Sunday, May 29, 2011

When Words Are More Than Words.....

I have had this idea in my head for some time--- a rundown of the importance of lyrics in rock music.  I was going to title it Lyrics 101: The Bottle In Front of Me or Frontal Lobotomy, the purpose being to show how important it is to get lyrics right and how few have the patience to do it.  It should be simple, I thought.  String together lyrics of a few songs which are enhanced by lyrical structure and compare them to the many that fail.  Well, simple it isn't.  To write lyrics or to critique them.  If it was simple to write them, the world would be buried beneath albums of worth.  If it was simple to critique them...  ah, but it is not. 

Have you ever thought about what it is that makes a song important to you?  Do you even know?  More importantly, do you even care?  For most of us, music is the background of our lives--- no, not soundtrack, but background.  Music is the white noise which makes everyday life a bit more palatable.  It is a variation on the hum of tires or the clacking of train wheels.  For most of us, when life is good, the music is good.  It doesn't seem to matter which songs or genres.  Good equals good.  For some of us, songs are benchmarks.  A song played enough today will inevitably create nostalgia tomorrow, regardless of quality--- formula music and mundane lyrics acceptable.  

For myself and others like me, music takes on an importance beyond the norm.  Each song becomes more than an entity, in fact almost a person, with a personality and a life and a reason for being.  My mother told me when I was very young that some people are good and some people are bad for various reasons.  So it is with music.  When it is everything good--- when lyrics and music work together--- it becomes a favorite uncle or a best friend.  When things don't exactly mesh, it becomes the annoying cousin or the bully down the street or even the person you fear because he or she is just downright creepy.  The difference between the extremes can be slight, but it doesn't matter.  A near miss is as unpalatable as a clunker.  When it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Here's the rub, as they say in Jollye Olde:  What doesn't work for me could easily work for you.  You want simple?  Music is not always about the song.  It is about what you bring to the song.  If there is a reason you like a song at first listen, it is more than likely because of something you heard in the past.  You may not realize it, but that new song you can't get out of your head may have that Beatles sound in the chorus or a guitar riff that you swear you've heard someplace but can't quite pinpoint.  It could be that opening line, that emotional grabber, or the voice.  It could be the sound or the production.  More than likely, though, it won't be the lyrics.  Appreciation for lyrics usually comes later.  They sink in after a number of hearings.  They grow on you and make a good song great.  They have to be absorbed rather than heard.  Good lyrics.

Unfortunately, really good lyrics are rare and because we have been trained by the media to cling to something new as much as something good, we as humans accept the mediocre.  It is so much easier to accept that thrown at us than to find the good and the great, is it not? 

But I'm getting away from my point, that being that we all have lines drawn in the sand regarding every facet of life.  When it comes to music, my lines are drawn a bit closer than others'.  I use what I call the Cringe Factor when critiquing music.  If it makes me cringe, I steer clear.  If I was a normal critic, I suppose, I would wade in and verbally destroy those giving us heavy-handed or mundane words to accompany otherwise quite acceptable music.  I would destroy words with words, ideas with words, songs with words.  But I don't.  I learned long ago that what I hear is not what everyone else hears and I have learned to accept that.  No, I have another way of handling the mediocre or downright bad.  I ignore it.  I cringe once, maybe twice, and throw it on the scrap heap.

When I hear the good and the potentially great, though, I grab onto it like a nicotine addict to his last cigarette.  I fondle it and nurture it and savor it and make it last.  I listen less than I might normally, and enjoy the anticipation.  And, yes, I feel the high and maybe the low when I allow myself the pleasure. 

There is no high in music with words which do not fit.  I want to tell songwriters that they are missing the chance, that different words--- better words--- might be the difference between one listen or more.  As egotistical as this may sound, I want to say this song is not ready, that they can do better.  But all I can do is think it is not ready for me and bemoan an opportunity lost.  Of course, in my less egotistical moments, I accept what is there.  And I ignore it.  There are too many great songs to hear and critique to waste my time with the mundane. 

Which brings me to the real reason I am writing this.....

I read a blog this morning by one Christien Gholson and I was carried away.  Gholson is a writer and a poet, which normally would have had me running for the woods (who needs poetry. right?) but for his insights into words and his love for them.  I started reading expecting to stop at the end of each paragraph and click away, but something kept me scrolling and the next thing I knew, I was done.  There was something in the way he wrote which got under my skin and the more I read the more I understood. 

You see, Gholson's love of words parallels my love of music.  He didn't start out to be a poet or a writer, but words kept blocking his path toward a safe and accepted position until he broke down and accepted fate.  He tells of his acceptance of that fate, his existence before and after that acceptance.  He traces the paths that led him to poetry and beyond:  Gary Snyder to Kenneth Rexroth to Ezra Pound; Denise Levertov to William Carlos Williams to Robert Duncan.  So many paths with so many false endings.  And he uses his words so expertly that it is a pleasure to just read (I had the same experience reading Susan Casey's astounding account of life on The Farallones (The Devil's Teeth) and the sharks who inhabit the ocean surrounding them--- her ability with words painted much more than just pictures). 

My immersion in music paralleled that of Gholson's in poetry.  My paths, though, were from The Blue Sky Boys to Leroy Anderson to The Living Strings to every fathomable rock-related artist and band I found the need to pursue.  It wasn't words, no, but music included lyrics most of the time and, man, when it was done right, the music was every bit as important to me as Snyder and Rexroth and Duncan is to Gholson. 

The point being that as much as I know lyrics are important to music, I mostly forget.  I live for the guitar riffs and the soaring organs and the driving rhythms and appreciate when the lyrics fit, I guess, but let me play that guitar riff again.  Until someone like Gholson reminds me.  Words are sometimes more than words.  Gholson and I share that much.  I think we share more.  I shall endeavor to find out through Gholson 's works and future blogs.  I do believe I shall learn something in the process.

A Side Note:  I became aware of Christien through a Facebook post by his sister, Kirsti Gholson, who is presently torturing me by holding back release of a much anticipated album.  I have been waiting a good two years and Kirsti has been kind enough to provide me with rough cuts (probably hoping to curtail stalking tendencies and keep me at a distance), but those have only fanned the flames.  She released what she deems a demo back in 2000 or so, a collection of songs written only in what I can describe as Gholson.  She has a touch all her own.  Does Kirsti understand the importance of lyrics?  Oh, yeah.  Check her out at cdBaby and watch for her impending release.  It is going to be worth the wait.  Well worth it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BRAAM--- The Power (and Magic) of the Demo

Tom Braam is a friend of mine.  Well, he is more an acquaintance, a "Facebook friend".  What little I know about him has been filtered through the Internet.  I know that he is a musician and that he formed a band with his brothers (Braam), that they have released five albums and are at present working toward a sixth, that he is an avid supporter of music in all forms and does not exclude the true indies (not surprising, considering that he and his brothers' band is a true indie).  I know that he loves Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers almost as much as do I (He would more than likely say that I love them almost as much as does he). 

Beyond that, I know little, other than the fact that he and his brothers are either egoists of the first order or fearless.  A little over a week ago, Tom posted a link to a Soundcloud page on which were posted twenty demos, basic song arrangements of tunes being considered for the sixth album.  Some were as basic as it can get--- rough vocals, an acoustic guitar and nothing else.  Some were basic but with overdubs or added instruments--- bass, more than one guitar, and did I hear a mandolin on Fists?  The key to this is that they were demos in  the true sense of the word--- songs in the rough and some, barely ideas.  Sure, they were recorded in a studio (probably home) and didn't have that dreaded garbage can sound, but I can't say that they were ready for prime time.  Yet he posted the link and asked that people visit the page and make comments in hopes that it might help Braam whittle the twenty down to an album-sized number.  Now, allow me to emphasize that he asked people he doesn't know and whose yardstick for comparison might well be Miley Cyrus or The Beatles to make comments on songs not ready for public consumption and, in fact, mostly in embryo form.  I remember Dan Phelps, who produced and played on Jess Pillmore's outstanding Reveal album, telling me that working with musicians sometimes took a psychologist's touch, the songs created as much "little babies" as songs.  Random Facebook acquaintances hardly qualify as psychologists and if you know anything about the Internet, you know that a large percentage of its denizens use every open port to bolster egos and what better way to prove yourself than to denigrate others.  For that reason alone, I lean toward fearless.  Heavily.

So I sit here listening to twenty rough demos when I should be working, the workload growing along with angst, and I find that I can't stop.  As rough as they are in places, there is something in these songs that will not let me stop.  And I'm finding myself taking notes.  Notes like This Changes Everything--- Laurie Biagini because I can hear this song recorded by Biagini with her magic Annette Funicello/girl group sound.  I'm making notes when I should be working and they are notes which are meaningless.  What am I going to do?  Send Biagini a link and say, hey, you should consider this as a cover on your next project?  Okay, yeah.  If I was producing her next album, I would ask her to consider it.  I'm sure it would turn out as far from Braam as it could possibly be, but there is something there that tells me This Changes Everything + Biagini = winner.

Do you understand what is happening?  I've moved from music lover (and, unfortunately, critic because that is what I am) to producer.  If you've ever wondered what a producer does, that is it.  Oh, it is not all that he/she does, but helping pick songs for a recording session is a  large part of it.  In my head, I'm in the big-time!  I'm doing what the big guys do!  And I want to say that you, too, can do it--- if you want.  Braam has opened the door.  Here are twenty songs in their demo stage.  Listen closely.  Beyond the basic guitar chords and the sometimes strained voices.  Beyond the sound (in thinking Biagini, I overlapped her impressive retro pop sound onto This Changes Everything) and beyond any criticism you may have.  The secret sometimes is not hearing what is there, but what could be there.  And sometimes it is hearing what is there and realizing that that is enough. 

I've heard twenty demo tracks this morning by a band I had heretofore not heard.  I want to visit their webpage and hear more, but I am reluctant.  I am reluctant because I heard more in these twenty rough cuts than I might in any of Braam's finished product.  I liked what I heard.  Some of these songs are good and maybe even better than that.  Sometimes it takes more than one listen to hear a song or an album.  Sometimes it takes many.  In spite of pending work, I will more than likely end up visiting their Soundcloud page a few times before checking out their albums.  Not that you should.  You like what you hear, check out their albums.  I will, too, eventually.  Right now, though, I think I will enjoy immersing myself in the demos.  I did like what I heard and with all the music I listen to day after day, that does not happen often. 

The photo of Braam taken by Silverella.  I have not yet asked for permission to use it and should anyone wish it removed, I will do so immediately upon request.

Speaking of Demos.....

I was digging through my tapes the other day and found demos handed me by the drummer for my pick of the grunge era bands--- Son of Man.  That drummer, referred to as "Top Jap" on their only (to my knowledge) release, a European 45 (The Dummy and Me b/w Temporary Altercations), handed the demo tape to me after getting the okay from the other Sons and only on the condition that I not share it with any other human being or Android.  Seattle was in the midst of the Grunge era, Mudhoney and Soundgarden and especially Nirvana on the cusp of taking over Seattle and then the world.  I wasn't sold on the music yet, but I was listening.  It took Son of Man, in fact, to open my ears. 

I listened to the seven-track demo last night for the first time in years.  I am surprised that the music stood the test of time so well.  Seven songs-----  Security Force, Lucky Dave, Bound In Chains, Slick Willie, Hard Life, Come In, and Electrolux.  Of the seven, my favorite is Bound In Chains, guitar-driven crunch that to my ears is right up there with anything Seattle produced during that period.  Why did they not make it?  Who knows?  I do know that they were being considered by one and maybe more major labels, that they lost all of their equipment in a house fire, that many other bands tried to hold fundraisers to put them back in the game.  Somehow, it didn't happen.  They did end up releasing the 45 mentioned above and that's a good thing, but they never had the chance to see what might have happened if.....  The lineup was (as listed on the back of the 45 sleeve) Tal Goettling (vocals), Nick Cash (bass), Brad Kok (guitar/vocals) and the aforementioned Top Jap (drums).  Anyone knows where any of these guys are, send me a note.  I'm curious as to what their real story is.  I wish they had had their chance.

And speaking of Jess Pillmore, I know that sometime in the near future I will go on a Jess Pillmore rant.  When her knockout Reveal album found its way into my mailbox some years ago, I picked it as my Album of the Year and I'm sure that the pick was ignored and discounted by most who knew about it.  But it was an honest pick.  It shoved all other albums to the side, did Reveal, and I followed up the review with interviews with Jess and producer/musician Dan Phelps.  My thought was to enlighten the masses as to the processes which made the album what it was and as outstanding as it was.  Unfortunately, every attempt at writing has been doomed to failure.  Maybe it was too personal--- the music and the story.  Maybe it needed to ferment in my mind and soul until I was ready.  I don't know.  What I do know is that the urge to write the story is slowly working its way to the surface again.  The album is a gem.  The story is one which, if told right, would give insight into the processes whereby good music becomes better and even great.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Music--- Its Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated.....

and yet you clowns have found and are finding a way to kill off some of its best parts.  Just last night, I pulled out a CD I hadn't heard in a few months and was stunned by the beauty of it.  The CD was Amelia Jay's Like a Kite.  You killed it.  Never mind that you are not immersed in music like myself and never mind that it was as indie as it could get and was buried beneath tons of muck, much of which you did have the energy to find.  You killed it.  You killed it with your blinders-on approach to media.  You killed it because it didn't have a flashy video with the gimmick of the moment.  You killed it with your I-know-what-good-music-is-just-look-at-my-Led-Zeppelin-and-Beatles-collection attitude.  You used to be young once.  You used to listen to music closely and take it to your heart.  Now all you care about is you.  Guess what?  I'm sticking a fork in your sorry asses.  You're done.  Thank the gawds the young aren't done.  They get it, the same way you did when you were young.  They will save music.  Watch them.  Because they care.  Well, some of them do and in a world stuffy with aging music "lovers"--- corpses, really, most of them content with Beatles Remasters and Led Zeppelin box sets and Lady Gagas and the country flavor of the week--- they are the real hope.  With major labels grasping at straws while their empire crumbles, a large percentage of the youth are leading the way back to the roots that they don't really have--- their parents' roots, when music was as important as the musician and discovery was as close as your radio dial.  These days, the dial has been replaced by YouTube and Vimeo and the various Internet funnels through which we get our music, but it is the same.  Or is it?

Does it matter?  Not really.  Today, as in the past, the important thing is still the music--- to the people who really love it anyway.  To those who say they do but are stuck in their own past and are basically biding their time until the music's over, I say turn out the lights.  For those filled with the adventure of music, here are some suggestions in the form of videos, hand-picked and handed to you on a silver platter.  As that Welk fella used to say on that there TV, A-One-and-a-two.....

Oh, before we get started, here is an example of what you killed.  It isn't the best example maybe, because it is even more laid back than the rest of their laid back album, but it is the only example I could find.  Oh, to have videos of  Feel It In Your Soul or Fading Breath--- songs which could squeeze blood from a turnip, so to speak.  Amelia Jay (now Seafare), where are you?


I can see my friends' eyes rolling up in their heads right now.  They have suffered through my endless raves about this band and, in a way, I apologize, but in the most important way I do not.  You see, I am not really a country fan, especially since Nashville became the virtual center of the music industry.  I find most of the horses backed by that city boring and mediocre and formulaic, to say the least, but even in the worst of times (like now, for instance) there is hope.  My hope is the array of talented and country-fied (but not really country) artists who dot the map, most from outside Nashville--- artists like Jubal Lee Young, who just released his best album to-date (Take It Home); Old Californio, ready to launch Sundrunk Angels and as good a mix of rock and country as I've heard since Cowboy and Heartsfield (No, I won't say Eagles because I've heard them way too much for one lifetime); and Pat Anderson, who has country but not Nashville in his soul.  And Zoe Muth & The High Lost Rollers..

Zoe Muth &  The Lost High Rollers hail from Seattle, my home for thirteen and a half years before life transplanted me elsewhere.  When I hear them, I am confirmed in my belief that country music is best served away from Music Row South.  They capture the feel without the formula and, what can I say?  Muth is one hell of a songwriter and The Lost High Rollers are one hell of a band.  Their self-titled release knocked me on my ass when I discovered it last year (it was released late in 2009) and the new release, Starlight Hotel, is keeping me there.  In the spirit of the music, let me just say by way of introduction, Help!  I've been knocked on my ass and I can't get up!  No.  Not now.  Let's wait until the song is over.  Ladies and gentlemen, from their latest album Starlight Hotel, Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers.....


There go the eye-rolls again.  But I tell you, when you find something you love as much as I love these guys, you feel like a born-again Christian in that spreading the word (or, in this case, the music) becomes an obsession.   My buddy Rick Benedict, tongue in cheek, calls Lake Charles no man's land due to its juxtaposition to East Texas, but I can't really agree.  Any region that produces a band of this quality is to me a mecca.  Research Turtles are young, exuberant and full of everything I love about rock 'n roll--- melody, guitars (crunchy and otherwise), attitude.  They put me in mind of so many bands and songs I've heard and loved throughout my travails in the music business.  One Research Turtles can almost offset the rest of what the "major labels" (are they down to one yet?) are handing us.  They have a new EP, Mankiller Part 1 of 2, five songs strung together like they couldn't be presented otherwise.  They aren't just your daddy's power pop band anymore.  They've graduated.  But just to show you what they can be, here is a video of a live performance of one of the tracks from their previous, self-titled album.....


I spent half a summer painting my house to Sydney Wayser and Goldie Wilson.  Goldie (it's a band) had flashes toward the musical past that got under my skin and Sydney had--- well, The Colorful had a creativity and uniqueness that just plain freaked me out.  The album was peppered with musical phrases and movements which normally would not have worked but in this case worked beautifully.  Sydney has a new album ready for release tentatively titled Bell Choir Coast, but before we go there, let us look at what made The Colorful an album of musical distinction.  Listen to the "percussive effects" of drill and toy (?) xylophone and one of the real unique voices in music (her phrasing is amazing).....


 I remember the first time I heard Old Californio and how much they impressed me.  It was long ago, right after the release of their Westering Again album (from which the song in the video comes) and I was just beginning to immerse myself in the true indies (meaning those who play, record and market their own music, sans label).  At first I was intrigued by the band's mixture of influences but later decided that with these guys, genre was irrelevant.  They stretch their songs wherever they seem to go, it seems, and the results are sometimes downright exhilarating.  I received their new CD, Sundrunk Angels, only two weeks ago and it is already tired of being played, I'm afraid.  I want to see these guys live.  I want to see these guys live.  I really want to see these guys live.  Watch the video and see why.....


Sometimes I ask myself, who is Israel Nash Gripka and why is he haunting me so much?  I'm not complaining, understand, but I'm amazed at the number of times I listen to his Barn Doors and Concrete Floors as opposed to the number of times I have the urge to listen to it.  Sometimes I get upset at the lack of time in my life and yearn for the days when it seemed I had all the time in the world to listen to music.  This album is one I cannot seem to hear enough and while I can't quite put my finger on the reason why, it has something to do with the depth.  I hear bits and pieces of the seventies in Gripka, a time when music was an exploration of self as much as a search for the right chord and the perfect lyric.  The music on Barn Doors captures the feel of those times while making it sound new.  It is new.  It is Gripka.....


I first met Shaun Cromwell at a folk festival in Sisters, Oregon playing guitar and banjo outdoors next to The Sisters Coffee Company and singing through a small two-horn speaker system.  He impressed me enough to stick around and meet him and tell him just how impressed I was.  There was something in the way he sang, in the way he wrote his songs, which made me want to hear more.  Since that day, I have followed him closely and was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that he had asked Devon Sproule to sing on I Am Undone, a track from his latest album, Folk-Worn Prose.  I was ecstatic, again, when Devon put the song on video and posted it on YouTube.  She heard what I heard.  Cromwell is more than the norm.  He plays music that more people should be hearing.  Hear it here, with thanks to Devon and the time she put in to make this worth hearing and watching.  The mere fact that she felt compelled to do this is quite a tribute to Cromwell and his music.....


 I don't know where I've been, but I haven't been listening enough to Natalia Zukerman, for sure.  Oh, I'd heard of her, but didn't know her music.  When her marketing company sent me a copy of her new CD, Gas Station Roses, the only thing that came to mind was how I got on the mailing list.  One listen to this and it changed to how in the hell did I miss her?  I had always thought her a folkie and, while not dismissing her, slotted her unfairly without as much as a listen.  Well, I'm listening now.  Gas Station Roses turned out to be a stunner of an album, wrapping blues and rock and jazz around the folk for which she is somewhat renowned.  I should have known.  She sells slides on her website.  Odd things like that speak volumes.....


Kip Boardman is one of those guys you could easily toss by the wayside and never miss except that you would be missing a lot.  Not unlike artists the stature of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, he lives in the world of the true composer, each song he creates a microcosm of that world.  He is a lyricist of the first water, a composer of strength and a performer worth seeing and hearing.  If, as with Newman and Nilsson, it takes a soundtrack to get people to listen, give him a soundtrack.  He is worth hearing and then some.  The song is from his recent album The Long Weight, an album as impressive as any I've heard of this genre (singer/songwriter).  Thanks to Kimberely Grant and The Grande Ole Echo, whose support of indie music is a morale-raiser and a half, for making sure this video made it onto the Net.....


Aloud reminds me of bands which have something beyond the norm and struggle to gain  a following through no fault of their own or their music.  Like The New Pornographers, but for Neko Case (Man, I'm going to take flak for that, but the amount of publicity afforded Case transcends that of the rest of the band, regardless of how good they are collectively and individually).  Like The Green Pajamas, who unfairly can't seem to break the barriers of their hardcore following.  Like so many bands which have the goods but are forced to scrap to get their music in ears in spite of quality.  I was sent a copy of Exile in the mere hope I would listen at all, I am sure.  Well I listened and I'm still listening.  This is the kind of music people like me feed off of--- creative, fresh, taking chances.  The video's pretty good, too.  Watch, listen and learn.....


Hymn For Her is gaining a name for themselves just for their use of cigar box guitar, which seems to rank right up there with ukulele in terms of fad instrument of the month.  Thing is, it is one of their main instruments and they utilize it in such a way as to give their music that little extra something.  Or, in the case of many of their songs, that big extra something.  They came out of a three man (uh, person) group called Maggi, Pierce & EJ which put out a number of albums over a fifteen year period before Hymn For Her declared their birth.  Maggi, Pierce & EJ were one of my favorite musical entities, having a creative edge not unlike that of another favorite, Gruppo Sportivo, and are a core of my music collection.  Hymn  For Her have likewise taken me in.  They make me laugh and they soothe my soul, but more than anything they amaze me with their ability to make two people sound like four or five.  That's right.  Scope out their latest album Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream They play it all live.  If you get a chance to see them, I heartily recommend that you do so.  In the meantime, scope this out.....  And in case you're interested, they live and record in that trailer.  It's an Airstream.  Get it?


In the indie world, some musicians get by and some musicians work their asses off trying to get their music to the right ears.  Amy Speace is among the latter.  It has to be frustrating and exhilarating at the same time, the constant being a form of mild exhaustion.  Speace is a trooper, though, and balances the occasional bum gig against the highs of sharing the stage with musicians she holds in high esteem.  I know this because she writes a blog about anything and everything that strikes her enough to matter and I read it.  It is personal and as revealing as her music, which reveals the Innerspeace, so to speak (also the name of her blog).  Here, she performs, absolutely solo, a track from her latest album, Land Like a Bird.  More often than not, she records with "a band" (meaning other musicians) and the album reflects that beautifully, but I was so impressed with her performance of Ghost and its very, very folk structure that I decided to share this.....


I hate it when a band gets pigeon-holed by their past and I do believe that is the case with The Dixie Bee-Liners.  They are basically a bluegrass band of sorts, having recorded their best albums with a bluegrass label (Pinecastle) and having the genre a core of their performances, as far as I can gather.  Their latest album, 2009's knockout Susanville, steps beyond the structure musically, though, and is just plain hard for me to define.  To my ears, they play Dixie Bee-Liners and that is all there is to it.  Steeped in harmonies and instrumental riffs and melodies like you can hardly believe, they take you on a musical journey other musicians only dream about.  Yeah, there's bluegrass, but there is also rock and country and folk and a string of other influences you will find you can and cannot pinpoint.  They are so good, their core audience are musicians.  If that doesn't say it, I don't know what else to say.  Except watch this.....


A week ago, I was asking who Hannah Gillespie was, too, but Ken Stringfellow of The Posies had planted her name in my head and I finally followed through.  Hannah had asked Stringfellow, you see, to produce her latest album and he did.  All The Dirt.  While I would like to call it Americana, I don't tnhink that would be fair.  Australiana, perhaps?  She is from Australia, after all, and they have their own roots, though it is hard for me to separate the two countries, musically and ideologically.  Listening to her, she sounds like she could be from Indiana or Kentucky, but she is in fact from Canberra.  I am amazed that two continents could be so far apart and share so much, musically.  Cases in point:  Kasey Chambers, who is slowly overtaking America with her string of country-inflected rock and folk;  Bill Jackson, who has found Nashville and surrounding areas as much a home as down under.  Gillespie fits right in with them and others who are slowly making their way across the waters to share their music with us Americans.  I just started listening to All The Dirt and am already impressed.  Her voice is strong and fluid, her songwriting outstanding and Stringfellow's production thumbs up.  While this video is a bit raw, you can hear what I am saying.....


Liz Pappademas & The Level's release is finally making the rounds.  Television City is a concept album based on life on the tube, I guess, and is Pappademas' second LP, to my knowledge.  A little more adventurous than her earlier (and very impressive) 2007 release, 11 Songs, it is her own Day In the Life, as it were--- a musical representation of life inside the people who live inside the Tube.  I hadn't planned on doing this, but what the hell.  This is already rampant with videos.  Here is the music video of Your Favorite Game Show.  I dig it.....

Laurie Biagini

Vancouver BC's answer to Annette and surf, Laurie Biagini, is working on her next album.  Her previous albums, Ridin' the Wave and A Far-Out Place, are peppered with girl group sounds, Annette-like songs and a little surf music for seasoning.  On the new album, she says she is leaning a bit more toward the Go-Go theme.  It should be intriguing, at the least.  In the meantime, you can feast your eyes and ears on this little video, the song culled from A Far-Out Place.  Stay tuned.....


Devon Sproule

Devon Sproule is in a musical world all her own.  Starting out as a pop singer of the ilk of Fiona Apple and the like, she has progressed far, far beyond that.  She grabs ideas and influences like a child capturing fireflies and instead of copying, makes them her own.  Few musicians have impressed me as much or as deeply.  She has a new album ready for release titled I Love You, Go Easy, for which I am excited even though I have yet to absorb my fill of her previous, Don't Hurry For Heaven.  Devon plays future music today, meaning that what you don't get today, you will tomorrow (and don't come yelling at me because you were too dense to hear it).  Here is a live video of Devon with The Paul Curreri Band playing one of my favorites from Don't Hurry For Heaven, Sponji Reggae.  It's a bit rough, but what a version!

Lisbee Stainton

Lisbee Stainton has spent the past number of months wowing the crowds in Europe, first with Joan Armatrading and more recently with Paul Carrack.  Her Girl On An Unmade Bed album caught me totally off guard a couple of years ago (Jeez, has it really been that long?) and made me a superfan.  If I was rich, I'd fly to the UK or Europe just to hear her live.  Not usually my kind of music, but Lisbee is a cut above.  She is just now finishing up a new album.  Not too soon, as far as I'm concerned.  Here she is performing Harriet, one of my favorites, from her last album.

Fiery Blue

Paul Marsteller is a songwriting machine, my friends, and it doesn't hurt that he has teamed up with Gabe Rhodes and Simone Stevens to put those songs on record.  Last year's self-titled album was one of my top picks, Big Moment right up there in the running for Song of the Year as far as I was concerned.  Their newest album, Our Secret, follows along the same lines--- melodic, poppy, emotional.  Plain good stuff.  Here is the video from last year's album--- Turn.  Well-performed, beautifully photographed.....

Bill Jackson

 Jackson is another of those Aussies.  I swear, they breed like Kangaroos!  Kidding aside, Bill Jackson is one of those musicians you want to bronze and put in a museum.  His music, solidly folk, is a cultural treasure not unlike that of a Townes Van Zant or a Mickey Newbury.  He put out a fine album a couple of years ago titled Steel + Bone which garnered high praise in and outside of Australia.  His last EP, The Nashville Session, caught him at his folkie best.  Here is a live performance of a track from that EP, CSS Shenandoah, which tells the tale of Australians and their involvement in the U.S. Civil War.  Sometimes you have to go to Australia to learn about the States, evidently.....

The Dementians

Being's how I've gone this far, allow me to shove something in here I consider a real guilty pleasure.  Last year I stumbled upon The Dementians, thanks to a promoter in the UK.  The band (ahem, the guy) is Canadian and works out of Toronto.  What I heard was some of the best and in places downright laugh out loud music I've heard in some time.  I leave you with this video of Cosmic Cheese, as cheesy as it gets and yet downright catchy.  (I would have posted Middle Class Revolution, an hilarious song about the reaction to a guy being allowed to cut into traffic and refusing to acknowledge the favor, but there doesn't seem to be a real video of that available).  Do yourself a favor if you like stuff like that, though, and check out The Dementians' MySpace page.  It's worth it.

The Future

Music is popping out all over, my friends, and next time I hope to have a ton of updates, release dates and music to go over.  Maybe, if I can get it together, I might even have a bit of historical wisdom to pass around--- like why the music industry deserves what it's getting and why the paradigm has shifted so drastically toward the indies.  Until then, then.