Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Song of the Week: The Dustbowl Revival

One of my favorite American song classics is "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out."* When those first couple notes play my hearts just aches.  It's just so bluesy and true that you swear that even though it was written so many years ago it was written just for you.

When I came across the The Dustbowl Revival's cover of the tune, I had the those same heart palpitations. They play homage to a great song, but add their own voice and washboard, continuing the story.  The story of closing your eyes swaying in smoky jazz club and losing yourself and your troubles in the music. Sing on, brothers and sisters.

Earlier this month, The Dustbowl Revival released their new album,  Carry Me Home, and maybe it is because I ate pie for breakfast (what.), but more likely it is because they are just heartbreakingly smooth, but the trumpets in "John the Revelator" are kinda making me swoon this morning. And you know that I cannot resist a call and respond chorus. So much swooning.

In other, uh, bands with a lot of people in them ,news, did you catch Old Crow Medicine Show on CONAN last night? Man alive, they are one of my favorite bands to see live. So much joy. 

*Bessie Smith's 1929 version of the song is hands down my favorite, you can listen here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

'Cause Everyone Loves a Kinks Cover in the Woods.

You guys. You. Guys.

I'm at that time of day where I play chicken with my computer to see how many windows and tabs I can have open before it explodes. I like to live on the edge. But even though I can feel my computer getting ready to burst into flames, I cannot stop hitting replay on this video.

If only all the shows really did take place in the middle of the woods and we could all be barefoot. If only. This tour pretty much looks like the definition of a "good time," with or without the quotation marks.  And 2 stops in Missouri + 1 more just barely over the border in Lawrence, KS? Attention music world: this is how it is done.

June is booking up to be a month of concerts and shows and foot stompings. June, we are going to be friends. 

More info about the Shakey Graves + Wild Child + Marmalakes Outside City Limits Tour can be found on the Wild Child Facebook page. 

2 Poems

Since April is National Poetry Month, I have worked with the little girls I volunteer with on writing little poems and then performing them (with flare!). Instead of clapping after each girl, I had them snap, turning little ones into a bunch of beatniks, yep, that's me, but without the whole smoky night club thing. One of my favorite little poems from the girls was: "Roses are red, voliets are blue, I like cheese, but I love you." Framable.

And on a different tone and note, here is one out of my own favorites file:

Writing by Charles Bukowski

often it is the only
between you and
no drink,
no woman's love,
no wealth
match it.
nothing can save
it keeps the walls
the hordes from
closing in.
it blasts the
writing is the
the kindliest
god of all the
writing stalks
it knows no
and writing
at itself,
at pain.
it is the last
the last
what it


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sights & Sounds: Langhorne Slim & the Law/ Lucero

I have to apologize before I get this ball running; I am going to begin with some words of pity.  I have a horrible headache. I have had a horrible headache for about a week straight. No over the counter drugs or old wives tales seem to help, so I am left to believe that there is an alien parasite growing inside my head about to break free at any moment summoning the mothership and bringing to pass some alien invasion apocalypse.  I hope you all have your end of the world evacuation plans and cleaning supplies ready, I feel like it is going to get messy.

So here I am squinting at my computer screen because opening up my eyes all the way and letting in all that light and tying to type these itty bitty words isn't working that well. But I cannot not say a few words about a pretty super concert I went to last night.  I'm hoping, maybe a little later, to post my usual OMG music can save your soul and OMG these bands are so good and my heart broke and leaped at the same time; these two bands totally deserve lots of kind words from a completely sane and fulling functioning person. But seeing how I never have claimed to ever be either one of those, or have high hopes of ever becoming either, let me just cut to the chase: see Langhorne Slim and Lucero together, separately, every. single. chance. you get. 

I have mentioned Langhorne Slim & the Law a couple times on this blog and I hope that all that brainwashing is working. They are fantastic live, bringing a new level to all their music.  Last night, they were the opening band so they played an extremely short set, but their energy on stage is matched by few bands touring these days. The floor at the Granada was shaking under my feet because an audience in front of these fellows cannot, by every law of nature, stand still. Stomp. Dance. Wave your hands in the air like you just don't care. And if you are thinking that I am just being giddy, well, when they performed on the Conan O'Brien show earlier this year, Conan pulled out his red guitar and jammed with them, so if you don't want to trust me, trust the tall red headed man. Banjo freakout. (for some reason I can't embed the video, but you can watch it here). 

Lucero was the headliner last night and in my opinion played one of the most perfect sets I have seen from a band in a long time. They played old stuff, they played new stuff, they took requests, they covered Jawbreaker, they played for almost two straight hours and after those two hours Ben Nichols jumped right of the stage and hung out with the crowd a little longer.  They have been called southern rock, they have been called indie alternative country punk (whatever that even means), but to me, their music is clearly American rock n'roll at it's best. They've got every good music influence flowing from their fingertips;  the blues, jazz, honky tonk, a little punk when they want to play fast, all the raw and grit of musicians doing their thing for the last hundred years or so.  And most importantly, they connect with the audience in a very honest way. Even with my head wanting to explode and even standing by one of the most annoying people to every grace this planet (sure, scream the wrong words to every single song in my ear all night, that would be awesome), I still couldn't stop from having the goofiest of grins on my face all night. And when Ben Nichols sings of heartache in his deep gravelly voice that I swear can make rocks melt, you feel, deep down in your toes, from where he is coming from because you have been there too. 

Wow. Those are a lot more words then I thought I would be able to bang out. Maybe it is a sign that the alien in my head at least has good taste in music. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Song of the Week: The Lone Bellow

I hope wherever you are it is warm and sun filled. Here on the homestead it is cold and rainy and grey and gray.  I'm trying not to think about how cold my feet are (I am too stubborn to put on socks), or how a freak spring snow storm may get in between me and a show tonight. But what I am thinking about, because it is what I am always thinking about, is what should be my soundtrack for this day where the weather makes you feel so lonesome and abandoned (by the sun mainly, but feel free to dive deep into that one).  The Lone Bellow, a Brooklyn trio--with occasional help from friends,  fits so perfectly into the mood of today.  Zach Williams sings with an intensity that you believe his every single word and the layers of melodies and harmonies add richness and warmth that fills you up way better than a mug of hot chocolate filled to the brim with marshmallows. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Picture of the Week: 16

From where I stand.

What should be the definition of Sunday:
Barefoot walks on freshly cut grass. 
Catching up with family and friends from all corners of the country. 
Hearing words I need to hear.
Long naps with wild dreams. 
Partaking of the best slow cooked Sunday roast, the kind where the accompanying potatoes and carrots soak up all the juices and gravy. 
Remembering that there will be banjo player sighting in the up coming week.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Record Store Day 2013!!

Happy Record Store Day!
"Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one." -- Nick Hornby.

**Record Store around these parts wasn't perfect, some places had slim pickings other places had super inflated prices. Whoa. I could fill up my car with gas, drive to Nashville and buy that White Stripes album from Mr. White himself for cheaper than that sticker price.  But just when I thought I could hear the sad trombones, I found some classic Loretta Lynn, Pete Seeger, and a Leonard Cohen/ Jeff Buckley split and couldn't get home fast enough to give those a spin on the turnable. Well, then I got distracted by a strawberry milkshake, but don't we all.**


Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Missouri: Local Music

Everyone should have a hometown band.  A band you root for because they are from your soil, a band that you can support through all the stages of growth from house shows to empty dive bars to sold out stadiums, a band that you hold up as you tell Seattle to go stick it in their ear, WE'RE COOL TOO! (p.s. all Seattle/West Coast bands, we love you truly, and fyi, crossing the Rocky Mountains isn't as hard as it seems). Music is all about community, finding that one thing or maybe a lot of things that don't make you and me and us feel so alone, so music from your literal community is like a chocolate bar with bacon in it, doubly mind blowing ridiculous.

Now to define local. Huh.  I believe that "local" can have a little wiggle room, yeah, let's go with that. Technically, I lay my head down most nights in the Kansas City area, but since I have lived and continue to travel all over this fine state,  I claim the entire state as my home, backyard and neighborhood. And there is a lot of beautiful music coming from this statewide neighborhood. In no particular order, below are five of my current favorite Show Me State sounds, and one from Kansas.  At times there might be some sibling rivalry between these here border states, but we all know down deep that we are all part of the same middle of the map family.

1. Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, MO)
Named after a Missouri state park that has a burned down castle in it, Ha Ha Tonka's music is infectious and raw and lovely and filled with wisdom that you can only get from sitting on porches down in the Ozarks under a starry sky: "They say that if you don't change where you're going, you're gonna end up right where you're headed." (from 'Made Example Of')

2. She's a Keeper (Kansas City, MO)*
I swear the first time I heard this song, 'Headless King'  my heart just about stopped. It was the perfect moment that happens so much in music where you find a song that you didn't realize that you were missing in your life until that very moment, but now that you have it, your life is a little bit more complete.  This ensemble of talent is currently working on their second album and I can already feel that their music will be part of the soundtrack to my summer. 

3. Pokey LaFarge (St. Louis, MO)
Old timey class + hipster cool + Midwest charm. I have seen these fine Missourians a couple of times now, and every show blows me away and oh man, that harmonica just makes me blush.

4. Quiet Corral (Lawrence, KS)*
What I love about Quiet Corral is the mix of the old and the new. They have the old folkyness of songs filled with storytelling grace and acoustic instruments, especially spotlighting the mandolin, and then they also have a pop newness (let's plug in some of those guitars!) that just fits.

5.  Radkey (St. Joseph, MO)*
Radkey is made up of three teenage brothers, so young, yet their music already has a remarkable sound to it, think soulful garage punk rock. I was about the same age of these brothers when I started listening to the punk rock and even years after it was declared that Punk is Dead, it makes my soul happy that the kids are still using these raw and loud sounds to learn about and express themselves and find their place in the world.  This a future generation I can get behind.

* Songs from She's A Keeper, Quiet Corral and Radkey can be found on Midwest Music Foundation's "MidCoast Takeover 2013" compilation. This face melting collection, which you can download as a whole or song by song for name your price (which kinda means free),  features music from 56 (!!) Midwestern bands that were featured at the Midcoast Takeover Showcase  during this year's SXSW.  The Midwest Music Foundation a fantastic Kansas City based nonprofit that cultivates and supports music and the music community here in the Heartland.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Song of the Week: Old Crow Medicine Show

I had another song set to go today, but after the events yesterday, that scheduled song wouldn't really have been the song of the week. I never, ever, want to appear that I am exploiting or cheapening tragedy in any way, so posting about current events always seems a little two sided and most likely comes off as a little eye rolling inducing. But.  I love the city of Boston, I can't say a more honest statement if I tried. I have walked her streets and felt at home.  That fair city stole a little bit of my heart the first time I went there and I have willingly left a little bit of myself there on the numerous times I have visited since. Moments and interactions there changed my life, dramatically and honestly, and always for the good. The people there are tough and they are strong and I know that they will come back from this horrific event. All the people that I know in that little big city are safe and accounted for, but my heart is still heavy for the wounds, both physical and emotional, caused yesterday. Healing is hard, it hurts, it takes time, but it is also very real and possible. 

We're all in this thing together, walking the line between faith and fear.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Picture of the Week: 15

Before moving to the East Coast I lived in a college town smack dab in the middle of the state. It was a great time in my life, I met some wonderful people who I still count as more family than just friends, I actually had coworkers I adored and I ate way too much Chinese food for my own good. But in the midst of exploding volcano parties and making s'mores by candlelight, there was a pretty dark time in my life. During this time I bought a cheap-o guitar, probably not really worth the "wood" it is made out of. I have always loved music and the emotional release that it gave me, and I thought maybe I could channel or change a little bit of frustration into some music. I believe that music is a language, and sometimes you need something a little deeper than words alone.

This is not when I tell you that I realized that I am some gifted- unknown until that moment- music writing genius. Nope.  But back then, when the apartment was quiet and the demons in my head were loud, I would pull out the guitar and practice chords. To be honestly, just three of them: G, C, D.  Over and over I would practice these chords until my fingers hurt.  The act of simple repetition quieted and focused my mind, which back then wasn't an easy task.

When I decided to move to Washington DC, I only took whatever could fit in my car. Sadly, that didn't include this guitar and it sat abandoned in a corner at my parents' house gathering dust. . . until this week.  The other day I picked it up and started again with my three chords. My fingers were clumsy and the guitar was so out of tune, but there was also a sense of familiarly; I knew the chords well enough once upon a time and they stayed with me, somewhere in the layers of my life. My fingers and brain finally connected, "Hey, we knew these chords." And once again I sat on my bed, cross legged and barefoot and played G, C, D until my fingers hurt.

 I know that I will be never a rock star, I don't know if I will even write an original song or lead campfire sing alongs, and maybe having a guitar and only playing three chords is kind of ridiculous. But maybe all that is OK with me at this very second in my life.  Maybe I am just happy to have my three saving grace chords again.

 Although someday I might learn a new chord just for kicks, I hear F is quite lovely. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

10 Things

1. I know that I wax poetic about missing the beach. A lot. This week, maybe in efforts to quiet this obsessiveness, I was given one the best gifts ever: the beach. A friend, returning from a trip to Florida, brought me back sand and water from the Gulf Coast. My own little jarred paradise.  And yes, water from the Gulf really is that clear.

2. You know that moment where you realize that you are singing out loud, instead of just in your head, at the gym? It is pretty much as awesome as you think it is. If you don't judge me, Mr. tucks his shirt into his running shorts, I won't judge you. (And to the surprise of no one, this was the song I found myself singing)

3. I have taken to referring to the state of Kansas exclusively as the Land of Oz. Why not? So friends across the border, the great and powerful wizard is now your overlord and watch out for flying monkeys.

4. Speaking of geographically located friends; DC friends posting cherry blossoms pictures: I both love and hate you. Washington DC is just so pretty in the spring. P.S. don't stop posting pictures. I am trying to use The Force to get the Dogwood tree in my backyard to bloom. Apparently, The Force is not strong with this one (me).

5. Harrison Ford and the rest of the cast of the movie 42 were in Kansas City today to tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and promote the movie.  I can't decide who is more the perfect guy; Hans Solo or Indiana Jones.  So many pros between them, but one big con: they are both imaginary.  I really want to see 42, but I am way behind my movie watching, I still haven't seen Lincoln OR Les Mis, and I am pretty sure I need to see The Hobbit, like 4 more times. I also need to add the baseball museum and the American Jazz Museum which is next door to my KC bucket list.

6.  Today, April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day.  Why am I finding out about this when the day is over? News Alerts, every single one of you: FAIL. 

7. I think I need to stop watching end of the world type movies and television shows, I know they are all the rage and demonstrate the strength of us as people to survive, but the more I watch them, the more I am convinced that in any real apocalyptic scenario, I would be the person huddle in a dark corner eating stale crumbs out of a Cheez-It box. 

8. Coachella. Whatever.

9. Do you like tambourine jokes? Of course you do. "Don't Tear Us Apart," is one of my favorite songs from the Dropkick Murphy's latest album, Signed and Sealed in Blood. I was looking for a live version of the song and came across this little gem.  The album was released during the holidays, hence the decor. Also, the  guy in the red sweater is Matt Kelly the drummer. Since it is a acoustic song, he isn't drumming, so he gets a little twitchy. And then at the end of the song are the tambourine jokes.  And for the record, I think I can pull off the tambourine pretty well.

10. Not to be too much of a Debbie Downer, but these days are the "One Year Later," of my dad getting sick. It's hard. Little bits and pieces that I thought were better and starting to scar over are feeling pretty raw again. Thank you all for the random emails and texts I have been getting right when I need them. Sorry for being so horrible about returning and answering them. But thank you for reminding me that I am (still and forever) not alone in this.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sights & Sounds: Bad Religion at The Granada

Even though I have crossed the adult bridge a long time ago, I feel even more like an adult when I go to a concert on a Monday night. Take that "early to bed, early to rise," responsible work hours/schedule. Since I brought it up, let's talk about responsibility.  To be a truly responsible adult shouldn't you take care of yourself? Treat yo'self.  Your entire self, finding a balance of creativity and spreadsheets, passion with paying your bills. Don't ever give up your true hobbies or passions (as opposed to social crutches, I'm not justify those) because they don't fit into your and/or everyone else's idea of what your life should be. Hold on to those things that make your heart swell. Music, writing, photography, baking,  running, building robots, EVEN spreadsheet making, if that is your thing. Burnout doesn't have to be our fate. Believe me, I learned this the hard way. 

On Monday night,  trying to find a little life balance of my own, I saw Bad Religion at The Granada Theater in Lawrence, KS.  Bad Religion is a punk rock band that I not only grew up on, but I feel that I have grown up with.  They formed in 1979 in the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles, California area. There same valley I used to ride around on my little purple bike with the white basket as a little tike. After 33 years and 16 albums I am excited and relieved to see them continue to make and record music and tour. It is a witness, at least to me, that we don't have to give up on those things that changed our lives as kids or teenagers. We don't have to grow out of our dreams and take on the world attitudes.  Their songs are smart, dealing heavily on social issues and not so much anti-establishment, but anti-conformity. Their catalog is filled with anthems about thinking for yourself, to not be afraid to ask questions, about not only the world around you, but your life and your place in this constant swirling chaos. Although their songs deal with some of the hard things in life, there is always a sense of hope and optimism mixed in with guitar solos and sing along choruses.

The show itself, was golden. Every song, every word of banter was exactly want I needed and wanted. Greg Graffin, PhD. , the lead vocalist, is one of my favorite stage banter storyteller. He engages with the audience, tells stories and jokes, and fosters this feeling that we are in fact, part of one big punk rock family. 

I had good intentions of keeping track of their set list for the night (and maaybe take better pictures), but as soon as the music started I got lost in it, in a good way.  I mean, how you can write when you are singing, so loud,  "Sanity is a full time job!" But even with my old timer's memory, I can recall songs performed last night from their entire career, from their first album, released in 1982, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? all the way up to their newest album, True North, which was just released in January of this year. 

No Monday blues last night. 4 sure.

Post scripts:

1. I arrived at the show super late, missing Polar Bear Club's entire set and only catching a few songs of The Bronx, but I heard good things about both bands.

2. Punk rock shows are the ONLY place in my life that the male to female ratio works in my favor. I need to go to more shows. 

Song of the Week: The Replacements

Can we all just agree that The Replacements is one of the greatest American rock bands ever?

Glad we got that out of the way.

The Replacements' cover of the Gordon Lightfoot's "I'm Not Sayin'" is found on the current round of "Songs for Slim," with proceeds going to help with the medical bills  and long term care of former Replacements Guitarist Slim Dunlap who suffered a massive right brain stoke (more info found here).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Words: Wisdom

"Hell is wanting to be somewhere different than you are."  --Stephen Levine

Aint that the truth. 

{Insert some hippy dippy paragraph about loving your ground or the sky you're under, or if you have a strong gag reflex: bloom where you're planted.}

Sometimes the bravest thing you can do in life is stop running and just be still. Even if you have convinced yourself that your head or heart will explode if you do so.  It won't.