John Denver

In a few hours, I’ll hop in my Honda Fit, which is fitted with tires the size of roller skate wheels, and drive north, directly into this winter storm that people have been talking about for days. Basically what Dennis Quaid did in The Day After Tomorrow to rescue Jake Gyllenhaal. Why? Because this is America, and a little I-95 Slip ‘n Slide ain’t gonna stop me from spending Thanksgiving with Mrs. YHT and the merry band of Harrisburgers she calls her extended family.

Brandi… Emmylou… let’s do this.

Brandi Carlile & Emmylou Harris — “Country Roads” (John Denver cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

Billie Joe + Norah


Someone I used to swap burned CDs with once accused me of liking “pretty music.” I can’t remember exactly how he said it, and, more vexingly, I can’t remember if it was in reference to an album/artist he thought I wouldn’t like or an album/artist I liked that he didn’t. Not being able to recall that last bit kills me, because it makes all the difference. In his estimation, either his musical palate was limited or mine was.

In truth, it’s a moot point. I know my palate skews toward the consonant. I love vocal harmonies, I’m in awe of singers with perfect intonation, I listen to “Clair de lune” all the time, and I have a hard time with genres that… how shall I put this… place undue value on dynamic extremes. In my defense, I’m pretty sure it’s biological, not learned. My mom likes to tell this crazy story about taking me to see fireworks when I was little and panic-running in the opposite direction of the explosions with me in her arms because I was freaking out so violently that she thought I was having a seizure. I still cover my ears when siren-blaring firetrucks drive by. It’s not the most “adult” thing to do, I know.

Some have expressed surprise at Billie Joe Armstrong’s participation in the Foreverly project — “A punk rocker covering Every Brothers tunes?!? No wai!” — but we shouldn’t be too shocked. There’s plenty of evidence that Green Day’s lead singer likes pretty music too.

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Howard Ivans

Howard Ivans

For the record, my mom volunteered to crate dig on my behalf.

It’s true! I swear!

When she’s not busy baptizin’ babies or spittin’ sermons at her day job, my mom frequents thrift stores and yard sales in search of books she can sell on Amazon. As a result, she comes into contact with used vinyl all the time, and a few weeks ago, she told me to give her a list of can’t-miss, buy-on-sight records. After counting my lucky stars for having the coolest mom around, I opened a Google doc and got to work.

I started with the half dozen or so titles I look for everywhere I go. Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. Paul Simon’s Graceland. Things I’ve either never seen in a record store or am kicking myself for not getting when I had the chance. Bands were next. The Beatles. The Band. I don’t care which album you’re talking about — if you see certain familiar faces at an estate sale where every record is going for a dollar, it’s a no-brainer. Lastly, I gave her a short list of buy-on-sight labels. Stax and Volt were #1 and #2 on that list.

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A quick observation from last night’s show at Balliceaux:

Matuto does lots of things well. They’ve mastered their instruments. They get the crowd going. They know more about the history of the styles they invoke than most bands ever will. They write songs that are challenging and catchy at the same time. These were the factors I knew to look for after having seen them in June.

But something struck me last night that I didn’t pick up on the first time, and it’s not even necessarily something they do. It’s more of an effect they have that’s just as exceptional as the abilities listed above. Call it affective flexibility.

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Hunger Games

Lorde’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” — one of the more intriguing tracks on the now-streamable Catching Fire soundtrack — caught the Internet’s gaze this week, popping up on countless music blogs, Twitter feeds and Tumblr dashboards. You might even say it caught fi…

No wait! Come back!

I’m sorry, I know that was a terrible pun. Can we start over? Let’s start over.

Lorde’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” — one of the more intriguing tracks on the now-streamable Catching Fire soundtrack — caught the Internet’s gaze this week, popping up on countless music blogs, Twitter feeds and Tumblr dashboards. And while I usually try to avoid adding to coverage gluts like this one, I want to make a quick point about Lorde’s effort and why I’ve found it to be so exceptional.

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You Watch That?!?

Muscle Shoals

“Give credit where credit is due.”

It’s the kind of idiomatic expression that any non-sociopath can cosign without thinking too hard about it. Like “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” or “Let’s order a pizza when we get back from the bar.” But GCWCID’s promise often goes unfulfilled, and there doesn’t even have to be a good reason why. No villain, no deliberate deception or cover-up. Sometimes credit is hiding in plain sight. Or in a Lynyrd Skynyrd song everyone in the country has heard between five and 500 times:

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue
Now how about you?

“The Swampers” is another name for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a handful of session musicians who provided the backbone for a string of huge hits in the 60’s and 70’s. Whether you’ve heard of the Swampers or not, Muscle Shoals, the new documentary about their work, the town they hail from and the producer/studio owner who gave them an opportunity to record with some of music’s most legendary artists, is an absolute must-see.

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