Saturday, June 27, 2009

There is a House on a Lake

In upstate New York, there’s a beautiful 33-mile-long lake that my family has been visiting every summer since before I was born. And now I am sitting there, on a screened-in porch with a great view of said Lake George, after having a grilled steak meal with daughters, mother, brother, cousins and friend, eating homemade brownies and watching a spectacular fireworks display over the water. Yeah, life is good.

And the music is, too. Listening as I type to
PURPLISH RAIN - Various Artists (SPIN magazine)
It’s a free, nine-track album celebrating the Purple One’s seminal (I rarely use that word, but with him it fits, especially the double-entendre) album. The download was offered free to SPIN subscribers. All I had to do was answer a few questions, based on the current issue’s cover story. I would tell you the answers here and now, but that seems unfair and I bet you can easily find out elsewhere. Go get it, and you, too, can enjoy the mariachi style version of “I Would Die 4 You," Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings’ take on “Take Me With U,” and Apollonia, Prince’s one-time protege and film co-star, on a cover of "When Doves Cry" recorded with Greg Dulli and his band, the Twilight Singers. Good stuff.

Last Monday, before hitting the road for this trip north, I had a great time at Gabe Dixon Band’s show at Jammin’ Java (my last entry had a photo of me and Gabe, and I forgot to give photo credit to the steadfast Sally. Sorry!) Anyhow, you’d probably rather see a photo of Gabe in concert.

I had seen the band previously at Jammin’ Java in March, after writing a preview for the Post. As previously mentioned, I named the trio’s eponymous Fantasy CD one of my Top Ten last year, after which Gabe himself sent a note thanking me. Then I interviewed him for a Post preview and then, with hubby’s permission and through our mutual friend, the band’s publicist, I offered the band a place to crash after the show.

The show lived up to my expectations, but it was a truncated 45-minutes set as openers for pop (and maybe Christian?) rocker Dave Barnes, who is amiable and funny, but not quite as compelling in his songwriting. Barnes and Dixon are friends, sometimes even writing partners, so there were times in the former’s set when the latter sat in, including a nice ending number in which the band walked in among the crowd for maximum OMG-ness from the predominantly young and female Barnes fans. (Last time I saw him, he opened for Hanson.)

There was plenty of post-show breakdown and pack-up to do before Gabe and Co. were done for the night, so I headed home and did some computer play until they rolled in around 1 AM. There was some quick socializing, but everyone seemed kinda beat, so I showed them to their accommodations (with two daughters’ bedrooms empty and the pull-out couch in the family room, each got his own room) and said goodnight.

The next morning, over breakfast, we had a real chance to chat and I got to know more about these lovely guys. It was hugs and good vibes all around when they left in their van the next day, with promises to stay in touch.

Sure enough, when the band came around again, Gabe called to invite me to the show and I invited them to stay at the house again. But this time, they were staying in one of those luxury touring buses, courtesy of another act on the bill, a singer/songwriter named Roy Jay who had made a killing on the web and could afford to travel in style and share the bounty (no wonder his album is called “Lucky Guy”).

It was great seeing Gabe and Jano Rix (his longtime drummer/percussionist) again. It’s a duo, not a trio touring this time; bassist Winston Harrison is concentrating on a duo of his own with his wife Julia. Actually, he gave me a copy of the CD last time around.
WHAT BIRD - Good Night, Good Riddance (self-released)
Here’s a little background: while Winston toured with GBD, Julia attended graduate school at CalArts in Valencia, CA and her 30-mile drives from LA and back, many at night through the winding, mountainous freeways, meshed with Winston’s ambient recording efforts to create what they call “late-night driving music," influenced by the likes of Everything but the Girl, Kristin Hersh, Eric Satie and Arvo Part.
She writes the lyrics and sings the original songs, plus there’s nice cover of “Under the Milky Way.” My own hubby summed it up best when he was listening, not knowing the source, and said, “there seem to be a lot of women lately singing in that key and tempo.” Where What Bird stakes its own claim is in some intriguing arrangements.
The GABE DIXON BAND - Live at World Cafe (Reprise)
This live recording predates the trio’s Fantasy debut and is sold at shows. But I got mine for hosting the band. I may never have the money it takes to build a museum wing, but stay overnight in my basement and give me an autographed album and I feel like a real patron/matron of the arts!

So, back at Jammin’ Java on Monday night - Gabe gave Sally and me a guided tour of the luxury bus and, while I didn’t think to take photos (damn), it’s all filed away as research for the music-based screenplay and young adult novel (the first is finished, the second underway) that I’ve been working on. And as for the show, you probably think I’m gonna tell you it was great but...yeah, it was. GBD headlined this time and was able to stretch out, showing just how versatile and melodic two talented guys can be. And since you may question my critical judgment based on my fondness for the individuals involved, I just spent 20 minutes trying to upload a video clip so you could see for yourself how good these guys are, but blogger is bagging on me again. (I need to move this thing to another blog platform, I fear). So instead, I'll tell you that Sally, who’s a skilled musician, will back me up. She even bought the band’s eponymous CD when she could have easily asked me to share songs.

It was a multi-act bill - besides Roy Jay, there was Jay Nash, Joey Ryan (try keeping those three names straight) and Madi Diaz. (Here's Jay Nash.)
I didn't see the latter, and only a few songs of Ryan's set, but he and Nash were both fine singer/songwriters and they often came onstage to support Gabe and Jano, along with Nash's bassist, giving the songs full, powerful readings. I bet that bus is a rolling hootenany.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Madonna, Gabe Dixon and Me

It's late and I need to get to sleep, but I meant to post a picture from last night's 11 o'clock news report all day and never got around to it. Anyway, I had the TV on, tuned to USA Channel 9 to hear the weather report while I was working on the computer. I wasn't paying much attention during the sports segment until I saw the word "Madonna" out of the corner of my eye and heard a woman's voice talking about the Nationals game (they lost). Thanks to the miracle of TiVO, I was able to capture this screen shot:

Hmmmm...maybe the divorce is taking its toll?

As for the other two names in tonight's headline, Sally (my loyal Plus One) and I were at Jammin' Java Monday night to see the Gabe Dixon Band perform. For now, I will simply say they were great and post the next picture, of me and the lovely, talented GD.

More shots from the show and tidbits of news from same ASAP. (I'd say "tomorrow" but there's a crapload of stuff to do before we depart Wednesday for upstate NY, so I'm trying to be realistic.) Until then, sleep well and play safe.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Disasters Big and Small

OK, so I exaggerate. The first thing on my list is not that big a deal. But it is the alternate Thursday when my previews run in two regional sections of the Washington Post. I like to link to them here and on the CPF web site, and send copies to the various PR people and/or musicians who helped with info, music, interviews, etc.

Well, I can give you only one today - the Alexandria/Arlington edition story about the Red Cross Waterfront Festival featuring an array of (mostly local) acts like Luke Brindley, Virginia Coalition, Pat McGee Band and some national types like Stephen Kellogg and Ivan Neville with his touring outfit, Dumpstaphunk.

But where is the Fairfax edition story, an interview with Dave Cousins, leader of the classic prog rock band, The Strawbs? It can’t be found on the Washington Post Extras home page, where it usually shows up, nor will the search engine call it up. It hasn’t been put online in any form!
This is only the second time that’s happened and like the first - an interview with Dave Wakeling of the English Beat - I thought it was one of my better pieces. Maybe someone in the Internet division has a thing against reformed “vintage" bands? But the Bangles preview of a few weeks ago ran. So whassup? Looks like I may need to drag out the scanner.

Freebie Time!
The hip Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts is (or was?) offering a free 15-track sampler on Amazon.com but now I can’t seem to find the direct link. I’m listening to it as I type and liking it a lot - The Bell Orchestre’s “Icycles/Bicycles” is as endearing as its title, Gentleman Reg has a bit of a Boy George/Antony vibe (in a good way) and you can taste the Constantines and the Stills, too. Sorry I can’t be of more help, but ARTS & CRAFTS SAMPLER VOL. 6/2009 is worth hunting down.

And here’s a single track that made a good first impression. It’s the MGMT remix of “Doomed,” from the band Violens. It’s a perkier sound than you might expect from the MGMT team, but the carefree pop bounce is what makes it great early summer fun.

Another track I like enough to pass on is from The Rural Alberta Advantage, whose debut full-length, “Hometowns” drops July 7 from Saddle Creek.
It’s called ”Don’t Haunt This Place."

And hey, it’s time we got the O/CD Tally-ometer to push to 200, so let’s add a few new CDs.
As part of the sysiphusian task of clearing out the Excess Stuff of my life, I took another few bags of clothing and housewares to Ye Olde Thrift Store today and, while I didn’t really expect that there’d be (m)any new offerings in the CD bins since the weekend, damn if I didn’t find three good ones:
The ROLLING STONES - Stripped (Virgin)
Another of those times when I wondered if I had this live CD already, but I felt like hearing it ASAP and, since it was in pristine condition, could always trade it off down the road. I’ve lost a lot of respect for the Stones over the past decade (Time to tour, boys! Mick has a lifestyle to support, so we’d better record something to give us an excuse to gouge fans in stadiums) but there’s no denying a time when they were the greatest touring band around.
Popping this disc in the car stereo, my worst fears seemed to be confirmed; the opening “Street Fighting Man” was anemic. But then, a cover of “Like a Rolling Stone” and a few of the band's early, bluesier tunes came up - “Not Fade Away,” “The Spider and the Fly” and I realized that the Stones always suffer when they have to compete with their own glory days. Better to do the deeper cuts (“Love in Vain,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Dead Flowers”) and cool covers (Willie Dixon’s “Little Baby”) to keep the comparisons away. By album’s end, I was with them again. But I still doubt the next new album will be worth a damn.
TRAVIS - The Invisible Band (Epic/Independiente)
“The Man Who...” was one of the best albums of its release year (and I’m just too tired and lazy to google that right now) and I remember Travis being the more enjoyable act when they toured with Oasis many years ago. And Fran Healy seems like such a likable guy. So why did I stop buying Travis’ albums? Perhaps this will show me what a fool I’ve been - or confirm that likable doesn’t necessarily mean compelling.
LONE JUSTICE - This World is Not My Home (Geffen)
I have a friend who’s mad for Maria McKee and frequently tells me to give her a try. All I really know about McKee is that the cover of her first album with Lone Justice imitated the Monkees' debut - and that’s a point in her favor. I will give this CD a fair listen and check with my bud to see where it stands in the McKee catalog. And if my pal doesn't have this CD (she might just have the vinyl), she can have this copy. (So stop lurking, Mark, and tell me whether I should walk down to give it to your wife!)

And here’s where I just toss off a few things that have been gathering dust. They didn’t make an impression, so they're destined for some other shop’s bins, where they can be happily adopted for a new home.
MOYA BRENNAN - Heart Strings (NA)
The voice of Clannad, a band I loved in its prime, sings in both English and Gaelic, but now it’s more of a new age-y sound than the soaring Celtic rock of those days.
Live with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which adds a wider range of instruments, but still to rather drowsy effect.
ASHLEY DAVIS - Down By The Sea (Daisy Rings Music)
Despite being born in Kansas, she beat out over 400 women, most of them Irish, to win the lead vocalist slot for Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” show. Also features Moya Brennan, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, and Cathy Jordan of Dervish.
Why I got these: Brennan and Davis performed at the Birchmere back in May and my press contact at the venue reached out, sending this pair of CDs with a note asking if I might write about the show for...the Fairfax column? I’ve written previews of his shows dozens of times in the past five years, always in the Alexandria edition, ‘cause that’s where his venue is. Does he not realize this?
The SHIN - EgAri (JARO)
Tried a couple of tracks on a long drive, but got restless after four songs. The group hails from Georgia - the country, not the state - and sings in their “consonant-heavy” (says the bio) native language with some South Indian and flamenco accents. Good in theory, I suppose, but too agitated for my taste, Includes a video, but it’s for PC only - bah!
FEDERICO AUBELE - Amatoria (Eighteenth Street Lounge/Fontana)
It would be cool if this guy became famous just so we could see Andy Samberg impersonate him; based on the cover pics, they look so much alike. I could do without the artsy naked babe torso on the disc.

So, drumroll, please! The O/CD Tally is now: 200

Oh, and the big disaster...Have you seen the trailer for "2012"? Awesome!
And I'm not usually the action movie type. Looks like Big Dumb Fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

They Don't Make 'em Like That Anymore

"You opened heaven's portal/here on earth for this poor mortal."
So sings Gene Kelly to Debbie Reynolds in "Singin' In the Rain," and it's totally corny and totally wonderful. The girls, College Girl's Boyfriend and I drove to the AFI Theatre in Silver Springs, MD for a delightful afternoon in the beautifully refurbished deco film palace to see a color-saturated, great sounding, clean print of the classic musical on a nice big screen. A splendid time was had by all.
Punk, classical, Broadway show tunes...it's all good music to us.

Yesterday included a visit to the Thrift Store, dropping off two bags of castaway clothing and housewares as an excuse to browse through the $1.50 used CDs. Some excellent choices to be had. If I didn't already have those Fountains of Wayne CDs in such nice condition, I would have swept 'em right up. I put back the Foo Fighters with the surface marks, and the double Indigo Girls live set (I know I owned it once; if it's not still with me it means I didn't care for it) and limited myself to the following:

HARRY NILSSON - Nilsson Schmilsson (RCA)
How nice to find such a classic, older album in such great shape! Listening on the car ride home, I was reassured to hear such bouncy singalongs as "Gotta Get Up" and "Moonbeam Song," the tender hit, "Without You," the goofy "Coconut" and the surprisingly forceful "Jump Into the Fire." R.I.P. Harry. You are fondly remembered.
RELIENT K - S/T (Gotee Records)
A 2000 release (their first?) in a cute digipack, to be passed on to College Girl. These guys have a charming way of making Christian pop/punk ("Benediction") sound like non-Christian pop/punk ("My Girlfriend" name checks Marilyn Manson to comic effect). Not preachy, just punchy.
JIMMY BUFFET - Songs You Know By Heart (MCA)
There isn't enough money in the government bailout to pay me to sit through a Jimmy Buffet concert. I'm sure I'd be in a fist fight with a drunken Parrothead before the night was over. But I can store these greatest hits on the hard drive for the time when I want to hear "A Pirate Looks at Forty" or make a joke tape with "Why Don't We Get Drunk," but I can't imagine I'll ever want to hear "Margaritaville" again as long as I live. And then I can sell/trade off the actual CD and no one will ever be the wiser.
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL - Walking Wounded (Atlantic)
Ben Watt creates the gently throbbing soundscapes, Tracey Thorn provides the heartbreaking vocals. I don't always remember the melodies, but the effect is still somehow soothing and invigorating at the same time. This is from 1996 but still rather timeless.
The ROCK 'N' ROLL ERA: 1963 (Time Life)
I needed only see a few titles - "Easier Said Than Done" (The Essex), "Walk Like a Man" (The Four Seasons, and a recent family joke), "If You Wanna Be Happy" (Jimmy Soul) and "Tell Him" (The Exciters) to know that I had to have this one. 22 songs, not like some of those other, cheapie compilations and a source to be tapped for the Definitive Massive Oldies Compilation I plan on making. Someday.
ALISON KRAUSS & UNION STATION - New Favorite (Rounder)
The case is cracked - will need to replace it if I decide to Rip & Recycle. I'm not that big on old timey traditional songs like "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn," but Krauss has such a lovely voice and light-handed style that she helps me crossover to bluegrass lite.

And speaking onf bluegrass, when I got home, there was a much appreciated package in the mail:
ELVIS COSTELLO - Secret, Profane Sugarcane (Hear Music)
I passed on requesting tickets for the Wolf Trap show last Thursday, having attended two shows there in the preceeding five days and being a little unsure of how much alt. country/bluegrass I could take, even from my beloved EC. Listening to the new CD didn't make me regret my decision, but not because I didn't enjoy it. Elvis is in fine vocal form here and the players are, as to be expected, impeccable. But I have such fond memories of his last, Early Greatest Hits tour, and the many times before that, and haven't yet given this new material, or the last("Momofuku") the attention they deserve. So I'll take a break and catch him on the next go 'round.
BTW, an album that needs to be purchased as a package, not a digital download, both for the great illustrations by Tony Millionaire, and the booklet of lyrics and intriguing subtitles. Example: "The Crooked Line: The Bough of the Family Tree Bends Near the River of Rough Damnation."

And now, a little reward for hanging in there,
Today's Freebie
The nice people at Six Degrees Records are offering a free digital download of a full album - your choice from 14 releases if you fill out a simple feedback form. I chose
EDEN: A COLLECTION OF GLOBAL CHILL (Six Degrees)

YTD O/CD Tally: 192
I have to write tomorrow, if only to carry this over the 200 mark!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I was planning the "Matt and Dave Video Show," where I would share clips shot at the recent Matt Nathanson and David Byrne concerts at Wolf Trap, but every time I try to upload via Blogger, the thing hangs indefinitely. While I explore the options of setting up a You Tube account or rolling forward with my Apple account for iWeb (vote early and often if you have a preference), I will revert to the O/CD tally for a bit.

Today's Topic - CD swapping.
After I check to see if a CD I no longer want is worth anything on amazon, I take the cast-offs to the trade-in store. The ones that they don't want, I've been putting up for trade on SwapTree.com. (Look for comment from cousin John to follow soon, touting his preference for lala.com; tho' I've signed up there, too, I haven't really explored it.)

In the course of the last few weeks, I have sent off about a dozen CDs I didn't care to keep, got a few DVDs in the bargain and was pleased to receive the following Wanted Music:
RADIOHEAD - I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (Capitol)
Replacement for a CD stolen from Hubby's suitcase during a business trip.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL - Soundtrack (Disney)
2-disc special edition, the second being instrumentals for karaoke. I still haven’t seen a full movie from the HSM series, though I’ve enjoyed the You Tube mash-up of Zac Efron's golf course scene with “The Sound of Music.” The daughters and I saw “17 Again” for Mother’s Day and all agreed that Efron is adorable - but I think Grad Girl would take Matthew Perry first.
The SECOND WAVE - Various Artists (Hear Music)
Great compilation of new wave songs from the Costello/Heads/Madness hey dey from the Starbucks people. While I have most of the songs already, it's a great car CD for days when I want to relive the NYC Glory Days.
LOGGINS & MESSINA - Mother Lode (Columbia)
Doesn't hold up as well as I remembered it, but the band is doing the reunion tour thing later this summer, with my dear Gabe Dixon Band opening, so I'm prepping for the show.
POSTAL SERVICE - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Sub Pop)
Nice little EP I didn't know existed until I saw it on the swap site.
PILOT SPEED - Into The West (Wind-Up)
First CD from a Canadian band that Hubby and I are just getting into. The sound is very Coldplay/U2, and the band has yet to prove that they have their own musical vision, but there's catchy material here and real potential that starts to show in the second CD, which a press rep sent about the same time (will have to check whether I tallied that one yet...)
BRIGHT EYES - Lifted, Or The Story is In the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (Saddle Creek)
Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band will be opening for Wilco at Wolf Trap in July - whoa! - so I'm boning up on my Bright Eyes catalog. And once again, the packaging is great - a 30-page booklet and classy slipcase.
DEL AMITRI - Change Everything (A&M)
Replacing a cassette from times past; includes some great songs - “Be My Downfall,” “Surface of the Moon,” “Always the Last to Know.”
LOUIS ARMSTRONG - At Pasadena Auditorium (GNP/Crescendo)
A 1986 release from a swinging show that was light on vocals but high on fine rhythm.
ANNIE LENNOX - Songs of Mass Destruction (Arista)
My first-ever swap. I love the woman's voice and vibe, tho' I've yet to have a song from this one stick to me.
The MONKEES - Self-titled debut (Rhino)
My most recent swap. Disappointing, not for what it contains - the 1994 reissue of the original 12-track album plus 3 bonus tracks - but for what it doesn't. The swap listing said this was the Deluxe edition, but it doesn't include the second disc with unreleased alternate mixes, demos and a Kellogg's jingle that comprised the 2006 reissue. But since all it "cost" me was a reused puffy envelope, $1.90 in postage and a Sesame Street CD that I'd already ripped to a hard drive, c'est la vie.

and thus, the O/CD Tally: 184

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This is Matt Nathanson. We Love Him.


Such a busy day - and so much music to discuss - that I can't get to it now. But the girls and I went to Wolf Trap to see our dear boy open for the Indigo Girls. Summaries and videos (and I have Byrne to revisit, too) and tales of emails with classic rock heroes when I catch my breath again.
In the meantime, some pics...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Same As It Ever Was - Wonderful

This past Saturday, David Byrne played at Wolf Trap. It was a beautiful early summer night, the venue is gorgeous, and our Renaissance Man was in fine form, appearing with a 10-piece troupe that included three dancers, whose interpretive moves added a new element to the always-intriguing music.

I plan on posting more about this show but, for now, here is one of the clips I shot during the concert.

Tonight, on "Dancing With the Chairs....!"
video

Friday, June 05, 2009

I do love Wilco - Really! (?)

Scanning the globe and surfing the web for fun stuff to share with you, loyal reader (note the singular noun - gotta get moving on putting in a counter!), here’s a free remix of British Sea Power’s “Carrion/All In It” by a dude (or maybe dudette?) who goes by the name Pressbutton.

And, just when I got used to the idea that I wasn’t gonna beg for tix to the mighty fine triple bill of Decemberists/Andrew Bird/Robyn Hitchcock at Merriweather Post this Monday (I have two other shows in the next five days, and the venue is a bear to get to), someone posted this great video of the Decemberists’ covering Heart’s “Crazy Over You”, which it seems is a regular feature of their set. Now I'm wishing I could be there.

In other news(papers), here are this week’s Washington Post postings, which ran in the regional editions of the paper yesterday:
1. Vive Voce and Cut Off Your Hands at the IOTA.
Would have made plans to attend this show, having seen COYH at CMJ some years and really liking them, but I have a friend arriving tonight from NYC and I think the travel time, from subway to Amtrak to Metro, is going to wipe her out.
2. David Byrne, Pink Martini and the Indigo Girls - with the adorable Matt Nathanson opening - in a Wolf Trap sampler.

Here’s where that headline comes in. I wrote the following in the intro of my first submitted copy:
“This year's summer season at Wolf Trap is busting out of its generally predictable selection of featured artists (Wilco?! Really?!)”...

I meant it to indicate that I was excited about Wilco as a antidote to the predictable acts, but had second thoughts that the "Really?!" might appear to peg Wilco as one of them, with a Seth-and-Amy sarcasm. So, I asked the editor to change it to:
“The 2009 summer season at Wolf Trap is busting out of its generally predictable selection of featured artists and offering some real excitement (Wilco?! Awesome!)”

He didn’t answer my note (he rarely does unless he has to) but he made a different change I requested at the same time, a correction about the Indigo Girls’ new CD. Someone also cut my last few lines, which made a joke about there being so many good shows, I’d have no time to see my family. I’m less concerned about the joke than I am about possibly appearing to dis Wilco.

That is a writer’s lot. But as I’ve said before, when I screw up, unlike when doctors do it, nobody dies. Although, if I hurt Jeff Tweedy’s feelings, a little bit of me would.

Yeah, I know...I haven't been doing Five a Day. But at least there's something.
And, we'll end with a "Today in Music History" factoid: on June 5, 1962, the Beatles auditioned for George Martin.