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Archive for the ‘Jeff Smith’ Category

sandwalkerSOUNDTRACK: SACKVILLE-Low Ebb EP (1996).

lowebb Sackville was a Montreal based folk group who released one album through Constellation Records, and a couple of other releases on other labels.  When they broke up, most of the members of the band went on to play with other bands, many of whom were later released on Constellation.

The focus of the band is really singer/guitarist Gabe Levine whose voice shows a lot of folk, rock and avant garde influences.  His voice sounds at once familiar and also strangely unique.

And this EP was their first release.

The first song is “Messengers.” I love the way the violin cuts through the slow verses to add a great melody to the chorus (including some raw scratching sounds before the verse starts again).  There’s a hint of Mike Doughty in his delivery too. “Donkey Song” opens with some quiet verses and violins has a loud clamorous chorus—super fun and stomping with a nice side guitar riff.  “William” has a standard American folk song melody but the way he sings it is very Social Distortion (through a tinny modulator).  The fiddle gives it more of country sound, but still kind of alt

“Showcase Showdown”  opens with a cool slide guitar and very different vocal style delivered by Kurt Newman.  And the chorus is fund and perhaps a little silly in three-four  dance rhythm “your eyes scare us more than the mirrors on the dance floor.” It’s the most fun song on the disc.  “Low Ebb” continues with the more rocking sound with big brash guitar and crashing cymbals.  It also features some quiet but cool backing vocals—a kind of scream that acts as a drone.   “Thomas” opens with a slide guitar and quiet vocals, the chorus is a major highlight with the vocal duet playing against the loud crunching stop-start guitars.  “This Thing I Want, I Know Not What” is a straight ahead folk song with a lead violin and a pretty melody.  “Cheap” has a quiet melody ending with some slide guitars and violin.

It’s a solid E.P. with even better music on their full lengths.

[READ: June 25, 2016] Last of the Sandwalkers

This is a fascinating book that proves to be an amazing look at beetles and insects and a somewhat interesting adventure story.

I actually found myself a little confused by the story when it started because while I knew it wasn’t going to be realistic (the beetles are leaving their civilization to discover the world) it was also very rooted in real insect knowledge.  And then it got a little out-there so the level of reality in the story wavered from time to time and I found myself getting pulled out of the story to try to puzzle things together.

Which was a shame.  Another shame is that it doesn’t tell you that there are notes at the back of the book (do most people flip to the end to discover this?  Because I didn’t).  And the notes are one of the best parts of the book.  But more on that later.

The protagonist of the story is Lucy.  She is in charge of a small team who have decided to leave their home to go exploring.  Her team includes Professor Bombardier; Raef, a lighting bug (with a secret); Mossy, a giant beetle with a big horn and Professor Owen who has huge mandibles. They also run into Ma’Dog, an old storyteller who is rather cantankerous.

The story begins with Lucy’s diary as the teams sets out from Coleopolis.  They quickly discover Old Coleopolis which was destroyed by coconuts falling from a tree.  It was said that the city was destroyed 1,000 years ago by the god Scarabus, although Lucy can’t believe how not-overgrown it looks after 1,000 years.  It all seems very suspicious. (more…)

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broxoSOUNDTRACK: CARRIE RODRIGUEZ-Tiny Desk Concert #535 (May 27, 2016).

carrieCarrie Rodriguez is also from Texas.  She sings in both Spanish and English, plays guitar and violin and has a wonderful stage presence.  Her voice is powerful and confident and her duet partner Chip Taylor is a perfect accompanist for her.

Her first song is called “I Dreamed I Was Lola Beltrán.”  Beltrán is one of Mexico’s most highly regarded ranchera singers.  In the lyric she sings, “and you were Javier Solis” (he was another highly regarded ranchero singer).  The end of the lyric is “and we were baile baile baile while you sang to me.”  It’s quite romantic.  Rodriguez plays the four string guitar while Taylor plays slide guitar.  Given the instrumentation, this song could feel very country, but it doesn’t primarily because of the way she sings–more sultry than country with a dapple of ranchero on top..

She introduces the second song, “Llano Estacado” by saying that her grandmother is from there.  It’s up near the panhandle with ghost towns and strange people up there.  She says people there pronounce the town Lano es Tacado.  Taylor switches to electric guitar and she stays on the four string acoustic. There’s some wonderful Spanish pronunciations there.  This feels more like a cowboy song (except for the buzzy electric guitar).

Somebody brings her a beer (or maybe champagne) which she says is perfect as the final song is a drinking song “Noche de Ronda” (a night out on the town).  She says that in this song, “She is singing to the moon because her lover isn’t with her because he is out with his friends having a good time.”  Taylor laughs and says, “it’s a fictitious song.”

He plays guitar.  She sings a beautiful Spanish and hits some lovely notes.  After a lengthy introduction, the song turns into more of a Spanish lullaby (with some very fast lyrics).  It’s a really beautiful ballad. Then, about four minutes in, Carrie picks up a violin and begins playing a solo.  After about a minute of beauteous soloing, she shifts gears and starts playing a wild solo fiddle with scratchy bowing and some really fast playing. It’s fun and intense and  the whole solo lasts about 4 minutes.

Rodriguez really showcases all of her talents in this Tiny Desk.  She’s a force to be reckoned with.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Broxo

The drawing style of this book reminded me a lot of Bone.  Between the setting and the way the human characters looked, it had a very Jeff Smith feel.  On closer inspection, there are enough dissimilarities to make Broxo its own.  And it’s compelling in a very different (and darker) way.

What is particularly interesting about this story is how elliptical it feels.  The story begins with a woman, Princess Zora of the Granitewings, reaching the top of Peryton Peak in search of the Peryton Clan.  But we don’t learn all that much about her or all that much about the world she’s in (we get enough to make the story work, but that’s about all).

Peryton Peak looks abandoned, there’s no sign of human life.  While exploring, she is set on by little ferret-looking creatures, but she quickly gets rid of them.
(more…)

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walkerSOUNDTRACK: THE CIVIL WARS-Tiny Desk Concert #137 (June 27, 3011).

civilMany Tiny Desk performances just show the band playing.  But there’s evidently a lot of time before hand where the band sets up and has fun.  I love seeing that, and it’s kind of a shame they cut so much of it out.

As this show starts, Joy Williams is holding the film clacker with Bob.  He tells her to give it a loud clack.  She kind of lets it go on its own accord and then says she didn’t do a good job.  John Paul White then says “I could have done it so much better,” to much laughter.

The Civil Wars are Joy and John Paul and they have terrific chemistry.  The first song is “Barton Hollow,” John Paul plays a loud percussive resonator guitar and the two sing great harmonies.  He sings loudly with her nice harmonies, but the middle part is quieter with her gorgeous voice singing out the lyrics.   I really like the down step chords in the “walking and running” section at the end of the song.

Before “Twenty Years” Bob asks if they ever had a desk job.

Joy says no: daycare, rock climbing.   John Paul says No: forklift driver, seed cleaning, (she asks what that means, but he doesn’t hear her which is a shame as I’d like to know too) cleaning out chicken houses.  He pauses…. I wanted a desk job.

For the song, John Paul switches to a simple acoustic guitar and plays less percussively for this somewhat quieter song.

It’s really fun to watch the two of them play together.  As the blurb notes: “There’s blissful, swooning chemistry as they stare into each other’s eyes and sing magnificently together.”  So it’s a bit of shock that they are not married to each other (they each have spouses, though).  Turns out that they met at a songwriting session at a Nashville studio in 2008.

Before “Poison & Wine” John Paul asks if they are all so quiet and respectful or if Bob rules with an iron fist.

Joy plays the keyboard for this song while John Paul plays a quiet guitar.  This song has wonderful harmonies in the beautiful if puzzling chorus , “I Don’t Love you, I always will.”

I didn’t know The Civil Wars before this set and I am really hooked.

[READ: February 2, 2016] The Unsinkable Walker Bean

This book has some pretty great blurbs attached to its (from Brain Selznick and Jeff Smith) but I found that I couldn’t really get into it.

A lot of the problem was the artwork.  Interestingly, the artwork on the cover (which I assume is also one by Reiner since it looks like his style) is really great.  But the interior art feels like a sloppy version of this cover art.  And while it’s not sloppy, of course, it just doesn’t look as nice as it might.  Couple that with text that is hard to read, a story line that is full of weird little details and twists and it all wound up being a story that felt way too long for what it was.

There was a lot that I did like about it.  I liked the general premise and I liked two of the crew members that Walker Bean befriends, and of course I loved the various gadgets that they created.  I just didn’t enjoy the story all that much. (more…)

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