The Friday Five: February 27, 2009

Shuffle It! Shuffle It Good!

For those who have not joined in the Friday Five here is all you need to know; each Friday I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me.

The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments. The more the merrier!

The Five:

“18 Months” by Kingsbury (from This Place is Coming Down, 2004)

Kingsbury is a brilliant experimental indie rock act out of Orlando, Florida. Intensely personal and emotional it’s hard to imagine that they originate from the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Watch this space for much more on Kingsbury in the coming month.

Squeeze Me Macaroni” (mp3) by Mr. Bungle (from Mr. Bungle, 1991)

By now the news of Faith No More reuniting has taken every corner of the internet by storm, but I’ll be damned if I would only be more excited if Mike Patton reformed Mr. Bungle.

Here on Earth/The Opening” (mp3) by Leerone (from Imaginary Biographies, 2007)

I can’t get enough of Leerone‘s quirky piano driven singer-songwriter sharp-tongued pop (which she describes as “The musical equivalent of an ice-cream sundae with a vodka chaser”). She is an incredibly talented artist who goes as far as handwriting every correspondence with humble small-time blog editors (which is deeply appreciated). I expect that we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

“O salutaris hostia” by Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble (from Officium, 1994)

This record takes the Gregorian Chants that your mother loved in 1994 and added the ‘smooth jazz’ sounds of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek to a nauseating soothing effect.

“White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes (from Fleet Foxes, 2008)

I still do not care much for this record, but if I had to pick a track to listen to it would be this one. The folk-rock revival sound just does not depart enough from the forefathers enough to entice me to listen more, now where’s my copy of “Horse with No Name”…

What’s bringing the weekend home for you?

Ick’s Picks (Week VIII): JJ Cale’s ‘Roll On’

Pumping out these Ick’s Picks every week is making this year fly by. Week eight already? Can someone please tell me how we’re almost in March?? Thankfully, it is my favorite month: Cactus League baseball, a beer festival, and my anniversary. Oh wait, let me reorder, my wife reads this, you know. March is my favorite month: MY ANNIVERSARY, and yeah, that Spring Training and beer festival thingy is all right too, whatever.

That said, this week’s pick is the new album by JJ Cale. There weren’t any releases this week that had me jumping up and down in excitement, so I decided to take a listen to JJ’s new one, because he’s written some seriously solid tunes: “After Midnight”, “Cocaine”, “Call Me The Breeze”, and “Travelin’ Light”.  These were the four JJ Cale songs I was familiar with due to their covers by Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Widepsread Panic, respectively. And after hearing the originals over the years, Cale’s versions were just as solid, and a tad more laid back, which suited my style.

I’ve listened to Roll On this week about five times. It’s a well produced mash-up of roots / acoustic / jazz sounds that are all pleasant to the ear. There’s nothing that absolutely blows me away, though I do have three favorites: the guitar on “Cherry Street”; the undefinable groove of “Fonda-Lina, whose namesake has “her bosoms hangin’ over the window sill / It’s a story as old as Jesus / Fonda-lina has a void to fill.”; and “Old Friend”, which faces the passing of time from the wise perspective of Cale’s 70 years: “I hear all the old folks are gone / I guess we’re the ones now / That’s the way it goes / those crowded days are behind us now.”

Clapton appears on the title track, and the legendary Jim Keltner plays the drums on some tracks, but other than that, Cale handles pretty much all the instruments by himself. It’s a solid piece of work, and probably an album that I’ll appreciate more as time goes on (like a lot of them seem to be). It would also suit me well to dip into some of Cale’s older records. There a reason he’s been covered so many times over the years.

Buy Roll On.

Links: JJ Cale’s Official Site |MySpace

Here’s a stellar live version of “Call Me The Breeze”, with JJ and Mr. Clapton (sweet guitar, Eric)…

My Name is Prince, and I am…

… still trying to confuse, frustrate and alienate my fans!

Seriously man, the decision makers behind this triple album / deal must be smoking a lot of good weed up there in Beverly Hills, because they’re moving…very… slooowwwlyy. We’re a few days away from March, and this groundbreaking venture called – where he’s supposed to be offering up his three new albums – Lotusflow3r, MPLSound, and Bria Valente’s Elixir – has yet to see the light of day. It was back in early January when the site launched, and Prince said in an interview that the new music would be hitting his web site and a big box retailer “as soon as the holidays are over”. Maybe he’s talking St. Patty’s Day as that milestone holiday? If so, only a few more weeks! does have some activity. The latest out of this world, cutting edge features:

  • A mini television that can be clicked on to reveal a butterfly floating through Prince’s futuristic mini-fantasy land for 30 seconds.
  • A fake newspaper article touting how “Prince’s LOTUSFLOW3R Oscar Bash is the talk of the town”, with some links to a few external entertainment sites with reviews from the night. (P’s random cover of the night: Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle”). $100 at the door. Show started at 1:45am, and wrapped up around 3:30.
  • A photograph of Bria Valente, shooting a video on the beach.
  • A closeup of Bria Valente’s face. Pretty girl, yes.
  • A side shot of a grinning Bria Valente starting into the distance. Okay, enough!
  • An interactive “ticket” where you can fill in your First Name, your Last Name, and your Email Address to sign up for “updates”. I’ve been signed up for several weeks, and still not a peep.
  • And three little cassette tapes that are playing snippets of one song each: “Colonized Mind” (a slow guitar-driven track from Lotusflow3r), “Discojellyfish” (80’s synthpop/funk from MPLSound), and “Another Boy” (from Bria’s new record, it’s a smooth, zzzzzzzzzzzzz).

Other than that, you can enjoy the view of clouds floating through blackness.

Am I being impatient? Or does this guy just not know how to market his music anymore? At the very least, he could be taking some of these individual songs and making them available for purchase somewhere. Prince loves him some $$$, and there’s plenty of folks like me ready to pay out for our fix, for better or worse. Just give us the opportunity!

I keep hearing how groundbreaking this is going to be. Well, I do believe it’s time. Stop the hype and give us some substance. Rock us! Funk us up! Something! Anything! Kick these brilliant webmasters in the ass and give it to us!

Something tells me the little general’s Ego is about as big as the planet Earth out there in Hollywood, and that the poontang done clouded his brain. Again.

Snap out of it Prince! Oh, and get back out on the road, dude. There’s other people who are interested in seeing you besides Jamie Foxx, Penelope Cruz, and your Hollywood star-porkers. Thanks.

100 Words on “Live from Daryl’s House”

“It was just one of those light bulb moments…” is how Daryl Hall describes the thought behind his web series Live from Daryl’s House. Inviting everyone from electrofunk duo Chromeo to guitar virtuoso Monte Montgomery up to his house in Connecticut to hang out, talk shop and sit in with “T-Bone” Wolk and the band all the while filming it for the most intimate and fun web series I’ve seen. John Oates even makes a couple of appearances in the monthly program. More than lip service, the series shows the soul shared in putting musicians in room to “just play.”


Links: Official Site | on MySpace | on iTunes

Remembering Snooks

Lifelong New Orleans resident and Ickmusic buddy Cove reflects on the passing of a New Orleans great. – Pete

New Orleans lost another of the great legends of its musical heritage this past week, when Fird “Snooks” Eaglin died at 72.

Snooks was the great assimilator, taking in others’ songs and then spinning them back out in ways that were uniquely his. The musicians he played with were always amazed by his repertoire, which led them to call him “The Human Jukebox.”

Blinded by a disease as an infant, he earned the nickname “Snooks” as a mischievous child who dared to do things like walk along the tops of fences throughout the neighborhood, which even the kids with sight would not do. His father gave him a guitar at age six, and he learned to play by listening to the radio and records.

After playing regularly around town in the 1950’s, and recording several R&B and acoustic albums, Snooks disappeared into relative obscurity until he started playing regularly at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the 1970’s. His was one of the careers that was revived by putting New Orleans music back on a national and worldwide stage by our Jazz Fest.

I came to know his music in those early Jazz Fest years, and never missed the opportunity to hear him play at Jazz Fest. Although he jealously guarded his private life, living in a fairly distant suburb of New Orleans, he played regularly around town, and had become a staple performer at the now-famous “Rock-N-Bowl” shows at the local bowling alley called Mid-City Lanes.

Anyone who was not familiar with his music and watched Snooks approach the stage didn’t know what they were in for. Seeing an almost stooping old man being led to the stage by someone with eyesight, and find his way into a chair, you might be getting ready to sit down and settle in for the night. And then Snooks would start, and soon no one but Snooks would remain in their seat.

When Snooks played it was like he was the sun in the universe of the room, and everyone else was set into motion by his sound. Snooks, anchored in his chair, would literally cause everyone else in the house to dance and move about him. He would boast that he was about to blow the roof off of the place, with that vocal that was both a yelp and a grunt at the same time, and then he would do just that. He would posture his hand in a weird claw-like position above the strings, and more sound would come out of that guitar than you could believe. How a man who sat so still could set everyone in the room into motion by the sound of his guitar was amazing. It was impossible not to move to his sound.

Dr. John has commented that Snooks could play the horn part, the bass part and the piano part in the same song, all on his guitar. Listen to these songs, and watch him playing on “Red Beans” (with the fantastic Jon Cleary on piano and George Porter on bass), and just try to sit still, I dare you. The speed moving up and down the scales. The rhythms within rhythms. So many sounds happening at once. There was only one Snooks Eaglin.

With a new popularity gained from the Jazz Fest shows, Snooks’ recording career took off with some excellent albums on the Black Top label beginning in 1987. Sadly, most of those albums are now out of print, but I read a report on the web that the Collectors Choice label should have all of them back in print soon.

An entirely different aspect of his music was his acoustic blues. It was never his favorite music, but some of the recordings of the 1950’s tried to wrongly pigeonhole him as an acoustic blues musician. Yet the recordings are terrific. Among my favorite is “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” from a wonderful recording in the early 1970’s with the producer of the Jazz Fest. There is nothing better on a rainy, muggy New Orleans day than to sit back on the porch, open a beer, and listen to this one. Listen to Snooks playing the drum solo on his guitar.

This week the local papers and radio have been filled with stories told by people reminiscing about Snooks. One of the best was a report that after one show in which everyone in the band except Snooks got drunk, Snooks drove them all home, negotiating the winding turns along River Road from memory, and making adjustments to get back on the road after hearing the sounds of the tires hitting the gravel.

My own e-mail has been jammed with notes from friends and family across the country, recounting our memories of great evenings that revolved around dancing to Snooks at the Rock-N-Bowl, at the House of Blues, or Tipitina’s. I recalled the night my cousin held a Mardi Gras party at his warehouse, and hired a funk band because that’s what all the young people wanted to dance to. I convinced him to hire Snooks, at least to open, even though most of that crowd had never heard of him. The place went wild with Snooks; the funk band almost didn’t get to play; and in the morning my cousin called with a hoarse voice to say that he couldn’t remember what happened or how he had lost his checkbook, that the crowd must have had fun because it looked like someone had blown up a trash can in there, and to thank me for recommending Snooks. What a party.

And my brother responded to the story about Snooks driving home one night by saying, “That was nothing; in the old days I drove home blind many a night and made it fine. But no one could play the guitar like Snooks.”

Thanks for letting me send in this post. I could reminisce all day, but this is the weekend before Mardi Gras, and it’s time to take it to the street, and walk the Mardi Gras beat with the sound of Snooks’ guitar ringing in my head.

– Cove

Watch “Red Beans”:

HearI Get the Blues When It Rains” (mp3):

HearLipstick Traces” (mp3):

Recommended Albums:

Buy any of the Black Top albums. They are worth the hunt. The first two albums listed below are my two favorites of the “Black Top” series.

The Crescent City Collection (a “Best Of” the other Black Top albums)

Live in Japan

Sonet Blues Story – acoustic recordings made in 1971, produced by Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis

House Party New Orleans Style, by Professor Longhair
This is one of the great albums by the ‘Fess, because of the interplay between the piano and Snooks’ guitar playing. You don’t have to look at the list of musicians to know that it was Snooks in the studio with the Fess during these incredible sessions.

The Sonet Blues Story – Recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in New Orleans in 1977, a good set of R&B with a band.

This Hard Land

Bruce originally recorded “This Hard Land” in 1982 during the sessions for Born in the U.S.A, but it would never see the light of day on any Springsteen studio release. However, in 1995, when Columbia was packaging Bruce’s first greatest hits release, the E Street Band returned to the studio and recorded four songs: “This Hard Land” and “Murder Inc.” (also originally from the BITUSA sessions), “Blood Brothers” and “Secret Garden”. Also, on 1998’s Tracks box set, the original ’82 version was also released.

The first “This Hard Land” I ever heard was the Greatest Hits version. It was 1995, and I was in the midst of my “lost” years job-wise: in my mid-20’s and working as co-manager of a car rental company.  It was a waste of my college education, it didn’t pay well, and it didn’t challenge me. There was one thing I loved about the job, though, and that was being out on the open road with the music blaring. We rented brand new Fords, and we had to shuffle them between our offices in Scottsdale and Mesa. Windows down,  crystal-clear blue sky, the Superstition Mountains in the near distance to the east… this was how I first heard “This Hard Land”.

The song was so full of joy and pain, beauty and ugliness. My heart pounded and tears welled in my eyes.

I still get the same rush every time I hear this song. The energy, the imagery of the great wide open, Bruce’s harmonica, the “Bar-M choppers sweepin’ low across the plains”. Bruce’s “come on” that ushers in the full band at 47 seconds in. The hooves twistin’ and churnin’ up the sand. Sleeping by the fields, sleeping by the rivers. The undercurrent of desolation, sparseness and struggle , and the insistence on overcoming it all….

I heard the song again this morning during my drive to work. Things sure have changed since that sunny day in 1995. I make a decent living at a job I enjoy. I met and married the girl of my dreams. I have two darling little squirts that I feel so much love for it can’t even be measured… all this good in a world that “stirs you up like it wants to blow you down”…

How do I face these hard times? How should we face these hard times?

“Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can / and meet me in a dream of this hard land.”

Here’s the full band in 1995, with a rocking and spirited version virtually identical to this Greatest Hits recording. They must’ve been fresh from the studio. Does anyone know where (and for what) this was shot?

Check out…

The Friday Five: February 20, 2009

We are indeed drifting into the arena of the shuffle.

Short list today, we’ll return to ‘normal’ next week…

For those who have not joined in the Friday Five here is all you need to know; each Friday I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me.

The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments. The more the merrier!

The Five:

Ribbons” (mp3) – The Sisters of Mercy (from Vision Thing, 1990)

“Vocab” – Fugees (from Blunted on Reality, 1994)

Walk on the Wild Side” (mp3) – Lou Reed (from Transformer, 1972)

“Lovers Forever” – Brothers Johnson (from Out of Control, 1984)

“Fields of Coal” – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (from The Century of Self, 2009)

Tag! You’re it!

Ick’s Pick (Week VII): M. Ward’s ‘Hold Time’

Awesome album cover.

I came to know and instantly like M. Ward when I heard “Poison Cup” (mp3)  and “To Go Home”, the first 2 tracks off his 2006 album ‘Post-War’. Incredible atmosphere, and of course the unique, light sandpaper vocal of Matt Ward.

Ward’s new album, ‘Hold Time’, is another foray into the cool, lo-fi, retro sound that marks his music. There’s something about his voice – something that instills a sense of another era, an AM radio vibe.

There’s a handful of songs that have me clicking the back button:

  • “Never Had Nobody Like You” – Starting out with a Gary Glitter “Rock and Roll, Part 2” beat, and morphing into a “Spirit in the Sky” vibe, the tune features She & Him accomplice Zooey Deschanel.
  • “To Save Me” features background vocals by former Grandaddy vocalist Jason Lytle. The tune sounds like a Brian Wilson outtake from the early 70’s (to these ears).
  • “Stars of Leo” has one of the coolest transitions from guitar / vocals into full band I’ve ever heard (a minute and 30 seconds in).
  • A cool cover of “Rave On”, also with Zooey Deschannel sharing vocals.

What isn’t clicking with me is a cover of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me”, a duet with Lucinda Williams. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Lucinda, but the combination of her and Matt’s voice doesn’t work for me. While Zooey and Matt’s voice go together like a good PB & J, Lucinda and Matt are more like peanut butter and tuna. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. But rather than getting into the emotion of a slow and searing ballad, I think more of how their voices contrast with one another.

All in all though, a fine album. NPR is still streaming the entire record, so go give it a listen.

Buy Hold Time.

Links: Official Site | MySpace