Tag Archives: Matthew E. White

2017 in Review: RVA

2017 was fucked up in a truly barf-inducing cornucopia of ways, but I can point to one way in which it was unreasonably generous — how many of this city’s talented and creative musicians I had the opportunity to meet and interview. It’s an honor to experience so directly the warmth and kindness of this city’s creators. These conversations mean the world to me, and each one makes me want to redouble my efforts and get the word out about the amazing things this city’s musicians are capable of.

Speaking of what #rvamusic is capable of, here’s my list of favorite Richmond albums, with quotes from the folks I chatted with. To those people and everyone else on this list: Thank you for giving me the gift of inspiration throughout a truly messed up year.

Afro-Zen Allstars — Greatest Hits

From my River City Magazine interview with Afro-Zen bandleader George M. Lowe:

“I do this stuff to increase the amount of joy in the world. Nothing brings people together quite like music does, and being exposed to the musical culture of some other place can result in understanding more and grasping the fact that people are much more alike than they are different.”

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

Saw Black — Azalea Days

So you know how Spotify spits out stats at the end of the year? My top songs were all from Moana or the Trolls movie, because I’m no longer the boss of my own car stereo. Also the Monster Mash. Halloween never really ended, as far as my daughter is concerned. The first real song on my Spotify list was “Rosie’s Comin Home.” A true crossover hit — dad and daughter singing along in the car to something not voiced by an animated character. Thank you, Saw Black. There are only so many times you can listen to the Monster Mash before you start unraveling. Yes, that was a mummy pun. I really need a break from the Monster Mash. By the way, what other song requires “the” before its title and therefore looks prohibitively strange inside quotation marks? I’ve gone back and forth about how to punctuate this paragraph for longer than I’d like to admit.

Saw Black — “Rosie’s Comin Home” [Spotify/iTunes]

Butcher Brown — Live at Vagabond

RVA Magazine was kind enough to let me review this one. Here’s a snippet:

Live at Vagabond captures both the energy of the crowd and the virtuosity of individual instrumentalists with remarkable clarity, giving listeners a taste of Devonne Harris’ compositional gifts, his adventurous approach to keys, and the ensemble’s knack for seizing the moment.

Butcher Brown — “Tunnelvision” [Spotify/iTunes]

Camp Howard — Juice

The title track is a true jam. I heard the band say they approached the instrumental work on “Juice” like they might have if they were using sampled sounds. It’s a neat thought experiment, and it resulted in a really great tune.

Camp Howard — “Juice” [Spotify/iTunes]

Dazeases — Local Slut

From my RVA Magazine interview with Dazeases:

Nevertheless, her performance style is self-made and singular. She prefers low lighting; just the night before, at a show in Charlottesville, she improvised her own ambiance using lamps she found at the venue. “Any photos — if you see a lamp on a chair, that was me.” And she described an approach to organizing set lists that involves front-loading upbeat material. “It’s really cool to watch that tone change or make that tone change happen,” she said. “I usually do an emotional slope in my sets, so it’ll start out as positive as I get for my music — it’s not really positive or happy by nature — and then just drag it down. Down, down, down. Like, unrelenting.”

Dazeases — “Laurel” [Spotify/YouTube]

DJ Harrison — Hazymoods

RVA Magazine let me review this one as well. It truly is an honor to document Devonne Harris’ brilliance as it unfolds. Here’s a section of that review:

Newcomers to the respected RVA collaborator’s solo work will get a sense for his keen ear — how he can blend disparate sounds, often from his own storied output as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, and make a cohesive musical moment.

DJ Harrison — “ProcessFresh” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

Thorp Jenson — Odessa

Another one RVA Magazine let me blurb:

It plays like an expertly crafted survey of styles from the last 60 years, from Stones riffs and heartland rock to country waltzing and soul not unlike Matthew E. White’s. Well-worn and world-class, right out of the gate.

Thorp Jenson — “Odessa” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sid Kingsley — Good Way Home

I was also fortunate enough to interview Sid Kingsley this year. What a brilliant, friendly, and humble person. If I were to assign a Revelation of the Year, it would be Kingsley’s voice. Arresting in the best way imaginable.

People assume that I’m influenced, and I’m trying to emulate some of these [singers]. Singing is totally a newer thing for me. It’s even newer than the piano, because I was definitely just playing piano and not singing at all. Super-bashful about it. I haven’t tried to emulate anyone vocally. Saxophone – I used to try to emulate Charlie Parker, Joshua Redman. But with my voice, I just sing. This is what I sound like.

Sid Kingsley — “Sam Stone” [Spotify/iTunes]

Minor Poet — And How!

I’ve written a bunch about And How!, and Andrew Carter was kind enough to call an article I wrote the definitive retelling of how the album took shape. Here’s a link — hopefully it gives you a sense of Carter’s love for the recording process. It was a truly inspiring conversation.

That curiosity led to years of experimenting with the recording process, and if there’s one thing And How! makes perfectly clear, it’s that Andrew Carter loves to record. You can hear it in the album’s opening moments — his knack for molding off-kilter sounds by manipulating sub-par equipment. “[In] that first song, ‘Plot Devices,’ there’s that weird, lo-fi stringy sound. It’s this little toy Casio run through a shit-ton of weird effects. That was part of the fun of making it. ‘What cool sound can I make that doesn’t exist?’”

Minor Poet — “River Days” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

Opin — Opin

I find myself coming back to this record time and again, finding new reasons to love it. There’s one constant, though, and that’s “Lift Canal,” which is at or near the top of the Best Songs of 2017 list I’m too overwhelmed to make. Speaking of overwhelm, “Lift Canal” has been there for me in some tough moments this year. Very thankful it exists.

Opin — “Get Home” [Spotify/iTunes]

Positive No — Partners in the Wild

The first tape I bought after being gifted a cassette player for Christmas. So begins a new era of jamming out in the car. Exceedingly psyched about this development.

Positive No — “Y.A.A.Y.Y.” [Spotify/iTunes]

Skinny-E — Brown Paper Bag

From the post I wrote after seeing Evan McKeel perform at In Your Ear studios late last year:

His set at In Your Ear was short, but he needed only sing a few lines for me to hear what millions of fans of The Voice had already heard — a truly incredible singing voice, able to ascend with ease and smokier than his years, with a natural distortion that provides texture and complements his precision. When I thought about the literal and figurative stage that he’d occupied on TV, sitting in that studio listening to him seemed like such a gift. It quickly sank in that he could sing pretty much any song he wanted to, which begs the question: What do you do when you can do anything?

Skinny-E — “Love Again” [Spotify/iTunes]

Eric Slick — Palisades

What a joy it was to speak with Eric Slick over the phone for this River City Magazine article and then shake his hand at the Richmond Symphony’s RVA Live! night. Two quick tangents: Did you know he hosts a truly awesome podcast called the Strange America Radio Half Hour? Or that his other band Lithuania (remember, he’s also the drummer for Dr. Dog) just released an album? Dude never stops. A few words about Palisades:

“These songs were birthed out of learning how to meditate. I started meditating and my creative life began, outside of drumming. So, it’s all still really new to me, and I’m still navigating how to be at the front of a stage, and how to be a performer. I feel like I’m juggling when I’m up there, but it’s really challenging and exciting and it’s a necessary part of my creative process. When I do go back to the drums now, I have this whole other perspective on how to play drums.”

Eric Slick — “You Are Not Your Mind” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

J. Roddy Walston & The Business — Destroyers of the Soft Life

Being the first to snag a copy of Destroyers of the Soft Life at Plan 9 was exceedingly rewarding, as evidenced by the test pressing pictured above. Digging into the liner notes in my companion copy was rewarding as well, as finding out that Michael York of Sleepwalkers played on “The Wanting” turned a song I already loved into a multifaceted celebration.

J. Roddy Walston & The Business — “The Wanting” [Spotify/iTunes]

Matthew E. White & Flo Morrissey — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

White and Morrissey played four cities in support of Gentlewoman, Ruby Man: Paris, London, New York, and Richmond, Virginia. Their show at the Broadberry kicked off the tour, and I feel very lucky to have been there to see it. An all-star Spacebomb backing band, including Devonne Harris. A set of stunningly rendered cover tunes. I was especially thrilled to hear their take on Leonard Cohen’s legendary “Suzanne.”

Matthew E. White & Flo Morrissey — “Suzanne” (Leonard Cohen cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

More 2017 in Review:

2017 in Review: Live Albums
2017 in Review: Blasts from the Past
2017 in Review: Americana
2017 in Review: 25 Favorites

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Lonnie Holley

lonnie-holley

Passing along a piece of advice Matthew E. White issued regarding your arrival time for his show tonight at The Broadberry:

The opening set will be played by Lonnie Holley, who is an artist in more than one sense of the word. Holley first gained recognition for turning reclaimed junkyard objects into arrayed sculptures on a massive scale, which he started to do when he was 29. More than 30 years later, he’s still in constant creative motion, and from the sound of the New York Times profile White tweeted out, creation isn’t just an impulse for Holley — it’s more elemental than that. Here’s a bit I found fascinating:

We were sitting at an outdoor table with a partly filled ashtray. Holley stopped talking to reach over and pluck out a cigarette butt, examining it as if he had discovered a rare penny in a handful of change. He asked me for a sheet of paper from my notebook, then tore apart the butt and affixed its cottony filter to a wooden coffee stirrer, also liberated from the ashtray. “This is called white oak,” he said. “It’s what they use to weave baskets and things, because it’s flexible.” He fashioned a miniature paintbrush and then painted a heart and the word LOVE using ashes mixed with a few drops of his iced coffee, the solution creating an appealing speckled-eggshell patina.

It wasn’t until later, but Holley started recording music in which looped elements backline winding and soaring image-based vocal storytelling. That same New York Times piece described how all of Holley’s musical performances are unique pieces — how he makes something new each time he addresses an audience. As a person who tries to write songs and feels lucky for whatever fleeting moments of inspiration I can hold onto, I’m in awe of the total paradigm shift Holley embodies. He doesn’t so much grasp at inspiration as he floats in it. Surrounds himself in it.

I can’t want to see what he has in store tonight. In his tweet, White called it a “rare event,” which I love, given the irony at work here: Everything Holley does is once-in-a-lifetime.

Lonnie Holley – “From The Other Side Of The Pulpit” [Bandcamp]

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American Tunes: “Will You Love Me”

Big Inner

[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.]

I dunno about you, but given the way January 20 has been looming — ominously, darkly — on the horizon, the days before then have seemed unusually pregnant and worthy of cherishing. Today, especially, given that Martin Luther King Jr. preached lessons of love, progress, and decency that have, unfortunately, become urgently relevant of late. Holding up his example seems crucial, which is why I’m posting “Will You Love Me” — a song from Matthew E. White’s debut album that gently adjusts a King quotation on loving your enemies and refusing to co-opt despair:

Darkness can’t drive out darkness
Only love can do that

The original quote — “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” — appears to have first been said in a 1957 sermon, though it can also be found in King’s book Strength to Love. As it happens, I heard the very same quote at my mom’s church this past Sunday, when the rector included it in his sermon. With all the ugliness of the 2016 election, it may seem harder than ever to live up to King’s compassionate, loving example, but these words exude a deep, unchanging truth that’s bigger than any one politician, businessman, or political party, and I truly believe they represent the most direct line between where we are and where we need to go.

Matthew E. White — “Will You Love Me” [Spotify/iTunes]

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American Tunes: “This Land Is Your Land”

spacebomb-roundtable

[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.]

On Tuesday, The Spacebomb Sound hosted a really candid and informative roundtable on race that aired on Red Bull Music Academy Radio. Tiffany Jana, Reggie Pace, Kelli Strawbridge, Devonne Harris, Cameron Ralston, and Matthew E. White participated, and while I’m not sure if audio is available to be replayed, RBMA just posted a fairly extensive transcript of the discussion. I hope you’ll read it and share — read to absorb the ideas and experiences that were relayed on Tuesday, and share to keep the momentum going so honest, substantive discussions like this one keep happening all over the country.

One song they played during the show was Sharon Jones’ version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” I hadn’t heard her version until recently, but I’ve grown very attached to it in that short time. It’s amazing how much gravity her voice adds. Growing up, I didn’t realize how political the song was — depending on which verses people choose to include, it can still seem apolitical and/or downright hypocritical — but I had a conversion experience last year when Dave Rawlings Machine closed their November show at The National with it. The verse about the signs and private property and how signs say nothing on the back… I don’t know whether I hadn’t heard that verse before or if I just wasn’t listening intently, but when Dave Rawlings sang it, it felt powerfully subversive. Got goosebumps and everything.

Here’s how Jones sings it:

As I was walking, they tried to stop me
They put up a sign that said “private property”
On the back side, it said nothing
That side was made for you and me

Sharon Jones — “This Land Is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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Record Store Day

record-store-day

The YHT crew is heading up to Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving, which means I won’t be making my semiannual early morning pilgrimage to BK Music for Record Store Day festivities. I haven’t decided if I’ll seek out a participating store near Alexandria. Previous attempts to celebrate RSD out of town have been haphazard, but if you have suggestions, I’m all ears.

That said, uncertainty hasn’t stopped me from drooling over a few of the limited releases that will be hitting shelves on Friday…

Angel Olsen/Steve Gunn — Live at Pickathon

angel-olsen

Two people I admire and respect tremendously, both of whom I’ve gotten to see live — Olsen at Strange Matter and Gunn at Steady Sounds. Sign me up for this split live LP, which features some seriously snazzy cover art.

Angel Olsen — “Acrobat” [Spotify/iTunes]

Otis Redding — Live at the Whiskey A Go Go

otis-redding

I know that, when I need a live Otis fix, I can turn to one of the Stax/Volt Revue albums, or my copy of the Historic Performances Recorded At The Monterey International Pop Festival album that features Jimi Hendrix on the other side. But I seriously doubt I’ll be able to put Live at the Whiskey A Go Go down if I pick it up. (I’m just realizing how fitting it is that Redding and Hendrix share that Monterey album — both would be very, very high on my list of acts I’d travel through time and/or raise from the dead to be able to see live.)

Otis Redding — “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (live) [YouTube]

Aquarium Drunkard — Lagniappe Sessions Vol. 1

lagniappe-sessions

This is the one I’m dying to find a copy of. I’ve followed along with Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions, and Matthew E. White has done two now. One of those featured a cover of Randy Newman’s “I’ll Be Home,” and that’s the track that was chosen for this compilation. Given White’s prominent role in helping me find my way to Newman’s music, this feels like the nexus of something important.

Matthew E. White — “I’ll Be Home” (Randy Newman cover) [Aquarium Drunkard]

 

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Friday News and Notes

animal-collective

A few quick notes before the weekend. Just a warning: Things will likely get political on here next week, so let’s enjoy this carefree* moment while we can.

*I’m an anxious train wreck right now and Wednesday can’t come soon enough.

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Friday News and Notes

devon-sproule

Lots of fun stuff going on this week — including a ticket giveaway below!

  • I picked this past week’s Off Your Radar album — Devin Sproule’s I Love You, Go Easy — and I want to thank the other writers for taking a listen. I’d also like to officially and publicly cop to not knowing that “Runs In The Family” was a Roches cover. Doug Nunnally may never forgive me. Click here to read this week’s issue.
  • Speaking of Doug, I can’t wait to read the RVA Magazine article he wrote about Andrew Cothern and his efforts with Virginia Tourism. Might have to go hunting for a copy after work today.
  • It has begun — the Record Store Day lust started welling up last night when I saw that this collaboration between Light in the Attic Records and the Aquarium Drunkard blog will be released on Black Friday. It collects Lagniappe Sessions — informal covers recorded for the blog — including Matthew E. White covering Randy Newman.
  • I picked up a copy of Nels Cline’s Lovers album last weekend, and it’s an absolute monster. I listened to it around when it came out in the summer of last year, but I guess I wasn’t listening intently enough, because it is so broadly and consistently brilliant.
  • Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show. Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show. [tries to catch breath] Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show.
  • Just got my ticket for Helado Negro’s show at Strange Matter on 11/7 and was surprised to see another band listed as the headliner: Kikagaku Moyo. Checking them out now, both their album from this year — House in the Tall Grass — and this Revolt of the Apes profile.
  • Speaking of tickets, remember how I interviewed Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre? Exciting news — Richmond Navigator is giving away two tickets to tomorrow night’s show at The Tin Pan! Be the first to comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook and they’re yours!

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