Monthly Archives: May 2017

Skyway Man

So I’m late to the party here, posting about a show just a few hours before it starts, but this Skyway Man album has my adrenaline racing. I’m on my first listen, and it feels like someone’s slowly reading off winning lottery numbers that keep matching the ones on ticket I’m holding. It’s bonkers… all the sounds I’ve been gravitating toward are here.

A few data points:

  • I picked up a copy of Cosmic American Music at the Numero Group’s pop-up sale at Strange Matter in April.
  • Thanks to an especially fruitful Goodwill haul, I’ve been heavy into gospel the last few weeks, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Billy Preston’s Gospel in My Soul album to early 1980’s Savoy Records stuff.
  • I’m also in the middle of a big William Tyler kick. A BK Music Instagram post prompted me to play Impossible Truth in the recovery room after my son was born a couple weeks back, and miraculously it was still there a couple of days later, along with his earlier Behold the Spirit album.
  • We named our son Ryland, so I’ve been making my way through my father-in-law’s Ry Cooder albums, marveling at how simultaneously timeless and of-their-time they sound, especially Borderline and “Why Don’t You Try Me.”

Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye is tailor-made for someone embroiled in exactly these obsessions, with the spacey aspects of Cosmic American Music, the voluminousness and spirituality of gospel, Tyler’s exploratory spirit, and references to early 1980’s production that remove songs from the present moment, like they’re wandering untethered by time. It’s all here, along with the signature Spacebomb sounds that consistently fill my heart with joy.

As mad at myself as I am for posting this so late — and as ashamed as I am that I haven’t been listening to James Wallace’s stuff all along — I can’t help thinking that Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye and I met at exactly the right moment. Many, many thanks to Alexandra Spalding for the heads up.

Doors open at Gallery5 tonight at 7. Twain and Big Kitty will be there as well. Click here for more info.

Skyway Man — “Wires (Donny Angel and the Opening Wide)” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Joan Baez

I don’t get to spin my Bob Dylan records often, but I used his 67th birthday as an excuse to make Blonde on Blonde our pre-dinner music on Wednesday evening. The album’s been kicking around the front of my consciousness since I found out about the Old Crow Medicine Show cover version, which I ended up really enjoying. I love that it’s live — the extra energy keeps it from feeling staid or overly reverential, even though it is faithful.

I haven’t picked that one up yet, but I’ve been listening to another Dylan covers album, one I got when a friend’s neighbor decided to jettison her record collection. It’s called Any Day Now — 4 sides of Joan Baez doing Dylan tunes, including a striking a cappella version of “Tears Of Rage” that I’ve been playing over and over. I’m so used to The Band’s Big Pink cut that other versions are bound to stand out, but there’s something about the way Baez sings it… So intentional, like the lyrics mean something different to her than they might to someone else.

Joan Baez — “Tears Of Rage” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Devon Sproule

Off Your Radar readers might remember I nominated Devon Sproule’s I Love You, Go Easy album for issue #38. There are a bunch of reasons I’m crazy about that album, but here’s one I zoomed in on in my OYR blurb:

Lyrics that are this meticulously constructed shouldn’t flow so naturally, but here, they drift along on the gentle tide of Sproule’s prosaic gift.

I learned just this week that Sproule put out a new album earlier this year called The Gold String, and it’s lovely in all the ways I Love You, Go Easy is, especially when it comes to the way the lyrics flow. In fact, she touches on a similar idea in the title track when she imagines an endless strand that connects everyone and everything. Her description of it is nothing short of elegant, in large part because form and theme are one; she describes this inspiring connectedness using verses that lead into one another and this amazing rolling rhyme scheme that weaves together phrases in ear-pleasing clusters. Her words become the string she’s singing about. It’s really incredible.

If you ask 10 people about how the universe is connected, you’re likely to get 10 fairly different answers, but my answer would probably involve language — maybe not words themselves, but the desire to be understood and to understand. The space between your brain and someone else’s isn’t just space if you’re filling it with communication. It really is a way to make something from nothing. I’m drifting a bit myself here, so I’ll close by saying that for fans of language, Sproule’s writing is a gift, and I’d recommend The Gold String in the strongest terms.

Devon Sproule — “The Gold String” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Virginia’s Travel Blog

Been laying low and getting to know the newest addition to the YHT gang — he turned three whole days old this morning — but I wanted to surface quickly and share that my second post on Virginia’s Travel Blog was published today, entitled “Live Music And Breweries In Northern Virginia: A Pairing Guide.” I thought something like this would be helpful because meeting up with friends before a show is great, and even better is meeting up close to the venue so you can enjoy a drink and still make it to the show in time to catch the opener. Given how many tasty beers there are to be tried in the area, carving out extra time to make a day of your next NOVA show is well worth it.

Click here to check out the post.

As a side note, I’ve gone down a serious rabbit hole searching through archive.org for Jammin’ Java shows I went to when I was in college. I can’t remember which ones I definitely went to, but Stephen Kellogg sure was covering some fantastic songs in 2003. Might I suggest this show from June and this one from October?

Here’s one of my favorite tunes of his from that era — “Such A Way” — performed at Jammin’ Java some 10 years further down the road.

Stephen Kellogg — “Such A Way” (live) [Youtube]

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Virginia’s Travel Blog

Some fun news to share — my first post for the Virginia Tourism blog went up over the weekend.

It’s hard to put into words how honored I am at having the opportunity to write about Virginia’s music-related history, people, and places. I’ve lived in just two cities — Norfolk and Richmond — and I owe so much of my love of music to Virginia artists and venues. That said, in the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the western part of the state and the crucial role the area has played in genres like country and bluegrass. It’s been eye-opening. Despite living here for 30+ years, it still feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of the music this big, beautiful state has to offer, and I hope you’ll follow along at Virginia’s Travel Blog as I continue exploring.

My first post is about family-friendly music spots — click here to check it out, and please do subscribe on the right side of the page, if you’re so inclined.

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American Tunes: “Wild Indifference”

[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.]

This one goes out to anyone in Congress thinking about casting a yes vote today for this selfish dumpster fire of a health care plan:

In your wild indifference
It’s all centered around you
Ain’t it lonely?

Joan Shelley — “Wild Indifference” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Been trying to catch up after a dizzying few weeks of new releases. Last Friday was just bonkers, with solid or very good albums from Colin Stetson, Willie Nelson, Sylvan Esso, Feist, and Gorillaz, among others, not to mention the Sufjan live album and an Old Crow Medicine Show live set celebrating Blonde on Blonde. (Were all those spaced out over the course of six months, I’d call it a good six months for new music. One day? C’mon.)

Going back a little further, a new Preservation Hall Jazz Band album came out the Friday before that, and it’s excellent as well. It’s being billed as the group’s nod to Cuban influences, and you can certainly feel the rhythm as a focal point. Especially on “La Malanga,” an infectious call-and-response tune with a snare build that could get an EDM fesitval crowd going. Ok, maybe not the Fyre Festival crowd. That might be tough.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band — “La Malanga” [Spotify/iTunes]

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