Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Italian kid gots a coupla poems online

...at Foliate Oak. Dig 'em.

Review and vid from last week's Stoogeshow

Barb Holliday penned this review for butijustlikemusic.com and shot this vid.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reggae in your jeggae

Thanks to Matt Hembree, who plays bass in Pablo & the Hemphill 7 and let me borrow Lloyd Bradley's Bass Culture (a great social-political-cultural history of reggae), I'm now stalking Duke Reid's Treasure Chest, Prince Buster Fabulous Greatest Hits, and The Best of Studio One Collection on Amazon.

I don't pretend to be a reggae expert -- far from it. The Clash (their covers of "Police and Thieves" and "Pressure Drop," "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," and the dub tracks on Sandinista!) and the Specials' first album were my gateway drugs in the same way that the early Rolling Stones, Animals, and Yardbirds led me inexorably to blues. Live exposure to Peter Tosh (singing his anthem "African" to the KZEW Rolling Stones audience at the Palladium in Dallas in '78, then asking, "Is reggae music not a great music?" and receiving cheers rather than jeers in return) and more crucially, PH7 and Sub Oslo from 2002-2008 cemented my interest.

1) Bob Marley - Live and Natty Dread are the albums that mattered to me, even though they were post-Tosh and Bunny -- the former for "Trenchtown Rock" ("One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain") and the latter for "Lively Up Yourself" and "Rebel Music," which contains what may be my all-time favorite lyric from any song ("Three o'clock road block, and I've got to throw away my little herb stalk"), not just for the flow but for the way Bob draws out the words. Legend is the lazy man's choice, but one I still reach for when I want to hear "Redemption Song."
2) Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution. The sound of the Jamaican diaspora, UK edition. Listened to this a whole lot with Stuart Bell when we shared the bottom floor of the house at Collinwood and Sanguinet (now demolished) in 1979. It made me unreasonably happy the first time I heard PH7 play "Sound System."
3) Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come. I thought this film and soundtrack were kind of overrated, especially in light of the fact that the latter repeats two songs. But it's the first place I heard the Maytals, and the Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon."
4) Bunny Wailer - Blackheart Man. As Bradley's book points out, Rastafari is a lot more than an excuse to smoke lots of weed; rather, it's a complex and open-ended approach to philosophical-spiritual inquiry. Bunny Livingstone epitomizes the country man vibe and aesthetic that roots reggae brought to Jamaican pop music. When I was stationed in Korea, I had this on a cassette tape Charles Buxton made me. On the other side was...
6) Burning Spear - Harder Than the Best. Maybe my favorite reggae. Every cut signifies. I wish I still had my copy of Social Living that my future ex-wife donated to Goodwill in Shreveport back in '89. But having this on vinyl again is rill nice.
7) Rockers. A film and soundtrack I dug a whole lot more than The Harder They Come, even though I wasn't previously a fan of Inner Circle. Horsemouth Wallace is an engaging character, and the sequence of Junior Murvin's original "Police and Thieves" into the Heptones' "Book of Rules" (Bradley's text reveals what a key player Leroy Sibbles was as singer-bassist-composer-arranger-talent scout) into Tosh's "Stepping Razor" into Jacob Miller's "Tenement Yard" ("best smile in reggae," Joe Vano says) always destroys me.
8) The King Kong Compilation. A collection of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae tracks produced by a Chinese-Jamaican record store owner who died in 1971, supposedly after Lee Perry put a curse on him. Desmond Dekker's "The Israelites" was played on NYC radio when I was 12, and was as culturally incomprehensible to me then as was Sir Douglas Quintet's "Mendocino." Some good Maytals here (I need to find a good comp on them, too) along with Ken Boothe ("UK pop reggae"), the Melodians, Delroy Wilson ("smooth operator"), and on and on.
8) Lee Perry - Arkology. A veritable bath of dub. There are a ton of dub comps out there, but this three-disc set is the one I reach for when I want to hear the masterwork of Scratch (although Joe Vano swears by the chronologically-sequenced, four-disc I Am the Upsetter, so take your pick).
9) Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. A more concise dub statement, and the melodica master's name just happens to conflate the names of our late and current young cats. There are no coincidences.
10) Congos - Heart of the Congos. A sublime statement from a Perry-produced vocal duo. I need to lay hands on Culture's Two Sevens Clash as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

9.25.2010, FTW

What a pleasure it was to share the stage at the Moon with E.T.A. and china kills girls. The Austin band dropped out, which actually made it a perfect bill, for my money. Man for man, E.T.A. is the most exciting band I've seen in a long, long while. It's like each muso is fighting for your undivided attention, and the payoff is more rockaroll thrills per song than the average band. Brooks Holliday can take it from a whisper to a scream and writes smart lyrics to boot. If there's any justice in rockaroll, these guys are gonna be huge.

While china kills girls is still a young band, frontman Johnny Wenger (an incredibly upful, tatted 'n' pierced cat who's been at Mrs. Baird's for 22 years and has served with his wife on the PTA at their daughter's school) already has the stage owning presence of a samurai, and the classic two guitars-bass-drums combo behind him churns with controlled fury. They've got a great set of songs (my faves are "Blue Collar" and "Devil's Handshake") and should be done with their debut CD shortly.

Got to hang with Teague and Hembree a bit before the show. Jon said Pinkish Black is playing a fashion show (!) at the Grotto with Holy Moly (!) on 10.16. It's supposed to be a vampire theme; he and Daron are looking for some sailor suits, he said, "Because us in Hawaiian shirts and leis would still be the darkest thing they've ever seen."

With supports like we had, the li'l Stoogeband had to work our asses off, the way we did when we played after the Dangits at Lola's Stockyards and The Black Dotz at Lola's 6th Street. Clay Stinnett from the Dotz was in the house with his bride, but they had to head back to home in Dallas early, so we opened with "No Fun" at Clay's request. Teague called a toon we hadn't practiced -- "Johanna" -- and I fucked it up because I forgot that the guitar break cycles through the progression six times, not four. Duh. I also had the biggest party foul at Doc's on Matturday when I forgot the C change in "Nonalignment Pact." As Mike Watt would say, "Baka Ken."

I honestly don't remember much else about what we played, except that the sound onstage was terrible (I couldn't hear Johnny Trashpockets' guitar at the start of E.T.A.'s set, so I asked the soundguy to turn it up; a market coworker who was there told me that my guitar was inaudible out front, and I'd turned up, too, once we started). Mainly, we were just feeding off the crowd's energy, as trite as that sounds. Myself, I had Johnny T. from E.T.A. and Jake Norgaard from china kills girls standing immediately to my right, so I felt like I had to put out. Plus Hembree and I would periodically crash into each other and be "The Homos," as is our wont.

Before the show, my sweetie 'n' I had dinner at Fuzzy's Tacos, where I saw a cat I worked with at RadioShack, whom I hadn't seen in eight years until earlier in the week at the market, with his wife and three strapping sons. And another market coworker was there with his daughter. It's like my life is becoming more integrated or something.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pics from the Moon at meezlady.blogspot.com

My sweetie posted some of her pics of E.T.A., china kills girls, and Stoogeaphilia doing the stuff we do at the Moon last night on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha? Also, if you haven't seen E.T.A. or china kills girls yet, you owe it to yourself. Speaking of which, here's a snippet of vid of china kills girls from last night's show.

Mo' E.T.A. at the Moon

E.T.A. - "Folsom Prison Blues" at the Moon

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stoogeaphilia, E.T.A, Sunglasses & Mushrooms, and china kills girls @ the Moon, 9.25.2010

Jason Robinson and Anthony Davis' "Cerulean Landscape"


In the fullness of time, the '70s have come to seem (to your humble chronicler o' events, at least) like a golden age of jazz, possibly because that was when I was discovering the music. The thrill of the new sticks with you. Back in the '70s, some of my favorite recordings were duos -- a format that, besides being inexpensive to record and a reflection of the influence of the AACM, also tended to throw the performers' individual contributions and interaction between them into brilliant relief.

Bassist Charlie Haden was responsible for some of the ones I loved best: Closeness and The Golden Number with revolving casts of partners, and As Long As There's Music with pianist Hampton Hawes. (If you're lucky enough to live in Fort Worth, Doc's Records had the first two of those the last time I looked.)

Another recording from the period I recall today with some fondness was pianist Anthony Davis' Of Blues and Dreams, which, atypically for the time, was largely through-composed, a finely wrought set of chamber jazz. Davis went on to compose operas and teach at universities, but the latest batch of Clean Feed releases includes this 2008 date that pairs him with multi-reed man Jason Robinson, with whom he's been duetting since 1998.

For the most part, the pieces that Robinson and Davis prepared for this set are almost Ellingtonian in their lapidary elegance and beauty, highlighting the richness of Davis' chordal voicings and Robinson's big, brawny, Ben Webster-ish tone on tenor. On Robinson's "Vicissitudes (For Mel)" and the impressionistic title tune from Of Blues and Dreams, which they revisit here, the two men evoke the spirits of Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons. The theme to "Andrew" (which could be a dedication to Mr. Hill, I suppose) has a Monkian angularity. A nice surprise.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Guitar Series 5: I Never Metaguitar - Solo Guitars for the 21st Century"


Lately, I've been falling in love again with the sound of the guitar. It's a little orchestra you can carry on your back; plug it in, and you can use it to generate an electronic apocalypse of sci-fi proportions. So I found the arrival of this anthology of forward-looking solo guitar performers, curated for Portuguese li'l-label-that-could Clean Feed by the innovative axe-slinger/composer Elliott Sharp, to be particularly fortuitous. After a couple of spins, I can already tell I'm going to be spending as much time with it as I have with Nels Cline's Coward and Jeff Beck's Emotion and Commotion.

Sucker starts off with Mary Halvorson's "In Two Parts Missing." Opening with crystalline-toned, two-hand-tapped fret math, Halverson electronically warps and alters her pitch to create a sense of head-spinning discombobulation, then essays some distorted flamenco chords, sounding like a cross between the Sonny Sharrock of Guitar and the Zoot Horn Rollo of "Peon" and "One Red Rose That I Mean." I guess what I'm saying is, she covers a hell of a lot of sonic turf in just 5:29.

On "Act As If Nothing Ever Happened," Chicagoan Jeff Parker, whose work with Tortoise I need to investigate, layers searching lines over a shifting backdrop of organ-like chords and pulsing looped scraping noises. Bay Area experimentalist and Beefheart acolyte Henry Kaiser pays a spaciously multi-tracked electro-acoustic tribute to Nels Cline. Jean-Francois Pauvros takes bowed guitar to places Jimmy Page never imagined, making it sound for all the world like a weeping cello. (Electronics are an indispensible element of these solo performances, allowing the players to sample and loop themselves to create architectonic orchestral structures.)

Boulder-based prepared guitar specialist Janet Feder creates an elegiac mood on "Heater." Raoul Bjorkenheim somehow manages to make his axe sound like a bowed bass, a saxophone, and a flute, sometimes simultaneously. Frenchman Noel Akchote plays a conventional chord progression with a shimmering, tremelo tone, while godfather Nels Cline -- who's poised to become the SRV of experimental guitar, and I mean that in the best way -- is uncharacteristically muted and Jim Hall-like. Brandon Ross plays a somber lament on banjo, with wide intervallic leaps, while Mike Cooper plays an Ornette tune on resophonic guitar with slide.

Michael Gregory, a veteran of the '70s NYC loft scene (when he was known as Michael Gregory Jackson), contributes a mutated Steely Dan blues shuffle. It's noteworthy that Chicago expat Scott Fields, whose previously Clean Feed release Fugu I reported on earlier this year, recorded the dense and busy improvisation "Buzkashi" totally sans F/X. The sounds on Kazuhisa Uchihashi's "Little Creatures" are scarcely identifiable as guitar, but not in the same way as Hendrix on Are You Experienced? -- rather, the randomized electronic tones recall musique concrete and Stockhausen.

Mick Barr's "Coiled Malescence" lives up to its name; I found its knife-in-the-ear ECU single-string acrobatics tough going. Luckily, Gunnar Geisse's "The Day Rauschenberg Met De Kooning" provides some relief with its ringing, although still un-"guitar-like" harmonics. Curator Sharp shuts things down with "Telemetry," a complex and fast-moving piece that's more than just an interesting diversion. Those with an ear for this kind of thing should also check out his Octal: Book Two from earlier this year.

Ches Smith & These Arches' "Finally out of my hands"


If there's a trend in jazz today -- and by jazz I mean new improvised music, not entertainment based on rote reproductions of historical styles -- it's something like "musicians assimilating larger vocabularies." Rather than playing infinite variations on the chord sequence to "I Got Rhythm," today's improvisers are blending influences from post-bebop and post-Coltrane free jazz with European free improvisation and modern classical styles, rock, hip-hop, and whatevah floats their boat. You could blame John Zorn (or Frank Zappa) if you wanted to, but it's not a calculated synthesis; rather, it's the natural outgrowth of performers who grew up absorbing a range of influences applying everything they know to what they create.

Ches Smith is a drummer from San Francisco who relocated to Noo Yawk City to work with the likes of Marc Ribot, Tim Berne, Terry Riley, and John Tchicai, if you want some names from a variety of traditions to conjure with. For this project, Smith's intent was to write for a band that "improvises well even without tunes": saxophonist Tony Malaby, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and Andrea Parkins on accordion, organ, and electronics.



In this mix, Malaby emerges as the dominant solo voice; his Ornettishly ruminative blues tonality and multiphonics never cease to engage. Parkins employs her arsenal of axes to provide beds of color and texture to frame his contributions. Halvorson's wiry skronk has been better served elsewhere. Here, she sounds like Charlie Ellerbee on Ornette's early Prime Time sides, her melodic contributions hampered by an uncharacteristically brittle tone. Smith's convoluted melodies sometimes recall Henry Threadgill's (to mention another leader who writes interesting charts for ensembles with unusual instrumentation). Make no mistake, though: it's the drummer's date, and Smith's clattering traps outline the contours of every piece.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

J.H. Top Ten

1) First Rays of the New Rising Sun
2) Live At Woodstock DVD
3) The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions: Trumps the Band of Gypsys album, even without "Machine Gun."
4) Live At Monterey DVD: Jimi explodes out the gate with "Killing Floor," essays the definitive "Like A Rolling Stone," and caps it with the iconic autodestruct finale of "Wild Thing." I just miss the action painting intro from the original VHS version (created because D.A. Pennebaker dropped his camera during "Can You See Me" and so had no footage to go with the song).



5) Live At the Isle of Wight DVD: Some of this is painful to watch. Jimi looks drained, his amp randomly broadcasts radio crosstalk (my old Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face used to do the same thing, to my great delight), and sometimes ("Red House") his mojo just ain't working; notice the way he just drops his guitar on the stage at the end of the set. But it includes the only live vids of some Cry of Love/First Rays songs, and the band with Mitch Mitchell takes some of the Band of Gypsys songs (including an incandescent "Machine Gun") places they just didn't go with Buddy.



6) Electric Ladyland, side 3: "1983" is a masterful psychedelic sound painting.
7) More Experience: A cheapie import, recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall when the Experience was on its last legs. Inasmuch as classic rock radio and a generation of SRV wannabes have made it near impossible for me to enjoy "Little Wing" or "Voodoo Chile," this is where I heard 'em first. The "Little Wing" in particular is sublime.



8) Axis: Bold As Love
9) Are You Experienced?: Again, classic rock radio has made it unnecessary for me to hear about half of this ever again, but you gotta have "May This Be Love," "I Don't Live Today," "Third Stone From the Sun," and the title track (which I once saw Jim Suhler play on wah-wah dobro to great effect).
10) Drivin' South: If you ever see a copy of this, lemme know. Released on Jungle back in Y2K and withdrawn at Experience Hendrix's insistence, this set from ca. '65 captures Jimi playing blues on a shitty Fender Duosonic with Curtis Knight's band in some Jersey dive. I heard an earlier release (on the Brit Music For Pleasure label, if my shakey memory serves) once in some guy's college room while we were playing chess and still remember it 35 years later. A used copy goes for a bill and a half on Amazon these days. Jeez.

Monday, September 20, 2010

9.20.2010, FTW

1) Terry uploaded the Skil Dragon Remixes to HIO's last.fm page. These consist of the live recording of our last 1919 Hemphill stand with some added snippets of bar chatter (we giggle more than any experimental musos ever should) and beats (inspahrd by Tony Sims, methinks). Sean Kirkpatrick's contributions are less audible here than on the raw track. Other noises you can hear better include me applying rosin to a violin bow which has a contact mic attached, rolling screwdrivers across a contact-mic'ed cymbal, and using the Ebow on my Telecaster (which I brought along because I thought I was going to play guitar with Violent Squid, who showed up but wound up not playing because their drummer didn't feel like driving down from Denton). Also included in the remix are the actual sounds of the instruments "playing themselves" in Terry's car on the way to the Bull and Bush after the gig.

2) Finally got around to playing guitar with Frank Cervantez yesterday. We've been talking about it for months. He brought over his Jazzmaster and a li'l Vox amp. I played the Tele through the Hughes & Kettner. I showed him how to play the intro to "Hey Baby," and we fooled around with "Drifting" and a half dozen other Hendrix toons. He noticed how you could make a song out of one little section of "Castles Made of Sand." We played for a couple of hours, then watched the version of "Machine Gun" from the Isle of Wight DVD a few times. (My disc was skipping, but I managed to fix it by wiping it off. Hooray!) He brought me a CD-R of stuff by Aussie psych band Tame Impala and funky soul man Lee Fields. I hit him back with the new Record Collector mag with Kris Needs' Hendrix piece, a John Lee Hooker CD, and the Blues Project's Projections LP (because he'd just read Al Kooper's autobiography Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards). We're gonna work on "Angel" and "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" for next time. (The only time I ever practice is when I'm learning material; I'm too dull and unimaginative to write anything.) Nice to have another playing outlet besides the Stoogeband and HIO. Might have to get me an acoustic guitar one of these days so we can play some Neil Young.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

J.H.

On this date 40 years ago, my mom came and picked me up from middle school to tell me that Jimi Hendrix had died. I'd seen the Woodstock movie with the epochal and iconic "Star-Spangled Banner" in it the summer before, and a few weeks later, in Greenwich Village (where our parents had taken my sister and me to see a Japanese rock musical called Golden Bat), I bought my first copy of Rolling Stone, with the sepia tone picture of Jimi on the cover.

Seeing Jimi on film and hearing Are You Experienced?, which I bought later that summer, it was kind of incomprehensible to me that all of those sounds were made by an electric guitar. (I had just co-opted a cheapie acoustic my sister had gotten in the mail, and wouldn't talk our parents into buying me an electric for a couple of years yet.) Jimi's set from Monterey -- a portion of which was released that year, and which I got acquainted with while lying in bed with a tank of oxygen while suffering from a respiratory ailment that winter -- was more visceral and accessible, more like the Who's Live At Leeds, which I drove my sister crazy listening to four times a day after buying it the day it was released.

Guitarists were kind of scared of Jimi in those days. He seemed kind of inimitable. Lenny Kaye's Rolling Stone review of The Cry of Love ended with a description of a guitarist of Kaye's acquaintance who could "do" any name guitarist trying and failing to cop Hendrix's mojo. Ernie Isley from the Isley Brothers (whose older brothers had hired Hendrix as a sideman in the early '60s), Robin Trower (the ex-Procol Harum guitarist whose "Whiskey Train" we used to play endless versions of), and Franke Marino (a Canadian who claimed to have been touched by Jimi's spirit while on acid) all performed simulacra, but all missed out on an essential ingredient (or several).

My idol/best friend/nemesis Michael R., who was the best guitarist in our neighborhood, showed me some of Hendrix's tunes and techniques. I learned a lot more from an all-Hendrix issue of Guitar Player, which I studied extensively while flunking out of the state university in the fall of '75. While there, I met enough people who were destroying their psyches with drugs in a futile attempt to be "like Jimi" to ensure that I wouldn't be able listen to Hendrix music for about 15 years after dropping out. Most memorable were the kid who had all the same equipment as Jimi and could make every noise he did without ever playing a lick of music, and the townie guitarist I knew who fried his brain on acid. The last time I ever saw him, he grinned a grin of utter desperation while assuring me, "Better times are coming."

After I moved to Texas in '78, I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan, first on a live tape that a record producer friend of mine from Fort Worth had recorded, then in some 6th Street dive down in Austin I'd stumbled into while pub crawling one night. Stevie had an encyclopedic command of blues styles, including Hendrix's, and famously covered "Voodoo Chile," "Little Wing," and "Third Stone From the Sun" (complete with laying-the-guitar-on-the-floor feedback finale). In the '80s, I finally got to where I could listen to Hendrix again and recognize the colossal scope of his achievement (he changed the very way his instrument sounded; how many players can make that claim?), and the tragedy of his early demise. He checked out at 27; in the fullness of time, I can see the colossal waste in that. He was just getting started. (My friend Michael OD'd at 28.)

Brit scribe Kris Needs just penned a well-researched-and-written piece for Record Collector on the music Jimi made in his last year, which remains my favorite part of his output (the Band of Gypsys, the Woodstock set, the tracks compiled on First Rays of the New Rising Sun). He was finding his feet as a composer, had the most sympathetic accompaniment of his career with Billy Cox on bass and either Mitch Mitchell or Buddy Miles on drums, and opened Electric Lady Studios, which would have allowed him to conduct the marathon recording sessions he favored at will, without having to undergo the grueling tour schedule he maintained to the very end.

This week I've been listening to The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions, which capture the Band of Gypsys prepping for its storied Fillmore East stand, released in 2002 on Experience Hendrix's "bootleg" Dagger label. (Thanks, Frank!) Music to dig while pondering what might have been...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

just what the world needs: another HIO website

having unassed virb.com, we now have an HIO page up at last.fm. last night terry uploaded the first two volumes of revisionist history, our "collected works that we can still stand to listen to as of right now." all of it is streamable or downloadable for free.

the first volume covers the period 12.2009-7.2010, including our house session with trombonist patrick crossland; recordings from the kessler theater in oak cliff on 3.7.2010 and 3.28.2010; the vortex show on easter sunday outside the modern art museum of fort worth; the dallas and fort worth dates of our june "world tour;" and our 7.8.2010 session from the marty leonard chapel at the lena pope home.

the second volume, a work in progress, includes our 9.10.2010 set at 1919 hemphill with sean kirkpatrick from nervous curtains sitting in on keys. terry promises to upload the "skil dragon" recording tonight.

(our very first recordings remain available on the same basis via reverbnation.com. additional shows are archived on matt hembree's katboy.com site.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

norma's cafe hamburger

it comes with two patties,
browned crispy on the outside,
juicy on the inside,
each with the cheese cooked on top,
lettuce tomatoes pickles and
a slice of purple onion
like the ones i ate as a kid
in greek diners
with pictures of telly savalas
with the owner hanging above
the first dollar he ever made,
a seeburg jukebox in every booth.

the fries were killer too
(j.w. says the secret is
double frying, and i realize
i haven't had ones this good
in many years).

it's an archetypal texas cafe:
the two specials on the chalkboard
with two soups of the day
and five veggies
(you get three with the entree).

eating in diners remains
one of my most vivid memories
of being a kid on long island.
when mcdonald's came, when i was ten,
we ate there once and didn't like it.
it was only later, when i was
a teenager and subject
to the whims of other teenagers
that i started eating there
on a regular basis.
i dig norma's because
it feels like home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Suffolk County State of Mind

Things We Like

1) Largo. Geoff Ginsberg pulled my coat to this concept album about the U.S. immigrant experience, written by the guys that were in the Hooters and wrote hits for Cindy Lauper and Joan Osborne. A song ("Medallion") about a Pakistani cab driver that segues (with the same percussion track) into obscure 19th century poet Francis Scott Key's words which are more familiar with a different musical setting should be horrible and corny, but it isn't.

2) Brit folksingers. Hers: Billy Bragg, the jangly sound of socialism, great early ("Levi Stubbs' Tears") and late ("I Keep Faith"), marginal in the middle ("Socialism of the Heart"). Mine: Roy Harper, the patron saint of Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and every early '70s Brit rock band that had a folkie element. His great album is probably Stormcock, followed by GQ and Bullinamingvase. He owns the rights to his whole catalog and has reished them on his own Science Friction imprint. Dig him. My fave song: "Highway Blues," a hitchhiking song that makes me nostalgic for that time, even though today, if I was driving, I probably wouldn't pick him up.

3) Rob Bosquez as Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Rose Marine Theater. Trying to Latinize Williams' classic, not to mention competing with the memory of Liz Taylor and Paul Newman in the film versh, is a gutsy move, and while on preview night, at least, it wasn't entirely successful, Bosquez is like a force of nature as an actor (and dramatist -- his own body of work made me secretly hope for a magical realist reimagining of T.W.), and his Big Daddy reminded me of my own pops. Performances tonight, next Friday and Saturday. Check it out.

4) Mark Growden. His third time at the Kessler in Oak Cliff was maybe the best show we've ever seen him do, and we've seen a few. He's been touring the material from Saint Judas for awhile now, and he's added some instrumental flourishes and changed up the arrangements in ways that make for a beautifully paced set. He has a live version of the Saint Judas songs (plus a Townes Van Zandt cover) out in November and an album of new material (some of which he's been airing live for a year or so now) with his Tucson "banjo band" out in February. Then he's coming back to the Kessler for its first anniversary in March. Hooray! (Nice having Saint Judas on spiffy double vinyl now, too. An exquisite pressing. Kudos to Porto Franco.)

5) Pie. Dinner at Norma's Cafe in Oak Cliff last night included a dead solid perfect apple pie, the crust firm and flavorful, the fruit and spices blended immaculately. Joint's been there since I lived up the street 32 years ago (longer than that, actually -- opened the year before I was born), and it's still just good. Then before we decamped for the Fort, had a taste of real key lime pie baked by Melissa Hennings from the Kess, which was also dee-lish. She says it's easy and is sending us the recipe. If this works, I could weigh 400 pounds soon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stuff I Used To Think Was Funnier Than A Fish

1) Mad magazine.
2) Bored of the Rings by The Harvard Lampoon.
3) Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?
4) The Surprising Sheep and Other Mind Excursions by The Surprising Cerf.
5) Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers by The Firesign Theater.
6) National Lampoon.
7) The Mothers of Invention (a compilation released in MGM's "Golden Archives Series" after Mike Curb dropped all the "drug-related" bands).
8) Beast of the Bonzos by the Bonzo Dog Band.
9) Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles.
10) Kentucky Fried Movie. "Don't crowd me, Joe."

9.11.2010, ftw

nine years ago
fucked up day
we were drinking coffee
when a guy from the quality control lab
said somebody flew a plane
into the world trade center

i was thinking a cessna
but we went over and looked
at the tv and saw
the first tower engulfed in flame

i was thinking that
my granddaughter was six months old
("what a world we've given her")
then the second plane hit

i tried for hours to get through
to my sister in jersey
and my buddy jay who lived
down by washington square

my brother in law was waiting
to go over the bridge
when he saw the first tower explode
so he turned around and went home

my nieces knew kids
whose parents worked in the towers
luckily none of 'em were there
that day

when i finally got hold of jay
he told me, "kate and i just watched
the second tower collapse
from the roof our our building.
we're going to go donate blood."

the first time they tried
to blow it up, back in '93,
i told henry juarez,
"this is just the beginning."

i remember that day like i remember
the day jfk was shot (all the teachers
were crying and we got sent home for a week
to run around yelling while our parents
stayed glued to the tv),
the '72 munich olympics
(stayed awake all night
till they announced that
all the israeli athletes were dead)
and the challenger explosion
(i was delivering mail on dyess air force base
and saw it happen on somebody's tv)

after 9.11, i stayed glued to the tv
for a couple of weeks until i decided
that it was time to get on with living.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

New JATSDFM single

The ever-prolific Matt Hickey has a new Joe and the Sonic Dirt From Madagascar single you can stream or download from bandcamp.com here. You can hear him go "boing-boing-boing" with Hentai Improvising Orchestra this Friday night at 1919 Hemphill.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Warren Zevon's "Keep Me In Your Heart"

I wasn't a big fan, but this made me cry anyway. Which, I suppose, makes it a pretty good song, at least. For Tad, and my pop.

Nels Cline’s “DIRTY BABY”


A jazz guy that’s consorted with punk-rockers and avant-gardists of every stripe since the mid-‘90s and earned a payday with arty alt-rockers Wilco since 2004, 50something Angeleno Nels Cline’s maybe the most interesting axe-slinger to emerge in the last 20 years. (To these feedback-scorched ears, the only player who even comes close is Japanese psych-rocker Michio Kurihara.) With 2009’s masterful solo overdubfest Coward, Cline seemed to be hitting his stride, an impression borne out by this year’s encyclopedic half-studio/half-live double CD Initiate.

The music on Cline’s new double CD box set DIRTY BABY (out October 12th on Cryptogramophone) was commissioned by Initiate producer/poet David Breskin -- who produced crucial ‘80s sides for Ronald Shannon Jackson and John Zorn -- to accompany a book of L.A. artist Ed Ruscha’s “censor strip” paintings from the ‘80s and ‘90s. (The box set includes two booklets of Ruscha reproductions as well as a third containing liner notes by Cline and session photos.) The producer had previously worked on a similar project with guitarist Bill Frisell (2002’s RICHTER 858, devoted to the abstract art of Gerhard Richter), and his selection of Cline for this project indicates an appreciation of what may be the guitarist’s great strength: his compositions. (What this isn’t: a “hot lixxx” rekkid.) Cline’s no stranger to integrating his music with visual art, either, having worked with action painter Norton Wisdom in the group Banyan.

Recorded in three days during January 2008, DIRTY BABY consists of an extended piece, divided into six sections for programming ease, on one disc and 33 short pieces -- originally intended to be no longer than a minute apiece; a couple run as long as three minutes and change -- on the other. Inspired by Ruscha’s Silhouette series, “Side A” attempts to musically depict nothing less than the rise and fall of American civilization, and its succession of musical events unfolds at a leisurely pace, while the pieces on “Side B” are more directly referential of Ruscha’s abstract Cityscapes and thus are more episodic, with Zornian quick cuts between moods and musical styles.

Besides Cline’s regular accompanists Scott Amendola on drums and Devin Hoff on bass, the two discs feature different musicians and instrumentation, reflective of their different themes. On “Side A,” the rustic tones of chromatic harmonica, banjo, ukelele, and pedal steel bump up against the ultramodern electronics of Jon Brion’s EMS Synthi, Amendola’s loops, and the leader’s arsenal of effects, Megamouth, and Quintronics Drum Buddy. It’s a ruminative journey, reminiscent of an old ECM side, until the ensemble locks into a couple of mutant trip-hop grooves and proceeds to ride each one for 10 minutes plus. On “Side B,” the musical settings range from primitive cigarbox guitars to orchestral arrangements to feedback meltdowns to heavy metal (used by American soldiers to torture Iraqi prisoners –- fathom that). The relative brevity of the musical intervals means it’s harder to wrap your head around than “Side A,” and a mite disconcerting if you try to do so. Worthwhile, though.

Monday, September 06, 2010

pssst! hey, kid! wanna read some lester bangs rockwrite?

not all of this has been anthologized, either. four pages' worth! (the next/previous page links are itty bitty at the bottom.) wallow and enjoy!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

9.5.2010, ftw

a peculiar dream this morning: i was up late, expecting t. horn over for some reason, when my cellphone rang. (i don't carry one except at work.) someone said "hello" in my daughter's voice, then was silent. then while i was still on the line, the phone rang again, and i struggled to pick it up. i held up my hands and they were empty, even though i could feel the phone in my right hand. then i woke up.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Gimme A Stone

Talked to my buddy Geoff in Philly today about his great story in the Penn State mag about obscuro Philly band Wax (see a couple of posts down), the Stooges show he just saw in Atlantic City, and lots more. Always an inspiring cat to talk to, he says he's "more of a rock guy than a punk guy" (in the same way that I am), and while we don't always agree about everything musical, it gives me a much-needed kick in the pants to hear how passionate he always is about his latest discovery.

To wit: this song, a version of the David and Goliath saga which originated on a 1998 album called Largo, the brainchild of keyboardist Rob Hyman, who was in Wax and later, the more successful Hooters (whose members went on to write hits for pop divas Cindy Lauper and Joan Osborne). Largo was a concept album, somehow based on Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony," with cameos by Lauper, Osborne, the Chieftains, Taj Mahal, and the Band's Levon Helm. Supposedly Pete Townshend heard it and bought copies for everyone he knew (although no one else apparently did), and Roger Daltrey's been playing a couple of Largo songs in the middle of his solo set, sandwiched between the Whosongs.



The song's also been covered by Little Feat. Ginsberg said he heard a live show where the late Feat drummer Ritchie Hayward sang it -- the only song he ever sang onstage.



Geoff says that Largo's headed for Broadway. Stranger things could happen.

9.4.2010, ftw

good day off. beautiful weather. took three walks: 1) to doc's to pick up a reish of tom waits' swordfishtrombones to replace our rather distressed one; 2) to curley's with my sweetie for lunch (she: frito pie, me: two hot dogs) and mint chocolate chip custard; and 3) to borders to see if they had the new ish of record collector with my fb pal kris needs' hendrix feature (yeah, right, as if, although i'd swear i've seen that mag in this town _somewhere_). wound up ordering it online. site said my order would be processed manually and i'd hear from 'em in _seven days_. ha!

listening to rubaiyat, a lenny kaye-produced compilation from 1990 (elektra records' 40th anniversary) that featured then-current elektra artists covering songs from the elektra-asylum canon. kevin kunreuther pulled my coat to it, and i found one online. some nice stuff: billy bragg (one of the three artists whose stuff my sweetie wants to collect) covering love's "seven and seven is" (once beloved of ftw's own gideons), the pixies essaying paul butterfield's "born in chicago," kronos quartet's version of television's "marquee moon," ernie isley's take on the cars' "let's go" (their only song i can stand to listen to), teddy pendergrass applying his mojo to bread's "make it with you," bill frisell and wayne horvitz playing a song from dylan's planet waves, the late danny gatton rippin' it up on rhinoceros' "apricot brandy" (which my college band used to play, although i'm sure none of those guys remember it), leaders of the new school jammin' pieces of a dream's "mt. airy groove" (big hit when i was stationed in korea), michael feinstein doing joni mitchell's "both sides now" as covered by judy collins (which our cd player won't play for some reason). shitty versions of songs by mc5 and stooges, too, but overall, pretty snat.

tonight i inventoried our vinyl collection because i keep buying multiple copies of albums by the artists my sweetie wants to collect (besides bragg, that'd be tom waits and elvis costello). fwiw, our top ten artists based on the number of vinyl rekkids of theirs we own (cd's don't count) are as follows:

1 and 2) elvis costello and frank zappa (11)
3 and 4) ornette coleman and the kinks (7)
5 and 6) the clash and doug sahm (6)
7-10) jeff beck, the stooges, tom waits, the who (5)

besides mr. bragg, we've currently got more holes in our waits collection than any of the others. (we're selective -- rather than completist -- obsessives, which makes this a little more affordable.) doc's has a copy of the mule variations 2lp for $40, which will risinger (with whom i'm planning to record some music that nobody else will ever hear) pulled my coat is only $19 on amazon. difficulty: no one ever seems to sell any of waits' island or anti- stuff, so this could take time. just part of the fun.

Darrin Kobetich - "Wine Down"

An experimental tune for wine glasses, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, kick drum and hi-hat, and djembe. Sounding a little influenced by Boris, methinks. A goodun.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Geoff Ginsberg on Wax

Scholarship on an Ugly Things level, elevated by some great writing. Ladies and gentlemen, my buddy Geoff Ginsberg (former All Music Guide scribe and Real O Mind Records honcho) recounts the history of a band you never heard of, via the Penn Gazette. I'm seriously in awe.

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets

I'm from the 20th century. Back then, if you heard somebody talking to himself in a public place, you figured he was crazy. Kids used to have to go to payphones if they wanted to talk to their main squeeze, away from mom and dad's intrusive ears. When they wanted to hear toons, their options were the jukebox at the malt shop, a crappy transistor radio jammed up against an ear, or a crappy record player up in their teenage bedroom, with the volume all the way down. My pop actually worked with the guy who invented the first video game, the year after I was born, but teens of that time had to rely on good ol' analog pinball to hone their hand-eye coordination.

Around the time I popped out, teens of a musical bent -- especially black, Italo-American, and Hispanic ones that prolly couldn't afford instruments -- could be found harmonizing on street corners in every major city. They called it doowop, after the nonsense syllables the bass singers would come up with. By the time I started working in rekkid stores in the early '70s, the most desirable collector's records were doowop singles, for which paunchy middle-aged guys with duckass hairdos would plop down big bucks to relive the glories of their misspent yoof. (Today you can't give those records away because all those guys have died or otherwise gone out of existence. "Fixed incomes" don't stretch enough to support the frivolity of rekkid collecting.)

Who knew that Frank Zappa (b. 1940) was also one of those guys? (Indeed, he and original Mothers of Invention lead singer Ray Collins wrote a bona fide hit, "Memories of El Monte," for one of the key doowop groups, the Penguins.) Released in 1969 amid the first "rock and roll revival," Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is a unique and oddball entry in the FZ discography. I first owned this record when I was 13, and I thought it was funny. But it was also familiar; records like the Dovells' "Bristol Stomp" and the Rays' "Silhouettes" / "Daddy Cool" were part of my growing up (as were the greasy Italian baritones named Jimmy and Tony on the "good music station" that my sister and I referred to as "Mafia music").







My old copy wound up getting donated to Goodwill in Shreveport by my ex-wife ca. 1990. I just found a clean vinyl copy at Doc's, bit the bullet, and paid $25 to hear it again. Vinyl is the only way to hear this album; FZ replaced the bass and drum tracks when he prepared it for CD release in the late '80s, and died before he was able to release a "restored" version. I remember being distinctly unimpressed by the re-recorded bass and drum tracks on the original CD versh of We're Only In It for the Money, so I never bothered to check out the CD Ruben. (The Zappa Family Trust just gave Ruben the deluxe reish treatment; I wasn't curious enough to check it out, but finding an original at Doc's near the end of my long walk last Thursday made it too perfect to pass on.)

Listening to this for the first time in 20 years, it sounded less ironic than it did back in the day, even with the speeded-up voices that had been a trademark of FZ's productions since early-'60s Studio Z days. Frank and the original Mothers admittedly really liked this kind of music, and it shows. Ray Collins, who always sounded smarmy on the original MOI's other records, sounds perfect here. His lead on "Anything" and the mellifluous sax solo (Bunk Gardner or Ian Underwood? YOU decide!) are nothing short of gorgeous. Ditto Roy Estrada's pachuco falsetto, deployed here as it was meant to be heard and not as an element of the music's "weirdness."



The three songs that originally appeared on the MOI's double-disc debut Freak Out! have a more naturalistic feel here, thanks to the more leisurely tempos and sumptuous vocal arrangements; "You Didn't Try To Call Me" even gained a pair of not-idiomatically-correct-but-still-fine FZ guitar solos. Among the new songs, I related the talking part of "Fountain of Love" to the one in the Velvets' "I Found A Reason," which I discovered maybe six months after Ruben. (Uncle Lou was a vocal R&B fan, too.) "Stuff Up the Cracks" (on which my rowdy college cohort used to try to harmonize) might be the first rockaroll suicide song. Its coda (FZ soloing over a two-chord vamp) sounds like the MOI breaking through the wall into the fictive past of Frank's imagination.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Los Lobos' "Tin Can Trust"

Back in the Reagan '80s, when I was Guarding Freedom's Frontier and Broooce and Prince were the straight media's duly anointed rockers o' the day, I was of the opinion that Los Lobos were the best American band. Sure, the mass-ass audience knew them primarily as the band that covered Ritchie Valens' pachuco pop for the '87 La Bamba biopic, but like Texas faves Doug Sahm and Brave Combo, these East L.A. Chicanos swallowed several musical traditions (rock, R&B of both the Jimmy Reed and Marvin Gaye strains, y'allternative, Tex-Mex, Mexican folk music) whole and could be equally expressive in any of 'em.

While gruff-voiced, dark-shaded Cesar Rosas fronted the band on their first couple of radio hits ("Don't Worry Baby," "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes"), it was hulking David Hidalgo's plaintive yelp and stinging, slash-and-burn guitar (imagine an Angeleno Peter Green) that emerged as Los Lobos' dominant voices. More to the point, Hidalgo and Louie Perez were a strong songwriting team, crafting evocative slice-of-life vignettes of struggle, grief, loss, and separation from loved ones that spoke directly to the Mexican-American immigrant experience. Their records got better and better, culminating in 1992's Kiko, which might just be the first magic realist rock 'n' roll record.

After that, I lost the thread for awhile. Los Lobos switched labels, scattered to do solo projects, developed an alternate career as children's entertainers, and had a return-to-form with 2006's The Town and the City. This year's Tin Can Trust appears at a moment when a segment of white America is panicking at the prospect of no longer being a majority within a decade or so and struggling to figure out how to create some kind of apartheid here (even though our Constitution and history are generally progressive when it comes to inclusion and enfranchisement).

Not that Hidalgo, Perez and their crew should have to shoulder the Brown Man's Burden, but the opening "Burn It Down" sounds like nothing more than the sound of a tinderbox about to explode, down to the self-immolating solo at the end. "On Main Street," which follows, is a gently loping paean to neighborhood and community, a vibe which continues with "Yo Canto." The title track's a trying man's blues for a sluggish economy, something anybody can relate to.



"Jupiter Or the Moon" is a somber cinematic soundscape, tinged with longing and regret, featuring a choked, jazzy solo from Hidalgo.



"Do the Murray" is a throwaway instrumental, followed by a couple of cuts evocative of the Grateful Dead, with whom Los Lobos famously shared stages and whose "Bertha" they once covered on a tribute album. Here, Rosas collaborates with longtime Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on "All My Bridges Burning," which returns to the opener's theme, and they cover the San Fran band's "L.A. Fadeaway," which they imbue with a muscular strut J. Garcia and Co. could never muster.

Things lag a little with "The Lady and the Rose," an archetypal Los Lobos "angel" song, but pick back up with the sprightly Tejano polka "Mujer Ingrata," and finish strong with "27 Spanishes," a gritty Aztec blues that chronicles the collision of the Spanish and the indigenous Americans, concluding on a lighthearted note: "later they became muy friendly / and their blood was often mixed / now they all hang out together / and play guitars for kicks."

Said it before, mean it now: the best American band. Tin Can Trust might not be their strongest work, but it's still good enough to pull this old '80s fan back in.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

9.1.2010, ftw

feeling crushed under the weight of stasis, and listening to dub reggae, the music of stasis. woke up this morning and read this story about microscopic shrimp in nyc water. was reminded of when i lived in bossier city, louisiana, where they pull their drinking water from the red river just a few miles downstream from where sister-city-across-the-river shreveport dumps the output from their sewage treatment plant. had a neighbor there who had a tank of fish that kept dying, so she sent a sample to the agriculture department, and was informed that her water had microscopic snails in it -- which i believe they refer to in that part of the country as a lagniappe -- a little something's extra for no more money.