June 29, 2006
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris @ Gibson Amphitheatre: June 28, 2006
Best. Show. Ever.
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris hit the road in support of their recently released album of duets, a project that's been in the works for seven years. All the Roadrunning is well worth the wait; although it was recorded over the aforementioned seven year period, the album is seamless, much like their performance at the Gibson Amphitheatre. The former lead singer of Dire Straits and the First Lady of Alt. Country started the show singing a couple of songs together, then Emmylou took the reigns for a handful of songs before turning them back over to Mr. Knopfler. Among the highlights were the angelic rendition of Emmylou's "Michelangelo," and Mark's "Romeo and Juliet" which left not a dry eye in the house. The duo wrapped up the show together, performing more cuts from All the Roadrunning, demonstrating the perfect mesh of their voices. Two encores closed the show, after two hours of some of the most beautiful music imaginable.
Posted by darlin at 3:51 PM
June 28, 2006
Book Review - Rock & Roll Archaeologist
By Peter Blecha
Review by Kevin Hillskemper
This book starts off real strong but loses a great deal of momentum on about page 87. Then it slows to a crawl by page 121. It struggles on for a while, showing glimpses of life, and then stops completely dead on page 207.
The story starts during the authors childhood in 1960’s Washington state. He develops a love for rock n roll, which is nurtured by his exposure to local Northwest bands like the Sonics, The Wailers, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and The Kingsmen. He is very good at capturing his youthful joy of discovery when he starts seeing music and records in a larger perspective. His life as a collector began when he went down to the local record store to buy a single and was told that it was out of print. From that point on, he gobbled up every record he could find out of fear that it wouldn’t be available tomorrow.
As he got older, he continued collecting but also became interested in studying archaeology and playing the drums. He realizes that everything in his universe is connected. He starts collecting all things Northwest and maintains his enthusiasm through 60's Northwest Garage Rock to Jimi Hendrix and then onto Punk and Grunge. Yeah, he's one of those Zelig types. His knowledge Northwest Musical History gained from collecting led to writing for magazines, writing liner notes for albums, and doing radio shows. He also developes a unique philosophy elevating the compulsive collector - they (we) are not the avaricious hoarders that society sees us as, but rather noble preservationists of history. I feel better about myself already.
Anyway, after years of networking and a good case of being in the right place at the right time, Blecha becomes senior curator for the Experience Music Project in Seattle. The museum is funded by the bottomless pockets of billionaire benefactor Paul Allen. Soon, the author sells his personal collection to Allen and buys a bigger house with the loot.
From then on, there are some good anecdotes about building the collection and getting the museum off the ground but it’s pretty much downhill from there. In this case, the chase is much better than the catch.
When he starts going to auctions and paying half a million dollars for Eric Clapton’s guitar, the thrill is gone. Is it a mixed metaphor to throw in an accidental B.B. King reference when mentioning Eric Clapton? I don’t know. I’m just checking to see if you’re paying attention. You’re not.
Apparently the author also got bored at this point of the story, because he quit the cushy museum gig without really saying why. At the time he was writing the book, his basement was starting to fill up with junk again. There might be a sequel.
Posted by Big Kev at 5:27 PM
June 26, 2006
Alt. Country Releases, June 2006
Lately I've been reviewing a lot of crap for radio station KUCI, where I am a dj. By crap, I mean, one or two people, possibly friends, who play guitar and possibly drums, or maybe just guitars, get together in a home studio, scrape together $150 bucks to get their cd pressed and send it to me, with some artwork by someone's girlfriend. The home studio is responsible for a lot of grief, in my humble opinion - grief that is better off left at an open mic night in some small town.
But I decided rather than be negative, and rant about the lame cds that I get on a daily basis, I would share with you the cds that I am actually enjoying, the cds that made it out of the package, into the player, and survived to go on to be added to the illustrious library at KUCI.
The Bottle Rockets - Zoysia - Their press kit compares them to Crazy Horse era-Neal Young, but I'm going with the Supersuckers in a slower vein. The Bottle Rockets keep changing their sound and that's not a bad thing. This cd takes two or three listenings, but it starts to grow on you, like the grass that it is named for (Zoysia is a type of grass, people. No, not that kind of grass. Real grass, as in "crabgrass" or "Kentucky Bluegrass. Sheesh).
Sam Bush - Laps in Seven - Sam Bush is called the "Cubist mandolinist" and even I don't know what the hell that means. It's good, and he's got a lot of famous musician friends sitting in with him. He gets kudos from Chris Thile of Nickel Creek, which makes me want to hate him, but I don't.
Drag the River - It's Crazy - Drag the River was supposed to play this show that I put on at the Double Down in Las Vegas. That's a famous saloon that so smokey your eyes hurt even if you're a smoker. Yeah. But they never showed up, even after they begged to play. I don't hold it against them. Their cd is pretty good, even though they are so slow live that they sometimes clear the room. This cd is a bit more peppy, like Speedbuggy on downers.
Pete Seeger - American Favorite Ballads Vol. 4 - Bruce Springsteen did an album of Pete Seeger covers. We didn't add it. Here is a reissue of old Pete Seeger folk songs. We did add it. Go figure. I don't really like Pete Seeger or Bruce Springsteen, but if Bruce Springsteen makes more people like Pete Seeger, that can't be a bad thing. Can it?
Various Artists: Classic Labor Songs - These songs are all about unionizing, black lung, owing the company store, and the way the Man is trying to bring you down. Suitable for all shows trying to make a statement, or anyone who wants to be left in a trendy way. I can see this being a big seller at the Borders in Palo Alto, or charting at some NPR stations. Really.
Casey Driessen - 3D - Casey Driessen is a bluegrass artist the way that Danny Barnes is a poet. A weird, 3-D bluegrass artists poet guy. You get the picture.
The Handsome Family - Last Days of Wonder (Carrot Top) - many people think the Handsome Family are not alt. country, they are just faking. They are wrong. These songs are fast and scary, or slow and happy. They are all messed up. They are disturbing because they are about cannibalism, ghosts, and love. You will find yourself singing along and then realize what the hell you are singing. Stop it! The lyrics are frightening, like a clown at the circus. You love clowns, right?
Yonder Mountain String Band - Everyone likes jug bands, I mean, really. This is like a jug band, but without the jug. They are happy, and upbeat, and banjo-ish, but smart too. Like Hadacol with a banjo!
Fred Eaglesmith - Milly's Cafe - This is one of the saddest albums ever. It's all about loss and dogs and people being disillusioned and losing the farm, their loves, their youth. Sad, sad, sad. And good.
Tim Easton - Ammunition (New West) - Another weeper, but Easton is more bitter, like an angry Nick Drake. Like a guy busking in the subway but belligerent, so you give him a dollar even though you don't really want to give him a dollar. Nice duet with Lucinda Williams on track 5.
Dave Knudsen - The Weeping City (Boronda) - this guy has an odd voice, is friends with local alt. fav Mike Stinson, and sings about LA in a dreamy way. Sort of that Laurel Canyon Cowboy stuff that's so hot now, but not as irritating as all the rest.
Various: Classic African-American Ballads (Smithsonian) and Various: Masters of Old-Time Country Autoharp (Smithsonian) - I think the titles say it all on these. They are new but seem old. Both these cds can make your collection seem more highbrow than it is, and make you sound like you know about music more than you do. Just read the liner notes!
Posted by DJWanda at 9:30 PM
Stiff Little Fingers at the House of Blues Anaheim, June 17, 2006
Review by Kevin Hillskemper
Photo from the Stiff Little Fingers website
Stiff Little Fingers could be the B.B. Kings of 1977-era UK punk. They were not the first, or the biggest, or necessarily the best, but they’re still alive to inherit the throne. At two original members, they are running neck and neck with the Buzzcocks. I think it would be cool if the two bands merged to form one great punk super-group. But what would you call them? The Buzz Fingers? Stiff Little…..oh, never mind.
I had never seen Stiff Little Fingers before and I was happily amazed. They made some pretty good records, of course, but it took seeing them live for me to appreciate how powerful their songs really are. They only put out a handful of albums, but they have a surprisingly solid body of work to draw from.
Founding Finger Jake Burns has still got all his chops and can bellow with the best of them. With original bassist Ali McMordie back in the band, it's no surprise that the set consisted mostly of crowd-pleasing early material. If you paid to hear “Tin Soldiers,” “Wasted Life,” "Nobody's Hero, " and so on, you got your money's worth and then some. No “Gotta Getaway” though – probably because there were too many drunks shouting out requests for it. Fair enough. "Doesn't Make It Alright" fulfilled the warm and fuzzy sing-along part of the show. The newest songs, from 2003’s quite good “Guitar and Drum” album, fit in nicely with the classics and went over quite well. I really liked the great show-biz moment when Burns introduced the members of the band Las Vegas style during the extended version of “Suspect Device.” Applause. Encore – “Johnny Was” and “Alternative Ulster.” Thank you good night.
The Tossers opened the show. They were a fake Irish band. They are very good at emulating the style of the early Poques and Flogging Molly but don't add much to it. It's somewhat off-putting when the singer speaks in a New York voice but sings like a Lucky Charms commercial. I suppose that without the fake accent, the music would just sound like bluegrass and how cool would that be? Like many white people in this country, I had an Irish ancestor or two but so what? St. Patrick’s Day means about as much to me as Arbor Day or National Stamp Collecting Week.
I celebrate Casual Friday.
Posted by Big Kev at 7:16 PM
June 20, 2006
Leon Russell @ The Whisky: June 19, 2006
Other than he's a legend, I know absolutely nothing about Leon Russell, so I was on on the fence about going to this show until two of my best drinking buddies announced they would be therel. Cool - I'm in.
The second of a series of Monday night shows known as Rockin' Country Nights at the world-famous Whisky-a-Go-Go brought in many more white-trash old rockers, but balanced out with the girls provocatively line dancing to Dwight Yoakam, which seemed slightly less out of place than the timfaithtobyshania that the DJ was spinning in between acts last week. According to Sandi, Leon Russell (who truly is a cross between Willie Nelson and Santa Claus) has lots of good songs, but wasn't playing any of them Monday night. That was a non-issue to his fans, though, who gathered at the stage like salivating dogs, or rocked their asses off to his blues-inflected country.
The rumors that Shooter Jennings were supposed to show up proved false, but apparently Adam Hood and James Intveld also performed. I wouldn't know - I didn't get there that early. Next week Joe Ely's on the bill - see ya there!
Posted by darlin at 8:39 AM
June 13, 2006
Junior Brown @ The Whisky: June 12, 2006
Junior Brown's show at this legendary venue kicked off a series of Monday night shows known as Rockin' Country Nights at The Whisky-a-Go-Go. A who's-who for anyone in the LA underground country scene, the performers who made on-stage appearances included Buck Page (from Riders of the Purple Sage), Nashville hit-songwriter Jeffrey Steele (who seemed a little out of place, singing mostly his Top 40 country hits, but I'd rather hear HIM singing them, with his grit and attitude, than any of the Rascal Flatts boys), James Intveld, and then of course Junior Brown, whose guit-steel playing is enough to both inspire and discourage any novice guitarist. Audience members included a Willie Nelson look-a-like, a girl dancing while trying to keep her beer balanced on her head, and several Sunset Strip bar-hoppers who obviously didn't know they'd walked into country night at the Whisky. Noticeably missing was Junior's better half, Tanya Rae Brown. C'mon - it was JB's birthday - where the hell was she?!
Hope your boss doesn't mind your being late to work on Tuesdays this summer!
Posted by darlin at 8:34 AM
June 6, 2006
Not Cool, Totally Hot: Hank III @ the Roxy June 2, 2006
The story is half photo essay, half review, so it's here.
Posted by DJWanda at 11:34 PM
Hank III @ The Roxy: June 2, 2006
There were 200 too many people at the Hank III show at The Roxy Friday night (Thanks for the tickets Johnny Angel!). Who are all those freaks? And do they have to have a COCKTAIL waitress roaming through the crowd? Yes, they do. We had to move to the LEFT of the stage to avoid being trampled by Tall People, and then we were on JOE BUCK'S side of the stage. That's why all the pictures are of Joe Buck. Well, that, and he's like 10x more visually interesting than Hank III, who just stands there. Southbound finds Joe Buck scary. Very scary. And I can't say I blame her. He's always screamin things like "I'm gonna KILL you Muther Fuckers" or maybe it was "I'm gonna EAT you Muther Fuckers." I'm not sure. He was with Th' Legendary Shack Shakers for like, a minute, and the dumbest thing I did was not to buy us those "Joe Buck Yourself" ringers when I saw them in Seattle. But they were brown. And ringers. And they had his picture on them! Like I said, scary.
These crazy drunk girls got on stage without tops. One had stars on her nipples, maybe they were stickers. We were on the JOE BUCK side of the stage, what can I say? The bouncers (if you could call them that) were slow about removing these women, which gave them time to shimmy around drunkenly. They were skinny and had saggy boobs, so even though my pictures are lame, you're not missing much, really. Then there was a fight. Hank III stopped the show. Then he invited this gal up on stage to sing with him. I'm guessing the temperature was about 120 in the Roxy, because it was about 97 outside. I felt like a kid who gets left in the car with the windows cracked. I mean, you're not supposed to do that, right? Plus, we were by the men's restroom, and that's a terrible place to be, unless you're a man who needs to go to the bathroom. When AssJack started, we left.
When we got outside, one of the drunk girls was outside (with her top on). The bouncer had thrown her out for getting up on stage maybe four times and staggering around with her bouncy nipples. She was wearing tight jeans and those suede boots that lace up the front. In high school, we would have called her a "hessian" but she had short hair. "You are NOT cool," she told the bouncer. She could barely stand up. She staggered off down the side walk. "NOT cool at all."
Posted by DJWanda at 11:04 PM
June 5, 2006
Trucker Up @ The Purple Orchid: June 4, 2006
I can't write an unbiased review for Trucker Up. I'm their Merch Girl. And I'm still drunk from all those Mai Tais I drank at the show.
Posted by darlin at 8:36 AM
June 3, 2006
Record Weirdo - More Adventures in the Budget Bin
I’ve been to a few record shows this year but I haven’t spent very much money. It hasn't been a conscious or deliberate thing but I believe my method of collecting is becoming more focused. I am more selective in my purchases. I only buy crap.
I don’t understand collectors that are obsessed with “first pressings” or “mint condition.” What does “VG++” mean anyway? It means you have bad breath, a comb-over, and a Sun Records t-shirt that’s four sizes too small.
Each of the following records was purchased this year at record shows for a dollar or less.
Hank Snow - Songs of Tragedy
I bought this for the cover alone. I haven’t listened to it. I don’t want to ruin a good thing.
David Bowie – La grande storia del ROCK
I really like this series of albums that came out of Italy in the 70’s. They always have great colorful covers and what appear to be randomly compiled songs that are seldom representative of the artists. This is a good one. The pictures on the cover show Bowie in his 70’s incarnations of Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, but the songs are all his pre-fame 60’s slightly psychedelic pop recordings like “The Laughing Gnome.”
Rick Nelson – The Singles Album 1963*1974
This compilation from England goes from “Fools Rush In” to “Garden Party” with a lot of good stuff in between. I like it. It's a shame that Rick will always be overshadowed by Ricky.
Vomit Launch – Exiled Sandwich
I lived in Chico, CA for a few years and used to see these guys (and gals) play in bars and barns all over town. It’s kind of jangly in a Siouxsie and the Banshees meet early REM kind of way. This is a nice time-capsule of 1980’s small-town bohemia. The best song title is “Clowns Are Whores.”
Mrs. Millers Greatest Hits
This record is very popular with collectors. Listening to “outsider” music makes them feel smug and superior. Now that I have a copy, will they accept me as one of their own?
The Southern Death Cult
This is a hodge-podge of demos and live recordings made before this band changed their name to The Cult and got famous. It’s pretty good in a Roger Corman directed Vincent Price movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe kind of way.
Randy Hanson was a tribute artist before it was such a common thing. He used to do a Jimi Hendrix show that was said to be quite convincing. I’ve never seen him play, but I met him once. I think I heard that the Hendrix family is preventing him from doing his Hendrix act any more.
The songs on this album are all originals. So what does it sound like? Has anybody ever heard of Robin Trower or Mahogany Rush? Not very much like that.
These guys were from back east somewhere – I don’t know – Massachusetts or one of those other “M” states. They had some great songs. I like “Drag You Down To My Level,” “You Just Ain’t Good Enough,” and “Going Out Of My Way To Be Nice To You.” The music is fairly standard post-Replacements guitar rock but with titles that good, who cares? Other song titles of note are “Staying On The Right Side Of Satan,” “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” and “High On Drugs.”
Why didn’t stuff like this catch on instead of all that Smashing Pumpkins drivel?
Surf Punks –My Beach
I remember song “My Beach” being funny in a Ramones kind of way but I had never heard the whole album. I didn’t miss much. Most novelty music doesn’t age well and this is no exception. It’s not very surf and not very punk. Drummer Dennis Dragon’s brother was the Captain in Captain and Tennille. I really don’t care either.
Elvis Presley – the Ultimate Performance
This is a made-for-budget-bin live compilation from K-tel UK. Not the most exciting recordings I’ve heard, but remember what you’re reading.
Devo – Freedom Of Choice
I was a big fan of the first two Devo albums. When this one came out, the luster had pretty much worn off for me. Then “Whip It” became a hit and I had to stop listening to Devo because everyone else started to. I had some silly self-imposed rule about not liking anything popular. I got over it.
I paid fifty cents for this bad boy. There’s something about it that I like, but I can’t figure out what it is. This combo, led by Ray Manzerek of the Doors, also featured Nigel Harrison of Blondie. The music is a cross between slick 70’s rock and new wave pop. Doors biographer Danny Sugerman contributes some goofy Morrison-esque lyrics.
The album is like Velveeta and Spam over a bed of brown rice.
The Rhino Brothers Present The World’s Worst Records, Volume 2
The highlight of this collection is “Goodbye Sam” by Shad O’Shea – a long, rambling narrative using a woman’s descent into prostitution, insanity, and suicide as a metaphor for America’s moral disintegration. It’s a little more hard-hitting than John Wayne’s spoken word album.
“The Troggs Tapes” is pretty good, but it doesn’t really fit the theme of the album. I like “Split Level Head” by Napoleon XIV. I will only mention “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage” by Killer Pussy for titillation and shock value. Approximately 92% of this album is empty made-to-order sub-Dr. Demento novelty fodder.
Squeeze’s first album was a little rougher and edgier than their later pop hits. John Cale produced it. “Take Me I’m Yours” is the poppiest thing here. It’s on red vinyl.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Goodbye Cruel World
The Only Flame in Town (12 inch single)
Everyday I Write The Book (12 inch single)
“Goodbye Cruel World” is arguably Elvis Costello’s worst album. I’ve owned it before but I got rid of it because I didn’t like the way it sounded. I gave it another chance. I like it now. I’ve either become more open-minded and accepting or my ears have become soft and mushy from prolonged exposure to horrible music. The production is very 80’s, but the songs are good. Elvis Costello has said he hopes that sound never comes back.
Among other things, Costello is known for collaborating with his musical heroes. He has worked with George Jones, Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Chet Baker, and Allen Toussaint among others. On “The Only Flame in Town” he sings with Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates and fulfills his lifelong dream of being Oates.
“Everyday I Write The Book” was a hit as it should have been. It has a couple of good non-album b-sides.
Grand Funk – We’re An American Band
The Funk of Forty Thousand Years. Okay, let’s weigh the pros and cons here. The title song is great. It stands today as one of the great anthems of 70’s rock and roll decadence. The other songs are okay. The production by Todd Rundgren is fine by me. The shiny gold metallic cover is very nice. I like the yellow colored vinyl. So far, so good, right? If you open up the gatefold sleeve you’ll see this:
What the hell were they thinking? They must have been on dope.
Posted by Big Kev at 12:08 PM
June 2, 2006
Robert Earl Keen and Reckless Kelly @ HOB, West Hollywood: June 1, 2006
Always a treat seeing all the Texans on the Sunset Strip when REK heads out west...and Thursday night at my favorite venue, the House of Blues, West Hollywood was no exception. Austin's best bar band ever Reckless Kelly did an awesome job getting the crowd all riled up for Robert Earl Keen, performing a set that was slightly more country than their last LA appearance. After Reckless made way for Mr. Keen, the crowd was treated to a full two-hour set that included signatures like "Gringo Honeymoon," "The Bucking Song," "The Great Hank," "Dreadful Selfish Crime," "Furnace Fan," "Corpus Christi Bay," "The Front Porch Song," "Five Pound Bass," "Feelin' Good Again," and of course "I'm Comin' Home," and "The Road Goes on Forever," plus plenty of humor like only REK has (ask me about the "Mickey Mouse Outfit" joke).
The only thing that would have made the night more enjoyable would have been the absence of my ex-boyfriend.
Posted by darlin at 12:26 PM