Friday, November 21, 2008

Dug 'em/Dumped 'em

I’ve been keeping an eye out - and an ear (actually both of both) - for Sparky’s Flaw, a regional band that first caught my ear on a mix CD played in the car during a road trip with then-High School, now College Girl.
The band has a melodic, smart pop style, sometimes compared to that of Maroon 5 and The Fray, but I see the group more in the mold of The Format (which, alas, I’ve heard has broken up!) and Jack’s Mannequin.

I’ve listed this CD before, but I gave away my last copy to an editor at the Post, in hopes of getting him psyched to do a story on the band when they release their major label debut next spring. So, the nice press contact sent me a handful of copies to keep spreading the love. If you want one, send a comment - I’m not above bribery to discover who’s out there!

Also on the bill that night - headlining, in fact - was Brendan James, a sensitive, keyboard playing, singer/songwriter type more in the style of James Taylor and early Elton John (before the ghost of Liberace possessed him).

James has gotten the support of MTV for his new national tour, with the network sending a videographer out with him to catch moments on the road to be shared with fans in a series of online clips.

Much as I love James’ voice, and the guy was thoroughly charming when I chatted with him after the show, there’s a bit of ponderousness that takes hold in his set as he goes from one strongly emotive song to another. He’s obviously got a great smile and a sense of humor between songs. Would love to hear some of that in the material as well.
2. BRENDAN JAMES – The Day Is Brave (Decca/Velour)
You can read more about both acts in a preview story I wrote for the Washington Post.

And that's a good reminder to list the latest articles from that part of my working life, some of which also add to the O/CD Tally:
Warren Zevon Tribute at the Barns of Wolf Trap
3. WARREN ZEVON – S/T (Rhino)
Those ever-wonderful archivists at the world’s most fun record label have remastered, repackaged – with a bonus disc of alternate takes – and reissued Zevon’s masterful debut album.

Ingrid Michaelson at the Birchmere

This one came in the form of a digital download zip file, complete with a wealth of PDFs of articles about the charming singer/songwriter. I miss actual discs, but the ease of delivery, especially when I’m on a tight deadline, is really handy-dandy.
Jane Franklin Dance at Community Center
Hanson at the State Theatre

5. HANSON – The Walk (3CG)
I was very impressed with young (but not as young as he used to be!) Zac Hanson, who spoke to me for the Post preview. For a guy who’s been doing the media thing since he was a preteen, he seemed remarkably grounded, poised and never went into Interview Auto Pilot, always stopping to consider his answers and talking as if each new topic was worth putting his attention to.

The concert was equally impressive. These guys can truly write it and play it and perform it. And Taylor is still quite the Cougar Bait he was back in the day when it was my kids who were smitten and I gladly tagged along.

Bio Ritmo
6. BIO RITMO – Bionico (locutor Records)

The O/CD Tally Lightning Round:
Gone (to trade-in) and Possibly Forgotten

Just to clarify - being on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that an album is bad. I’ve just gotten to a point that the pile of promotional discs sent to me, however much I love getting them, is threatening to overwhelm me. I try to listen to everything at least once, and even that is, admittedly, hardly fair to the hard work and good intentions that went into making them.
But sometimes you just have to declare New Release Amnesty and move on to the stuff that’s coming in next, And yes, there have been plenty of times that I’ve gone looking for a disc that I’ve a new reason to check out and saying, “damn, I traded that it!”
7. WHITEY MORGAN and the 78s – Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels (Small Stone Records)
8. EMMANUEL JAHL – Warchild (Sonic 360)
10. STATE RADIO – Year of the Crow (Ruff/Shod)
11. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY and the BROKEOFFS – Dirt Don’t Hurt (Transdreamer)
Funny, when I put this CD in the disc drive to rip the songs “Getting’ High For Jesus” and “I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya,” the disc appeared as “Dirty Don’t Hurt,” which puts a whole new twist on the title.
12. KATE CAMPBELL – Save the Day (Large River Music)
Sometimes even guest appearances by John Prine, Nanci Griffith and Mac McAnally, a lovely, organic-feel package design, and a soft, sweet sound aren’t enough. But I know deep in my heart that all that fine pedigree won’t pull me back to listen to it again. I’m not saying granola isn’t good for you; it’s just not my taste.
13. The CRUXSHADOWS – Immortal (Dancing Ferret Discs)
14. ROBBY HECHT – Late Last Night (self-released)
15. FERRAS – Aliens & Rainbows (Capitol)
16. STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go (Mott St. Records)
17. LOVE PSYCHEDELICO – This Is…(HackTone Records)
I was more impressed with the cover design – bright red embossed logo – and free clingie – than I was with the music.
18. SOL Y CANTO – Cada Dia Un Regalo (MusicAmador)
I like world music, but this one has too much of a soft jazz vibe, too sweet, not enough sour.
19. ANDREW HELLER – My Beloved: Music to Fall In Love With…(Diamondisc Recordings)
20. ANDREW HELLER – Broadway Love (Diamondisc Recordings)
When the press material proclaims the artist as “Singer, Scientist, Entrepreneur,” there’s a fear that what you’ve got here is a vanity project. And while another area of the material claims that,
“his vocal talent has been compared to the legendary singers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, or Perry Como. Combine the legends into one voice, fast forward…and you have Andrew Heller,” you need to read the fine print to see that such effusive praise is coming from the publisher of Power Source magazine. (Anyone heard about that mag?) The tenor, formerly an employee with IBM who worked on advanced technology systems, is probably a huge hit at family weddings, and might even make the first round of some kind of Cleveland’s Got Talent cable series, but there’s nothing here to make me put away my Frankie, Dino or Perry.
21. STEVE TYRELL – Back to Bacharach (KOCH)
Okay, so I read the liner notes and learned that Tyrell worked with Bacharach early in both their careers, and had a great time watching as many of the original versions of these songs were being recorded. And I am truly sorry that his wife of 25 years died during the recording. Still, the only track I might ever want to hear again is a version of “What the World Needs Now” featuring Bacharach, James Taylor, Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick and Martina McBride. It suffers from the same tepid MOR arrangements as the rest of the CD, but at least the interplay of the various voices gives it that happy, “we’re doing a nice thing together here” feeling.
22. The WILDERS – Someone’s Got to Pay (Free Dirt Records)
A fine example, I guess, of a type of music – midtempo country rock – in which I have very little interest.
23. The RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS – Don’t You Fake It (Virgin)
24. SHAWN MULLINS – Honeydew (Vanguard)
25. RED HURLEY – Based on Songs and Stories: The Concert (SONY/BMG)
26. IFIHADAHIFI – Fame by Proxy (Latest Flame)
27. SUBTLE – Exiting Arm (Lex Records)
28. WAYMAN TISDALE – Rebound (Rendezvous Entertainment)
29. LEMURIA – Get Better (Asian Man Records)

And yet, as if it were pardoned by the governor on the way to execution (how’s that for overstatement?), I popped the following disc in the car stereo on the way to the trade-in store, and liked what I heard well enough to hold it back for further exploration.
30. ROOKIE of the YEAR – Presents Sweet Attention (One Eleven)
A bright sharp-edge pop sound that I want to share with New College Girl to see what she thinks.

And that brings us to…
Year To Date O/CD Tally: 197

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The (Wonderful) Week That Was

Looking back from the quiet contentment of a late Saturday night/Sunday morning...

Tuesday, we all made history, with the help of President-Elect Barack Oabama (maybe that’ll get old sometime, but it still leaves me smiling).

Wednesday, Post-College Girl left for her sixth-month stay in England (which was wonderful for her, a bit wistful for the dad and me).

Thursday, hubby and I had a real date, down to the ever-lovely Jammin' Java for dinner (they make great chili) and a concert by longtime favorite David Mead, a singer with a gorgeous voice/a songwriter well deserving of the attention of fans of literate, well-crafted material, a la Paul Simon or James Taylor.

The opening act was The Grey Race, a Brooklyn-based band led by a New Zealand ex-pat, singer/songwriter Jon Darling.

Drummer Ethan Eubanks provided some deadpan commentary throughout the set, and warned that a band compatriot would be working the crowd between sets to sell copies of the band's CD. Sure enough, I returned from the ladies room to find that he had come up to Hubby's and my table to seal the deal.
So, we add to the tally:
The GREY RACE - Give it Love (Unfiltered Records)

The band's publicist had sent me a link to an online download of the album last week, but my computer was being repaired and I didn't get a chance to download it.
The publicist also sent an mp3 for sharing, and it happens to be the song that I found most catchy in the band’s fine set. So, enjoy "On The Chin"

Eubanks and bassist Jeff Hill also work as session musicians, playing and recording with the likes of Robert Randolph, Trey Anastasio, Juliana Hatfield and The Scissor Sisters. With the addition of a keyboard player (whose first name I believe, is Andrew), the trio also served as David Mead’s backing band on this night, which made for some great renditions of his material.

Mead explained/joked that he was able to bring the band along since they worked for free, but it was clearly a mutual admiration society that created beautiful harmonies and deft arrangements of the intelligent songs.

Among the between-song intros, Mead revealed that there is a new CD (“Almost and Always”) imminent, but it hadn’t made it back from manufacturing in time for his current road trip. He also said that, though he wasn’t going to get political, he was very happy with the way the election turned out, which gave us all a chance to clap and yell and celebrate our Blue Victory again. And then he did a tender version of “Figure of Eight.”

I took a bunch of photos, but never left my comfy seat, so they’re all pretty much the same angles. To vary the fare after the fact, I played around with the settings, so here’s something with a bit of color fun...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes We Did

savoring the moment.
more anon.

photo by emma "data entry queen" poltrack

thanks for voting!