Monthly Archives: March 2017

Markiss Blowfish

Really excited to spread the word about this. A few months ago, I had a chance to interview Mark Branch, the blues singer you might have seen at the entrance to the South of the James Farmer’s Market. My family goes there just about every week when the weather is warm, which makes Markiss Blowfish — that’s Branch’s stage name — the Richmond musician I see most often.

Whether I’m walking by in a hurry or stopping with my daughter to move along with Branch’s steady, chugging guitar playing, the amount of joy in my day increases as a result of hearing him sing, and I can report that speaking with him about music and his journey in life had the same effect. The experience left me thanking my lucky stars for my sense of place. Places matter, and they’re more than just locations. They’re the routines you settle into. The people you see. I’m so thankful for that market and this city and the feeling I get when I hear Branch’s voice booming in the distance when I’m walking toward him. Also Mrs. Yoder’s donuts. Can’t leave those out.

 

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of River City Magazine or read online to learn more about him. And be sure to check him out at the South of the James Market. It’s a wonderful, soul-nourishing way to start your weekend.

 

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Feist

One more dispatch from the moving/unpacking process:

I mentioned in my Tommy James post that it was fun filing away records I hadn’t seen in a while. This is one I’m not sure I’d even heard yet, so I gave it a spin. Feist covering Mastodon. Mastodon covering Feist. A tidy and memorable portmanteau serving as the title.

As you might have guessed, given the quirky pairing, this was a Record Store Day release. 2012, to be exact, which seems like ages ago, until you consider that Feist’s most recent LP, Metals, came out a year before that. Even crazier is the fact that The Reminder came out four years before Metals, which puts us all the way back in 2007. The irony here is that she’s a near-daily part of my life, thanks to my daughter, whose love of “1234” hasn’t wavered since I posted about it last August. It’s astonishing how well The Reminder holds up. I don’t know what I would have said if you’d told me in 2007 that, ten years later, I’d still be listening to this album regularly and that Donald Trump would be president. I probably would have just stared at you blankly.

Speaking of Donald Trump, here are a few lyrics from “Black Tongue,” the Mastodon song Feist covers on this 7-inch:

You own the darkness
Have taken my sight
You buried the stars underground
You’ve stolen the night

You can run to the sea
You can run to the forest
You can hide
But you’ll never escape

Really the whole thing can be read as a clairvoyant rendering of Trump’s media omnipresence and anti-Democratic tendencies. Except for the line later on in the song about running out of lies. He seems to draw from a bottomless well there.

What we were talking about? Oh yeah — unpacking records is fun! (And yay for new Feist at the end of April!)

Feist — “Black Tongue” (Mastodon cover) [YouTube]

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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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