Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

I’m celebrating this sunny August Bandcamp Friday in Bay Head, New Jersey, on a family vacation just down the street from where my grandparents lived. Beach badges. Coffee cake. Lots of pizza. Lots of bagels. (Too many bagels. I didn’t realize that was possible, but it is.) And lots of Springsteen, Bill Evans, and Screaming Females being spun in celebration of the Garden State.

We’re heading back to Richmond tomorrow, and while we won’t be able to avoid sitting in traffic, we’ll at least have a great soundtrack for the drive, courtesy of the artists below. As a reminder, Bandcamp Friday means the sales platform is waiving its cut of sales, so your financial support goes directly to labels and artists.

FONVILLE — VIBES FROM HOME

Another exciting expansion of the Butcher Brown Universe™.  Drummer Corey Fonville released this new set of VIBES FROM HOME just last week, and outside of a couple of guest contributions (from current and former Butcher bandmates DJ Harrison and Keith Askey), it’s his own work on drums, bass, rhodes, keyboards, and organ. Love this new window into just how complete Fonville’s skill set is.

Pace! — “Brass Villain” (Doom Tribute)

Reggie Pace of No BS! Brass Band and the Hustle Season pod released this excellent MF DOOM tribute back in July, on the late, great metal-faced rapper and producer’s birthday. Mm..Brass.

Doug Richards Orchestra — Space & Sound, Vol. 1

Recorded at Spacebomb Studios in August of 2019, arranged by VCU jazz program driving force Doug Richards, performed by so many Richmond luminaries that listing them all would stop this post in its tracks, engineered/mixed/mastered by Adrian Olsen and Trey Pollard… there is nothing not to like about this four-song collection, which just hit the ‘camp the other day. Absolute can’t-miss stuff.

Amelia Meath & Blake Mills – “Neon Blue

So excited the Sylvan Esso crew has started a label, and what a way to start a singles series — with an Amelia Meath/Blake Mills collaboration, and a Sam Gendel alternate version on the flip side.

The Modern Folk — Primitive Future II 

You may be shocked (shocked!) to learn that the guy who is simultaneously wearing a WarHen Records patch hat and a WarHen Records “Steal Your Hen” t-shirt while typing this sentence is psyched about the Charlottesville label’s newest offering — an instrumental album called Primitive Future II from The Modern Folk. Very much enjoying the two tracks that are streaming so far, “Essie and Lynlee” and “Club Sequence.” Very different moods, both wonderfully evocative.

More fun stuff on my radar for today:

Christian Lee Hutson — The Version Suicides, Vol. 3
Ohbliv — Not Of This Earth
Philip James Murphy Jr — guillotine
Dori Freeman — Ten Thousand Roses
Various — Habibi Funk 015: An eclectic selection of music from the Arab world, part 2

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]

The Blind Boys of Alabama

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Does quicksand have grains?

I ask because the first time I started writing about Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain Of Sand” and the outstanding cover version just released on the new Blind Boys of Alabama album, the post got dragged down and consumed by religious — or irreligious, as the case may be — hand-wringing. The idea was that I would talk about how Dylan’s so-called “Christian-period” weirds me out, and how that’s probably unfair, because his born-again faith gave us this amazing song, and besides, there’s tons of great gospel music out there, and who am I to judge someone else’s religious beliefs when my own are somewhat complicated…

And that’s when the post became more about how my mom became a priest when I was in college and about how long it had been since the last time I’d gone to a Sunday service regularly than about how Justin Vernon helped the Blind Boys craft a recording that deserves way more attention than it’s currently getting.

So here we are. Take two. Without wiggling too far into the same quicksand I ended up in the first time, I’d like to make two points — one about the religiosity of the lyrics in “Every Grain Of Sand” and one about this recording of it.

Continue reading

About last week…

The last week saw some especially noteworthy moments in RVA music writing, so I wanted to pause to celebrate them and provide some links.

New York Magazine

On Monday, Andrew of RVA Playlist shared some exciting news — his blog, which provides a wonderfully supportive and comprehensive overview of Richmond’s music scene, had been included in a New York Magazine Travel feature about spending a weekend in Richmond. Given all that Andrew does for RVA musicians and music fans, it’s rewarding to see his signal boosted in this way, and the thought of curious New Yorkers poking around RVA Playlist and learning about the amazing bands that call Richmond home makes me very happy. Click here to see for yourself.

Paste

On Wednesday, Paste posted a new installment in their “50 States Project,” and I was excited when I saw who they enlisted as tour guide to Virginia’s musical offerings: Reggie Pace — the trombone-slaying, Bon Iver-collaborating, No BS! Brass Band-co-founding multi-instrumentalist who has become one of Richmond’s leading cultural ambassadors. (Don’t believe me? Check out No BS!’s Tiny Desk Concert, or the making-of video for The Blind Boys of Alabama’s new album, or this video of Pace performing with Bon Iver on Saturday Night Live, or this picture of Pace with Stephen Colbert.) He’s clearly a busy dude, and it’s great seeing someone whose exposure has skyrocketed taking the time to shine a light on the acts who are making waves at home. Click here to have a look.

One Way Richmond

On Friday, One Way Richmond posted a heartfelt appraisal of the state of Richmond music festivals that was penned by WRIR and Commonwealth of Notions Presents organizer Shannon Cleary. Part diagnosis and part call to action, Cleary’s piece digs deep to discover how our city can do a better job of making festivals year-over-year success stories. His words on this subject carry a weight that few in the city could summon, and I for one plan to run with the torch he’s lit by making the most of Fall Line Fest, which takes place on September 6 and 7 and boasts an impressive, stylistically diverse lineup. Click here to read Cleary’s piece and click here to buy Fall Line Fest tickets (I just did).