25 July

Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show

Ray LamontagneThe summer of 2011, my wife was very pregnant and we had the luxury of spending a summer on Nantucket. On mornings I would often take the dog over to this piece of conservation land called Ram Pasture/Sanford Farm. It is a 780 acre piece of property that walks you through the woods out onto this beautiful vista next to an old empty barn, looking down towards the ocean. The round-trip walk to the barn is about 3 miles or about an hour walk. The trip to the ocean makes the journey 6 miles, a pretty hardy walk.

I found myself thinking much during those walks that summer. The quiet solitude allowed one the clarity to really delve into one’s thoughts. The prospect of becoming a new dad, the change that would bring, the health of mother/child, and how life would never be the same… for better and for worse, all circling around my mind.

The musical accompaniment to those walks was always the same. Ray Lamontagne and the Prairie Dogs: God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise. Upon reflection, I think it was the best album released in 2010, and it has slowly become one of the albums that constitutes the soundtrack to my life. It is an album recorded at his home in western Massachusetts with a new country-tinged band, that brings forth soulful songs with a hint of weariness that compliment his identifiable and Otis Redding-like voice. There is an element of melancholy in most of the songs that touch upon pride, loss, hope, regret and some refreshingly odd tidbits of life advice that I find accurate. It is undoubtedly, a beautiful record start to finish. The songs fit like an old pair of jeans, time-tested and road worn, straining at the threads in the knees.

I am unsure if I could pick a favorite track, but one that really resonates with me has been an obscurely titled: Like Rock & Roll And Radio. A song about growing apart and the remembrance/wistful longing for things that have past.

Enjoy Listening.

Are you still in love with me
Like the way you used to be or is it changing?
Does it deepen over time like the river
That is winding through the Canyon?

Are you still in love with her?
Do you remember how you were before the sorrow?
Are you closer for the tears
Or has the weight of all the years left you hollow?

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

I can see you lyin’ there
Tying ribbons in your hair and pullin’ faces
I can feel your hand in mine
Though were living separate lives in separate places

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now?
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

All these white lies hanging like flies on the wall
Hard wired, road tired
Counting curtain calls and waiting
Waiting for the axe to fall

Are you still in love with me
Like the way you used to be or is it changing?
Does it deepen over time, like the river
That is winding through the Canyon?

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now?
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

9 March

Trade This Safe Place for Brittle Wings

This is one of the most excited times I have ever had in writing for this blog. If you are a music fan, you always relish in the fact of discovering a band that not many other people know. The idea that you recognized something beautiful and pure, long before it gained in popularity…

A band that you could call your own.

I remember my uncle always speaking of seeing the Beatles in Hamburg in the early 1960’s. My friend Craig excited about this band “Nirvana” from his podunk town (Aberdeen) somewhere outside of Seattle. I remember seeing Dave Mathews Band in a little bar in Vail, Colorado back in 1994 and recognizing the greatness within. The butterflies in your stomach of new love.

This is your chance to truly discover something great!

Larcenist is a local unsigned Boston band that brings forth songs with a classic Americana/Roots-Rock sound coupled with some post-punk sensibilities tossed in the blender. They met five years ago during the revelry and onslaught of a Boston Saint Patrick’s Day, discovering that they all played instruments. The night’s festivities ending in a jam session and resultantly, the birth of Larcenist.

I had the chance to sit down with Larcenist recently at the Irish pub, The Field,  in Cambridge and we spoke about their history and music.
Four (of the current five) members hail from the Oswego-Syracuse area of upstate New York. They come from blue-collar towns, situated on the unforgiving Lake Ontario, where hard work and survival takes on generational pride. A place where the extreme contrast of the seasons, and the lonely lake winds evoke a thoughtful approach to life’s ups and downs.… or as my father would say, “Good People.”

After one self-titled release and a minor line-up change, last spring Larcenist released the EP, We Become the Hunted, and it has been on constant repeat on my iPod since discovery. They are five beautiful songs, haunting and reflective and demonstrate song-writing and musicianship that is older and wiser beyond their respective years. The band is self-described as, “Friends first… with the expectation that the music will evolve in ways unknown, but it will always be with one another.”

In The Studio

Larcenist are currently breaking down and prepping about 20 new songs for recording this summer, with a hopeful release this upcoming fall. My only personal hope is that we get to hear them all, as usually not that many songs make it onto an album. I believe that this band has the chance to become quite a sensation. Their music is heartfelt and fills the soul like a love letter.

Take a listen:

We Become the Hunted
Five fantastic songs with stripped down instrumentation, beautiful melodies, group harmonies, lush violin and incredible songwriting, here is my take on them:

Leon

A tale of reflection on family and the realization of what we wished we had taken advantage of in life. That the very hard work one’s father provides to ensure a life for his son that is better than his own upbringing, ultimately, is the thing that drives them apart. The hard work provided his son the availability of tastes that were different from his own and the loss of identity of who they were as a family.
“Well the boy didn’t want to learn to fix cars after school
Or go hunting on the weekends before church
It never crossed his mind that these were life skills I’m passing on
and would carry on our name”


Ocean City, Swallowing

I Think this song is best heard to try and digest, but to me it draws upon the self-destructive nature in all of us that rises to the surface when we don’t like what we see in the mirror or when we won’t subjugate ourselves to something.
“We don’t sleep
We destroy ourselves
We burn as hot as we can
In hopes of removing our reflections
We hate silver and we hate gold
Any gilded surface offering a glimpse
Of what we wouldn’t give
To be removed”


Morte Lenta

A Classic song-writing tale of infidelity, respect and repercussions. Johnny Cash couldn’t have sung it better. It translates to Slow Death in Italian.
“No more being taken for granted
In my hometown”


Last Hours of Being Young

Growing up, doing wrong, and proud of it.
“It’s been so long being good
Need a little taste of doing wrong
A few taps at the devil’s door to test your ground
And all the demons come rushing out”

Proud Life

The inevitability of when you let yourself down and how to get from the things that you do to the things that you should. This song needs no other explanation but a good listen.
“You can bet anyone that’s ever learned to respect themselves
They didn’t spend their whole lives proud.
There have been barstools swallowing paychecks
Lovers left waiting”

“There have been high hopes
Too far out of reach
New locks on old doors now it’s only outside looking in”

Larcenist is composed of five very talented members, all in their mid-late 20’s – early 30’s.
• Jonathan Tompkins – Drums/Vocals
• Steve Terry – Bass/Vocals and Multi-Instrumentalist
• Jonathan Shoeck – Piano/Guitar/Vocals
• Brandon Mastrangelo – Guitar/Vocals
• Valentin Splett – Violin/Vocals

 

Upcoming Shows: Check them out live!!

Larcenist has some great spring shows lined up including a great gig opening for Willy Mason at the Middle East and another great bill opening for Rocky Votolato at T.T. the Bears!!

• March 22 (Thurs), RADIO – w/ Humble Tripe, Somerville, MA

• March 23 (Fri), LOCAL 121 – w/ The Quahogs, Cactus Attack, Providence, RI

• May 3 (Thurs), MIDDLE EAST – w/Willy Mason, Tallahassee, & The Moonlight Mile, Cambridge, MA

• May 22 (Tues), T.T. The Bears Place -  w/Rocky Votolato, Cambridge, MA

 

 

A live Video of Faithful (unreleased) from a recent Larcenist Show:

WEB Presence

Larcenist on Tumbler

Larcenist on Facebook

30 November

May the Moonlight Know Your Name

Ryan Adams Solo Live

If ever I have identified with an artist, it was Ryan Adams who made me pick a guitar back up in 2000, and it is Ryan Adams 12 years later who surmises what I feel in my heart and imagine that I always will.

“Music is my thing. It’s my thing; it’s what I love. It’s what I do. It’s football to me; it’s Christmas to me; religion to me; poetry to me. It’s all those things, and I believe that it’s possible for people to compartmentalize their lives so they can be who they are and still function in the real world around others. But it’s always been this very big thing to me, and I can’t imagine it not being that. I don’t have a life that requires me to choose. I can be myself and love music the way I love it, and it’s not compromised. How do I say this? It would be weird for me to think about a relationship, or relationships that people have, where who they were, or their passions, would be compromised.”

 

 

Dirty Rain – Live Denver – Ryan Adams

26 January

And if I don’t see you, in a long, long while… I’ll try to find you Left of the Dial.

The Replacements

Music can change your life. I believe it to be a transcendental moment when it happens, although that “exact” moment, cannot usually be qualified until years later upon reflection. You could build a personal calendar around it. Example: There was the era before you heard the Grateful Dead and your life after. The Calendar notation of B.C. and A.D. could be replaced with B.Phish and A. Phish. The same could be said for any band or musician that you stopped your life for. the Sex Pistols, Garth Brooks, Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, etc. etc. etc. You had to have every album, you read all the lyrics, stopped a conversation to make someone listen, replayed a song over and over for someone to try and make the person feel the power you felt when you heard this song.  If you were to replace ‘music’ with ‘God’ you would have been described as having had a religious experience… and therein is the power of music.

This experience has happened to me more than once. I keep up with music, I labor over it. Definitely a labor of love. I am quite sure there were bands during my adolescence that I obsessed over, and still enjoy, but the band that I truly carry with me  to this very day, the band that I will always carry in my heart, were The Replacements. This scruffy Minneapolis foursome, embodied the freedom and frustrations of boys turning into men. The howl of the internal fear (that manifests itself as anger) that every man tries to keep bottled up inside himself. The working class poetry that rises as hope, because it is the only beacon from a life too dull to face.

The Replacements were all that and more to me. They brought the swagger of young men prepared to do things their own way, yet lead singer Paul Westerberg‘s lyrics were captured in time, through the eyes of an older wiser man, that you knew full well that you would become, as sure as time itself. I remember a lyric from one of the The Replacements albums: “I hate my father, one day I won’t.” There is not much to expand upon here, just the absolute truth of the inevitable. Women were drawn to this band as well. The warrior with the poet’s heart. The man that still carries a bit of the boy inside. It’s an attractive trait, to never let go of your true you, and to keep the light burning from within. I cannot begin to count the amount of women I have met who have indicated that Paul Westerberg and The Replacements are their favorite band.  Arguably one of the most influential bands of the 80′s, I read a quote where Jeff Tweedy from Wilco said, “Everything we do is based upon the Replacements” before launching into a cover of their song ‘Color Me Impressed’.

I am not sure exactly what put the hook in me, but something about them spoke to me. I remember the moment.

What band did that for you?

Left Of The Dial - The Replacements

Unsatisfied - The Replacements

19 January

They’re playing our song…

Blind PilotThe Pacific Northwest has been producing some interesting bands ever since Jimi Hendrix decided to pick up the guitar. In recent times however, there seems to be a shift from the grunge music of the ’90′s (made famous by the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice In Chains) and more focus on music with an ‘Americana Roots’ type sound, coupled with golden harmonies. I think of newer bands such as: The Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, The Head and The Heart forging this bridge of indie rock mixed with classic folk sensibilities. The appeal is obvious for the record companies, music that your parents would enjoy, but left of the dial enough to make the purist indie heart jump for his hipster jeans and an ironic t-shirt.

One of the more original bands I have heard from the genre lately, is from Portland, Oregon and  call themselves Blind Pilot. The band orginally consisted of two members: Israel Nebeker (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Dobrowski (percussion) who met while students at the University of Oregon. The duo gained notoriety in 2007 by conducting a tour from Seattle to San Diego, travelling by bicycle with a custom-made bike trailer to haul their instruments. Recent concerts have seen Blind Pilot grow from the original duo to six members in concert to reproduce the sound of their latest release: 3 Rounds and a Sound.

Their music can portray a sweet & sentimental sound, but touches on darker themes of abandoned love, youthful irreverance, and the inevitable refelction of who we are amidst the dissapearing path that led us there, with the fearful knowing we can never get back.

Blind Pilot has had the experience of opening up for The Hold Steady and Counting Crows, as well as recent stints at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands Music Festivals. News has it that they are readying a new album for release. I will be excited to see the direction of the new music, but in the meantime here are a couple of songs from their last release, 3 Rounds and a Sound.

3 Rounds and a Sound - Blind Pilot

I Buried a Bone - Blind Pilot

 3 Rounds and a Sound

They’re playing our song
They’re playing our song
Can you see the lights?
Can you hear the hum?

Of our song
I hope they get it right
I hope we dance tonight
Before we, get it wrong

And the seasons
Will change us new
Be the best I’ve known
and you know me
I could not be stuck on you
If it were true

I was swimming
My eyes were dark
Til you woke me
And told me that opening
is just the start
it was

Now I see you, til kingdom come
You’re the one I want
To see me for all the stupid shit I’ve done

(Chorus)
Soil and six feet under
Killed just like we were
Before you knew you’d know me
And you know me

Blooming up from the ground
3 Rounds and a sound
Like whispering you know me
And you know me

So this was our song
This was our song
I still see the lights
I can see them

And the criss cross
Of what is true, won’t get to us
Cause you know me
I could not give up on you

And the fog of what is right
Won’t cover us cause you know me
I could not give up a fight

 

17 February

Sad Songs Say So Much

Every now and then I like to go to this site: songmeanings.net . It’s fun… basically every song is there and it includes the lyrics and also, the  individual people’s take on the meanings of the song and other assorted commentary. Check it Out!

So I was looking up this Ryan Adams song (and for whom of you who have never met me, might be my favorite artist ever) entitled “Dean John”, a duet with Norah Jones. And it’s a sad song. A Very Sad Song.  I have this bootleg of Ryan Adams (solo with an acoustic guitar), and he basically says after playing 12 slow, sad songs, about un-requitted love and other depressing topics, “Here’s another sad song, cause this guy, this machine… does not write happy song.”  and I could not have been happier!

So I started thinking about the times we need sad songs: After a break up is definitely one of the times, I mean isn’t that really what half of music is about… love you lose, or love you want! I once heard Bruce Springsteen (solo with an acoustic guitar) do his song, “Dancing In The Dark” slow and sad… and I listened to the lyrics… I guess it would be better to say, I thought about the lyrics. Hey everyone… It’s not a happy song!!! here’s a sampling of the lyrics…Let’s listen together shall we?

“I’m just living in a dump like this.”

“man I’m getting nowhere”

“wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face”

Believe me, it’s a sad song, there’s hope, but not much… Bruce doesn’t write happy songs… yeah, yeah, I am sure there are 1 or 2, but as a body of work there are not many… seriously, find me one on “The River” or “Nebraska” albums. Look at the lyrics for “Brilliant Disguise.” ‘Nuff said

But sometimes we need those sad songs, we need the house/apartment/room/car/what-be-it  alone and we need the volume loud, and we need those moments of melancholy that a sad song makes you feel, and imagine, and reflect and most importantly, reaffirm the desire to feel that way again…. Because if we lose the ability to feel it … we lose what was important and what we loved about it in the fist place.

Here’s a couple of sad songs for you:

Highway Patrolman - Bruce Springsteen

How Do You Keep Love Alive  – Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Lost Cause  – Beck

Nothing Compares 2 U  – Sinead O’Connor

14 January

Haiti Needs Our Help!!!!!

HaitiWyclef Jean who has famously championed his charity www.yele.org for helping the impoverished nation of Haiti in the past is reaching out for your help. Wyclef has always been a believer in the power of  music, and it is time to show that we understand what this means. The best way that YOU can help is by donating $5 to Yele Haiti!

This earthquake is the most devastating natural disaster to strike a country in our lifetime. This is worse than the Tsunami that struck 12/26/2004. Not in sheer numbers of dead, but that one country has been so completely devastated by a lone event. It is estimated that over 2 Million people sleep homeless tonight in Port Au Prince and that 33% of the country has been affected by this tragedy of epic proportions. Please do your part to help by donating $5.

You can do this  simply by:

  1. Text: Yele to 501501 (your phone company will ad $5 to your next phone bill)
  2. Go to www.yele.org if you can afford to give more than $5. 

Please support Wyclef and his charity. There are so many people living in sheer terror and complete loss right now. Let us use music to help!

Slumdog Millionaire (Featuring Cyndi Lauper) - Wyclef Jean

11 January

The Skyline Is On Fire

One of the more original bands to make it across my desk lately are called The Low Anthem and hail from Providence, Rhode Island. Their latest release, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin  is drawing heavy notice and has earned them a spot opening for the Avett Brothers upon their return from their European tour in February. Much like the Avetts, the Low Anthem have the ability to play multiple instruments and have been known to exchange instruments between songs, to keep things interesting not only for them, but for their audience as well. Consisting of a couple of Brown University Ivy Leauguers, and a NASA technician The Low Anthem bring songs that question the basics of morality, science, and religion centered upon soaring harmonies, The Low Anthem have one of the best albums of 2009. Other tracks bring forth a jazz/blues quality that will have your toe tapping in rhythm in time to the Tom Waits(ish) vocals or perhaps of Leonard Cohen, especially the track, Ticket Taker  This one doesn’t take but a couple of listens to catch the bug, but it slowly becomes infectious… much like all good albums!

Check out the infectious The Horizon Is A Beltway:

The Horizon Is A Beltway - The Low Anthem

The horizon is a beltway that we may never cross
The tops of buildings tremble like children lorn and lost
The stain runs deep it’s deeper than the blood upon the cross.
The horizon is a beltway that we may never cross.

You’ll hear that distant love song when the wind blows right
Hear the whistle blowing put a tear into your eye
You hear the distant love song but widows know the lie
The horizon is a beltway, the skyline is on fire.

The skyline is on fire, the skyline is on fire
The horizon is a beltway and the skyline is on fire

You come up from the lowlands to the city on the air
Where pilrims and commissioners currate Christian fare
From Havisu to Brownsville feel the long unbroken stare
I wonder what it smells like in that city on the air

You’ll hear that distant love song when the wind blows right
Just the same blue love song made my grand dad cry
You’ll hear the whistle blowing put a tear drop in your eye
The horizon is a beltway, and the skyline is on fire.

The skyline is on fire, the skyline is on fire
You’ll hear the distant love song, when the skyline is on fire
The skyline is on fire, the skyline is on fire
The horizon is a beltway and the skyline is on fire

This old house stood empty now for fifteen years or more
Willows falls half way to meet the weeds around the door
Time throws up her curtain and we know not who we are
The horizon is a beltway, the skyline is on fire

You’ll hear that distant love song when the wind blows right
Hear the whistle blowing put a tear drop in your eye
Jagged as the jaw bone once the flesh expires
The horizon is a beltway the skyline is on fire

Here is their beautiful stop-animation video for their song, Charlie Darwin: