Archive for January, 2010

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:

7 January

My 25 Most Influential Albums

The Top 25This a re-post from a Facebook note that I did about a year ago that I have been asked repeatedly to post here. So here you have it folks!

March 02, 2009

Well , here is my list. There are numerous omissions that upon review might be placed upon this if I wanted to dedicate the time and the internal (and eternal) debate I would have to have with myself… but I decided to go with a more stream-of-consciousness approach to this task….maybe I should have included Dire Straits, Iron Maiden – Yeah I said it..  Maiden!! or perhaps Elliott Smith or Depeche Mode. Perhaps a thousand others, I mean where is Otis Redding on this list?!? One thing is certain, I believe that the music you discover during your late teens and twenty’s holds the most power over you.
The White Album – The Beatles
This is the beginning of the end for the Fab 4 and is often overlooked in comparison with Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver, but this one takes the cake for me for sheer raw energy and risk taking.
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
When I first heard this, there was no such label of ‘alternative music’ It was called College Radio back then, and I had WRBC (We’re Radio Bates College). This album made me feel a couple of years older than I was and now it makes me feel a couple years younger. Put this one on and everyone can sing along.
Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction
This album took all the metal that I had been listening too from the few previous years and channeled it into a genre I had not heard before. The song “Ted, Just Admit It…” makes great commentary about the state of the media that is even far more relevant today.
Being There– Wilco
Ever been lonely and sad? I know Hank Williams has been and I know Jeff Tweedy has too. The way Jeff sings, ‘I am so… out of tune… with you…” makes me want to end a relationship just so I can sit in the dark and listen to that song over and over sitting in front of my stereo with a bottle of Knob Creek, and a good pair of headphones.
Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin
Every fucking riff is a monster. Every. Single. One.
The Wall – Pink Floyd
Critics say Dark Side but this album is epic and it also takes some work to listen to. I’m not so sure that the I-tunes generation has the attention span to appreciate this one. I had two Sunday Paper routes which allowed me plenty of time to listen start to finish… and listen I did… over and over.
Tim – The Replacements
This is the album that captured when you graduate from being a boy into being a man, but as most women realize, we’ll always have a little of the boy in us, and they like that.
Disintegration – The Cure
There is a South Park episode and at the end when Robert Smith walks off into the sunset, Kyle screams “Disintegration is the best album ever!!!”. He was right. I wish I could write songs like this.
August and Everything After – Counting Crows
Full of hope and heartbreak, It’s an album that will always take you home.
Straight Out of Compton – NWA
My first day in boot camp, I was roomed with 3 big imposing black guys from South LA. The white boy from Maine sang em’ every word of this album and they loved me from that day forward. Take note, that Nothing’s Shocking, Appetite for Destruction, and Straight Out of Compton all came out of LA at the same time. LA was angry place to be at the end of the 80’s. People were Pissed Off. No surprise the Rodney King incident came shortly after.
Highway to Hell – AC/DC
What can I say that has not been said before. Bon Scott’s eulogy. I would have liked to see what was to come.
Back in Black – AC/DC
This album completes’ the One/Two Punch that began with Highway to Hell. Pure power in the face of tragedy, cause “Rock ‘n’ roll it will Survive… yes it will!”
In My Tribe – 10,000 Maniacs
Beautiful, voice, lyrics, imagery, and music. The girls going off to college loved this band. I loved this band. I was always mixed that the band decided to take Peace Train off the album due to the whole Cat Stevens/Salman Rushdie affair, as I hated that song (all versions), but I also think once you release a piece of work… well, you’ve released a piece of work…..
American Beauty – Grateful Dead
This might seem like the easy choice, and maybe it is, but it has tons of songs I like and seeing the Dead in concert was always like Sunshine Daydream… ‘walking in the tall tress… going where the wind blows…blooming, blooming like a red rose, and breathing more freely.’
Cold Roses – Ryan Adams
Brilliant, beautiful, haunting, sad and bracing. All by wunderkind Adams and his new band the Cardinals. We all knew the kid could write brilliant songs at an evolutionary rate that could make an argument for creationism, and this album puts forth a double work. Every 3 months or so my favorite songs on this album get completely reconfigured.
London Calling – The Clash
The birth of smart punk. Buy this album, now.
Decoration Day – The Drive By Truckers
This album made me fall in love with the band. It was originally to have been entitled Heathen’s, after the song of the same name. Having grown up in the South as a kid, I have an admiration for the South and a reflection on how it is misunderstood. Let these guys blow away your misconceptions.
Rain Dogs – Tom Waits
If you have to pick one. I would choose this. His work is diverse and dynamic, orchestrated in the streets… which is well represented by this album. Another piece of work, brilliant start to finish. Hope and tragedy. “Rain dogs” are dogs which become lost after the rain washes away the scent of home, thus barring their return. Aren’t we all a little like that out there in the world?
It Still Moves – My Morning Jacket
The Haunting Reverb of the Velvet Underground mixed with 2 parts Kentucky Bourbon, 1 part of ‘Who Give’s A Fuck?’, and 3 Parts of Musical Reverance to the American male, who knows that within his blood, there’s gasoline.
What’s The Story (Morning Glory) – Oasis
Conflict equals creation. A fantastic 2nd album for a band with a lot to prove and an even bigger chip on their shoulder. Wonderwall might be one of the best anthems from the 90’s.
The Joshua Tree – U2
I always thought U2 were at there best when their songs were trying to be carved in stone. The interesting thing is that the hits on this album have stood the test of time, but it was the songs that were not hits on this album that I thought were the better songs. Usually a sign of good work. Red Hill Mining Town. One Tree Hill. Running to Stand Still…. Pure magic.
Black Holes and Revelations – MUSE
I have seen the future of Rock and Roll and they are called MUSE. One of the best live bands I have ever seen. This album is fantastic in it’s conception and execution. I cannot believe a record company let a band take a risk like this, other than the fact that it is brilliant.
The Eminem Show– Eminem
Yeah, he’s all you say about him, but the fact is he has mad rhyming skills yo. Way mad. Wicked Mad. I think you get it.
Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos
An amazing creation as a first release. Start to finish, haunting and beautiful.
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
I know there’s a whole Springsteen revival happening right now.
But maybe we’re all just scared and we’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore.
Any maybe the only redemption we can offer is what’s inside of us.
And if we show a little faith, there’s magic in the night…
It’s out there somewhere, and if we sit tight, grab hold…..Thunder Road.
5 January

Protest Songs

upsidedownflagAs I flipped on the news today, I heard yet another story about the war.  This one was all too familiar in it’s ending, it involved a double Afghan agent, a bombing, a local Massachusetts man among multiple dead, and a wife and children left behind to cope. This story got me to thinking about the family left behind and then I was reminded of a song.

If I were to ask a question about music in contrast with the topic of war, I think most people would first conjure up protest songs. Songs from Dylan, Lennon, Neil Young… 4 Dead in Ohio, Eve of Destruction, etc. Perhaps, they would answer songs from Toby Keith, who would like to put a boot in the ass of somebody ‘Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue’. Maybe, just maybe… they would associate it with a pro-war song, Over There,  written by George Cohan,  a call to arms song for men to Europe and do their duty.

Jason Isbell (formerly of the Drive By truckers) recently reminded me of another type of song about war, and that is about the personal one: the human cost of war and it’s impact on those left behind. It is a strange phenomenon and a great feat to write a song that is filled with such honesty and emotion about a topic  so sad, that the song in itself becomes beautiful. Jason Isbell has accomplished this with his song Dress Blues, a tribute to his friend Matt Conley who was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq.

Jason is one of the most original songwriters I have heard in recent years. His work, while a member of the Drive By Truckers, contain some of my favorite songs from the group. I look forward to hearing more of his work and to share this song and artist with you.

The purpose of this posting was not to bring protest to the war, but to highlight an artist that has tackled a difficult topic with music that is poignant and perhaps also healing. I challenge you to try and keep a dry eye while listening to this song. If you would like the back-story you can click here: Matt Conley

Dress Blues - Jason Isbell

What can you see from your window?
I can’t see anythin’ from mine
Flags on the side of the highway
And scripture on grocery store signs

Maybe eighteen was too early
Maybe thirty or forty is too
Did you get your chance to make peace with the man
Before He sent down his angels for you?

Mamas and grand mamas love you
‘Cause that’s all they know how to do
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

Your wife said this all would be funny
When you got back home in a week
Turn twenty two and we’d celebrate you
In a bar or a tent by the creek

Your baby would just about be here
And your very last tour would be up
But you won’t be back, they’re all dressin’ in black
Drinkin’ sweet tea in Styrofoam cups

Mamas and grand mamas love you
American boys hate to lose
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

The high school gymnasium’s ready
Full of flowers and old Legionnaires
Nobody showed up to protest
Just sniffle and stare

There’s red, white and blue in the rafters
And there’s silent old men from the Corps
What did they say when they shipped you away
To fight somebody’s Hollywood war?

Nobody here could forget you
You showed us what we had to lose
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
Or sleepin’ in your dress blues

Here is a gut-wrenching, solo, acoustic performance from Austin, TX: