In 1969, John Mayall was looking to put the Bluesbreakers to rest. Gravitating towards the scene out in LA (his last album had been titled Blues from Laurel Canyon), Mayall was looking for a sound that was less amp-ed up, less quintessentially ‘blues-rock’. The sound that he minted on The Turning Point, recorded live at the Fillmore East, was therefore rootsier, gentler, more acoustic. Shockingly drummer-less, these extended jams veered away from rock and towards a folk-jazz not a million miles from Astral Weeks. Key to this reinvention were two musicians: saxophonist and flautist Johnny Almond, whom Mayall wrangled following session work with the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, and acoustic guitarist Jon Mark, whom he recruited from Marianne Faithfull’s touring band. Not to minimize Mayall’s abilities as a performer and an arranger, but it’s undeniably the interplay between these two musicians that give each song their floaty, hypnotic character. Mayall’s choice was almost too good; like Clapton, like John McVie, like Mick Taylor, these were musicians you could hear graduating on the album they had been enlisted to record.

Following the release of Mayall’s Empty Rooms album that same year, the two were already striking out on their own, now as the unfortunately named Mark-Almond (forever cursed to be misfiled under ‘Soft Cell’ in record stores everywhere). Although Mayall himself would gradually reincorporate the electric blues he was known for, Mark-Almond pretty much stuck to the smoky, nite-club grooves they had laid down on The Turning Point. Listen, for instance, to ‘The City’, from their eponymous debut (1971).

Mark-Almond :: The City (1971 version)

Jon Mark’s luscious vocal is pitched somewhere between Colin Blunstone and Jimmie Spheeris. Gone is the bluesy template Mayall was working from, replaced by the hammock swing of a bossa nova chord sequence. However, the smooth vibes are still very much the same: an airy folk-jazz that accumulates like weather, like a lazy tide. The album as a whole may represent the funkier, shadowy end of what would later become Soft Rock, but in 1971 where could you turn musically to get this West Coast outside of David Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name? Okay, granted, ‘The City’ doesn’t quite earn its seven and a half minute length, and the vocal harmonies might sound a little like Three Dog Night at cocktail hour, but remind yourself that this was a full year before Can’t Buy a Thrill. Plus the spectacularly rich tone of Johnny Almond’s sax is something rare for a rock album at the time (even counting Traffic); here it has room to move, coming through the mix like a guest vocalist, working its way into the song like Van Morrison might.

The tune later became something of a signature for the band. Between a live album and various solo projects, Mark and Almond recorded it no less than four times. Its last appearance (as far as I know) was on 1978’s Other People’s Rooms. The key difference between the 1971 and the 1978 versions of ‘The City,’ however, is what occurred musically in the interim: Steely Dan, The Hissing of the Summer Lawns, Alan Parsons’ Projects, Rumours-era Mac, Silk Degrees, to note just a little of the cross-pollination you can detect on the later recording. The funk by this point has matured, grown lustier, and far less folky. And this time it does earn its length, driving (windows down) down a coastal highway, more stars than city lights. The perfect song, in other words, for an evening in the dog days of summer.  words / dk o’hara

Mark-Almond :: The City (1978 version)


Author Wyndham Wallace charmingly suggests in the beginning pages of his new memoir about his time with Lee Hazlewood that he felt he was “not even shit” on the legendary producer, songwriter, and performer’s shoes upon their initial meeting at the New York Grand Hyatt in 1999. Wallace’s taste for self-deprecation runs through the entire book, but it’s clear that Hazlewood held a much higher estimation than that of Wallace. Over the course of the last eight years of his life, Wallace would become Hazlewood’s business associate, de facto manager, and collaborator. Most of all, Wallace — or “Bubba,” as Lee dubbed him — became Hazlewood’s friend.

Lee, Myself, & I documents their friendship. It’s not a biography of Hazlewood’s decades long career, during which he laid the groundwork for the Arizona recording scene, producing defining music by Duane Eddy and Sanford Clark, rocketed to stardom with Nancy Sinatra, wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, founded the artistically daring LHI Records label, and inspired a generation of artists including Sonic Youth, Calexico, Lambchop, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, Primal Scream, and more. Instead, Wallace’s book focuses on his experiences with Lee. It’s a touching, funny, and warm memoir, reflecting on Wallace’s personal relationship with Hazlewood.

“Well, it hasn’t helped the marketing campaign, it has to be said, but there you go,” Wallace laughs via Skype from the countryside southwest of Berlin, his self-deprecating tone carried over from the book and encouraged by a few recent drinks. “It doesn’t fit in the biography racks and it doesn’t fit in the novel racks, because it’s not fiction. But the nicest comment I’ve seen on Twitter actually was ‘This is the best non-fiction music book I’ve read all year.’ It’s a small category there.”

But the idea of writing a history of Hazlewood didn’t interest Wallace. “The idea of writing a biography rarely crossed my mind, because it was so hard to get facts out of Lee,” Wallace explains, but even deeper than that, he didn’t want to undo the alluring spell cast by Hazlewood’s songs, the “sexual mysticism and fatalistic humor” described by comedian and writer Stewart Lee in the book’s introduction. “I haven’t destroyed the mystique of Lee,” Wallace says. “I’ve told stories of his life and I’ve revealed an intimate side of him, but I haven’t provided hard cold facts from his birth to his death.”

Wallace instead chooses to focus on his emotional connection to his songs. As a writer for BBC Music, The Guardian, Quietus, and other publications, Wallace is drawn to a personal writing style, forgoing the attempted objective detachment so prevalent in music writing.

“One of the things I find very frustrating about writing about music is  that you are supposed to keep up this pretense of being somehow separate from it,” Wallace says. Writing evocatively about his first experience with the music of Lee Hazlewood – stoned at a friends’ place, naturally – Wallace taps into the spirit of music fandom, evoking the memories of falling in love, being wowed by the sounds floating from the stereo. Even as he meets his hero and begins to work with him, Wallace never loses touch with that initial sense of wonder. It carries through the book, a gentle undercurrent of disbelief, which of course, Wallace addresses by laughing at himself.

“I felt like I was going to be caught at any moment, that Lee would just let me go,” Wallace says. “He might hand me $100 in a casino and say ‘I’m going off to the bathroom’ and he just never comes back.”

Hazlewood never shook Wallace, and Wallace in turn helped nurture Lee’s later career, helping oversee For Every Solution There Is A Problem, a tribute album, Total Lee: The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood, and his final full length, Cake Or Death. Along with key reissues by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth on his Smells Like Records imprint, Wallace helped share the gospel of Lee — and he’s continued to do so, working with Light in the Attic on its current reissue campaign. Then, near the end of his life, Wallace actually crafted a song for Hazlewood, “Hili (At The Top Of The World),” featuring Wallace’s words recited by by Lee over the sounds of Icelandic band amiina. The song serves as a tender coda to their time together.

Wallace offers a look into Lee’s life — memories from his storied past, his sour humor, his time with his third wife, Jeanne, and his family. You meet these people through Wallace’s eyes, and you experience Lee’s music through his ears. To this day, when he speaks of his friend and father figure, Wallace still sounds, more than anything, like a fan. And he’s not afraid to indulge in an extended metaphor to explain his affection for the sounds of Lee.

“One of the weirdest things I do every year is I take two or three media to a small island on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Norway,” Wallace says, of a remote excursion he organizes for writers. It’s an involved trek, he explains, involving a flying into Oslo, then Bodø, then a “four or five hour boat ride” from there. “There’s this magical thing where these people get on the boat ride and they start to get excited, after about the first thirty minutes, because the scenery you sail along the Norwegian coast is amazing. They all look at me and say, ‘God I see why you wanted me to come here.’ And I get to say to them, ‘Naw, this is nothing.’ Then we go another hour, another hour, another hour and a half and they see Norway’s second biggest glacier, and they’re like ‘Holy shit, this incredible, Wyndham!” And I say, ‘No, no, you still haven’t seen anything.’”

Finally, on the island of Husøy, after they’ve experienced the midnight sun, had a few beers, and dined on whale carpaccio – after they’ve been forced to “reassess their entire thoughts about the food chain” – Wallace says they fully get it. “That’s what to me the love of Lee Hazlewood is like. You get somebody’s attention by playing them a Lee Hazlewood song sometime, and they’ll say ‘Fuck me…this is incredible.’” And then you take them deeper into his discography. “‘Yeah yeah, but you haven’t heard anything yet,’ then you play them something else, and they go ‘Whoa.’ Then you play them something like ‘Soul’s Island’ from a A House Safe For Tigers. That, for me, is the pleasure of introducing someone to Lee.”

With Lee, Myself, and I, Wallace introduces a side of Lee Hazlewood found beyond the grooves of his records. A man every bit as quizzical and unique, but one made of flesh and blood, and then, through Wallace’s elegiac words, you get to say goodbye to him. words / j woodbury

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

SIRIUS 401: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Gene Boyd – Thought of You Today ++ Harare – Give ++ Alton Memela – The Things We Do In Soweto ++ The Action – More Bread To The People ++ Santa Nguessan – Manny Nia ++ Arthur Russell – Make 1, 2 ++ Dwight Sykes – Bye ++ Mulatu Astake – Mulatu ++ Trinidad Steel All Stars – Do Your Thing ++ Unique Madoo – Call Me Nobody Else ++ Amral’s Trinidad Cavaliers – It Sure Is Funky ++ Los Destellos – Onsta La Yerbita ++ Mulatu Astake – Tezeta ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – Dancing With Pain ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – In A Phantom Mood ++ Gabor Szabo – Caravan ++ Ben E. King – Don’t Let Me Down ++ Jay Wiggins – Sad Girl ++ Michel Colombier – Canon ++ The Dirtbombs – If You Can Want ++ Apple & The Three Oranges – Curse Upon The World ++ Lee Moses – California Dreaming ++ Louis Armstrong – They Say I Look Like God ++ Nina Simone – Four Women ++ The Zion Travelers – The Blood ++ The Ify Jerry Krusade – Everybody Likes Something Good ++ Dutch Rhythm And Steel Show Band – Down By The River ++ Fatback Band – Goin’ To See My Baby ++ The Last Poets – Time (edit) ++ Darondo – Let My People Go ++ The Fourth Coming – Cruising Down Sunset

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


Welcome to Dead Notes #11. Forty-two years ago, in the early days of March of 1973, Pigpen and a photographer friend sauntered into the band’s rehearsal space at Stinson Beach Community Center with the hope to have his ‘final’ picture taken with the group. They instead, as friends often do, razed him about his request and a heartbroken Pigpen left empty handed. Days later on March 8th, Pigpen was found dead in his apartment from internal bleeding following years of alcohol abuse. Distraught, yet wanting to honor their fallen friend, Bob Weir and Robert Hunter (who famously said ‘If there is one thing I learned from Pigpen, I think I am going to get drunk and have a real good time’) threw a party of bacchanalian excess at Weir’s new Mill Valley home. Folklore says it was an orgy outside and informal wake / riot inside, as hundreds of fans, family and band members descended upon the property. When Pigpen was finally laid to rest, with his tattered leather jacket and cowboy hat, it was under a stone that read ‘Pigpen was and is now forever one of the Grateful Dead’. A despondent Garcia almost folded the group that week, declaring ‘That’s not Pigpen in that coffin. That’s the Grateful Dead.’ Instead he and the band responded to his ill-timed passing by creating new life as they began to flesh out a series of new songs that further synthesized their unique blend of jazz, rock and folk.

A few weeks later the band skid into a languid “He’s Gone“, deep in the second set, at Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium. Originally written about Mickey Hart’s father, the band’s former crooked manager, the song quickly became an elegy for lost brethren – beginning with Pigpen. As Jerry croons in unison with Phil’s goofy harmonies – Bobby and Billy set a steady rhythmic pulse shuffling the band into a long, rambling jam that careens into the life-on-the-road-of-misadventures of “Truckin’”. A roar engulfs the hall as the crowd applauds mellowin’ slow in their neighborhood and Jerry fires out a crippling solo before shifting into high gear with a smokin’ “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” jam. Billy then commanders the wheel, driving the group further out into their psychedelic masterpiece “The Other One”. Garcia’s fury of kaleidoscopic triplets accelerate the group into wide open terrain while shimmying into a Spanish Jam. Teetering on the edge, the band begins pumping the brakes on “The Other One” and the jam becomes more sparse as the notes start floating into Space. Lesh, not to be left out, drops in a series of punishing bass bombs while Weir’s feedback tears through the astral plane. Garcia tries to tether the group back to Earth with a vague melody, but Billy isn’t ready to descend yet and eases the band into a jazzy, ethereal Feelin’ Groovy Jam. Finally the lucid dream begins to lift as “I Know Your Rider” peaks through and beautifully concludes nearly an hour of incendiary 1973 Dead. words / d norsen

Grateful Dead :: He’s Gone > Truckin’ > Jam > Drums > The Other One > Spanish Jam > I Know You Rider

Archives: Aquarium Drunkard – Dead Notes (Volumes 1 –10)

millGRNDMS is the duo of Catherine DeGennaro and Suzy Jivotovski. Their debut, Capitol Mill, is the result of an ongoing long distance pairing of the two’s material. Entwining delicate folk with garage pop, the everyday with the mystic, the two fuse into a strange and beautiful whole, creating one of the most enchanting lo-fi records of the year.

Opener “Mass Observation // Whistle & Bells” is all distorted reverb encircling hushed echoes of Jivotovski’s mysterious poetry. DeGennaro’s “White Hot Mess” buries the existential hysteria and loneliness of adulthood under a bed of polleny garden folk and milky harmonies while the wistful, nostalgic melody of “Bending Out” paints a day in the life, populated with psychics, people watching and moving homes.

GRNDMS :: Observation Satellites

Showcases DeGennaro’s bewitching vocals is “Linger On”, drawing shades of both The Sandwitches and Jana Hunter. A ringing guitar and buzzing bass line swell into a kind of radar signal, searching for that which has transcended: “You trod on mountaintops and you’ve seen the peak / you let it move through you, you are the creek.” The morning, mountainside folk of “Observation Satellites” is perhaps the stand out of the record as DeGennaro’s playful, layered harmonies saunter and whisk through the countryside, hiding in the hills and getting lost amongst “strange purple trees, whites, yellows, and greens.”

GRNDMS :: Echo Chamber

Jivotovski channels The Raincoats and Marine Girls on tracks “Pwr Chords Drool” and “Spoonless.” The former’s deceptively sugary melody is subverted by its jagged distortion and abstract actualization, and the latter, a spell of dizzying aimlessness, finds her lost, adrift and alone. Closing the album is “Resolute”, its acoustic and electric guitar mingling behind DeGennaro’s awakening of self-empowerment. She sings confidently but bruised (“I’m seconds far from fine”), but her raw and stirring sincerity sweeps the listener in, forcing us to check in with our own personal and spiritual inventory. “Let me be me, again, “ she concludes.” words / c depasquale


Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Earlier this year, Dutch baroque psych-pop traveler Jacco Gardner released Hypnophobia, his second full-length, via Polyvinyl Records. A lush, swirling cavalcade of sound, Gardner continues to mine the set of influences introduced on 2013’s Cabinet of Curiosities, only here, things are decidedly more 21st century than its predecessor.

This week’s Lagniappe Session finds Gardner rendering instrumental, sythn-laden, covers of Paul McCartney’s “Junk” (originality found via McCartney’s 1970 home recorded solo debut) and Traffic’s “Paper Sun”. Gardner, in his own words, below. . .


Jacco Gardner :: Junk (Paul McCartney)

“Junk” is a really great Paul song, one of his best I think. It has such good melodies, harmonies and chords that I couldn’t help but wonder what it would sound like if all instrumental and sung by synths. It was quite inspiring to figure out all the parts that make up this song and find out how great of a songwriter (and guitar player) Paul actually was. This one was a little more tricky because I don’t think the original could do with any improvement, but it was actually really fun to do a synth version. All the synth sounds were done on an ms20, including the drum sounds.

Jacco Gardner :: Paper Sun (Traffic)

Really nice melodies and a great structure. Lately I’m listening to a lot of those synth/soundtrack guys like Mort Garson, Johnny Harris, Claude Denjean, Perry & Kingsley etc, and it seemed like a cool idea to do a similar groovy slightly electronic instrumental version of a 60s song, like those guys would do. I really enjoyed working on it. Nicola (who plays drums on the new record) was able to lay down some drums.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen.


Willis Earl Beal is a musician, writer, and actor whose work captures the often uninvestigated corners of the psyche. His first album, Acoustimatic Sorcery, was released in 2012 and was comprised of recordings Beal cut on a cassette karaoke machine. His latest record, Noctunes (out August 28th through Tender Loving Empire records) is something special. We recently caught up with the artist while he was traveling via bus in Washington State. That conversation, below.

Willis Earl Beal :: Flying So Low

On the moment he first felt compelled to record: My grandmother bought me a karaoke box when I was a kid and I started recording my voice. Not singing, just talking. I would talk for hours and hours and hours and then play it back and listen to it and then erase it and talk for hours again.

On making music: Music is a very serious thing, but the execution means it does have to be so serious. It should be a direct representation of how you feel. It shouldn’t be trying to hypothesize about how you feel or trying to find the note that everybody else thinks you should find. It’s a free flowing thing for me because I’m uneducated.

On the recording process:
My stuff is not collaborative. I don’t collaborate. No producers. No studio. It’s all me. New record: all me one hundred percent. My last two EP’s and my last two LPs were all me. And that’s how I’m going to keep it. When you work with other producers they can take credit and I don’t want them to have any credit. I want all of the credit.

On his past albums: I try not to think about it too much. They were documents of a previous time that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s old shit that I don’t really feel like dealing with emotionally. I liked it when I did it and the way I feel about it now is I’d be happy if anybody else likes it.

On how his music has changed: Now I’m making soundscapes. When I started out I was banging on trashcans. I feel like I could make a record with two sticks and a tape recorder that would sound better than what I used to record.

On his new record, Noctunes: It’s a combination blues-jazz-classical-ethereal situation. It’s dedicated to nighttime. It’s out now and a cat named Isaac Rodriguez printed 300 copies. There’s some Vincent Gallo in there. Chet Baker a little bit. There’s also some balladry, put you to sleep in a good way.


Unlike others from their decade (the 90s), Pavement, especially in the early years, left off as many a gem as they included on their proper LP output. And as recently stated by Malkmus and Kannberg, the “B-sides” from this era (almost) form a sort of alternate history of the band — you know, something akin to that Beren(stein) parallel. “The B-sides from Slanted And Enchanted could’ve been on that album easily—they were not made to be B-sides. The whole album was all just one big B-side in a way, so this stuff is equal to the album tracks. We really thought any of those songs could be on [Slanted]. Unfortunately, you have to pare it down to the 10 or 12 that sound the best together.” (via

Enter The Secret History, Vol. 1: the first in a series of vinyl releases pulling from the recordings included as bonus material attached to the CD reissues of the band’s catalog between 2002-2008. And here’s the thing, unlike so many re-packaging / reissue money grabs, Secret History is a very welcome inclusion in the Pavement pantheon. As a ‘shadow album’, the era’s various B-sides, session takes, etc. have been thoughtfully sequenced, providing an essential document connecting the dots between the release of the loose/raw/unhinged album that was Slanted and its follow-up — the very different Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in 1994.

I’ll leave you with this.

Pavement :: Baptist Blacktick

hulbertWhen John Hulburt’s private press release Opus III came out in 1972, his hometown Chicago was awash in the sounds of Curtis Mayfield and Alligator Records. Isolated from the solo acoustic scenes happening in Berkeley, New York City, and elsewhere, Hulburt’s self-released LP was an oddity in a city tailing off a solid ‘60s rock scene with the Cryan’ Shames, Shadows of Knight, and Hulbert’s group The Knaves. Self-released and obscure almost instantly, Opus III has been rescued from the bins by Tompkins Square and Chicago guitarist Ryley Walker, who chanced upon the album and fell hard for it. (Walker’s own music is a pastoral Bert Jansch-Van Morrison hybrid that’s both as unfashionable and excellent in 2015 Chicago as Hulbert’s was in 1972, so it makes sense he’d swoon for a fellow anachronism.)

John Hulburt :: The Freak On The Black Harley

It’s easy to compare Hulburt to John Fahey, but impossible not to—Hulburt himself credited the enigmatic guitarist as his muse and inspiration for this set. Tunes like “Sunrise” and “Hallelujah I’m on Parole Again” are spiritual cousins to Fahey’s “Sunflower River Blues and “Poor Boy a Long Way from Home”. But as you can hear Furry Lewis and Reverend Gary Davis in Fahey, you can hear South Side Chicago blues seeping into Hulburt’s playing. The album kicks off with “Inside and Otherwise”, an updated version of the Knaves’ floor stomper “Inside Outside” that distills the booming pulse of the original into moonshine. “Freak on the Black Harley” features some cool classical/flamenco flourishes, providing a glimpse at Hulburt’s range. The album does have its dopey dated moments—you can feel the ponytail forming on your head during guitar-flute workout “Freak on the Black Harley (Revisited)”, and the lyrical content of “Guitar on My Knee” reminded me immediately of Navin Johnson singing “I’m Picking Out a Thermos for You” in The Jerk. But overall, the performance is boss and the collection’s a treat.

The Opus III package contains good liner notes by Walker, Hulburt’s sister, and former Knaves bandmate Gene Lubin. Much as the Knaves channeled bands like the Animals, Yardbirds, and Pretty Things, into a few slabs of garage perfection, Hulburt’s version of Fahey-derived picking seems plucked from a Nuggets box of lost acoustic gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a welcome reminder that the crate digging never ends, nor should it. words / k titterton