Monthly Archives: October 2017

Stockholm Syndrone

The return of Stockholm Syndrone! With a slight Halloween tie-in!

The three year old and I have been hitting the Trolls soundtrack pretty hard in the car lately. If she gets her way, we start with “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” (Their caps, not mine. And I’m not linking to it. I can’t risk the YouTube video playing before I can click pause.) If I get my way, we start with “Hair Up,” which is made more bearable by the fact that it incorporates the melody of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” the highly recognizable Edvard Grieg composition.

You’ve heard it, I swear. It’s used in all sorts of movies and songs, and I found a dynamite orchestral version on an album called Fright Night: Music that Goes Bump in the Night earlier today, so technically it qualifies as Halloween music?

Here’s my favorite version — the one from the soundtrack for The Social Network. Happy Halloween!

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — “In the Hall of the Mountain King” [Spotify/iTunes]

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The Blackbyrds

This is a fun one.

First, I have to say thanks to Lacy, wherever you are, for damaging this copy of City Life enough that it ended up in Deep Groove’s sidewalk sale but not so much that a wood glue peel couldn’t bring it back to life. That’s the sidewalk sale sweet spot.

Second, I want to share the lyrics “Rock Creek Park,” the album’s impossibly funky opening track:

Doing it in the park
Doing it after dark, oh, yeah
Rock Creek Park, oh, yeah
Rock Creek Park

That’s the long and short of it. Direct, concise, perfect. Extra credit for how much I’m looking forward to playing this for Mrs. YHT’s parents, who live in Northern Virginia and drive through Rock Creek Park regularly. I’m positive they’ll get a kick out of it, if they’re not already fans. It’s hard to imagine people listening to this song and not digging it.

Speaking of widespread appreciation, I’ve also been having fun looking through WhoSampled at all the songs that incorporate snippets of “Rock Creek Park.” Here’s a partial list — see if you can pick out where it appears in each of these:

And here’s the real deal:

The Blackbyrds — “Rock Creek Park” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Dave Van Ronk

Another gem I snagged at Deep Groove’s sidewalk sale last weekend: Dave Van Ronk’s No Dirty Names LP.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, in large part because I spent a couple of weeks recently binge-listening to “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” I’m not sure how that started, but Inside Llewyn Davis must be involved on some level, given that Oscar Isaac performs the song in the film. Then again, I didn’t know until, like, right now that the movie was partially inspired by Van Ronk’s autobiography.

Looking through DVR’s discography I see that No Dirty Names came out in 1966, two years after he released a pair of albums in the same year: Inside Dave Van Ronk, which I’m assuming led to the film’s title, and Just Dave Van Ronk, which I pulled out of my dad’s collection a few years back. I’m not sure whether that was before or after the movie came out — just that the album had some value on Discogs and looked interesting.

I’ve come to admire his voice a great deal. You’ll often see the word “growl” associated with how he sang, and No Dirty Names is full of examples why. Opening track “One Meatball” is outstanding in that respect — so much attack in his voice. Same with “Keep It Clean,” which immediately sounded familiar, probably because of Willie Watson’s version. If memory serves, Watson may have even performed it with the Dave Rawlings Machine at the National in Richmond in 2015. Can’t wait for their show there in December.

I digress… but isn’t that what’s great about folk music? You bring up one album and next thing you know you’re three degrees of separation away with a whole mess of amazing music in between.

Dave Van Ronk — “Keep It Clean” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Emitt Rhodes

I don’t always hit up sidewalk sales, but when I do, it always seems to be at Deep Groove Records. There’s something about flipping through records in nice weather right there on Robinson Street… I love it.

I’ve had luck at their sales in the past, but nothing like this weekend. I snagged five items, and I’m going to try to do quickie posts about each of them, because I’m that psyched and can’t help sharing.

First up is Mirror, the third album from one man band Emitt Rhodes. All the instruments, all the vocals… all Rhodes, same as the self-titled album he released before this one. I have the kind folks from Sleepwalkers to thank for putting him on my radar when I first met and interviewed them. Fitting, given how versatile and studio savvy the guys from Sleepwalkers are.

The record was pretty cloudy, which might explain why it was part of a sidewalk sale, but a wood glue peel cleared things up considerably. I hadn’t heard a note of Mirror (it doesn’t seem to be available via iTunes or streaming), but much like his eponymous album, it’s excellent, especially when you factor in Rhodes’ solo approach. Right up there with Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles output.

See what I mean:

Emitt Rhodes — “Better Side of Life” [YouTube/Discogs]

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Joni Mitchell

First… an apology. I know lots of YHT posts these days boil down to writing about writing — getting the word out about pieces of mine that are published here and there. Interviews and longer articles have definitely been keeping me typing, which is good. I guess that’s more of an acknowledgement than an apology. If you’re reading this, I am exceedingly thankful for your companionship and your help in keeping the blog life alive.

Second… more writing about writing! I had to pass along a link to Lindsay Zoladz’s Ringer article about Joni Mitchell titled “Fear of a Female Genius.” It’s such a powerful and inspiring portrait of a powerful and inspiring person. The force of her individuality comes through in ways that I hadn’t understood or heard about before, and the very end is so touching. Prince is involved. You’ll feel feelings, I promise.

There’s also a fascinating description of how she came to write “Both Sides Now,” the last song on her Clouds album from 1969. I love Blue deeply, but Clouds may be my favorite Mitchell album to play at home, in part because my mother-in-law told me at one point that Clouds was THE jam on her dorm’s hallway at Wheelock College back in the day. I even made a habit of spinning it whenever she visited. A couple of years later, she politely told me she’s not actually the biggest Joni Mitchell fan. Oops.

Still, Clouds was the first thing I reached for when I decided to embark upon a Joni binge with Zoladz’s piece in the front of my mind. “Both Sides Now” describes knowing and not knowing — how experience can paradoxically drive home the limitations of your perspective. That’s certainly how I feel after reading what Lindsay Zoladz wrote. Apparently I didn’t know Mitchell at all.

Joni Mitchell — “Both Sides Now” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Mdou Moctar

Some happy moments are easy to relive. A dinner that came together just right. A book worth rereading. An inside joke that keeps making you and a friend laugh.

Then there are moments so singular that you’re filled with gratitude at having experienced them as they zoom away in the rear-view. I can say with certainty that I won’t soon have a Friday evening like last Friday evening.

So many thanks go out to my friend G, who gave me a heads up earlier in the week about an event happening at the University of Richmond involving Tuareg desert blues — a style she and I have a shared enthusiasm for. We’ve sent Sahel Sounds Bandcamp links back and forth, and I even grabbed a used copy of Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 2 when I saw it at Plan 9 because I knew she’d dig it.

She repaid me a thousand times over by letting me know that Mdou Moctar, one of the artists featured on that compilation, would be performing at UR after a screening of Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, which translates to “Rain the color blue with a little red in it.” That’s right — Moctar collaborated with Christopher Kirkley from Sahel Sounds on a remake of Prince’s Purple Rain set in the Sarhara, purple motorcycle and all. It was insanely cool, though I have to confess: I can’t comment on the intertextual angle, because [takes a deep breath] I’ve never seen Purple Rain. I thought about finding it and cramming it into the busy days leading up to the event, but then I fell in love with the idea of seeing Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai first. How fun will watching Prince’s version be for the first time? I seriously can’t wait.

After the screening, Moctar and his band — the same rhythm guitarist and percussionist who backed him in the movie — walked down the auditorium’s aisle to thunderous applause and went on to play six songs, with stretches of Francophone Q&A sprinkled throughout and translated by Kirkley. Especially interesting was hearing how Kirkley and Moctar first connected — wary phone calls, files sent haphazardly via Internet connectivity Moctar likened to what the U.S. would have had in 1996. It’s amazing to think how easily that connection could have been lost. Yet there they were, working together to answer questions from Central Virginians about the movie they made together in the Sahara desert.

Moctar’s playing was exceptional. His left-handed Stratocaster work first seemed more focused on color and shape than virtuosity, as he’s extremely gifted at shading via countermelody. But by the sixth and final song — a chunkier rock tune — Moctar was plucking as fast as I imagine a hummingbird beats its wings, and the runs he unleashed while standing next to the drums and egging his bandmates on were nothing short of jaw-dropping. True to the Saharan Cellphones tradition, I made a few crappy iPhone recordings, and somehow the audio of that last song is even more impressive than my memory of seeing it, which doesn’t even make sense.

I also walked away with a vinyl copy of Moctar’s newest LP, Sousoume Tamachek, signed by the three-man band I’d just seen in-person and onscreen. I’ve been spinning it nonstop — it paints a really varied and intimate picture of Moctar’s approach, with a nice mix of acoustic and electric guitar. Check out the title track below, and click here to see the remaining dates on this tour. Not every stop involves a screen of Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, but I can guarantee a singular experience nonetheless.

Mdou Moctar — “Sousoume Tamachek” [Bandcamp/Spotify]

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