Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Don't we know archaic barrel?

First, a little musical holiday gift from the fine lads of The Honored Guests.

MP3: "Winter Slide"
Just a sketch of a song, but it fits the season. It does have some of that gauzy walking-in-the-snow feel to it (which we're getting none of in NC this year), plus...glockenspiel! I'll say more about the Honored Guests later -- just came across them, but I like 'em.

And now we sing the traditional carol:
Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!
That's all for now. See y'all in the new year. Happy holidays, whichever ones you're celebrating.

"Good King Sauerkraut, look out!
On yo' feets uneven..."


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Live Schooner Tracks

I've mentioned Schooner a couple of times before, praising their melodic indie rock sensibility. They've posted some recent live tracks on their web site -- they need some polish before they're up to the quality of You Forget About Your Heart, but they're worth a listen.

MP3: "Make Me Mad"
MP3: "Birds and Other Creatures"
MP3: "They Always Do!"

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Strugglers: "Don't you know what will happen/ with your staring at the world like that?"

Chapel Hill's Randy Bickford is the driving force behind the Strugglers. I guess the quick genre description of their music would be "lo-fi alt-country" or something like that. Will Oldham seems to be the critics' most common comparison.

It's mellow, simple songwriting that highlights Bickford's warm voice, often backed by steel guitar. The folk/country influence has gotten stronger in recent years, it seems: contrast the shuffling electronic-sounding beat of "On the Way to the Grave" from 2001's Done By the Strugglers to the more wholly organic sound of the songs from 2004's The Fair Store.

MP3: "Goodness Graicious"
MP3: "Until I Slept"
(from The Fair Store, Acuarela/Darla 2004. Buy. Read the Pitchfork review [7.5])

MP3: "The New Room"
MP3: "Your Laugh"
(from The New Room, Tract Records 2003. Buy)

MP3: "On the Way to the Grave"
(from Done by the Strugglers, Tract Records 2001. Buy)

Hear the band at Local 506 on January 21 with Cub Country. Should be a good show! After that, they're touring Europe with Destroyer.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Roman Candle

Yesterday, I mentioned the recent recording that Thad Cockrell had done with Roman Candle. They're an interesting story in their own right.

Skip and Logan Matheney, brothers from Wilkesboro, started out in Chapel Hill back in 1997. Their early demos (see below) showcase some fine pop songwriting and singing, with more than a little Beatles influence. ("Baby's Got It In The Genes", for instance, comes a little to close to "All Across The Universe.") They produced a full album, Says Pop, in 2002, which scuffed up the songs with dusty production and some trip-hop inspired beats. (You can hear samples here.)

Frankly, I don't hear much twang in those tracks, but in 2003 Rolling Stone dubbed them "explosive new-country darlings", and they're definitely moving in that direction as evidenced by their collaboration with Cockrell. Chris Stamey has really taken them under his wing. The band recorded a song with him for the marvelous Alejandro Escovedo tribute album Por Vida, and he produced the re-recording of Says Pop, to be released with extra tracks...sometime soon. (Their web site says "later in 2004," but time's running out for that.) It'll be fascinating to see what Stamey does with these songs -- doubt it will be much like the original production! (I think you can get a taste here.)

MP3: "Why Modern Radio Is A OK"
This is a demo, and really shows a country turn. The snarky lyrics crack me up:
Don’t play Neil Young
Don’t play Van Morrison
Just let some high school emo band start versing and chorusing
Because there’s no way it will break my heart as far as I can see
And that’s why modern radio is A OK with me.
Here are the old tracks I mentioned above. Good songs, but not really representative of where the band is now as far as I can tell.

MP3: "You Don't Belong To This World" (probably the best of these)
MP3: "Baby's Got It In The Genes"
MP3: "Something Left To Say"
MP3: "I've Got A Reason"

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Thad Cockrell: Putting the Hurt Back in Country

Like the Two Dollar Pistols, Thad Cockrell is a musician who takes some pride in saying, "There's no 'alt' in my country." But where the Two Dollar Pistols are pretty honky-tonk, Cockrell's a little more mournful. The son of a Baptist preacher, he was raised on gospel, and later folks like George Jones and Merle Haggard.

His first album, Stack of Dreams, was recorded in 2001 in one marathon session with producer Chris Stamey. His 2003 followup, Warmth & Beauty, again enlisted Stamey as producer, and called on a strong cast of local musicians, including the Carbines' Zeke Hutchins and Greg Readling, Chatham County Line's John Teer, and Jen Gunderman (ex-Jayhawks), plus guest appearances by Tift Merritt, Caitlin Cary, and Mitch Easter.

I believe he has recently forsaken Raleigh for Nashville, though I can't find confirmation of that. In any case, we'll lay claim to him for now.

MP3: "Warmth& Beauty"
(from Warmth & Beauty, Yep Roc 2003. Buy or download.)
His other album is Stack of Dreams, Miles of Music 2001. Buy.

These next tracks were recorded with Roman Candle at the Speakeasy back in April. Chris Stamey had the idea to conduct a kind of public recording session, and this is part of the result. It's a pretty cool concept -- read more about what happened here.

MP3: "Running Kind"
MP3: "Here Without You"
MP3: "Girl From Maryville"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Maple Stave

What is it about these instrumental rock bands that appeals to me so much? (See previously Malt Swagger, Shark Quest.) I guess it's my only partially submerged prog history peeking through. (O yes!)

Maple Stave is another one more or less in this vein, though with a more straightforward instrumentation -- guitar, bass, drums, though apparently they switch instruments freely -- without the more exotic sounds of those other bands. Still, it's effective, evocative music with some good energy.

I first noticed a nice track ("Theme", see below) on the Durham Rocks! compilation, but found some additional samples on their web site. I haven't found much [any] information about the online, but they do have a blog of their own. As near as I can tell, they don't have an official album out, but they are selling self-made CD-EPs at their shows. The next chance for that is Jan 27 at Kings in Raleigh.

MP3: "Theme"
MP3: "Bird"
MP3: "Books on Code"
MP3: "Curse of Caul"


Monday, December 13, 2004

Mangos and Mandolins

I have a lengthy list of music blogs I scan regularly. There are a handful that hit my sweet spots so cleanly that I pretty much download everything they put up. One of these, Benn loxo du tàccu worked its way onto my sidebar a while ago with no fanfare, but it's a pure delight -- African music of all sorts from highlife to contemporary Senegalese rap. "Mattgy" just doesn't miss.

And I just now stumbled across another that I think will be in this category. Thanks to Big Rock Candy Mountain for the pointer to Mangos and Mandolins, "Music from Appalachia to Brazil, with plenty of detours." Everything up there now is worth checking out, but I am especially enjoying the Wayfaring Strangers.

God bless y'all -- I wish I could pull this kind of thing off.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Good News for People Who Love...Jangle Pop

Per the dB's mailing list this morning:
Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Gene Holder, and Will Rigby will be recording together in early January 2005. Stayed tuned for what happens with these recordings. The few songs that there is time to record will probably wind up on an new Holsapple/Stamey album, but if things go great maybe there'll actually be a NEW dB's album. Did hell freeze overor something?
There's plenty of multimedia at the dB's web site, including these live MP3s from 1979:

MP3: "She's Not Worried"
MP3: "Bad Repuation"
MP3: "What's the Matter With Me"
MP3: "The Fight"
MP3: "What I Dig/Espionage"
MP3: "If and When"
(Live at the Philosopher's Club, Winston-Salem, NC; Dec. 28-29, 1979)
Be sure to read the great reminiscence of the show by Fred Mills.

And buy some stuff, too. It'll help fund a dB's documentary.


The She-Mamas: rock on, ladies

I bought this Durham Rocks! CD a while ago, and one of the tracks that jumped out at me this morning from my random playlist was "You're No Good For Me" by the She-Mamas. The three women (April Crider on guitar, Melissa Thomas on drums, and Krista Schrieber on bass) have been playing together for about a year, and have a song on the recent Chicks Rock comp as well as the aforementioned Durham Rocks!

So, as you might guess, they rock, rather in the Sleater-Kinney vein. This is promising stuff: the songs are good, though the recording quality's only average. Hopefully they can get things a little more polished for an EP or full-length. I bet they have a good live show, too -- there's energy to spare in these recordings. (Love to hear the rumored cover of AC/DC's "Big Balls"...)

MP3: "You're No Good For Me" (this one's the best, IMO)
MP3: "Man of Mystery"
MP3: "Tango"
MP3: "New Kind of Kick" (least favorite -- the shouted chorus doesn't do it for me)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ticonderoga: low-key minimalist rock

Ticonderoga is a three-piece that recently moved to Raleigh from Iowa. They've been selling their own CD-Rs and putting music up on their web site, but they just signed with Michigan-based label Fifty Four Forty or Fight.

I mentioned previously that drummer Wes Phillips also plays for the Rosebuds, but the two bands are nothing alike (except that they both make music I like pretty well). Unlike the Rosebuds' upbeat pop, Ticonderoga plays sparse, atmospheric music. Some of it starts to sound like Philip Glass minimalism (e.g. "High Score", see below). Here's a description from the Independent's "12 Bands Not To Miss" profile:
twisted, sinuous folk songs, like Cub Country or early, plainsong Wilco glimpsed through the brokesong lenses of Ticonderoga's kindred spirits--Sebadoh, Grandaddy, Sparklehorse.
(Gotta say, I don't know most of those bands...)

They have about 25 songs available on their web site, though it sounds like their new record deal will require some or all of that to come down. Although I like the music, the songs are so low key that it's hard with only a few listens to pick out clear standouts. I'll take a stab, though:

MP3: "High Score"
As I mentioned above, the intro to this song is intruigingly minimalist. (You may need to append ".mp3" to the file name when you save this.)

MP3: "Accord"
This one really highlights the fractured folk style that the Independent described. The percussion adds a lot to this track.

MP3: "Centipede"
More of a rock/electric track.

MP3: "Punchline"
They do get noisy sometimes. Short and sour.

So that's a sample. I have downloaded them all and like them -- looking forward to seeing what comes next from these guys!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Caitlin Cary (formerly of Whiskeytown)

I previously mentioned former Whiskeytown member Caitlin Cary as a member of Tres Chicas, but it's time to highlight her solo work. Unfortunately (or not), I'm busy and uninspired, so I'll just say that she's made some nice alt-country that often reminds me of Mary Chapin Carpenter (who sings on a couple of tracks on Cary's latest, I'm Staying Out). Lovely voice, wish she would play the fiddle more. Chris Stamey produces (big surprise). Here's a couple of interviews. Just listen.

MP3: "Cello Girl"
MP3: "Sleepin' in on Sunday"
(from I'm Staying Out, Yep Roc 2003. Buy or download.)

MP3: "Shallow Heart, Shallow Water"
MP3: "Thick Walls Down"
(from While You Weren't Looking, Yep Roc 2002. Buy.)

MP3: "Rosemary Moore"
(from Waltzie, Yep Roc 2000. Buy or download.)