Music Writing

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Don't Peak Too Soon

Sun, 26 May 2019

Lessons Ray Wylie Hubbard has got to be one of the great second acts in country music -- maybe for all popular music, an art form overwhelmingly favoring the energy of the young. He briefly made a name for himself with the outlaw country classic "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother" in 1978, though only in the last few decades or so has he started truly refining his distinctive -- and highly-addicting -- country blues swamp shuffle, with each successive album stronger, more defiantly individual than the previous. His slim yet bountiful 2015 autobiography shares two secrets for this late blooming success: Sobriety and the E chord without the third. Click to Read More...


Soundtrack of My Life: Door into Summer

Sun, 17 Mar 2019

The The problem with the idea of admitting The Monkees to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is who, exactly, who would they induct? Show creator Robert Rafelson? Really, he is a Hollywood guy (He used the windfall from The Monkees to finance his next project, the 1969 movie Easy Rider). The four actors? Though they brought considerable personality to the project, they were not at the center of it... Read on for a review of The Monkees at Beacon Theater, NYC, 2019-03-09. Click to Read More...


Soundtrack of My Life: Songs From the Wood

Mon, 25 Feb 2019

Weekly If, for some reason, you should find yourself in the country late at night -- maybe a weekend vacation rental perhaps -- and also in possession of a good powerful set of speakers, then aim them outside, into the forest, and fill these speakers with Led Zeppelin(first three albums recommended) and/or Black Sabbath (same). Let the guitar of Jimmy Page thunder through the land or the wicked bellow of Ozzy shiver the trees. Let their maul pour into the valley below, echoing a sound fuller, deeper and darker than any you will experience on headphones. Click to Read More...


Soundtrack of My Life: Amy Rigby, Obscure Hippie Electronic Music

Sun, 10 Feb 2019

Weekly The Mercury Lounge in New York City celebrated its 25th birthday with a series of shows by a number of bands who got their starts there, back in the day. One of those acts (Tuesday, February 4) was singer/songwriter Amy Rigby and her crew. But I did not know any of this. I just saw Amy Rigby was playing at Mercury, an early show between 8 - 9, so I walked over and paid my $12, just like it was 1994 all over again. Click to Read More...


Music Finds: Ace of Cups, Neko Case, Pink Floyd Tribute Bands

Tue, 29 Jan 2019

Music I guess by now, most Pink Floyd tribute bands are probably better than Pink Floyd itself. Except for the light show, which can be recreated on a phone. Sort of. Also: Ace of Cups, the greatest late-1960s psychedelic all-female proto-punk band you have never heard of... Click to Read More...


Everything You Know About James Brown is Probably Wrong

Fri, 08 Jun 2018

A 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...


Stir a Cauldron, Point a Bone, Paint a Throne, Crown a King: Prog Rock in the 1970s

Sun, 14 Jan 2018

Book 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...


Women Singers in Country Music: The Gregarious Patsy Cline

Fri, 18 Dec 2015

An 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...


The Surprisingly Short History of Women Singers in Country Music

Fri, 10 Jul 2015

A 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...


Records, Back in the Day

Sun, 19 Apr 2015

Bo Bo Diddley's booming voice sounded so solid on tiny, crappy speakers, able to cut through the din of any rent party or jukejoint. Chess Records knew what was what. Click to Read More...


The Reckoning of Sun Kil Moon

Sun, 01 Mar 2015

A "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...


Out There a Minute

Sat, 22 Nov 2014

Silver 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...


Cloudwatch, Ambient Techno in Baltimore

Fri, 01 Mar 1996

The 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...


Pie in the Sky: How Crack the Sky Became Famous in Nowhere but Baltimore

Wed, 12 Jul 1995

A 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...


Godless: An unpublished interview with Brian Eno

Sun, 01 Jan 1995

An 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...


Jaxbox On The Road

Tue, 01 Feb 1994

A 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...


Cracker's Desert Songs

Sat, 01 Jan 1994

A 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...


Q&A with Mercury Rev's David Baker

Wed, 01 Dec 1993

An 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...


Death and the Gospel According to Chuck Schuldiner

Wed, 01 Sep 1993

Chuck 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 dance.

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...


Catching Lungfish

Wed, 01 Sep 1993

Baltimore 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...


The Sordid Story of the Psyclone Rangers

Wed, 01 Sep 1993

The 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...


Motorhead: Back Down To The Pub

Thu, 01 Jul 1993

An 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...


Velocity Girl: The Shirelles Meet My Bloody Valentine

Sat, 01 May 1993

A 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...


An Evening With Jesus Lizard

Fri, 01 Jan 1993

/ 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...


Boo Radleys: The Difficult Spectre

Tue, 01 Dec 1992

Boo 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...


Helmet: Nothing Spontaneous

Sun, 01 Nov 1992

A 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 Meat Puppets, Such Good Students

Tue, 01 Sep 1992

An 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...


How They Might Be Giants became the NASA house band

Fri, 01 May 1992

A 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...


All Mighty Senators, More Fun With an Audience

Mon, 01 Jul 1991

A 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 Skynyrd: Nothin' Fancy

Mon, 01 Jul 1991

A 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...


See Also:

Cheap DJ: Songs of Note

Stats: Music I've Listened To