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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American Tunes: “Black History”

resound

[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.]

Goosebumps. Waves of them.

The singing here is exceptional — the execution, the creativity, the transitions… it’s all stunning. But what made me want to include “Black History” in this series is the way it tells a comprehensive story. The medley weaves together gospel songs that reflect significant moments from throughout the African-American experience, providing a long view that’s at once confounding and inspiring. (Click here to read more about which songs are included and why.)

Never in my lifetime has there been a bigger gap between the need for Americans to understand history and their willingness to do so. The past’s mistakes are being repeated at a dizzying rate. Too many congressmen take advantage of short memories by shamelessly arguing opposite sides of an issue, depending on which is presently advantageous. Too many people who benefit from systematic discrimination refuse to acknowledge that those systems discriminate.

What we need is more of the long view. More history. More of the kind of deep and broad understanding Resound is voicing here.

Resound — “Black History” [Spotify/YouTube]

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EggHunt Records

Egghunt

Every once in a while, I look around and say to myself “Damn, EggHunt Records has a lot of awesome stuff going on…” Now is an excellent example, and I think it’s time for another installment of the feature I’m unofficially naming “Damn, EggHunt Records has a lot of awesome stuff going on…”

Here’s a link to the first EggHunt catch-up post if you’re curious, and here’s an all new one, featuring three exciting projects:

Opin

opin

It really sunk in while I was listening to “Flee” for the first time that Landis Wine’s voice is Richmond to me, in the same way that the Boulevard is, or the river, or Bev’s. And it’s comforting knowing that if I ever moved away, I could still put on a White Laces album and feel the sense of place that I feel now. I’m excited to see him start a new chapter with Tori Hovater as Opin, and “Flee” leaves a great first impression. I’m especially fond of the build that ushers in the last minute of the song. Really neat.

Opin — “Flee” [Soundcloud]

Dazeases

dazeases

Speaking of distinctive Richmond voices, Dazeases’ has to be the most exciting new voice coming out of this city’s music scene. I’ve been digging into her catalog on Bandcamp, and I can’t recommend doing so highly enough. Her approach to production, vocals, performance… everything is entirely her own, and “Plum” promises continued inventiveness and gravity on her upcoming album, Local Slut, which will be released via EggHunt’s snazzy Hatched subscription series.

Dazeases — “Plum” [Spotify/Soundcloud]

Eric Slick

eric-slick

I’m not the best with time signatures. Does “You Became The Light” shift from 6/4 in the verse to waltz time in the chorus? Or is it 12/8? Are those relatively arbitrary designations? I don’t know enough to answer any of those questions. I’m just going to say that whatever Eric Slick (drummer for Dr. Dog) is doing here, I really like it. A verse that keeps you on your toes and a chorus that soothes for a few short moments before hurling you back into the madness… sign me up.

Eric Slick — “You Became The Light” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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Friends For Equality

flyerbenefit

I posted a little while back about Feral Conservatives’ gorgeous track on the Friends for Equality compilation, which benefited the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I wanted to give the cause another quick signal boost, as a Friends for Equality benefit show is being held tonight at Strange Matter.

You’ll find a number of details on the flyer above (music starts at 8, $5-20 suggested donation), as well as the lineup, which includes those very same Feral Conservatives. This time, funds are being raised for Forward Together (“Our mission is to ensure that women, youth and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential.”) and SisterSong (“Sistersong’s mission is to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.”).

Doors are at 7, but you can start prepping now by clicking play on the 15-minute journey RAIC calls “Penance.”

RAIC — “Penance” [Bandcamp]

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Afro-Zen Allstars

afro-zen-all-stars

One of my favorite interview experiences  was talking to Richmond bassist Brian Cruse, whom I wrote about for River Ciy Magazine last year. The article was about a record he made with an ensemble he leads, but he’s also part of Afro-Zen All Stars, a group that derives inspiration from a “Golden Age” of jazzy Ethiopian music that was made in the 1960s and 70s.

If you haven’t heard their new Greatest Hits album yet, it’s well worth a listen. Check out the bass line Cruse lays down on the first track, “Cha Cha.” Steady as hell, funky as hell, groovy as hell. So easy to get lost in. The whole album has that quality.

I got the chance to see the band open for No BS! Brass Band’s 10-year anniversary show, but was near the back of the venue during their set. Can’t wait to see them again to get a closer look. And to get lost in some extremely groovy music.

Afro-Zen All Stars — “Cha Cha” [Bandcamp]

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