Being James Brown, by Jonathan Lethem

James Brown

If you haven’t had a good fix of James Brown lately, or if you’re not that familiar with his stuff other than what you’ve heard in hip hop samples, allow me to steer you toward a great piece in Rolling Stone magazine by Jonathan Lethem. It’s an in depth look at the James Brown of 2006, and the James Brown Band of 2006. From spending days with the band in an Augusta, Georgia recording studio, to a JB gig in Gateshead, UK, Lethem really captures James Brown: the soul / funk superstar, the strict and unforgiving band leader, the lonely, abandoned inner child, and the troubled older adult (with the law, marriage, etc.). It also captures those surrounding him, his band in particular. Obedient and respectful servants of the man on stage and in the studio, but very real people with real musical aspirations behind the scenes.

Lethem is an amazing writer, as you’ll see. I’ve enjoyed a few of his imaginitive sci-fi books (Gun, With Occasional Music, Girl in Landscape, As She Climbed Across the Table), and was happy to come across this RS article.

The online article also has a link to a James Brown Essential playlist, 9 full songs including “Cold Sweat”, “Think”, “Please, Please, Please”, and “Lost Someone”. There is also a 20 minute mp3 interview with Lethem. Take a few minutes out of your online cruising and enjoy this…

Article: Being James Brown – Rolling Stone article written by Jonathan Lethem
The Artist: James Brown’s Official Site | Wikipedia Entry | Buy His Music
The Author: Jonathan Lethem’s Web Site | Bibiliography

Reckless Kelly Rocks La Zona Rosa

reckless kelly

There’s just something about me and Texas music. Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Old 97’s, the Reverend Horton Heat, Jerry Jeff Walker, Blaze Foley, Joe Ely, etc. etc… some damn fine music has its roots in that big ol’ state. There are two music meccas I have yet to visit, but one day certainly will: New Orleans and Austin, Texas. Since the late 90’s, Reckless Kelly has been one of the greatest roots rockin’ Austin bands around.

Reckless Kelly is made up of brothers Willy and Cody Braun, David Abeyta, Jimmy McFeeley, and Jay Nazz. Willy and Cody, originally from Challis, Idaho, started off touring with their dad in a Western Swing band called Muzzle Braun & the Boys. They relocated to Austin in 1997 and have been tearing it up as Reckless Kelly ever since. They can count Joe Ely as one of their fans. I just posted about Joe Ely. It’s all connected, man. Scary.

reckless kelly cover

On August 8th, Sugar Hill Records will release ‘Reckless Kelly Was Here‘, a 2-CD collection of a live performance at La Zona Rosa in Austin. Also included is a very impressively shot DVD of the performance. I’ve been getting more and more into these guys the more I hear ’em. Come to Arizona, boys.

Here’s a couple of special sneak peeks at the upcoming release. One showcasing their great version of a Richard Thompson tune, and another that shows off their sense of humor, which really comes across in their live show. As a father of two little girls, anyone who can work the Wiggles into a wild Texas rock n roll show is OK by me.

Reckless Kelly: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (mp3) | Richard Thompson cover
Reckless Kelly: Wiggles & Ritalin (mp3)

New Bruce Cockburn: Life Short Call Now

Flying completely under my radar last week was a brand spankin’ new release from my other favorite Bruce, Mr. Cockburn. ‘Life Short Call Now‘ is his first studio offering since 2003’s ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything‘. I was introduced to Bruce’s music back in 1994 when I heard “Southland of the Heart” on the radio. Back in 1994 there was one cool station in Phoenix: 101.5 KZON (now one of those “Free FM” stations). “Southland” came from ‘Dart to the Heart‘, an album that zeroes in on matters of the heart, relationships, longing, L-O-V-E baby. From there, I dug into Bruce’s catalog, and was hooked.

‘Life Short’, released July 18 here in the U.S., is Cockburn’s 29th – yes 29th – album. It’s everything you’d expect from a quality Cockburn album: the intelligent and insightful lyrics, calm yet urgent vocals, and an array of eclectic and wholly original melodies. Check out the falsetto on the haunting “Beautiful Creatures”; the unwavering faith of “Mystery”; the pounding rhythm of the instrumental “Jerusalem Poker”.

I’m not sure why Cockburn isn’t as popular down here in the US as in his native Canada, but that’s just fine by me (and Bruce is probably okay with that too). But by all means, if he stops through your town on his current tour supporting this album, go and see a living legend.

Here’s one off the new record with Ani DiFranco lending a hand with background vocals.

Bruce Cockburn (w/ Ani DiFranco): See You Tomorrow (mp3)

And while you’re at it, check out this cool version of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom”:

Bonus Tune: Bruce w/ Yossou N’Dour: Chimes of Freedom (mp3) – 8/3/1994, Columbia Records Hour

Blowfly’s Punk Rock Party and Ickmusic Contest



Let’s have some fun, huh? Who wants to get down in person with the original “dirty mouth of the South?” Look out, because Blowfly is coming to your town, and I’ve got two tickets to give away, along with an advance copy of ‘Punk Rock Party’ (not out until September 12), and a Blowfly t-shirt to boot.

‘Punk Rock Party’ will be released on Jello Biafra’s label, Alternative Tentacles. Blowfly’s M.O. is “dirty” remakes of well known tunes. On this album, he takes on punk classics like the Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia”, reworked as “R. Kelly in Cambodia” (with guest vocals by Jello himself), the Ramones’ “I Wanna be Sedated” (which morphs into “I Wanna Be Fellated” – lol), and my personal fave, an updated Clash classic, “Should I Lay this Big Fat Ho?”.

Blowfly is actually 61 year old Clarence Reid, who was a songwriter for many R&B acts of the 60’s and 70’s (Sam & Dave, KC and the Sunshine Band). His knack for making funny (and obscene) versions of others’ songs led him to adopt his alter ego, Blowfly. His debut album, ‘The Weird World of Blowfly’, was released way back in 1971. Since then, dressed in full on superhero getup, Blowfly has released more than two dozen completely tasteless and vulgar versions of many popular tunes. I’m not about to repeat the song titles here, but if you’re ready for a laugh (and you’re an adult who’s not easily offended fer crying out loud), check out his discography on All Music, and be disgusted and amused by the song titles.

Here’s a mix of a few songs from ‘Punk Rock Party’…

Blowfly: Punk Rock Party Megamix (mp3) – includes “Should I Lay This Big Fat Ho”, “I Wanna Be Fellated”, “Playing with Myself”, “R. Kelly in Cambodia”

I’m going out on a limb and guessing that his live show is one entertaining, smut-funkin’ affair. This I gotta see! I’ll be checking Blowfly out at the Clubhouse in Tempe when he hits town in September.

And now…

+++++++++ The Ickmusic Blowfly @#*& Contest! ++++++++++

Okay, we’ll have three winners here. Here are the prizes:

  • Grand Prize Winner receives two tickets to see Blowfly in their town (tour dates & locations listed below), an advance copy of ‘Punk Rock Party’, and a Blowfly t-shirt.
  • First Runner-up will receive ‘Punk Rock Party’ and a Blowfly t-shirt.
  • Second Runner-up will get a Blowfly t-shirt.

Click here to see the trivia question, and to submit your answer.

Check out Blowfly’s Official Site | MySpace Page

Here are the tour dates:

The Boss: AmsterDAM!

As Bruce and his Seeger Sessions Band recharge their batteries for another barnstorming fall tour of Europe, it’s time to revisit a couple of the Boss’s finer moments from the last couple of years.

Courtesy of Jefitoblog, we get ‘Love, Tears, & Mystery’, a compilation of tunes from Bruce’s solo Devils & Dust Tour (every song performed, apparently). The first volume is posted now, and keep an eye on Jeff’s site for the follow-ups. Everybody say “Thank you Jeff.” Thank – you – Jeff! Very good.

So it makes sense that I complement his post with some Seeger Sessions sounds – Amstersdam style. After the Seeger Sessions debut at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 30th, it was time to cross the Atlantic for a few weeks. On May 16th, the traveling troupe hit Amsterdam. I’m very curious to know how the logistics of this tour worked out behind the scenes. Over the course of the European and U.S. Tour, the Seeger Sessions Band consisted of, on average, about 17 people. Seventeen! The amount of coordination and planning involved is staggering to even think about. Planes, buses, hotels, food, equipment, road crew… I know they have this down to a science these days, but to an outsider like me, it’s pretty damn impressive.

Here are the scheduled tour dates for the next European leg, kicking off October 1st in Bologna, Italy, and wrapping up in Belfast on November 21st (right after a 3 night stand in Dublin). Ah, the luck of the Irish!

By the way, if anyone in Bruce’s camp wants to hire a music blogger to document this upcoming European tour, I’m available! Forget ’18 Nights of AOL’, I’ll give the world 2 months of ‘Ickmusic: The Seeger Sessions Tour’! I only ask for a decent wage, luxury accomodations, a bowl of peanut M&M’s refreshed bi-hourly (with the green ones removed), and an ample supply of Guiness stout. Is that too much to ask? Oh, and a 22 year old Swedish nanny for my two girls.

What changes await us? Will the band have some new or replaced members? What other songs will be given that Seeger Sessions twist? How many new Bruce fans will emerge? I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received from people who had never seen Bruce until this tour, and came out having witnessed one of the best musical experiences of their lives. The show is a remarkable and pure American musical journey, and I’m glad to see it’s not over yet.

So enjoy this flashback to May. Part one is coming at you tonight. Stay tuned for part two.

Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions Band
Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam
May 16th, 2006

Want this show? Click here.

Part One
O Mary Don’t You Weep
John Henry
Johnny 99
Old Dan Tucker
Eyes On The Prize
Jesse James
Cadillac Ranch (w Mystery Train)
Long Black Veil
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
Mrs. McGrath

London to Lubbock: Joe Ely meets the Clash

joe ely and joe strummer

Here’s a cool tidbit of Clash trivia. You know that part in “Should I Stay or Should I Go” where you hear Mick Jones yell “Split!”? It was actually an impromptu moment when Joe Strummer and Joe Ely snuck up behind Jones during the recording session, and basically scared the piss out of him. The moment made it on to the final recording.

Their relationship began in 1978, when Joe Ely was playing the Venue Club in London. The Clash were admirers of Ely’s most recent release, 1978’s ‘Honky Tonk Masquerade.’ Ely – a native of Lubbock, Texas – and the Clash met backstage and ended up spending the rest of the three night stand hanging around eachother, crawling the pubs, and gaining quite a mutual respect and admiration for eachother.

joe ely

Ely opened for the Clash on the 1979 Texas leg of their Pearl Harbor tour. He also headed over to London in 1980 to open for the Clash on their UK London Calling tour, and opened a couple of nights during the Clash’s residency at Bond’s in NYC in 1981.

Well, fast forward to 1983. It’s a week before the US Festival in San Bernardino, CA, and the Clash are in San Antonio to play a warm-up gig before the 150,000 person event. Joe Ely is in the house that night, and joins the band for a version of “Fingernails” (from ‘Honky Tonk Masquerade”). Here’s the last three from that San Antonio night. The US Festival gig a week later would be Mick Jones’ final performance as a member of the Clash. The festival also included a backstage shouting match between Strummer and Van Halen’s David Lee Roth. Strummer was pissed about Van Halen demanding (and receiving) a cool million for the gig. Oh how I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that day.

The Clash, Live at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, TX
May 22, 1983

Fingernails (with Joe Ely) [mp3]
Should I Stay or Should I Go [mp3]
I Fought the Law [mp3]

Here’s a cool collaboration that never was to be:

For years, Ely, a hard-charging alt-country Texan who emerged during Jimmy Carter’s reign, and Strummer, founder and lead singer of the politically astute Clash, the greatest punk band that Margaret Thatcher’s Britain ever produced, had promised each other that some day they’d head to Mexico and record an album just for the hell of it…But Ely, who turns 59 today, never got to Mexico with Strummer.

“I went to the funeral and got together with the guys and stayed up all night playing guitar,” he said. “I never believed someone with the vital energy he had would die. That’s a lesson that if you say you’re going to do something, you just do it.”

How cool would that have been? A Strummer/Ely Tex-Mex-World-Punk record? Like an idiot, I just missed Joe Ely at the very intimate Rhythm Room in Phoenix. Next time I’ll go, buy him a beer, and talk about Joe Strummer.

Here’s a couple from Joe Ely’s great live LP, ‘Live at Antone’s‘….

The Road Goes on Forever [mp3]
All Just to Get to You [mp3]

Nino Knows Funky


Well here’s the coolest Prince song I’ve heard in a while, but not from the man himself, but rather an Irish-Italian living in the tiny California town of Friant (in Fresno County, 519 people). Nino Moschella does his own vocals, plays his own instruments, and knows how to get seriously funky. He’s channeling the sounds of Prince, Sly Stone, and Stevie Wonder. I’m just digging into his album now, but find myself stuck on this track here.

Funky beats, layers of Prince-like vocals, cool synths and handclaps. Yeah, this one’s for me. Thank you World Cafe.

Whaddya think, is someone beating Prince at his own game here? Isn’t this the kind of quirky, wildly original and FUNKY song that’s gone missing from the little man’s repertoire of late? Keep it comin’ Nino. If you come to Arizona, I’ll be there.

Nino Moschella: Are You For Real (mp3) – from the May 2006 Ubiquity Records release, ‘The Fix’. Pick it up on the label’s site, eMusic, or iTunes.

Another mp3 download, “Moved On”, is available here on Nino’s site.


While I prepare another earth shattering music post, here’s a couple of items to check out…

  • Supergroup Golden Smog (members of Wilco, Jayhawks, Soul Asylum) returns Tuesday with another record, ‘Another Fine Day’. The first single is called “5-22-02.” It’s quite enjoyable and you can check it out over at So Much Silence.
  • I encourage all alpha males to head over to Iowa Hawk to cast your vote for Miss Hoosegow 2006, your choice for the loveliest of the incarcerated females at the Polk County Jail in Des Moines, Iowa (I agree with the majority of voters thus far).