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Archive for the ‘Kristin Hersh’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RISING APPALACHIA-Tiny Desk Concert #939 (January 31, 2020).

I feel like I have heard of Rising Appalachia, but I’m not sure that I have.  If I had, I certainly didn’t know anything by them.  But I think I had a pretty safe guess.

Rising Appalachia’s Tiny Desk Concert is charged with the roots music that sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith learned in fiddle camps as kids. Growing up in urban Atlanta and beyond, they also heard rhythms from a wider world, and their music grew to reflect new sounds and their activism. When they came to NPR, their van was packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more, including the other musicians who make up this wandering, Atlanta-based band: David Brown, Biko Casini, Arouna Diarra and Duncan Wickel.

And so, with this band you get traditional-sounding folk music but with world music instruments and influences.  It melds beautiful.  And their lyrics are great, too.

“Resilient” starts the set with just the two of them.  Chloe Smith is on banjo while Leah Song is on bodhrán.  Their voices are great together as they sing a fantastic protest song. There’s so many great lyrics to choose from, but I’ll pick just this one

My voice feels tiny I’m sure so does yours / put em all together make a mighty roar.

There’s also a really catchy “who ho ho” in the chorus, which is a fun treat.

After the song, Leah says they are reviving the voice of the people.  Then, introducing the next song, “Medicine”  she says this is for all of our ancestors and all the medicine keepers.

Chloe switches to acoustic guitar.  The song begins with a a bowed, then plucked cello from Duncan Wickel.  Biko Casini plays a high hat with a big circular gourd for a bass and percussive sound.

There’s a very nice bowed cello solo.  Leah sings lead and Chloe adds some terrific harmonies.  Midway through the song you can really hear Arouna Diarra on the ngoni, playing some high notes, but it’s his solo at the end of the song that is so cool.  I’m fascinated by this instrument.

Before the final song, they joke that they wanted Leah to jump on the desk and that they might crowd surf.

Leah says she was going to shave I Love Bob Boilen into her hair.  Or maybe NPR, but if you mess that up it could just go wrong.

They end the set with a song Leah and Chloe “learned from our mama, an old boot-stompin’ Appalachian folk tune” called “Cuckoo.”  They aim to bring old music into a new format.

“Cuckoo” is a song I know from Kristin Hersh and, coincidentally, she played it when I saw her recently.

For this song, Leah plays the banjo and Chloe plays the violin (as does Duncan Wickel).   Their take is rather different from Kristin’s–not in the melody or lyrics but the way they sing the words.  Kristin has a very different vocal style.

The end features a njongi solo along with the baritone guitar solo from David Brown followed by a fiddle solo

And after a minute or so of soloing there’s split second pause before everyone rocks out a bit.  You can really hear the baritone guitar and its bass notes here.

I really enjoyed this set and I’m very curious about this band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 2

Book One of this series was pretty intense.  And book two doesn’t really let up.

Well, the first chapter lets up some as we meet the crew and the women get used to the ship.  There are some rope climbing contests, everyone also wants to take a turn steering.  And Ximena and Raven are arguing already.

It’s a cool way to meet some of the new cast.  Dezzy would rather sunbathe than work.  Helena is very strong, Cid is deaf–which we find out because Jayla is yelling at her (to no avail obviously) and is getting frustrated and petulant–she’s a terrible character.  And powerful Sunshine is incredibly seasick.

Then they get into some sword practice. Raven addresses her crew calling them bilge rats. But Katie interrupts, “The insulting thing, is that something we have to do?”

Raven says she never thought of it.  That’s just how pirates speak. But Raven decides the ship will be a democracy (except in battle when her word is law).  She asks who finds insults to be a motivator?  No one raises her hand.  Raven hereby abolishes “name-calling, back-biting, under-cutting, insulting and sarcastic undermining” from her ship. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2020] The Exile Follies

There are some musicians who I’ve often thought I’d like to see but who I wouldn’t really want to travel too far too see.  This trio of artists are each musicians that I loved back in the 90s but whom I’ve lost touch with since then.

I used to love Throwing Muses and I have her first two solo albums.  I often thought about going to her live, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth it if I didn’t know her new stuff.

Same with Grant Lee Phillips.  His song “Mockingbird” is one of my favorite songs of all time, but I don’t love all of his material, so I wouldn’t want to have gone for a whole show, I didn’t think.

And John Doe.  X is one of favorite bands from back in the day and seeing them live was amazing.  But I was never sure if I’d want to see just him because I don’t know much of his solo work.

So this tour with all three of them (and in a nearby venue) was perfect.

Kristin came out first.  She sat on a stool center stage and played her acoustic guitar. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] Billy Strings

I had never heard of Billy Strings before this show.  But when he was announced, the crowd was really effusive about him, which led me to think that he was well-known.  And I gather he is.  He has some 40,000 fans on his Facebook page, which is no small thing.   (Interestingly, headliners I’m with Her have only 22,000).

So Billy Strings came out and I swear I thought he was 18 (he’s 26).  He said a friendly “Hi, folks” and proceeded to absolutely blown me away with his guitar playing.  He opened with Brown’s Ferry Blues a folk song from around 1930 and proceeded to play the heck out of his guitar.  He also sang the rather amusing lyrics in a good ‘ol drawl (he is from Michigan).

Then he surpirsed me even further by playing a Jethro Tull song (which made S. and I quite happy).   It was a rather fast-tempoed version of “Thick As a Brick” and it was wonderful.  The song segued into a guitar workout called Fishin’ Creek Blues.

He then played “Tom Dooley,” a song I never expected to hear, well, ever.  (more…)

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nov 2013SOUNDTRACK: VIC CHESNUTT-Tiny Desk Concert #2 (June 5, 2008).

chesnuttVic Chesnutt seems to have come into my life at random times. I bought the charity record/tribute album (Sweet Relief II) only because I liked a lot of the artists on it–I’d never heard of him at the time.  More recently his records were released on Constellation, a label I trust wholeheartedly.  And then just as I was really starting to appreciate him, he died in 2009 from an overdose of muscle relaxants.

He was a fascinating person.  A 1983 car accident left him partially paralyzed; he used a wheelchair and had limited use of his hands (which you can see in the video).   He struggled with drugs and alcohol and depression.  Despite all of this, he released his first album in 1990.

Robin Hilton, music dude at NPR, introduces him here and talks about how much he loves his music.  But even Hilton’s association with Chesnutt is checkered.  He writes that when he was younger and went to see him in concert, “[Chesnutt] was often drunk and sometimes belligerent. I walked out of at least one performance,” and “all of this probably made it easy to dismiss Vic Chesnutt’s music. He was a challenging guy, and his unpolished, idiosyncratic songs weren’t easily digested.”

And yet for all of that Chesnutt seems rather shy and unsettled in this Tiny Desk setting.  He seems unsure about what he wants to play and often asks if he should play this or that song.

He plays 5 songs (for 26 minutes total).  The opener is “When the Bottom Fell Out.”  A lot of Chesnutt’s songs, especially in this setting sound similar.  His voice is incredibly distinctive, as is his playing.  But since most of his songs are just him strumming and singing, they sound quite similar.  The second song, “Very Friendly Lighthouses” sounds a little different because he plays a “horn” solo using his mouth as a trumpet. It is a web request which he says he’ll “try” to do (and that he needs a cheat sheet).  I don’t know the song but it sounds fine to me.  He also emphatically states that the song is not about Kristin Hersh (something she has claimed).

“Panic Pure” also has a Kristin Hersh connection (she recorded it on Sweet Relief).  He says he stole the melody from “Two Sleepy People” by Hoagy Carmichael.  He turned it to a minor key and wrote his song.

For the next track, he asks if he should try a new song that he just wrote–more or less asking permission to do this unreleased track.  “You really want me to try out a new song that might suuuck?” (resounding yes). “We Were Strolling Hand in Hand” proves to be a very good song indeed.

The final track “Glossolalia” comes from North Star Deserter, the album I own.  It’s about being an atheist songwriter in a Christian country.  It’s funny that he says he hasn’t played it in a long time (it’s from his then new album…).

Chesnutt was not for everyone, clearly.  But his music is haunting and beautiful in its own way, and this is a very engaging setting to see him perform.

[READ: November 8, 2013] “Lovely, Dark, Deep”

Karen told me to check out this story and while I was planning to, she got me to move it up higher on my pile.  And I’m really glad she did because there is so much going on in this story that I was glad to be prepared for it.

The story seems simple enough, a young girl goes to interview famed poet Robert Frost at a writer’s workshop.  She is an unknown writer writing for a small college journal (Poetry Parnassus) and really has no business interviewing the Poet Himself.  She is shy and literally virginal.  When she walks up on Frost, he is sound asleep on a porch.  She dares to take a few pictures of the man (which later sold for a lot of money…although presumably not for her).

When Frost wakes up he is surprised and a little disconcerted by the young girl.  And then he gets cocky with her, suggesting she sit on the bench with him.  She demurs and begins trying to be as professional as possible.

Frost proves to be an obnoxious interviewee, full of ego for himself and nothing but disdain for all other poets.  She is intimidated by him, fearing that all of her questions are silly.  Then she tries to ask him some insightful questions but he tends to dismiss them as obvious or simply ignore them.  Eventually she asks one personal question too many and he becomes blatantly offensive.  He asks about her panties and if they are now wet (the cushion she is sitting on is damp from rain).  And he bullies her terribly.  She is offended but remains strong and continues to ask him questions. (more…)

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