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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baby steps

By Robert Nelson

Quick, hide the stash: Baby DJ (wearing red cap) checks
out the tour bus with Pete, Sam and Dean of Chevelle.
During my freshman year in college, my buddy Ta and I bought tickets to see Filter in Minneapolis. It didn’t happen. The lead singer checked into rehab and cancelled the tour. So, when I found out they were coming to town with Bush and Chevelle, naturally, I thought of inviting Ta to go with me. We were all Bush fans in high school. Filter would be a huge perk. And Chevelle … well, let’s say they made this experience unlike any I’ve had before.

My DJ career is still in its infancy. It’s not uncommon for me to be referred to as “Baby DJ” around the office. It’s cool. It’s not meant to be disparaging in any way (at least, I don’t think it is). In fact, I’ve received more support from my radio family than I could have ever imagined. Still, when my boss offered to let me conduct my first artist interview with Chevelle before the show last night, apart from being totally elated, the confidence instilled in me got taken to a whole new level.

I walked into the nearly empty venue to find Filter on stage sound-checking “Take a Picture.” That’s when shit got real. I understand, now, why kids line up outside so early before a concert. On the off chance you can catch a glimpse of or hear just a little bit of your favorite band warming up, why wouldn’t you? With nobody else around, it’s so intimate, like they’re performing in your living room. When they started “Welcome to the Fold,” James, Chevelle’s tour manager, approached and took me backstage to meet the band.

Actually, he escorted me to the back of the club and outside to their bus. They’d definitely been living in it for a while. It was in the same sort of disrepair as my bedroom, comfortably disheveled. Pete, the lead singer, sat waiting, flipping through his phone. He seemed somewhat distracted at first. The business of prepping their new record for release in December weighed heavily on his mind. As I set up my equipment, his brother Sam, the drummer, stepped out and helped break the ice. They told me about a recent trip to Vegas where, at 4 a.m., some chick was trying to seduce Pete and his extremely hot wife. Happens to me all the time.

I think the interview went fairly well, not without its moments, but the good news is I got it out of the way, hopefully, to the boss’ satisfaction. I was, then, immediately ready for a drink and a smoke and a kick-ass rock show. All of which were conquered, in that order, with several more drinks and a couple more smokes. Ta showed up just before Filter took the stage, and it felt like high school again. The Baby DJ’s learning to walk.

Follow the musical musings and escapades of Baby DJ on Wednesdays at Six String Sanctuary.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pssst: Ryan Adams rises above Ashes

Do yourself a favor. Put on a set of headphones and click here.

What you'll be doing is taking a beautiful trip through the gentle peaks and valleys of Ashes and Fire, the latest -- and possibly the greatest album yet -- from Ryan Adams. This is a First Listen freebie from NPR, so enjoy the ride. Don't let yourself be interrupted.

We've been fans of Adams since his barnstorning alt-country days with Whiskeytown. Come to think of it, that may have been our problem. While nursing the hangover that was the breakup of our favorite band, we were slow to embrace Adams' early solo work, good as it was.  Part of our hesitation was the troubled artist's tendency to self-destruct while he was churning out a confounding catalog of music --  some of it very good, but just too damn much of it.  Does that make any sense? We wouldn't have been surprised by a tragic outcome.

Happy to say, with Ashes and Fire, everything has come into focus. We've gone from fans to disciples, and we need to start by thanking Adams, who appears to have grown more as a person than an artist during his two-year hiatus. He already had the songwriting and musicianship down.  What happened to him?  Life lessons and love. He fell in love, really fell in love, as the writing in Ashes and Fire clearly reveals. We don't believe you can write "I Love You But I Don't Know What to Say" without discovering answers about life and love along the way.

I was lost I was lost
I tried to find the balance and got caught up in the cost
I let it go when I met you
The clouds inside me parted and all that light came shining through

I promise you I will keep you safe from harm
Love you all the rest of my days
When the night is silent and we seem so far away
Oh I love you but I don't know what to say

Adams, who is now married and finally clean, also had to deal with a painful inner-ear affliction that made music-making virtually impossible. We're sure it's all much more complicated than that, but the results are crystal clear. Ashes and Fire, produced by Glyn Johns and due out Oct. 11, is one of the best albums we've heard this year. It's going up on the big board as Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout (PSSST) No. 25.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Much LeDoux about cowboys

Chris LeDoux was a true cowboy.
By Al Tays

We're mighty happy
those cowboy boots
didn't fit Al Tays --
not that he doesn't
know a good ropin'
song when he hears it.
 During my country and western period (1990-95, when I lived in Atlanta and decided to "go native") one of my favorite songs was Chris LeDoux's "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy?" in which he's joined by Garth Brooks. I don't listen to C&W radio anymore, so I hear that song only when the shuffle function on my iPod cues it up. But the witty lyrics, zippy fiddle and catchy tune never fail to make me smile. And I think about how LeDoux wasn't just a guy with a hat singing about cowboys -- he really was one. He won the world bareback riding championship at the National Finals Rodeo in 1976.

And then I think what a shame it is that Chris LeDoux died before his time.

Born on this date in 1948, LeDoux was 51 in 2000 when he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease.

He had to have a liver transplant. Brooks volunteered to be a donor, but his tissue was incompatible. LeDoux underwent a transplant from another donor later that year. Four years later he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile ducts, and died on March 9, 2005.

Shorty after LeDoux's death, Brooks recorded the song "Good Ride Cowboy" as a tribute. "I knew if I ever recorded any kind of tribute to Chris, it would have to be up-tempo, happy ... a song like him ... not some slow, mournful song," Brooks said in an interview with CMT. "He wasn't like that."

Thinking about LeDoux and "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy?" got me thinking about how many songs with "Cowboy" (or "Cowgirl") in the title are among my favorites. And make no mistake -- I'm no cowboy. This Boston tenderfoot (literally) tried wearing cowboy boots in Atlanta and found them to be the most uncomfortable things he ever put on his feet. And I'm allergic to horses. But I love these songs:

Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy? (Chris LeDoux and Garth Brooks)
The Cowboy Tune, also known as The End is not in Sight, (Amazing Rhythm Aces)
Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy (Jonathan Edwards)
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys (Willie Nelson)
King of the Cowboys (Amazing Rhythm Aces)
Should've Been a Cowboy (Toby keith)
What the Cowgirls Do (Vince Gill)