Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Friday News and Notes: Holiday Music Edition

natalie-prass

In recent years, I’ve made the mistake of waiting until the two or three days leading up to Christmas to start spinning holiday tunes, so I’ve been hitting it hard in the last week or so. John Fahey. John Denver (Toddler YHT’s choice: “I want the mountain one”). The Kingston Trio. Charlie Byrd. Here are a few web-based recommendations:

Too much good stuff, too few Christmases per year, y’all. One more thing: Don’t miss tonight’s No BS! Brass Band show at The Broadberry — it’s three things in one: A canned food drive, a beer release and, well, a No BS! show. Luray opens. Click here for tickets.

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Friday News and Notes

moses-sumney

Fancy a few Friday news and notes thingies?

  • Today’s an awesome release day (hello there, Hiss Golden Messenger), but I left two crucial releases off last week’s list: White Laces (wrote about No Floor yesterday) and Moses Sumney. Lordy, is Lamentations good. I pretty sure I remember “Worth It” from when he opened for Sufjan Stevens at the Altria Theater — it went straight on my “That’s My Jam” playlist after I heard this version. “Lonely World” is also outstanding, with an assist from Thundercat. Well worth a listen, if you’re not already a Sumney fan. Or if you are. And since everyone on Earth falls into one of those two categories, there’s no excuse for not listening.
  • Some really great Spacebomb news — their newest roster addition, Georgie, just released a song called “Company Of Thieves” and a corresponding video that looks like it was really fun to make. This is some seriously punchy stuff, both in terms of the strength of her voice and the oomph the horns provide. More plz thx.
  • Next long run I go on I’m listening to the Bruce Fresh Air interview. Can’t wait. Also looking forward to reading his book. There need to be more hours in the day so I can do that like… now.
  • Goodwill scores this week include Wynton Marsalis’ debut album, the soundtrack for The Empire Strikes Back, and two spoken word Star Trek albums, which include three or four narrated episodes each. I’m not all that into Star Trek, but they looked too campy to walk away from.
  • Too much good music this weekend. Lucy Dacus (with My Darling Fury and Spooky Cool) at The National tonight and the Richmond Folk Festival all weekend. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t act up too much — Stephen Lecky and the whole Folk Fest machine put in so much work each year, and it’s such a gift to the city. Stop by early and often, and be sure to throw a few bucks into an orange donation bucket. You’ll probably get a sticker, and you can wear it like a badge of honor.

I whined a little about the weather earlier, but if you’re in Florida/Georgia/South Carolina and you’re reading this, be safe. Here’s hoping the storm heads east and doesn’t circle back around.

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Julien Baker

julien-baker

Over the weekend, I stopped by Deep Groove (well, the alley next to Deep Groove) to catch a performance by Julien Baker.

I stayed near the back so I could make sure the bike I was too lazy to lock up didn’t roll away, and I’m so happy I stood there. We did miss out on quieter moments, but Baker’s voice emerged clear and resonant and triumphant again and again, and it turned into this incredibly inspiring group experiment in active listening. During songs, people were silent. Cars drove by and the wind picked up here and there, but none of the humans assembled to see Baker made a sound while she sang. It was inspiring.

The quieter moments helped me soak in what I was seeing, from the gentle slope of the alley to the way Baker’s expressions grew more pronounced the further into songs she got. It was like a cycle — the song would build, the lyrics would overwhelm, and those of us in the back would hear the climactic words loud and clear. It’s amazing how smooth and consistent those loudest notes were. Even though they delivered the most emotional words, her singing was as steady as it could have been. That alchemy that turns turmoil into strength via music — she’s got it down.

One word I was surprised to hear emerge in one of those climactic moments was badlands, as in Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands.” I was standing next to Deep Groove’s Jay Leavitt, and I think we recognized the song at the same moment. It was awesome. Here’s a video of Baker doing the song backstage at this year’s Newport Folk Fest.

Julien Baker — “Badlands” (Bruce Springsteen cover) [YouTube]

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

Atlantic City

Took this while running on the north end of Atlantic City’s boardwalk this Saturday.

It’s tempting to make that house a metaphor for something — the huge casino-industrial complex towering over this run-down little house, new ways of life replacing old ones — but that casino is shuttered too. It’s just a whole bunch of sad under a grey sky and intermittent rain.

Things perked up a bit as we ran south. There were busy casinos on the boardwalk, even though the season hasn’t started in earnest (I was there for a bachelor party). Sections of the boardwalk were lined with elevated screens that looped a promotional video, and what song played behind the series of happy, sunny photos? You guessed it — the Band’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”

It was heavily edited, so the only words you could hear were “Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/And meet me tonight in Atlantic City,” which sounds fine and dandy, but if you know the song, you know that it’s pretty dark, and I can’t decide if it’s horribly inappropriate or horribly fitting for that campaign.

The details get a little hazy, but we know the dude in the song can’t find work, he’s in debt, he’s falling in with the mob, and that he’s taken all his money out of the bank. Not sure if that’s to bet it all in AC, or just because he’s moving there to work for the mob — I’ve always wanted it to be that he’s planning on making one big bet to get out of debt entirely, but I don’t know if the lyrics support that. Either way, if you asked me what that song was about, I’d say desperation. And that it’s depressing as hell. But that’s my interpretation. I’m not a gambler, and I’m risk averse to a fault. I played slots twice this weekend, and babysat a blackjack hand for like five minutes. Not exactly the profile of someone who’d buy his lady a bus ticket so she could watch him put it all on the line.

But to someone who’s from Atlantic City, or who spends a lot of time there, this could be a song about hope. About the devotion that makes you stay with someone who’s backed into a corner but just may find a way out, against all odds. Given the city’s financial struggles, “Maybe everything that dies someday comes back” is just the kind of hope people there need right now. And doesn’t the Band’s version sound nice and jaunty?

The Band — “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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Covered: Snow

Another new feature for 2016! (I’m just gonna keep saying that, and hopefully one of these will stick.) Let’s pick a bunch of albums to play based on how situationally appropriate the cover art is. The current situation? Snow. A shit-ton of it. Here’s what I’ll be playing to chase away the cabin fever:

The Band — The Band

The Band

Dudes in coats. Levon looks the chilliest. Garth looks the chillest. Danko is challenging Richard Manuel’s signature claim to creepiest, while Robbie is clearly trying to have sex with you. Or maybe just making it known that he’s open to having sex with you. One or the other.

Good point just now from Mrs. YHT: “Levon is the chilliest because he’s the only one from the South.”

The Band — “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Beatles — Help!

The Beatles

More dudes in coats. And the cover shot is from the movie’s skiing scene, which was filmed in the Austrian Alps. Those crazy moptops…

The Beatles — “Help!” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bon Iver — Blood Bank EP

Bon Iver

From which Kayne got the sample for “Lost In The World.” Great EP.

Bon Iver — “Woods” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — Brandenburg Gate: Revisited

Dave Brubeck

Achtung! It’s cold out there!

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — “In Your Own Sweet Way” [Spotify/iTunes]

Jerry Butler — The Ice Man Cometh

Jerry Butler

What’s cooler than being cool?

Jerry Butler — “Only The Strong Survive” [Discogs]

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars

Levon Helm

Levon. Paul Butterfield. Steve Cropper. Booker T. Jones. Dr. John. Duck Dunn. Robbie. Garth. Madonna.

OK, so Madonna’s not really on there. But all those other people are!

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — “Washer Woman” [Discogs]

Joni Mitchell — Hejira

Joni Mitchell

Anyone else invent an alternate universe in which “Coyote” is about Robbie Robertson?

Joni Mitchell — “Coyote” [Spotify/iTunes]

Paul Simon — Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Winner: Dude in a Coat category.

Side note — this may be the record that gets played most often in our house.

Paul Simon — “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska

Bruce Springsteen

Saving this one for when cabin fever is really getting to me and things are looking peak-bleak.

Bruce Springsteen — “Atlantic City” [Spotify/iTunes]

Stephen Stills — Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

This one qualifies twice — there’s snow on the cover, and the first song is “Love The One You’re With,” which is basically the theme song for cabin fever! Love the one you’re with… because leaving the house really isn’t an option right now.

Stephen Stills — “Love The One You’re With” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sufjan Stevens — Michigan

Sufjan Stevens

Some impressive average annual snowfall numbers for Michigan cities. Houghton gets 207.7 inches a year. If you know anyone living in Houghton, Michigan, definitely send them this blog post.

Sufjan Stevens — “Holland” [Spotify/iTunes]

They Might Be Giants — “Don’t Let’s Start” maxi single

They Might Be Giants

Let’s all hope this storm doesn’t get to the point where snowmen gain sentience, kill us all, and start burning our money. Kinda feels like it might tho. Stay warm out there, y’all.

They Might Be Giants — “When It Rains It Snows” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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Shovels & Rope

I try to avoid comparing bands to other bands, especially in writing, but I will share that in the days leading up to last week’s Friday Cheers, when I was trying to get people at work jazzed up about going, I told of handful of them that Shovels & Rope reminded me of The White Stripes. The two groups sound nothing alike, which makes me feel a little less guilty about broadcasting the comparison here, but they really do have a great deal in common, and I’m not just talking about their even gender distributions and intra-band romantic entanglements. I was mainly thinking about how they stage their songs.

Both bands are (I’m staying in the present tense because I’m unwilling to come to terms with The White Stripes not existing anymore) comprised of just two people, meaning that arrangements are sparse, usually just drums and guitar, both players have to be “on” around 100% of the time, and there’s seldom a bass line gluing songs together. Forgive me for extending the adhesive metaphor, but I actually went around telling people (with performance videos that I’d seen online in the back of my mind) that Shovels & Rope felt duct-taped together in amazing way, and that this was the group’s strength, not a weakness. I’ve overhyped bands before (cue “you can say that again” eye roll), but I really, really wanted my analogy to stick, for the sake of the folks I recommended the band to, sure, but mostly for me.

I tend to fall in love with bands as ideas, and this is a particularly touching one. I love that two married people — Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst — “made something out of nothing from a scratch and a hope,” pulling each other out of that frustrated emotional space creative types inhabit before their talents are sufficiently recognized. And I love the notion that two people can be so effective at the craft of writing and performing songs that they can travel around the country and share their music without a backing band in tow. That’s why, more than most concerts, this one felt like a test. A high-stakes showdown between expectations and reality. Could this couple shoulder the burden that, fairly or unfairly, I’d placed on their shoulders?

Yes they could, and yes they did.

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The Low Branches

Rock Bottom

Everything tastes better when it’s homegrown, and The Low Branches are taking a refreshingly agricultural approach to financing their upcoming full-length, 100 Years Old.

In order to grow the funds needed to release 100 Years Old, frontwoman Christina Gleixner has been seeding Bandcamp with home recordings, each of which can be purchased for $1 (or more — you have the ability to name a higher price if you’d like to donate extra). The series started with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Leah,” and it continues with an original entitled “Rock Bottom.” Gleixner was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about this latest recording, the status of 100 Years Old, and more.

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