QEW to St. Catharines

Actually, I’ve been listening to this show in the car for the past three days now (approximately 7 times) but I’m only getting around to writing about it this morning after the drive into work.  The show in question is a performance by Luna at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (February 28th, 2005).

I read somewhere that Luna is performing a concert at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, Ontario this coming October and I’d give my left testicle to go (I still might).  Luna has always been one of the bands I regret having not had a chance to see live yet, so this concert announcement had me digging up some old bootlegs I have to build some motivation to make the commitment and actually purchase tickets (it’s on a Tuesday night, which, is a totally inconvenient time to be driving in and out of Toronto being as it’s a school night n’ all).

I originally choose this show as it has a lot of the classics from albums in my CD colllection like ‘Chinatown‘, ‘Tiger Lily Girl‘, ‘California (All the Way)‘, ‘Going Home‘, ‘Pup Tent‘,  and ‘Sideshow by the Seashore‘ and these primarily take up the first half of the set.  It’s not until towards the end of the set, however, and well into the encore that the band really begin to shine.  The show closer ‘Black Postcards‘ (which is also the title of Dean Wareham‘s book that recounts his experiences in music and otherwise, from high school in New York City in the 1970s through his years in Galaxie 500 and Luna and his divorce; released on Penguin Press in 2008), is one of those slow-burning tunes that takes a while to simmer and build into this total amazing crescendo of total and complete awesomeness.

From there, it’s a quirky and enjoyable cover of Harry Nilson’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin‘  from the 1969  ‘Midnight Cowboy‘  soundtrack, before moving onto bigger and more impressive game like ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy‘, ‘Indian Summer‘  and ‘23 Minutes in Brussels‘, all of which totally smoke and had me air drumming on the steering-wheel like a man possessed.  Shit, even HRH  herself said “this is really awesome!”  at one point during the climax of ‘Indian Summer‘  and, hey, if it captures the attention of a 10-year-old girl, there definitely must be something to it.  I prefer to just simply refer to it as “some good shit”.

So, yes, this concert is now definitely on my Fall commitments “To Do” list for sure as I’d happily perform the surgery on my Charlie Brown’s myself for the chance to see any of these songs performed live.

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 2)

One of the treats that Uncle Lance also sent home to pad HRH‘s collection with, was the newest album by The Word, ‘Soul Food‘.

Word

The Word – an improvisational gospel-jazz super group featuring pedal-steel guitarist Robert Randolph, keyboardist John Medeski and all three North Mississippi All-Stars (guitarist Luther Dickinson, drummer Cody Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew) – will released this 2nd studio album, on May 5th via Vanguard Records. The 12-track LP is the band’s first new recording since their acclaimed self-titled 2001 debut.  That’s fourteen years ago!  Oh, and did I mention that our copy is autographed bitches?  Yeah, that doesn’t suck, right!  Thanks Uncle Lance!

From the first few chords of the album opener ‘You Brought the Sunshine‘, her response was a “Oh how, this is totally cool!”.  Yes, it sure it.

Older and wiser that they were fourteen years ago – and with several tour together as the Word between them – they put their heads together for another 13 tracks, and thank Christ to!  If your concept of gospel music includes old hymns and/or fire and brimstone  sermons with whoops and lots of “Lord-ay, Lord-ay’s”, set those notions aside; most of these songs are instrumental (nine instrumentals and two with vocals, to be exact), for one thing, and all things being equal, the record sounds like  a church than a party.  And if this is church then, shit, “Hallelujah!  I have seen the light!” 

The inspirational, multi-voiced chorus (including guest Amy Helm) and Randolph’s own two-line invocation contradict the downright menacing tone of ‘Come By Here‘. He’s really in his element here, but steps out of the light on ‘When I See the Blood‘, making way for Ruthie Foster’s rich, emotional vocal tones, beseeching listeners to believe in the Son of God. ‘Soul Food I‘  is a mellow and somber dirge relaying loss, while ‘Soul Food II‘  recalls the second line-style with rhythmic keyboard swells.  John Medeski lays down dense Hammond on the gritty and sticky ‘Swamp Road‘, while ‘Chocolate Cowboy‘  is a playful ditty with two guitars and keys all taking cues from the other. ‘The Highest‘  ends on a mellow-yet-rousing tone, leaving listeners with a feeling of being raised aloft.  HRH  calls it “church music with a kick to it”, and that’s about as much as an apt description as your going to get.

The whole thing is awesome.  Coupled with some milk and cookies and it’s the perfect way to end long week and another Vinyl Sunday celebration.

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WilliamVinyl Sunday (Part 1)

It’s been a busy weekend of running n’ cycling n’ lawn mowin’ n’ trimmin’ n’ making dinners n’ laundry and folding and…shit what did I forget?  Take out the garbage!  Crap.  Oh well, later.  Right now it’s time to relax with and drink beer..exactly one beer.  The last one in the house. To compensate I have the perfect album to listen to, ‘Field Songs‘  by William Elliot Whitmore.

James Elliot Whitmore

This was an el-cheapo Record Store Day impulse purchase based on a random suggestion by a colleague at work.  It was the same guy who tipped me off to both Lucero and Chris Wollard so, when he throws something out there, I pay attention.  Anyway, released in 2011, this album could pretty much be the musical documentation of life, death, and the landscape in rural small town America.  It’s music to toil to…just as I did today…being the incredibly super miraculous handsome and humblest dad ever, remember?  Yes, this is the same collection of down on your luck, hard times share cropping ballads on par with Fred Eaglesmith and, maybe the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis collaborations to some degree.  Yay!  It’s chipped fences, broken roofs, flapping shutters, highballs of whiskey and broken down automobiles for everybody!

The songs are extraordinary.  Harmonious hymns such as ‘Bury Your Burdens In the Ground‘  and ‘Let’s Do Something Impossible’  prove that you don’t need more than a banjo, an expressive voice and a heartfelt story in order to craft something truly extraordinary.  Field recordings of rural roadways and quiet fields at high noon scattered through to keep it all “real”…like you are right there feeling his pain.  I wonder if he waged battle with a stupid ass extension cord too?  I hear ya though man.  But what keeps ‘Field Songs‘  on the right side of unyielding darkness, what keeps it ringing with an affirming note of beauty, is the certain knowledge that however black it gets, “the sun’s about to rise.” 

The best part is that I think the banjo seems to have some sort of hypnotic effect on HRH.  She literally hasn’t budged all the way through side one and well into side two.  Banjo’s.  Huh.  Shit, I have enough diddley-diddley banjo records around here to induce a month long coma if it comes to it.  This is good information to know.  Maybe she’s connecting with William along with me in her own little way.  You know, after the insanely hard day she’s had of eating hot dogs and frozen grapes, toiling with her iPad, and attempting to secure a piece of windswept newspaper from under the trampoline, aka “Ticksville”.

Just another day in the life, baby…just another day in the life.

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Long Run (18k)

It’s long run day and these long hauls haven’t been exactly kind to me lately.  I’m not sure why exactly although I believe it has a lot to do with the ever-present spare time around my midsection that never seems to shrink no matter how many workouts I launch in a week.  Hey, at least the “Dad Bod” is in, I guess.  Anyway, I figure misery loves company and if that’s what in store this afternoon on my long haul out towards Skerkston and back, then there’s nobody better to be listening to than John Lee Hooker or, in this case, John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat with two offerings, the double ‘Hooker n Heat‘  album and the ‘Live at the Fox Theater‘.

When this two-LP set was initially released in January 1971, Canned Heat was back to its R&B roots, sporting slightly revised personnel. In the spring of the previous year, Larry “The Mole” Taylor (bass) and Harvey Mandel (guitar) simultaneously accepted invitations to join John Mayall‘s concurrent incarnation of the Bluesbreakers.  This marked the return of Henry “Sunflower” Vestine (guitar) and the incorporation of Antonio “Tony” de la Barreda (bass), a highly skilled constituent of Aldolfo de la Parra (drums).  Sadly, it would also be the final effort to include co-founder Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, who passed away in September 1970.

The album is a low-key affair split between unaccompanied solo John Lee Hooker (guitar/vocals) tunes, collaborations between Hooker and Wilson (piano/guitar/harmonica), as well as five full-blown confabs between Hooker and Heat.  The first platter focuses on Hooker’s looser entries that vacillate from the relatively uninspired ramblings of ‘Send Me Your Pillow‘  and ‘Drifter‘ to the essential and guttural ‘Feelin’ Is Gone‘  or spirited ‘Bottle Up and Go‘.  The latter being among those with Wilson on piano.  Perhaps the best of the batch is the lengthy seven-minute-plus ‘World Today‘, which is a languid and poignant talking blues, with Hooker lamenting the concurrent state of affairs around the globe…much like I do on these long hauls out into the countryside.

The full-fledged collaborations shine as both parties unleash some of their finest respective work. While Canned Heat get top bill – probably as it was the group’s record company that sprung for Hooker ‘n Heat – make no mistake, as Hooker steers the combo with the same gritty and percussive guitar leads that have become his trademark.  The epic ‘Boogie Chillen No. 2‘  stretches over 11 and a half minutes and is full of the same swagger as the original, with the support of Canned Heat igniting the verses and simmering on the subsequent instrumental breaks with all killer and no filler.

Having worked so well together on the 1971 album, both parties hoped to make lightning strike twice in front of a sweaty crowd, with an upstart indie label capturing it all in 1981. There’s also an unavoidable poignancy infusing this low-key but energetic night, since the two vocal heavyweights (neither Hooker nor Heat’s towering frontman, Bob Hite) are no longer with us.  Canned Heat had weathered numerous lineup shuffles since the band did its original album with Hooker but the combo still fuses together very well.  The blues is the blues after all.  Highlights include ‘Hell Hound’, ‘The House of Blue Lights‘, and a medley of Heat’s popular hits ‘Let’s Work Together‘  and ‘Goin’ Up the Country‘.   For his part, Hooker maintains his commanding presence, sounding far from a performer in the twilight of his career – and the energy levels rise accordingly.  His gravelly vocal bottom rises to the fore on slow-burning laments like ‘It Hurts Me Too‘  and ‘It Serves Me Right to Suffer‘ (both of which had me dwelling mentally on the idiocy of what I was doing around the 14-15k marks of the run), of which the Chambers Brothers’ provide backing vocal choruses.

The real smoker here though is the set closer, the 11 and a half minute ‘Boogie Chillin‘; same as the first album.  Here though the track off a-rockin’ right off the hop and never lets up, particularly the drum solo at the half way mark that rolls right into the motivated blues shuffle and “nobody like you”  chorus at the end.  Certainly enough to help pick the last kilometer to the finish.

All in all, this was the first long run where I am starting to feel myself and where Thunder n’ Lightning are starting to find their long distance (18k) pace.  Maybe it was the blues, maybe it was the cool, pleasant day outside, maybe it was the ‘huevos rancheros‘  from the Flying Squirrel Cafe this morning, or the half dozen dried honey dates along the way,  Whatever it was it was nice to feel for a change, particularly through the first 10k with a decent pace.  I won’t ay that the last 4 kilometers were fun but I’m getting there…slowly bu surely.

And now?  It’s to the showers and then off to the Sanctuary down the street for a well deserved beer…or two…or three.

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Easy Run (6.1k)

It’s been a pretty busy week full of water slides, interval workouts (both in the pool and on the road) and a long, stupid ass report for work.  Bleh.  Plus, I’m on “Dad Duty” all weekend despite having two long workouts also in the cards, so this evenings workout is intended to be only a quick slow and easy 6.1k run prior to commencing with “Daddy-Daughter Date Night” at the Sanctuary* later and cuddle-time with the ‘This Is It‘  Michael Jackson documentary afterwards.  Oh joy.  Anyway, to ensure a decent easy-going run, I’ve queued up something new to me that I’m interested to check out, the ‘Singing Bones‘  album by The Handsome Family.

According to Wikipedia, The Handsome Family is an alternative country and Americana duo consisting of husband and wife Brett and Rennie Sparks formed in Chicago, Illinois, and currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  They’ve only really just recently captured public attention for their song ‘Far From Any Road‘ – featured on this album – which was used as the main title theme song for HBO’s 2014 crime drama ‘True Detective‘, not to mention the opening song for Guns n’ Roses’ 2014 world tour.  How’s that for eclectic?

‘Singing Bones’  is actually the 6th studio album released by the Handsome’s, released on Carrot Top Records in 2003.  On the album, the husband-and-wife team explore dusty, melancholic territory – both musically and lyrically – by combining a taste for rootsy, old-school country (for which Brett’s resonant baritone is perfectly suited) with literate, evocative, image-rich lyrics.  Scenes and characters float through vividly drawn settings (’24-Hour Store‘, ‘Whitehaven‘), while the instrumentation, arrangements, and ambiance conjure dark forests and backwoods ghosts.  As old-world as The Handsome Family might seem, there is an incisive, contemporary sensibility to everything, from the gleaming production to the perfectly chosen words.

It’s Johnny Cash meets gloom and doom out along the Friendship Trail and back home again along Thunder Bay Rd. this evening.  Lots of chipmunks, squirrels and bunnies out enjoying the cool breeze and all set to haunting cello licks, rattling bones and eerie wood saw solos.  Beauty!

* The Perch Slider w/ Rustic Slaw & Lemon Tartar and a steaming bowl of Smoked Bacon & Fish Chowder didn’t suck.  In fact, I barely tasted it.  The kid practically ate it all!

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Vinyl Thursday (Part 4)

I’ve already posted about this album before so if you want to learn the skinny on the entire album you can click HERE  but, this evening, I also introduced HRH  to it as well…on vinyl no less.

Fwends

We picked it up cheap at the newest record store in St. Catharines, ‘Mind Bomb Records’, before swimming lessons one Tuesday evening and, well, we’ve got a bit side-tracked from records since then.  But we’re making up for that now.

Of course, it’s got all the cool, creepy graffiti art in the liner notes (including the gratuitous use of “f*ck” that I accidentally overlooked), it’s stenciled in bright multicolored script and, shit, even the record itself is a cool transparent pink-orange (it’s a debate) and, well, what’s not to love really?  It even has Miley Cyrus on it.

Suffice to say:  Mind.  Blown.

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Vinyl Thursday (Part 3)

We’ve just finished off dinner (we actually had something green  for a change, how exciting!) and we’re now settling back under the blankets downstairs with our respective books for another trip through Vinyland.  It’s my pick next and I’m going with another find from this past weekend’s Rochester Record Fair trip, the often over-looked album by Tommy James & the Shondell’s, ‘Crimson & Clover‘.

Tommy James

Personally, I think this album is one of the most overlooked classic albums of all time; typically overshadowed by other psychedelic benchmark albums of the era like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band‘, ‘Disraeli Gears‘  and, maybe, ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn‘.  ‘Crimson & Clover’  was intended to be their dramatic stylistic turnaround, swapping bubblegum pop for full‑blown psychedelia; from singles to albums.  They totally scored in my opinion.

Big time.

In a complete chicken-before-the-egg kind of deal, the original ‘Crimson & Clover‘  (crafting together Tommy’s favorite color and favorite flower) radio version of the song released before the album was only two and a half minutes long.  Hardly enough to get excited about, right?  James then decided to release a longer version of the song for the planned 1968 release of the album, which would then become the prototype sound for the rest of the album.  The track spent 16 weeks on the U.S. charts, reaching #1 in the United States and other countries. The single has since sold 5 million copies, making it Tommy James and the Shondells’ best-selling song.  It has gone on to be covered by many artists such as Joan Jett and Prince and in 2006, Pitchfork Media  named it the 57th best song of the 1960’s.

Title track aside, the album is no slouch either.  In fact, it’s all good; on par with anything else being released in the day that has probably gone on to garner more attention.  Along with the lead off title track, ‘Kathleen McArthur’, ‘I Am a Tangerine‘ and ‘Do Something to Me‘ (HRH‘s particular favorite) make up the complete Side One.  Side Two begins with the plucky ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion‘, the 2nd hit off the album that most people even forget was Tommy James in the first place.  ‘Sugar on Sunday‘ (also a favorite of HRH), ‘Breakaway‘ and ‘Smokey Roads‘ are all decent tracks on their own as well.  But here’s the real kicker, Side Two ends with the original version of a song that I’m currently trying to hunt out on a different album by Johnny Thunder, the awesome life-affirming anthem ‘I’m Alive‘.  So where I may have failed at finding that particular Johnny Thunder album/tune at the Record Fair, I did come home with the original track which is equally awesome.  I guess that’s kind of fortuitous, wouldn’t you say?

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