Ian Chang

Been gnawing on a bunch of non-bloggy writing, but I thought I’d share one thing I’ve been playing on repeat while I work — “Romeo,” from Ian Chang’s upcoming album, Spiritual Leader.

I’ve gotten to know Chang’s virtuosic drumming via Landlady and Son Lux, and its hard to overstate how captivating he is in the live setting. He’s a show unto himself, which makes a solo album — especially this solo album — a natural fit.

Chang’s using a type of technology that allows him to express a wide range of sounds with his kit — sensory percussion, it’s called. Two things jump out: 1. He really can be a show unto himself this way, and 2. This opens the door to a whole new way of listening — form, tonality, decision-making… you get to think a little differently about all of it given how the music is being created.

And you get to hear Ian Chang play drums, which is always a gift. “Romeo” is below, and the preorder is here.

Ian Chang — “Romeo” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

Leave a comment

Filed under #nowplaying

Virginia’s Travel Blog

My latest post for Virginia Tourism is up, and I’m especially eager to get the word out about this one.

You know that feeling when a song references where you’re from? That sense of collective pride? These are a few of the songs that give me that feeling. I originally intended to list more, but these five had such interesting backstories, and I couldn’t resist diving a bit deeper. Fingers crossed I get to do another post expanding the list.

With that in mind, I hope you’ll take a look and spread the word — and please share which songs you’d have included. I won’t list all five of mine here, but I will say that there’s a mix of instrumentals and songs with lyrics, that Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved, and that I hope folks take this opportunity to get to know Daniel Bachman’s music a little better. His playing is steeped in history, from his stylistic depth to song titles that pay homage to the region is different ways.

Here’s the song of his I included in the post, the title track from his 2014 Orange Co. Serenade album.

Daniel Bachman — “Orange County Serenade” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Big Thief

We’re just a few hours away from one of the Friday Cheers shows I was most psyched about when the schedule was announced, and while it was Conor Oberst’s name that first got my attention (big fan of Bright Eyes, never seen him live… been enjoying Salutations…), I’ve been getting more and more jazzed about seeing Big Thief’s opening set.

Just a couple of days ago, NPR posted a new Big Thief tune called “Mary,” and I’m totally in awe of it. The word “perfect” comes to mind. It’s stately but not staid… carefully crafted yet natural… complex in spite of the fact it was recorded in one take… It actually reminds me of the Devon Sproule tune I posted last week, only it strings together the past instead of the present.

Fingers crossed we get to hear it tonight. See y’all on Brown’s Island.

Big Thief — “Mary” [Spotify/iTunes]

Leave a comment

Filed under #live

Afro-Zen Allstars

I first started writing this blog in 2011. The decision to do so was fairly spontaneous, and I had no idea that writing about music would change my life as much as it has. I might have expected that I’d learn about bands and albums, and that my world would expand in that way, but I couldn’t have guessed that I’d meet so many people who make the universe seem like a bigger, more beautiful place.

Two of those people play in Afro-Zen Allstars. One is Brian Cruse, the friendly, talented, and in-demand bassist I interviewed for River City Magazine in 2015. The other is the band’s founder, leader, and arranger, George M. Lowe, who is the subject of my latest article for the magazine. A short time back, Lowe and I met up at Addis downtown for Ethiopian food and an interview. As was the case with Cruse, we talked for nearly two hours, and I walked away amazed at Lowe’s warmth, his bravery, and his other-worldly devotion to music. That’s where the title of the article came from (the “Golden” part is a reference to the Ethiopian music that inspired Lowe to form the Allstars). I hope you’ll take a look online or find a print copy. I have a feeling you’ll end up as devoted to Afro-Zen Allstars as I am.

Many thanks, George, for all your help, and for making the world a bigger, more joyful, and better sounding place.

Afro-Zen Allstars — “Aj Aj” [Bandcamp/iTunes]

Leave a comment

Filed under #interviews, #rva

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]

Leave a comment

Filed under #live, #nowplaying, #rva

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]

Leave a comment

Filed under #nowplaying

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]

3 Comments

Filed under #nowplaying