Last night I saw Fleet Foxes at the Fox Theater in Oakland, READ MY REVIEW HERE.
I've also gotten in the habit of chatting to folks with professional looking cameras to see who they are shooting for and if they would be willing to share an image with me. I met Paige Parsons last night who was shooting for the Ice Cream Man and she sent over this beautiful image. With generous people around like this, I'm leaving my camera at home.
Helplessness Blues is a really solid album. If you like folks like Iron and Wine, I highly recommend checking it out.
Every time I look at the line-up of this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, I notice another ridiculously awesome name buried in the mix: Patti Smith! Joan Baez! Sharon Jones! Elvis Costello! David Grisman! Trombone Shorty! Gillian Welsh! Ralph Stanley! The Indigo Girls! Conor Oberst! MC Hammer (had to mention)! The list just keeps going and going.
And what? Hardly Strictly is free??? Are you serious?? (Sorry, it's free every year, this 10-year anniversary line-up is just sort of blowing my mind.)
You know what that means: throngs and throngs of people descending on Golden Gate Park. How does one navigate this experience without getting totally frustrated? Golden Gate is not the easiest to get around for masses of people.
My advice: Don’t get overly ambitious about seeing every act you’re excited about. There’s just too much and it's too spread out. Pick one, maybe two a day, and just go with the flow. You’ll end up seeing something amazing that you weren’t expecting. Find a spot and stick with it. The line-up is full of so many amazing musicians that you’re going to see something good, I promise.
READ MORE ABOUT MY PICKS: Carolyn Wonderland, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the California Honeydrops (suddenly I want candy)!
Last week I randomly came across the music blog Unbounded Song and I'm really excited about it. The premise is that the blog will eventually feature one song from each country in the world, roughly 196 of them.
The details on who is publishing this blog are non-existent other than his name is Dylan. But one thing is for sure, I trust Dylan's taste in music. That sentiment really boils down any music blog: with all the music blogs out there, what keeps you coming back? What keeps you coming back to mine? I hope it's because you trust me and my taste in music!
Each song on Unbounded Song as been fan-fricken-tastic so far.
The actual text posts are short and to the point, which I appreciate.
First Aid Kit is Jöhanna and Klara Soderburg, ages 19 and 17. They grew up in a suburb south of Stockholm getting an early start making videos in a forest near their home and posting them on youtube and myspace. The cover caught the attention of fellow Swedes the Knife, who released the EP Drunken Trees on their label Rabid Records last year. Earlier this year Wichita Records released the full length album The Big Black and the Blue.
The Fleet Foxes cover might be what draws you in, but their original music is what keeps you there with lyrics well beyond their years and vocal harmonies perfectly intertwining the girl’s strong voices.
Other than a quick jaunt to South by Southwest earlier this year, this is the duo’s first American tour. I caught an email interview with Jöhanna, the older of the two sisters. She talked about writing songs with her sister, advice for other female musicians and how the Internet has helped First Aid Kit on their way.
My Friday night at Viracocha was full of lush harmonies, unique instrumentation and quirky folks. Named after an Incan God, Viracocha is a new basement performance space located next door to ATA (Artists’ Television Access) in the Mission. The showcase was co-presented by the video podcast Chasing the Moon and the blog SeaweedSway. Michael Musika and Honeycomb performed live sets and the most recent Chasing the Moon podcast was shown featuring Kacey Johansing. Kacey is a busy lady; she performed in both bands as well!
So it's storming outside and I can't sleep. What am I doing? I'm googling myself. Well first I was googling this blog to see if it was mentioned anywhere that I didn't know of, and then I decided to search myself. And what did I find? Well other than this Jamie Freedman who's an M.D. I found that I'm on allmusic.com.
I know the first two entries are indeed me because I was an intern for Smithsonian Folkways the non-profit record label of the U.S. National Museum in Washington D.C. from 2003-2004 between undergrad and grad school. During that time I worked with the archivists of the label. It was pretty awesome. I got to hang with all these old LPs and cassettes. I worked on a couple of commercial archival releases including Classic Folk Musicand Classic Maritime Music as a Production Assistant. The folk complication included tunes by Doc Watson, Peggy Seeger, Paul Robeson and even the song "Gallis Pole" by Fred Gerlach which Led Zeppelin later covered. The Maritime compilation has a pre-Beach Boys "Sloop John B" and "All for Me Grog," which was my favorite.
How could I ever forget "All for Me Grog"?
And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog All for me beer and tobacco Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin Across the western ocean I must wander
And here are two versions of "Gallis Pole"/"Gallows Pole."
Performed by Led Belly:
My part in the production of these compilations was basically making a big mix tape, which in retrospect is, well, the most perfect job ever. The main archivist gave me a list of songs that he was considering putting on the CD, and I had to scour the archive for all of the different versions of that song that it had. So I pulled recordings off of CDs, LPs, cassettes and actual reel-to-reel. There was a big switchboard thing involved and I remember getting frustrated with all those chords.
Interning for the label was pretty fun even though the interns were sort of treated like nobodies. I had all sorts of random projects to do. One other intern was archiving all these Woody Guthrie lyric sheets and sketches. That's where Billy Bragg and Wilco got the lyrics for their album Mermaid Avenue. Did you know Guthrie sketched erotic images? Yeah, he did. I've seen 'em. He was kind of party animal.
Alright, that's it. I'm going back to bed. Don't be bashful, googling yourself can be fun, you'll never know what you'll find. Have you done it? What have you found?
Odetta is an artist I've really never fully appreciated, simply because I haven't taken the time to check her out. Unfortunately, she's never gotten the overwhelming popular support as Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, or even Nina Simone (although Simone is more popular in death than she ever was in life). But after hearing some clips of her performances on NPR last night reporting on her death, it is her powerful voice and exquisite lyrical phrasing that has drawn me in to learn more about her.
I knew of Odetta through my time spent interning for Smithsonian Folkways, and I knew she was very influential in the folk world and I knew she must have been instrumental in the civil rights movement simply due to being a black female in the 50s and 60s. This is probably also what kept her from being as well known as she should be. She had continued to perform up until last summer when she developed kidney trouble.
In 1963, Odetta sang at "I'm on My Way" at the historic March on Washington, D.C. where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. She is known to have wanted to perform again in Washington in January at Barack Obama inauguration. I think it is a blessing that she at least lived to see his election; a direct result of the Cause she had been fighting for for most of her life.
Unfortunately the video and audio clips available to link to here aren't as awesome as what I'd like, but hopefully you'll get an idea of the power of the voice of Odetta. You might be able to hear what a great influence on folk singers ranging from Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary to more contemporary singers like Tracy Chapman.
Since I'm on a kick of showing you guys awesome covers, here's Sweden's First Aid Kit forrest version of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Fleet Foxes. Thanks to Liz for showing this to me a few months ago.
I don't know what is up with the forests in Sweden, but those are some crazy acoustics they're getting! I was thinking that maybe there is a large rock wall behind the camera that the sound is bouncing off of.
See the Fleet Foxx original here (psst, when I listen to their version, I just wanna listen to those two Swedish girls sing it again) But it really is a gorgeous song.
I really dig this 60s folk rock thing that is going on right now.
This is a 1965 clip of Joan Anderson (a.k.a. Joni Mitchell) singing "Favorite Color" on the Canadian Oscar Brandt TV show called "Let's Sing Out."
Even though Joni looks squeaky clean without a trace of the California hippie she would soon become, this song already features the finger-picking style, open-tuning, eerie chromaticism and gorgeous poetic lyrics melding child and nature imagery she would use so much in her career.
Host Oscar Brandt points out the rise of the crazy new movement of singers writing their own songs. Writing their own songs...crazy!
Joni never recorded this song to my knowledge. She was 25.
And ainit she just cute as a button? My second favorite Saskatoonian.
I've added "Night in the City" and "If I Had a King" to my playlist, a couple tunes off of her first album produced by David Crosby called Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull) in 1968.
Here's a modern interpretation of Austin, Texas' Will Taylor and String Attached.
The sad and melodic Greg Laswell has the honor of being my first entry for this new blog.
If asked to describe his sound to folks that haven't heard him, it would have to be like if Duncan Sheik was the lead singer of Coldplay. With his painfully sweet lyrics, driving piano rhythms and subtle production quality, Greg's music got under my skin and "forced" me to buy his two albums and E.P. on amazon.
Just this evening, I had the opportunity to see the San Diegan native play a live set at the Cafe du Nord in San Fransisco. Other than the loud German (could have been Austrian, not sure) girls talking loudly right behind me and talking flash photography, it was a wonderful show.
With just one other musician, an exquisite quitarist whose name I believe is Brandon, Greg played several songs off his new album Three Flights from Alto Nido,which I discovered was the location where most of the songs on the album were written.
I spotted Greg right before his set on the way out for a cigarette and had a nice quick chat with him. Trying to not sound like a stalker (probably a good thing I didn't mention that I spent a good amount of time watching everything I could on youtube with him in it), I was able to share that this myspace fan site plays almost all of his music in its entirety. He said he didn't mind as long as people were listening to it. So you have his approval, don't feel bad that it's free, take a listen.
I first heard the song "How the Day Sounds" on the monthly Paste Magazine CD sampler, a magazine whose musical taste I greatly respect. And like I said, I was immediately hooked. Because Greg produces as well as makes his own music, his recordings have a sophisticated yet subtle production quality to them. At his show he described "How the Day Sounds" as the happiest sounding song he's ever written that actually isn't happy at all. It ends with these lines:
I think I like how the day sounds through this new dawn.
And the lines have all been drawn,
I know where I belong.
Check out the the awesome video starring Greg, guitarist Brandon and great supporter of independent music Elijah Wood, who has his own label, dancing around a grocery store in hipster suits and hats with glass soda bottles.
Moment to listen for:
The cool vocal echo effects on "way down" during the bridge, around 1:35.
From a long way down
It's well worth the time that it's taken to get here now
October 24, 2008. Greg's "And Then You" was featured last night on Grey's Anatomy (as annoying as the show is, I can't stop watching it and it DOES propel unknown artists into a new level of success). The album cover was also flashed for a couple seconds at the end of the episode. It's of course become Greg's most popular songs on itunes.
He's going back on the road, so check out his tour schedule. I already have my tickets back at Cafe du Nord on November 3rd in San Fran.
Congratulations Greg! I see big things happening for you in the near future!