North Carolina twangers prepping vinyl reissue of classic album while planning out a new studio record as well for a spring ’18 re;ease/ Above photo by Michael Traister.
By Fred Mills
Cutting to the chase: Raleigh, NC, combo 6 String Drag has long been a favorite throughout the BLURT diaspora, dating back to the hard-twanging Americana combo’s ‘90s heyday, which included a Steve Earle-produced gem from 1997, High Hat. Much more recently, the group resumed operations following a lengthy hiatus, resulting in a wave of terrific live notices as well as considerable praise for 2015 comeback album Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll (Royal Potato Family), which was stuffed to the gills with choice power pop, rockabilly, ‘50s-ish rock, and stately blues.
The group is soldiering on with a twinned campaign to get High Hat re-released for the first time on vinyl (a 20th anniversary, limited edition white wax at that) and to release a brand new studio effort in March. Over at the 6 String Drag PledgeMusic page you can view the specifics along with the various tiers of involvement for pledgers, ranging from springing from digital, CD, and vinyl versions of High Hat, to all manner of rare memorabilia and house concerts fans can avail themselves of.
Do yourself a favor and check out these guys—our friends—and consider jumping in. By way of full disclosure, the High Hat reissue will be appearing under the label name of our sister business, Schoolkids Records (formerly Second Motion). Hopefully that gives you a sense of what a kickass band we think 6 String Drag has always been, and continues to be. It’s clobberin’ time, kids.
Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification.
Finally arriving on the heels this week (Oct. 20), of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love vinyl box set from NC’s legendary Flat Duo Jets, released by Daniel 13 for Record Store Day 2017, is the 2CD version for the, er, less obsessive Dex Romweber fan. But no less discriminating—this ‘un has all 13 original Flat Duo Jets tracks, including “Wild Wild Love,” which they played in a career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman; plus all six tracks from the 1984 cassette-only mini-album (In Stereo). CD Two adds a baker’s-dozen outtakes from recording sessions hand picked by the band’s original producer, Mark Bingham.
As an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD package also includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier and music critic David Menconi. The booklet was originally a centerpiece of the aforementioned limited edition vinyl box, which of course went out of print pretty much original.
In the interest of efficiency and accuracy, we will dispense with any editorial insights here, and instead simply republish the Numero Group label’s product info and description. If you aren’t familiar with Husker Du and the Minneapolis trio’s cultural importance, you clearly landed on the wrong news item at the wrong music website….
SAVAGE YOUNG Dü
•4 LPs or 3CDs
•Tip on jackets or die cut sleeves
•108-page or 144-page hardcover book
•69 songs, 47 previously unissued
•40 previously unpublished photographs
•12,000 word essay by Erin Osmon
•Sessionography by Paul Hilcoff
•Remastered from the original analog tapes
Experience the punishing sonic origins of a punk icon. Collected here for the first time, and skillfully remastered from original board tapes, demos, and session masters, this collection is an authoritative chronicling of the wellspring and maturation of Grant Hart, Greg Norton and Bob Mould—three St. Paul teenagers who’d go on to become the most heralded trio of the American punk underground. Follow the Hüskers to their earliest gigs in 1979, through extensive road dog touring, and to the start of their partnership with West Coast tastemaker SST in 1983 via a 108-page hardbound book crammed full of photos, flyers, and a sprawling essay with participation from the band. Spread across four LPs, 47 of the 69 songs compiled here are previously unissued, and includes In A Free Land, Everything Falls Apart , and an alternate Land Speed Record.
We’ve also pressed up a limited edition bonus 7” for mail order customers. Extra Circus gathers five previously unissued songs from the January 1983 Metal Circus sessions and is packaged in a full color sleeve, as designer Grant Hart intended.
We previously announced that Chapel Hill’s Happy Abandon is among the first acts on the recently-established Schoolkids Records label – formerly Second Motion; home to Tommy Keene, The Veldt, and Bettie Serveert; and sister business to both BLURT and the three Schoolkids Records record stores – and will have their new full-length Facepaint in stores on Aug. 25 on vinyl, CD, and digital. (That’s the cover art, above.) The gentlemen just wrapped up a European tour that by all accounts went swimmingly well, and they’ll jump right back into the pool starting next week in NC and GA, followed by a trek out West in the fall – tour dates can be viewed HERE.
If you caught their single “If I Stare” last year, you already have a sense of the group’s ornate, cinematic pop mastery – listen to it HERE at their Soundcloud page – so now it’s time for a taste of the new record. Below, check out “Severed Seams” and prepare to be stunned. For updates and more info, visit ‘em at their Facebook page.
Long-overdue second full-length out now revived Twin/Tone label, which is “forced back into existence.” Boy howdy!
By Fred “Blurt Archival Geek” Mills
Once upon a time there was a ground zero punk combo called the Suicide Commandos: Straight outta Minneapolis, the trio foreshadowed that ‘burg’s subsequent explosion as one of the key Amerindie scenes—think Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Replacements, et al. They only notched a pair of 45s and a full-length, 1978’s Make A Record (issued on Pere Ubu’s Mercury-distributed Blank Records label), earning critical kudos across the globe and going on to become a key artifact of punk, but, as with many similar indie avatars of the era, ultimately bit the dust.
Yours truly was honored to have had the proverbial critical front row seat at the time, though, as the punk fanzine I contributed to (and eventually published), Biohazard Informae, covered the band during its initial run. Wait… did I just write “initial run”?!?
Indeed. The news recently arrived that, against all odds, the Suicide Commandos were on the verge of gearing back up. The members, of course, went on to other pursuits—fans with long memories will fondly recall bassist Steve Almaas and his post-SC proto-Americana combo Beat Rodeo—and it’s been aeons since the name “Suicide Commandos” was uttered aside from discussions about the early Twin Cities scene and the stray one-off reunion gig. But here’s the musical proof: Time Bomb is issued by the equally legendary Twin/Tone Records label—yeah, that label, the one that gave the world the Replacements—also returned from the grave to do the deed. It’s the first record since the Suburbs’ 1994 album Viva! Suburbs! Welcome back.
The record has been pressed up as a limited-edition (1000 copies, each numbered) LP, and you can also get it in digital form or as an on-demand burned CDR. Check out the first single from the new album, “Boogie’s Coldest Acre” below, and meanwhile, you can view the album booklet itself HERE.
From the label: “[The Suicide Commandos are] readying their first new studio album since the 1978 Blank/Mercury debut, Make A Record. Time Bomb has many of the hallmarks of the band’s original oeuvre, their fast, punky, brainy, fun and often funny rock n’ roll sound – The Ramones meet Eddie Cochran meets ZZ Top – but adds a catchy, pop-ish slant and a modern production flare that brings a freshness to the entire proceedings. The first vinyl pressing will be a limited, numbered edition of 1,000 copies. (It will also be issued digitally.)
“Time Bomb was produced by the Commandos, primarily recorded in their hometown at Master Mix Studios by Kevin Bowe (Jonny Lang, Paul Westerberg, Dan Wilson) and mixed by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Let’s Active, The dBs) at Fidelitorium Recordings in North Carolina. Though there had been reunion shows over the years, the band hadn’t felt compelled to record again. Why Now? you may ask.
“Guitarist Chris Osgood tells us, ‘After Tommy Erdelyi died, Steve pointed out that The Ramones were all gone and we were all still here, and that we should make a record.’ The group’s New York City-based bass player, Steve Almaas, adds ‘The time was right. I had a couple of songs I thought would sound good with Chris and Dave. Once they started coming up with material, it inspired me to write a few more. Also, in this modern age, it’s much easier to work long distance. That really helped make this possible.’
Each Stax Classics entry features a dozen tracks by a legend—among them, William Bell, Johnny Taylor, Staple Singers, Otis Redding, and Carla Thomas.
By Bill Kopp
The venerable and legendary Stax Records was started 60 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. Originally doing business as Satellite Records, the label founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton (and later helmed by Al Bell) would go on to release a catalog of staggering quality before falling victim to a host of problems that would end its existence in the mid-1970s. (Stax would eventually continue as a reissue label.) Those interested in learning more about Stax are enthusiastically directed to Rob Bowman’s excellent and richly detailed Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, published in 1997. [It is indeed a reference Bible around the BLURT kiosk. -Soul/funk Ed.]
Today Concord Music owns the rights to administer the Stax Catalog, and has done a good job of reintroducing long-deleted titles to release. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Stax, Concord has compiled best-of from several of the label’s artists. I have four of those titles – all released May 19 – on my desk: all are called Stax Classics, and there’s one each from William Bell, the Dramatics, the Staple Singers and Johnnie Taylor. Each Stax Classics entry features a dozen tracks by the highlighted artist, plus a short yet informative liner note essay and a reasonable amount of discographical information. These aren’t really designed for the serious enthusiast; instead each serves as a tidy sampler/introduction to the Stax-era work of the artist.
William Bell’s Stax Classics volume features his best-loved tracks, including “Private Number,” his romantic duet with Judy Clay. The other 11 tunes are pretty great, too. The Dramatics are represented best by “In the Rain” and “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” (both on Stax Classics), but other lesser-known cuts like “Get Up and Get Down” and “The Devil is Dope” are breathtaking in their arrangement and execution.
The riches found in the versatile Staple Singers’ wonderful catalog likely made paring Stax Classics down to a dozen tracks a difficult task. The song’s you’d expect to find are indeed here: “Respect yourself,” “I’ll Take You There,” and so on. An excellent and little-heard later-period cut, “City in the Sky” is included as well. Johnnie Taylor’s entry in the series includes his unbelievably funky (if naughty) “Who’s Making Love” as well as the incendiary “Somebody’s Sleeping in My Bed”: and ten others. All four are excellent, but on sheer chutzpah I’d give a minuscule edge to the Johnnie Taylor set.
Other entries in the Stax 60 series include titles by Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Carla Thomas.
Triple album – you read that right – en route for the early summer.
By Fred Mills
It’s not a particularly close-kept secret that a number of folks here at the BLURT brain trust are staunch fans of North Carolina’s Michael Rank; just put his name into the search box on our home page and you’ll no doubt get more than a few hits, including a review of his most recent album, 2016’s Red Hand. The erstwhile Snatches of Pink frontman is, not to put to fine a point on the matter, prolific.
If he’s not worried, we’re not worried, so let’s dive right in with the first single off the new album, “Be Alright.”
It’s a classic/classy slice of blue-eyed soul, a bit of a departure from Rank’s frequent forays into twangy Americana. The video also features Brian Dennis (who produced the album with Rank) and Bobby Patterson, both formally of NC Triangle heroes DAG. As Rank explains, “The album plays like my ’70s love letter to Sly Stone, D’Angelo, Curtis Mayfield, Shuggie Otis and Prince.”
No argument there, brutha. We knew you had the ivories skills, but that’s one sweet falsetto, too. Everyone else – enjoy.
Don’t forget that Lovely Creatures box set, either…
By Blurt Staff
With Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds fans in full salivation mode over the Lovely Creatures box set finally arriving on May 5 after a 2 1/2 year delay — full title: Lovely Creatures: The Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 1984-2014; it comes in multiple iterations, from a 2CD version to a super deluxe edition including DVD and 250-page hardback book, not to mention a 3LP vinyl edition (below) — it seems like now’s a perfectly appropriate time to unleash more Cave-related collectibles and maximize the, er, commercial potential.
To wit: As pictured at the top of the page, a gorgeous, multi-color vinyl limited edition 1996 classic Murder Ballads, which contains some of the Bad Seeds’ most popular songs (“Stagger Lee” in particular) and also featured guests PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue appearing on it. It’s shipping this weekend via Newbury Comics (which specializes in these limited edition reissues), so you can look for it at your favorite independent record retailer or order it direct.
Raise your hand if you are hoping for the Cud revival to kick in as a result of the release. Meanwhile, listen to the lead track by the eternally brilliant Pooh Sticks, below.
By Uncle Blurt
While veterans of the indie indie wars are likely to tout with pride their owning an original copy of the legendary c86 cassette that the New Musical Express gave away to its readership in, you guessed it, 1986 — yes, I still have mine, safely tucked away in the vault, a guard standing outside 24/7 — a lot of punters don’t think 1988 was so bad, either. Among them, the archivally-minded Cherry Red label is putting its muscle where its mouth is with c88. Instead of a 90 minute cassette, however, it’s a three-CD box set boasting a whopping 72 songs, due in stores June 30.
Artists on c88 include the Stone Roses (but of course!), Pooh Sticks (whose timeless track “On Tape,” above, kicks off the collection), Sea Urchins, Kitchens of Distinction, Darling Buds, Pale Saints, and, er, Cud, among others. The full tracklisting is below, and luckily the twee-to-psych factor is relatively low. Worth noting: this is the followup to the label’s c87 box from last year, which of course was a sequel to Cherry Red’s expanded take on c86. Here’s hoping that by the time they get to the early ’90s the series will taper off before we get to Britpop, as that’s when all things British began to jump the shark.
The Cherry Red product description reads thusly:
C88 is another celebration of the Eighties Indie scene, documenting a golden era when tuneful guitar-based bands made records on shoestring budgets, often issued on small labels with hand-made artwork, with little hope of mainstream exposure. This 3-CD box set follows previous best-selling collections C86 (2014) and C87 (2016). C86 expanded the NME’s genre-defining compilation (initially a cassette, later a vinyl LP on Rough Trade) with 50 extra tracks from the period. C87 was an imaginary sequel, picking up the story a year later. Disc 1 is devoted to artists who haven’t previously graced this series, who – for the most part – first made an impact in 1988. The Stone Roses, Carter USM, Pale Saints and The Mock Turtles would all enjoy mainstream success. Others like The Pooh Sticks, The Man From Delmonte, Bridewell Taxis were cult indie favourites. Sarah Records – which came to epitomise a certain type of Indie Pop – are represented by The Orchids, Another Sunny Day, The Sea Urchins and The Poppyheads (whose ‘Cremation Town’ debuts on CD here). Other key indie labels also figure, such as Creation (Apple Boutique, Pacific, The House Of Love, Emily), 53rd & 3rd (The Groovy Little Numbers, The Vaselines) and The Subway Organization (The Clouds, Rodney Allen, The Flatmates, Bubblegum Splash, etc. ). Disc 2 revisits many of the bands who appeared on C87 with later singles or B-sides, such as the likes of Bob, Cud, The Darling Buds, Kitchens Of Distinction, The Shamen, The Heart Throbs, The Bachelor Pad and other staples of the late 80s Indie scene. New names to the series who appear on C88 include Choo Choo Train, Moss Poles, The Snapdragons, The Wilderness Children, Fat Tulips, Annie & The Aeroplanes, Thrilled Skinny, Murrumbidgee Whalers and many others. Numerous tracks have never been on CD before. The deluxe clamshell package includes a weighty booklet full of illustrations, with an 9,000-word sleeve-note and band-by-band biographies by C86 co-compiler Neil Taylor.
1. On Tape – the Pooh Sticks
2. Elephant Stone (7″ Version) – the Stone Roses
3. Where Do You Go (Flexi Version) – the Popguns
4. (Will Nobody Save) Louise – the Man from Delmonte
5. Are You Happy Now? (Molesworth Version) – the Charlottes
6. The Things You Want – the Snapdragons
7. A Sheltered Life – Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine
8. One Summer – Moss Poles
9. Lies – Bridewell Taxis
10. Defy the Law – the Orchids
11. Happy Like Yesterday
12. The Groovy Little Numbers
13. Julie Christie – the Driscolls
14. High – Choo Choo Train
15. Cremation Town – the Poppyheads
16. Tattered, Tangled and Torn -Bradford
17. So Happy to Be Alive-Thrilled Skinny
18. Sister Goodbye – the Prayers
19. Anorak City – Another Sunny Day
20. She’s Gone – the Train Set
21. Barnoon Hill – Pacific
22. Forever Holiday (Ediesta Version) – Blow-Up
23. Mary’s Garden – the Mock Turtles
24. The Pennine Spitter – King of the Slums
25. Colours and Shapes (Demo) -Pale Saints
26. The Ballad of Jet Harris -Apple Boutique
1. The Hill – the House of Love
2. Dying for It – the Vaselines
3. Kirsty – Bob
4. Slack Time – Cud
5. Please Rain Fall – the Sea Urchins
6. Shame on You – the Darling Buds
7. Prize – Kitchens of Distinction
8. Too Many Shadows – the Heart Throbs
9. Do It for Fun – the Bachelor Pad
10. They Fell for Words Like Love – Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters
11. Giving Way to Trains – Murrumbidgee Whalers
12. What’s Going Down – the Shamen
13. Heaven Knows – the Flatmates
14. Spell It Out – the Waltones
15. Mrs Susan Spence – the Wilderness Children
16. Yesterday – the Nivens
17. Real World – Baby Lemonade
18. Village Green – the Clouds
19. Fire Escape – Rote Kapelle
20. Mad Dogs – Emily
21. The 18:10 to Yeovil Junction – Bubblegum Splash
22. Michael Furey – Metro Trinity
23. Theme from Cow – Inspiral Carpets
1. Sun, Sea, Sand – the Revolving Paint Dream
2. Surfaround – the Fizzbombs
3. Plaster Saint – the Church Grims
4. Crush the Flowers (Demo) -The Wake
5. Sunshine Thuggery – the Siddeleys
6. Clear – Whirl
7. A Million Zillion Miles -Annie & the Aeroplanes
8. You Opened Up My Eyes – Fat Tulips
9. Cincinnati – Holidaymakers
10. The Camera Loves Me-Would-Be-Goods
11. Anywhere But Home – the Caretaker Race
12. Who Works the Weather
13. The Great Leap Forward
14. Cubans in the Bluefields-East Village
15. Bythesea Road – the Haywains
16. The Old Road Out of Town (12″ Mix) – the Wishing Stones
400 copies only, 2LP set, 180-gram wax – make your plans accordingly. Below, listen to a key track from the album.
By Blurt Staff
In 2004, singer Michael Cerveris, former frontman of British band Retriever as well as American outfit Lame, released his solo debut dog eared. It went on to become a cult favorite, notching critical kudos everywhere, such as at Magnet magazine, which lauded the “Anglophile balladry and fuzzbox raunch recalling Big Star and Guided By Voices in equal measure…call it sloppy art for sloppy hearts, it’s damned swell.”
As produced and mixed by veteran studio whiz Adam Lasus, the album featured the performing talents of Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, Ken Stringfellow, Steve Shelley, Norman Blake (one of the album’s best tracks was Teenage Fanclub’s “Can’t Feel My Soul”), Laura Cantrell, Anders Parker and others, so it was also a bit of an indie rock super session. Cerveris certainly has amassed a following on both sides of the Atlantic over the years, for in addition to the aforementioned bands he was touring guitarist/vocalist for Bob Mould on the 1998 Dog and Pony Show tour, starred in Sweeney Todd on Broadway as well as the title role in Tommy during the late ‘90s, and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on London’s West End, in New York Off Broadway, and in Los Angeles. He also won a Tony Award in 2016 for Fun Home and in 2004 for Assassins on Broadway at Studio 54.
Still, in certain quarters it’s that 2004 album that continues to quicken heart rates—you can check it out at Spotify and find out exactly why. It is truly a lost gem that has lost none of its pop lustre in the decade-plus since it was originally released.
Long out of print physically, it’s now being resurrected for the first time as a limited edition, 2 LP set, pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Just 400 copies have been pressed up by the Azucar label, a boutique, vinyl-only label dedicated to releasing limited edition pressings of classic albums from the past 30 years. dog eared was remastered for vinyl and comes in gatefold packaging with printed inner sleeves and a poster containing lyrics and unseen photos from the recording sessions. You may recall Azucar’s vinyl handiwork last year on Ken Stringfellow’s 2001 album Touched, an impressive title on all counts. Expect no less with the Cerveris project.
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Husker Du - MC5's Ramblin' Rose (Hoboken 4/11/86), from Complete Covers Collection
Blurt Exclusive: The Feederz "Stealing" (from new Slope Records 45)
Blurt Exclusive: Parson Red Heads "Coming Down" (from forthcoming June '17 album)
Blurt Video Exclusive: Twinkle Star "Wasting Life Together"/"Release Yourself"
A Blurt Video Boot Exclusive: Vieux Farka Toure - live in Beijing 1/15/17)