Landon Elliott

It’s happening. My absolute favorite time of year — when Mrs. YHT and I bolt out of work on Fridays; throw the kids, a stroller, and a couple of lawn chairs in the car (except when we forget the lawn chairs, which is more than 50% of the time); and zoom down to Brown’s Island as fast as we can to catch the start of Friday Cheers.

The folks at Venture Richmond are kicking off this season (Cheers’ 35th!) with a humdinger: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real is headlining, with an opening set from standout Richmond artist Landon Elliott. If you’re not familiar with Lukas Nelson, “Find Yourself” could be a good starting point. The band I play in covers the song regularly, and while the lyrics convey romantic dissatisfaction, there’s an infectious bounce to it that makes it a joy to play. And Nelson’s dad is the great Willie Nelson — not crucial for appreciating Lukas’ tunes, but still fun to know.

As for Landon Elliott, I had the good fortune of interviewing him for River City Magazine earlier this year and left that conversation impressed and inspired — by his story, by his strong sense of community, and by the way music is woven throughout his own family’s fabric. A quick snippet I saw as especially meaningful:

Were your parents into music when you were growing up?

My dad and his family are from Ohio, and they all love 1970s and 1980s classic rock and roll. My dad raised me on Journey, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe. My first concert with my dad was KISS at eight or nine years old. So there’s a ton of rock influence there… My mom loved country music. I remember [her] singing karaoke, and she’d sing at music festivals. We even moved to Nashville for two years and she pursued a music career… She recorded this really beautiful single during her time there, so that’s a gem for our family. I remember being six or seven years old, watching my mom doing the thing and thought it was so cool.

[My grandfather] was a deep-sea fisherman for 30-plus years of his life… the acoustic guitar that I play was the guitar that he took around on his boat. That guitar has been more places than I have. It’s been all the way up [and] around to Alaska and back. He would come home and people would want to see him after these long trips. We’d do these big fish fries at the house and a guitar would inevitably come out at some point and he would sing and play Elvis and Johnny Cash. That was how it all started — watching my family doing it and [thinking] “I could do that.”

Check out the rest of the interview here, and click here for ticket’s to this Friday’s Cheers show. A guaranteed good time for any music-loving family.

 

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I Barritas

My version of church this Easter Sunday: a sideways but endearingly sincere take on the Catholic mass via an Italian psych/beat/rock band called either I Barritas, The Berets, or The Little Berets, depending on which part of the liner notes you’re looking at.

A quick snippet of those liner notes, which were written in March of 1969:

All over the world, adults have been and are concerned about the seemingly increasing lack of concern by today’s youth, of spiritual and moral values. Perhaps this is not really so. Perhaps, they simply don’t accept ours and are searching for new ways of expression which relate to their own everyday lives. With the new music of the pop field has come a new spirit, which has suggested an intense need for peace, war against violence, freedom for all peoples, a struggle against prejudice, against any special privilege or advantage … which motivates the youth of the whole world.

It is a good or bad sign that those words ring so true 50 years later? It’s hard to say. But Easter is about hope and new beginnings and who knows … maybe 2069 will be a little better than 2019.

 

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J.C. Kuhl

This is a J.C. Kuhl appreciation post.

I realized on Wednesday night that I’d been hearing Kuhl’s saxophone with a remarkable regularity over the course of the last week. Thought I’d share the timeline:

Last Friday, I set a new personal record for earliest Record Store Day arrival time, motivated primarily by Known About Town: Library Music Compendium One — the snazzy Coke-bottle-green vinyl compilation that pulled together tracks from the quarterly Library Music cassettes the Spacebomb House Band released throughout 2018. How motivated was I? Back on February 28, the day Spacebomb announced Known About Town, I emailed Bill at BK Music to say “I may end up setting a new personal record for earliest RSD arrival time this year.” I made it to BK a little before 5:30 a.m., when it was still dark and raining cats and dogs. Fortunately the Stratford Hills Shopping Center has a covered walkway perfect for a line of lawn chairs, and even more fortunately, I was near enough to the front to snag one of a few signed copies of Known About Town. Guess who contributed sax to the album? J.C. Kuhl.

Two days later, in the considerably comfier environs of my couch, I took in a live set by Mekong Xpress & the Get Fresh Horns. The band has started streaming their regular Monday night sets at The Answer via Facebook, and joining in has become a weekly ritual. It’s not the same as being there in person, which happened more regularly when the YHT crew lived just a short bike ride from the Mekong/Answer epicenter, but I love that I can still stay connected to the group, which is as stacked and sensational as any in town. And who’s there on sax, whipping songs into a frenzy with screaming solos that make you feel like you are there in person? J.C. Kuhl.

Two days later, Mrs. YHT and I made it out — got a babysitter and everything — to the Tin Pan, excited to see fellow University of Richmond alum (and my former bandmate, briefly) Andrew Schutte play bass with the Latin Jazz Messengers, a group led by trumpeter and UR professor Michael Davison. We were seated front and center and treated to an excellent set, which ranged from standards like “Caravan” and “Guantanamera” to a few unfamiliar tunes I’m looking forward to getting to know better. (I’m especially excited about having heard “The Preacher” and “Sister Sadie,” a pair of Horace Silver compositions that I’m hoping will serve as an overdue entry point to Silver’s body of work.) And guess who was there — and I mean right there, just a few feet away from our table, sipping red wine and trading solos with Davison and the rest of the gang? I think you see where I’m headed here.

J.C. Kuhl: a player for whom “known about town” couldn’t be more fitting.

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Oregon

Thought I’d pass along an interesting Goodwill find — Winter Light, an album released in 1974 by the jazz ensemble Oregon.

I picked it up in late March, and I can’t seem to file this thing away. The sounds are so varied that it always feels like I’m getting a fleeting glance at something. Songs dart back and forth between classical, jazz, folk, and fusion. Sounds from varied musical traditions show up, disappear, and reappear like pedestrians criss-crossing a quiet intersection at night. A quick list of the instruments mentioned in the liner notes: English horn, French horn, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass, piano, violin, flute, classical guitar, 12-string guitar, tabla (one of my absolute favorite drum sounds in the world), pakhawaj (another Indian drum), sitar, congas, clay drums, hands (sure, why not), and some dulcimer for good measure. Guess it wasn’t such a quick list. And it’s all credited to members of the four-person ensemble.

You’d think the result would be cluttered or overwhelming, but there’s never too much going on at once. Just one thought-provoking small arrangement after another, each sonically distant enough from what came before that it feels like the music is constantly in motion. The album’s title strikes me as especially fitting in that sense.

Here’s the opening track, “Tide Pool.”

 

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CD Monday

CD Monday! It’s back! And we have Small Friend Records & Books to thank!

The kind people there did a grab bag drawing to celebrate their one year anniversary, and as a result, I got to take home an absolute treasure trove of CDs. Label samplers. Promo copies of upcoming albums. Lots of stuff from Get Hip Recordings. Almost none of it was on my radar, and I’m looking forward to making my way through the stack, one CD Monday at a time.

First up is Nick Zammuto’s soundtrack for the 2018 film We the Animals. I haven’t heard too much of it yet, but it’s certain to be a welcome respite from all the Daniel Tiger we’ve been listening to in the car lately. (Kid 2’s burgeoning DT obsession has reignited Kid 1’s. Not good. “I’ll be back when the day is new” isn’t just an understatement, y’all; it’s a threat.)

Speaking of being back… many thanks to Small Friend for getting CD Monday up and running again. Here’s a link to the piece I wrote on the shop a little while back, in case you missed it.

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Shy, Low

Some fun news for fans of post-rock and/or colored vinyl and/or flower arranging…

Shy, Low has repressed their 2015 gem Hiraeth, and they’re offering two snazzy colored-vinyl options: “Cowslip,” which is highlighter yellow with orange pinwheels, and “Forget-Me-Not” — a yellow-in-electric blue with white splatter design. Like the massive, cinematic music contained in the grooves, and like the floral cover art, they’re gorgeous. Take a look:

If I’m reading the Discogs descriptions correctly, my copy from the original run is the “Bell Heather” version — milky clear with a baby pink swirl. Is each variant representative of a flower depicted in the arrangement on the cover? Maybe? My ikebana has a long way to go.

I do know that it’s worth snagging copy over at Bandcamp before they’re all gone.

Update: The band shared the following via Facebook:

We also have some available locally and will have some for upcoming shows. Not many, so if you wait, you may lose out.

 

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Better Oblivion Community Center

A few words about “Chesapeake,” from the wonderful Better Oblivion Community Center album

Can’t stop/won’t stop listening to Better Oblivion Community Center, the collaborative LP from Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. I’m especially stuck on “Chesapeake,” the sixth of the album’s 10 tracks. It’s an elegant examination of how music is passed from one generation to the next, and how the things that connect us can eventually foster alienation. There’s definitely some bitter mixed in with the sweet here, but the first four lines may be the most beautiful love letter to music I’ve ever read, and they don’t even mention music:

The world will not remember when we’re old and tired
We’ll be blowing on the embers of a little fire
We were the tallest person watching in Chesapeake
You put me on your shoulders so I could see

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