Notes for the End of a Vacation

Unfortunately, my vacation has come to an end. I am, however, happy to be back home in Knoxville after having some fun in Cooperstown, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. last week. We went to the Baseball Hall of Fame, several of the Smithsonian museums, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a brewery, a cider mill, and a handful of wineries. All in all, a fun and relaxing trip.

Oddly, it was the first vacation I’ve taken in quite some time that didn’t have some sort of musical bent to it. My wife and I usually plan our vacations around some concert or another, but we couldn’t seem to find anything this time. Unless you count the piano bar insanity at The Howl at the Moon Saloon in Baltimore. If you’ve never been to one of these fine establishments, just picture two guys playing piano and taking requests from a room full of revelers who are all partaking of their favorite alcoholic beverages. They played everything from Garth Brooks to Weezer to Vanilla Ice in the couple of hours I was there. Needless to say, I sang along with every song and had a pretty darn good time. It’s not the kind of place I usually frequent… but it was certainly fun.

Anyway… some musical notes from things that happened while I was gone…

***The coolest thing I read about this past week was the upcoming collaboration between Jay Farrar of Son Volt and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. The collaboration holds a great deal of interest for me since the two artists seem to come to their music from different starting points. Farrar is much more the Cosmic-American troubadour while Gibbard mostly plays the role of the navel-gazing indie popster. Regardless… they are two of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see what their pairing yields. You can read all about it over at Paste’s website.

I should also say that I’ve been slowly absorbing Son Volt’s latest release American Central Dust over the last few weeks. It didn’t really grab me on the first few listens (nothing here really has the raw power of something like “Drown”), but has started worming its way into my ear a bit more and more. Jay’s steel guitar has settled down a bit on this release, and he seems to play more in the country than the rock on this effort. Give it a second listen if you have to.

***Paste also had a great conversation starter that went up on their site Monday. Editor Josh Jackson listed his Top 20 R.E.M. Songs of All Time. The top two from my Top Five didn’t make the cut, but it’s still a strong list overall. The greatest thing about it is that you can listen to all twenty songs on Paste’s website. It’s a great R.E.M. primer if you’ve never explored their music before.

***I should also mention that I first came across each of those two links over at USA Today’s Pop Candy Blog. Whitney Matheson, the blog’s author, is a former Knoxvillian (current New Yorker) who posts several daily updates on anything and everything pop culture related from music to movies to comic books to an almost unhealthy obsession with moustaches. My wife turned me on to her site about a year ago, and her daily “Morning Buzz” posts have become required reading in our house ever since.

Music only makes up a small portion of what Pop Candy covers, but I do have to give Whitney credit for introducing me to Those Darlins a few months ago when they played SXSW in Austin. I probably wouldn’t even have opened the recent email I got from the band if I hadn’t read the positive reviews from Pop Candy. I accepted their invitation to attend a Darlin’s show in Knoxville back in May, started playing their music on WDVX shortly thereafter, blogged about them, and started pushing our Music Director to listen to their album. Now, Those Darlins are in heavy rotation at WDVX and will be featured on August’s Tennessee Shines concert broadcast along with Vienna Teng, Shawn Camp, and Guy Clark.

Check out Pop Candy if you get a chance. Whitney also weighed in on the R.E.M. debate with her personal Top Ten.

***By now you’re probably wondering what the picture at the top of today’s post has to do with anything.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent a good deal of last week in Washington D.C. taking in the sights of our nation’s capitol. On Wednesday, my wife and I toured the National Gallery, The Smithsonian Museum of American History, and The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

The Air and Space Museum had a rather large exhibit dedicated to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers from Ohio who designed and built the world’s first successful airplane. The exhibit had a replica of their famous aircraft that took that first flight in Kitty Hawk, NC, design models from some of their earlier attempts, and a bevy of other artifacts.

Included in one of the displays was the mandolin pictured above. It seems that Orville Wright was known to pick a little from time to time, and that particular mandolin was his instrument of choice. I don’t know why that instrument struck me so… but I like the idea of Orville and Wilbur sitting around a campfire at the end of the day and picking out a tune.

As a tribute to Orville & Wilbur Wright… here is a tune from John Hartford that would not have been possible without their contributions.
John Hartford: Steam Powered Aereo Plane (Buy Album)

4 Responses to “Notes for the End of a Vacation”

  1. I will be interested to see where you finally come down on the new SV. I have listened to it a lot, but it remains flat for me.

  2. I tend to agree with you in terms of the flatness. It certainly doesn't have the raw power of some of Jay's earlier work… or even Okemah & The Melody of Riot.

    I do like it better than The Search… but that isn't a large stretch.

    This seems to be more of a late night, chill out album than a full out rocker. I think I just need to condition myself to listen to Son Volt in the former capacity instead of the latter. It may take some time, but I'm starting to warm to it.

  3. Yup on the chilled out bit, but I actually have a fondness for The Search.

    On another note, how are you finding Review Shine? It is a great concept, but I am not hearing much music I want to buy or review (since most would not be positive). The real question for me is how the music comes to me–why certain bands submit, because most of what is in my inbox isn't even the genre of music I favor. Just curious if you are having a different experience since your blog is surely gets more traffic.

  4. Re: Reviewshine.

    I have received quite a few albums to my liking so far. Madison Violet, Sons of Bill, and Charlie Robison all came from reviewshine. The group I plan to feature on Tuesday came from there too… and maybe one or two more in the coming weeks.

    Most of what I'm getting seems to be in the Americana genre. It's not all great, but it does seem to be in the realm of what I typically cover… much more so than some of the random stuff I get emails about.

    What I don't know is if I get a copy of everything that's submitted to the site, or if artists select which blogs to submit too.

    Either way… I've received some valuable material and found a few new favorites (still love MadViolet). It's hard to give everything a fair listen sometimes, but I try what I can.

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