Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Musicians Go Indie, The Whiskey Starts Singing (and other video fables)

You know why people think music is dead?  I don't either, but maybe it has something to do with all of the weak links in a business sinking in quicksand of its own making.  Maybe it has to do with consumers looked at as consumers and not people whose worth goes beyond their pocketbooks.  Maybe it has to do with a media so heavily dug in that they think they cannot move without losing the battle and the war, thinking (not unlike Romney) that they have things under control, until the annual figures are tabulated.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that there is so goddamn much music available today as opposed to even yesterday that people cannot negotiate their way through the mountainous mass.  So they sit and wait.  They don't even try while wailing and beating their chests and bemoaning the lack of good music while being surrounded by and, in fact, buried in it. 

It isn't the music that is dead, friends, but the hearts and souls of so many music lovers.  They spend so much time looking back that they have no idea that there is a present or a future.  They wallow in the same old, and I get that, to a degree.  We all, when we reach a certain age, look back.  It is in most of our genes.  But to look back and make comparisons of then and now is a fool's task unless you actually know the now.  And what the media is telling us is now, musically, is such a small portion of it that it boggles the mind.

I could go on a rant, sure, and I have done so a few times, but that would defeat the whole idea of the now, wouldn't it?  That would also fall on deaf ears.  I know out of experience how hard it is to get people to listen when they don't want to (and mostly, they don't) but I also know that when given a chance, on their own, many will.

That's what this post is about.  I'm giving you a chance.  I have done most of the work for you here.  I have picked some of the best and most intriguing of the Indies for you to peruse, by video.  All that's left for you to do is read my little introductions, click on the videos and listen.  Here we go.....


A few months ago, I got this package in the mail from one Lianne Smith.  We evidently share a friend in Brian Cullman and Cullman had suggested myself as a possible reviewer of her new album,  The CD package is beautiful and when I listened I found the music to be the same.  Whilst taking time off from writing to surf the Net a few weeks ago, I noticed a video from Ms. Smith.  Well, not Ms. Smith as much as from animator  Marianne Petit, who captures the very essence of Lianne's song.  Since seeing and hearing this, I cannot separate the song from the video.  Sometimes the simplest is really the best.


Vinnie Zummo, for those who don't already know, played guitar for Joe Jackson once upon a time.  Since, he has taken solo to a whole new level, working on and producing not just songs and albums but videos to promote his incredible mass of work.  Prodigious, that's the word I'm looking for  The guy is a machine, always working, but the difference between Zummo and others is that he does not lose his spark.  He retains that creative edge which makes his songs and whole projects fresh.  Take, for instance, this video.  Not only is it a tribute to Ringo, it is a musical statement about the importance of The Beatles in Zummo's life.  An amazing song in itself, he, along with first-time director Paolo Marchica,  has turned it into an amazing video.  If you like The Beatles at all, you really should watch this:

TOM HOUSE/Whiskey Sings Like Angels---

I wish I could put my finger on why the listening public accepts one bit of music and rejects or ignores another.  I mean, why did Dylan become such a huge success when so many others from the Bleecker & MacDougall days did not?  Sure, you could go with the general acceptance that Dylan was more talented, but I think it goes way deeper than that.  We as a public, I don't think, have an ability to accept or reject on our own.  We need others to accept something before we "waste our time".  After hearing Tom House's The Long Winding Road album, let me assure you that sometimes it is not a waste but a joy to find music which flies above others.  This video was put together by two people who not only believe in the album but in House himself:  Lance Smith and Keith Morris.  Both musicians themselves, they set about the task of putting video to music because they felt the need.  In this day and age, House is somewhat unique in that he tosses aside the precepts and goes for the soul.  You'll understand when you see and hear it.  And if you're at all interested in my take on the Tom House's of the world, here is a column I wrote some time ago.  House is toward the middle.

THE SAMPLES/When It's Raining---

I confess to not having heard The Samples when I was turned on to this video and, in fact, not having even heard of head Sample Sean Kelly.  Thanks to friend Michael Adams, I not only found a great song and video but a huge catalogue of music which I am still working my way through.  Kelly, I found, is one hell of a songwriter and has a voice to match.  His solo work has gems which in the past would easily have been hits but, alas, hits are a mere ghost of what they once were.  The music, hit or not, is there, though, and Kelly's puts many of the stars of the day to shame.  One day soon, I am hoping to interview Mr. Kelly and write a large piece detailing his brush with fame and the reasons it was not fully realized.  Until then, I suggest you watch this.

CRAIG ELKINS/Tumbleweeds---

He was a member of Huffamoose at one time, was Elkins, but when he went solo not a moose was to be seen.  Craig Elkins is a strange one, indeed, in that he writes in a style few have even attempted--- this rambling stream-of-consciousness lyrical debate with music.  Musically, he lives in his own world and when that world sloshes over into our own, we go through airpockets, the music outstanding and the lyrics at times unsettling.  His current album, I Love You, is packed with the kinds of songs people way ahead of the curve are hearing now.  There is a good chance that, in six months to a year, you will be listening too.  Check out the video closely.  If I don't miss my guess, that is a very young Oliver Reed portraying his own scene within a scene from maybe Reefer Madness.  I mean, it is uncanny in its retro-ness.

RED RATTLES/It's a Shame---

Charlottesville is a hotbed of music.  You can quote me.  That city is, without a doubt, per capita, the heaviest of the heavies.  I have found too many bands and artists within throwing distance of Charlottesville to deny it.  So when friend Stuart Gunter sends me a list of artists I need to check out, I check them out.  Awhile ago, Red Rattles was on that list.  Two man rock, it is--- guitar and drums--- not unlike New York's Crushed Out (formerly Boom Chick).  Killer rock with flashes of the raw fifties-edged rock 'n' roll of the past.  Check out this video and you'll understand (unless you know nothing of fifties music, of course).

CRUSHED OUT/Weigh You Down---

Okay, I admit to having a crush on Crushed Out's Moselle Spiller.  Not only is it cool to see a "chick" (as in the former band name, Boom Chick) wail on the drums, but Moselle is just such a cool name, know what I mean?  Two people--- guitar and drums.  Not unlike Red Rattles, but in their own dimension.  I saw these guys live.  I hope to again.  They were just plain fun!


I've got Charlottesville on the brain today and that works out for you.  The Fire Tapes are one of a handful of bands which straddles the fence between psych and a handful of other styles.  They space, they rock, they jam and they do it so well that they're packing places out all over the East Coast (or so I understand).  Understandable.  Their one album, Dream Travel, is an outstanding mix and well worth hearing.  If you like psych at all, you have to give these guys a listen. Outstanding video, too.

ELEPHANT REVIVAL/Quill Pen Feather---

Colorado's Elephant Revival are freaking me out.  I'd not heard of them until I stumbled across an excellent video of one of their songs, Rings Around the Moon, some months ago but have heard so much of them since that I believe they are in charge of their own destiny and are doing it right.   They work as hard as any band I've been acquainted with and are fast building a national rather than just regional presence.  I would normally put the Rings video here, but they have just released a new EP titled It's Alive and this video to support it.  One of the few acoustic bands that I really, really (really) enjoy.  

WRINKLE NECK MULES/Central Daylight Time---

You know that Geico commercial in which the gecko dances a little toe shuffle to country music?  Turns out the band playing that music is none other than the aforementioned Stuart Gunter's own band, Wrinkle Neck Mules.  So they went into a studio to record this live version and filmed it and, sonofagun, here it is.  Cameo by the gecko.  Music by the Mules.  Dancing courtesy of--- damn!  I forgot to get her name!

I think ten is enough to start with.  You guys do have lives, right?  I will be putting together more of these little columns designed specifically to point to videos of bands worthy of your attention, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, check out the videos and if you like them, check out the artists.  You don't have to buy remastered Beatles to get your musical kicks.  These do right nicely.