Saturday, September 14, 2013

REVIEW: Belle Adair - The Brave And The Blue


Belle Adair is a Muscle Shoals, AL-based country rock band playing a sort of languid style with swirling keyboards and guitars, including some really nice pedal steel, and warm, understated vocals. There's a sense of that British Invasion-meets-Southern soul thing that made bands like Big Star, R.E.M. and A.M.-era Wilco so enjoyable, although these guys tend to feature a bit more in the way of instrumental detours and some other interesting touches like electric piano and muted horns here and there. But like those Southern forefathers, Belle Adair sure don't skimp on guitar jangle, and they sure don't skimp on gorgeous vocal harmonies. They just released a new album The Brave And The Blue, and this is the first song, "Losing My Train":



And here's a video of them playing "Happy to Pretend" from an appearance at the High Watt. I think this is a beautiful song, and I just love the way the guitars take flight for about the last 2:00 - I find the guitar style kind of distinctive. It's not exactly like the Allmans, not really Outlaws, Skynyrd or Crazy Horse... they just have their own sound and it's terrific:





Finally, check out "Comes a Time". To me, it's got the elements I mentioned above, but a gentler approach and a sort of Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb feel to it. The pedal steel, and lead vocal in this one are beautiful:




Alabama, you've got a lot of good rock bands. Keep 'em coming. This one is out now, and it's on Single Lock Records. Read more, or buy, at the links below.

Belle Adair website
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Single Lock Records

Review: Over the Rhine - "Meet Me at the Edge of the World"















Linford Detweiler recently told David Greene of NPR: "Somebody said that there are only three subjects available to the writer: God, love and death. And we try to write about all three."

Detweiler and his wife Karin Bergquist are Over the Rhine and they have been covering those topics in their music for two decades now. Meet Me at the Edge of the World is their 15th record and it's a career defining work - 2 CDs, 19 songs  - beautiful, deep , ambitious, and jaw dropping. With songs about, yes, God, love and death, and also marriage, and Ohio, and trees and sunsets, and finding one's place, and lust, and so much more, all with far more emotional depth than any listener will take in via a casual listen.

I could go on and on but let's listen to some songs from this great record.  Here's one of my favorites: "I'd Want You":
"Sacred Ground":

The record was produced by WYMA hero Joe Henry (his studio shown above in the "Sacred Ground" video) who lets Bergquist's gorgeous and nuanced vocals carry the songs. But like the lyrics and compositions themselves, the more you listen the more you uncover in the musical backing here, with Jay Bellerose's percussions (check out "Blue Jean Sky"), really fine bass playing by Jennifer Condos, and occasional additions of pedal steel from Eric Heywood, and other small flourishes, including backing vocals by Aimee Mann on the gray hypnotic "Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down".   

But the real instrument here is Bergquist's voice. She dives so deep into the song it's almost scary, mining every emotion out of each phrase, every observation, each feeling. And she effortlessly takes on different styles, with her phrasings and tone adjusted when she moves from the more folk singer-songwriter songs to the gospel of "Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body", the blues of "Baby If This Is Nowhere" or the quiet anthemic pop of the terrific title track "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" that opens the record. And nowhere do her vocals hit you in the gut more than on the one cover here, The Band's "It Makes No Difference". Her delivery of the line "I love you so much, it's all I can do" is absolutely heartbreakingly perfect.

But you can pick any one of the 19 songs here, dive in and find yourself uncovering layer after layer of beauty and emotional depth. The song that has me most hooked today is "All Of It was Music", which,  to give you an idea of level of writing here, concludes with these lyrics:

The holding on the letting go
It all get buried soft and low
Don’t ask me how but I still know
All of it was music
To those I’ve wronged, Please forgive me
I hope this song, helps you believe me
This world so full of joy and pain
Was more than one heart could contain
We let it spill and flood the plain
All of it was music     

This is an extraordinary record, the quality of work that one rarely finds unless they are digging back into their Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell records.

Over the Rhine is on tour now. Tour dates and more can be found at their web page:

Over the Rhine












Fred "Sonic" Smith

It is Saturday and time to "Kick out the Jams."  Fred "Sonic" Smith would have been 64 today.  Today he is primarily recognized as punk rock goddess and poet Patti Smith's late husband.  He is a product of a time when Detroit was on of the centers of the music universe - soul and rock,  Most remember Detroit as the home of Motown, but it was home to a vibrant rock scene - Grand Funk, The Stooges, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, The Rationals, ? Mark, Ted Nugent, and the MC5.

Sonic was a founder and lead guitarist for the MC5 - a band every bit as influential as Iggy Pop and The Stooges.   They hit the midwest rock scene in '68 with the apocryphal guitar rock statement:




After the breakup of the MC5, Fred continued to carry the banner of guitar rock when popular musical culture had moved on to disco and arena rock.  The Midwest remained a redoubt  of metal with Fred as one of the primary defenders. Enjoy another  from Fred and Sonic's Rendezvous Band.  The many could rock and play with the very best.



Here's a sonic rarity - Sonic and Patti Smith (pre marriage)from a 1977 Ann Arbor Concert.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New single from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard has released the second single from their upcoming album Fill Your Lungs (post for previous single here).  And what a glorious nugget of psychedelia the Australians has laid down for us.  Take "I'm Not A Man Unless I Had A Woman" for a test drive below.



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Randolf's Leap - Real Anymore


Real Anymore presents seven musically and thematically diverse tracks from the prolific Glasgow artists of Randolph's Leap.  Adam Ross' songs tackle love, humor, heartache, darkness, technology and the nature of being "twee", as well as the narrator's imagined stint as a telephone psychic.  The style is a classically Scottish folk/pop/indie rock amalgamation that, in the right hands, provides the listeners with a generous helping of textures and modes of expression.  And with Ross' songwriting and vocals, and the performing contributions of eight outstanding musicians, Randolph's Leap has the "right hands".

The arrangements range from bright and poppy to soft and melancholy, but are consistently melodic.  Opening track, "Conversation", begins proceedings on a soft note, featuring Adam's vocals and an acoustic guitar.  Then the band flexes its full instrumental muscle on the rousing title track --


And the video --


"Psychic" showcases Ross' wit as he discusses his launch of the remote psychic business after being turned down for a bank loan: "I don't believe in my psychic powers, but its hard to get by on six pounds an hour .... I'd rest on my laurels if I only had morals".

For me, Real Anymore displays a dedication to the craft of songwriting and the art of entertainment.  And those are very good reasons to pay attention to it.

Randolf's Leap are Adam Ross (guitar/vocals/songwriting), Gareth Robert Perrie (keyboards), Iain Taylor (drums), Vicki Cole (bass), Andrew MacLellan (cello), Heather Thikey (violin), Fraser Gibson (Trombone), and Ali Hendry (Trumpet).  Real Anymore is out now on Olive Grove Records as a CD or digital download.

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Friday Nuggets - The Other Half "Mr. Pharmacist"













This week's Nugget is a fairly obscure one from 1966 -- "Mr. Pharmacist", by The Other Half. The Other Half were from San Francisco. The band featured guitarist Randy Holden who left the band after one LP to join Blue Cheer.

This is a great garage rock track with all the winning elements - primitive sound, spontaneous feel, psychedelic guitar flourishes, tough vocals, and some rock'n'roll attitude.

Here you go:

The track had a second life in the 1980's when it was covered and released as a single by the great UK band The Fall. As you will hear, it is quite faithful to the original, except of course with those distinctive Mark E. Smith vocals:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

REVIEW: Tommy Keene - Excitement At Your Feet


Tommy Keene is a guitar rocker extraordinaire, and his best power pop is as good as that stuff gets. His latest album, Excitement At Your Feet, consists of covers, some well-known, some that would considered "obscurities" by most rock fans, but all of them just fantastic. In fact, this might be the best album I've heard in 2013 -- and I've heard a lot. From the outset, where The Flamin' Groovies "Have You Seen My Baby?" is interpreted as one of the best barroom rock-outs you will hear this year, it's off to the races.



Of particular note is the drumming of Rob Brill, whose work on that song, as well as "Choking Tara" and especially "Out of the Blue" help transform them into something that, while certainly indebted to the originals, is in a way, more powerful. Keene recorded most of the album himself, but apparently the drums were done at Ardent Studios... like so many other great things.

Here's "Choking Tara" - you could damn near overdose on the guitar jangle:



And here's what has turned out to be my favorite, a straight-ahead guitar rock take on Roxy Music's "Out of the Blue" - a great song, and this is one of those covers that made me go back and "reappreciate" what has always been one of my favorite Roxy Music songs. The drumming, especially, is spectacular, and the guitars just soaring:



There are a few slower, frankly very pretty cuts: Donovan's "Catch The Wind" features some tasteful acoustic guitar with Keene's vulnerable vocal, and a piano-based version of the Bee Gee's "I Laugh In Your Face" is a majestic power ballad based on an early Beatles-inspired bit of psychedelic folk rock from the Brothers Gibb. And his take on Big Star's "Nighttime" is right on - capturing the pathos inherent in the Big Star story that's been rehashed so much this year.

Here's the tracklist:

1. Have You Seen My Baby? - The Flamin’ Groovies
2. The Puppet - Echo & The Bunnymen
3. Much Too Much - The Who
4. I Laugh In Your Face - The Bee Gees
5. Let Me Dream If I Want To - Mink DeVille
6. Catch The Wind - Donovan
7. Guiding Light - Television
8. Ride On Baby - The Rolling Stones
9. Choking Tara - Guided By Voices
10. Nighttime - Big Star
11. Out Of The Blue - Roxy Music

As they say, not a speck of cereal. Before I popped the disc in, I knew Keene covering Roxy Music was going to be something special. He has impeccable songwriting chops, and even though this is a covers album, his creativity and songcraft are fully evident. There's a reason Robert Pollard was willing to take his name on the Keene Brothers record, isn't there? But on Excitement At Your Feet, I think it is possible that his taste in songs is even better.

This is a guitar rock fan's dream come true. It's got Who and Stones cuts that are just old enough that I welcome an update. It features down-and-dirty rock anthems by The Flamin' Groovies and Mink DeVille. And I haven't even mentioned how good the Echo & The Bunnymen cover is. And Television's "Guiding Light"! Swirling, whirling oceans of guitar jangle, perfect pacing and a vocal that is just different enough from Verlaine's to make you reconsider this great song a bit. You know how good this record is? While I'm listening to it (the Roxy and GbV cuts in particular), I don't want to listen to anything else.

Tommy Keene website
Second Motion Records

Tangerine - Radical Blossom


Call me a softie, but I like music that provides a soundtrack to fall in love and be in love.  As long as I'm making a wish list, it should have great female lead vocals.  And if some tunes display a sense of humor such as, for example, a song about a leaking nuclear waste tank at the Hanford site in Washington, all the better.  Special bonus points are awarded if it is a Seattle-area band.  But does such music even exist?  Why yes -- yes it does.  We present to you the Radical Blossom EP from Seattle four-piece Tangerine.  Consisting of sisters Miro (drums/vocals) and Marika Justad (vocals/guitar/keys), and non-sisters Ryan (bass/vocals) and Toby (guitar/vocals), the band provides guitar pop with a clear debt to '60s music.  But the guitars and fuzz and crunch in very satisfying fashion and there is a cleverness and modern sensibility to the songs that brings it all up do date.

Radical Blossom is comprised of four-tracks.  Lead song "Feel This Way" should be on everyone's summer jam.  Marika's sweet vocals state her case for some lucky guy to feel about her as she feels about him.  But it is done in a breezy manner that allows the upbeat arrangement to shine beyond the plaintive theme.  You can stream it below, or hear it while watching the video of summer in Seattle.





"Hanford Riviera" is the aforementioned track regarding the leaking waste tank, but in true indie pop fashion the arrangement is so poppy that you won't recognize the subject unless you pay attention to the lyrics.  While I love the harder-edged closing track, "Runner", "Mars" is the other track on the EP that I would nominate as a standout.  Featuring a swinging retro-vocals and some excellent and varied guitar riffs, the track builds from a simple opening to the kind of pop song that has everyone jockeying to dance with "the one" at the end of the party.


Radical Blossom is available now from Tacoma, Washington's Swoon Records (see the links below).  Swoon also has an earlier Tangerine EP available.

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Introducing: Jungle


Jungle is a UK electronic collective that I think deserves your ears, and perhaps a bit of your filthy lucre.  Their next track is "Heat", which will be released by Chess Club Records on October 21.  It is a very well constructed track with a irresistible groove.  Stream it below and mark your calendars.  UK and European fans will be able to purchase the 7" including "Heat" and "Lucky I Got What I Want" from Rough Trade.  US fans should use this link for for a four-track EP which will including both of those tracks and the double A-side "Platoon/Drops" which was released in the spring.




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Mollusk Jamboree - A Reverberation Radio Special Edition


It's Big Sur party time with the Allah-Las and friends at the Mollusk Jamboree on September 27 and September 28.  Get your tickets now.  Pack up the VW, camp or get a cabin, and brink your favorite ingestibles to the Fernwood Resort on the banks of the Big Sur River. Check out Fernwood Resort.  Camping with dignity with a side dish of eclectic.  Check out the  lineup on this weeks edition of Reverberation Radio.



 Sandy’s - Lonely Hunter
2. Sonny & The Sunsets - Path Of Orbit
3. Beachwood Sparks - Surfing Saints
4. Allah-Las - Every Girl
5. Tomorrows Tulips - Free
6. Chris Cohen - Monad
7. Cass Mccombs - Morning Star
8. Birds of America - Nitewalker
9. The Mattson 2 - Spaceman 2
10. Farmer Dave Scher - You Pick Me Up



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bushwalking - No Enter


Bushwalking expresses itself in melodic pop songs, atmospheric drones and surging, throbbing, minimalist post-punk, sometimes mixing two or more elements in the same song.  The result in No Enter, the band's sophomore LP, is catchy, hypnotic and invariably exciting.  And, to the credit of the band, it certainly isn't like any other pop album you'll hear this year.  My impression also is that it is a brave effort, as the band seems unconstrained by any notion of providing songs with radio-friendly templates or singular musical themes.  Instead we are treated to alternating and overlapping layers and surging changes in atmosphere.  Perhaps, emotionally, it is a bit like walking through the bush.

Ela Stiles of the Sydney band Songs originally conceived of Bushwalking as her solo project.  But after hearing the contributions of two musicians she brought in to help record the songs, Nisa Venerosa of Fabulous Diamonds and Karl Scullin of Kes Band, she pronounced it a trio.  Their debut LP, First Time, was released in 2012, and was well received.  No Enter is a bigger, harder statement from the band.  The album begins with the pop tune, "No Men", which would be a tease in light of the following tracks if it weren't such a fine song on its own.  Track two, "The Grey Area" takes us into what I call the Bushwalking zone.  Warpaint-like vocals and soaring harmonies duel with throbbing bass and grinding guitar while martial drums pound out a foundation.  The Bushwalking zone encompasses tracks two through eight, all of them with a distinct personality, and distinctly delicious.  Two of them, "High Hogs" and the title track are provided below.  The final track is the measured melancholy of "Always Here".  Reminiscent of an old folk song, it features lovely background vocals winding around Ela's aching lead.

This is one of those albums you will seen on year end lists.  Check it out now so you aren't slapping your forehead in December saying "oh yeah, now I remember ... ."





Live performance of the title track --



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Return of The Flatmates


Bristol's The Flatmates were, in my opinion, one of the better C86-era bands.  I wrote about them once before in a post about jangle pop bands (here), but assumed that their days as an active band were long past.  To my surprise and joy, The Flatmates are issuing their first new music in over two decades.  Consisting of two of the original band and three new members, the group has recorded the two-track You Held My Heart via Archdeacon Of Pop Records.  And the new songs sound the way that the fans of the band would want them to sound -- driving, fuzzy guitars, hare-hitting percussion and female lead vocals.  Euphoric, fast-paced jangle pop, just the way we like it.

You can stream the record below.  Interested US fans should hit the Jigsaw Records link below to buy the record.  UK fans can hit the Bandcamp link.



The Flatmates' current line-up is Martin Whitehead, Lisa Bouvier, Rocker, Verity Longley, and Brian Price.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

REVIEW: Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister


This will be a short review. I love this album - really, everything about this band's sound. WYMA has been fortunate to receive two advance singles, so you are welcome to read my previous ravings here and here. Joanna Gruesome is a Welsh band that calls to mind such greats of guitar rock as Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, The Breeders and, to my mind, The Lemonheads (especially when Dando brought Juliana Hatfield in to sing some).

In short, it's an explosion of glorious noise - fast drumming/bass work, layer upon layer of guitar, with plenty of feedback, and female vocal harmonies that are positively luminescent. I take it the subject matter is dark - the band describes it as such, and titles such as opening cut "Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers" would seem to bear that out. The band claims to have written a lot of the album "during a month long stay in a seedy west Brighton hotel (now closed down) called The Hell House... many of the songs were written to distract from the weirdness." This tells me something about the band's talent, because this stuff is really kind of glorious.

Here's "Secret Surprise":



And here's "Sugar Crush":



If you like fast, thrilling, noisy rock music with generous slabs of guitar, offset by male/female harmony vocals that are, at times, almost angelic, this is for you. It's a fantastic ride.

See? I told you it would be a short review.

Joanna Gruesome at Slumberland Records
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REVIEW: Terry Malts - Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere


Well, school is back in session.  High school students can choose among college prep offerings.  College students pick some courses for their major, some for other requirements, and some to make sure the GPA is padded and Fridays are free from classes.  Young garage bands can take classes as well.  And those that took Killing Time (listed as Advanced Garage Rock - 301 in your course book) in 2012 can sign up for the graduate-level Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere (Garage Rock for the Charts - 401).  Instruction is once again provided by Terry Malts, with course materials provided via Slumberland Records.

You know what you are getting with Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere from the opening track.  The songs come hard and fast, with chainsaw guitars, aggressive bass and pounding drums.  The hooks and power pop melodies intertwine with the fuzz, and propulsive rhythms.  However, to my ears there is a bit more variety in this outing, with the softer "Comfortably Dumb" offset by the hardcore of "Life's A Dream".

With Terry Malts, the genius is in choosing a few elements, and then doing well.  I would suggest that they have a similar approach to The Jesus and Mary Chain, but while the Reid brothers worked their elements at the shoegaze/dream pop end of the spectrum, Terry Malts stays in the garage.  In case you are on the fence, here are two examples of the scholarship of Terry Malts.  Young garage bands should study the materials well; the rest of us will audit for enjoyment.





Terry Malts is Phil Benson (bass/vocals), Corey Cunningham (guitar/vocals), and Nathan Sweatt (drums).  The album is out now via Slumberland Records.

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Update: MusicfestNW Finale (Neko Case)













MusicfestNW wrapped up Sunday with a big show at Pioneer Square, an outdoor plaza in the heart of downtown, where Neko Case worked her magic in front of a very large crowd, playing songs from all phases of her career, but mainly her brand new CD, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight , The More I Love You.

It says a lot about both Case's standing with her peers and her own ego that she could assemble such an all-star band that including two prominent artists in their own right, Kelly Hogan on backing vocals and Eric Bachman on guitar (Crooked Fingers, Archers of Loaf). Case and Hogan's vocals harmonies were exquisite and their stage banter hilarious.  It was a smart, adept, wildly entertaining show.

One the show highlights was the song "Man" from the new record, performed here with her current band very recently on the Jimmy Fallon show.



Case's band goes wherever she needs them to, from rock to art pop to alt-country to classic ballads. New drummer Dan Hunt from Portland held it all together very well and is a good addition to her band.

Neko Case and band are on tour through the end of this year throughout the US and Europe, shows and links to buy tickets here.  Highly recommended.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NEW SONGS: Pete Van Dyk and the Second Hand Band - "Shake Me" 3-song 7" (Free download)


Pete Van Dyk and the Second Hand Band is a blues-based garage rock outfit from Burlington, Ontario. We've featured them before (WYMA post here), and we still find the same things to like about their sound - only this time, more songs and a second lead vocalist show a bit more range. The band is Scott Carruthers on drums and vocals, Pete Van Dyk on vocals and guitar, J.D. Norwood on bass and vocals and Ed Van Dyk on lead guitar. On the first track, Pete's guttural howl delivers the vocals, and Ed plays a strong lead and a scorching solo over the last minute or so.



"Plan B" is a bit more urgent, and British Invasion/punk-oriented, and features Carruthers on vocals:




"To The Night" is Van Dyk on lead vocal again, and it's a Stonesy bit of blues rock with some country touches and some really good lead guitar work:



You can download it free, or buy a 7" at their website.

Pete Van Dyk website
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"Don't Do That To Yourself" by Darren Sylvester


As the days tick off before the release of Darren Sylvester's Off By Heart, Chapter Music offers us another appetizer in the form of "Don't Do That To Yourself".  Masterfully playing the glossy pop arrangement off against the melancholy lyrics, it is another reminder of why the album is eagerly anticipated.  To my ears there is a bit of the great Lloyd Cole in the vocals, which makes me even happier.



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The Bats Pajamas - Just Ripe EP


Toronto's The Bats Pajamas have released a five-track, goth-tinged garage rock nugget for our enjoyment.  Some days my task might be to tell you why this record is worth a bit of your money.  But the thoughtful young men of The Bats Pajamas have made my job easier by making the EP available for a free download.  So these meaty chunks of lower-register guitars and enthusiastic choruses on the Just Ripe EP cost no more than the effort to download.  I think all of you can handle that.

Take a trip to the haunted garage.  David, Jesse, Guy and John are waiting for you.





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Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Molokai" from The Ancients


Melbourne's band The Ancients will release their psychedelic pop statement Night Bus in October via Chapter Music.  But I don't need to wait until October to know that I'll want it.  For my ears, all it took was one listen to the first single, "Molokai".  A sprawling testament to the band's command of the pop vocabulary and inspired songwriting, it promises very good things indeed.  If you'd like to own the single, one Australian dollar earns the download here.



The Ancients are Jon, Georgie, Julian, and Hamish.  And for Molokai they are joined by Yuko Kono of the Japanese group My Pal Foot Foot.




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REVIEW: Lonnie Holley - Keeping A Record Of It


Lonnie Holley is an Alabama-based singer and artist with an approach that is, to say the least, unique. It's unconventional for sure. The songs move slowly - there's some call/response type repetition, but he's just as likely to ramble through a story, a line at a time in his powerful voice - it's got a sort of strangled, twisted beauty that sustains interest regardless of song structure. Mostly he's accompanied by fairly simple instrumentation -- in addition to subtle keyboards and percussion, there are found sounds that, in a way, mimic his artistic approach.

It reminds me of Sun Ra, George Clinton's "Maggot Brain" ("Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time"...) and Gil Scott Heron's spoken word work, but again, it's unique. Here's a terrific song "From The Other Side of the Pulpit":



On this album he is accompanied by Deerhunter/Atlas Sound's Bradford Cox and The Black Lips' Cole Alexander, and a good bit of the recording was done with them in Atlanta. It's a good combination, a bit reminiscent of when outsider artist Howard Finster used to supply album art to R.E.M. and The Talking Heads - one generation connecting with another, bridging the gap through shared interest in how to use art to explain the world.

Here's a teaser video:



And here's a video for "Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants":



Here's Lonnie's statement about the record:

Where does a bird go in the midst of a storm? I ask that because of my life and how I had to live - what I went through before being an artist. I believe I was chosen to be an artist because I can take my life and tell somebody else about it. But where does a bird go in the midst of a storm? What happened to my mind during the time I was unconscious for three and a half months as a child?

I remember when we used to go to church they had testimony time -- time to testify, time to tell the congregation what you had been through. You all are the congregation to me, y'all is the church. My whole life is my testimony, as are the works you've seen and heard and the works I'm continuing to do because I can't stop.

I can't stop, I can't cut my mind off. I can't walk away from what I do without worrying about it. I appreciate my talent and my skill. Some things I look back on make me get kind of moody and I cry a little bit and it makes me sad all over again. But I make art and I made this record because I think it's important. It's important for me to keep a record of my life.


I'm pretty sure that's what he means by "the other side of the pulpit" - life as testimony. This is haunting stuff.

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