Titus Andronicus!

Once in a while, a song comes along, lifts me up by the collar and slams me up against the wall. I had one of those moments with “A More Perfect Union”, the opener on the The Monitor, the latest record by New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. The album/song start with a spoken word excerpt from an 1838 speech given by Abraham Lincoln – and when the guitars & drums crash in powerfully after the words “If destruction be our lot, we ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we will live forever, or die by suicide”, it’s off to the races.

The band clearly comes from the same school of raw, raucous power as the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, the Pogues, and the like. And singer Patrick Stickles has an irreverent, raging vocal delivery that reminds me of Conor Oberst – and I like Conor a lot when he’s pissed off.

The official video of “A More Perfect Union” skips the opening Lincoln intro, which is a shame, because it’s an integral piece of kicking the song into overdrive – from zero to sixty in a second. But you’ll get the vibe.

The Monitor comes highly recommended. Buy it for $5 on Amazon. I did. If you’re with me here in Arizona, I’ll see you April 18th for their show at the Rhythm Room.

Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies

As an Arizona resident for the past 18 + years, and a lover of many things Americana/roots, especially with a west coast / southwest vibe, it’s damn silly that I’m not more familiar with the Tucson’s Howe Gelb and his former band Giant Sand. I’m correcting that as we speak by dialing up all of Giant Sand’s early albums on Rdio. I started this morning with 1985’s Valley of Rain, which sounds like unmistakable precursors to the Pixies, and another Tucson outfit, Calexico (which makes sense – John Convertino and Joey Burns actually started out in Giant Sand).

Yes, I posted many moons ago about a great Giant Sand tune (“Big Fish”) on a Victoria Williams benefit CD. But overall since then, I’ve had – well – my head in the sand about Giant Sand.

So Mr. Howe Gelb has a new record on tap with a new band, A Band of Gypsies. It’s called Alegria, and was recorded in Spain with an actual band of Flamenco guitar-playing gypsies. Featured among them is Flamenco guitar virtuoso Raimundo Amador.

The new album will release stateside on May 10th. Here’s a free & clear tune to give you a taste…

Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies4 Door Maverick (mp3)


Keep an eye on the Fire Records web site for a chance to order in the U.S. (you can already order overseas).


Many of my favorite artists sneak out albums and never tell me. Todd Rundgren is sadly no exception. Towards the end of last year, he released Todd Rundgren’s Johnson (snicker), a collection of his interpretations of Robert Johnson classics. The disc is very difficult to find (although a stateside release is planned for April 21st of this year) and is available only in New Zealand and some parts of Japan as well as the UK. Is it worth it?

For die hard Todd fans like me, yes. No matter what Todd does, I’m going to like it. So he automatically gets a 6 if he just records himself breathing for 50 minutes. But that’s all the further the disc gets for me. Maybe it was because I was super excited that he was getting back to being the killer ax man that I know he’s always been or maybe it was Kasim Sulton playing bass on the record that got my hopes all high but, after several times through it, it’s just alright.

His renditions are somewhat plodding and over produced. The guitar work is excellent and so is Kaz’s bass but most of the disc feels like it was recorded and performed by a hair band trying to be hip and cool. On a few tracks, there are simply too many effects and the instruments got washed out. Thankfully, his stunningly soulful voice is not drowned out and this is one of the albums saving graces.

I love Todd and have seen him live more than any other performer on my faves list (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009…at total of 17 times) so it is with heavy heart that I again say–For Die Hard fans only.

The Friday Five: March 25, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a 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 Five:

“Nothing is Alone” by Toad the Wet Sprocket (from 1992-09-16: Fox Theater, Boulder, CO, USA, 1992)

“And now the song so happy, Todd had to sing it.” Who can resist a sappy love-lorn tune in 3/8 time?

“Both Sides of the Story” by Phil Collins (from …Hits, 1998)

This tune always seemed a bit like Phil trying really hard to sing a Peter Gabriel track. I realize the irony in that statement, but listen to “Biko,” and “Come Talk to Me,” and come back to this track and tell me that you don’t hear it. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

“Bone Machine” by Pixies (from Surfer Rosa, 1988)

Two Friday Five appearances in a row!

“The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem (from The ’59 Sound, 2008)

I haven’t listened to this record in over a year, I’ll have to cue it up over the weekend. I think I burned myself out on it, and didn’t care at all for the follow up; causing me to unintentionally shun the band for a bit.

“If I Can’t Change Your Mind” by Sugar (from Besides, 1995)

From the live portion of the set, I was always amazed at how fast these tunes were played live.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Nap Time with Nils

I’m lucky enough to work from home. Usually when my “lunch hour” rolls around, I’ll throw on the running shoes and jog a few miles around the ‘hood. This arrangement has been surprisingly good for my health. Breaking up the day with a run clears my mind, puts everything into perspective, gets my blood pumping, and allows me the opportunity to be alone with Music. Love the arrangement.

Well, on Monday, it was overcast, scattered showers, and downright gloomy. I chose to utilize my free hour in the form of a n-a-p. How sweet it was. 50 minutes of midday relaxation. I dialed up E Street Radio on my iPhone SiriusXM app, and stumbled across Nils Lofgren‘s hour as guest DJ.

Listening to the show, I was in that euphoric, meditative state where you’re not fully conscious but you’re not fully asleep either. I was sort of floating through the ether – able to relax my mind, and at the same time soak in the music that Nils was playing.

He played his live version of the Star Spangled Banner, which was amazing. He played his Bruce favorites, like “Nothing Man”, “Man’s Job”, and “My City of Ruin”; he played an in-studio acoustic intro to “Countin’ on a Miracle”…

But what really hit me from Nils was when he played his version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Yeah, the song made popular by Robert Flack almost 40 years ago (the tune was actually written by folk singer Ewan MacColl in 1957).

And man, it hit me in just the right spot. Hair stood up on my arms, the tear ducts activated a bit (only a bit, dammit I’m a macho man. No I’m not).

Lofgren’s high, tender voice soars in this version. Just beautiful. I think I’ll take more naps.

Buy Nils Lofgren Band Live.

Life Without Noel

When I first heard that Liam Gallagher was forming his own band after the acrimonious split with his brother Noel, I simply thought the new group would be a little above average. I winced when I heard the name of the band figuring that Liam must’ve spent one too many nights ’round the pub.

His own songwriting within Oasis had blossomed, though, over the last couple of albums, turning out some really amazing songs (“Born on A Different Cloud”, “I’m Outta Time”) which, I know, sound a lot like John Lennon but so what? They are fucking good tunes, man.

Taking all this into account, I still kept my hopes in check.  When I heard that the group would be comprised of the remaining Oasis members (Gem Archer, Andy Bell, Chris Sharrock), I still tried to tell myself that it would be just alright. After all, I’m such a geek for Brit rock that I felt that I at least had to try to be a little more discerning.Yet the thought of it basically being a super group with Bell (who was the center of a great Brit rock band of the 90s, Ride) and Sharrock (drummer for The La’s) did, I admit, raise my expectations a tiny amount.

So, when the debut album from Beady Eye was finally released, even though I was making every effort to be level headed, I couldn’t help myself. I freaked out at how amazing it was right from the start and it’s totally not my fault. Because, folks, the album not only exceeded my expectations but is a complete curve ball. Why?

It’s essentially a potpourri of everything that’s great about rock and roll: Heavy (“Four Letter Word”), Psychedelic and Beatle-y (“Millionaire”), John Lennonesque (“The Roller”, “The Beat Goes On”), Mod (“Beatles and Stones”), 70s Dripped Haze (“Wind Up Dream”), 50s Ballin’ (“Bring The Light”), Tiger Beat Love (“For Anyone”), Noel Like-yes Noel Like! (“Kill For A Dream”), AOR Borscht Belt Grist (“Standing on the Edge of the Noise”), The Upbeat Ballad (“Wigwam”), Pop Star Angst (“Three Ring Circus”), and the Reflective Show Closer (“The Morning Son”)…all wrapped up in one wonderful gift of an album.

Who would’ve thought that baby brother would turn out such a tome to the gods of music? It’s sitting on top of my CD player right now next to the deluxe edition of Are You Experienced and, y’know, it fits in perfectly. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering he does come from the Holy Land.

Beady Eye | Web Site | Buy Different Gear, Still Speeding

The Friday Five: March 18, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a 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 Five:

“Everyone Knows It but You” by David Mead (from The Luxury of Time, 1999)

I hear strains of Don Henley in Mead’s voice, but that is where the comparison ends. I have not given this record enough of a listen, guess it’s time to do so.

“Dear Old Nicki” by Nicki Minaj (from Pink Friday, 2010)

I think I was wooed by this record when it was first released. Subsequent listens have proven otherwise. It is still, however, one of the hottest hip-hop records of the last few years.

“Into the White” by Pixies (from Death to the Pixies, 1997)

I could listen to the Pixies all day.

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel (from Glass Houses, 1980)

Hearing this tune is a powerful nostalgia churning experience. As much as I’ve listened to this record over the years, I’m still the little kid in the back seat—with no seat belt, mind you—with my head titled backwards, looking up towards the sky, daydreaming about a galaxy far, far away.

“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow (from Top of the Pops 1994, 2008)

I’d skip this, but then I’d feel guilty.

What’s on your shuffle today?

A St. Paddy’s Whiskey in the Jar

I’ve always fancied Metallica’s version of “Whiskey In The Jar”. The rage and angst behind Mr. Hetfield’s voice just makes me flex my muscles and put the pedal to the metal. Powerful!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day…

I first produced my pistol
And then produced my rapier
I said “Stand and deliver
Or the devil he may take you”

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/9128706 w=549&h=309]

Metallica – Whiskey in the Jar (Official Music Video) [HD] from MetallicaHD on Vimeo.

The Friday Five: March 11, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a 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 Five:

“Wings and Feathers” by The Guggenheim Grotto (from The Universe Is Laughing, 2010)

A bit ironic that this week’s Friday Five would begin with my favorite Irish singer/songwriter duo, as I’m headed to NYC to see them later this evening. While not my favorite track from their most recent release, it’s one I could see coming to love, in the live setting.

“Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen (from The Best of Both Worlds, 2004)

As Jeff Giles’ (y’all) has pointed out, there simply is no better Friday record than Van Halen’s seminal, 1984. For me, “Hot for Teacher” was every bit the hit single as “Jump” or “Panama.” I mean, come on … that intro? I remember spending hours upon hours trying—in vain—to master the two-hand tapped figure.

“Babylon” by David Gray (from Draw the Line, 2009)

This is a live version of Gray’s big hit single. It’s a xerox performance, save for the crowd’s insistence to sing the tune themselves. As much as I love the original, I can’t sit through 6 and a half minutes of it.

“The Way Young Lovers Do” by Van Morrison (from Astral Weeks, 1968)

Sorry Mr. Gray … I’d much rather listen to the real deal.

“Airplanes, Part 2 (feat. Hayley Williams & Eminem)” by B.o.B. (from B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, 2010)

I can honestly say that I haven’t cared for much of Eminem’s output of the last few years, save for a verse here and there. His appearance on “Airplanes” is one of those exceptions.

What’s on your shuffle today?

The Railroad Revival Tour [with a stop in Chandler, AZ]

I haven’t been this unabashedly giddy about an upcoming show in quite some time. News of the Railroad Revival Tour swept across the web Monday morning like a Japanese bullet train (train reference, pow!). It’s a short, exclusive train tour featuring three great bands: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show.

And for once, an exclusive tour that includes the Phoenix area as one of its few stops – and it’s Chandler, for cryin’ out loud, right in my own back yard…

For a week in late April, the three bands will travel in vintage rail cars pulled by two locomotives across the southwest U.S.A. – from Oakland to New Orleans. Chandler Arizona’s big day is Saturday, April 23rd, as the train pulls into the Arizona Railway Museum for a show. Thanks to some pre-sale luck this morning, I was able to grab my tickets. I am pumped!

Can’t wait to finally see Old Crow Medicine Show…
Looking forward to checking out Mumford & Sons (need to dig into their album a little more).
And this’ll be my third time seeing Edward and his Magnetic Zeros (I’ll also see them a week after at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival).

Tickets for all stops go on sale Wednesday, March 9th at 11am CT / 9am PT. According to Railroad Revival Tour’s Facebook page, the Chandler museum stop will have a show capacity of 8,000 people.
For me, it’s a can’t miss experience.

Railroad Revival Tour: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter

Old Crow Medicine Show – “I Hear Them All”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – “Home”


Mumford & Sons – “Timshel”