Black Friday Buying Guide

I’m away from Richmond this Black Friday, so instead of doing the Record Store Day thing, I’m taking this opportunity to scoop up a few items I’ve had my eye on online for a while. Doesn’t hurt that most labels are sending out discount codes via email. I’ve compiled a bunch of those below, along with a handful of albums I’m set on snagging.

Fiona Apple — The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

I’ve been waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for someone to repress this thing, given the $100+ price point of the existing copies available on Discogs. Vinyl Me, Please to the rescue. “Every Single Night” remains one of my favorite songs from the last decade or so, and I was lucky enough to see Mountain Man do a cover of “Hot Knife” when they recently came through Richmond. Won’t soon forget it. Not for nothing, VMP is doing a site-wide 30% off sale today…

Saw Black & The Toys — Christmas in the Background

Saw Black. War Hen Records. Christmas. Count me in. Just 100 copies were pressed, so don’t sleep on this one.

The Congress — The Loft Tapes

I had my eye on a Loft Tapes ebay listing ever since I interviewed Scott Lane of the Congress and American Paradox Records. While the resulting piece zoomed in on his role as founder of AP, I learned a ton about the Congress’ early days, including how The Loft Tapes served as an on-the-job education when it came to producing albums. It’s a killer collection. Out of print, but there’s one for sale on Discogs, and it’s available for listening via streaming services.

DJ Harrison — Vault Series #9: Thanksgiving Dinnerz

According to Bandcamp, this nine-song set is available for only a limited time. Listened to it on the way out of town yesterday morning, after “Alice’s Restaurant” and before my car’s Bluetooth connection stopped working. Fun times!

Spacebomb House Band — VI: Connected by Birth and Employment

I learned a while back that Mrs. YHT keeps one of those little packets of two saltines in her glove box, just in case some sort of apocalyptic traffic situation unfolds. My first thought was “That seems a little alarmist,” but I realized I do the same thing by keeping a walkman, an aux cord, and the latest volume in the Spacebomb House Band’s cassette series in the car at all times. And guess what? That’s what we listened to when my car’s Bluetooth crapped out on Friday! I’m late in snagging Volume VI, so I plan to remedy that over the next few days.

As promised, here are a few limited-time discount situations I’ve seen marketed. Hope they help you start the holiday season off right.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Make sure you spin some Ohbliv today. I’m sure as hell thankful for all the time I’ve spent with his music this year.

Oh yeah, and if your extended family isn’t yet on board with impeaching the president and removing him from office, dinner tonight is a great time to work through that.

Cheers!

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VOTE

Step 1: VOTE.

Step 2: See that Steady Sounds is offering 10% off to shoppers wearing their “I Voted” stickers.

Step 3: Zoom on over and gleefully pick out a Vince Guaraldi/Bola Sete live album you didn’t know existed.

Step 4: Thank Marty for supporting democracy.

Step 5: Write a blog post encouraging others to vote, go to Steady Sounds, and thank Marty for supporting democracy.

In case you’re not clear on Virginia’s (shameful and transparent) voter I.D. laws, here’s the rundown of what you bring with you:

And here’s a delightful version of “Black Orpheus Suite” from Vince and Bola’s Live at El Matador album:

 

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Bonny Light Horseman

Very much looking forward to this Bonny Light Horseman album. My pre-order is in, two A+ singles are out so far — “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” — and M.C. Taylor has declared it “the best album I’ve heard in years.”

The group is made up of Tony collector Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats, which I’ve been getting to know quite a bit this year), and producer/instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, and they’ve set their collective sights on traditional songs that have been kicking around the British Isles for generations — super exciting if you’re like me and enjoy the conversation between the past and present this kind of album can generate. I love the sense of dimensionality you get from hearing how songs have been interpreted over the years. It’s not about judging or comparing or picking favorite versions. It’s about finding the thread that connects them, and grasping it as a means of revealing how much we have in common with people who lived before us, or who live on the other side of the world.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a couple other versions of “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” I’ve been bouncing back and forth between. I can’t speak to how prominently these renditions sit lineage-wise, but I think you’ll get a kick out of them. In each case, we’ll start with the newest version and work our way backward.

Bonny Light Horseman — “Bonny Light Horseman”

Just stunning. Mitchell singing lead, saxophone adding color throughout by echoing the narrator’s displacement. I’ve listened to this dozens of times. Feels like I’ve always known it.

Siobhan Miller – “Bonny Light Horseman”

Here’s a very nicely captured live version led by Scotland’s Siobhan Miller, who recorded the song for her 2017 album Strata.

Planxty — “The Bonny Light Horseman”

Enjoying this lament but lamenting that it’s not jauntier? Planxty’s got you covered. (Recorded in the late 1970’s, from what I can tell.)

Bonny Light Horseman — “Deep in Love”

Johnson takes the lead here, and what an ideal vehicle this is for his singing. The flexibility and understated expressiveness that distinguish his voice are in full force here. Message and messenger in perfect alignment.

Matt Quinn — “Deep in Love”

An a cappella version from Sussex-based folk singer Matt Quinn. Released in 2017. A great glimpse into the source material BLH pulled from.

Gladys Stone — “Deep in Love”

This one’s for my real folk nerds. I see you over there flipping through the Folkways section, trying to decide whether you need field recordings of seagulls and butter being churned. (You do. We all do.)

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Fiddlin’

Y’all make it out to the Folk Festival this weekend?

Our weekend was packed, but I made it out for two sets I was especially invested in: Petroloukas Halkias and Vasilis Kostas playing traditional Greek music from the Epirus region (the style Christopher C. King focuses on in his book Lament from Epirus), and a performance by the Galax, VA-based Willard Gayheart Family, which included a mini-set from the namesake patriarch’s granddaughter, Dori Freeman. (If you haven’t heard Freeman’s excellent new album Every Single Star, make that the very next thing you treat your ears to.) Both groups were excellent — well worth the hectic micro-scheduling that seeing them required. As a side note, if you happened to see a grown “adult” running in plain clothes around the festival grounds in the neighborhood of noon on Saturday, Sunday, or both, just know that he felt exactly as undignified as he looked, and that he regrets nothing. (Keep an eye out for YHT-branded “Will Run for Folk Music” bumper stickers.)

As luck would have it, we’re zooming toward another opportunity for Richmond-based old-time fans to enjoy the sounds of Galax. Tomorrow (Oct. 15) evening at 7:15, the Byrd Theatre will be showing a new documentary about the Old Fiddler’s Convention, the multi-day competition that brings old-time instrumentalists from all over — and outside — the country to Galax each August. The film is called Fiddlin’, and it’s billed as “a foot-stomping celebration of true Americana and artistic expression.” I’ve never been to the convention myself, though I’ve seen a few clips and spoken to folks who are involved. It’s already on my Virginia music bucket list, and I bet it’ll be a few notches higher after tomorrow. Did I mention Dori Freeman is listed among the Fiddlin’ cast?

The showing is free (presented by JAMinc) and open to the public. Best of all, if you leave your house early enough, you won’t have to run from your car to the theater to catch the start!

Hope to see you there.

 

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Sherman Holmes

If you’ve been reading this here blog for a minute, you know I’m a big fan of the work done by the folks at Overcoast — especially their collaborations with Virginia Tourism. I loved the videos they made with Mighty Joshua and Dharma Bombs, and I’m transfixed this clip featuring singer Sherman Holmes, formerly of the Holmes Brothers Band.

Just vocals and guitar, the tune (I couldn’t find a title — maybe you know what it’s called, dear reader?) unfolds deliberately. In concert with the immeasurable depth of Holmes’ voice, the pacing leaves you hanging on each word, and it provides space for you to envision the details the lyrics describe, like the intricate scene painted in the second verse:

A gilded frame and your picture
A covered lane and your rapture
A crowded room and your laughter
A band of gold on your finger

It’s amazing how a collection of objects — a lyrical still-life — can convey such an affecting sense of time.

If you enjoy the clip, be sure to check out Holmes’ 2017 album The Richmond Sessions, which was recorded at Montrose Studios with the help of an outstanding collection of collaborators, including dobro legend Rob Ickes, Devonne Harris of Butcher Brown, and storied Richmond gospel ensemble the Ingramettes.

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Carl Broemel

Happy 4th of July? I’ll probably say that handful of times today, but this one doesn’t feel so happy. It’s hard to dial the patriotism up to 11 when your country is doing this, and your president is celebrating like this.

I put Carl Broemel’s beautiful and largely subdued 4th of July album on the turntable this morning, thinking that spinning it meant marking the occasion with an appropriate level of exuberance. The cover art certainly hits the mark, with damp coloring and a Statue Of Liberty that registers as distant and off-balance. Still, I didn’t expect to find lyrics that spoke so directly to the current political moment:

So many people are awake in the city
I see ’em walking up and down the road
Think eventually they will be sleeping
Try to find a quiet place to go
But there’s a limited number of spaces
With comfy mattresses and soft pillows
Whether your bed is just a spot on the pavement
Or an apartment on the eighty-fifth floor

You’re gonna end everyday of your life
Lying there in the dark

I’ve always thought “In the Dark” was a very pretty song about insomnia and/or death and/or the way solipsism actually unites us in a weird way. Now it feels like a meditation on conscience — the idea that at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we all have to reckon with what we’ve done to that point. Maybe that’s a good way to “celebrate” this year’s Independence Day.

(Might I also suggest streaming Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” a few times, or directly supporting the organization to which Apple has pledged two years of “Criminal” royalties?)

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