Archive for April, 2009

Todd Snider: The Excitement Plan

Posted in Loretta Lynn, Todd Snider on April 28, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Todd Snider’s new album The Excitement Plan doesn’t come out until June, but you can stream the whole thing now over at Yep Roc’s Website. You can also listen in on the nifty little widget posted above. Pay extra attention to “Don’t Tempt Me,” a duet with Loretta Lynn. I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear that one since I first heard about it a month or so ago.


Also… Todd’s website lists him as performing at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville on May 27th… the final Wednesday of the month. Seems like something else usually happens at the Bijou on the last Wednesday of the month

Record Store Day/Wilco Hits Knoxville

Posted in John Paul Keith, Van Eaton and Friends, Wilco on April 17, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Saturday is one of my favorite days of the year… National Record Store Day… a day to celebrate the dying breed that is the brick and mortar independent record store. It’s a day when many artists release exclusive music to independent record shops, and many stores feature live, in-store performances from local artists. It’s a great time all around.

This year… it seems one of the biggest events for Record Store Day is taking place right here in Knoxville.
Wilco is performing Saturday night at The Tennessee Theatre. Wilco is also releasing its new concert DVD Ashes of American Flags as part of the NRSD hoopla. Ergo… Wilco will appear at Knoxville’s Disc Exchange Saturday afternoon for a screening of the new DVD. The first 150 fans to buy a copy of the film will also get the chance to meet the band and get their DVD’s autographed. It’s generating quite a buzz here in town.

Of course… Wilco is just a small part of the festivities. Blog favorites Van Eaton and Friends and John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives will both be performing at the Disc Exchange during the day. Record Store Day will also see exclusive releases from Whiskeytown, Pavement, The Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis, Tift Merritt, and more. I’ll be picking up the live Tift Merritt CD for sure and will probably be tempted by several other offers as well.

You can find out more about National Record Store Day over at the official website.

Please go out and support your local record store Saturday and everyday. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that someone has gone out and purchased an album because of something I’ve written here or because of some music they heard in this space. Remember… the free downloads are great for sampling. But if we don’t support these artists by actually buying their records, they won’t be able to keep making the music we all love. Similarly… if we don’t support our independent record stores, these artist won’t have as many outlets for their product.

Now… for sampling purposes… here is a track from Wilco called “Ashes of American Flags” from their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. It’s also the title track from the new concert DVD being released on Saturday.

Wilco: Ashes of American Flags (Buy Album) (Buy DVD)

Interview with Scott Miller

Posted in Interviews, Knoxville Music, Scott Miller on April 16, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

It’s been a while. As Scott Miller might say… “Are you still with me?”

My wife and I got moved into our new house last week, and I’ve been without internet access for the better part of a week now (this post is coming from the WDVX studios). It ain’t fun. It is, however, almost over… the cable guy comes on Thursday. Hopefully, things will get back to normal around here soon after that.

In my absence, I missed the official release of Scott Miller’s new album For Crying Out Loud. It was released Tuesday on Scott’s own F.A.Y. Record label. I hope to have a full review (and a preview track) of the album soon. I’ve been listening to this record since December, and I truly think it’s as strong as anything in his catalogue

More on my opinions on the album later… for now, here’s an e-mail interview I conducted with Scott last month. My questions are in itallics… his unedited answers follow.

* This album was not recorded in a traditional manner where you have the financial backing of a record label and just go into the studio to knock out a record. You made this album over a period of time stretched out over several recording sessions with money you mostly raised yourself. How did these different circumstances affect the new album? Is there more artistic freedom when you aren’t tied to a label, and what does it mean to own your own album?

There’s no difference artistically, really. I was lucky enough to be on Sugar Hill where no one told you how to make a record or what they wanted to hear. But BUSINESS wise I am now totally free. I essentially put out two records in one year: I released a thousand of the guitar/vocal demos and then used the money from that to make the full record. No label but my own would let me do something like that—-release two records of (mostly) the same songs produced differently. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the hardcore fans who bought those, and that to me is the real difference and why we don’t need record labels anymore. You can connect directly with your listeners now. And its not about making more money, its about keeping more money.

So I then released a thousand of what I called the “fan CD” which had a DVD bonus on it to raise money to pay for the radio promotion and publicity ( you still can’t get around those guys….)
It means EVERYTHING to own your own record. I mean, as an artist you live and die with your work, but now, I mean I REALLY LIVE AND DIE WITH MY WORK!

* I’ve also heard you say that you incorporated some new songwriting techniques for this project while working with Doug Lancio. What were some of the techniques (and tunings) you employed, and where can we find evidence of them on the record?

Doug produced two of the songs on For Crying Out Loud and co-wrote another two–and they are pretty obvious to me which ones. I originally started to make the whole record with him ( he got the gig with John Hiatt so that’s when Michael Webb took over..) writing to melodies he would send me. When we first started he showed me some different tunings and told me to write three pages of SOMETHING every day, no matter what. From that bulk of missives I started to see patterns of ideas and start moving them around, and songs began to form from them. The two songs ” Feel So Fair to Midland” and “Double Indemnity” are examples of those. Of course, one of them is an instrumental, which is not a great idea for a singer/songwriter but something I’ve done before with a song called “Chill, Relax, Now” which I thought would make a GREAT tune for the penalty box during hockey games. But I don’t watch hockey. I dunno, are there rules?

* Patty Griffin appears on this album on the absolutely stunning “I’m Right Here My Love.” This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Patty, but I’ve always been curious as to how that collaboration first came about… OR… What’s a nice girl like her doing working with a guy like you?

Patty sang with me on two songs on my UPSIDE/DOWNSIDE album and last year, well, most of 2007 I guess I toured and opened for her. But mostly and firstly we hung out because she’s funny and thinks I am too….before we even considered playing together or touring. She is one talented human being on all fronts and I’ll take anything she will do to help. We just did a songwriter-in-the-round together with John Oates ( of Hall & Oates) and had a blast. She’s so talented and so gracious when she works with you–not many people in this business like that. Not even me.

* I also understand that “I’m Right Here My Love” carries a bit of a personal connection for you. Do you find it harder or easier to write a song like that with such a personal attachment?

Well, not really like you think. In my family we have unfortunately become pretty adept at hospice or end-of-life care. My mom does hospice care back in Virginia where I’m from–these are the people that either bring you to a facility or come to your house and do everything from vacuum your carpet to help you die or help your family cope with it. I’ve lost many family members and friends to cancer and those last days and minutes are important, because for those moments that’s all you have. My wife’s father had been ill for some time and we had been bringing him down to Knoxville ( they live in West Virginia) for care the last few years. He came down last spring after a stroke and died here. Anyway, back to the point, one of the things you do when someone is at the end is encourage them to fight and try to live, but when its time to give up, its very important to NOT make them feel like they failed because they are dying ( this is funny stuff, huh?). Anyway, there were my in-laws, married for over 65 years saying goodbye. My mother in law was a natural. She probably never heard of hospice care or if she did she thought it was some dark basement, but she cared for him those last weeks, days, hours and minutes like the angel she is. Sort of what its about is two people saying goodbye.

* Claire Marie… Made Up?… Real Girl?

I’ll never tell. I had a steady girlfriend in high school and she was not named “Claire Marie”…. The real trick on this song was to try and write a song using one syllable words and have it make sense; have the story come across. I don’t know if it does or not but it was really fun to write. And even more fun to play.

* One last question… I know a lot of the songs on For Crying Out Loud have been around for a while. I think I first heard “She’s Still Mine” and “Iron Gate” almost two years ago, and “Heart in Harm’s Way” dates back to the V-Roys. How have some of these songs matured since their early days, and do you prefer to work with a song a lot prior to taking it into the studio rather than taking it in raw?

I’ll take a song any way I can get it, brother. I prefer to live with them a while before I record because 99% of writing ( to me) is editing. Steve Earle used to say “you gotta use the eraser end of the pencil more than you use the pointy end!” and that’s how I’ve always done it. Some people like the moment, and when that is captured it sure is magic. But for me, as I write ‘story songs’ that time helps. It also helps when you know, as an artist on my level, that you are going to have to tour night after night and sing what you wrote in not so nice places sometimes, or circumstances where you literally might be singing for you and you alone–so you want to be able to mean it when you do sing it, and enjoy it too. That doesn’t mean songs won’t come all at once, because they sometimes do and you love it. But if it was that easy, everyone would do it and that would make it hard to find work….

It’s Baseball Season

Posted in Chuck Brodsky on April 9, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Major League Baseball season started this week. Even though my Cincinnati Reds are already 0-2 and will likely be out of the race by May… I still can’t help but get excited for a new season.

To honor the new season, here’s a track from Chuck Brodsky’s The Baseball Album.

Chuck Brodsky: Lefty (Buy Album)

This Band Makes Me Smile

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Such unbridled energy and randomness on one stage should not be allowed.

Notes & Ways to Pass the Time While Remodeling

Posted in Mountain Stage, The Jayhawks on April 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***Before I get into today’s post, I need to give you a link to something cool that popped up on the internet yesterday. I was recently interviewed by a web-zine called The Alternate Root for a new feature they started this month that focuses on music blogs and music bloggers. I am honored to be the first blogger chosen to be featured in that space and hope I can live up to the praise. You can read the interview by following this link and turning the magazine to page 16.

***Of course, I feel a little guilty that the interview is posted during a time when most of my free time is being devoted to something other than this blog. I’ve been spending 12-14 hour days working on my new house to try and make it a livable space. That leaves little time for blogging, but (as I wrote earlier this week) it provides lots of time to listen to music. (I’m on the air at WDVX tonight… so that gives me enough time to rush out this post.)

Today, I spent a good deal of time listening to The Mountain Stage podcast archives. The Mountain Stage is a syndicated radio concert series that tapes in Charleston, West Virginia. I used to go to tapings all the time when I lived in Kentucky (about a two-hour drive from Charleston), and the show helped introduce me to some of my favorite artists. I saw Kasey Chambers, Rodney Crowell, Dar Williams, and James McMurtry all for the first time in Charleston. I saw lots of other great acts there too… Guster, Sam Bush, Martin Sexton, Tift Merritt, Joseph Arthur, Jessi Alexander, The Mutual Admiration Society, Grant Lee Phillips, and several others that I know I’m forgetting right now.

The Mountain Stage isn’t on the air in Knoxville, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the show. The good news is that you can listen to archived shows on their website and download podcasts on iTunes. Today, I just cued up a few podcasts in iTunes and listened to great performances from Patty Griffin, Luke Doucet, Sarah Borges, Eric Bibb, and The Red Stick Ramblers among others. The show never disappoints.

***Late last week, I found myself with a little spare time one morning and made my way into one of the local record shops to snoop through their $1 CD bin. It’s the sort of place where you will find tons of unremarkable discs that you wouldn’t want if they were given to you. Sometimes though… there are a few treasures in with the trash.

That’s exactly what happened on this trip as I found a used promotional copy of The Jayhawks’ 2000 album Smile… for a buck. It’s the only Jayhawks album I had never heard, and one I had always avoided buying due to some unfavorable reviews I had read way back when I was first discovering the band. I also was largely unimpressed with 1997’s Sound of Lies, the band’s first offering after the departure of co-leader Marc Olson, and I had always heard that the two albums were similar in their departure from the band’s signature sound.

After giving Smile a spin, I found that the main points of those reviews are accurate… the band does trade a bit of its early, rootsy sound for an edgier pop/rock vibe. It’s also clear that Gary Louris was trying to take the band in a different direction without Olson. In this case, however, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Smile tosses out the melancholy of Sound of Lies and replaces it with joy… as the titles of the two albums might suggest.

Sure… it’s pop music… but “pop” doesn’t always have to be a four letter word. I wish I hadn’t waited 5+ years to finally buy this album.

Here’s a track from Smile that showcases that pop polish while still retaining a little rootsy rust.

The Jayhawks: I’m Going to Make You Love Me (Buy Album)

Paint is Everywhere…

Posted in The Weepies on April 1, 2009 by AmericanaPulse
Lovers in the Moonlight by Marc Chegall

My wife and I closed on our first home on Friday, and have spent every waking moment since working. Saturday and Sunday we pulled up carpet, tore down wallpaper, and destroyed some parquet floors. The last two days have been spent mostly cleaning and painting

It’s a lot of hard work, but it does give me lots of time to listen to music that I don’t have during a normal day. Today we went through The Jayhawks, Andrew Bird, Bela Fleck, The Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

This afternoon, we spent a solid two hours with the music of The Weepies while I painted ceilings. I heard the song “Painting by Chegall,” as the paint was dripping off the ceiling onto my face, and it made me smile.

Tomorrow… I paint some more.

The Weepies: Painting by Chegall (Buy Album)