jim ford companion

Pack your bags, hop in that green Volks’ van and take a Bobby McGee-esque trip with one of America’s most underappreciated musicians and a godfather of Country Funk – Kentucky native, Jim Ford.

Jim Ford – A Companion Piece

mirage

Mirage is the “ambient dream-pop” recording project of Robin Nydal, a resident of Los Angeles. That geography seems to have some influence here, especially on “Blood for the Return,” the title track to his 2014 debut. The florid piano, cymbal brushes and forlorn oboe, paired with Nydal’s hushed, echo-y warble, evoke a kind of noir surrealism akin to tales of that city of dreams.

Nydal sings “I was born in the dark” and, indeed, this song exists in the moonlight and dusk, where the sparkle and shine of the fairytale fades into a murkier reality. Think Mullholland Drive as scored by Department of Eagles, Timber Timbre and Wild Honey-era Beach Boys, and you’re well on your way. words / c depasquale

Mirage :: Blood For The Return

scan0002Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 380: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++Intro – “Unknown to Themselves” ++ Dara Puspita – To Love Somebody ++ Van Morrison – Sweet Thing ++ Daniel Bachman – Happy One Step ++ The City – Man Without a Dream ++ Bob Carpenter – Miracle Man ++ Doris Troy – Whatcha Gunna Do About It ++ The Combinations – While You Were Gone ++ Lee Jung Hwa – I Don’t Like ++ The Mamas & The Papas – Snowqueen of Texas ++ The Band – To Kingdom Come + Clyde McPhatter – You’re Movin’ Me ++ Willie Wright – Nantucket Island ++ Jerry Jeff Walker – Well of the Blues ++ Jan Bradley – It’s Just Your Way ++ L.C. Cooke – Put Me Down Easy ++ Arthur Russell – Nobody Wants a Lonely Heart ++ Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris – In My Hour of Darkness ++ Buffalo Springfield – Kind Woman ++ Cat Power – Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival) ++ Arthur Russell – Come to Life ++ Vetiver – Sleep a Million Years ++ Here We Go Magic – Song in Three ++ White Denim – Light Light Light ++ Callers – Rone ++ Dirty Projectors – Dark Eyes (Bob Dylan) ++ Gracious Calamity – Song That Grows Like a Vine (Demo) ++ Jessica Pratt – Streets of Mine ++ Mountain Man – Around and Around (John Denver) ++ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Into My Arms ++ The Rolling Stones – Sweet Black Angel ++ Junior Kimbrough – My Mind Is Rambling ++ Antony & Bryce Dessner – I Was Young When I Left Home ++ Vandaveer – Long Black Veil ++ Jim Woehrle & Michael Yonkers – Monkey’s Tail ++ Hawa Daisy Moore – Ja Na Ka ++ Francis Bebey – Doula o Mulema ++ Chester Lewis – Precious Lord ++ Odetta – Cool Water ++ Shirley Ann Lee – Introduction / All I Have To Depend On

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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By the time he rounded up a pack of teenage musicians to form Life Everlasting, Innocent “Stoneface” Iwuagwu was a veteran of many top Eastern Nigerian bands (including The Tall Men, The Postmen, In Crowd, The Soulmen, The Hygrades, and Ify Jerry Krusade).

Not having the financing to purchase all the necessary gear, they used instruments made by local carpenters and had amps and pedals built by their good friend and electronics guru Goddy Oku. They recorded their first single, “Love is Free” b/w “Agawalam Mba” at the EMI studio in Lagos. The record was a hit and they went on to record another single,”Everyday” b/w “Love Him” — and as the story goes, Stoneface ‘thinks they may have recorded a third single, but he can’t remember what it might have been called.” Onto the tape and into the ether. words / cognoscere

Stoneface & Life Everlasting :: Love Is Free
Stoneface & Life Everlasting :: Agawalam Mba

There’s a sound in Harvey Mandel’s “Long Wait,” the last song on Side One of his 1968 debut, “Cristo Redentor.” 1:43 into a searing, grinding, winding guitar passage, there’s a little … “plink.” It’s a moment of subtle yet daring ingenuity, the kind Harvey Mandel has wielded in spades throughout his 50-year career.

harvey-mandel-1Diggers know. Somewhere in the bin between Malo and Mandrill, you’ll find the records. Cristo Redentor, Righteous, Baby Batter, Shangrenade. Maybe you’re lucky enough to find a Cristo promo in mint condition, with the shiny gold Philips label instead of black. Long a favorite of in-the-know DJs, producers and gearheads, Mandel has been sampled by Del The Funky Homosapien and Nas, and he’s played in Canned Heat, with John Mayall, and on The Rolling Stones’ Black And Blue LP.

Today is Harvey’s 70th birthday, but it is not a happy one. He was diagnosed with nasal cancer in 2013, and has undergone sixteen surgeries. The type of cancer he has requires very specialized surgery by a top doctor in Chicago who does not accept health insurance. This is all fully disclosed on a website run by his sister at Help Harvey Mandel. Harvey has had to pawn his guitars and sell his publishing to stay afloat. He lost his only son and his mother in recent years. Now his dog Buck has cancer too. And Harvey faces several more surgeries. We all hear about musicians who fall on hard times late in their careers, yet his seems an especially cruel turn.

Harvey Mandel :: Cristo Redentor

Mandel grew up in Chicago and started playing guitar at 16, learning The Ventures’ Walk Don’t Run LP note for note. He met Sammy Fender, a black blues musician who took him down to Curley’s Twist City, a crucible of Chicago blues innovation. After a few months jamming with the regulars and his own combo, he could hold his own with anybody. He played with them all; Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy. “You could name a list of 100 well known blues people”, he said. “I got to play with all of them at one time or another in Chicago.” He ran alongside locals Steve Miller, Charlie Musselwhite, Mike Bloomfield, and Barry Goldberg, all part of the burgeoning scene. Bill Graham invited Musselwhite and Mandel out to The Fillmore in San Francisco in August 1967 as the first of three on a bill with Electric Flag and Cream. He recalled in 2011, “I came in from Chicago with this little Fender amplifier with one 12” speaker and I look up onstage and here’s Eric Clapton with a wall of Marshalls…And he was so cool, I asked him ‘Think I could borrow one of those things during my set?’ No problem.”

cohen

“He was looking forward to playing Israel,” writes Leonard Cohen’s biographer Sylvie Simmons of the songwriter’s first tour of the Holy Land in 1972. “He was terrified of playing Israel.”

The kickoff show in Tel Aviv was certainly eventful, as a tape of the gig shows us all these years later. You wouldn’t think that the delicate and poetic sounds of Cohen and his band would ever serve as soundtrack a riot, but that seems to be what’s happening. Clashes between security and the audience continually break out. “I know you’re trying to do your job,” Cohen pleads. “But you don’t have to do it with your fists.” He improvs a dark and ominous tune, dedicated to “the machines:” “I know you got souls, machines / But you’ve fallen into slavery.” At the end of the tape, things seem to break down entirely, as Cohen desperately dips back into the folk revival days for “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Amidst all the chaos, however, there’s some fantastic music, including lovely, heartfelt renditions of Leonard’s early classics like “Suzanne,” “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and “Avalanche.” There’s also a fascinating, embryonic version of the then-unreleased “Chelsea Hotel,” with a different chorus and expanded lyrics.

But best of all is the brief little ditty Cohen precedes “The Sisters of Mercy” with: “I love spending the night with two girls,” he croons. “It’s better than one … and it’s better than none.” Even the machines probably cracked a smile at that point. words / t wilcox

Download: Leonard Cohen: Yad Eliahu Sports Palace, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1972 (zipped folder)

01 Famous Blue Raincoat 02 Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye 03 Song To The Machines — I Love Spending The Night With Two Girls 04 Sisters of Mercy 05 Chelsea Hotel (#1) 06 Avalanche 07 Suzanne 08 We Shall Not Be Moved

simon-joyner 

I’ll stand on Steve Earle’s coffee table in my Chuck Taylors and say that Simon Joyner is every bit the songwriter Townes Van Zant was. To me and many other appreciators of fine songwriting, Joyner’s status as a songwriter nonpareil is objective and self-evident. Aristotle warned that “when the storytelling in a culture goes bad, the result is decadence,” and I often take comfort in knowing there are a few left like Joyner to help at least postpone what is perhaps inevitable.

Simon’s music moves me. On a recent tour together, I found myself just as affected by his songs on their twentieth performance as on their first. What sets Joyner apart from other songwriters working in the arguably antiquated tradition of earnest, narrative songwriting? Irish novelist Colum McCann said “An ounce of empathy is worth a boatload of judgment,” and Joyner’s embodiment of this ethos is key to understanding his music and why it is special. Though Joyner’s songs can be scathing, even vicious, they never forsake the core humanity of its subjects. In his new song “Nostalgia Blues,” from his remarkable new album Grass, Branch and Bone (Woodsist), Joyner admits to a ne’er do well friend that he won’t be attending her (presumably imminent) funeral, but he has a couch if she ever needs a place to crash. By standing on the shoulders of giants, Joyner has also learned to not repeat their mistakes: absent from Joyner’s music is the self righteous banality, casual nihilism, and inherent male chauvinism that occasionally blemishes the otherwise irreproachable corpora of Neil Young, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan, respectively.

I was very eager to talk to my friend Simon Joyner about songwriting, clairvoyance, and ping-pong. Our unedited conversation follows.  words / j jackson toth

Aquarium Drunkard: Your previous album, Ghosts, was very sonically dense. Grass, Branch and Bone is more minimalist, placing your voice and guitar front and center. Was this deliberate, born of a desire to not repeat yourself, or did the songs you were writing simply dictate the method of recording?

Simon Joyner: A little bit of both, I guess. I did a few living room tours with a minimal, acoustic-based band during the time I was writing the songs, so I became accustomed to hearing them stripped down. But it also seemed like the songs I was writing for this record required a different approach than the songs on Ghosts. Much of what I was dealing with on Ghosts was death and grief and loss in the moment and the disparate emotions and higher tension of those confusing feelings in the characters in those songs. The new record seems to have a lot of memory and reflection, very out-of-the-moment. Many of the events happened in the past and are being re-created in the minds of the characters after some time of processing, which means they are shaping the events, minimizing and softening things, blowing up others, assigning blame and finding meaning instead of merely reacting. It made sense to implement more structure and control in the recording of the record to reflect that theme, I guess.

AD: You were playing a lot of these tunes on tour in advance of recording this new album. I know you spent many years not touring. Having operated both ways, did you find that “road testing” the new songs ultimately affected the way you recorded them for the album this time? How much did they change?

Simon Joyner: I don’t think the songs changed too much from touring. I knew that they were going to be presented more like stories and that the music would be complementary but not the focus for this one. With an older album like Skeleton Blues, I played the songs with a full band for a year because there was a lot I wanted to see grow musically out of the songs and by the time we recorded that album, the songs had undergone drastic transformations, which seemed right for that batch of songs. There was a lot less freedom possible for the other players on this record just because of what I was hoping to do. There were many great parts that the players added to the songs during overdubs that I ended up stripping from the songs despite the parts being exciting and inspired. I found that the fuller-sounding the songs got, the more I wanted to cut things so I could hear the song unadorned. I’m sure it was frustrating at times for Ben Brodin who engineered the record and mixed it with me. I knew what I wanted but I sort of had to go through the motions of recording way too much and hearing the songs more dense just to confirm that my instinct was right that the songs should stay relatively bare.

Courtney_Barnett_by_Travis_Button-1

Welcome to the fourth installment of an ongoing series with Pickathon, showcasing footage from the Galaxy Barn located at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon: Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”.

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Welcome to Dead Notes #10 where we revisit Two From the Vault, recently released by Light in the Attic Records for the first time on vinyl. 1968 was a deeply exploratory period in the early history of the Grateful Dead (previously reviewed in Dead Notes #2, #5, and #8) where sublime climatic jams are joyously inspired as Garcia’s licks and Pigpen’s swagger launch the group into new watershed moments. They were also performing new material from Anthem of the Sun in a suite – loudly exclaiming they were a solid ensemble that could both swing, yet tip-toe, at the brink of explosion, before instantly dropping back into reality while readying the crowd for the next roller coaster turn. Legendary Dead Archivist Dick Latvala had long called this era ‘primal Dead’ – as the group’s performances were so continuously raw, seething and unabashed. Anthem was finally released on July 18, 1968 and their label Warner Brothers immediately called it a ‘disaster not a triumph’ while NME raved ‘it’s so completely unlike anything you have ever heard before that it’s practically a new concept in music. It’s haunting, it’s pretty, it’s infinite … a complete mindblower’. Yet behind the scenes the band was in complete and utter shambles.