Two Gallants come from the old time, baby

Well I come from the old time baby / too late for you to save me

For two guys in their late twenties, they sure sing and sound like they come from the old time. San Francisco’s Two Gallants are a duo – Adam Stephens on guitar & vocals, Tyson Vogel on drums & vocals. These two caught my ear during my summer vacation in Colorado. I was checking out Pandora during a nap – listening to Deer Tick Radio (totally recommended) – and these guys kept popping up and bowling me over with their low-fi but powerful tunes.

They’ve released three albums, the last couple on Saddle Creek records. This tune is a favorite, and was actually one of the singles from their second album, What The Toll Tells. As is my custom it seems, it caught up to me a few years later. Go ahead, see what these guys can do with one guitar and one drum kit.

Two Gallants Steady Rollin’ (mp3)

From What the Toll Tells

VisitOfficial Site | MySpace

Back Porch Hand Me Down Tunes

This Labor Day weekend, the temperature here in the Arizona desert finally dropped below 100 degrees for two straight days. Some rain, lots of clouds, and best of all, a chance to venture out to the back patio for one of my favorite pastimes: listening to my oodles of music on Shuffle. It seems I discover something new each time. If you’re constantly gathering music from all sources – ripped CD’s, ripped vinyl, eMusic, iTunes, the Amazon MP3 Store, etc – there’s little chance you listen to everything in your music collection. Especially more than once or twice.

Therefore, it’s important to me to spend a lot of time with the iTunes on Shuffle, and let it flow. Yesterday morning, as I wrapped up the yard work, and relaxed on the patio chair with a bottle of water, the tunes did flow: “Black Man’s Cry” (Fela Kuti & Ginger Baker), “Gypsy Woman” (Bruce’s version), “Don’t Go Away Mad” (Little Village)…

Then a soft acoustic tune came on – a rocking chair on a rural country porch kind of tune. I didn’t recognize it. And those are exactly the moments I look for: hearing something great in my collection, and having no idea who it is or where it came from. Turns out it was the Avett Brothers, and the song was the final track on their last full length album Emotionalism – “Hand-Me-Down Tune”.

Take a listen…

The Avett Brothers – “Hand-Me-Down Tune” (mp3) – from Emotionalism

September is a big month for the North Carolina-based Avett Brothers. Their latest full length, I and Love and You will come out on September 29th. During the month, starting Tuesday, they’ll release 13 video pieces on their web site – combining live footage, fan and band interviews – each of them dedicated to a a song on the new album.

Pre-order I and Love and You by clicking on the cover…

New Pete Droge: The Droge & Summers Blend

Pete Droge just added Volume One, a new EP by The Droge & Summers Blend, to his Puzzle Tree Online Store today. The EP is made up of 5 tracks, and you – the picky music consumer – have the option of paying what you want, a la Radiohead’s In Rainbows. I just picked up the digital download for the default price of $2.99, and they are well worth it. Head over to Pete’s store to listen to the tracks and download if you fancy. The EP is officially released later this month.

The Summers in The Droge & Summers Blend refers to Elaine Summers, a Seattle area musician and artist who shares the vocals with Pete. They recorded the songs on nearby Vashon Island.

I’ve been a fan of Pete’s since his debut, the Brendan O’Brien-produced Necktie Second, back in 1994. There’s just something about his vibe – relaxed, genuine, gentle – that has always sat quite well with me.

Here’s one of the tracks – a happy-go-lucky, summery kind of tune…

Listen: The Droge & Summers BlendTie the Knot (mp3)

Name Your Price at Pete’s Puzzle Tree Store.

Hello In There

I was eating dinner with my family earlier tonight at one of those Pay-$9.00-and-gorge yourself types of restaurants (rhymes with “Pete Potatoes”). Sitting in the booth behind me was an old gentleman – probably 80 or so. He sat there alone, eating his dinner. On my trips to the salad bar, and the soup bar, and the drink refills, and taking my 3 year old to the rest room (so she could tell me that she didn’t have to go) – on my way back from those trips – I’d see him. He’d look up my way with a vacant look in his eyes, and I’d purse my lips into a respectful smile and pass by. He didn’t look happy, nor did he look sad. Just – vacant. Expressionless. He was just having dinner.

It was late afternoon, and the hot desert sun was creeping down the western sky outside. The sunlight was beaming through a window, moving down on his booth, and the last time I passed him, the bright sun was shining directly into the old timer’s face like a spotlight. He sat there unfazed, finishing his meal.

For some reason, the image of the sun on the old man’s face made an imprint in me. I felt compassion for him. Not knowing a thing about him, I thought of the worse case scenarios – that here was an old man in the twilight of his life, eating alone on a Sunday night. Maybe he’d recently lost his wife. Maybe he was a sad and lonely man. Maybe the only human interaction he has left in his daily life is a dinner at a local restaurant. Maybe it would make his day if a random stranger approached him and said “How ya doing?”

I immediately thought of the John Prine song, “Hello In There”, this verse in particular:

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

All it takes is a hello. Taking a minute or two out of your life to look someone in the eye and let them know someone in this world cares.

So did I act on it? Of course not. We rarely do in this day and age, right? As we got up to leave, the old timer’s booth was empty, and an opportunity was lost. And I felt a tinge of shame. I still do tonight.

Maybe I read too much into it. Maybe he has a rich and fulfilling life. Or maybe he’d rather just be left alone. The frustrating thing for me is that I didn’t take the time to find out.

John Prine | Hello In There (mp3) – from John Prine

Ick’s Pick: Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day

Deer Tick is a band that I tracked down because of all the buzz – on the blogs, on Twitter, in the pages of Rolling Stone. I guess I assumed they’d be too “indie” for my tastes, but never judge a book by its cover. What I found instead is the best damn country album I’ve heard all year. No, not Country with a capital C, but country in a raw, dirty, gritty sense – stripped down and real.

The deal sealer for me is the raspy voice of one John Joseph McCauley III. Yeah, I’m a fan of the raspy voiced singers – the Bruces, the Prines, the Earles (and add to the list lately Mr. Ryan Bingham). So hearing a new band that plays with some kick and some twang, with a lead singer that’s anything but smooth & polished – but rough around the edges – that’s always what I’m happy to find.

McCauley and his band mates are only in their early 20’s – but the feel of their latest record, Born on Flag Day, sure doesn’t sound like it came from a bunch of guys fresh out of their teens.

With new music, you tend to have those “oh, this sounds like ___” moments – and this record certainly does have its derivative moments: “Houston, TX” has a bass line reminiscent of the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”. “Song About A Man” brings Dylan to mind. And the gorgeous 60’s style ballad “Stung” sounds like a country cousin of “You Belong To Me” – if the cousin drank whiskey and raised hell.

There are a lot of standout moments for me on this album…

The opener, and maybe the most “mainstream” of the songs, is “Easy”. Feedback gives way to a twangy guitar solo, the first verse, and lets loose with an explosive chorus: “And you don’t know how easy it is / No you don’t know how easy it is / You were never there/ No never there”.

The late night tavern feel of “Little White Lies” – starting off with a slow tempo, the lazy pedal steel, and launching into an uptempo stomper. Great harmonies by Liz Isenberg.

“Friday XIII”, a catchy shuffle of a tune with some great vocal tradeoffs between McCauley and Isenberg – that traditional banter a la classic Johnny and June Carter Cash. The effects on McCauley’s vocals make me visualize one of those classic old mics from the Elvis days. In fact, those vocal effects show up throughout the album. Sort of a distant echo.

“The Ghost” has one of the more classic country vibes. The rhythm and vocal delivery are punchy and fun. One of my favorites right now…

Hidden in the latter half of the last track, “Stung”, is an intimate, impromptu version of “Good Night Irene” (starting around the 6:00 mark). Beer cans are crackin’, rowdy friends are hollerin’… but the by end, everyone’s singing along, enjoying themselves – and McCauley has them right where he wants them. A lot like the album…

Hear: The Ghost (mp3)

Buy this album: Born On Flag Day

Randoms:

  • Deer Tick has has been covering John Prine’s “Unwed Fathers” (including this week’s stop in Phoenix, which I missed). And I hear they cover the Boss too.
  • I think I’ve nailed down McCauley’s voice: a mix between Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers and Serge Bielanko, (formerly) of Marah. Anyone?

Bruised Orange – Anger Management with John Prine

Some days are better than others. And when I find myself with my patience thinning (way too frequently as I get older, it seems), I always think of the chorus of this John Prine song…

You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
but it don’t do no good to get angry,
so help me I know

The sage advice of John Prine. What good does it really do to raise your voice? To pound your fist? To yell an expletive that your neighbors can probably hear from the street? With reality slapping you in the face every day – bills, a family to support, short tempered kids (where’d they get THAT from?), stupid drivers – well, it’s hard not to lose your cool.

And when I feel it coming on, I always try to take myself to this John Prine song..

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
wrapped up in a trap of your very own
chain of sorrow.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Put everything into perspective. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
Stay cool, peeps.

John PrineBruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow) [mp3]

From Bruised Orange

Take a look at this 1980 Soundstage special, with John driving around his hometown in Illinois, telling the story behind the song…

President Obama

What an amazing day. All of the majesty, symbolism, and History behind today’s inauguration of Barack Obama was nothing short of breathtaking. Thanks to ABCNews.com, I was able to catch the Oath and the speech at work. It’s a very large corporation, with layers of security, firewalls, web filtering software and the like, so I was happy to see that at least one web site’s streaming video of the ceremony was working.

I must say though, I wasn’t impressed that: a) there was no acknowledgment by the company, no communication to its thousands upon thousands of employees, that addressed the magnitude and significance of the day.; and b) there was absolutely no enthusiasm, chatter – no nothin’ – from my co-workers. Sure, the economy sucks, everyone has a job to do, work work work, focus focus focus, blah blah. But to go the entire day at work with no one (around me, at least) even opening their mouth to talk about this historic day? Well, I was a little disheartened and disappointed. I figured my enthusiasm for the day would be matched at least by some people. Maybe they were out there, but they sure weren’t verbal about it.

But let my rant end there, and let me sum up by saying how refreshing it will be to wake up tomorrow with President Obama at the helm. I’m proud of my country, and I have the utmost confidence that this President will be a great leader through these very tough times.

Old Crow Medicine ShowI Hear Them All (mp3)

Did anyone see Old Crow Medicine Show on Austin City Limits recently? Great set, and prompted me to dig out some of their stuff. This song is fitting for the moment, in my opinion.

I hear leaders quit their lying
I hear babies quit their crying.
I hear soldiers quit their dying, one and all.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

Buy:

The Olympic Symphonium

Gee, Your Olympic Symphonium Smells Terrific.

The Olympic Symphonium – More in Sorrow Than in Anger (Forward Music Group, 2008)

What is it about the great white north that fosters such beautiful, introspective and intimate music?  I suppose that I could make some crack about folks being locked up in their cabins for months on end, but in reality it’s more attributed to the fact that the Canadian government actually provides funding for the arts. Regardless, there is an abundance of wonderful music coming from our neighbors to the north and my most recent find is The Olympic Symphonium.

The trio of singer/songwriters share vocal duties with a roster of guest musicians filling in the blanks. Contemplative and complex the 10 tracks on More in Sorrow Than in Anger range from pop tinged twangy folk to heartfelt dirge. Where this record truly shines is when it’s pared down to the trio such as on “Malleable” where the intimacy abounds to the point where you can hear birds chirping in the background, the creak of a chair and the slight harmonic overtones of the guitar.

This is a perfect Sunday morning (or snowy afternoon) record. It stood up to many back to back repeat listens and did not for a moment lose its charm. Take a listen to the sunny “Intentions Alone” for a view into More in Sorrow Than in Anger.

The Olympic SymphoniumIntentions Alone (mp3)

Buy More in Sorrow Than in Anger: Amazon | iTunes

Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace

Blue Car

Everything about this song is just.. right. The cadence of Greg’s delivery. The lyrics. The electric guitar. The way the drums and the first line of the song introduce themselves together.

I think I need to buy all of Greg Brown’s albums, hop in the car, and drive around for a few weeks.

Greg BrownBlue Car (mp3)

Greg Brown’s Eugene

Boy, does this song hit me juust in the right place on so many levels. Greg’s low-down baritone narrative, and the purely American imagery his lyrics evoke, make me close my eyes, sit back, and just listen. The detailed vignettes he weaves together in this song are wildly entertaining, funny, thought provoking, and not without a hint of bittersweet sadness.

This song is about traveling this great country, and the freedom and independence a person can find in the outdoors. A song about fly fishing. A song about overcoming “the blandification of our whole situation.” A song about how “sometime you gottta go not look for nothin’.”

It’s a song that’s about going away from civilization and rediscovering this world, reminding yourself that when all the ugliness of mankind is stripped away, it’s a staggeringly beautiful world we live in.

It’s a song that makes me want to go back to the mountains of southwest Colorado and go fly fishing with my dad.

Greg BrownEugene (mp3)

Buy