SOUNDTRACK: STRAND OF OAKS–Tiny Desk Concert #449 (June 15, 2015).
I didn’t know anything about Strand of Oaks when I first heard them last year. I assumed from the bio info that I’d heard that he, Timothy Showalter, had been in a a band and that this was his solo project. But no. His history is actually far more interesting.
The Wikipedia summary is pretty simple and shocking:
While Showalter was on tour, his wife had an affair. Escaping his detrimental relationship, he moved back to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 2003. A couple of months later, he came home to find his house burned down. [WHAT??]. Showalter spent his nights in hotels and on park benches with a borrowed guitar while working at an orthodox Jewish day school. Despite the turmoil, he was able to find inspiration to continue writing music that would later be released.
He released three self-produced albums and then made Heal. Which ALSO has a shocking tale attached to it: On Christmas Day in 2013, Showalter and Sue were driving back to Philadelphia from Indiana when they hit a patch of ice and crashed into two semi trucks. Showalter suffered a concussion and broke every rib on his right side. The near-death experience gave Showalter a boldness during mixing sessions while creating HEAL with John Congleton, just days after the crash.
Yipes. I don’t know his earlier records, but I really like Heal. It’s got an interesting sound, with some great guitar work.
For the Tiny Desk, he plays three songs. The first is the single from his album, “Goshen ’97”. This version is just him on his black electric guitar with lots of echo. It’s very slow and kind of broody. I prefer the original, but this is a very interesting version. And his voice sounds really good in this stripped down style.
After the first song he says how nice it feels to play this gig–just what he imagined it would be like. He says he could play there a long time and when someone says “Ok” he say they’d get sick of him: “Oh that bearded guy is still here.”
“Plymouth” has even more echo on the guitar–this one a hollow bodied steel string guitar. It sounds lovely and since I don’t know the original as well, I like this slower more meditative version.
“JM” is for Jason Molina and for this track, he switches its back to the black electric. I love the album version of this song a lot, as the soloing is just fantastic. This version is quite different. Again, it’s slow and broody, and really good. I still like the album version (because of the solos) but this is good too.
I’m fascinated by Showalter now, and plan to see what his earlier albums sound like.
[READ: June 15, 2015] Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People
Although I was unfamiliar with Diffee’s name, I was familiar with his cartoons from the New Yorker. Diffee has three other books out (under the Rejection Collection moniker–he’s great with book titles). I certainly loved the title of this book.
There are 16 chapters in the book–each is devoted to a particular topic and has a rather amusing introduction in which Diffee goes off on that subject: Medical Professionals, Lumberjacks, Relationships, Pet Owners, Old People, Utensils, Real Jobs, Indians and Eskimos, Food, Sex, Prison, Religion, Wealth, Children, Sports and Tattoos.
What I really enjoyed was that the cartoons that fill the introductory sections look very different from his more “official” style (which I recognized immediately from the magazine). It’s cool that he has a distinctive style but is not pigeonholed into that style.
Occasional cartoons have an accompanying silhouette (presumably himself) with an extra bonus joke tangentially related to the topic. Sometimes these are funnier than the original cartoon. (Does a polygamist refer to his wives as his “better eighths?”).
It’s hard to mention favorite cartoons without describing the cartoon, which is never funny, but there are few punchlines that work with out a visual, like:
“Therapist: “These feelings of inadequacy are common among the inadequate.”
Waitress: “Sorry, we don’t serve the Lumberjack breakfast to accountants.”
Drug sniffing dog: “I’m starting to really like the smell of cocaine.”
And this one which is not from the New Yorker: “Wade Greenberg, wearing his hemp blazer, inadvertently became the life of the party when he stood too close to the menorah.”
He also really loves to hate sporks: (50% spoon, 50% fork, 85% useless).
All of these are funnier with the accompanying cartoon of course, and I really like his drawing style.
By the way, the section on tattoos was capped off by “knuckle tats you’ll never see” like FLAU TIST or ALAN ALDA.
I enjoyed this book a lot and will certainly look for his previous collections.