Screaming at the Wailing Wall” replete with biblical images and American patriotic icons, utilizes a familiar concept in King’s lyrics, although the US certainly does not hold a monopoly on melding religion and government.
“God seems to be Chief In Command of Bush’s government,” King said to me. “He seems to think that it’s okay because he’s got His OK to do this. I don’t know about you, but my God does not wage war. God is the biggest reason why this world is in torment… I don’t hate you. My God doesn’t hate your God. George W. Bush is convinced that his God told him to do this. Oh my God!! That is unbelievable.”
What’s ironic is that the people—especially the youth—around the world are so well informed about the issues surrounding war and its causes, and are therefore opinionated about what is happening in this country, but Americans and American youth are not. And by ironic I mean sad.
“First of all, Americans are not encouraged to vote,” King mused. “When I used to live in Ireland, I voted because you felt like you were welcome to. This is your right. This administration [tried] to stop college students from voting because their dorms are not permanent residences. It’s for them that I wrote ‘To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh)’.”
So it's to youth I sing you this story/ And it's of youth I sing it now/ Like the train that derails without warning/ I must leave what I left far behind/ So goodbye, sweet Roisin Dubh
Within a Mile is a portrait of where King’s mind is these days. Poetic, romantic, and often incensed, his lyrics bare his Celtic soul. “There’s a fear base for everything in this country,” said King. “Whether it be God, religion, or death. There doesn’t seem to be much time left to celebrate. What I’ve learned through life is that I’ve had a shitty life. I’ve had a great life. And I’m going to celebrate both. I’m going to sing about it and clap my hands and dance about it.”
Posted by Ms. Jen at 12:22 PM