Hello Gang of Four. For those of you that were wondering why I use that phrase, That’s a sly reference to how many people I think read this blog on a regular basis, excluding my dog. On tap for today I thought I’d discuss music. I know, you are about to say, what does that have to do with comic books or comic culture at all? Well the truth is, I listen to a lot of music while I’m reading comics. So for me these two things have always been intertwined like strains of the same awesome rawkin’ DNA!
Music’s been berry berry good to me as Garrett Morris would say, and it’s another one of those things I’m extremely passionate about. From my days as a college DJ at both IUP and Juniata to being a dedicated concert goer, I make it a point to always be looking for new music and sharing what I find with the world. Noble cause indeed in my opinion.
Besides, my biggest fear is being that old guy that hasn’t heard any “new” music since the Dave Matthews Band put out “Before these Crowded Streets” thus ensuring the shame heaped on me by my son, Jakob, as a teenager when he says “Dad…you are too damn old”. Sure he’ll be right about the chronology, but at least he won’t be about the music.
Not that all the music I’m discovering daily is new music either. As a huge fan of classic rock and country, I’m also out there listening to decades worth of older stuff, finding little know gems in that rough.
To that end, here’s 5 albums I really should invest in before the end of the year. As a caveat to that I should add that if I’m buying someone’s album you should know from the word “go” that I dig them a whole heck of a lot as not everyone out there puts out enough good music to fill up a whole double side LP.
5) Shakey Graves “Can’t Wake up”
I first hear Shakey Graves thanks to one of my all time favorite shows currently: Austin City Limits. This long standing PBS show has been providing free rock concerts helping educate the masses on some of the fantastic music out there. In recent years, like bands playing the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, appearing on Austin City Limits has become something a lot of hip and up and coming artists want to participate in. So long story short, if you want to hear new bands you might not see on the radio just yet, watch this show!
Anyways, Shakey appeared on an episode as a second act with a long time favorite of mine, Ryan Adams, and even though he was the second, he is now the artist I remember more fondly from that show. A ragamuffin guitar player with his one man band set up absolutely killed it with “Roll the Bones”, and immediately got hooked on his music. His follow up album to that appearance “And the War Came” featuring his incredible duet ballad “Dearly Departed” with Esmé Patterson sealed the deal, and both my wife and I agree that this was the best concert we saw in 2016. Especially since it was in a small venue and he was rawkin’ so hard the plaster was falling off the joint!
Now, his new album is more of a band effort than a solo outing, and includes more classic instrumental hooks than things I’ve heard previously, but just based on his first single for this new album, “Kids These Days”, I gotta say I’m super pumped to get this album and at it to growing Shaky library.
4) Dave Matthews Band “Come Tomorrow”
Yes, I know it’s funny that I used the Dave Matthews Band in my opening as album in which if I hadn’t heard any new music since then I would be considered “old”, but they have been a constant in my life since I first started listening to music as an adult way back in high school. Like Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, the aforementioned Ryan Adams and a handful of others, DMB is one artist I’m always willing to shell out money for their new stuff, and 9 times out of 10 I’m not disappointed.
Sure, they might have albums that I only like a few songs on, but Dave Matthews often comes out with albums like Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King or the classic Crash, in which I can listen to every single song on it, which for me is the pinnacle of success in the creation of an album. No fillers, just great song after great song.
Plus this particular album is somewhat bittersweet in that its probably the last one that Boyd Tinsley will appear on. Not to say I disagree with the reasons the band cut ties with Boyd, but sincerely from a strictly music situation, he was a big reason for the band’s success. I remember personally being in high school and one of the big things that set the DMB sound apart from other bands was the violin. It was used in such a way that it gave them a very unquie sound that just wasn’t out there. Now sure there are lots of bands that use this instrumentation now, but I still feel as if the way DMB used it was different from the rest, and so it’s sad that will be missing going forward.
However, I guess not everything is bad. As a long time fan, I’ve loved the fact that they have made Tim Renoylds an official part of that band as his guitar work over the years has been nothing short of extraordinary and it definitely shows on some of bands more recent albums. Overall, this could be the final entry for a particular type of sound from this group as they manage the transition away from Boyd. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad thing, their first hit single from the album “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” is Boyd-less I believe and it’s still a remarkable composition.
3) Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour”
Ah. Kacey. One of the few women other than my wife I dream inappropriate romantic 3 day weekends about. But can you blame me? Even my wife says she is absolutely drop dead gorgeous and when you tie that to her incredible talent as a singer/songwriter, it’s a combination that’s pretty hard to beat.
Yes, I’ve been a fan of my self professed celebrity crush since again I saw her on Austin City Limits a couple years back. She had such an Emmylou Harris quality about her: a funny, charming wit matched by a golden voice wrapped up in a approachable cute little girl next door package. That was the year that the song “Biscuits” when on to be one of the number one songs on our playlist that summer, and still to this day, it’s one that my kids still sing along to in the back seat on road trips.
Fast forward a couple years, and she’s released this new album which we have already been listening to a lot, especially songs like “Space Cowboy” and my wife’s favorite “Slow Burn”. It does sound a lot more produced than other albums, so are hoping she’s not going to be crossing over into mainstream country and becoming too commercialized. Especially since we haven’t seen her in concert yet, and I’d rather see her in a more intimate setting (no, not that kind of setting, you filthy degenerates…I am a married man after all).
Still given she has all the winning tools to hit it big, I feel like it’s more sooner rather than later that she goes full on “Chris Stapleton” on us, and those days when she was a little known Alt country sweetheart will be long behind us. Until then, let’s just enjoy the music…
2) Freddie King “Texas Cannonball”
One of the 3 “Kings” of the Blues with BB King and Albert King, Freddie has always been my favorite. Maybe it’s the stories of the fact the guy lived off Bloody Marys for several years during his insane 300 days worth of touring schedule he maintained before his premature death in 1976, but regardless of the reason, his unquie mix of Texas and Chicago blues which included heavy funk vibes has always been a hit with me.
I first got interested in Freddie after listening to his verison of “Let the Good Times Roll” from his live recording at the Electric Ballroom. The magnetic power of his guitar work was undeniable, and soon I was knee deep in his music listening to such albums as “Burglar” and “Woman Across the River”. His music is actually one of my favorites to listen to while cooking for some bizarre reason, and given I’m the main chef of my family unit, that means you can hear it blarring from the kitchen quite often.
His album, Texas Cannonball, was one I hadn’t heard until recently however which is surprising given it seems like other than “Burglar” its one of his more famous albums. But now that I’ve heard some of it’s tracks, such as his rendition of Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine”, there’s no doubt that I’ll be adding this album to my blues collection by the end of this year. Maybe I’ll hit up my cousin, JA, to find this for me on the original vinyl…hmmmm…
1) Turnpike Troubadors “A Long Way from your Heart”
As the number 1 and last entry in today’s blog, you know I was going to pick yet another artist I first found out about through Austin City Limits. Yep, these fellas from appeared as the second act on a show all about Chris Stapleton, and I’m so glad that I stuck around to listen to them.
Like Shakey Graves, they had me hooked from the first song I heard, The Housefire, which just so happens to be one of their highlight songs off the album I have featured above. I just remember hearing the tune and immediately having the same feeling I got when I first heard The Wallflowers “One Headlight” back in 1997, that this tune is somehow “old”, as in it’s classic, timeless, something instantly recognizable and something that scratches an itch way deep down in your psyche. Then you throw in the lyrics with about the man that has lost everything to a housefire except for those things that truly mean something i.e. his wife and child. and how he finds peace with eventually letting go of those material things and focusing on the things he still has.
As someone that’s been trying to apply more of the classic Stoicism virtues to his everyday life, there’s something that rang so true about those lyrics and the story as it unfolded. We are so often preoccupied with our possessions and fretting about those things that we can’t change, that they often become our own prisons. And it’s only when we are forced to set those things aside something through an act of God, that we can focus on those things that really define us and become stronger as people in a real meaningful way. As the Troubadours sing in the song:
“Lord knows I’ve been blessed,
I can stand up to the test,
I can live on so much less,
this much I’ve been learning”
You really get a sense that so often we don’t really know what strong adaptable people we are until we are placed into the worse of situations, and although it shouldn’t take a sitation like that to help us appriciate what wondeful things we have in our lives already, sometimes it’s the only thing that will really make things sink in.
As an aside, I also became a fan of this band because of their post concert interview in which they explained that they often use the same characters in their songs and thought it was funny that more artists didn’t do the same. Like it’s super common in all other creative endeavors, from books, to movies, to TV shows, but not music. I thought that was so original in terms of thinking about song writing that it impressed me to no end. Since then I’ve been trying to find those characters in their songs and link them. Like I think the Lorrie in Housefire is the same character from their other song “Good Luck Lorrie”. In fact, it’s said in the lyrics of Good Like, that Lorrie is a smoker. A stray cigarette could have caused the Housefire…just an idea.
Anyways, in closing, since I talked so much in this post about Austin City Limits, I thought I’d end with the actual recording that first introduced the song “The Housefire” and Turnpike Troubadors to me in the first place. I hope you enjoy and as always please continue to support your local PBS stations. They provide so much to all of us, and they always need our help to continue.