Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas: "Mary" Redux With Additional Vocals From Leslie Newton [UPDATED]

UPDATE - posted the wrong version; it has been corrected.

I'm so proud to be posting work from my talented friends here at "History Lesson Pt. 2".  Last week, I posted something super cool - "Mary Had A Little Baby" by Kevin Reynolds and friends.  Just when I thought it couldn't get better, the lovely and talented Leslie Newton added harmony vocals from her cozy liar in the North Pole Denver area.  So you know I've got to repost.

Enjoy everyone, and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas: Listen To Kevin Reynolds' Cover Of "Mary Had A Baby"

I'm not going to lie to you:  I'm really proud to be a part of this one even though my part in its greatness was the smallest.  It was Kevin's idea to cover Bruce Cockburn's great version of the spiritual "Mary Had A Baby".  It was Kevin who assembled and recorded this unknown supergroup.  It was Kevin who did the engineering.  And it sounds so.  Good.  This recording also marks my babies' recording debut, and I think it's a good one.  Throw in Dan and Joilan's vocals and everything about this song is damn near perfect.  I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and thanks Kevin - this song is a keeper!

Kevin Reynolds - vocals, resophonic guitar, mandolin, percussion, post production
Joilan Lewis - vocals
Dan Lodge-Rigal - vocals, accordian, acoustic guitar
Auggie O'Brien-Zink - backing vocals
Marina O'Brien-Zink - backing vocals, rattle
Matt Zink - bass


(Left to right:  Marina, Auggie)

Havin' some fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Off Topic: How A Bunch Of Vikings Taught Me The Christmas Message Of Peace And Love

There's a park near me where the nerds like to gather and practice - then stage - battles from some imaged medieval time.  There's shields, rapiers, two handed broadswords covered in foam, long bows with Nerf arrowheads, and though I've never seen it, I'm sure someone brings a crossbow to the party at some point.  After going through all movements in slow motion, the battle begins at full speed amidst the sounds of Nerf-on-Nerf swords crossing but sans battle cries and calls of the dying for their mothers.  As the Battle of Bloomingshire wages, I'm usually wrangling my kids, who're trying to invent new ways to hurt themselves on some playground apparatus. However, I find myself watching the nerds when I can.  As I take it in, I'm awash first in amusement - it is sensible to wear running shoes to battle as they are light and offer lots of support - then admiration.  I realize as I'm standing there making judgements on how dorky they look that they give zero fucks about what I or anyone else thinks.  And ultimately, I think that's great.  Being true to yourself means at least in part letting yourself go to your passions* no matter how dorky, weird or illogical they seem.  Being true to yourself is honest, and it is a value I hold in high regard.  That is why I refer to these folks as "nerds" - it's a term of endearment, not derision.  Nerds are true to their passions.  Nerds are, more and more, my heroes.

Other nerds to talk about:  earlier this week, I came across a sub-genre of heavy metal music called "viking metal".  It was referenced in a Howard Stern bit I was listening to.**  Now, the extraneousness of metal music in general has always given me a kick.  Everything is over the top - the ejaculatory guitar solos, the punk-as-done-by-suburbia aesthetic, the suicide by substance abuse lifestyle - about the only thing that's boring about most forms of metal is the bass playing.  The dawn of the Internet allowed fellow metalheads to network, and it gave them new things to obsess upon.  I'm guessing that played a large part in how we ended up with something called "viking metal".  Anyway, these fans up the ante of fandom by sitting down at shows and rowing an imaginary longship in unison.  Seriously - check it:

Isn't that hilarious?  Don't they look silly?  Aren't they nerds?  I think so.  I think it's funny as hell.  But look at them wave their freak flag (battle colors?) high - it's a massive, diverse group of nerds drawn together by a love of viking metal. It's a bunch of people having a blast.  It's a bunch of fans literally pulling the same make believe load, not hurting anyone.  IT'S A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE, FIRED UP BUT STILL GETTING ALONG.  Now, don't we all feel stupid for making fun of these fans?  I mean really - who is getting hurt here?  What's the problem?  Think about all the bonds that were made at this concert.  Think of all the beers (mead?) shared in love and brotherhood.  Think of how great these vikings felt when they went home.  Maybe some are just barely hanging on, and being around other vikings is the thing that get them through. Just. A bit.  Longer.  Among this noisy, sweaty mass of vikings, there is love.

Christmas is the only holiday of the year where peace and love even get lip service.  For that reason alone, I could call myself a fan of Christmas. I'm not saying it's necessarily taken to heart, but with each card that gets sent out with words like "peace on earth" and "joy to the world" and "good will towards all", it is a reminder that ultimately, this is what we should be striving for, and that its never too late to make it happen.  I think that peace, love and understanding is often modeled to all of us by nerds like these.  Even as they row their longship, even as they battle while joggers truck by and giggle to themselves, these people - diverse warriors drawn together by a common passion - show us something of the Christmas spirit every time they get together.

*-As long as you're not hurting yourself or others.
**-Not a regular Stern listener/fan, but the topic of this particular show was actually kind of interesting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas: Enjoy Ally Hagenbuckle's "Brown County Christmas"

This is one of my favorite times of year at this blog because I get to post the dope Christmas-related stuff people have sent to me.  This year, Imma start off with the multi-talented Ally Hagenbuckle.  "Brown County Christmas" is pretty evocative for me because I lived there for so long and recognized all the places she name checked in the tune.  There is something about the quality of her voice and the recording itself that gives it some Brown County grit.  It's perfect, and I think it is a spectacular way to start the season.  I love the photo she supplied for this track too - it's somehow perfect.

Geography challenge:  find all the roads that Ally mentions in the tune on a map - for those folks playing out-of-state, you'll be needing an Indiana map.  Then find the nearest gas station.  Yeah, it's pretty rural there.

Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks to Ally Hagenbuckle!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Merry Christmas: A Christmas Playlist From Dylan

Time for some Christmas music, y'all!  This particular list was curated by the one and only Dylan Roahrig,  (read his "hate song" rant here - it's a real strong take!) so you know that shit's good.  Let this be the sound track for your weekend AND your holiday season!
Slow Club - "Christmas TV"
Teddy Vann and Akim - "Santa Claus Is A Black Man"
The Ravonettes - "The Christmas Song"
The Roches - "Hallelujah Chorus"
Lou Monte - "Dominick The Italian Christmas Donkey"
Star Wars Droids - "What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)?"

Thanks for sending this along, D!
Got a Christmas list I can post?  As long as it's not in fucking Spotify, I'd love to post it.  Let me know in the comments.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Songwriting 101: Strand Of Oaks "Goshen '97"

Posts tagged "songwriting 101" showcase what I think of as exceptional songwriting.  Today, let's have a listen to Strand of Oaks "Goshen '97".

Aside from sounding great (due in large part to solos by Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascus), this song has a great drive.  It's hard and contemporary sounding, but the synths give a nice little nod to the music of the '80s.  Besides being vivid, these lyrics have a lot of resonance for me - I can relate to this song so goddamned well.  At some point, I'll write about the first song I ever taught myself on bass from start to finish.  Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" as done by the Minutemen.  It was like this song - I was suspended from school, so I locked myself in my room and just made that room my universe for a few hours.  I was lonely too, but happy as hell.

Granted, I wasn't "singing Pumpkins in the mirror", but this song definitely translates to what I went through as a younger man.

"Goshen '97" by Strand of Oaks
I was rotting in the basement 
Buying Casios with my friend 
Then I found my dad's old tape machine 
Thats where the magic began 

I was lonely, I was having fun 
I was lonely, but I was having fun 

I don't want to start over again 

Singing Pumpkins in the mirror 
Porn and menthols under my bed 
Before I was fat drunk and mean 
Everything still lied ahead 

I was lonely, I was having fun 
I was lonely, but I was having fun 

I don't want to start over again…

Fat Friday Feature: Tracy Wormworth On The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"

The "Fat Friday Feature" is a semi-regular thing I do 'round here that features an outstanding bass player and/or bass part.  It's getting close to Christmas - let's dig on Tracy Wormworth's fucking amazing work on the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping".

I have always marveled at the bass line on this song but until today never even knew the bass player's name.  Google Tracy Wormworth - she's from a musical family and is definitely a musical heavyweight in her own right.  This is some slinky, bouncy, extremely original bass work for a new Christmas standard.  I love it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Need To Grow Up And Be Okay With Fucking Casual Swearing

Let's talk for a few moments about sounds that bother some folks.

I had an incident a few months ago at work that still kind of annoys me.  I was helping someone connect their iPad to the company's guest wireless network, then configure their email client to collect email from her company account.  Because I've never really spent any time on an iPad, I was having troubles navigating to the settings. Once there, I was having problems inputting data.  It was mildly annoying, but we (the owner of the iPad and I) got a bit of a chuckle out of my ineptness at using a device that is designed to be intuitively easy to use.  The owner asked me a minor question - I don't remember what it was - and I responded with:  "I don't know.  I don't use these fucking things."  Her mouth came open a bit and she took a step back.  I'm sure she didn't actually do this, but in my memory of this incident, she covered her open mouth with her hand.

I later confirmed with her husband (who also works here) that she is "sensitive" to swearing.  And, though I didn't want to be, I found myself annoyed that she was shocked by my swearing.  Look, this is not the sort of thing that I need to draw a line in the sand over because let's face it: it's unprofessional to cuss at work.  In some cases, it's rude as well.  Had she demanded an apology (her husband swears it's not a big deal) on the spot, I would've done so "hat in hand" as the old timers say.  But we're all grown ass adults here.  Aren't we too old to be shocked by casual swearing?  Haven't most of us incorporated it into our speech to give it color, urgency, and/or elation?  And those of us who haven't - does it really offend us anymore?  I thought not. I guess I'm wrong.

My sixth grade English teacher Mr. Strophus taught us that cussing was for people who are inarticulate, and that cussing reflected a lack of education more than anything.  Here's the thing:  I agree with him.  We've all met people who cuss every other word, thereby rendering the power of cuss words useless.  You know, people who say things like "look at that fucking fuck who's fucking, I don't know, just fucking up shit, you know?  Shit.  Goddamn pisses my fucking ass off."  Sentences like that tell me nothing except that the person hasn't yet mastered English or cussing.  Using a cuss word every fifth word is presumptuous and disrespectful.  It just makes you sound like one of those folks with a legitimate mental issue, roaming the streets cussing their ass off.

But used correctly - sparingly, and in conjunction with vivid word choice - cuss words give your speech the rabbit punch, the humor, the accuracy that it needs to communicate effectively.  It's honest, and shows trust.  It strips away a veneer of formality and loosens things up.  In fact, there are plenty of people out there who DON'T TRUST those who don't (or won't) swear. I even think cussing can be beautiful, no lie.  I played bluegrass years ago with this guy Ric Hedrick.  I loved how he talked.  He KNEW how to cuss.  He selected the right word at the right time.  He was a damn artist.  Until I can get over to his house to record a conversation with him, you'll just have to take my word for it.

I'm not advocating for rudeness here. Don't cuss in front of your parents (they raised you better than that), your boss (he can fire you) or your pastor (unless of course they cuss more than you do)etc etc etc.  It's just not cool.  What I'm saying is if you're shocked by the occasional cuss word in informal conversation, you might need to grow the fuck up.