Lots of fun stuff to check in about:
- CD Monday update: New Lions & the Not-Good Night is a gift that keeps giving and giving. Even more in love with it than I was before. The band is heading out on tour today — get a taste of what those shows will be like here, and join the band in figuring out what their tour hashtag will be (current frontrunner is #thisisandisnotTOURture2016).
- One Week One Band did Punch Brothers this week! I read a fair amount of it, but I’m planning to go back through and make sure I saw everything. Might be my favorite OWOB week since I started following along. Really thorough.
- Y’all see the Lincoln commercial where Sharon Jones covers “Midnight Rider”? It’s fantastic. You even get a little Matthew McConaughey at the end.
- It was so rewarding following along on social media as Sleepwalkers played Red Rocks two nights this week. This may be the most excited I’ve been for shows that I wasn’t even going to. The pictures are breathtaking — hit up their Twitter account to check a few out. Prepare for goosebumps.
- I dunno about you, but I’m fixin’ to hop on that there Bonnaroo live stream a fair amount this weekend. I wrote a thing a while back about about how much I love festival live streams. As a substitute for being able to co-locate and do all of the things at all of the times, they’re pretty snazzy.
- Another song from the new Avers album hit the interweb! It’s called “Santa Anna” and I’m enjoying it very much. Listen over at USA Today’s FTW site. Speaking of FTW, they came out with a list of the 16 best songs of the first half of 2016 and Clair Morgan’s “Rogue Island” is ranked #5, between Chance the Rapper and ANOHNI. How cool is that?!?
- No gig tonight, but I feel compelled to share with the world that, at last Friday’s gig, I got to say — all in seriousness — the following sentence into a microphone: “This one’s for the dude in the bouncy castle who requested Skynyrd.”
- Tonight’s might be the season’s most anticipated Friday Cheers show — Kurt Vile and Richmond’s fast-rising phenom, Lucy Dacus — and I will most assuredly be there. Might even bring my copy of No Burden in hopes that Dacus will sign it. I did just that with my copy of Phil Cook’s Southland Mission album and, while I definitely felt like a nerd doing so, it was well worth it. Also bears mentioning that the National has a crazy run of shows coming up: Death Cab for Cutie tonight, M83 on Sunday, Fitz & the Tantrums on Tuesday, Violent Femmes on Wednesday… not too shabby. And the Broadberry has Lucius on Wednesday. Lots of good stuff to see.
See y’all at Cheers!
Remember that scene from Days of Thunder when Robert Duvall says, incredulously, “There ain’t nothin’ stock about a stock car”? (I hope you remember it, because I couldn’t find it on YouTube, which was a bitter disappointment. C’mon, Internet.)
That line came to mind when I listened to Bone & Company’s cover of the traditional folk song “Moonshiner.” I’ve been though periods of light obsession with four other recordings of “Moonshiner” — first Frank Hoier’s (after I saw him play it in a since-closed Richmond coffee shop I can’t recall the name of), then Bob Dylan’s, then Punch Brothers’, then Cat Power’s. They’re all fantastic, but they’re all, well, traditional. To greater and lesser degrees, they fit a template that’s been agreed upon over the years, traits acquired through a natural selection-ish process of addition and subtraction. Acoustic guitar. Fingerpicking. Long, resigned notes sung over sparse arrangements that suit the lyrics’ message of isolation. Even the Punch Brothers version, which adds layers of graceful complexity as only PB can, and Cat Power’s, with its mournful chords and atmospherics, can’t escape the song’s well-established tone. They’re evolved, but they’re still close biological relatives.
The version of “Moonshiner” recently released by Harrisonburg’s Bone & Company feels like a different animal.
I’m not sure that American Beauty is my favorite movie, but I’m pretty sure it has soaked deeper into my brain than any other. Certain images and episodes come to mind all the time — the fight over the beer that was about to spill on the couch, the “I want to look good naked” line, the phrase “Lawrence Welk shit” among them. The idea that comes up most, however, is the plastic bag thing — the scene in which we watch two characters watch a video of a plastic bag blowing in the wind. As he takes in his videographic handiwork, the creepy but ultimately awesome next door neighbor kid delivers the movie’s best line:
“Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I just can’t take it, and my heart is going to cave in.”
Later, Kevin Spacey tells us from beyond the grave that in situations like that, he’s learned (omniscience is quite handy) to let the beauty flow through him “like rain,” instead of trying to bottle it up. They’re talking about the sublime, which I wrote about just a few weeks ago, but they’re also talking about the part of human nature that makes us want to contain things. To corral them. To own them. Last Tuesday, I ran headfirst into this impulse thanks to the Punch Brothers show at the National.
Doesn’t matter how many times I do it, I never get sick of flipping through my dad’s records when I’m in Norfolk. He left behind one hell of a collection, as I’m sure I’ve told you before, and whenever I’m home seeing my mom, I thumb through the shelves of classical, jazz and folk titles waiting to be dusted off and put in active rotation in Richmond.
You’d think that after (more than) a few times through, I’d have picked out the stuff I wanted, leaving behind the stuff I didn’t want, but it doesn’t really work that way. Each time I take a spin through my dad’s collection, I’m a different person. I’ve almost always fallen for a classical piece that I flipped past the last time, I may have learned more about a jazz musician my dad liked or maybe I decided that the Kingston Trio is worth a shot after all. Because I’m different each time, the collection is different each time. Physically, it sits there gathering dust, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s constantly in flux.
I’ve got this kind of relative change on the brain because Nickel Creek’s new, hiatus-breaking album A Dotted Line just went up for a First Listen over at NPR.
Last week turned out to be a cover song celebration, with one post about a monster collection of repurposed Bob Dylan tunes and another about Punch Brothers’ out-of-this-world takes on Radiohead. And while I didn’t really set out to double down on the covers, I couldn’t be happier that theme emerged, because it got me thinking differently about Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that has just released a new recording entitled Seven Steps.
Before going any further, I am obligated by the International Code of Music Blogging Ethics to point out that classical music is usually “not my cup of tea.” But it’s not “not my cup of tea” in the same way that, say, olives are “not my cup of tea.” Olives I hate with a passion. The word “tapenade” is an iron-clad deal-breaker when scanning the menu at fancy restaurants. Classical music, on the other hand, is something that I have a great deal of interest in learning about, but I have a long way to go, both in terms of appreciation and understanding.
So how did Brooklyn Rider manage to make connection with their 2011 effort, Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass? I think Glass’ minimalist style deserves some of the credit. As with any learning endeavor, repetition is helpful, and the repetitive structures in Glass’ music engage without feeling overwhelming, despite the fact that a great deal of complexity is hidden within those patterns. But I think the lion’s share of the credit belongs to the group’s 4 musicians, who themselves are refreshingly relatable.
Every once in a while, I’ll be watching a drummer go to town during a rhythmically demanding section of a song, and I’ll say to myself, “That dude is an alien.” Certain drummers have that extra gear that makes it look like they’re working with more than two arms and two legs — how else could they be doing so much at once and/or making so much noise? Not so coincidentally, I described Battles’ John Stanier as “otherworldly” when I witnessed his handiwork at the 9:30 Club a few months back, and I’d be inclined to throw that same adjective at Wilco’s Glen Kotche, especially when it comes to his chaotic outbursts in “Via Chicago.”
So what the hell does this have to do with Punch Brothers?!? They don’t even have a drummer!
I’m glad you asked! Chris Thile, the group’s frontman and mandolin player, is one of the few people outside the world of stick-wielding snare-strikers that produces that same super-specific, disbelieving reaction: “That dude is an alien.” And I’m not alone — Ed Helms from The Office has had the exact same thought.