Saturday, October 19, 2013

REVIEW: Mirror Travel - Mexico

Mirror Travel is an Austin-based guitar rock trio: Tiffanie Lanmon (drums), Paul Brinkley (bass/vocals) and Lauren Green (guitar/vocals). They're playing a warm, intriguing style of music - it seems to inhabit the place where classic indie guitar rock and dream pop might intersect.

They've got the total package. To start with the foundation, Lanmon's a great drummer, able to vary tempos with impressive agility. This sets the stage for Brinkley and Green's vocals, bass and guitars to play in all kinds of settings and speeds. The dominant theme is tension/release on the guitars with dreamlike, reverb-laden vocals. Breeders and Pixies comparisons wouldn't be out of place, nor would comparisons to more "shoegaze"-leaning guitar rock acts like Swervedriver and Galaxie 500. And the reverb adds an element of surf-rock to some of the songs.

Check out the advance track, "Mexico":

And "I Want You To Know" - a much faster pace on this one, with kind of an uptempo motorik beat:

Like most very good bands, they've come together through a variety of experiences (band name changes, label problems, touring with name-brand artists like Trail of Dead and Bill Callahan) to make a sound that is intriguingly their own.

Check out the slowed-down, heavy guitar/bass dominated "Stoner" at Soundcloud. It gets almost heavy-metal in places. Here's a live video - you may want to adjust the bass on your EQ:

This is a great driving record - likely in part due to its recording in the West Texas wastelands, where the horizon can go on forever... Mexico is out October 15th, 2013 on Modern Outsider Records. It's highly recommended.

Mirror Travel website
Modern Outsider Records

"Mars" video from Tangerine

Tangerine certainly is on my short list of bands from Seattle who have the stuff to break out from the pack.  Of course, nothing is certain in this business.  But writing good songs, having great vocals and excellent musical performances go a long way.  Looking good isn't a liability either.  The music doesn't follow a rigid template, but the discerning listener will note some classic pop/rock influences and a delicious dose of girl groups.  We reviewed their recent Radical Blossom EP (here), and I think it is one of the top ten EPs I've heard this year.  They just released a video for track 3, "Mars", focusing on the recording of the song.

Tangerine are sisters Miro (drums/vocals) and Marika Justad (vocals/guitar/keys), and Ryan (bass/vocals) and Toby (guitar/vocals).


"An Exploded View" by Sea Pinks

We featured Neil Brogan's band, Sea Pinks, earlier this year (here).  Their brand of urgent, jangling guitar pop is one of my favorite sounds in popular music.  And Sea Pinks does it very, very well.  The Northern Ireland band is releasing a double A-side "Exploded View" / "Magpies Eyes" on November 5 via CF Records.  The release is limited to 100 records, and includes a digital download of both tracks plus two new tracks.  "Exploded View" also can be purchase digitally now at the Bandcamp link below.

Neil Brogan was the drummer for Girls Names for their first two albums, but I believe he has resigned to concentrate on Sea Pinks.

Link for pre-orders

Friday, October 18, 2013

REVIEW: Boys Age - The Tale of Roan Horses

On their home page, Boys Age (Japanese dream pop artists Kaznary Mutow and Takamasa Kobayashi - Kaz and John for short) call themselves "sons of Yo La Tengo in Japan". I love that description and wholeheartedly endorse it as a good encapsulation of their approach (and their appeal). Now, in an earlier post, I described them as perhaps an example of a place where Syd Barrett, Phil Spector and Willy Wonka would have met to make music. On their latest album, The Tale of Roan Horses, I'd probably omit the Spector reference, but maybe add in Fleetwood Mac or ELO - purveyors of unabashed, all-in pop hooks. Boys Age has gone for a somewhat more tempered, muted approach on this one, but it works too. Mutow's vocals are soft and sort of without affect, and the guitars are slow, sad and wonderful. In these ways, the comparison to Yo La Tengo holds up.

Check out "Soo Coo" (feat. Annie the Clumsy, whoever she is) - the 70's folk-rock guitar hook is a perfect lead-in to a strange and wonderful instrumental approach behind Mutow's "what the heck is he saying?" vocals:

Love that guitar solo about halfway through.

And here's "Nevermore This Road Would Continues to That Town" - even the translations are sort of charming:

And "Marching Summer" - a little more upbeat, almost poppy:

I freely admit that this stuff isn't for everyone, but if you like psychedelic, lo-fi outsider indie rock, noodling and weird inspirations (they have a Sun Ra cover, which they've made available as a free download, for goodness' sake), this is well worth a listen.

Their earlier release was on Gnar Tapes and Burger Records. I'm not sure if this one is, but you can read more and buy it from the band - read more at the links.

Boys Age Website


Wednesday's sonic treat from Reverberation Radio, brought to you on Friday. This week is a time warp back to the 60's and very early '70's starting with the '72 release from Belgian psychedelic popsters, The Fops. The West Coast Consortium follows with late 60's British psychedelic Four Seasons/Beach boys harmonies.

Twang guitar hero Duane Eddy's '67 Japan-only release of instrumental mellow surf music leads into an early 70's psych folk duo (means electric instead of acoustic guitar) with bizarre vibrato. A Hawaiian pastiche by The Kinks from 1966's Face to Face, their fourth studio album. Gal Costa is a Brazilian chanteuse and pop icon.

"Dragonfly" is a song written by Danny Kirwan with lyrics taken from a poem by Welsh poet W. H. Davies originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1970. It became the first UK single released by the band after the departure of their frontman Peter Green. It was also their first single with Christine McVie (nee Perfect) as a full member of the group.

"Backstreet Girl" is a Rolling Stones song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It first appeared on the UK version of their 1967 album Between the Buttons but was not included on the US version. It was first released in the US on the 1967 album Flowers. The song showcases Brian Jones, playing organ and glockenspiel and Rolling Stones contributor Jack Nitzsche on the harpsichord.

We close with Joe South - writer of Deep Purple's "Hush" and Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks", and his '68 Grammy award winning "Games People Play". Townes Van Zandt is a great coda to any playlist.

Click on the links in the playlist if you want to know more about any of the artists.

1. The Tops - I Found You
2. West Coast Consortium - Listen to The Man
3. Duane Eddy - Monsoon
4. Cooley & Munson - Slightly Sue
5. The Kinks - Holiday In Waikiki
6. Gal Costa - Tuareg
7. Fleetwood Mac - Dragonfly
8. The Rolling Stones - Back Street Girl
9. Chico Hamilton - Conquistadors
10. Joe South - Games People Play
11. Townes Van Zandt - Be Here To Love Me

"Help You Be Yourself" by The Good Morrows

Hey everybody, The Good Morrows are back with a new, free song!  Oh, you don't know about The Good Morrows?  Well, you should, so I'll take on the task.  The members of the band are Jarred Scopel (guitar/vocals), Andrew Plisi (guitar/vocals), Liam Skoblar (drums), Steve Acott (bass), and Tim Bass (harmonica/tambourine), and they hail from Melbourne.  In our eyes, their most attractive characteristic is that they play a very tasty '60s-influenced garage and psychedelic guitar pop.  Their secondary attractive characteristic is that they make this music available for free download.  I've embedded their excellent new release, "Help You Be Yourself", below.  I've also included a two track release from earlier this year.  These songs, and others, are available the the Bandcamp and Soundcloud links below.  So please listen and consider adding them to your collection of garage rock.  You do have a collection of garage rock, don't you? No matter - if you don't you can start here.


Friday Nuggets: "Green Fuzz"

Randy Alvey and the Green Fuz were from Bridgeport TX. They recorded one song "Green Fuzz" in 1969 that was released locally. Somehow, much later it became a cult classic for its primitive sound. "Green Fuzz" was included on the influential compilation of '60 garage songs, Pebbles. It was also covered by The Cramps and The Lemonheads. Collectors then went scrambling for the obscure original by Randy Alvey and the Green Fuz. Listen to it: 

Here's The Cramps version from 1981, it being obvious how much this one song influenced the entire Cramps sound:

The Lemonheads version slows things down and cleans up the sound considerably, which to my ears completely misses the point, but maybe one of you will enjoy this nonetheless:

The Green Fuz reunited and played a few shows in 2008.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

REVIEW: Boardwalk - Boardwalk

LA-based Boardwalk has a great sound - it's a nice mixture of the shoegaze-inspired guitar rock sounds of Mike Edge, and Amber Quintero's sweet vocals. He skirts the edge of surf guitar with plenty of reverb, while she begins most of her vocal lines with a deep, almost heart-rending sigh. It's quite striking, yet at the same time very subdued. The name of the record, the time of year, and the reverb-soaked guitar - all fit in perfectly with the idea of an early fall walk by the ocean. And the waves of sound slowly wash ashore...

We've already written about them three times - and shared two advance tracks off the album, most recently here.

Here's a third track, "Crying" - with a chorus as sweet and sad as anything you'll hear this year. The harmony vocals are breathtaking:

Edge and Quintero met about a year ago, found instant chemistry together, and spent the intervening time putting together this record. He's the production genius, and to me his greatest triumph is building a sound that fits with and supports, yet never overwhelms, her dreamlike vocals - check out the cascading guitar lines over the last minute of "It's Over" or the fuzzy guitar lines overlaid with keyboards on "Some Things". There are a variety of treated guitar sounds, synths and a superb, understated rhythm section. This is a wonderful record, and we have the great folks at Stones Throw to thank.

Boardwalk at Stones Throw

"The Urge" by Surf Bored

My admiration for the quality of music released by Atlanta label This Is American Music is well known around here.  I expect that at the end of the year several of their releases will grace my most recommended albums list, and I'm always eager to listen to their next offering.  One of the bands working with TIAM is Surf Bored (no, that isn't a typo), an Athens, Georgia band comprised of four musicians who also play in other bands.  Their debut offering is "The Urge", and it is available as a free download.  The song is features ringing, crunching guitars and a nice, hook-filled melody that may make you nostalgic for the waning days of summer.  My understanding is that Surf Bored plans a few more song releases and then a debut album in 2014.  We're looking forward to it.

Surf Bored members are Jack Blauvelt (drums and guitar; from Dana Swimmer), John Riccetelli (guitar; from Dana Swimmer), Nick Carroll (bass; from The Woodgrains), and T.J. Mimbs (guitar and drums; from The District Attorneys).  All four members provide vocals.

This Is American Music

Mathew Sawyer - Sleep Dreamt A Brother

If records were priced according to emotional and atmospheric weight, Mathew Sawyer's Sleep Dreamt A Brother would be very expensive.  Equally rich and mournful in tone, the themes dwell on death and the connection between life and death.  The title refers to Greek mythology, in which Sleep and Death are brothers.  Sawyer, a noted painter, created the cover art, which depicts Sleep dreaming his brother Death into being.  Armed only with his voice, piano, acoustic guitar, some unworldly special effects and a few additional contributing instruments on certain tracks, Sawyer has created an expressive, layered and emotionally complex musical painting.

While wearing a certain fragility on their wispy sleeves, the songs still convey a palpable sense of bravery and vitality in the face of Death's smile.  And for me, that is what makes this collection of songs a quiet gem that has become my evening album this month.  I am not, by habit, a quiet music guy.  But right now this album has me at its mercy.

Mathew Sawyer has released music with a band under the names Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts and The Ghosts.  Sleep Dreamt A Brother is a solo album, but Sawyer received contributions from Vasso Ana, Alison Cotton, Theo Hall, and Steve Dore.

Sleep Dreamt A Brother is out now on Fire Records.

Fire Records link for album

Update: Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires

WYMA has been all in for Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires from the get go. We raved about their debut CD There Is A Bomb In Gilead when it came out and it cleaned up on our Best of 2012 year end lists (John's too - here).

Now the Birmingham, Alabama band has left its native South for a major tour. I saw them in Portland this week and was floored by how great it was. The set consisted of almost all brand new songs from an upcoming release they just finished recording in Nashville. It had a much harder edge and they tore through the songs with abandon. It took me back to the glory days of Jason and the Scorchers and that's about the highest praise I can grant a live show.

Here's a peek of the kind of night it was:
You need to see Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires on this tour if you live within striking distance of any of the following cities: Thursday, October 17 – Seattle, WA – Sunset* Friday, October 18 – Missoula, MT – The Palace* Saturday, October 19 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court* Sunday, October 20 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge* Monday, October 21 – Wichita, KS – Barleycorn’s* Tuesday, October 22 – Oklahoma City, OK – Conservatory* Wednesday, October 23 – Dallas, TX – Live Oak* Thursday, October 24 – Austin, TX – Holy Mountain* Friday, October 25 – Houston, TX – Rudyard’s* Saturday, October 26 – Baton Rouge, LA – Chelsea’s* Wednesday, November 6th – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle+ Thursday, November 7th – Knoxville, TN – Pilot Light+ Saturday, November 9th – Whitesburg, KY – The Summit Monday, November 11th – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge w/ Wyldlife, The Brooklyn What Thursday, November 14th – Birmingham, AL – Bottletree+ Friday, November 15th – Nashville, TN – Stone Fox+ Saturday, November 16th – Chattanooga, TN – Sluggo’s+ Artist web page

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Dissolved" by Love Migrate

On November 1, Flightless (a label run by members of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard) will be releasing an EP titled Dissolved from Melbourne' Love Migrate.  The band's gentle, engaging and introspective brand of pop music should be better known.  You can start now with the title track for the EP, which in my opinion is a very beautiful song.

Love Migrate is Eddie Alexander, Casey Harnett, Eric Moore, Pete Sismanes, and Joe Walker.  I have included a link to the Bandcamp page for their 2012 album for your further consideration.

Bandcamp for 2012 album
Flightless Records
Flightlesss Records on Facebook

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Lucky I Got What I Want" from Jungle

We introduced London-based project Jungle here about a month ago (here, with order information), and noted that another of the tracks on their upcoming EP is "Lucky I Got What I Want".  Lucky for me, I got what I want - an embed of the song.  Here it is --


Review: Casey Neill and the Norway Rats - All You Pretty Vandals

Casey Neill (facing camera) and the Norway Rats 
It was hardly random that the subject of the first article I wrote for this blog was Casey Neill. What I admired most about this blog was its commitment to shine a light on high quality music, especially when it might be flying under the radar.  And no artist fits that bill more squarely for me than Portland's Casey Neill. His songs are perfectly structured, the lyrics terrific, with strong performances, backed by a tremendous rock and roll band.

Neill believes in the power of rock and roll and wears his heart on his sleeve, in keeping with his own blue collar work ethic. Neill stands proudly on the shoulders of his heroes Springsteen and Strummer. There is no band on the planet I'd rather see on a Friday night after a tough week in the office than Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. They've picked me up and dusted me off more times than I care to count.

All You Pretty Vandals was years in the making, the songs here taking shape in Neill's frequent club performances in Portland and throughout the West and occasionally beyond. Neill isn't in a position where some major label writes him a fat six figure check so he can take his time in the studio. No, bands like Casey Neill and the Norway Rats scrap and claw, get the music ready and then make the most of their limited studio time, in this case at Portland's highly regarded Type Foundry, with Chris Funk of the Decemberists (and Casey Neill's wonderful Pogues tribute band KMRIA) producing.

On the title track, Neill unleashes his anger at the Wall Street barons who sank this country while lining their pockets:

One of the standout tracks is "My Little Dark Rose" about the rough underside of Portland, the part you don't see on Portlandia or read about in the New York Times' frequent articles about the trendy foodie/creative class culture here:

This band is outstanding, a bit of a Portland all-star ensemble. All You Pretty Vandals has a grit and toughness from Neill's songs but also Chet Lyster's excellent guitar work. Lyster (a longtime touring member of the Eels, and more recently Lucinda Williams' band) knows how to use space and timing, when to dial it up and when to more subtly add just a little flourish at the right moment. Jenny Conlee's (from the Decemberists) accordian, organs and pianos are perfect. The rhythm section of bass player Jesse Emerson (Amelia) and drummer John Moen (Perhapst, Decemberists, Boston Spaceships, Elliott Smith) are in the pocket and also adding to the toughness and immediacy of the sound here.  Various others are called on to add just the right touches, including Langhorne Slim, Lisa Molinaro, Redray Frazier, Scott McCaughey, Chris Funk, and The Portland Horns.

I tend to gravitate first to Neill's rock songs. My favorites here are back to back in slots 3 and 4, "She Came Alive" and "In With A Shout". "She Came Alive" leaps out the speakers, picking up steam until it feels like a full on rumble, the words and music tumbling out at breakneck speed, controlled mayhem like a rugby scrum. If Husker Du reunited and made a great new single for 2013, it might sound like this.  Then, shifting gears, comes a brooding and hard slow burner, "In With A Shout", in sound a bit of a departure for Neill, especially its climatic conclusion with a great violin part by Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie).

But like any Irish-American worth his salt, Neill has a sentimental side and the ballads are just as affecting. I particularly like two beautiful ones here, "The Dark Divide", prominently featuring backing vocals from Luzelina Mendoza from Y La Bamba, and the closing song "Arden Eden" (starts with the great line, "Her accent comes back when she drinks").

Every song here has a different feel and is fully realized. A couple of mid-tempo songs here, "Vanish Away" and "Signal Reach" would have held their own on Automatic for the People.

Elven songs, every one of them memorable, All You Pretty Vandals is one of the best CDs I've heard this year. Casey Neill is a smart songwriter and has surrounded himself with very talented musicians. But above all that, Casey Neill brings passion to every note he sings, every line he writes.

The record will be released on November 12 but is available now at their live shows. You need to see Casey Neill and the Norway Rats when they make a rare full band tour across the US starting right now:    

  Oct 17 Lee's Liquor Lounge Minneapolis, MN
  Oct 18 Vaudeville Mews Des Moines, IA
  Oct 19 Kiki's House of Righteous Music Madison, WI
  Oct 20 Rozz Tox Rock Island, IL
  Oct 22 Red Line Tap Chicago, IL
  Oct 23 Foam St Louis, MO
  Oct 24 Kirby's Wichita, KS
  Oct 25 Lucky's Everyday Wichita, KS
  Oct 28 The Crux Boise, ID Free RSVP
  Nov 02 Arcata Playhouse Arcata, CA
  Nov 07 Triple Door w/ Wesley Stace  Seattle, WA
  Nov 13 Old Saint Francis School Bend, OR
  Nov 15 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR
  Nov 16 sam bonds garage Eugene, OR
  Nov 20 The Saint Asbury Park, NJ
  Nov 21 Bowery Electric New York, NY
  Nov 23 Johnny Ds Boston, MA

Casey Neill artist web page  
Casey Neill and the Norway Rats Facebook page
Twitter page

Monday, October 14, 2013

Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

I think it would be completely wonderful if the girl next door also was a kickass songwriter and entertaining pop performer.  That isn't to say anything bad about the women who live in the houses on either side and across the street from me.  Mollie, Cheryl and Greta all have their good points.  But none of them are Courtney Barnett.  And what, you ask, is so special about Courtney Barnett?  These days, I'm thinking the answer is just about everything.  Imagine early Liz Phair vocals telling stories of suburban Melbourne with a conversational vibe born of equal parts Jonathan Richman and Robert Zimmerman.  But it may be best if I let Courtney hook you in with her song "Avant Gardner", a woozy, dream-like story of an unemployed narrator suffering an anaphylaxis induced panic-attack while trying her hand at gardening during a heat wave.  You can stream it and/or watch the video (the video may not have much to do with the song, but it may be the funniest tennis match you've seen).

Courtney's songs are collected on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.  It is billed as a double EP rather than an LP, because it includes six new songs followed by six songs from a previous EP.  But for most of us just learning about Courtney, it doesn't really matter whether the record is called an LP or double EP.  The mix of lo-fi psychedelia, and singer-songwriter is entertaining, compelling and, in my opinion, addictive.  It carries echoes of the US folk rock of the '60s and '70s, such as Dylan, Jackson Browne and Laurel Canyon, but at the end of the day it all sounds like Courtney.  Part of that is Courtney's engaging, distinctive delivery.  But a large part is that this young lady is a really good songwriter.  I won't be surprised to find this album ... um ... double EP ... on my top 20 list at the end of the year.

"History Eraser" was nominated for the APRA Song Of The Year in Australia -

The buzz for this young lady is growing, and she is in New York now for CMJ Music Marathon, and then she has a couple of European shows scheduled.  Get the album, see her live, and follow her career.  If you don't, I'll be able to say I told you so.  And I will. Yes, I will.

The EPs comprising A Sea of Split Peas are available from Courtney's Milk Records, and the double EP is available worldwide via House Anxiety/Marathon Artists.

Album order page
Milk Records

NEW VIDEOS: Golden Suits - "Swimming in 99" and "Under Your Wing" from BTRtv

Here's Fred Nicolaus (Golden Suits) performing two of the songs from his strikingly literate self-titled album .... (WYMA review here). First is "Swimming in 99" - a terrific, heartfelt rendering live in studio:

And here's "Under Your Wing":

BreakThruRadio TV
Golden Suits at Yep Roc Records

New videos from Darren Sylvester, The Ancients and Yonder

Darren Sylvester, The Ancients and Yonder all are bands we recently covered.  We reviewed Darren's album last week (here), and profiled The Ancients (here and here) earlier this fall.  And you may recall that we were very impressed with the self-titled EP from Yonder (here).  They are sharing the stage today because they all have new videos out.  We hope you enjoy.

"Don't Do That to Yourself", by Darren Sylvester.  It is glossy and stylish, like Darren's album -

"Hey Now" from the upcoming Night Bus by The Ancients accents the trippy side of their music -

Here is the video for "Bellwether", a super track by Seattle band Yonder.  It has a New Order/Big Country vibe -

Bellwether - By Yonder from Brian H Barnett on Vimeo.

"Don't You Wanna Be Mine?" by The History of Apple Pie

I've been a fan of London's The History of Apple Pie for a couple of years now.  Their debut album Out of View (review here) was released early this year via Marshall Teller Records.  The band are back with a single titled "Don't You Wanna Be Mine?"  Featuring crunchy, grinding guitars, a dense sound and Stephanie Min's vocals, the track will please current fans of the THOAP and likely will earn them some new fans as well.  "Don't You Wanna Be Mine?" is available on 7" vinyl and digital download.  The B-side is a remix of the A-side by London producer DREAMTRAK.

Record order page
Marshall Teller Records

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Rarely do reissues create as much noise and excitement as the October 15 release of Classified by James Booker on Rounder Records. Any new music by Booker is met with excitement by fans. He recorded and released only three albums in his lifetime. The reissue coincides with the 30th anniversary of his death while in the waiting room of Charity Hospital and the New Orleans premier of Lily Keber's Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker. Who was James Booker and why does New Orleans care so deeply about him?

He was a Professor - a Crescent City honorific reserved for masters of NOLA piano. These have included Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, Dr. John and James Booker. James Booker was much more than just a Professor and more than the equal to all on the preceding list except Professor Longhair. He was a man prone to giving himself nicknames and exceeding the implied promise of them all. He was the Piano Pope of New Orleans, the Bayou Maharajah, the Ivory Emperor, Music Magnifico, Gonzo, The Piano Prince of New Orleans, Black Liberace, Lil Booker, Little Chopin in Living Color and James Carroll Booker II.

Everyone had a story about Booker. His increasingly apparent mental illness fueled by his addictions - heroin, cocaine, and alcohol - guaranteed that if you crossed paths with Booker you would leave with a "Holy Shit" moment or more. And the stories about him became Crescent City mythology. These stories led me to track him down as I worked on completing my personal "Holy Shit" bucket list.

I was lucky to see him live. His skill and ability as a musical savant left me slack-jawed in amazement. He approached scheduled engagements with the same mercurial abandon as Sly Stone. As the legend grew, so did the number of people who claimed to be witnesses to each of these stories. Booker had attended a concert by Jimmy Smith, one of jazz's great organists. "Booker was backstage," Billington said. After the show, "Booker told Smith, 'You know that song you played, you hit a wrong note in the bridge.' Smith kinda grumbled. Booker said, 'Look, lemme show you.' Then he played it just as Smith played it with the wrong note, and then played it the right way. And Jimmy Smith said, 'Dang, you're right.' Then, just to mess with Jimmy, he played the whole thing backwards." This was a skill that Booker would often use to hustle money to fuel his addictions.

David Torkanowsky, a jazz pianist and bandleader, says Booker's habits were extreme. "I remember there was a regular Tuesday night Booker solo at Tipitina's. Finally, the lights dim and Booker walks out to the middle microphone on stage. He was wearing nothing but a huge diaper with a huge gold pin holding up the diaper," (NB: I saw Bootsy Collins an Eddie Hazel wear diapers many times) and Torkanowsky says, "and from behind the diaper he pulls out a .357 magnum, puts it to his own head and announces to the audience, 'If somebody doesn't give me some [expletive] cocaine right now, I'm going to [expletive] pull the trigger. It went from 'Can't wait to hear him play' to 'Oh my God.'"

Lily Keber, producer of the new bio on James Booker, recounts - "When Booker was a kid, he was hit by an ambulance and dragged down the street; he broke his leg. They gave him morphine for the pain, and he always pointed to that being the beginning of his addiction." Keber says, "Luckily, I actually found an interview where he says precisely that. He was listening to this song and he says, 'This line, I was hit by an ambulance, I got addicted to heroin from that. That's the sweet Russian woman.'"

The term "musicians' musician" is hackneyed and overused. Mac Rebennack was a guitar player and TV repairman before Booker taught him to play organ in the 60's. Booker's keyboard lessons propelled Rebennack to fame as Dr. John. Harry Connick Jr. also took lessons. "There's nobody that could even remotely come close to his piano-playing ability. It can't be done," Connick says. "I've played Chopin Etudes, I've done the whole thing, but there is nothing harder than James."

Give yourself a treat this Halloween season.  You don't need to buy a diaper, a gold safety pin, and a .357 magnum to find your inner James Booker. Take the easy way out, that sweet highway, and buy Classified. Immerse yourself in music which has inspired generations of other New Orlean's musicians. The album includes 9 additional tracks not on the original.

1. Classified
2. If You’re Lonely
3. Warsaw Concerto*
4. Lawdy Miss Clawdy (solo piano alternate take)*
5. Medley: Tico Tico / Papa Was a Rascal / So Swell When You’re Well*
6. All Around the World
7. Angel Eyes
8. Lonely Avenue*
9. Professor Longhair Medley: Tipitina / Bald Head
10. King of the Road
11. Theme from The Godfather*
12. Lawdy Miss Clawdy
13. I’m Not Sayin’*
14. Hound Dog
15. All These Things*
16. Yes Sir, That’s My Baby*
17. Baby Face
18. If You’re Lonely (solo piano alternate take)*
19. Madame X
20. One For the Highway
21. Three Keys
22. Amen

Pre-order the CD on Amazon:
Pre-order the LP on Amazon:

The Salient Braves - Somewhere Sordid EP

Usually what grabs me first is the music.  Less often, the lyrics demand my attention.  But with "Somewhere Sordid", the title track from the EP by The Salient Braves, the entire package hit me hard --  in a good way.  The track begins with big, martial beats from the rhythm section underneath a buzzing punk guitar.  And then the lyrics - "Why don't you tell me another lie, like the one you did last night? / you know I want it / and do you know that contagious disease you brought back from your visit to Greece? / I think I caught it" - sung like the punk/folk rock anthem it most certainly is.  And while the theme is a complicated, and not entirely healthy, relationship, the video a friend of the band made utilizes the song to wield a club against the Tories (see below).

The entire EP is comprised of witty lyrics touching on love (or obsession), mental illness and religion (and Waterloo sunsets), that are delivered with melody and an edge.  And when songwriter/frontman Matt Bailey borrows a song, he has the good taste to borrow Ray Davies' "Waterloo Sunset".  Appropriately for a lyric-driven record, the vocals are high in the mix.  There aren't enough guitar pop records that offer stories rather than just atmosphere, so treasure this one.

In addition to Matt Bailey, The Salient Braves are Martin Roberts, JC Toller, Paul Caton, April Farthing, and Emma Johnson.  The band is from Barnsley, UK.  Somewhere Sordid is out on October 14 via Dufflecoat Records.

Dufflecoat Records