music


2016-02-02 00.37.37

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These are basically four note chords. Open strings to be played are indicated.

Okay, I feel like bragging. I’m gonna just put it out there. This is something I’m proud of. Whether I’m wrong or right – life is too short to not want to make a few mistakes now and then; too short to not want to have the dialogue. So here goes…

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I’ve been brushing up on my mandolin and guitar a little bit, recently.

For many years I played the guitar as a ‘lead’ instrument – meaning, for me, that I’d play mostly single note melodies, patterns and riffs.

When I realized what huge dimensions of the instrument I’d been missing – as accompaniment; or even as a more rhythmic, chordal or harmonic instrument – I was crushed. Crushed, I tell you! I pretty much put it down for some more years.

And, you know… it seems like any simpleton that ever actually tried to go out and interact with other players would’ve long since realized their limitations. It shouldn’t have been such a shock…

When I saw how beautifully some piano playing friends of mine accompanied singers, it really opened my eyes…

I was more of a loner; trying to do it all on my own. I was kind of ashamed when I realized how much of a loner I actually was!….

I don’t know. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
The way we shame ourselves

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For me, then, trying to learn the mandolin – after years of that kind of guitar playing – was counter-intuitive. It seemed like a completely different instrument.

Be that as it may – or not.

Eventually, having a nice mandolin around; learning to appreciate it’s portability; listening to other mandolinists; trying to dig what their ‘thing’ is; and, well, just trying to grok the instrument – gave me a slightly more engaged perspective.

My guitar playing has also since been evolving into a more harmonic, chordal and rhythmic style.

So recently… having both mandolin and guitar close at hand – I found that learning things on the mandolin, just plinking around – opened up the guitar for me in a nice way, too. When you have to re-learn where to put your fingers on the new instrument, it brings a different focus on the first instrument, too.

That’s really all I want to say about the mandolin! Don’t let me confuse you! I’m really talking here about the kind of things that inspire me! The muse

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I have my guitar sitting out in my room. That’s supposed to be important; having your instrument close at hand for when the spirit hits you.

This morning I glanced over at it and visualized or heard a three chord progression. I picked up the guitar and tried to play something resembling what I had imagined. And – voilà – there you have it. (Although it demanded the fourth chord for resolution.) I’m not sure if this is exactly what I heard… But the fact that I could come up with something from out of the blue was very satisfying.

Don’t ask me what these chords are. I just think they sound nice together.

mandolin

Mandolin signed by Tom Rozum (top); David Grisman (Dawg, center); and Chris Hillman (bottom). Three of my inspirations, for sure!!

Mandolin signed by Tom Rozum (top); David Grisman (“Dawg”, center); and Chris Hillman (bottom). Three of my inspirations, for sure!! At Wintergrass, Tacoma, Washington, February 2001

One of my favorite David Grisman albums is Mondo Mando. It’s really atmospheric. It reminds me of a fall day – nice traveling music! Check it out.

Tom Rozum’s work with Laurie Lewis – The Oak and the Laurel and others – as well as his solo Jubilee – is very emotive.

D’oh!! [slaps forehead] And, oh! Ry Cooder’s mandolin playing is not to be missed!

Steve Earle! Don’t forget Steve Earle!!

Here’s something else I found inspiring – it’s a Josh Homme tutorial on YouTube featuring the man himself. I found the section from 2:27 minutes to 3:05 – about his use of octaves – to be especially interesting. There’s also some humorous comments – with a lot of humility, too – talking about guitar players’ ‘styles’ from 8:25 to 9:05

The Detroit duo

The Detroit duo “The Whiskey Charmers”

Here’s some music to sink your teeth into!

A friend told me I should check out the debut album by the Whiskey Charmers, an alt-country duo from Detroit. They wouldn’t tell me about it; they said to just listen for myself. That piqued my interest. So I downloaded it from their Bandcamp site.

As I was listening to it, my critic was in high gear. I was curious what they were up to. I was trying to get a handle on it.

At first, I thought, wow… I would’ve liked to have been involved in the production of this album. I’d have some good suggestions.

A line from the first song really jumped out at me: “But then you looked at the horizon – and you vanished into thin air”. Nice… A pretty evocative image. I’m sure we’ve all known a few people like that.

The next song was about a vampire… Hmmm… Okay, I’ve never really been that into vampires; haven’t understood the attraction and fascination. I remember how as kids, my older sister always loved to watch the soap opera “Dark Shadows”, about the vampire Barnabas Collins. I get it now – he was mysterious and sexy…

The “Neon Motel Room” has “a nice little quaint highway view.”

The song “C Blues” got my pulse going. It was a nice musical change of pace. Though very short, it seems like a good genre for the duo.

“Can’t Leave” has some very nice guitar figures that really grabbed me. Kind of Spanish/arabesque stuff like John Cippolina might’ve played.

I listened through to the end of the album; and then started from the beginning again.

I thought about production. What does that word mean? Everybody involved with the making of a recording is – in some sense of the word – ‘producing’ it. I marveled as I thought about how much is actually involved in putting out an album like this.

And as I continued to listen, it started dawning on me what was going on here.

It’s a dramatic, spooky, thematic collection of songs; nicely woven together. It has, in fact, been produced just as it should’ve been! The album continues to grow on me.

Saints and sinners; rattlesnakes; vampires; rusted chains on feet that have been there a thousand years… ghosts maybe? The singing, the low key ‘production’… All very nice. I could listen to this album over and over. I continue to do so. It’s a kick.

Okay, one reviewer called it country noir. Nice. That’ll do as a label. Kind of Goth, even – but with a sense of humor, imagination and a light touch. If it is in fact country music… Well, what a great way to mix up genres! This is original and fresh.

Also – there is a tradition and precedent in country music. Much of the country music from an earlier era – The Louvin Brothers’ “Knoxville Girl” comes to mind – came from traditional English, Scottish or Irish ballads. And we all know how the Irish love their ghost stories, right? Listen to “Sit Down By The Fire” by the Pogues for the modern equivalent.

One of the first songs that grew on me is “Vampire”. It’s such a great metaphor for how a moment’s passion can lead to a lifetime of misery. But what I love most about this album is how well the songs all go together as a whole.

Check it out! For your listening pleasure! Lullabies for the dispossessed! (Or even for the
possessed!)  Now available:  “The Whiskey Charmers”

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Bandcamp Download and Streaming Link:
https://thewhiskeycharmers.bandcamp.com/releases

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Website:

wwww.thewhiskeycharmers.com

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Newsletter:

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Jimi_All_Is_by_My_Side_poster

When this movie was shown at the NW Film Festival last year, there was some mystery around it. The people I asked about it seemed to think there was something… maybe a little… off about it. But they wouldn’t say what!

Yeah. For me, there were one or two shockers. I’m not going to say, either. But I’m very troubled by the way this movie – which apparently got a lot of its info verbatim from Charles Cross’s Hendrix bio “Room Full Of Mirrors” – might function as yet another meme about Hendrix. The man is 45 years dead… and still the vultures circle. Incredible, just incredible! See the movie and then do a little research on the internet; if anything strikes you as questionable. For me it’s a cautionary tale about believing everything that you’re told.

I liked it inasmuch as it renewed and re-piqued my interest in Hendrix. Linda Keith was portrayed as very influential in shaping Jimi’s professionalism and in encouraging him to be a bandleader/artist in his own right. For me it brings up questions about the star-making process. It seems like an interesting question: if Hendrix hadn’t been ‘discovered’, shaped, molded, etc. (if indeed he was), then what would his artistic career trajectory have been? I think our musicians and other artists get commodified – it’s an occupational hazard. They sometimes sacrifice themselves – or get sacrificed! – in order to share their own unique vision with the world…

Andre’ Benjamin’s performance was uncanny, simply brilliant.

I liked the sense of getting a window onto the groundbreaking artistic milieu and zeitgeist that was London at that particular time. The film captures some aspects of it very well.
I had a big objection to the way that the Devon Wilson character (Ida) was portrayed – as some evil Svengali of romantic intrigue. Phony, sensationalistic and objectionable, in my opinion. There’s more of this kind of portrayal of the women in Hendrix’s orbit.

At any rate, after watching this, I did a little research on the internet, listened to some of my favorite Hendrix tunes and had a bit of a cry for the man and his music. Then I picked up Cross’s book, which I’m reading now – with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I guess for me it was a vehicle to meditate on the man and his music… 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

I think Dave Edmunds is one of the great under appreciated talents of roots rock ‘n roll. How would I describe his music?

I like upbeat, up tempo rock music – a lot. I like virtuosity on the guitar; clever songwriting; expressive singing; and good interpretation and arrangement of others’ work, where it eclipses the originals or adds something ineffable.

I saw him play at a nice small auditorium during one of Seattle Center’s Bumbershoot festivals, some years back, playing solo with just an acoustic guitar. What a talent!

I put together a playlist on Spotify called Edmunds, Lowe and Rockpile. Some of my favorite, stand-out tracks from the playlist are: Standing At The Crossroads; Born Fighter; Home In My Hand; Halfway Down; It Doesn’t Really Matter; I Love Music; Girls Talk; Almost Saturday Night; Three Times Loser; When I write the Book; and You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine.

Nick Lowe is a great talent, too. I love his voice; he’s a fantastic singer! He brings a great sardonic sense of humor to his singing and lyrics.

Rockpile and some of Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe’s ‘solo’ work are all basically the same band. Nick Lowe played bass and sang. Edmunds sang, as did guitarist Billy Bremer. Terry Williams played drums. Wow! What a band! They put out an impressive collection of work.

I like trying to guess whether it is Lowe or Edmunds singing on some tracks. Their voices are sometimes similar; and sometimes have their own interesting nuances. This is particularly evidenced on their note-perfect interpretations of Everly Brothers tunes. It’s obvious to me that they influenced and complimented each other tremendously, as musicians.

The Blasters – including the brothers Phil and Dave Alvin – and the solo work of Dave Alvin – also rate high on my current play list. I also made a playlist for them on Spotify: The Blasters and Dave Alvin.

Dave Alvin is one of the primo, number one, undisputed great writers of Americana music. And he’s always a threat on guitar! He’s collaborated as Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women with two of my favorite female singers – Christy McWilson of The Picketts (check out their 1993 album, Paper Doll) and Laurie Lewis (Another fine songwriter! Check out her albums Earth and Sky: Songs of Laurie Lewis and True Stories.)

Phil Alvin – what can I say?! He’s one of the classic vocalists of the Americana genre. His voice conveys excitement and joy. It’s a little similar to Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Malford Milligan of Storyville. Very expressive and soulful. One of my current faves.

Finally, a word about John Doe. I saw him do a free short set at Easy Street Records in Seattle, around the time of his solo album Keeper, in October 2011. Wow. As a fan of the band X‘s album Under The Big Black Sun since the early ’80’s, the great dissonant blend of his and Exene’s voice – and the great instrumentation – was a part of my DNA.

He had another female singer with him. It was all acoustic, I think. But wow. That voice! His presence! It made me think I’d died and gone to heaven; moved me to tears; and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck – all at once! I was working hard and didn’t have the energy to go see him at The Tractor Tavern later that night. But I just want to testify! – if you ever get a chance to see him solo – do yourself a favor – Go!!

Check out my playlists at Spotify –   Search for:  Amy8Trak and then click on fair_choice for additional ones.

Now available! My playlists on Spotify. Enter Amy8Trak in the search box. Then click on fair_choice to see more lists. Then click on “See All”

Grand_Funk_Railroad_-_On_Time

Click here to listen to song on YouTube     (The single version kicks in at the 1 minute mark.)

I didn’t think I was going to find this song. I didn’t know the name of it, or who it was by…

I Google’d the first line – “Ain’t no doctor!! Who can help the way I feel!” Et voilà – there it was. I had heard someone play it on the juke box at the Rock Chalk Cafe in Lawrence, Kansas circa 1970-72 – played LOUD. It made an impression on me because there was a dude that did a little ecstatic air guitar dance and sang along to that first line, trebling the sense of urgency…

Geeeze… It figures that it’s about smack. Druggy, druggy times… And that’s how people got (and get) caught up in the phony glamor of drugs… Caveat emptor – buyer beware…

Lyrics:

“Ain’t no doctor! who can help the way I feel.
Once you got her, boy, she lets you know it’s real.
Learn to love her, or the opposite is right.
To rise above her, you’ll be so high you’re out of sight
Feel so good, yeah! That you never want to come down.
But you should, yeah! If you want to stay around.”

Sunrise Over Sea

John Butler is almost unbearably hip. That’s a pretty big compliment. His lyrics are smart, tough and principled.

He’s a great guitarist. Given the number of great guitarists in the world, that doesn’t hold very much weight. But it’s rare that I come across a set of music like this that really gets me excited. This is music that makes you want to get up and do something. You can’t pigeon-hole it. You’d have to listen to it and define it for yourself. I’d love to hear what other people’s thoughts are.

One of the few comparisons I make is a couple of spots where his slide playing is reminiscent of Sonny Landreth’s; another big compliment. He’s using it as a flavor. Again: hip. A lotta, lot of flavors and textures here. According to Wikipedia he plays mostly amplified and processed acoustic guitars. …Wow! Cool.

He’s a good singer, too. He sometimes sings like a rapper and/or raps like a singer, fast and rhythmical. The words aren’t always legible, but I’m not sure lyrics have to necessarily be completely heard and understood. There’s kind of an old joke about singers intentionally slurring the words. Back in the day, people would wear vinyl records down, trying to decipher them. It’s the feeling. When read separately, the words can lose their punch. It doesn’t mean they’re bad lyrics – they’re lyrical. It’s music. Anyway, the point is that it all adds up here to be very punchy singing, indeed. It expresses what it’s trying to express.

And, hey. The CD insert has a handwritten libretto, with drawings even.

It’s hip. Very hip. It’s Cool. It swings. That’s a style you don’t hear very much. You hear it a lot in jazz singers. You’ve gotta get it right. If it’s insincere, it’s transparently about style, not an individualistic expression. Some good ones that come to mind are Mose Allison, Gil Scott-Heron and Eddie Jefferson. Or think Billie Holiday. Timeless, right? Anyway, I dig hip.

On this set, the John Butler Trio swing like a mother. The bass, drums and guitar play in unbelievably tight counterpoint that is ultra-syncopated.

If you haven’t heard this set, check it out.

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