Record Store Day

So this may end up being the earliest I’ve woken up to wait in line at BK Music on Record Store Day. The sun will not be out. The birds will not be chirping. The Mennonites won’t even be making donuts at the South of the James Farmer’s Market. I’m talking oh dark thirty. (The time, not the movie in which Andy from The Office kills Osama bin Laden.)

Why so early? Mostly because of this:

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit — Welcome to 1979

Let me count the reasons:

  1. I’m not sure which I heard first, the studio version on Here We Rest or the live version on Live from Alabama, but Isbell’s take on “Heart On A String” put Candi Staton on my radar, and it represents a crucial part of his own personal history, given that Staton’s original version was recorded at Fame in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The phrase “full circle” comes to mind when I hear Isbell perform “Heart On A String.” It makes clear that he both remembers and understands where he came from.
  2. I haven’t gotten to see Isbell do The Stones’ “Sway” live, but setlist.fm tells me that the cover closed his 2008 set on Brown’s Island here in Richmond, which is neat. I have seen him do “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” however, and he does a great job. It’s one of those “Man, that dude knows how to get just the right guitar tone” songs.
  3. John Prine, y’all. No need to for elaboration there.
  4. 400 Unit renditions of Isbell-penned Truckers songs make the world go ’round, and “Never Gonna Change” was the song with which he ended his outstanding 2016 Altria Theater performance. Man, was that show good. I said on Instragram at the time that he “pitched a perfect game,” and the experience has only gotten rosier in retrospect.
  5. What can I say about “Atlantic City”? It’s on a very short list of “All Time” favorites on Spotify and I wrote a mini-essay on the song after spending time in the city for the first time, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Isbell perform it. I’m sitting here trying to think of a combination of artist and cover that would make we wake up earlier in the morning… Thom Yorke singing “Hallelujah”? Donald Trump singing “2 + 2 = 5”?

There must be something in the water, because four of the other titles I’m most hoping to see at BK are also live sets:

Would also be neat to snag the Lumineers’ Song Seeds 10-inch. As someone who’s contributed parts to music written by Wes, I like the concept of the album — hearing songs at different stages of fruition. It’s the same reason I was so psyched to hear the episode of Song Exploder that featured “Ophelia.”

I better stop there before I get carried away. See y’all in line on April 22nd.

 

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

A cold Guinness, a hot steak and Guinness pie, and a slow, sad version of “Danny Boy” drifting in from the distance, all before noon. Not bad, Church Hill Irish Festival. Not bad.

Here’s one of the slowest and saddest versions you’ll find: Harry Belafonte’s.

Harry Belafonte — “Danny Boy” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Tommy James and the Shondells

Tommy James

YHT HQ has changed locations, which is an unnecessarily opaque way of saying my family just moved houses. It’s been a bananas couple of months, with lots of emotional ups and downs, but we’re now in the process of unpacking, which I’m enjoying more than I thought I would. Unpacking records has been especially fun. Finding where everything is going to go. Seeing albums I haven’t laid hands or eyes on in ages.

Less fun was the fatal 45 avalanche in which a stack of carelessly placed (by me) discs fell from the top of my record storage onto my head and shoulders — the body parts, not the shampoo — and down to the floor. Most were fine, but Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson And Clover” didn’t make it out alive. I’d post a picture but I feel guilty enough already. To exorcise that guilt, I thought I’d memorialize the song here.

Crimson And Clover” was one of two #1 U.S. hits for Tommy James and the Shondells, the other being “Hanky Panky.” They also recorded versions of “Mony Mony” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” songs that are so ubiquitous (like “Hanky Panky”) that I feel silly for not knowing that this one group made them all famous. “Crimson And Clover” isn’t quite as ever-present these days, but the chord progression voiced by the guitar feels super familiar, like someone’s since used it in another song, though I can’t think of what song that would be. (Just kidding — Wikipedia helped me find it: Dum Dum Girls’ “Lord Knows.”)

Fun facts: “Crimson And Clover” was one of the first songs to be recorded on 16-track recording equipment, Prince recorded a version that contains elements of “Wild Thing,” and Broken Bells has also covered it, which seems like a funny coincidence, since a broken 45 is how we got here in the first place.

As a side note, “Mony Mony” makes me think of being at a baseball game, I think because they often play it at baseball games. Though I’m not sure if I’m more used to hearing the Tommy James version or Billy Idol’s. Might need to go to a few Richmond Flying Squirrels games. You know, for research

Goodbye, “Crimson And Clover.” You were a good 45.

Tommy James and the Shondells — “Crimson And Clover” [Spotify/iTunes]

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The Shins

I resolved to avoid getting sucked into Heartworms. I know this is selfish, but here’s my logic: I probably can’t make it to their show at The National on May 17, so if I just kept my hands over my ears like the Hear No Evil monkey I wouldn’t feel sad about missing a show I would have otherwise been interested in. There’s just one problem…

Heartworms is really good.

There’s the bright, tightly buttoned up Shins stuff that I’m used to (“Dead Alive”), there’s a wonderful herky-jerky tune that reminds me of Pretty & Nice in the best way (“Rubber Ballz”), there’s the fantastic slow burner of a closing track (“The Fear“), and then there’s “Mildenhall,” which I love. I’m probably not alone in immediately thinking of James Mercer’s high register after hearing or reading the words “The Shins,” but “Mildenhall” dips way lower in his vocal range, and it’s more plainly narrative than I’m used to hearing from him. As someone whose journey to songwriting also involved “messing with my dad’s guitar,” the song really hits home, and I’m a sucker for the sub-genre of “How I fell in love with music” music.

Anyone know if a one-week-old child needs his own ticket at The National?

The Shins — “Mildenhall” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Friday Cheers

fridaycheers2017-logo-color-highrez

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
-Christmas song written by someone who hasn’t witnessed a Friday Cheers schedule rollout

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Friday Cheers is my favorite part of the year. It’s warm but not sweaty, the weekends feel longer, since the early Cheers start times mean you’re outside and enjoying yourself ASAP… it makes me so happy. Here’s the full schedule. Things are going to be a little nutty this year, given that Mrs. YHT is set to deploy Baby YHT #2 in early May, but here are three of the shows I’m hopeful that we/I/y’all will be able to make:

Lee Fields & the Expressions with Kings — May 5

This show being announced was my Lee Fields wake-up call. I see his records nearly every time I go to Steady Sounds, and I keep meaning to learn more about him — now’s the time. I’m doing it. You can’t stop me. Friday Cheers has hosted two of the best soul shows I’ve ever seen — Charles Bradley and the late great Sharon Jones — so this one shouldn’t be missed.

 


Conor Oberst with Big Thief — June 2

Already snagged a ticket for this one. I wrote a short time ago about how psyched I am for his special-guest-heavy upcoming album Salutations, and since it’ll be out by the time this show rolls around, I’ll almost certainly be spending some quality time at the merch tent on June 2.

 

Car Seat Headrest with Gold Connections — June 30

OK, so I saw them twice last year. I don’t care — as Toddler YHT’s hero Ariel once said so poignantly “I want more…” Speaking of wanting more, I managed to find a used copy of Teens of Style, the album prior to Teens of Denial, and I was surprised by how many of the older (relatively speaking — he’s released ocean of material already) songs I knew. I recommend prepping for this show by diving into Will Toledo’s earlier stuff, which can be found on Bandcamp.

Hope y’all are getting excited as well. Here’s another link to the full schedule and here’s a link to an article I wrote last year about Friday Cheers that includes an interview with Venture Richmond Festival Manager Stephen Lecky.

 

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American Tunes: “Black History”

resound

[Editor’s Note: American Tunes is a series of posts dedicated to songs that address America’s social and political challenges. For more information on the series, click here.]

Goosebumps. Waves of them.

The singing here is exceptional — the execution, the creativity, the transitions… it’s all stunning. But what made me want to include “Black History” in this series is the way it tells a comprehensive story. The medley weaves together gospel songs that reflect significant moments from throughout the African-American experience, providing a long view that’s at once confounding and inspiring. (Click here to read more about which songs are included and why.)

Never in my lifetime has there been a bigger gap between the need for Americans to understand history and their willingness to do so. The past’s mistakes are being repeated at a dizzying rate. Too many congressmen take advantage of short memories by shamelessly arguing opposite sides of an issue, depending on which is presently advantageous. Too many people who benefit from systematic discrimination refuse to acknowledge that those systems discriminate.

What we need is more of the long view. More history. More of the kind of deep and broad understanding Resound is voicing here.

Resound — “Black History” [Spotify/YouTube]

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EggHunt Records

Egghunt

Every once in a while, I look around and say to myself “Damn, EggHunt Records has a lot of awesome stuff going on…” Now is an excellent example, and I think it’s time for another installment of the feature I’m unofficially naming “Damn, EggHunt Records has a lot of awesome stuff going on…”

Here’s a link to the first EggHunt catch-up post if you’re curious, and here’s an all new one, featuring three exciting projects:

Opin

opin

It really sunk in while I was listening to “Flee” for the first time that Landis Wine’s voice is Richmond to me, in the same way that the Boulevard is, or the river, or Bev’s. And it’s comforting knowing that if I ever moved away, I could still put on a White Laces album and feel the sense of place that I feel now. I’m excited to see him start a new chapter with Tori Hovater as Opin, and “Flee” leaves a great first impression. I’m especially fond of the build that ushers in the last minute of the song. Really neat.

Opin — “Flee” [Soundcloud]

Dazeases

dazeases

Speaking of distinctive Richmond voices, Dazeases’ has to be the most exciting new voice coming out of this city’s music scene. I’ve been digging into her catalog on Bandcamp, and I can’t recommend doing so highly enough. Her approach to production, vocals, performance… everything is entirely her own, and “Plum” promises continued inventiveness and gravity on her upcoming album, Local Slut, which will be released via EggHunt’s snazzy Hatched subscription series.

Dazeases — “Plum” [Spotify/Soundcloud]

Eric Slick

eric-slick

I’m not the best with time signatures. Does “You Became The Light” shift from 6/4 in the verse to waltz time in the chorus? Or is it 12/8? Are those relatively arbitrary designations? I don’t know enough to answer any of those questions. I’m just going to say that whatever Eric Slick (drummer for Dr. Dog) is doing here, I really like it. A verse that keeps you on your toes and a chorus that soothes for a few short moments before hurling you back into the madness… sign me up.

Eric Slick — “You Became The Light” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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