James McBride's "Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul" is not the definitive biography of James Brown, nor was it intended that way. But McBride makes a good argument here that the definitive James Brown biography perhaps could never be written, so rich was Brown's legacy, but also so maligned his public persona, so
opportunistic his handlers, and so profound (and largely undocumented) his influence on America as a whole from the late 1960s.
For this book, McBride focuses in on a handful interviews from close personal and professional
associates of Mr. Brown, each one telling their story illustrating a different aspect of JB - his
hardscrabble Georgia upbringing, his relentlessly touring band, his family, his - sometimes quirky -
affairs with money. Click to Read More...
Like so many artifacts of the 1970s, progressive rock was something that seemed perfectly normal at the time, but in hindsight was pretty much another batshit crazy relic of that era, alongside leisure suits, shag carpeting, and waterbeds. Dave Weigel's "The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock" does an excellent job of capturing both the madness and the occasional shimmers of brilliance from this curious genre of music. Click to Read More...
Patsy Cline, in today's parlance, gave zero fucks.
I feel a certain kinship to Cline, if only because I attended the same school she did, Gore Elementary, 12 miles west of Winchester, Virginia (though I attended 30 years after she did).
Back up against the Blue Ridge Mountains, Gore is a tiny unincorporated town, mostly a few buildings coalescing around a single road breaking off Route 50.
Many of the refined folk in the nearby metropolis of sorts, Winchester, had looked down on Patsy Cline, as being from the wrong side of the tracks, even after she became famous. Click to Read More...
A few months back, a country radio consultant remarked that "If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out." The comment ignited a brief wave of indignation. This is 2015, after all! But the comment was just the latest example of how country music marginalizes women, a tradition as old as the genre itself, and one that singers from Kitty Wells to Miranda Lambert have fought against through song and their presence, I've learned. Click to Read More...
"Beard oil," I thought when I first heard Sun Kil Moon. From a remove, it rang out at similarly rarefied level of attention, a fussy rough-hewn acoustic guitar traveling at a somber pace of introspection, accompanied by vocals of unrelenting gravitas. But while "Benji" comes in the husk of hipsterism, there's something much more going on here. I've never heard an album quite like this, an intensely personal musical novella where each song is a chapter that builds on the others, that, all totaled, offers an almost uncomfortable intimacy of one man's life at 50, both the wisdom and the warts. Click to Read More...
A friend of mine who lives in the hood, Zach, is just about to release a new album, called "Sun Songs" The name of his band is The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman. "Sun Songs" is actually his/their second release. Click to Read More...
What is it with youngsters these days? They were throwing a house party all right, with DJs
spinning and everything, but nobody was dancing. Most everyone--and there must
have been 300 in this southwest Baltimore warehouse--were lounging on
blankets and sleeping bags. Some even wore pajamas. They could barely
see each other. It was almost dark, except for the slide and film
projectors, the Christmas lights blinking, and the abstract colored
shapes oozing on a television-like screen. Click to Read More...
1975 w as the Indian summer of progressive rock. Procol Harum and King Crimson released their respective swan songs. ELP, Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis were still popular. Younger art rock upstarts like Kansas, 10CC, Supertramp, and Gentle Giant were weighing in with strong new releases. Crack the Sky, from a small steel town 30 minutes west of Pittsburgh, was then one of most promising of these young upshots. Click to Read More...
A few years back, I got a chance to talk with musician and producer Brian Eno, who was promoting his then-new album Nerve Net with a day of phone interviews w/ the press. I was writing for a small publication, New Route, which wanted a short profile on Eno. Sadly NR went out of business a few weeks after the phoner was completed, and the material was never published. Click to Read More...
I am sitting in Berthas in Baltimore one
night, and strike up conversation with the thick-haired hardfaced mug
beside me. Turns out he is in a prominent area band. He talks shop,
mentioning some friends in the group Jawbox, who just signed with
Atlantic. Previously, they released two albums and five singles on
Dischord, but just received a generous advance from the major label.
But instead of blowing it on drugs, leather and tattoos, the band, so
says my newfound bar-stool buddy, is endeavoring to keep their
expenses down. Click to Read More...
It has been a good 40 years since Pioneertown has been of any use, at least to the entertainment industry. You have seen its western storefronts as the backdrops of High Noon, Shootout At O.K. Corral, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and other westerns that Gene Autry and Roy Rogers rode through. But it is not a real wild west ghost town. Rather, Pioneertown is a movie set ghost town built by the industry in the 1940s as a backdrop for westerns. As westerns fell from popularity, the town fell into a state of disrepair. But its a perfect place to record an album. For Cracker, anyway. Click to Read More...
A 1993 interview with David Baker, founder and then-lead singer of Mercury Rev. This interview came some time after the band's debut album, Yerself is Steam, was released. In addition to Baker, the band at the time consisted of Jimmy Chambers (drums), Jonathan Donahue (guitar), Suzanne Thorpe (flute), Dave Freidman (bass) and Grasshopper (guitar). Click to Read More...
Individual Thought Patterns, the new album by Death, is a bottomless pit of twisted guitar lines, drum blasts and unreasonable bass, all swirling together in a dizzying war
Embedded in this inferno is the coarse, inhumanly gruff voice of Chuck
Schuldiner, the guitarist, vocalist and master of puppets for Death, probably the
premier band in death metal. But if you set out to
decipher the song lyrics you will find that
they are not about decapitation, necromancy or even lust for blood.
No, the 10 songs are full of false prophets, corrupt leaders,
the emotionally crippled, the mentally blind, the out-of-touch. Ten
songs, 10 depraved characters, 10 moral lessons. Click to Read More...
Lungfish may be one of the most successful bands in Baltimore. With three albums on Dischord, they tour and sell records world wide. Yet their success is little heralded
locally. Mitchell Feldstein is the drummer. John Chriest plays bass. Daniel Higgs is lead
singer. Asa Osbourne is the guitarist. Here is their story, in their own
words... Click to Read More...
It was not the Breeders who the
manager of the San Francisco studio remembered. Nor was it Dick Dale, who rode into
the studio with his surf guitar two weeks prior. Kurt Cobain, who rolled in the
previous week to record some tracks with the Melvins caused no stir. And those young dudes in Grant Lee Buffalo? Wonderful fellows.
But that band from Allentown,
Pennsylvania. . .Who were they? Oh yeah, the Psyclone Rangers. He
remembers them all right. Click to Read More...
It's hard to believe 10 years ago Motorhead gained the auspicious title of World's Loudest Band. These days, the band skirts respectability. Their songs have found a sizable audience between the curious metal mongers and gutsy progressive rockers. They were even nominated
for a Grammy last year, for the album 1916. They're in LA. now, finishing up
the band's next album. They'll start touring in July, supporting
Ozzy Osbourne. By phone, I talked to the good-natured, but
sleepy-eyed guitarist Wurzel just as he was waking up in his LA.
hotel room. Click to Read More...
They were pictured on the cover of Alternative Press and the Washington Post Weekend Magazine.
The Silver Spring Maryland band was recently profiled in Melody Maker,
Rockpool, Spin, Musician and Rolling Stone. But now they're in Missoula,
Montana. Guitarist Archie Moore, weary from a day of riding in the
group's white Dodge Ram, walks across a Taco Bell parking lot
toward a phone booth to call Rox for an interview. Moore wipes a bead of sweat from his
brow, reaches into hits jeans and pulls out Sub Pop's calling card
number. Velocity Girl are on tour, opening for Belly. Tomorrow
they'll be in Vancouver, Canada. Yesterday they were in Boulder,
Colorado."We really haven't had a day
that wasn't devoted to driving," Moore tells me. Click to Read More...
Yow, wearing blue jeans and no shirt, cavorts his body as if his lyrics are possessing him. He hocks a loogie on the floor, sings, hocks a loggie on the ceiling, grabs his nipples, and stage-dives into the audience. He floats on a sea of hands, not missing a word. He glides about, steering himself with his boots against the ceiling (next time in you're in Max's check out the ceiling stage front--most of he boot marks there are Yow's). Click to Read More...
The Boo Radleys' new album, Everything's Alright Forever is pop's difficult spectre. Not one song falls into pat sentimentality, pat anger, pat love or pat anything. Rather it mars the environment with its blunt presence, like ugly furniture. Only when you pay close attention does Everything's subtle charms appear. Everything's Alright is simultaneously distant, with eerie guitars far off in the mix, and all too immediate. Click to Read More...
I ended up talking with Helmet guitarist
Peter Mengede who, according to a recent Spin article, was
the funny one. Indeed. Page Hamilton may be the leader,
but Mengede gives you better copy. He is humorous, but thoughtful.
Upstairs at the posh Michaels 8th Avenue (where Helmet was about
to open for Faith No More), we sat down to do the interview at an
elegantly prepared dining table. The lanky Mengede promptly grabbed
one of those dainty saucers to use as an ashtray. He looks around and laughs, "I
feel we should be doing Billy Idol songs, like 'White Wedding'," he
said. Click to Read More...
The London publicity rep allotted me 30 minutes of telephone conversation with Cris. After about 20 minutes I ran out of questions, and so, with one finger on the stop button, I asked if he wanted to add anything. He did, about another 40 minutes worth. Click to Read More...
After finishing up their fourth LP, John Linnell, who plays accordion, and John Flansburgh, who plays guitar and wears glasses, were in a quandary for an album title. Flansburgh suggested Apollo 18, thinking of the Apollo 17 spacecraft., which successfully completed NASA's last moon mission in 1972. Click to Read More...
The All Mighty Senators learned their chops playing for the Maryland Institute College of Art crowd, playing at uptown bars, at houses and at the Institute itself. Though they have since progressed to venues like Hammerjacks, it was during those early gigs they learned to demolish the line between the crowd and the band. Click to Read More...
Lynyrd Skynryd is back. What? What kind of scam is this? What fools dare try to suckle from the memory of the might Skynyrd maul? And for this new album to be rendered with the same name that graced Gold and Platinum, well that's like filling an empty Jack Daniels bottle with lemon juice. Click to Read More...