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Archive for the ‘Huh?’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:  HAYDEN-Live at Massey Hall (February 28, 2015).

The second season of Live at Massey Hall features ten videos from 2015.

A friend of mine from Vancouver got me into Hayden back in 1995.  Back then Hayden had a rough, bassy, somewhat peculiar voice.  Now, twenty years later, that rasp is almost all gone and his songs feel a bit more commercial.

He talks about the Toronto music scene and how important Massey Hall was.  But also the craziness of seeing Dinosaur Jr play at Massey Hall–it was unusual to see a band tearing it up on that stage.  All bands are excited to play there–the rumors of how good it sounds on stage are true.  Massey Hall is a musicians dream.

“Almost Everything.” is from his 2013 album and features him on piano (and harmonica).  I like the organ sound (from J.J. Ipsen) on the song and, lyrically, the song is pretty great:

But I’m recording once again
While my kid is upstairs in bed
And I’ll admit now and then
That some nights when I’m strumming
Or maybe just drumming
The music is still everything…
Well almost everything

“Bass Song” is about “self-defense using a bass guitar.”  This is an earlier song and his delivery is a bit closer to that earlier style of singing.  The song has a really satisfying and fine melody line and riff throughout.  As the song builds to the end, Hayden himself starts playing more and more weird and dissonant chords on the piano while playing a great harmonica solo.  Strangely enough the bassist Jay McCarrol plays drums for this song, while the drummer Taylor Knox switches to bass (but just for this song).

“No Happy Birthday” was written for his five-year-old daughter who is nonverbal. When he tries out new songs or “back catalog classics” with her, she gives the sign for “all done” really quickly.  (Someone shouts, I love you).  She loves me too, she just doesn’t love my songs.  Her favorite song in the word is “Happy Birthday.”  How do you compete with that?  The song is just him on guitar and harmonica.

Taking a break, he says, “You always see musicians fawning over this building. I don’t really see what the big deal is.  [pause] I have to say I’m kidding.  I started feeling really bad there.

“Next is a song about a bar.”  It’s from the soundtrack to Trees Lounge.  It sounds a lot like the original because he’s singing with his bassist’s deep additions to the vocals.

“Hey Love” is a new song with wonderful harmonies. The middle section has him taking out the plug for his guitar and touching the metal part so that it buzzes rhythmically.

“Dynamite Walls” gets a big response. It’s an older song and is very catchy.  There’s a lengthy cool jam session at the end.  It’s nearly three minutes long and it gets really noisy and chaotic with the drummer in particular going crazy by the end.  Then it settles down for the end.

It’s a really solid concert.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “People Who Are Refined”

This is a collection of four stories.  I didn’t really like any of them, but I was absolutely fascinated by the way these stories were discovered.   I remember hearing about this when it happened and it is still fascinating.  So, far more interesting than the content is this:

By Robert Walser (translated by Susan Bernofsky), four stories from The Microscripts, to be published next month by New Directions and Christine Burgin Gallery. Written on scraps of paper in markings often only a millimeter tall, the microscripts were at first mistakenly thought to be a secret code when they were discovered after Walser’s death in 1956. Magnification of the texts revealed them to be a miniaturized form of standard German script.

The first story is about a sorrowful man who disregarded desires.  He was full of loneliness and could not escape his worries.  Midway through he says, “Here I would appear to have completed the first section of my essay.  Now I shall turn to his son or progeny (how did a man living life in loneliness have a son?  Unclear).  The son did not have his father’s worry.  He was happy-go-lucky.  It appears that his soul was unhappy but the language kind of got away from me.

The second story is about a man given a book by a good woman who was married to bad man.  She was delicate and he was trivial.  While she was single she didn’t mind being a charming idealist.  But her husband changed her mind and now she wanted to be bad.  Being good regardless of the circumstances–oh how difficult this was proving to be. She went to what I gather is a brothel

The third is more of a statement about his will to shake a refined individual to rattle him about as if he were a scraggly tree bearing only isolated jittery leaves.  But the abuse is verbal and seems to be a back and forth more than straightforward abuse.

The fourth story is about a man who numbered among the good and refined. He created an enterprise which required the support of other nice, good, devout, refined people.  Surely this was reckless. Yes, they left him in the lurch and abandoned him.  The rest of the story turns into a sort of color scheme.  He is Mr Brown, he meets Mrs Black whom he hates because they harmonize so well.  They met a rascal clad in sky blue who smiled in yellow, cast down his eyes in fiery red, and spoke a deep green.

This ends with “his is certainly a peculiar story, and in any case it has never before appeared in print.”

The same could be true of all four.

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 10, 2016).

This show is the second of two shows at The Horseshoe Tavern featuring the return of Dave Clark on drums, Hugh Marsh on Violin and Kevin Hearn on Vocals and Keyboards.

After about an hour, there is a ten minute intermission, but this show is about twenty minutes longer overall than the previous night’s.  And the sound quality is 100 times better–nice and full.

The band plays the same five new songs this evening but not all together.  Surprisingly, (a little although I get why it is this way), the set list is pretty similar to the previous night.  The only songs played the first night that were not played the second night were “It’s Easy to Be with You,” “People’s Republic of Dave” and “Self Serve Gas Station.”  The only songs played the second night but not the first were “Palomar” “Halloween Eyes” (!), “Horses” and “Christopher.”

On the download, the intro to “Stolen Car” is actually about 5 minutes of drum machine before the band comes out.  Then Dave Clark plays a bit of an introductory drum solo while I gather the rest of the guys ambled out.  After about 2 minutes of drums, Martin plays the guitar opening to “Stolen Car” and he sounds fantastic singing it.  It’s a really lovely version and Martin hits those high notes with no problem.  When it’s over you hear someone say “never open with a show stopper.”

Bidini says, “More songs about breaking the law.  Although ironically we will not be performing “Breaking the Law” (booo) I guess… never say never, eh?”

Tim sounds great on “King Of The Past” and Kevin does the whole Mister Rogers introduction for “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson” which again sounds different (but only a little) with all of the extra keyboard stuff.  The band is always tight on this song.

Dave apologizes for the TFC, Toronto Football Club, loss.  Was anybody there?  Nobody.  Good. We don’t want any angry football fans here.

Have you said hello to Dave Clark yet?  Dave is playing with a stolen timbale tonight, although he made good.  Way back in the 1980s, Dave stole that drum from Mr McKay’s music class at Martingrove Collegiate.  However, one wintry morning a couple of years ago he enumerated the value of the drum and paid them $500 for it.  “Then I walked home to my old house.  You could have rolled a bowling ball down the roads and not hit a thing.”

I love “P.I.N.” more with each listen.  The four-string guitar sounds great and the band is always having fun.  Whether it’s Kevin’s keyboards floating around or Tim’s interjections midsong, it’s always fun.

Clark is gonna play some brushes for “Mountains And The Sea” which sounds much better at this recording than the previous one.  Mid-song, Dave whispers (that’s Hugh Marsh on the violin).

Then Bidini introduces Martin’s fancy guitar …two necks… two guitars?  Siamese guitar?  Then he notes “a very interesting discussion going on back there.  Are you all discussing my post lounge debut?.”

Martin: Dave’s very exited about the mike… going hand held.
DB: I seized the mike.
Tim: Let’s limit that to one song.
Martin: Seized the mic?  It’s right in front of you.
Kevin: Carpe Mikem [much laughter]
DB: That’s my stage name.

Tim: I think they’re discussing music stands on stage … Lack of commitment?
Martin: Bands that have music stands I want to kill them all… they’re racist….  I don’t know.

They finally start “Northern Wish,” but after a beat Clark says, “Let’s start that again.  I’ll tell you why.  Because I saw a squirrel go by.”  It sounds great and is followed by Tim’s “Palomar” which is dedicated to the dog that’s accompanying someone in here.

They play “saskatchewan” which opens with a long meandering opening, that’s quite lovely.

They take the ten minute break which on the download is primarily synthy jazz, although it doesn’t really seem to be from the club.  When the ycome back Dave says “Our break was good.  We beat up some yuppies in the alley.  Do yuppies till exist?  We are probably yuppies.

DB: Can you see Tim is he lit enough?  No!
Tim: My sister came last night and complained about the light show.  I was in the dark.  I said that’s the way I like it.
Martin:  That’s bass-ial discrimination, Tim’s lightning.

Tim’s “Music Is The Message” also sounds much better in this fuller situation, although it is still primarily piano and Martin’s quiet soloing. When it’s over, someone shouts “Happy Birthday Tim.”

Kevin explains that “Chemical Valley” is from a recording he made with Martin and Hugh last winter, (with Gavin Brown on drums).   Dave says that he and Tim were on a cruise.  There’s lots of Hugh Marsh’s soaring violins.

Kevin says that Martin’s going to sing his song called “The Albatross.”  Martin “The Unlucky Albatross.”

Dave tells a story of Martin working at the Royal Ontario Museum as a young fellow.  Martin says he defleshed an ostrich and a rhinoceros while getting bones for comparative paleontology.  He brought the meat home to eat.
DB: The Tielli’s were famous for their rhinoceros soup.
Martin: The rhino was worse, it was rank, But we got to have a piece of real rhino.
DB: Is it true your dad made grappa with the rhinoceros bones?
Martin: Horn, David, grappa cornuto.
DB: It’s the bands secret.

Kevin: Anyway, Martin’s going to sing his new song.  It’s called, “The Albatross”
Tim: Mr Reality over there.
DB: Fucking talk show host.
Kevin: Happy birthday, Tim and here’s Martin with his new song “The Albatross.”

This version is really good and much more fun, but it still feels more like a solo Martin song than a Rheos song.  But “California Dreamline’ sounds terrific.

Its followed by a 10 minute “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (Three Martin songs in a row).  There’s a beautiful flute-like melody playing throughout the song (Kevin, I assume) and another cool drum solo from Dave Clark.  At he end of the song when it gets to the “dark side of the moon” and the howling starts the sounds get kind of dark and spooky and weird and someone plays the riff for Pink Floyd’s “Money” while some howling goes on.

More banter: “This is the end of our Canadian tour.”  “Did you know it was Tim’s birthday?  He’s 71.”
Tim: That last song really went to the dark side didn’t it?  For a moment, I was on the dark side.”

“Claire” sounds great with Martin playing a wonderful solo and then mid-song it just stops dead.  Tim was saying to bring it down and Martin was saying to bring it up.  Tim says he wanted to hear more of Martin’s guitar.  “It’s your birthday, you can hear all the Martin you want.  I want a guitar solo for my birthday, Martin.  I want some violin on this guitar solo.  Wah wah wah, it’s all about me.  And a little drum solo at the end.

There are cool keyboard twinkles that lend atmosphere to the opening of “Shaved Head.” The song sounds amazing although just before the ending, there’s a pause with much laughing (but Martin doesn’t lose it).  I wonder what happened.

After the encore, Chris Brown comes on to play keys for “Queer.”  After the song, Kevin sings “Waiting For My Man” with the refrain of “Hey Chris Brown what are you doing uptown?  Chris Brown / Uptown.  They start jamming a bit and Dave says, “C’mon, Tim, it’s your birthday, so Tim sings a few lines of “Halloween Eyes.”

After a pause they start playing “Horses,” but Martin says, “Clarkie, just think about the Royal Albert in 1987 and the guy named Tex with the fart gas can and the cowboy hat.
Clark:  He didn’t even work there, he just took it on himself.  He was like a vigilante fart gas man.
Martin: What do you mean he didn’t work there?
DB: You were very disturbed by Tex and his fart gas canister.
Martin: I’m disturbed that fart gas in a can even exists, Dave.
Kevin: Yeah, Dave.
Martin: That’s just weird in itself.  Stop your song that they wanna hear.
Kevin: Yes, let’stalk about this.
after some discussion
Clark: I’ve got a giant can of Beano in the back.
Martin: What’s Beano for?
Clark: It’s for starting songs, lets do one.

“Horses” rocks.  Midway through the song he starts singing “Smoke on the Water” but no one really seems to play along with him.
DB: I’m still in that Dope Fiends Black Hole.
Martin: That Pink Floyd black hole?
Kevin: There’s a cream for that.

Clark sing “Super Controller” which sounds much bigger and more fun with those “ba ba bas.”

There’s another encore break and they come back for “Legal Age Life” which was performed acoustic in the crowd and is thus silent till the ending part.  The recording doesn’t really follow them and you can hear people talking at one point someone even says, “that is them, I thought it was a bunch of other people.”  Then you can hear the end of the song.

Finally, they’re back up on stage and Martin says, “somebody get me a shot, the bar’s closing.”  This leads to an awesome version of “Christopher” to end the night.

It’s a fantastic show and confirms that they are back and better than they have been in years.  Next time I see that they are playing I need to haul myself up to Toronto to watch them.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “One, Two, Three and Four Rabbits”

This was a story published posthumously and was translated by Ezra E. Fitz.

I pretty much never knew what the heck was going on.

It starts with

I. The Future…

From where is the future related?

That’s all of Part I.

Then

II.  The Past (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GZA & The Soul Rebels-Tiny Desk Concert #738 (May 2, 2018). 

GZA is the latest rapper to come to the Tiny Desk with a live band.  He had a six piece brass band Manuel Perkins (Sousaphone), Julian Gosin (Trumpet), Marcus Hubbard (Trumpet), Erion Williams (Saxophone), Corey Peyton (Trombone), Paul Robertson (Trombone) and two percussionists Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss.

It turns out that on a recent tour The Soul Rebels were actually the headlining band and GZA was a special guest:

This set was recorded when The Soul Rebels were in Washington, D.C. for a performance at the 9:30 Club that featured GZA and Talib Kweli. It was one of just a handful of live concerts GZA has done with the group.

I was surprised to hear than GZA (or frankly anyone from Wu-Tang Clan was “notoriously introverted.”  Also that “Most rap fans would name RZA as the head of the Wu-Tang Clan. But Wu purists know that GZA, or The Genius, is the crew’s unspoken elder statesman.”

Once they stepped behind the desk they got right down to business, opening with the sparkling “Living In The World Today,” from GZA’s 1995 solo album Liquid Swords. These 23-year old lyrics and metaphors felt timeless.

After the song he smiles, “That was cool.”

GZA continued his onslaught of poetic precision with another beauty from Liquid Swords, “Duel of the Iron Mic.” “I ain’t particular,” he spat, starting to break into a sweat behind the desk. “I bang like vehicular/Homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy.” At one point, GZA even channeled his cousin, the late great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who provided the hook on the original version of the track.

By the third and final song at the Tiny Desk, driven by unbridled passion and his command of the room, GZA was soaked in sweat as they broke into the title track of Liquid Swords. The Soul Rebels perfectly recreated the track’s seamless horn hits while adding on a bit of their own flare. The cherry on top arrived when GZA used his final minutes to tell the story of how the hook originally came together. In RZA’s basement, smoking and drinking with fellow Wu lyricist Masta Killa, RZA was sold on a routine he, GZA and ODB used to perform as teens.

I don’t know GZA’s solo stuff.  I don’t really know his flow.  He sounds a bit old and a little rusty, but his delivery is strong (even when he “forgets his own verse” in “Liquid Swords”).   I love the way The Soul Rebels play the eight notes over and over in an almost menacing holding position.

And the tale he tells about the final song is pretty great.

 

[READ: April 10, 2018] “The Mastiff”

This is one of those stories (translated from the French by Linda Coverdale) that to me just seems endless despite its brevity.

The Master has never seen this thing before.

He releases the howling mastiff.

He follows the dog.

For the rest of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCŒUR DE PIRATE-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I known of Cœur de Pirate more from reputation than her music.  But everything I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed.  Cœur de Pirate is Beatrice Martin a Francophone singer from Montreal who sings almost entirely in French.  And yet despite that, she sells out to Anglophone audiences because her music is so darn catchy.

In the opening she notes that it’s crazy that she’s a French-speaking artists singing in french selling out a venue like Massey Hall.  She feels special and can’t wait to hear what it sounds like.

The first song is “Le Long du Large.”  She is playing piano with a great band behind her.  The song grooves along smoothly–it has a great catchy chorus with terrific backing vocals.  There’s an acoustic guitar (Renaud Bastien), a lead guitar (Emmanuel Éthier), bass (Alexandre Gauthier) and drums (Julien Blais).

On “Francis” it’s just her on piano.  The song has a very Regina Spektor vibe in her playing style and singing delivery.

“Ensemble” is bouncy and upbeat, just super fun.

Golden Baby” opens with a melody like “Come on Eileen” but as soon as the electric guitar soars over, it is a very different song.   I love that she sounds like she smiling throughout.

It surprised me that she did an encore so soon in the show, but there’s clearly a reason for that.

Before the encore, she plays “Adieu”  our “last song.”  Shes off the piano on this one, only singing.  It’s got a heavy rocking beat and guitar and it’s really great.

When she comes back for the encore she sits at the piano and asks “More songs?”

“Place de la République” starts as solo piano and it sounds lovely.  After a verse or so, they add a bowed bass and strummed acoustic guitar  which builds the songs nicely.  Half way through, drums come in to give it even more power.  It’s a terrific song.

She is quite sweet saying that “it makes no sense that a French Canadian girl could sell out Massey Hall…. just got to hold it together.”

She invites everyone to sing along. If you don’t know French, just pretend.  It works too.  This is the last song.  Make it fun make it magical.  She says that the song, “Comme des enfants” is being taught in French classes.  It was a huge hit and the audience sings part the last verse.  It’s a wonderful moment and always cool to see an artist overwhelmed by her fans base.

[READ: March 28, 2018] Cici’s Journal

The book (there are two books in this volume) opens with Cici talking about her journal.  We meet Cici and her mom.  We learn that Cici hangs out a lot with the neighbor Mrs Flores, a writer.  Her mom doesn’t love that she hangs out with am older lady, but Mrs Flores is pretty cool.

Cici’s two best friends are Lena and Erica  The pair knew each other since they were babies;  Cici moved to the neighborhood when they were all little.  They have been best friends ever since.

I give Carol Klio Burrell a real thumbs up on this translation. I didn’t realize that it was a translation until well into the second book.  But I didn’t love a few aspects of the story.  The problem here I think comes with the friends.  Lena is sweet and has the soul of an artist.  Meanwhile, Erica “complains constantly, but she has a good heart.”  That’s not a very complex or desirably character trait.  And that aspect of her comes out a lot in the second book, which is kind of annoying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUPERORGANISM-Tiny Desk Concert #735 (April 25, 2018).

Superorganism came out of nowhere with the weird song “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” a weird hybrid of pretty much every genre.  Is was catchy and irritating at the same time.

I didn’t really think too much of them until I started hearing a but more about them.  And that their show at a small club in Philly sold out really quickly.  Then I learned more about the band and saw a live video performance and they seemed really interesting.

Are they a novelty band?  Sure.  But they are having a lot of fun, and that goes a long way with me.  Especially if the songs are catchy.

Why does it take 7 people to make simple, catchy pop songs?  I have no idea.  But they all seem to be important in their own way.

The multinational band of theatrically fun and talented musicians in Superorganism mix melody and mischievous with almost Seussian folly. In addition to the 20-plus inflatable whales they provided, the band requested via email that we provide “7 x Crunchy apples, 7 x cans of Coca Cola (or similar, as long as they are 330mls/12oz cans it doesn’t matter).” They added, “PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT A RIDER BUT PART OF THE PERFORMANCE.”

When the seven members of the band arrived and huddled behind my desk, they blew into straws, making percussive noises, used toy cars and radios for sound effects and added lots of handclaps. And in the midst of it all was Orono Noguchi, a small-framed, self-described “average 17-year old Japanese girl living in Maine.” (That’s from an email she wrote me last year). The band set up a couple of belt pack guitar amps for their Moog and electric guitar, along with a big Anvil road case to beat on for percussion – and then they sang about prawns.

The first song “The Prawn Song” really shows everything you need to know about the band (and whether they are for you or not).  Noguchi sits, sing/speaking deadpan lyrics.  The other six splash in buckets of water, blow bubbles in glasses, honk horns and clap a lot.  There’s also a lot of backing vocals.  And a guitar.  And the word?

“Oh, have you ever seen the prawn cause a world war?
Have you ever kissed a prawn; got a cold sore?
Have you ever seen a prawn kick off?
Have you ever seen a prawn in a pair of handcuffs, oh

You people make the same mistakes
Over and over, it’s really kinda dumb, oh
Slow learning is kinda your thing

You do you, I’ll do me / Chillin’ at the bottom of the sea and I say…

[Chorus]  I’m happy just being a prawn.

“Night Time” has a bit more “music” and fewer  effects (relatively), but still a lot of handclaps.  It’s catchy and quieter than their usual frenetic songs (being about nigh time).  But there’s still some fun quirk in it (especially the end).

Then they play “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” (and not their new single “Everybody Wants to Be Famous,” which surprised me).  There’s a Beck’s “Loser” aspect to the lyrics of this song.  Once again for a seven piece band, their music is surprisingly minimal.

And they do actually use the apples in this song.

There is much fun to be had with all the songs and I can’t decide if Noguchi’s deadpan makes things even more fun or if I just want to assure her that it’s all okay.

I bought tickets to an upcoming show of theirs because who even knows if they’ll be around in a year, so enjoy them while I can.

[READ: April 25, 2018] “Treatments”

I often feel like Robert Coover’s writing consists of him getting an idea, writing it down as it comes to him, editing it for spelling and then releasing it.

This is actually three short pieces here and each one is a “treatment” for a terrible/absurdist take on a clichéd movie.

“Dark Spirit” is a surrealist twist on the Beauty and the Beast Tale.  I love when Coover puts in a nugget that makes you go, woah!, like “The industry is obsessed with this hackneyed tale, once inflicted upon young virgins to prepare them for marriage to feeble old buzzards with money.”  Woah, that blew my mind.  It seems so obviously true, and yet I never heard it put that way before. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: I’M WITH HER-Tiny Desk Concert #722 (March 28, 2018).

I’m with Her is a kind of a folk supergroup comprised of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  As the blurb notes:

The three singers who perform together as I’m With Her sound like sisters. It’s as if they’ve known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories… All three are brilliant players with an ever-shifting array of stringed instruments, guitars, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. As I’m With Her, they know how to gather round a microphone and sing directly from their heart to yours. Purity is the brilliance behind I’m With Her.

They also share coming to the Tiny Desk:

Sara Watkins was here with Nickel Creek (2014), Watkins Family Hour (2015) and The Decemberists (2011). Sarah Jarosz was here in 2013 and Aoife O’Donovan came along with Yo Yo Ma and Chris Thile as part of the Goat Rodeo project back in 2011.

They play three songs from their debut album.

The first is “See You Around.” Sarah sings this first song.  Sarah and Aoife play guitar and Sara is playing an oversized ukulele.  At the end of each section their harmonies are wonderful.  It’s a really pretty song, with a great melody.  Then at around 2 minutes the song switches gears to the “shiny piece of my heart” section which changes the timbre and tone of the song.  Aoife takes over a bit and the song grows a bit darker and their voices sound more powerful.

For “Game to Lose” Sara switches to fiddle, Aoife plays Sarah’s guitar and Sarah is on mandolin.  I absolutely love the violin part and the way it plays off of the mandolin.  After a few measures, when they sing in three-part harmony from the get go….  Wow.  I love Aoife’s voice as she sings the end of the chorus, the mandolin is just fantastic and the fiddle trills are exquisite.

As they tune before the final song, Bob asks how many instruments they brought….  The answer is, a lot.  And they couldn’t leave without some banjo.  Then Aoife asks about the pink lemonade gummy bunny.  Bob says people leave random things.  You’re welcome to leave something too.  Aoife says, “I thought you were going to say I was welcome to eat it.”

Sarah says I feel like we’re just settling in, I wish we could play all day (and so do I!).

For the final song, “Overland” Sarah switches to banjo. Aoife has the same guitar and Sara is on guitar too.   Sara sniffs a few times and then deadpans, “Sorry I’ve got a coke problem, it keeps sneaking up on me.”  Everyone laughs and Sarah cracks up.  Bob says we’ll just have to loop that and Sara says, “we need some scandal.”

The song begins with Sara on lead vocals and Sarah’s banjo.  It is the most country sounding of the three (which surprises a bit since I don’t think of Sara’s voice as sounding like that).  But again, it’s the harmonies that are huge.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Chicken Winchell”

This story was published in Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, although as with most of William’s pieces I don’t remember it at all.

This story, which is half a page long, mentions three women characters and then uses “she” for the rest.  So I’m not sure which “she” is being spoken about.  There’s a waitress, a daughter and a mother.  The waitress wonders why the daughter never returned.  But apparently she did.

The mother confides in the waitress. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: JENNY AND THE MEXICATS-Tiny Desk Concert #721 (March 26, 2018).

I had never heard of Jenny and the Mexicats.   Interestingly, the blurb below doesn’t say anything about where they are from.  One assumes Mexico, but Jenny herself has a rather posh British accent when she speaks.  It also turns out that the band is based in Spain…so all preconceived notions are dashed.

Jenny and the Mexicats’ … high energy shows are unforgettable … Mixing flamenco, originally from southern Spain, with Jenny Ball’s jazz trumpet background and a little bit of cumbia has created their one-of-a-kind musical identity.

The grooves these musicians create can be frenetic (as in the first performance here, “Frenético Ritmo”)…

This song is sung in a mix of Spanish and English–the verses are predominantly Spanish but the ends of each verse seem to be in English.  Jenny’s trumpet works perfectly with the music they are playing.  And the electric guitar plays some interesting sounds throughout.  The song slows down to a pretty ballad with the flamenco guitar playing a solo before the song ratchets up again, cumbia all the way.

or slow and luxurious (“The Song for the UV Mouse House”).

Jenny sings in English on this song with a fascinating accent.  She has a diva’s R&B wavering vocal style, and yet she also seems to have some cockney on some of the words. The song is a ballad and the plentiful drums–hand, box, snare and percussion–keep the roots in Mexican music.   The whispered spoken word middle is a nice touch.

In both cases, the group presents the perfect cushion for Ball’s impassioned singing and engaging stage presence. There are no weak points in the instrumentation, and with Ball out front, the songs come to life as the short stories they are — like that of the young lady who appreciates a beer before taking on life’s challenges in “Verde Más Allá.”

Before the song Jenny tells a story about their favorite show: “We did a concert based on airlines.  We came out like pilots, there was a plane crash in the middle of the show, we came back as angels and devils, it was a lot of fun.”  The guy behind her helps out: “it was a Halloween show.”

“Verde Más Allá” is a mellow song about a Caguama (pronounced kawama).  The guitarist asks, “What is a caguama?”  It’s a liter-sized beer, and the song is about a girl who doesn’t like to work and loves her caguama.  It’s a fun song, “no le gusta trabaja!”  After the first verse, right on cue, the percussionist plays the office’s train whistle which makes everyone crack up.  The end of the song features some sing along, and the flamenco guitarist doing one of those high-pitched flamenco laughs.  At the end, Jenny (whose dress is dangerously short), holds down the ends of her dress so she can jump for the conclusion of the song.

Much good fun is had.  Caguama!

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Five Stories”

Here’s five more short short stories from Diane Williams.  And once again, she amazes me with her sentences and aggravates me with her stories.

“Girl with a Pencil”
The first two paragraphs seem like a different story, as the rest of the story seems to flow from paragraph number 3 in which a girl draws a picture of her future: two shoes, a pair of legs and the hem of a skirt on top.  Her mother was mad that there was no head.  I like that this is a formative experience but the resulting brute seems oddly out-sized.

“A Gray Pottery Head”
I enjoyed this story because of the way it ended.  “That night…something exciting a foot.  She has a quarter hour more to live.”  Except that that wasn’t the end of the story (it was the end of the page).  The next several paragraphs are about her death. It’s the first of her stories where I felt it was way too long. (more…)

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