Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pardon the interruption

Hey, hey. We're back for a day. Let's see, it's been 129 days. That might seem like a long time, but not that much has happened since late October. Adele won a few Grammys, Davy Jones passed away, the Boss released an album and, not so harmonically speaking, Newt Gingrich paid a visit to Whitehall, Wisconsin. Honest, his wife Callista grew up in my little hometown, and her mom still lives there (bringing the population to 1,671). It's a small world, but maybe not small enough.

I was sitting on a barstool the other night at Champps in Brookfield and a thought came to me like a Ryan Braun urine sample. You know, the seal hadn't been broken but the idea had been sitting there a few days. It was impossible to tell if it had been tampered with, so I gave myself a pass.

Here I was enjoying a tasty fish fry, in fact one of the most incredible fish fries I've ever enjoyed in Wisconsin, where Friday fish fries are king. At a chain sports bar. Sometimes life rocks. The bartender convinced me to try their potato crusted cod -- amazing! -- and instead of soggie fries and an over-buttered slice of bread, King Cod came with a healthy mound of nutty wild rice and a delicious bouqet of sauteed onions and bell peppers. Ooh, la, la.

Paired with a tall glass of Rocky's Revenge, the astounding brown ale from the Tyranena Brewing Company of nearby Lake Mills, my evening was set. (By the way, Thursday night is Sweater Vest Awareness Night at Tyranena if you happen to be in the neighborhood.) I'd drink a couple more beers and watch highlights of the Honda Classic second round, then head outside to brush the snow off my vehicle (I didn't mention there was a winter storm) and drive home, blissfully, with both hands on the wheel and my shoulders rared back. This is how you live Roger Miller's song "Do Wacka Do."

But that wasn't the game-changing song that rocketed through the Champps sound system as I enjoyed my frothy glass of Rocky's Revenge. No sir. It was a blast from 1965 by the Gentrys, and now maybe you know what i'm talking about. Drummer Larry Wall's staccato lead-in to "Keep On Dancing" is like a short fuse on an M-80, then it's bombs away. You instantly forget about your recent knee surgery (if only for a moment), leap up off your stool and look around, wishing once again that it was yesterday.

And damned if it isn't.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dave Daniels, and the joy of discovery

Atlanta contributor Mike Tierney has never played a vibraphone. Heck, he probably never even heard of Lionel Hampton! But he is a musical vibemeister with unnaturally ecletric (yep, we just coined a word for the urban dictionary) taste. Do not miss his occasional musings at the Sanctuary.

By Mike Tierney

One of the unadulterated joys of rock 'n' roll is stumbling blindly into a gifted under-the-radar musician in your town and going "Holy moly" -- or, more likely, holy bleep -- "this dude can really play."

In metro Atlanta recently, I was introduced in to Dave Daniels, who offered that he had a band and invited me to see them perform. With modest expectations, I caught Daniels at a free show in a neighborhood establishment.

A few songs into the set, I'm thinking, "Shouldn't this guy be pulling in 15 to 20 bucks a ticket at some semi-spacious venue?"

Then I reminded myself that there are hundreds of Dave Daniels from sea to shining sea who generate sounds as impressively as the artists who make a comfortable living at it. That dynamic illustrates the yin and yang of the business. It might be unfair to the creators, but listeners can dig up hidden treasures without much effort.

Daniels crafts clever tunes that cover a wide spectrum, with sprinklings of folk and jazz and country and blues. If you are a prisoner of pop music, as I am, you are continously amazed at the talent on a level where players must maintain day jobs to support their muse.

The other day, I punched up Daniels' website to check on upcoming gigs, only to read that he is cutting back drastically on shows. "Trying to make a living off my own music actually hinders my life," he explained.

Such a painful transition is inevitable for the bulk of musicians who brighten clubs and bars and basements with their art.

Here is hoping Daniels gets his moly together, reassembles his teammates and cranks out more songs for more audiences.

If not, well, there are plenty more Dave Daniels coming down the pipe. It is all part of rock 'n' roll's circle of life.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A whole lotta love for Wilco

If you watch this video of Wilco performing on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series and don't go out immediately and buy their new album, well, you can't blame us.

The Whole Love is sounding like the best we've heard from Jeff Tweedy & Co. NPR's Bob Boilen calls Wilco "the best rock band in America," which is begging for an argument, but he won't get one here. There are four songs and more than 18 minutes to help convince you.

Those who know us are aware that when Uncle Tupelo disbanded in 1994 and split into two groups we stubbornly aligned ourselves with UT's leading protagonist, Jay Farrar, and his new band Son Volt -- largely on the strength of Trace, one of the best albums of 1995. When Tweedy and Wilco countered with A.M. a rivalry was born, tipping heavily in Farrar's favor at the start.

We eventually decided it was OK to appreciate both artists, and it didn't hurt when Wilco began to kick out some memorable albums. The turning point actually came in 1998 with a joint effort (how could that not be a success?) when Billy Bragg dragged Wilco into the studio to help produce Mermaid Avenue, a splendid album of songs born out of old Woody Guthrie lyrics.

But it wasn't until the release of the band's fourth album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002 that Tweedy and Wilco began to gain their now mythic foothold on American rock. That stood as our favorite until 2009's Wilco (The Album). And now, here we are, singing the praises of The Whole Love like it's the best thing that ever came down the pike. This will require further review, which we're more than up for.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

They're coming to take him away

By Al Tays

A novelty himself,
Sunday contributor Al
Tays knows a little bit
about whacky songs.
Six million record buyers were responsible for Rick Dees' "Disco Duck" going to the top of the Billboard singles chart on this date in 1976.

I am proud to say I was not one of them.

It's not that I have anything against novelty songs -- I think that's the most interesting music genre.

But "Disco Duck" just ... sucked.

You wanna talk good novelty songs? The problem is not so much where to begin, but where to stop.

I mean, "Weird Al" Yankovic should have his own sub-category. "Lose Yourself," "E-Bay" and "The Hardware Store" are classics, and "Genius in France" is to novelty songs what "Stairway to Heaven" is to classic rock.

As a kid, I remember listening to "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor," "They're Coming to Take Me Away," and "The Jolly Green Giant." That last one is still on my iPod.

In adulthood, I discovered other gems such as "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," "Valley Girl" and, of course, "Fish Heads."

In researching this subject, I came across a song I've never heard, but which might have the best title of all time:

"I'm at Home Getting Hammered (While She's Out Getting Nailed)"

Now THAT'S songwriting.

Friday, October 14, 2011


It's Friday, and once you click on this it only gets better...

The song Stephen Colbert is singing sounded vaguely familiar, but we admit we didn't recognize "Friday" until we did a search. Even then, the name Rebecca Black didn't immediately click -- even though we wrote about her hated video some time ago.

Colbert does such a great job we were thinking the song must be something from a popular group like the Smashing Pumpkins.  It isn't, but Colbert certainly is smashing himself as he pays off a bet he lost with Jimmy Fallon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Catchin' that Yelawolf fever

By Robert Nelson

You can ask Sanctuary rapconteur
Robert Nelson what's in his player,
just don't ask him what's in the trunk.
I discovered Yelawolf through my friend Stan. He told me Eminem signed him to his label and mentioned he’d seen him on BET’s The Cypher. So, that’s where I started, and there was plenty more on YouTube. Then, I bought the Trunk Muzik mixtape on iTunes, and I’ve been listening to it for the past 10 or 11 months.

I usually keep a pretty tight rotation of new music circulating in my car. In the past year, it’s been mostly Trunk Muzik. I continue to develop a new favorite song. It started with Daddy’s Lambo, then Box Chevy, Pop the Trunk, and now, Love is Not Enough. If I’m picky, I might skip through one or two tracks, but it rides from top to bottom. It’s the CD I leave in the deck when there’s nothing else I want to hear. You might say I’m enamored with it.

Guests include Raekwon, Gucci Mane and Bun B over a blend of hip-hop and dirty south beats. Yelawolf raps circles around them with a syrupy twang delivery as dynamic as I’ve ever heard. Despite the proliferation of Southern artists within the genre over the past decade, he’s managed to maintain a distinct point of view and proves capable of incorporating popular hip-hop storytelling elements into his narrative in a fresh, palatable way.

He’s performing Oct. 19 in Minneapolis at First Ave in support of his major label debut, entitled Radioactive, due Nov. 21. I’m not really wild about the first single but anticipating the record nonetheless. I’ll let you know how the show goes. I’m looking forward to that, too.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Imagine John Lennon at 71

By Al Tays

Pretty amazing day today for music-related birthdays. We have John Entwhistle, who would have been 67 (he died in 2002), and Jackson Browne, 63.

But one other birthday dwarfs those: John Lennon.

Lennon, who was murdered in 1980, would have turned 71 today. (He would have shared his birthday with Sean Lennon, his only child with Yoko Ono, who turns 36 today.)

What can you say about John Lennon that most people don't already know? Let's concentrate on the day he came into the world. He was born at Liverpool Maternity Hospital, his parents were Julia and Alfred Lennon, and he was named John Winston Lennon after his paternal grandfather, John "Jack" Lennon, and then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Couple pieces of Lennon trivia: He ocasionally played bass on Beatles songs, using a six-string Fender BassVI on some songs where Paul McCartney was playing piano. And he hated his own singing voice, often asking producer George Martin to help it electronically.

Watching this clip, I think he was too hard on himself. Happy birthday, John.