Thursday, December 31, 2009

Don't Let Us Get Sick; Don't Let Us Get Old; Don't Let Us Get Stupid, All Right? (or, Happy New Year 2010, Mofo!)

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

Warren Zevon, "Don't Let Us Get Sick" 
from the album "Life'll Kill Ya" (2000)

Kicking out the Jams, Mofo remembers the family, the friends, the family of friends, and the friends of family that we lost from 2000-2009...

Remember to Kick out the Jams in 2010, Mofo!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3 X 3 Table of Vinyl (or, Flipping & Flipping & Flipping at Antone's)

Stop #2 on my tour of Texas record stores was Antone's Record Shop in Austin, TX. With the best vinyl collection of blues, Cajun, rockabilly, funk, classic country, Texas music, etc. for many a mile, I could have spent a small fortune. I tried to restrain myself and in the end only picked up 9 records:

[Click on the picture to see higher resolution.]

While I had about 18 albums in the "to be considered pile", I chopped the acquisition list down to 9 to stay within budgetary constraints. I purchased 7 country albums, a mid-70's Dayton, OH funk record, and a new, sealed mid-period Zevon album (from upper left to lower right):

1. Faron Young – Here’s Faron Young (1968)
2. Ohio Players – Fire (1975)
3. Red Sovine – Teddy Bear (1976)
4. Hank Snow – I’ve Been Everywhere (1963)
5. Ferlin Husky – One More Time (1971)
6. Bobby Bare – Sleeper Wherever I Fall (1978)
7. Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (1987)
8. Bill Anderson – Don’t She Look Good (1973)
9. Bobby Bare – (Margie’s at) the Lincoln Park Inn (1969)

It will be fun to drop the needle on each of these upon our return home.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can We Please Blame Ringo? (or, Who Killed Rock 'N' Roll, Why an' what's the reason for?) [book review]

"Not us," says the angry crowd,
Whose screams filled the arena loud.
"It's too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight.
We didn't mean for him t' meet his death,
We just meant to see some sweat,
There ain't nothing wrong in that.
It wasn't us that made him fall.
No, you can't blame us at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?

"Who Killed Davey Moore?" by Bob Dylan
Copyright ©1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

I read Elijah Wald's new book during the fall, but am only now getting around to writing a few words about a book that I highly recommend. It was one of the more interesting "big picture" music-related books that I have read in recent years and it is good follow up to Mr. Wald's previous book, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues that I also highly recommend. Both of these books consider subjects far more expansive than the titles imply. Other than being known for misleading book titles, Elijah Wald should also be known as a source of some of the more provocative commentary on the trajectory of, and trends in, 20th century American music.

In his current book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, he does a decent job of building a case (really several different cases) about why and how the river of American music flowed in certain channels over the course of the century. While he doesn't really get around to his explanation for how the Beatles might be a culprit in the racial Balkanization of current American music and therefore the destruction of Rock 'N' Roll until the very end of the book, the preceding chapters provide some interesting takes on all sorts of things related to the century's popular music.

Much of the book is a compelling, critical essay that incorporates recent scholarship on popular music and Wald's reconception of various influential forces (economic, social, the state, and technology in particular) and how they conditioned the music of the 1900s. From his discussions of these specific factors (the Depression, recording and transmission technologies, the World Wars, Prohibition, gender, migration patterns, geography, urbanization, industrialization, the pathologies of field recordists and amateur musicologists, etc.), we gain a fair bit of insight into developments over the course of the decades that got us to where we are today--in a world of Rock 'N' Roll being nearly solely the domain of white people in the wake of the splintering off of R&B and the rapid rise of what would become hip-hop. He demonstrates how the split is a relatively recent phenomenon and points his fingers at the various culprits (individual and societal) responsible for Rock's fragmentation in the recent generations (and the "forced categorization" of different types of music earlier in the century).

A final matter-this book is also a pleasure to read because Wald is a great writer. One might not dig his unconventional take on American music, but his well-sourced and clearly-written book should be read by any music fan that has an eye toward the long view of the role of popular music in American society. Highly recommended.

Read out the Jams, Mofo!

Monday, December 28, 2009

*My Top 30 Concerts of the 2000s (and some that were left behind)*

I was fortunate enough to see approximately 90 or so concerts during the decade (counting whole festivals as one concert and not including various smaller-scale shows/local bands in a variety of locations). There were also some shows that got away - I had tickets for them and couldn’t make, or just couldn’t make a show/tour.

*My favorite 30 Concerts of the Decade (in no particular order)*

• Bob Dylan with Asleep at the Wheel, March 31, 2000 Rochester, MN (my 25th Dylan show, my wife’s 15th, my mother in law's first and last. RIP J.)
• Neil Young & Crazy Horse (w/ Willie Nelson on guitar for some songs), at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic/Campout, north of Austin, TX, Summer 2004
• Guided by Voices, the band’s final 2 shows, The Metro, Chicago, Dec. 30th & Dec. 31st 2004,
• Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings (one of Waylon’s last concerts) Grand Casino, Hinckley, MN, 2001
• Alejandro Escovedo, 7th St. Entry, Minneapolis, 2000 [my 10th Escovedo show]
• Merle Haggard – UFO Festival, Roswell, NM 2004, (also sat in on guitar for entire Willie Nelson set)
• Billy Joe Shaver, Smith's Old Bar, Atlanta, Spring 2000
• Los Huracanes del Norte, Queretaro Estado Feria, Mexico, 2002
• The Mountain Goats, The Slowdown, Omaha, NE, Fall 2007
• The Dead, 3 shows at Red Rocks, CO, Summer 2003
• John Prine, Washington Pavillion, Sioux Falls, SD 2002
• Elvis Costello, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Summer 2009
• Plastilina Mosh, Aguascalientes, Mexico, Estadio Terreno, 2003
• The Bad Plus, Flynn Space, Burlington, VT,2006
• The Hold Steady, The Slowdown, Omaha, NE, Spring 2009
• Del McCoury, Wintergrass, Tacoma, WA, February 2002
• The Flatlanders, The Lensic, Santa Fe, NM, Spring 2004
• The White Stripes, Bell Center, Montreal, QB, Fall 2005
• Richard Buckner, The Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM, Spring 2001
• Built to Spill, Sunshine Theater, Albuquerque, NM, Summer 2006
• Ralph Stanley, The Paramount, Santa Fe, NM, Fall 2004
• The Sleepy Jackson, The Black Cat, Washington DC, 2004
• White Denim, High Noon Saloon, Madison, November 2009
• Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM 2004
• J.J. Cale with James McMurtry, The Paramount, Santa Fe, 2005
• Patti Smith, First Avenue, 2 nights of shows, December 2000
• Camper van Beethoven w/Cracker, The Paramount, Santa Fe, Spring 2005
• Ska-P with Panteon Rococo, Queretaro, Mexico, Gallos Blancos Stadium, 2003
• Dave Rawlings Machine, The Waiting Room, Omaha, NE, December 2009,
• Jaguares, Gimnasio Lopez, Aguascalientes, Mexico, 2002
• Scott H. Biram, The Triple Door, San Marcos, TX, December 2009

*Tours/Shows that I had tickets for but unfortunately had to sell or just plain missed for some reason (these are the ones that all still pain me)*

• Paul Westerberg 2002 tour
• David Bowie 2002 & 2004 tours
• TV on the Radio, First Avenue, 2006 & 2008
• Tom Waits tours in 2004, 2006, and 2008
• Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Mexico City, 2003
• Leonard Cohen 2008 tour
• Luna farewell tour 2004-05
• The Pixies 2004 reunion tour
• Bob Dylan (Ames 2002, Sioux Falls 2005, Lincoln 2006)
• Merle Haggard, Isleta Casino, New Mexico, 2005
• The Hold Steady/Drive-by Truckers tour, First Avenue, 2 nights, fall 2008

List out the Jams, Mofo!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

*My Top 175 Albums of the 2000s (25 in rank-order + 150 honorable mentions in alphabetical-order)*

*My Top 25 albums of the 2000s*

1. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain (2006): TVotR put out three top-notch albums during the decade and their second release succeeds at many different levels. All of the guitars, effects, percussion, bass lines, and vocals are in just the right place to my ears. But what seals the deal? The most awesome, twisted lyrics set inside the great music. My good friend David Bowie and I both give this our album of the decade designation.

2. The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee (2002): John Darnielle has been called the “best non-hip hop lyricist writing today” by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker, while others have compared him to Raymond Carver. Regardless, this album and its tale of two married alcoholics and love gone wrong in Florida is literary, brutal, spare, and evokes Carver’s Cathedral and Russell Banks's Trailer Park in its simple, haunting beauty.

3. Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day (2003): This album is a great introduction to one of the finest and hardest-working bands in the land today. Yes, it is bold and raw in its description of the “Southern thang” and the human endeavor in general, but it is also badass rock-n-roll. [Note: I almost put "The Dirty South" by the Drive-By Truckers in this slot.]

4. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls of America (2006): Craig Finn and the boys maybe didn’t set out to make [wait, maybe they did] several outstanding albums that perfectly capture many nice and not-so-nice facets of upper Midwestern teen & 20-something life, but they sure pulled it off. This one is the best of their consistently strong output. [Note: I almost put "Separation Sunday" by The Hold Steady in this slot.]

5. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001): An album that still sounds fresh 8+ years on. Proof that sometimes a good band actually gains widespread popular acclaim every once in a while. I listened to this album nearly every day for many months while living in India in 2001/02 after having them recommended to me by a fellow music fan at a Guided by Voices show in 2000. Jack White will always make me think of the northern Indian plains and my growing fear of rickshaws.

6. Bob Dylan – Love & Theft (2001): A nice change of direction for Robert Z. Or is it a return to the roots? Or is it a multi-leveled guidebook to the River of American Song? There is some good New, Weird America to be found here on this album that was released 9-11-2001.

7. Molotov – Dance and Dance Denso (2003): This politically-charged Mexican, rock/rap/metal/punch/roots band delivers a masterpiece. This is an album meant to be played very loud, pinche gringo puñeteros. Be ready to lower your shoulder and let those heads bleed.

8. Wilco –Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002; but circulating widely in 2001 due to record company dispute): Sure to be near the top of many lists. It is quite the perfect album. Hard to believe even now that Reprise refused to release it. It was originally supposed to be released on 9-11-2001 before it got shelved by the label...but in many ways it became the album (along with Dylan's L&T) most associated with 9-11 for me and plenty of other people anyway.

9. PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000): Float away with Polly Jean. An album that should be listened to on a state highway in the Southwest as the sun begins to set on a crisp autumn day. Turn it up.

10. Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror (2006): While No Depression named him the “Artist of the Decade” in 1998, it is his 6th album that puts everything in the right place in the new decade. Only a few years before this album we almost lost him as he collapsed on stage in Phoenix and then battled the effects of untreated Hepatitis C. Then he rises again with this release. Outstanding.

11. The Fall – The Real, New Fall LP (formerly Country on the Click) (2004): Mark E. Smith doesn’t like you. And he doesn’t give one flying fuck whether you like this album. Go away now. Seriously, go away now. Get out of here.

12. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (2001): Gillian and David Rawlings made the most efficient, best album of the decade. Gorgeous, wonderful music. What more can be said? Play it while sitting on your back porch. Or in front of a fire. Or better yet, on your back porch and in front of a cast iron fire pit fire.

13. Mclusky – Mclusky do Dallas (2002): What a band, etc. What a legend, etc. A great album that starts kicking you and keeps kicking you to the curb. Should be required listening for all that have forgotten how to rock (and write clever lyrics).

14. Scott H. Biram – The Dirty Old One Man Band (2005): An amazing guitarist. An amazing lyricist. This album alone is worth more than the last 10 years of everything that has been played on pop country radio. An album that should be sold with its own bottle of house whiskey taped to the cover.

15. Gogol Bordello – Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (2005): All your sanity and wits they will all vanish. I promise.

16. Ry Cooder – Chavez Ravine (2005): An album that plays out like a novella. In a good way. In a very good way. I have sat in the outfield bleachers at Dodger Stadium and this album tells me how that came to be. Plus Ry Cooder brings the chops and the guest players to this wonderful concept album.

17. Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years (2009): Take the trip with SFA. There are many stops along the way. Inconvenience. What the fuck?

18. Warren Zevon – Life’ll Kill Ya (2000): The last truly great Zevon album. The album that would take on much more real life significance a few years later for Zevon, but not in a good way. RIP Warren.

19. Peter Rowan and Tony Rice – Quartet (2007): Nothing much new here overall, but still.... Two wizened veterans come together to make yet another bluegrass album of covers, standards, and their own compositions. But the sound, oh the sweet, wonderful sound! Tony’s guitar and Peter’s voice are so good you are going to have to scrape the sugar burn off your woofers and tweeters after listening to this incredible recording.

20. Robyn Hitchcock – Spooked (2004): A newer era Hitchcock album that harkens back to the earlier days of the Egyptians in terms of the richness of the sounds, though this album has the fine pickin’ and singin’ of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings throughout. Only Robyn can apologize to his television for TV-infidelity and make the numerous scatological references seem so comforting.

21. Billy Joe Shaver – The Earth Rolls On (2001): An album about and for Eddy and Brenda — Billy Joe’s son and on-again-off-again wife — who had both died (heroin overdose and cancer respectively) in the recent years before this album came out. It is a strong statement from an artist, a father, and a human being. Billy Joe is criminally unknown as a songwriter and musician.

22. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005): While some folks didn’t much like this offering from the women of S-K, I really liked the crunchy riffs and volume 11 mentality of this scorcher of an album. Nothing quite rocked the mid-decade like this swan song from one of the best rock bands of the modern era.

23. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory (2004): Some more minimalist guitar and drums on the list. Raw and digs at you like abrasions on the knuckles of your fingers. Just don’t bump that hand.

24. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Master and Everyone (2003): A sparse and open release from Will Oldham. Quiet and contemplative and haunting and focused—the usual from this former Palace Brother.

25. Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man (2000): The last of the great Rubin-produced releases. While there would be moments of brilliance on #4 and #5 (and the Unearthed box too), American III found Johnny with a near-full voice and a consistently strong batch of songs.

*The Next 150 Albums Deserving Honorable Mention (alphabetically-ordered)*

• 16 Horsepower – Secret South (2000)
• Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)
• Ryan Adams – Jacksonville City Nights (2005)
• Amadou & Mariam -- Dimanche a Bamako (2005)
• The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
• The Bad Plus – These are the Vistas (2003)
• The Bad Plus – Give (2004)
• Blind Boys of Alabama -- Spirit of the Century (2001)
• Bobby Bare Sr. – The Moon is Blue (2006)
• Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Sings Greatest Palace Music (2004)
• Bonnie “Prince” Billy -- The Letting Go (2006)
• Scott H. Biram – Graveyard Shift (2006)
• Scott H. Biram – Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever (2009)
• The Black Keys- Thickfreakness (2003)
• Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue Volume II (2000)
• Richard Buckner – Dents and Shells (2004)
• Built to Spill -- Ancient Melodies of the Future (2001)
• Built to Spill -- You in Reverse (2006)
• T-Bone Burnett – The True False Identity (2006)
• Kate Bush – Aerial (2005)
• Bjork – Vespertine (2002)
• David Bowie – Heathen (2002)
• David Bowie – Reality (2003)
• John Cale – HoboSapiens (2004)
• Glen Campbell – Meet Glen Campbell (2008)
• Neko Case & Her Boyfriends – Furnace Room Lullaby (2000)
• Neko Case – Blacklisted (2002)
• Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)
• Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
• Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds -- Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus (2004)
• Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (2008)
• Centro-Matic -- South San Gabriel Songs/Music (2000)
• Centro-Matic – Love You Just the Same (2003)
• Manu Chao -- Proxima Estacion: Esperanza (2001)
• Les Claypool's Frog Brigade – Live Frogs: Set 1 (2001)
• Ry Cooder – I, Flathead (2008)
• Cracker – Forever (2002)
• Cracker -- Countrysides (2003)
• The Dandy Warhols – Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000)
• The Decemberists – Her Majesty, the Decemberists (2003)
• Dengue Fever -- Venus on Earth (2008)
• Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera (2001)
• Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South (2004)
• Drive-By Truckers – A Blessing and a Curse (2006)
• Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006)
• Alejandro Escovedo – A Man Under the Influence (2001)
• Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (2008)
• Firewater – The Golden Hour (2008)
• The Fall – Reformation Post TLC (2007)
• The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
• The Flatlanders – Now Again (2002)
• Bill Frisell – The Willies (2002)
• Bill Frisell – The Intercontinentals (2003)
• Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another (2009)
• Garage a Trois – Emphasizer (2003)
• Garage a Trois – Outre Mer (2005)
• Jimmie Dale Gilmore – One Endless Night (2000)
• Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Come on Back (2005)
• Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta! (2007)
• Guided by Voices – Isolation Drills (2001)
• Guided by Voices – Earthquake Glue (2003)
• Merle Haggard – If I Could Only Fly (2000)
• Merle Haggard -- Roots, Vol. 1 (2001)
• PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her (2004)
• PJ Harvey – White Chalk (2007)
• Levon Helm – Dirt Farmer (2007)
• Levon Helm -- Electric Dirt (2009)
• Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Olé! Tarantula (2006)
• Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Goodnight, Oslo (2009)
• The Hives - Veni Vidi Vicious (2000)
• The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me (2004)
• The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005)
• The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (2008)
• Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002)
• Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)
• George Jones — Hits I Missed And One I Didn’t (2005)
• Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings -- 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)
• Salif Keita – Moffou (2002)
• Kinky – Kinky (2002)
• Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
• Lambchop – Nixon (2000)
• The Libertines – Up the Bracket (2002)
• Lhasa – The Living Road (2003)
• Bob Log III -- Log Bomb (2003)
• Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004)
• Los de Abajo -- Cybertropic Chilango Power (2002)
• Los Super 7 – Canto (2001)
• Los Super 7 – Heard it on the X (2005)
• Charlie Louvin -- Charlie Louvin (2007)
• Low – Things We Lost in the Fire (2001)
• Luna – Romantica (2002)
• Stephen Malkmus -- Face The Truth (2005)
• Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash (2008)
• The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium (2003)
• The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute (2005)
• Del McCoury – Del and the Boys (2001)
• James McMurtry – We Can’t Make it Here (2005)
• Medeski/Scofield/Martin/Wood – Out Louder (2006)
• Medeski, Martin, & Wood – Radiolarians II (2009)
• Morphine -- The Night (2000)
• The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas (2002)
• The Mountain Goats – We Shall all be Healed (2004)
• The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)
• Willie Nelson & Ray Price – Run that by Me One More Time (2003)
• Willie Nelson -- You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker (2006)
• Randy Newman – Harps and Angels (2008)
• Robert Pollard – Choreographed Man of War (2001)
• Robert Pollard – From a Compound Eye (2006)
• The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000)
• The New Pornographers -- Electric Version (2003)
• John Prine & Mac Wiseman – Standard Songs for Average People (2007)
• O’Death – Broken Limbs, Hymns, and Sin (2008)
• Plastilina Mosh – Juan Manuel (2000)
• Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
• Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
• Jay Reatard – Matador Singles ’08 (2008)
• Peter Rowan and Tony Rice – You Were There for Me (2004)
• John Scofield – Uberjam (2002)
• The Shins – Oh, Inverted World (2001)
• Silver Jews – Tanglewood Numbers (2005)
• Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008)
• Sleater-Kinney – All Hands on the Bad One (2000)
• Sleater-Kinney – One Beat (2002)
• The Sleepy Jackson – Lovers (2003)
• Elliot Smith – Figure 8 (2000)
• The Soft Boys – Nextdoorland (2002)
• Sonic Youth – Murray Street (2002)
• Son Volt -- Okemah and the Melody of Riot (2005)
• Spoon – Kill the Moonlight (2002)
• Spoon – Gimme Fiction (2005)
• Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome/The Seeger Sessions (2006)
• Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World (2001)
• Super Furry Animals – Phantom Power (2003)
• System of a Down – Toxicity (2001)
• Trio Beyond – Saudades (2006)
• Richard Thompson – The Old Kit Bag (2003)
• Richard Thompson – Front Parlour Ballads (2005)
• Richard Thompson – Sweet Warrior (2007)
• Tinariwen – The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2001)
• Tinariwen – Aman Iman: Water is Life (2007)
• Tool – Lateralus (2001)
• TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (2004)
• TV on the Radio – Dear Science (2008)
• Townes Van Zandt – In the Beginning (2003) [posthumous release]
• Various Artists – O Brother Where Art Thou? [soundtrack] (2001)
• Various Artists -- Team America: World Police [soundtrack] (2004)
• Julieta Venegas – Bueninvento (2000)
• Tom Waits – Alice (2002)
• Tom Waits -- Blood Money (2002)
• Tom Waits —Real Gone (2004)
• Gillian Welch – Soul Journey (2003)
• Paul Westerberg/Grandpaboy – Stereo/Mono (2002)
• Whiskeytown -- Pneumonia (2001)
• Wilco – A Ghost is Born (2004)
• The White Stripes – De Stijl (2000)
• The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
• Woven Hand – Consider the Birds (2004)
• Woven Hand – Ten Stones (2008)
• Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell (2003)
• Yo la Tengo – And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (2000)
• Warren Zevon -- The Wind (2003)

List out the Jams, Mofo!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Jams, Mofo" Book Club Vol. 1 Selections (or, Read Out the Jams, Mofo!)

Kicking Out the Jams, Mofo is interested in starting a music-related book club. While perusing the aisles of a local bookstore last evening, I found 6 music-related books that I have not read as of yet, but that would make perfect selections for the inagural meetings of the club. Here is what I purchased (click on the links to access's new and used availability):

A biography of Warren Zevon.

A biography of Hank Williams.

Merle Haggard's autobiography.

The collected interviews of Tom Waits.

A biography of Townes Van Zandt.

Heylin's followup book to From the Velvets to the Voidoids.

I think that I will just go ahead and read these in the order listed.  Pick yourself up some copies and join the Jams, Mofo book club... We'll talk about the Zevon book in mid-January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Well I Never Been to Heaven, But I Been to Oklahoma (or, Hoyt Axton 1938-1999)

Today, I made a quick winter vacation shopping foray to Sundance Records in San Marcos, TX, where I picked up 6 new LP's. Three of them are records by Hoyt Axton.

I am looking forward to dropping my new copy of Hoyt's 1971 album "Joy to the World" on the turntable, which contains "The Pusher".

Hoyt Axton, kickin' out the used-to-be-a-hit-for-Steppenwolf-and-made-famous-by-Easy Rider-but-I-wrote the-damn-song-and-I-sure-sound-a-bit-like-Captain-Beefheart-here jams, mofo!

Hoyt charted a dozen or so songs on the Billboard "Hot Country Songs" list between 1973 and 1981. His duet with Renee Armand, "Boney Fingers", went to #8 for him in 1974.

His two best known songs (and chart-topping hits) were made famous by Three Dog Night: "Never Been to Spain" and "Joy to the World".

Hoyt, an Oklahoma native, was often in the public eye as an actor. Early in his acting career, he appeared on an episode of Bonanza where he sang a few songs.

He also had TV roles on shows such as WKRP in Cincinnati, I Dream of Jeannie, Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes, Murder, She Wrote and The Bionic Woman. He also had minor character parts in a number of movies, including We're No Angels and Gremlins.

Hoyt Trivia: His mother, Mae Boren Axton, a fellow member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, co-wrote the Elvis Presley hit "Heartbreak Hotel".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It was a different time (or, The Band, Ed Sullivan, and Cripple Creek, oh my!)

In large part due to the 2nd encore performance of "The Weight" by David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, & 3/5ths of Old Crow Medicine Show last night in Omaha, I was inspired to listen to Side A of each of the first two The Band albums today.

40 years ago and some change, The Band played the Ed Sullivan Show on November 2nd, 1969.

A very young-looking The Band, kickin' out some abbreviated-for-60s-TV jams, mofo!

Do make sure to pick up a copy, if you don't have one already, of Leven Helm's 2009 release "Electric Dirt" which just barely got edged out as my album of the year.

Hopefully in the months ahead, I can finally get around to reading Levon's 2000 autobiography "This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Best" Interview with a Musician during the Decade (or, Worst Interview with a "Musician" during the Decade)

Gene Simmons talked with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air in February, 2002. It was this decade's Frost/Nixon discussion equivalent. Do you remember where you were when you first heard it?

Get the MP3 here if you care to hear the infamous interview for the sake of 2000s decade nostalgia!

Has anyone heard when John Darnielle and Dave Eggers will finish the screenplay based on the interview? Is Jim Jarmusch still going to direct? Is Bill Murray still going to play Simmons? Is Julie Delpy still going to play Gross?

Next post I'll link to the companion interviews: Bob Edwards chatting with Paul Stanley and Mara Liasson speaking with Peter Criss. And, if I can find it, I'll link to Ace Frehley answering the questions of Scott Simon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ouch! That hurts! (or, Pop Country infection treated with the Thin Man from the West Plains)

I had the misfortune of having to hear not one but two modern pop country songs over the last couple of days as I was in establishments that had current country radio stations tuned in. Following the advice in my "Hank Williams Handbook of Medicine", I rushed home and self-medicated with some Porter Wagoner. So far, so good. Recovery is going nicely and my fever has broken. The Bill Anderson-penned "The Cold, Hard Facts of Life" went to #2 on the Billboard Country & Western chart for Porter in 1967.

Porter Wagoner died in 2007 only a few months after hitting 80. That same year, however, he released "Wagonmaster" on the Anti- label, which is a stellar cap (similar to how it was for Cash with the Rubin-produced American Recordings albums prior to his death) to a nice music career. Seek it out, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DBT! DBT! DBT! DBT! DBT! (or, Yet another best of the decade preview post, this time from "The Dirty South")

The Drive-By Truckers kickin' out the jams, mofo!

One of my favorite bands from the 2000s. They will have several albums on my best of the decade list.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Well, that high tide's risin'. Mama, don't you make a sound. (or, Break-dancing in Brixton, Crooning in Prague, and Dark Eyes in Philly)

While some might look to Dylan's appearance at Woodstock '94 as the critical juncture where he started to really care about being a performance artist again after phoning it in for some years, I would point to the Spring '95 European tour as the real beginning of the solid multi-year run of high-quality Dylan tours that continued on into early 2002. Of course, Dylan has been on the Never-Ending Tour (NET) from 1988 until now (through 2009). Here is Bob out front struttin', crooner-style, for "Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)", the song that opened the show a majority of nights in 1995 and was played live in concert for the first time ever by Dylan only a few weeks before this performance on the last day of March of 1995 at the Brixton Academy.

That's Winston Watson bashing the skins, Bucky Baxter adding some high, lonesome sound on the pedal steel, Tony Garnier on bass, and J.J. Jackson on lead guitar. Later in this show, during the encores, Elvis Costello came out and played guitar and sang on "I Shall Be Released" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", while Chrissie Hynde and Carole King provided backup vocals on those two songs as well.

Here is some Engelbert Humperdinck-level crooning, this time from Prague in mid-March of 1995 on "License to Kill":

Bobby D. kicking out the vocal jams, mofo!

Of course, 1995 ends with some fabulous duets with Patti Smith during the "Paradise Lost" mini-tour in December. Here they are in Philly:

1995. A very good year for Dylan concerts and bootlegs.
2010. Would be a very good year for another Dylan/Patti Smith tour!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Think I Might Have Mentioned That Before

This is another "Best of the Decade" tease posting.  The Hold Steady are a standout band from the 2000s and will be well represented on my upcoming list of top albums for the last 10 years.  They are also a great live band!  Go see them if they come to your town...

Craig Finn and The Hold Steady kicking out the jams, mofo!

NPR is kind enough to provide some annotated lyrics for this song so you don't need to spend hours flipping through the Bible and reading cereal boxes all by yourself.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving thankfulness: the new Robyn Hitchcock "Dream of Trains" DVD rocks

We here at "Jams, Mofo" are thankful for the new "I Often Dream of Trains in New York" concert film that was just released on DVD.  Robyn Hitchcock has placed numerous albums on our "Best of the 90s" list and our "Best of the 80s list" and is rumored to have placed a couple as well on the soon-to-be-released "Best of the 00s" list...

While Jonathan Demme captured Robyn performing in a NYC storefront some years back, this concert film is directed by John Edginton (who also directed the recent Syd Barrett documentary and the "Sex, Food, Death... and Insects" documentary on Robyn in 2007).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TV on the Radio, Indeed (or TV on the Radio on the TV in 2006)

I am still pluggin' away on the “Best of the Decade” list. To tide us over, here is a link to one of the decade's best TV performances by one of the decade’s best bands.

TVotR kicking out the jams, mofo!

Monday, November 23, 2009

My "Best Albums of 2009" List

I had expected to be done with my "Best Albums of the 2000s" list before I finished my "Best Albums of 2009" list, but that isn't the way that it worked out. It might be another couple of weeks before the decade list is ready as I don't really have much free time these days. While this is the 2009 list as it stands now, I fully expect that it will change to some extent in the months ahead as I hear about and read about other albums from this year that I haven't listened to as of yet (or even yet know about). This is particularly true for jazz and world/global music albums that I might not have heard over the course of the year. In addition, there will be a smattering of releases that come out these next 5 weeks that might be worthy of inclusion as well. Although, this time of the year is typically a lull for new album releases so that isn't too likely.

Let me know what else I need to hear!

Top 11 (rank-ordered):
1. Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years [“it was a big fucking mountain”]

2. Levon Helm – Electric Dirt [rise again, Levon, rise again]

3. Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another [You need FotL more than FotL needs you!]

4. Scott H. Biram – Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever [He is: still drunk, still crazy, and still blue]

5. PJ Harvey and John Parish – A Woman A Man Walked By [Don't stop believing; hold on to that feeling]

6. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm [Can a return of Mascis and the boys help to lead indie/college/alternative rock music out of Wussville and Clevereffectsfield?]

7. Medeski, Martin, & Wood – Radiolarians II [Both innovative and a return to form at the same time]

8. Drive-By Truckers – A Fine Print [B-sides and “throwaways” compilation takes a medal]

9. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Goodnight Oslo [polka-dotted shirt required; insects & food optional]

10. White Denim – Fits [hard not to be influenced by their incredible live shows]

11. The Dave Rawlings Machine – A Friend of a Friend [now with a 60%/40%::David/Gillian ratio]

Honorable Mention (alphabetically-ordered)
• Dave Alvin – Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women
• Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali
• Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid
• BLK JKS – After Robots
• Danny Barnes –  Pizza Box
• Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Beware
• Built to Spill – There is no Enemy
• Guy Clark -- Somedays the Songs Write You
• Leonard Cohen – Live in London
• Elvis Costello -- Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
• Cracker – Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey
• The Dead Weather – Horehound
• John Doe & the Sadies – Country Club
• Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
• Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart
• Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies
• Steve Earle – Townes
• The Felice Brothers – Yonder is the Clock
• The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
• The Flatlanders – Hills and Valleys
• Garage a Trois – Power Patriot
• Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)
• Japandroids – Post-Nothing
• Kris Kristofferson – Closer to the Bone
• The Mars Volta – Octahedron
• Buddy & Julie Miller – Written in Chalk
• The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
• Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel - Willie & the Wheel
• Charlie Parr – Roustabout
• Robert Pollard – Elephant Jokes
• Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall
• Son Volt – American Central Dust
• Sonic Youth – The Eternal
• Tom Waits - Glitter and Doom Live
• Yo la Tengo – Popular Songs

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sorry Laurie, I was wrong [or, Where have you gone Lou Reed? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.]

[We must also hold Ed Koch accountable for this video as it was his municipal government that issued the permits to authorize the blocking of traffic for the filming.]

I know that many people—including me—have the tendency to say that when Lou Reed hooked up with Laurie Anderson many years back, they might have found success as a couple, but they undercut each other’s musical creativity (or actually reinforced negative creative elements for each of them—see Lou’s “The Raven” and Laurie’s “Life on a String” to see how low those undercuts could go).

That said, I am not here to pass judgment on whether the tradeoff was worth it for each of them (awwww, look at the way they stare at each other!) even if the artistic devolution could be proven in a musical court, but I do wonder now if this assessment is completely wrong. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is: how was it that Lou was able to deliver 2.5 masterful albums over the course of a four-year period (1989’s “New York” , 1990’s “Songs for Drella” with John Cale, and some of the first half of 1992’s “Magic and Loss”)? Because, I think it can be argued, these are the only worthwhile albums he has done between 1982’s “The Blue Mask” and today [sorry, I just don’t think the closest contender “New Sensations” and the rest of “Magic and Loss” hold up very well]. So, in nearly 28 years, we really only have four-year period track record of success, nested within an overwhelmingly dry period just short of three decades. I guess what I am saying is that I am withdrawing, effective Nov. 22, 2009, my “Blame Laurie” comments from the last many years and will be calling a spade a spade from now on and holding Lou accountable for his own output (or lack thereof). I am still working on my explanation for why the 1989—1992 period was a fertile one for Lou in the studio, but I think the key reasons will revolve around the return of Mo Tucker and John Cale as collaborators during that timeframe, or maybe something to do with Louis Farrakhan. One final thing: I saw Lou Reed in 1996 at the Warfield in San Francisco on his “Twilight Reeling” tour and in 2000 at the Orpheum in Minneapolis on his “Ecstasy” tour and had a great time at both shows. But let’s be honest, I did not clap as loudly on "Egg Cream", “Hang on to Your Emotions”, and “Future Farmers of America” as I did for “Sweet Jane”, “Vicious", and “Satellite of Love”. Though, I must note, the overall level of audience clapping at the Warfield for "Sex with Your Parents (Motherfucker) Part II" was quite loud.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You know, just the usual Bright Eyes/Neil Young & Crazy Horse medley that everyone is doing

The new (and first) album by the Dave Rawlings Machine, "A Friend of a Friend", came out this past Tuesday and has been getting great reviews. I have had a chance to listen to it a few times over the course of the week and I must say I am impressed. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch have been performing as a duo for the better part of 15 years now, and this is their latest album contribution. Rawlings gets top billing for the first time and sings lead on the songs, but with a significant helping of Welch on all of the tracks. Rawlings played a key role in all of Gillian's albums and she plays a vital role in this album as well. The medley track above is "Method Acting" by Bright Eyes --> "Cortez the Killer" by Neil Young. Great stuff! Rawlings is a fantastic guitar player. I do hope we also get a "Queen Jane Approximately" in Omaha next month when they play a show at The Waiting Room, though a "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" would be keen as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2 X 2 Table of Rock

Today's WSJ has a moderately interesting article that asks the question: where do we place Tom Petty in the rock canon? What was particularly interesting about the article, however, was the graphic which attempts to provide the conventional wisdom about a number of classic rock artists and places them relative to each other on a X axis of relative lack of coolness to coolness, and a Y axis of how hard do they rock (or not rock). What placements do we find to be mistaken? Either in terms of our own view or in terms of what we believe the conventional wisdom to be?  For me, I would start with James Taylor.  Seriously?  Does anyone find him to be cool?  I don't know where in the blue area he goes, but does anyone really rate James Taylor as "cooler" than Tom Waits?  Seriously?  I mean, that makes me laugh out loud.  Other questions spring to mind:  Do Bob Seger and ZZ Top rock that hard?  Shouldn't the Eagles be deeper in the blue zone?  Could we have it such that Jimmy Buffet and Waits aren't so close together as that makes me very uncomfortable?  Is Neil Young really slightly cooler than Dylan, and both really are behind Nick Cave? Is Neil Diamond in Billy Joel territory? Ahhh, Carlos, you used to be up and to the right by quite a bit until about, what, 10 years ago when you sold your soul and never looked back?

Days Up and Down They Come; Like Rain on a Conga Drum; Forget Most, Remember Some; But Don't Turn None Away

As summer turns to fall and fall turns to early winter, every year I start listening to Townes van Zandt records again. Yet, because the songs of Townes can be so brutal in their phrasing, imagery, and observations, it is best to listen to his albums in moderation. While I would firmly suggest that he was one of the very best American songwriters of the late 20th century, there are times that I cannot listen to him as his words cut too close to the bone. "To Live is to Fly" appeared orginally as the first song on Side B of "High, Low and in Between" which was released in 1972. Townes is able to capture in 3 minutes and 15 seconds the struggle to answer a crucial question that we all will eventually ask about life: how do we value the drudgery, the joy, and the pain in the march of our lives and how do we respond?

"We all got holes to fill.
Those holes are all that's real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own

The choice is yours to make
The time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone

Well, to live's to fly, both low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eye
Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eye"

There have been a number of good cover versions of this song in the nearly 13 years since Townes left this mortal coil. In particular:

*Guy Clark on the tribute collection "Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt" (2001)and also on his "Old Friends" (2006) collection
*Peter Rowan & Tony Rice on their "Quartet" album (2006)
*Steve Earle on his "Townes" tribute album (2009)

And from nearly 18 years ago:
*Cowboy Junkies on their "Black Eyed Man" album (1992) [Which they recorded after getting off the road with Townes when he opened for the Junkies on most of the dates on their 1990 U.S./Canada tour]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chop, Chop, Chop: Time to make some hard decisions about S-K

Another group that I have had fun listening to these last few months as I have revisited albums for the purpose of "research" on my "best of the 2000s" list is Sleater-Kinney. "The Woods" will rank very well but other albums might not make the cut. My goal of a top 100 has expanded to a top 150, but even this new larger cap is still wreaking havoc and forcing me chop, chop, chop the list down to size as the long shortlist still has over 225 albums on it.

Chicken! (Scott H. Biram gets added to the schedule)

Austin-based Scott H. Biram is one of my very favorite artists from the latter part of the 2000s. His dirty guitar playing and great songwriting put him near the head of the "dirty blues" or "deep blues" revival of the last few years. I am extraordinarily excited about going to see him live in San Marcos, TX on the day after Xmas. This show and the Gourds show will almost make up for the fact that we are going to miss a 2-night stand by Jerry Jeff Walker at Gruene Hall by a couple of days. Boo hoo.

Future of the Left left me hanging

I have wanted to catch Future of the Left concert as I unfortunately never made it to a Mclusky show. That said, FotL canceled their gig last week and it looks like I won't being seeing them anytime soon. Bummer. I won’t hold a grudge, however, and their “Travels with Myself and Another” will be highly ranked on my “Best of 2009” album list when it is completed.

Two more Ferlin platters in the house!

Thanks to the fortuitous timing of our visit to Madison, WI a few weeks back, I got to hit the presale with the areas’s vinyl geeks at the St. Vinnie’s annual record sale. I was able to double my Ferlin Husky record collection by picking up a couple of pristine albums from the late 50s and early 60s. “Wings of a Dove” went to #1 for Ferlin in the fall of 1960 and was written by Bob Ferguson (who also wrote the hit “The Carroll County Incident”).

Polly Jean will make the cut (likely twice)

Over the last couple of months I have been slowly but surely constructing my “Best of the 00s” album list. While it is still a ways from being complete, I have enjoyed the process of my focused effort to listen to albums from throughout the decade—some of which I had not listened to in a while. Because I listen to music all day at work and I spin records and play music morning and night around the house, I have been able to revisit many of these albums. And fortunately, I have been able to listen to a bunch while sitting on the living room floor and building Lego castles with my 21-month old son. It is quite likely that a couple of Polly Jean’s records will garner spots on this decade’s list, I listened to her a lot in the 1990s as well and revisited that output of albums during these last many months. “Dry”, “Rid of Me”, and "To Bring You My Love" have aged well. This version of “50 ft Queenie” is from her 1998 “Black Sessions” recordings.

Doug Sahm has been playing in the great gig in the sky for 10 years

I had been on a Doug Sahm kick of sorts lately even before I realized that we were approaching the 10 year anniversary of his untimely death in 1999. A visit from a high school friend helped me to fill out my collection of his music and I had been working my way through the stages of his career over the last many weeks. I was fortunate enough to see the Texas Tornados in San Antonio in 1992 but I didn’t really realize at the time what a super supergroup I was seeing. While Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers are still kicking and playing, Sahm and Freddie Fender have departed for the great gig in the sky.

White Denim likes to rock the party

This is some footage from the White Denim show at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI that I caught a couple of weeks back. The dude that shot the video got yelled at by the band later in the show to stop filming (and he did). White Denim is from Austin, TX and they put on one of my favorite live performances of recent memory. Pickup "Fits" (2009) on vinyl or CD or download and go see them live in your town if you get the chance. Black Keys meets John Spencer Blues Explosion meets Sonic Youth meets Cream meets newer math rock... Yes!

Late period Mavis Staples stands out (and she did it without Rick Rubin)

While the video is a compilation of '60s civil rights era footage and quite powerful, the music is from Mavis's 2007 Ry Cooder-produced album "We'll Never Turn Back" on Anti of civil rights songs. Her 2004 release "Have a Little Faith" on Alligator is also outstanding.

Dutch Indo-rock footnote

It is perhaps hard to recognize it now nearly 50 years later, but these guys were very much ahead of the time in their application of what would become the classic rockabilly sound. It is uncanny how much it resembles acts from the rockabilly revival from the 70s and 80s. If they had been in California instead of (literally) the Netherlands, our contemporary music textbooks might read a bit different.

Bard goes there [embedding disabled so you have to click the link]

While the album seems to be quite polarizing--look at the bimodal distribution of 1* and 5* reviews on amazon--the first video from the Dylan Xmas album will probably please all viewers. It makes me wishfully dream of a future Dylan & Brave Combo collaboration. Or maybe Dylan & Gogol Bordello? Dylan & Los Super 7? Some of Dylan's recent work has such a strong Border Radio sound and vibe, and the "Here Comes Santa" cut on the new album is no exception. Rock on Bobby.

Welcome to my blog where we kick out the jams, mofo!*

MC5 was such an important band that I can't really say anything new about them that hasn't been said. I have seen Patti Smith in concert a few times and at her show at First Avenue in about 2000 she told a nice story about the late, great Fred "Sonic" Smith and then delievered a blistering cover version of "My Generation". Trivia note: The son of Patti and Sonic is married to Meg White, drummer for the White Stripes.

*Note: Some of the initial 20 or so posts might be out of order as many of them were composed before I activated this blog.