Thursday, June 27, 2013

Other Music You Should Be Listening To - Larry and His Flask -By The Lamp Light Edition

Other Music You Should Be Listening To is an ongoing series wherein I identify bands and musicians whose work I enjoy.  Many of you already know about this music and will either revel in our shared opinions or post comments about just how wrong I am.  Either way, it should be fun.  If you don't already know about this music rest assured it is worth your time to check it out.

Larry and His Flask are at point in their musical life that very few bands reach. Right now, they are as close to being a perfect band as is humanly possible. Seeing them live is an absolute revelation. They attack the stage with the kind of ferocity and enthusiasm that would make Henry Rollins proud. On top of playing really, really hard, they are also really, really good at playing their multiple instruments. Their recorded material, thankfully and somewhat miraculously, truly conveys the same energy and talent that they demonstrate live. On top of that, they are a band with some things to say, and their songs are really well written. They just relased a new record called "By The Lamp Light", and it is awesome.

 From the "Hobo's Lament" EP

This record continues with a sound that is hard to categorize that the band adopted sometime around 2009-10 after beginning as a punk band. Punk energy still exists in the songs and DIY touring ethos of the band (you can see a ton of videos of them busking and playing in the crowd at festivals), but the sound has evolved into an amalgam of bluegrass, punk, jazz, and ragtime rock that seems like it should be hard to pull off. The band makes it all work, though, and the result is transcendent.

By The Lamp Light

By The Lamp Light isn't as immediately catchy throughout as its predecessors, the full-length "All That We Know" or the EP "Hobo's Lament". That is not a bad thing, though. The record is just as good if not better than those, but it may require a few more spins before you are singing along with every track. Singer Ian Cooke has a great and unique voice that can make a sad song seem happy, or he can deliver a ballad with complete sincerity without it becoming maudlin. He is also quite an accomplished guitarist who uses a lot of jazz influence (and an overdriven jazz guitar) to add complex leads to many of the songs that never come off like the guitar-wankery that many such talented players can't get over. The rhythm section consists of the Marshall brothers, Jeshua and Jamin, who founded the band. They both play multiple roles in the band, including some vocals and baritone horn, and their manic energy drives the live show. Andrew Carew plays the hell out of the banjo and takes lead vocals on some songs as well. He delivers on both fronts as well as the trombone. The interplay of the banjo and lead guitar are consistently very impressive. Rounding out the band are Dallin Bulkley on acoustic guitar, vocals, and general madness and Kirk Skatvold on mandolin and trumpet. Bulkley and Skatvold add elements of roots music into the band that serve as the perfect foundation for all that goes on around them. I can't tell from recent videos or their website if Skatvold is still with the band or not, but it would be a shame if he isn't.

I realize I am throwing all kinds of accolades at these guys like they are my best friends, but they really are that good. They are one of very few bands currently working that make me feel the need to purchase every record and see every show possible. Do yourself a favor and check them out asap.

From the full-length "All That We Know"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 3

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  In Part 1 I talked about what I've done over the last few years. Part 2 explained some of what's going on currently. Today, I'll explain what lies ahead.
*See Part 1 Here
*See Part 2 Here

I've spent the past week on vacation at the beach. Writing took a back seat to chasing my daughter around and enjoying time with family. Now I have my first local show on Saturday at Twisted Mike's to get ready for. If you are around, please come out and have a drink or two with me.

New music is on the way, and I will be touring to support it as soon as I am able. My day job will relegate touring to a small region for the time being, but that is alright since I need to make myself known locally anyhow.

The songs I am working on now are some of the best I have ever written. One huge part of that fact is that I am no longer writing by myself all of the time. My very talented wife has been writing some songs, and I have been writing music and tweaking lyrics as needed. As a result, I am thinking of doing two separate EPs instead of one complete record. One EP would be songs that we have written and sing together, and the other would be my solo stuff that I have been working on. I will keep everyone informed as this process evolves.

Lucinda's gonna be involved.
I plan on recording demos of everything in my home studio, but I may also do some recording at a friend's studio if time and life allow a trip back east. One of the great things about the internet and modern recording equipment is that artists can collaborate over great distances with ease, so I may be able to bring some old friends in without having to take those long-distance trips.

The plan, for now, is to finish writing and recording the new material by August. Mixing and mastering will hopefully happen in the fall, and I should have new record(s) completed and ready for release by the end of the year. The good news for you guys is that I plan on posting up some demos by the end of the summer, so you will get a sneak peak at the new songs well before they are officially released. I also plan on recording some live videos of songs as they come together as well. Keep checking back as I will continue to update regularly.

In the meantime, I will be playing shows locally and regionally as I am able to book them. The truth is that, for better or worse, I have always preferred playing live to recording, and I am more excited to be getting back on stage than I am to record the new songs. That being said, I really want to make sure that the new recordings convey the songs as powerfully as possible. As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you and/or hear from you soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Other Music You Should Be Listening To - Earth Rocker edition

Other Music You Should Be Listening To is an ongoing series wherein I identify bands and musicians whose work I enjoy.  Many of you already know about this music and will either revel in our shared opinions or post comments about just how wrong I am.  Either way, it should be fun.  If you don't already know about this music rest assured it is worth your time to check it out.

Clutch has a new album out. I love Clutch. Old school hardcore Clutch to new school blues rock Clutch, I enjoy it all to varying degrees.  Oh hey, I have a shiny gift card with which I can purchase this new Clutch record...awesome. 
That's pretty much how my thought process went when I picked up Earth Rocker, Clutch's record that came out in March this year. I had enjoyed the two or three songs I heard on YouTube prior to getting this, but I was in no way prepared for the pure sonic awesomeness that followed when I cranked the record up for the first time. I am indeed a fan of all of the different sounds that Clutch has had over the years, but my favorite version of the band by far was the 2004-2006 or so version.  Blast Tyrant was my favorite Clutch record, and Robot Hive/Exodus was a close second.  I say was in that last sentence because Earth Rocker may just beat them both out.

One reason that Earth Rocker is so good is that Machine, the producer for Blast Tyrant, once again filled that role.  You can also tell while listening to this record that Clutch was influenced in a big way by their tours with Motorhead and Thin Lizzy. There is a certain aggression in the sound of the record that was diminished on the last couple of Clutch records.  Neil Fallon once again sounds like a rock and roll minister losing his mind over a wall of blues, funk, and heavy boogie-rock that is tighter than a rusted lug nut.

Fallon is often credited as one of the great lyrical poets of our time, and he once again shows why on this album.  There is not a bad track on the entire record, and some of these songs are among the band's best work ever.  The poignant political fire and social commentary of "Mr. Freedom" and, even moreso, "D.C. Sound Attack" are a call to action for mindful Americans. Following those, the anthemic call for rock and roll salvation that is "The Face" and the following how-to of "Book, Saddle, and Go" provide a call to arms for musicians and fans alike.  "The Wolfman Kindly Requests..." closes the album out with a swaggering definition of what letting rock and roll set your wild and free side out is all about.  Of course, we are talking about Neil Fallon here, so his intention with some of those songs could have been completely different, but that's what I take from it.

Preach on
In several interview I have seen or read, the guys in the band have said that they firmly believe that a band's place is on stage, and Fallon reiterates this belief in the title track when he says, "If you're gonna do it, do it live on stage, or don't do it at all." Earth Rocker may be my favorite Clutch album ever if for no other reason than it flows much the same way that most of their live shows do. There is a furious energy throughout this record that leaves you feeling like throwing down to some great music and living free is not just an escape from life, but a huge step towards actually being free and living. Earth Rocker is the first must-have album I have encountered in 2013.

Official Clutch Site

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 2

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  In Part 1 I talked about what I've done over the course of the last few years.  Today I will explain a bit of what I am doing now.
*See Part 1 Here

Where Am I?

Graduate school was, in retrospect, a hugely ironic step in life for me.  I can't quite say it was a mistake or even a misstep, but when I read about the upcoming crisis with student loan debt in America I completely understand and sympathize.  I needed to make more money, so I went way further into debt thinking more education would enable me to do so.  I am making better money at my day job than ever before, but more of that money goes right out the door to pay back Uncle Sam than ever as well. 
A great cartoon by Adam Zyglis

My loan debt and some reading I have done has led me to live a more simple lifestyle.  My wife has also had a huge role in this.  Simply put, we have stopped participating in the great American sport of accumulating stuff.  We have more fun throwing things away or donating them than I ever had obtaining them.  Not "needing" new clothes or televisions or phones or whatever else has allowed us to eat better quality food that we prepare ourselves and spend what little money we have leftover after bills (daycare=$$$$$) on experiences rather than things.  As an example, a day at the zoo or a trip to a park is way more fun for us all than a new toy could ever be.  Having to live a simpler life on a budget has made me really appreciate the joy I get from being an active participant in life rather than just an observer.

What does any of this have to do with my music?  A lot, actually. Our lifestyle has driven me back into music because I've been inspired by my family and a handful of concerts that we've gone to. My creative side came back to life after deciding to do the reunion with Bullistic last year, and I started writing and playing again.  I even started using some recording equipment that been sitting on a shelf for over a year unused. My wife sings and plays piano, and, naturally, our daughter loves singing and dancing.  Playing, singing, and dancing became a fun way for us all to unwind after supper and before bedtime.  I'm sure some of our neighbors have gotten sick of hearing us, but playing with my girls has really rekindled the idea that God intended to make a musician when he made me.

I haven't gotten out often, but I've seen some really great concerts over the last couple of years when life has permitted.  I saw Ben Nichols give a great solo acoustic performance, and it reminded me of how amazing William Elliott Whitmore has been the handful of times I've seen him.  I also went to see Lucero play, and they were great as always, but their opener that night quickly became one of my favorite bands.  Larry and His Flask put on an amazing show for a somewhat infuriatingly disinterested crowd, but it's a strange crowd sometimes where I'm living.  The Flask's music is incredibly good, and their approach to touring and making music has been a big inspiration as well. Scott H. Biram was another stunningly good show. He does the solo artist/one-man-band thing better than just about anybody on the planet.  Again, I thought of Will Whitmore and Ben Nichols, and the wheels really started spinning.  Most recently, I caught a Murder By Death show.  Maybe it was because of a greater degree of sobriety on my part, but I really payed more attention to how the band played and interacted live than I ever had before.  I was really struck by just how much they sounded like their records live without the show feeling stale.  They were able to play extraordinarily well and make the show a unique, memorable experience.  In fact, that much is true of every artist I have mentioned here.  Seeing other musicians play well and have fun doing so has pushed me to do it again myself.
The Dirty Old One Man Band

I am currently writing and recording new songs, and I am playing gigs in order to start building a local fan base since I live far away from most of you who know me from my previous work.  I am also going to record my own version of at least one more unreleased BKD song.  These new songs could end up as a new album, or they may end up being released as two separate EPs.  I'll explain what that's all about in the next (and final) installment of this series.  Keep an eye out for the bands I've mentioned above in the Other music you should be listening to series as well.

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 1

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  I'm going to break this up into a few posts, so for today I'll stick with where I disappeared to.

Where I've Been

Other than a Bullistic reunion show in June of 2012, I have gone a little over 3 years without getting on a stage to perform as a musician. 

This is a view I haven't had for a while.

There are many reasons why I needed and took the break.  Prominent among those were the facts that I was burnt out on what I saw as a failed attempt at a music career, I wanted to try other things out, and I was tired of being dead broke all of time.

By the late spring of 2010 I felt like my career was going nowhere.  I was really proud of Boss Kean's Ditch, and I thought we were a very special band, but I had grown so jaded and cynical about the music business that I figured we had no shot at "making it."  I figured BKD could be, at best, a regional opener for true touring acts, or, at worst, a bar band devoid of originality.  It was unfair to the rest of the guys in the band for me to quit, but it would have been unfair to them for me to stay and be miserable every time we played. I had conversations with several people telling them and fully convincing myself that I had given music a real, honest shot, but it simply wasn't in the cards.  The joy of simply creating and playing was gone, and I entered a pretty dark period artistically.

Pursuing a music career was out, so I tried my hand at some other things.  I returned to my hometown to be a college football coach at the school where I had played.  Football had been a huge part of my life when I was in high school and college, and I never lost my passion for the strength training that I began while playing the sport.  I figured that I would follow my passion for strength training and work to become a collegiate strength coach.  That path didn't work out either, but it was a fun experience.

While I was coaching I decided to enroll in graduate school.  I relocated again, took out a bunch of student loans, put in the work, and came out with another degree after another year and half as a student.  I was so dead broke and so convinced that I would never again play music that I nearly sold all of my music equipment during this time.  Luckily my wife and several other important people kept me from doing so.

Ah yes, my wife. I'm still not sure how I pulled it off, but I married the most beautiful woman alive while I was back in school, and we became parents to a beautiful daughter.  The vast majority of my time away from performing has been spent trying to be the best husband and father I can be.  Part of that mission is being able to provide for my family, and I saw grad school as the way to make that happen.

In Part 2 I'll explain why grad school may not have been the best idea I have ever had, what got me back to creating music, and what I am currently up to.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

BKD doing Singin' Hymns

Here's the video BigE made of BKD doing Singin' Hymns back in 09. The sound cuts in and out because, well, we liked to play loud!

SHOW POSTPONED June 8th to June 29th

Hey guys, the show this Saturday at Twisted Mike's has been postponed until June 29th. I am looking for a new venue for this Saturday, and will update the site once I know more.