Friday, September 30, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Chris Wood On "What'd I Say?"

Going to see the Wood Brothers here in Bloomington at a tiny venue - should be sweet.  Seems only logical to showcase some of Chris Wood's bass work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Using Music In Fiction

Over at The Death Of Everything, there is an excellent piece about the use of music in fiction and movies. Authors, musicians, music fans and directors, go check it out now!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

According To Legend: Merry Clayton

According to legend, Merry Clayton miscarried due to the strain of belting out this song.  I could believe it.  This is fucking raw power.  This is easily one of the best vocal performances ever recorded.

Here is her version of the same tune:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Bakithi Kumalo On "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes"

Each Friday, I feature a bass player or bass part that is freaking amazing.  Today, dig on Bakithi Kumalo.

Bakithi Kumalo, in addition to having a cool sounding name, is an incredibly underrated but very technical bass player.  I'm not sure he's ever been on the cover of "Bass Player" magazine.  I'm guessing there's only a little chatter about him in bass player forums.  I'm also sure that young, aspiring bass players aren't writing his name all over their Trapper Keepers.  There is no flash in his gear (the first time I saw video of him playing, he was playing a Washburn Force 4 bass, which also happens to be my first bass) or wardrobe; it's in his tone, his precision, and silky smooth playing.

I was shocked at the number of highly entertaining videos that Bakithi has on You Tube.  For example, dig him playing the awesome Kala U-Bass (a bass ukulele), which will likely be the topic of a future blog entry.  The video embedded below is mesmerizing to me (though I'd recommend you listen to the tune he is breaking down first) because he is slowing down the bass line from "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" and it is no less fascinating.

If you're not already familiar with it, listen to Paul Simon's "Graceland" in its entirety.  Bakithi's runs smother the all of tunes like sweet, sweet maple syrup.

UPDATE:  It looks like he's showing how to do multiple songs from the "Graceland" album.  I was so blown away by the "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" demo that I didn't go any further.  So it looks like Friday just got a lot fatter for all of us!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Around The Internets/Link Dump

After a delightful morning of reading Duder some books, I came to work, read this and thought "hey, what the hell?  I'll make a sad to Tom Waits playlist!  My life is great - I can handle it!"  That move almost brought me to tears upon listening to the list.  Damn that guy can write a song.

Thankfully, Jenn (happy birthday, Jenny!) emailed me with an exceptional pick-me-up tune I hadn't heard forever.  Although I'm not deep into their catalog, there are some Golden Smog tunes I really like.   I can remember years ago flying into Indianapolis from Arizona listening to "Looking Forward To Seeing You", with thoughts of hanging with the family mingled with the music in my ears.  Good times.

In other news, the Selvedge Yard has a great post about the Rolling Stones touring in support of "Exile On Main Street" in 1972.  Check it out - it's a pretty good read related to one of the greatest albums in human history.  There's also a post at TSY that showcases a  pre-plastic surgery Cher - mee-ow!


Finger tappers of the world, rejoice!  Your instrument is here!  This would've driven Fr. Leopold crazy if I would have had this in college.  He's the prof who told me he thought I'd get much higher grades in his class if I'd quit "drumming" with my hands and feet.  Whatevs.  I guess I just have a hammer in my heart.  I wanted to bang on the drums all day maybe.  I still fidget/tap a lot, so take that, Fr. Leopold!  Imma buy this device and sign up for one of your classes just to drive you nuts.

Last but not least, enjoy this NSFW mashup, which is pretty hilarious; and seriously - read this, which is as fascinating as it gets.  Don't read this, which as as boring as it gets.  I kinda got the sense that the B-Boys would've rather been somewhere else.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roadtripping With Mike Birbiglia

I decided to shake things up a bit about 3 years ago when we were heading out for Michigan for vacation:  I downloaded a bunch of stand up comedy to listen to on the trip.  My wife and I have some common ground when it comes to music; it's just the divergences in taste that causes a problems.  As a result, most of the trips are done without music - it's just easier, honestly.  (Note that I didn't write "silence".  I'm looking at you, jabber box son in the back seat.)  The drag about this is that it's harder for me to stay awake while driving.  My thoughts get weirder and weirder.  By the time we get to my destination, even a stiff drink won't help sort me out (but I usually end up trying that method anyway).

With no expectations, I downloaded an album each of Dane Cook and Mike Birbiglia.  We listened to the Birbiglia first.  His in-your-face whiteness and non-threatening persona along with his slurred delivery had us giggling uncontrollably until it was over. He joked of his insecurities in a way that's actually funny (and even cute), not annoying. My wife and I found ourselves repeating the jokes to each other for the rest of the trip.

(The Dane Cook record was okay I guess, but mostly it was just really loud.)

This is a really distracted entry because I'm listening to "Two Drink Mike" right now. It still can make me laugh, even on this overcast day in cubicle land. Take a listen, won't you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Clint Conley On "Peking Spring"

"The Horrible Truth About Burma" by Mission of Burma is one of my favorite live albums of all time.  I'll spare you all the gushing about it because plenty of other people have already done that.  To listen to this album is to hear the future of college radio for the next twenty years or so.  All that crap aside, this album would be worth it for "New Disco" and "Peking Spring" alone, for realz.  "New Disco" is a much better all around song, but "Peking Spring" is like audio adrenaline (though it is not terrible, don't bother with the studio version).  From the moment I first heard it - I think I was fourteen or so - I vowed to learn how to play "Peking Spring".  I haven't learned it yet, but I think I will tonight.

And dig this video - it charms the hell out of me.  There is no pretension at all - from the clothing to the fucking Peavy amps.  Just some guys blowing the doors off whatever basement they're playing in.  Dude, I think Clint Conley's bass just the Solo cup of MGD out of my fucking hand.

There's much more to say about Mission of Burma and their live prowess, but I'll save that for the "greatest live albums of all time" entry.  To quote The Stranger, I done innerduced them enough.  To save you the trouble, Imma embed the whole "Horrible Truth About Burma" album so you can rock the crap out of your co-workers/spouse/pets.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Wayback Machine: The Kent Johnson Project

March 22nd, 2009 was the first time I ever set foot in a studio.  I was asked to be one of two bass players for a CD that was to benefit a local charity.  The music was written by Kent Johnson, who for a time was homeless and benefited from the services of that charity.  It was a blast - there is much to write about from that experience, but for now, enjoy some photos from that recording session.
 Multi-instrumentalist, arranger and music director for this project, Dan Lodge-Rigal.  His talent is only matched by his humility.
 Kent Johnson, whose songs we were recording. This guy is an amazing lead guitar player.  That Gibson SG he's playing is a loaner.  Isn't it a beaut?
 Another shot of Kent.
 Me warming up in one of the isolation booths.  I'm so glad I trimmed my nasal hairs before this photo was taken.
 MMmmmm. . . SG stylings.
 My crap heaped up in the isolation booth, where I did my parts.
 Tom Yeiser, owner and engineer of Sweet Owen Sound, a truly magnificent studio.  He is the Santa Claus of sonic sweetness.
 Kent Johnson awaiting the "all clear" to rawk.
 Drummer John Astaire.  Those drums used to belong to Neil Diamond's drummer.  True story.
 Arty farty shot.
Me no doubt nailing it on the first take.

I Was Going To, But Decided Not

Oh America.  You mean well - you really do.  You deserve credit for that.  But for every truly touching remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, there was something like this:

And this really kinda bums me out as well.  I thought of posting the journal entry I wrote on Sept. 13th, 2001, but decided there is already enough crap out there on the topic.  Please - read this.  It is much more nuanced and thoughtful than most of the stuff you'll read about Sept. 11th.  It pretty much sums it up for me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In The Studio With An As Of Yet Unnamed Project

I got to fly to Atlanta this past weekend to lay down bass tracks for a demo that will hopefully start churning up big things for me musically.  I'm pretty proud of how it's coming together.  We rehearsed our butts off Friday and spent almost 8 hours recording 5 songs on Saturday (though the drum tracks had already been recorded by drummer extraordinaire John Astaire).  I think it's going to sound great.  My only lament is a minor one - I would've loved to have played my own bass on it, but I couldn't really fly with it for various reasons.
Things I learned this weekend:
  • Fred is a gracious host and an incredible guitarist.  He came up with this tuning that he solos in with an amazing degree of comfort.  And his solos are never short on originality or ideas.  There's always something cool to latch onto when listening to them.
  • Fred says to me: "You haven't? Well today's the day - get on. Clutch is the left hand, front brake is the right hand.  Shift with your left foot, and the rear brake is your right foot. First gear is down, the rest are up, and neutral is in the middle.  Don't worry the clutch on this one is very forgiving. Good luck."  It was a blast, even at 20 mph and under.
  • The Traben Phoenix is a nicely constructed, decent sounding, heavy ass bass with inlays that are horribly confusing and impractical.  But seriously - you can drive nails with this thing.  It's built to last.
  • Relating to the above, the 1977 MusicMan Sting Ray (my electric bass, also known as "Sade" because it's smmooooovvvve) was way ahead of the times in terms of sound, electronics, aesthetics, and practicality.  It is only exceeded in the "no-frills" category by the G&L L-1000 and the Fender Precision bass.  It is not a coincidence that these basses were all designed by the same guy.
  • I have a new found respect for metal drummers.  Not those pansies you hear on the radio.  I'm talking about the hard drummers with the metronomic timing no matter what effed up time signature they're switching in and out of.  I'm talking about the lightening fast drummers that give the snare drum the same cadences of a machine gun.  And yeah, playing the double bass drum so fast it sounds like a chopper landing is pretty pointless/funny, but still pretty bad ass. 

  • On your superbikes (or really even your Schwinn), all the braking power comes from the front.  That's why the disks are so big on the front wheel.  That being said, when there are rocks around, engage the rear brake first.
  • Jeff Tomei knows knows his way around a damn console.  Watching this guy work is amazing.  And I'm guessing that there's no one at that level who is easier to work with.  If I sound good on this recording, Jeff should get the credit.
  • Fred's right:  the vocals pretty much just become another instrument when they're that intense.
In short, I had a blast.  I had thought to take pictures, but I didn't want any distractions.  (You, dear reader, are worth much more than photos snapped on a cell phone.  And also, I don't have a cell phone.) I'll post updates at some point if I can.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Original Poetry - "Still Lifes On A Warm Spring Day"

And now, a poem from my teaching days in which Sunday lesson planning becomes more bearable after catching an unexpected buzz.

ella fitzgerald and louis armstrong
make the sun warmer
make the sun linger
remember this

spilt beer
on my teacher's edition
is a mute scandal

the weight of the soul
is unknown but
one can be sure:
its weight is bearable
at least for today

i do not envy anyone
i want nothing
time is nothing
but the promise of gifts
yet unknown

i have declared today sacred
drinking beer is a ritual
smoking tobacco is a ritual
and is thus tolerated
the decay of the body
is secondary to the
height of the soul

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Haven't Moved Beyond This Tiny Magnetic Fields Playlist

Every once and awhile, I'll get so hot and bothered about a song that I can't really delve any further along into that band's catalog.  I know that The National kicks ass.  I've got all their stuff.  But to tell you the truth, I haven't gotten past "All The Wine".  That song, my friends, is pretty damn close to perfect (though I haven't a clue what they're singing about).

My friend Kara hipped me to the Magnetic Fields.  She said her boy Jay was into them, so I got their whole catalog as I tend to trust Kara's judgement on everything except maybe movies.  Similar to The National, I haven't gotten beyond the playlist below - I'm delightfully stuck.  Using a modern sensibility, the Magnetic Fields have this amazing way of uniting 50s pop and 80s synth pop into something pretty unique.  I'm sure at some point I'll go a little deeper, but for now I'm happy in this rut - thanks KaraKaraKara.  Oh - Kara has a website you should check out.  Seriously - it's dope.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Charles Mingus

No time for my usual razor sharp wit and insightful commentary.  Just enjoy some more fat ass bass, courtesy of Charles Mingus.  This particular tune is one of my favorites.