Friday, October 24, 2008
To be honest, when the clerk at the Cat Head blues shop in Clarksdale, Mississippi suggested the brothers-sister blues act, Homemade Jamz Band, I was skeptical.
There is a solid precedent regarding sibling bands - Osmonds, Hanson, and the omnipresent Jonas Brothers - for my skepticism. Also, the band's name, with the bubble-gum Jamz with a "z," was also another warning sign. It seemed like just another gimmick.
However, the clerk persisted and I finally slipped that well-worn cynicism off like an old coat and picked up their debut album, Pay Me No Mind.
Now count me among the converted. The Perry siblings from Tupelo, Mississippi are fronted by lead guitarist and vocalist 16-year-old Ryan. His brother Kyle, 14, fills in on bass and baby sister, Taya, 9, plays a very solid drums. Together, they play a fresh, but traditional, brand of lip-smacking, finger-licking Delta Blues.
Make no doubt about it, guitarist Ryan is a great talent to be watched and savored. He plays the blues with a smooth and sometimes dirty style in the great tradition of Mississippi bluesmen. Even Ryan's voice carries far more weight than one would expect from a teenager. He growls. He teases and shouts.
Perhaps, best of all, Ryan plays one of the great looking guitars of all time. Constructed by the band's father, the guitar is made from Ford automobile parts, with the body coming from a muffler. Simply, its bad ass.
It's not surprising that the band garnered a second place finish in the 2007 International Blues Challenge and was named, this year, as New Artist of the Year by the Bay Area Blues Society.
This is so much more than a gimmick. It is the next generation of American blues and that is quite reassuring in times like these.
In the video below, B.B. King gives the band some deep love by saying, "In my 82 years, I've never seen something musically so remarkable as these young people." If B.B. says it so, it must be the gospel.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I have bees in my tree.
A crapload of bees in my big, beautiful mango tree. A barrel-size hive/nest/Death Star of bees dangling precariously on a limb 35 feet above my Thinking Spot - my quiet little seat to smoke too many cigarettes, listen to good music and solve all the world problems.
Now my Thinking Spot is in danger. Literally looming overhead. Even more disturbing than the mental image of 2,000 newly-awoken bees landing on my lap when I finally crack that cheap fuel problem is the realization that the hive has been growing exponentially and totally unnoticed for many months.
It is an apt metaphor for our current stress-filled, economic times. An unknown danger growing so large and so close. Is the ceiling starting to cave? Not yet? But when? Better keep busy.
Contacted a bee remover through the internets (Thank you, Al Gore). My own little bailout plan. In the meantime, I am keeping my head low with an eye to the sky. And keeping busy as a .... well, you know.
Monday, October 13, 2008
By Ian Minor
Lemon Demon’s newest album is what you might call a reinvention. With a noticeably different style from Dinosaurchestra, his last album, Neil Cicierega is growing into his artistic skin.
The album boasts 16 tracks, with transition tracks between them. This is a idea that Neil played with in earlier albums but goes crazy with here. The album has some of Lemon Demon’s best stuff. Two tracks, “The Ocean”, and “The Machine” are the best on the album. The latter a story of a boy who builds a giant machine that doesn't do anything, yet is labeled a menace of the state. Many other songs manage to pull of this new style. “Gadzooks” is the one of the best with great fan-mocking lyrics and with weird rhymes such as “Gee willikers, you’re all mentally illikers.”
But, as with all experimenting, some parts are going to fall flat. The first song he released for download was “Knife Fight” and it works okay as it’s own song, but when put into the album it seems out of place. A happy, peppy song between two of the slowest songs cause this song to trip the album up. In fact, some of the bonus songs would have worked better in the album.
Oh yes, I mentioned bonus songs. Pay the full price for the physical CD and you’ll get sixteen extra songs. Most of them are instrumental pieces, but there are gems. My personal fave, “Ben Bernanke” a weird monologue by the Head of Finance to a man named Spencer. “Modify,” a song about mutilating yourself for fashion also does well by itself.
Lemon Demon has managed to shed the shackles that has haunted him and other bands like They Might Be Giants and Talking Heads. They play rock music, but because it has a much weirder subject matter, it’s labeled wacky or novelty. Lemon Demon at first embraced it, but now he has transitioned to his own style of rock. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
After 35 years of living the exile's life in London, Chrissie Hynde has returned home. The irascible, 57-year-old Hynde now has an apartment in hometown Akron, Ohio and has opened up a vegan restaurant there.
As a house warming present to us all, Hynde has given us the best The Pretenders album since 1984's Learning to Crawl. The recently released Break Up The Concrete finds Hynde blasting out rockabilly-tinged rockers and mournful pedal steel weepers.
With Eric Heywood on pedal steel on nearly every song, you can hear more than a passing resemblance to Lucinda Williams. However, with drumming legend Jim Keltner providing the bottom, Hynde and her new collection of Pretenders reach a level of songwriting and musicianship thought lost to her days on vinyl.
The first single and lead song on the album, "Boots of Chinese Plastic," Hynde finds that elusive Pretenders vibe of old. Always a mystical person, Hynde starts the song with the Buddhist phrase of "nam yo ho ren gay kyo." Hynde has explained that the phrase means "every drop that runs through the vein always makes back to the heart again."
Hynde has combined this spiritualization with the more familiar lament regarding bad and lost relationships - a theme that carries through the album. For all those who tend to fall for the wrong person, Hynde has been there and sings, "Illusion fills my head like an empty can, I spent a million lifetimes loving the same man."
Along with "Chinese Plastic," The Pretenders rock on through bluesy burners "Rosalee" and the title track, which features a solid and welcome Bo Diddley beat. Another particular favorite is the spacey, almost woozy, "Almost Perfect."
With this new album, Hynde reclaims her rightful position atop rock's pantheon. She's the one leaning against a column, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. The coolest one in the room.
Welcome Home, Chrissie. We are so glad your back.