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Archive for the ‘NPR/PRI/PBS’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 5, 2012).

The Rheostatics were originally supposed to play 3 Reunion concerts to help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of The Horseshoe Tavern. Unfortunately the concerts got cancelled but Dave stepped in and offered up a free show on Wednesday December 5 2012, what was to be the first of the reunion shows. The show started out with Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra and was followed by Bidiniband. The Bidiniband set was a mix of Bidiniband songs as well as a variety of Rheostatics songs featuring guests such as Dave Clark, The Woodshed Orchestra, Tim Vesely, Noah Campbell, Tim Sweeney, Matt Cowley, Selina Martin, Al and Colin of Jazzberry Ram.

Dave opens the set by wishing: “Happy birthday Horseshoe, 65 years old tonight.”

The set opens with two “new” songs.  Bidiniband’s album came out in 2012, but they have been playing most of these songs for years.  This is the first show on RheostaticsLive that includes “In The Rock Hall / Rock and Roll Heaven.”  “In the Rock Hall” is a fun singalong.  And “Rock and Roll Heaven” is a fairly vulgar song about groupies and whatnot.

“Big Men” is even catchier than before and the band sounds great.  They play a lengthy version of “Fat” which segues into a slow, fairly traditional version of “The List.”  This List ends with… “It’s true… fuck you.”

“We’re going to do a song and then we’re going to have Selina Martin come up and do the exact same song.  “Ladies of Montreal” is my most openly sexist song.  Not really.”  Indeed, after finishing the song they play it once more, this time with Selina Martin singing the lyrics in French!

It segues into a stripped down version of Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” which is a very different,loose take on the song.  At the end someone asks, “Can you do that one in French?”

This is the first time (on the site) they’ve played “On Camoragh Lake.”  There’s a lot of cursing in this song.

Dave asks, “should we go song guest song guest?”  Someone says, “Totally man it’s a lot of fun.  It’s fun to see a lot of Rheostatics shirts too.”  Is Tim Sweeney here?   He comes up, “thank god I’m not following Selena Martin.  The closest thing to church for me was going to a Rheostatics show, so this feels weirdly like  impersonating clergy.”  He sings “Ozzy Osbourne.”  It seems shaky with the first notes, but he does a great job with the main part of the song.

We’d like to get the Woodchoppers up for this one, if possible.  They blow through the really “Take a Wild Ride” and then Dave says, “Lets go to E!” and they segue into “Legal Age Life” with a nice big horn section.

Dave says: We all wish Martin Tielli was here big time, but he’s in Ancaster.  We’re thinking of him (yea, he’s the best).  There was a really important Knight Rider episode he had to watch.  He’s got a really nice TV room, I can’t blame him.  60 channels….  Sausages on the barbecue.  Don: Is that one of the channels?  Dave: “Nice one, Don.”   This next song features Don Kerr. It’s called “Guns.” [some chuckling as it’s a poem written by Dave Clark].  They play “Last of the Dead Wrong Things which opens slowly with great guitar work and backing vocals.  And the drums are tremendous.  Near the end he shifts the song to “Making Plans for Nigel,” but this time the band sings along with the chorus.

Dave says he brought some stuff from his basement to sell–some old Rheos discs, Whale Music on vinyl and one Five Hole Stories CD  (CD?)

Dave calls for Tim Vesely the Slovak Slayer (they don’t call him that).  “Tim’s got his electric rock guitar (someone shouts “Palomar”) “Its Tim Vesely of the Rheostatics and The Violet Archers (or The Violent Archers as I like to say).  Tim: “I don’t need any bass for these songs.” Dave: “It’s overrated.  Only 4 strings, how hard can it be?”

It’s nice to hear “Claire” and to have Tim back.  There’s a good solo from Paul and then he says, “We’ll do one more Rheostatics cover for you,” and they play “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Which he introduces as “This song is for Tim Hudak [a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2016 who represented the ridings of Niagara South, Erie—Lincoln, and Niagara West—Glanbrook.]

“All Hail Canada” is new to the shows–it’s a cynical look at Canadian politics.

Then: “Do the guys from Victoria want to come up and sing now?  Come on it’ll be fun.  Jazzberry Ram, the nerds from Vancouver.  They do a great version of “Quuer” and put their own spin on it.  After the song, Dave says, Do yo mind if Matt joins us?  He’s okay, really.”  Matt Cowley comes up to sing a gleeful “My First Rock Concert.”

Dave takes a moment:

I meant to say something profound about this night but I’m lost because we’re in the soup of this experience. He says he has been writing in cafes (cause I’m from Toronto, so I’m cool I write in cafes.  He’s listen to music and Rheostatics would come up on YouTube. He’d enjoy the songs and marvel at the parts they played. Then he would listen more and he would cry and wonder… maybe we should try to play again.  It didn’t happen,  but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen as long as you never stop listening to your Rheostatics records and crying, anything is possible.

The opening of “The Land is Wild” sounds an awful lot like “Horses” the way it opens.  Dave says this song existed in the Rheostatics for a couple of months but then they broke up.  This version really rocks (the backing vocals are tremendous).  You can hear Dave’s guitar get staticky near the end.  The song segues into “Yemen” sort of, but the statics is too much and they have to stop to fix it.  Dave tries to gt things going again: “Can we start off where that last song ended I think it was building to an interesting place.  Or was it not?”   But the static is irreparable.

“Terrible time in the night to have technical problems–during the last song.”

Dave says, “Okay folks one more.  The crowd shouts: five more.  100 more!  Dave: That would be impossible.

Take it into the crowd!  There’s some inaudible chatter and laughter but I think save heads out into the crowd with the guitar to play Stolen Car.  Not sure who is singing–but he’s a bit off on things.  At one pint he says, “my son told me I’d fuck up.”  Dave: “you fucked up good though.”

Doug–says “I grew up listening to that shit.” He then talks about a dream: he was trying to play Take 5 but the strings were all mushy (The band plays a bit of “Take Five.”  Then Dave talks about a dream he had about shows that never happened.  They did play shows where nobody showed up.

Tim’s my favorite was in Winnipeg or Alberta, a university pub gig  “1/2 price wings plus live music.”  There was nobody there yet there was set list from the band that played the night before.  We took it and went song by song off the list and made up songs on the spot.  I think it was B-52s in Winnipeg  a lunch hour gig named not after the band or even the plane.

Audience: “How were the wings?”  “Half Price.”

We played in Red Deer to two guys who had just come back from putting out fires in Kuwait and a sound man who put his headphones into the TV to listen to The Cosby Show–it was an important episode.  Don: But we got a good bag of weed out of it.  Dave: In red deer at Mortimer’s in the Capri Hotel.  The Shell sign with the s burnt out.  We should have known…   that’s rock n roll.

bzzzt  “I don’t think it’s the cable”  “Put a mike on it!”  “That’s why we need a professional studio engineer.  Don’s side career is that he runs the Rooster Recording studio!

“Horses” sounds great.  Everyone is into it and the addition of horns at the end is great with someone singing along with the horns:  bup bup bup.  And then it rocks to the end.  Despite the cable, it’s a great set with super guests.  Not bad a for a free night.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Wild Game

“Wild Game” is the concluding book in the Sweet Tooth story.  And it remains as dark as anything.

It also begins, like Endangered Species, with a storytelling section–the book turned sideways with a lot of text. It catches us up on what happened in a succinct style.  How the environmentalists were able to return to the dam, how they invited our heroes to stay (Johnny and Bobby accepted–Bobby needs to hibernate after all) but the rest decide to head to Alaska, to their destiny.

Their crew is now Jepperd, The Fat Man (the guy they met out in the woods), Wendy, Gus and Becky.  Lucy is now dead and Dr Singh fled to get to Alaska on his own (he had an epiphany that may have sent him over the edge–he seems to think he might be a preacher, or even a savior).

When they finally arrive in Alaska, sadly Abbot and his team are waiting for them.  And Abbot is especially angry at his brother.  Which leads to a flashback provided by Nate Powell.  It shows Abbot and Johnny as children with their abusive father and how Abbot always stuck up for Johnny even when Abbot went to the military and Johnny had long hair.  When the Sickness began, Johnny was taking care of his ungrateful father and Abbot was at war.   He had returned–with far less hair, and far more attitude.  He took Johnny away from their dad and brought him to the camp where we found them at the beginning of the story. Of curse Abbot wasn’t in charge at first but he quickly made everyone know just how powerful he was.

And just how much things have changed.

Dr Singh meanwhile had been looking for information about Gus’ father. Could he rally have been a lowly janitor? While searching, he comes across Dr Thacker’s journal (I love the continuity).  And he learns a fascinating but of history about Gus and his father.

While browsing through the barracks our heroes learn that there are many more hybrids living here–they are feral but not mean.  In fact they are quite taken with Becky. But they are quite fearful.  And they meet Dr Singh who has some pretty tough truths to impart.

But there is no time for any of that.  Because Abbot and his men are coming.  And Jepperd needs to get everyone prepared.

Can anyone possibly survive?  Yes, some do, but several others will die in the bloody confrontation.

The final chapter of the series is outstanding,  It looks very different–clearly Lemire’s work but with a starkly different, somewhat softer appearance.  Gus appears to be chased by more humans. But Gus looks different somehow,  And that’s when we learn that he is.

And the conceit of the last chapter is that each little segment begins This is a story.  Starting like the beginning with This is a Story of a little boy who lived in the woods.  And that story moves along through many years–through happiness and bloodshed. Through conflict between friends and love between enemies.  And it has an incredibly touching ending.

What a great story.  If you can handle the violence and gore, it is so worth it for the ending,

Lemire is a master storyteller.

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND AND FRIENDS-Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse YT (February 10, 2011).

Stolen From A Hockey Card

From the City of Charlottetown:

Hosted by CBC’s Ron MacLean, Stolen From a Hockey Card is a hockey-themed concert which pays tribute to Canada’s love and passion for the game of hockey. The impressive all-Canadian line-up of artists for the concert includes songstress Sarah Harmer, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Lennie Gallant, Stephen Stanley (Lowest of the Low), Carmen Townsend, Liam Corcoran (Two Hours Traffic), Bidiniband and former New York Islanders great and Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier.  [Not all of these performers are included below, if they were all there].

Each artist will write their own hockey-themed song which they will perform for the first time as part of the concert. In addition to their newly-written hockey song, each artist will also perform one of their own original songs. Bidiniband, featuring Dave Bidini, formerly of acclaimed rock band The Rheostatics and creator of the Stolen From a Hockey Card concert, will serve as house band for the evening.

The official line up: Paul Linklater – guitar; Douglas Friesen – bass; Don Kerr – drums
Geoff Berner – vocals, accordion; C.R. Avery – vocals; Buck 65 – vocals; Dave Bidini – vocals, guitar; John K. Samson – vocals, guitar; Kim Barlow – vocals, banjo; Mathias Kom – vocals, guitar;  Sarah Harmer – vocals, guitar

There are 12 songs in total

Geoff Berner wrote “Fighting To Stay in the Game” The lyrics begin: “Mike Keenan ruined watching the Canucks for me when he traded away Trevor Linden.” It’s a rocking song that goes beyond hockey: “I’m just fighting to stay in the game… to keep the love of our spouses. …to keep the banks from taking our houses. …to keep the respect of our children. …to making a living not making a killing.”

I loved this verse about a hockey player I had not heard of: “As the first nations leader Gino Odjick met with the Pope (it’s true) / The Pope apologized for the Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools / I wondered if he was tempted to grab him by the jersey and pop him a few / but no, Gino forgave him.  Said it was important to work together to build the future anew.”

After this one, he says, “I’m going to revert to form play a new song.  It’s about people on the run trying to get to a country that is safe.  There are a lot of people knocking on the door to Canada and we could have kids from Sri Lanka or Haiti playing hockey in the future.  And that would be a good thing.  The song is called “Wealthy Poet.”  It’s all accordion and vocal–cool wild accordion riffs in between a strongly sung melody.

C.R. Avery performed “Already The Great One,” his story of the Wayne Gretzky transfer.  He says, “I sat down to write a story about Eric Lindross–meant to write a good murder ballad.  But that memory of Gretzky crying…” Avery has a raspy Springsteenish voice in this piano ballad.  I enjoyed this section quite a bit: “I wanted to be that kid from Brantford, Ontario–between the pipes in a ski mask / I was cool like Ken Dryden / I was bad ass like Grant Fuhr  / An arrogant outlaw: part Billy the Kid, part Patrick Roi (screamed wonderfully)–noisy screaming big loud pianos and guitars.  It’s a great climax.  And then after 5 minutes there a really intense electric harmonica solo.

Folk rapper Buck 65 was up next.  He says, “So yea this is called ‘The Borje Salming Massacre’ a song about the night in November 1986 that Borje Salming got cut on the face and required 200 stitches.  The backing band plays along–the chorus is a slightly disturbing “look away.”  He talks about how he always wanted to be a hockey star, but after that incident, form which he couldn’t look away, even though “the Leafs won that game in the end  / but I never played hockey again.”  He also plays a short fun song called “Wicked and Weird” (not hockey related).  It’s his folky rap delivery over some interesting electronic percussion and samples.

Dave Bidini and Bidiniband performed “Val Marie.”  Bidini talks about being a Leafs fan but when he was in grade 10 he made a TV tray and put Bryan Trottier’s face n it.  Why not a leaf?  He can’t say.  But Bryan Trottier and his brother used to play in Val Marie Saskatchewan, and he says je was one of “hockey’s greatest musicians.”

John K. Samson is there “making his case for Reggie Leach joining the hall of fame.”  His song  “Petition” has a “choir” backing him: “we the undersigned put forth his name.”   The host asks him why Reggie Leach. “I always thought he was an exemplary and fascinating player.  Growing up I was not a Flyers fan, I was more of a Habs fan, but we made an exception for Reggie because he as from the Interlake Region….  Woah.”  Reggie Leach comes up on stage.  Samson: “I’m flabbergasted.”  Samson, also plays “a song about curling.  he was at the Dawson City 112th international bonspiel.”  He plays a solo version of The Weakerthans’ “Tournament of Hearts.”

Kim Barlow’s “One Good Goalie” is an ode to Jaroslav Halák.   She says, “this is for people who like goalies and appreciate their nobility.  And it’s also for the gals who play hockey.  She started playing and says “All the cool girls all play hockey in the Whitehorse women’s hockey league.”  She sings that the first game she watched was for her boyfriend. But the game we caught that night was “the shining hour of Halák–he stopped 53 pucks they kept coming but he didn’t crack.”  The chorus is just a repeated Halák, with a final line: “one good goalie made me understand I was born a Habs fan.”   t

Mathias Kom sings “Dear Phoenix.”  He says, “I went back to Winnipeg and was digging into the municipal archives and found a letter written by the city of Winnipeg that began, “Dear phoenix.”  The Winnipeg Jets were transferred from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.  The letter reads in part:  “Do you think they’ll be happy trading parkas for sunscreen.  They say gentlemen prefer blondes but these are no gentlemen, they grew up with blood on frozen ponds.”   He says the letter notes that they’d give it 15 years.  18 years later they changed the team name from the Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes, which is not quite the same thing.  Everyone enjoyed this line: “you can take the Jet out of the ‘Peg but never the ‘Peg out of the Jet.”  And this fun conclusion:

I know there’s nothing I can do so please treat them well be loyal be kind and be true.  Just so you know if i see you around my gloves will come off, you know i’ll throw down, oh Phoenix, I mean it I’ll break your arms and your legs okay, better sign off now.  Yours truly, Winnipeg.  Go Jets Go.”

Sarah Harmer “straight from the Wolf Island hockey tournament.  She plays “Go to Sleep” and explains that “she had to go to bed after the first period and she would listen to games upstairs.  Her dad used to do this one resounding clap when the Leafs scored.  She imagined asking him to do two claps when they other team scores, but she never had the nerve.  It’s a tender lullaby.  The other song is “Harold Harvey Rink,” written by Luther Wright.  Its a romping song about being a young hockey player and the various indignities you suffer for the love of the game.

Dave ends the night with “Land is Wild.”  A somewhat subdued version of the song, probably because of the setting.

This is a fun show and is not the only Stolen From a Hockey Card Night.  I don;t think it’s annual , but there was another one in 2015.

From the RheostaticsLive site:

Still have an old shoebox filled with hockey cards from your childhood? Did you sneak outside for a game of street hockey when you were supposed to be doing homework? Remember providing your own play-by-play, ending with “He shoots, he scores!!”?

This concert’s for you – all Canadian music celebrating the sport of hockey. Hear songs freshly written and performed by Dave Bidini and BidiniBand, C.R. Avery, Kim Barlow, Buck 65, Geoff Berner, Sarah Harmer, John K. Samson, and Mathias Kom. From Wayne Gretzky to Reggie Leach, from Borje Salming to Jaroslav Halak – emulated players get idolized in song.

Dave Bidini coerced this incredible line-up of stars to convene in Whitehorse to celebrate Scotia Bank’s Hockey Day in Canada back on February 10, 2011. The Yukon Arts Centre won’t ever be the same! (Eric Mac Innis)

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats

Despite all of the action in the previous book, Lemire slows things down to give us a flashback.  And, wow, is it a good one.

Matt Kindt does the art for the first part, a wonderful old-fashioned-looking journal type story.  Indeed the story is the journal of Dr James Thacker, September 4, 1911.

He has set sail to the Arctic Ocean to retrieve his sister’s fiancee.  The guy agreed to marry Thacker ‘s sister, but first wanted to go to the Arctic as a missionary.

The fiance wrote home regularly but then the letters stopped. People feared the worst but his sister needed to know the truth.  So Thacker and his family spent a considerable fortune (which they had), to commission a boat to find this man.   Thacker feels a sense foreboding about the trip and well he should. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (September 18, 2010).

From: Concerts On Demand: Bidiniband live at the Horseshoe Tavern.

So I gather this show was recorded on CBC Radio 2.  It’s just over 32 minutes long and it rocks through some Bidiniband classics from the soon to be released In the Rock Hall.  It also sounds terrific.

Dave Bidini is best known in the literary world as a “rock and roll sports” journalist but in the indie rock world he will be forever known as a member of Canada’s first indie band The Rheostatics.

After the Rheostatics played their last show in 2007, Dave Bidini traveled around the world playing Rock and Roll and writing a book about his journey around the world and the last days of being in The Rheostatics. Once he returned from this trip he thought the best thing to do in order to get over the loss of one band was to form a new band. The result is BidiniBand – a progressive acoustic rock band that sings songs about dead hockey players.

CBC Radio 2 caught up with BidiniBand at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. After a summer of touring the festival scene the band was primed and ready to rock.

All hail the return of Dave Bidini! (Eric Mac Innis).

The set opens with a gorgeous version of “Memorial Day” (relatively short at 7 and a half minutes).  There’s some intense guitar playing in the middle.  Next up is “Big Men Go Fast on the Water,” a really catchy song.  Dave doesn’t chat much during this set.  And right up next is “The Best Thing About the 80s is You,” a fun poppy song.  It’s pretty short and he name checks a whole bunch of 80s personalities: “Not Corey Hart, Pat Benatar, the 80s was you.”  “DJ suitcase, the 80s was you.  Oingo Boingo, the 80s was you.  Flouride toothpaste, the 80s was you.  Reagan football, the 80s was you.”

“Take a Wild Ride” is fast and almost punky.  And it’s followed by “The Land is Wild,” which Dave introduces, “here’s a song about a dead hockey player.  I mean, they’re all pretty much about dead hockey players, but as my son would say, this one is literally about a dead hockey player.  It also sounds great–the band is in top form.

Dave introduces the band and mentions that he has a new book out about the Homeless World Cup (Home and Away). And they close the set with “Last of the Dead Wrong Things.”  I love this line in the song: “We’re just a two-bit Neil Young rip of attack / they stole this song and we’re stealing it back / Doesn’t  matter how good or bad you can sing.”  The song rocks hard with a drum solo from Don Kerr and Dave going nuts on his acoustic guitar.

It’s a tight no-nonsense set, perfect for a half-hour radio show.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Endangered Species

“Endangered Species” begins differently right off the bat–you have to turn the book sideways and read full-page pictures with lots of text. It’s far more narrative than piratical. But Lemire is a good story teller so it doesn’t feel like exposition.

This chapter one of the happiest in the series for not only do the travelers find a mall, which means warm clean clothes at last, but they also experience their first snow fall, which is magical to everyone.

With this new gear, everyone goes camping.  And, feeling a bit more comfortable, the girls go for a walk–Lucy, Becky and Wendy (the hybrid pig girl).

And then we get some backstory and for the first time other artists contribute to the book, creating backstories that look very different and giving them an excellent sense of “this is different.”

NATE POWELL draws Lucy’s backstory where she was a nurse. She cares, she really does, but even nurses feel fatigue.

EMI LENOX changes the style intensely for Becky’s flashback.  It’s all bright colors and big eyes.  Becky’s parents died when she was very little.  Foster families made it worse.  Until she just fled to try to manage on her own.

MATT KINDT provides Wendy’s backstory–how was she kept hidden and safe for so long?  It was fate–her mom became sick when people discovered Wendy.  And she was taken away, never to see her mom again. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 5, 2017] Tash Sultana

WXPN starting playing Tash Sultana’s “Jungle” gosh… over a year ago.  I liked the song fine, but it was as I learned more about her–that she plays the entire song–every single sound–herself and she does it live using looping pedals that I became really interested in her.

I was totally blown away when I saw her Tiny Desk Concert and realized that she was an amazing guitarist and so much more.

I decided then that it would be very cool to see her live.  So when I ordered my ticket for her show back in June, I had no idea that anyone else had ever heard of her.  Much less that she would sell out the venue within a week.  Realize at this point she has only released one official EP (and has released dozens of YouTube videos–which is where her fanbase is).

Tash came out and started playing guitar.  She played two songs that she built step by step.  First playing some chords that she looped and then adding some solos which may or may not get looped in.  Then a riff or drums or various other percussive sounds (including beatboxing) and within a couple of minutes she had a complete backing track (usually very danceable) to sing over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAWG YAWP-Tiny Desk Concert #654 (September 29, 2017).

I first heard a Dawg Yawp song on All Songs Considered.  Since then I’ve heard the band’s name mentioned around but I’d kind of forgotten what they sounded like.  I certainly forgot that they played with a sitar.  In fact, it is just a duo: Tyler Randall (sitar, vocals, guitar, synthesizers, drums) and Robert Keenan (guitar, vocals, synthesizers).

I love watching unconventional (Western) instruments.  And I love watching them played unconventionally–in this case

A man in a black cape holds a sitar like a guitar all while singing a dreamy tale about wanting to be a dog. Well actually a “dawg.”  [The band is] a vessel for humor, experimentation and foot-stomping fun, whether that stomping is to an original techno beat or a classic bluegrass tune.  Listening to their debut, self-titled album is like listening to kids music made for grownups. It’s both clever and wonderfully weird.

“I Wanna Be A Dawg” is a gentle ballad–a pretty, rather complex melody on the acoustic guitar with the lead and vocal melody played on the sitar.  I love the middle section where the guitar is playing a finger-picked section and the sitar is soloing.  It sounds terrific.  I love that he is employing the sitar with some traditional sounds but also with an electric guitar sensibility.

“Can’t Think” opens with some rowdy sampled guitars and a neat drony singing style while Tyler plays the sitar.  There’s even a sample of someone scratching the strings of an electric guitar.  It is repetitive but with enough variation to make it incredibly infectious.  And it rocks, too.

Before the third song, Tyler mentions talks “the first sitar capo.”  He says they weren’t supposed to talk but the silence is intense.  “East Virginia Blues,” is a song made famous by the Stanley Brothers “that first won my heart when I heard them replace the more traditional banjo with a sitar”.  You can tell that this song was probably played on a banjo but he sitar give its such an interesting twang (as their vocals twang a bit, too).  I’m not sure if the drums are done by foot pedal or sequencer.

Before the final song, “Lost At Sea” Robert says, “we’ve played a lot of outdoor summer festivals and I don’t think I’ve sweat as much.”  This song is incredibly catchy.  The melody is familiar but with a new spin.  There’s interesting plucked guitar and a nice sitar solo.  There some other kinds of sounds in the sequencer, too.  It’s fun to watch them push the squares to get a whole new set of drums and such.

This band seems like a must-see attraction.

[READ: July 26, 2016] Amulet: Escape from Lucien

As the book opens, Max addresses the Elf king and asks for one more chance to destroy the stonekeepers.  The king is not in the habit of clemency, but Max’s thirst for vengeance impresses the king, so Max is given another chance.

Meanwhile back at “school” (I seem to have missed this transition), Emily and Navin are flying some aircraft and wind up being late for class.  Navin takes the blame to spare them Emily getting in trouble.  But his teacher put a governor bracelet on him which prevents him from flying anything on site. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRONIXX-Tiny Desk Concert #653 (September 27, 2017).

Chronixx and his band Zincfence Redemption paid a long-awaited visit to the Tiny Desk to perform three songs from his sophomore album, Chronology.

At a time when dancehall has been dominating the Jamaican soundscape, its refreshing to hear the man born Jamar McNaughton carrying the roots-revival torch for a younger generation and expanding upon the footprint left by his world-renowned predecessors.

This is especially true for roots reggae, whose staccato guitar licks, billowing bass, and sonic splashes on a canvas of negative space, are like salve for the soul. The mid-tempo pulse conjures up relaxed days on the beach, living amid nature’s unrestricted beauty.

I allowed the blurb to speak for me because I really don’t care for reggae.  Or I should say I like one or two songs but beyond that it’s all too samey to me.

But Chronixx adds some changes to the classic sound.

In “Skankin’ Sweet,” the tempo is faster than a lot of reggae so I like this a bit more.  Chronixx’s delivery is light and fluid.  I enjoy in the middle section that the percussionist Hector Lewis has time to dance before he gets back to the bongoes.

“Majesty” is a smoothy dancy song with a solid bass line from Adrian Henry and drums from Oliver Thompson.

On “Spanish Town Rockin'” percussionist  Lewis sings some delightful falsetto backing vocals. There’s a cool moment when one of the guitarists Stephen Coore or N’Namdi Robinson slides his finger up the next with a neat echo effect on it. This song is pretty extended and dancey and Chronixx does a little freestyle.  I can’t quite make out everything he says, but there’s a bit about “NPR session / Chronixx rasta mon / roll up the mad ribbon / and then he cracks up.  J. Evan Mason on the keys has done most of the melodies while the guitars played chords, but he gets a special little section during the outro of this song.

he hasn’t converted me to reggae, but it’s much more fun live than on record.

[READ: July 24, 2016] Amulet: Prince of the Elves

The book begins with Max as a young boy.  He is learning from his friend, an elf named Layra.  Then we meet Max’s dad.  Max’s dad is pretty intense and he wants Max to serve on the Guardian council “he will follow my path, not my father’s.”  Then we see that Max’s father does not like elves

When Max goes to Layra’s house, her parents have been put in jail and a headline reads “Elves declare war.”

Max runs to the prison, frees her parents and has the three of them get on a ship to freedom.  But as soon as they try to escape, the ship is blown up and all the passengers killed (this story is really dark).  Max is sentenced to prison for helping prisoners escape.  Soon enough Max escapes prison and the stone is trying to tell him what to do–“just give me complete control and I can keep you alive long enough to have your revenge.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE MARTIN AND THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #652  (September 22, 2017).

Yes, that Steve Martin.

When I was a kid I used to listen to Steve Martin comedy records all the time, he often included a lot of banjo with his stand up.  He was good then, but he is pretty amazing now.

Throughout his 50-year career, one constant in Steve Martin’s life has been the banjo. It was a staple of his early standup shows and even fans who only wanted to laugh couldn’t help but marvel at his playing. Over the years, he’s continued to perform and record with country and bluegrass luminaries like Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and others.

These days Martin is working on music full-time. He’s just released a stellar bluegrass album he recorded with The Steep Canyon Rangers called (perfectly) The Long-Awaited Album, a record filled with often hilarious story songs and world-class performances.

The band plays three songs and then an “encore.”  “So Familiar” starts as a banjo “solo” an impressive display of fingerprinting and string bending from Martin.  Then it settles into a traditional-sounding folk song with a lot of mandolin from Mike Guggino and fiddle from Nicky Sanders.  I pity Graham Sharp, the Rangers’ banjo player who clearly takes a back seat to Martin.

After the song, Martin says, they’re gonna tune for this next little song.  He says it’s tricky tuning indoors when there’s heat and air conditioning.  “It’s a scientific process  I could explain it to you but… [laughs].  The photons come in and they effect the positrons so that [points to himself] the moron can play.”  “All Night Long” features “our lead singer [and guitarist] Woody Platt.  It’s a pretty traditional song held down by the steady thump if Charles Humphrey’s bass.  The lyrics are sweet (“I only love you in the day and all night long”) and the harmonies are wonderful.  Martin plays the lead intro and a cool little outro.

“By the way, he asks, “who’s running NPR right now?”  He says the melody of “On the Water” came to him in a dream.  He woke up and recorded the melody so it probably sounds like “Oklahoma.”  The band starts with box rums and harmonics from the other banjo.  He messes up an says “Let’s start again.”  Steve turns on the drummer Mike Ashworth (who did nothing wrong and teases: “Yeah.  You screwed up so badly.  Try to get it right this time.”  Ashworth jokes, “Am i fired?  I’m scared.  Martin says, “I’m so glad someone else screwed up besides me.”

Platt leans over and says “How about ‘Caroline’ for an encore?”  Martin says, “This is not for the Tiny Desk.  I don;t think it’s suitable for the Tiny Desk.  It’s about a romance gone bad-looking back two years later.”   As the blurb says, the song is a “hilarious, first-person account of how not to handle a breakup.”  Martin delivers a funny story with a great catchy chorus.

I never got to see Steve Martin do standup, but I would love to see him do bluegrass.

[READ: June 24, 2016] Amulet: The Cloud Searchers

Book four opens with Emily dream-talking to the spirit in the stone.  It tells her that it can no longer be with her in Cielis and it gives her some warnings.

When she wakes up, Max is there to greet her and they are going to head off to the council.  But things aren’t very happy in Cielis.  Trellis and Luger are Elves, true, but even though they are vouched for, the residents still put them in jail for being the elf king’s son.  And none of the non-human creatures are allowed into the city proper.

So when Leon and the cats go looking for a bite to eat, they are not welcomed anywhere.  Until a girl named Aly sees the good in them and invites them into her restaurant (despite her parents protests).  Her parents say the guardian council will lock them up if they are caught. Leon say that the council invited them to help.  But the council is no longer what it once was.  And that’s when Aly reveals that the council is made up of the ghosts of dead people.  Her parents tell her to hush but she refuses to be silent any longer.

Until the rapping on the door makes them all hush. (more…)

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