Category Archives: North Carolina Music

WATCH THE SON RISE: Big Star’s Third Live

“An emotional bond there.” (—Jody Stephens): A new concert documentary and accompanying live album document a key Big Star’s Third performance, bringing both catharsis and closure to a long grieving period that’s ultimately transformed into a celebration.

BY FRED MILLS, MICHAEL TOLAND & JOHN B. MOORE

It is, in a very real sense, a culmination. The new DVD/2CD release Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live… and More (Concord Bicyle Music), that is, and a culmination of many things—the trajectory of the troubled (at times near-mythic) third Big Star studio album, originally recorded in 1974 but not released until years after the band had splintered; the subsequent Third (aka Sister Lovers) revival as pushed by Alex Chilton acolytes of the Amerindie ‘80s underground, chief among them members and intimates of The dB’s, whose Chris Stamey had also worked with Chilton; an eventual reunion of Big Star in the ‘90s, with two members of the Posies drafted to bolster Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens in the absence of bassist Andy Hummel and late guitarist Chris Bell—a reunion that came to a tragic end in 2010 when Chilton passed away from a heart attack on the eve of the band performing in Austin at SXSW, thereby ensuring that no one would ever get to hear Chilton himself perform Third; and of course Stamey’s ambitious Big Star’s Third live project, initially mounted at the tail end of 2010 as a concert tribute to the memory of Chilton, and going on to be intermittently staged in numerous cities and countries over the course of the next six years, to much acclaim.

So Big Star’s Third Live brings with it a whiff of finality. Clearly I don’t mean that there won’t be any more artifacts excavated from the vaults; for example, as a recent, exhaustive nine-disc bootleg collection demonstrates, there are a number of tracks that remain officially unreleased, even though the diligent archivists at Omnivore have done some impressive vault-digging themselves as regards material from the Third era. Nor am I suggesting that there won’t be any more live performances of Third or tribute concerts or even potential get-togethers between Stephens and Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer; all that and more is far more likely than not to go down in the future.

No, by “finality” I mean closure for all of us, a means by which to collectively grieve and celebrate, even for those not able to attend one of the live shows. Channeling both those emotions for us, Third Live mainstays Stamey, Stephens, Mitch Easter and Mike Mills—along with string players and a slew of guest vocalists that have included, since 2010, everyone from Matthew Sweet, Robyn Hitchcock and the two Posies, to Stamey’s North Carolina collaborators Brett Harris, Skyler Gudasz (both pictured above), and Django Haskins—brought the music vividly alive at the appropriately named Alex Theatre, in Glendale, Calif., almost exactly one year ago (April 27, 2016), for the camera lenses of director Benno Nelson. As you’ll read below in our  tag-team review treatment, it’s a cathartic home-viewing and –listening experience for any fan of Chilton and Big Star—and, I should add, Chris Bell as well, as Stamey (pictured, below) was mindful to include—and sing, with a gorgeous, emphatic grace—Bell’s timeless “I Am The Cosmos” in the Third Live performances.

It’s particularly gratifying for those of us here at BLURT. We’ve covered Big Star scores of times in the past, of course, via obituaries for both Chilton and Andy Hummel; reviewing the Third reissue as well as the Keep an Eye on the Sky career overview box set; covering and photographing the live Third concerts; writing about Holly George-Warren’s exhaustive biography of Chilton; interviewing Drew DeNicola, director of the 2012 Big Star documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me; and more. But the band is perhaps closest to our hearts because of the personal connection we’ve forged over time. Not just as fans of the records—yours truly has had the pleasure of interviewing and writing about Big Star in the past, additionally hanging out with Chilton many years ago (he even played my old acoustic guitar for the MTV cameras once upon a time); our publisher Stephen Judge, who is good friends with Stephens, Auer and Stringfellow, was at SXSW that March of 2010 when the news of Chilton’s death broke and, like so many other fans, he attended the impromptu Chilton tribute that unfolded in Austin in the days that followed; and we also hosted our own little Big Star tribute concert a few years later, also in Austin at SXSW, at our annual day party, wherein Stephens, Stringfellow and Auer, along with several guest players and singers, did a set of the music we all love so deeply. Even more recently, our photographer Sadie Claire attended the special Third concert at the 2017 SXSW; you can view her photo gallery from the festival, including numerous BST shots, here.

As Stephens told Rolling Stone not long after Chilton died, “I can’t see us going out [now] as Big Star… But I would hate to compound the loss of Alex by saying, ‘That’s it’ for Ken and Jon, too. I can’t imagine not playing with them. There’s so much fun—but an emotional bond there too.”

And for us too, Jody. It’s been a long—though not unwarranted—grieving period, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up again multiple times while watching the concert film.  Now, though, let’s celebrate. —Fred Mills, BLURT Editor

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 Thank You, Friends: The CDs. You’d be hard pressed to find a band more beloved by fellow musicians and music writers while being wildly underrated by the record-buying public, than Memphis-based power pop band Big Star.

With a name that is savagely ironic, seeing as how none of their albums ever sold well on initial release—their debut was even called #1 Record!—and with the deaths of frontman Alex Chilton, guitarist Chris Bell and bassist Andy Hummel, drummer Jody Stephens is the only surviving founding member. In the decades since their three-record lifecycle from ’72-to-’78, the band has grown immensely in reputation, managing to become desert island album must-haves to many who now namecheck the band.

Given their place on the Mount Rushmore for fellow talented artists, Thank You, Friends come off more as a genuinely impressive love note to a favorite band rather than a cynical cash grab.

This two-CD set accompanying the concert documentary DVD includes a slew of Big Star fans, like members of Yo La Tengo, Wilco, R.E.M., Semisonic, the dB’s (notably Chris Stamey, the impetus behind the project) and Let’s Active, not to mention Robyn Hitchcock, joining Stephens on stage for an April 2016 show in Glendale, California, highlighting the band’s album Third/Sister Lovers. There are also some fantastic newcomers on the stage, like North Carolina’s Brett Harris and Skylar Gudasz, among others. The set also includes a handful of covers from the band’s first two records, like a beautiful take on “In the Street” and “September Gurls.” (Interestingly, the track sequence for the audio portion of the DVD/2CD package is a good bit different than the video, and it also includes “Back of a Car,” which does not appear on the DVD.)

Big Star may never have truly got the respect they deserved with the first go around, but Thank You, Friends is helping to right a few wrongs by bringing Big Star’s music to a broader audience. —John B. Moore, BLURT Senior Editor and Blogger

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Thank You, Friends: The DVD. Though Big Star’s Third Live is no stranger to stages around the country, it’s still not a project seen by a whole lot of people. Thus the DVD portion of Thank You Friends affords many of us the first chance to see this mini-orchestra in action. And the band does not disappoint. No matter who is at the mic, whether relatively big stars (no pun intended) like R.E.M.’s Mike Mills and Robyn Hitchcock, cult favorites like the Old Ceremony’s Django Haskins and bandleaders Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter, or up-and-comers like Brett Harris and Skyler Gudasz, everyone lets their love of the material shine through.

There’s no doubt how much the music of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell means to them—it’s right there on each and every face. Singer/songwriter Dan Wilson—late of Semisonic and probably the wealthiest person on the stage, thanks to co-writing Adele’s “Someone Like You”—seems particularly moved to be there, putting aside fame and fortune to pay beautiful tribute with “Give Me Another Chance” and “The Ballad of El Goodo.” Even Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who surprisingly looks like he’s out of his depth, still manages to inject, if not passion, as least conviction into “Kizza Me” and “When My Baby’s Beside Me.”

But some of the less well-known names are responsible for the best performances. Mills may have gotten “September Gurls,” surely Big Star’s most famous song, but Gudasz delivers an absolutely lovely “Thirteen,” while Haskins brings the perfect amount of tension to the intense “Holocaust.” Harris, whose old-fashioned singer/songwriter pop springs directly from the Big Star legacy, handles “Kanga Roo” with a perfect balance of passion and vulnerability, looking like he might explode at any moment, but never actually doing it. Gudasz and Harris also serve as utility players, providing extra instruments and a ton of harmony vocals alongside nearly everyone else. Continuity with the Chilton era comes from Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, who served in the revived Big Star in the ‘90s and ‘aughts, and original drummer Jody Stephens, who takes his turns in the spotlight (“Blue Moon” and “For You”) but otherwise stays with his drum kit, keeping perfect time on these songs he knows better than anyone.

With backdrops and lighting cues kept minimalist, the focus is purely on the performances, and that’s as it should be. Chilton and his band weren’t big on production numbers, and neither is this ensemble. So it’s only appropriate that, a few frankly inconsequential interviews aside, director Benno Nelson concentrates on capturing the music as it happens. No filter, no effects, nothing between the audience and this timeless rock music. —Michael Toland, BLURT Senior Editor & Blogger

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Below, watch the official film trailer.

 

STEEP GRADE: Mipso

 

Mipso

The Chapel Hill-based Americana quartet’s female singer holds forth on their ambitious, just-released new album, life on the road, favorite bands (Phish!) and authors, and more.

BY DANIEL MATTI

Outside the Woodlands Tavern in Columbus, Ohio, Libby Rodenbough and the band stood before the venue they were going to play later that night. Before the load in I spoke with Libby on the phone about the new album Coming Down the Mountain that was about to drop in just a couple days and how they passed the time in the van.

If you’re not familiar with the band Mipso they started off as a three piece in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina with members Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell, and Wood Robinson. Starting off with open mics and playing around town they later branched off into playing what was known as Mipso Trio. They went on to record an album titled Long, Long Gone under the name and from there they grew among the locals and their college friends who they had grown up with and moved out of North Carolina increasing their fan base to a larger scale. The following year Libby joined the band to add fiddle and powerful harmonizing vocals on the album Dark Holler Pop and, later on, Old Time Reverie.

(Below, listen to new track Hurt So Good.)

 

BLURT: How long have you all been on the road?

LIBBY: We’ve been in the Midwest for about a week and half and it’s been typical Midwestern rainy and gray and now we just got out of the car and the sun has broken.

 

That’s great to hear! Midwestern weather can be quite a drag. Congrats on the new album by the way! Did you all have a concept or idea for the new album Coming Down the Mountain going in to the studio?

The concept was just we didn’t want to overthink so I guess that’s the absent of a concept. We had songs and we didn’t want to overdue them we wanted to create space and track simply and track most of the stuff live and just get it down and you know just not over complicate it. It’s easy nowadays to do want to do a bunch of drafts and then.

 

 Is that something you have tried to do in the past?

I don’t think we have spent as much time as we did but we definitely put time into crafting the songs. This one I feel like is the most livest.

 

One of the best tracks on the album is “Monterey County” is there a significance behind that song?

I think that was just because we were driving highway 1 out west and it was just a super evocative landscape and I think the images got into Joseph’s head and he wrote that one. It was the landscape that reflected out mid twenties angst.

 

 For this album album did anyone take more charge of writing?

I did more writing on this one than in the past. Were all pretty interested in songwriting so it seems to be pretty collaborative.

 

Any favorite albums you have been playing on repeat recently?

Our friend Jake Xerxes Fussell just dropped an album a couple days ago so I’ve been listening to that a ton. As we were driving up to the venue we were blasting some Blink-182. So I’m the one exception to this but all my band mates were high-school Phish heads. So sometimes when we need to get in sync we throw it on. Even though I don’t know any of that stuff. So there’s the contagious positive energy while listening to it

(So there it is. One of Mipso’s biggest influences is Phish.)

Other than listening to Phish albums in the van is there anything else you guys do for fun in the van?

Yeah I’m very fortunate I have had time to read a lot more. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. We have this mobile hotspot with us so it’s very easy for us to sit our laptops for six hours. Reading a lot more novels now since college for me is key

 

 Is there anything that you are now reading that you are now saying to yourself why haven’t I read this already?

I just found this one author name Nell Zink. Really great authorial voice. She writes irreverent dark humor but their also filled with great characters. Through an interview with Nell Zink I found this book called The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. It’s from a woman’s point of view during communism during the ‘30s-‘50s. Strong intelligent female voices. It’s all about communism and it’s about the collapse through the eyes of female characters.

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Make sure to grab Mipso’s new album Coming Down the Mountain out on CD/LP/MP3, released today, April 7.

 

Southern Songs & Stories Doc Series w/Jon Stickley Trio at Albino Skunk Fest

 

Southern Songs and Stories logo

Documentary series also mounts Patreon crowdfunding campaign for fans.

By Fred Mills

A good friend of the BLURT gang, Joe Kendrick (also a mainstay of WNCW-FM community radio in Spindale, NC), has been working on a music documentary series for some time now, teaming with filmmaker Aaron Morrell of Grae Skye Studio for Southern Songs and Stories. To date they’ve produce docs on acclaimed Western North Carolina artists Aaron Burdett and The Honeycutters, describing their work as “a documentary series which blends live performance with a look at the artists’ lives and relationship with our region and the South at large… [Upcoming selections] will have a different look and feel than the previous episodes, but will focus on many of the same themes: music as a bridge to family, community, culture and history.”Stickley

Boy howdy to that. What’s on the horizon? Next weekend, April 6-8, the team will be at The SkunkFarm’s SpringSkunk Music Fest (aka the Albino Skunk Music Festival) to work on a documentary about the festival as well as one on the ever-brilliant Jon Stickley Trio (right), who will be performing that weekend. (Other performers will include Darrell Scott, I See Hawks in LA, Nikki Talley, Shinyribs, and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, among many.)

Meanwhile, Kendrick and Morrell are mounting a crowdfunding campaign through the Patreon platform, offering a number of different pledge tiers ranging from early access to the Southern Songs material, to thanks in the video credits, to an invitation go be on set during the filming, etc. You can find out more about the series at their Patreon page and also watch video clips that the pair have produced over the years. Don’t forget to consider pledging!

Incoming: Jon Stickley Trio’s 3rd Full-Length

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Jamming North Carolina outfit explores the outer limits.

BY BLURT STAFF

Asheville’s Jon Stickley Trio – guitarist Stickley, violinist Lyndsay Pruett, and Patrick Armitage on drums – dropped a surprise EP, Triangular, back in December, a stopgap followup to 2015’s outstanding Lost at Last. Now they’re prepping a new full-length for a May 12 release. Titled Maybe Believe, it was cut at Echo Mountain Studios with producer Dave King of the Bad Plus, who enthuses, “The latest record from the Jon Stickley Trio flexes new and strong muscles, utilizing more progressive structures and deeper pockets than ever before. All the while, the group retains its place as a modern-thinking acoustic ensemble with one foot in tradition and the other in a bluegrass honored future that allows for the avant garde, punk, and be bop to mix in freely and tastefully.”

It’s the second time to the well with the Trio and King, and it marks yet another phase in the group’s evolution – anyone who’s ever seen them play knows that “bluegrass” barely describes the sound, which to BLURT’s ears is akin to a fusion outfit covering Sonic Youth, if Sonic Youth were a bluegrass band. Maybe David Grisman guest-starring as well. It’s that unclassifiable, pure high energy and sonically challenging, yet deeply melodic and with irresistible rhythms.

Stickley says, “We had just gotten to know Dave last time and had such a good time. Bringing him in again takes the whole thing up a notch. It was a completely different experience, after traveling all over the place touring [in 2016 the Trio drove over 50,000 miles], over time we’ve developed a cohesion as a band where we intimately know each other and can feel where each other is wanting to go and respond. It’s developed into a tight musical relationship.”

Below, check out a video of the band during recording sessions, along with upcoming tour dates and album tracklisting – of the latter, can we assert that it’s unlikely you’ll ever come across an album with songcredits for both Bill Monroe and Aphex Twin?

Track Listing:

1. Jewels 2:03
2. Playpeople 4:36
3. Almost With You 3:39
4. Slow Burn 4:47
5. Jerusalem Ridge (Bill Monroe) 5:36
6. Avril 14th (Richard James a.k.a. Aphex Twin) 1:59
7. Cecil 4:36
8. Microbruise 3:19
9. The Price of Being Nice (Lyndsay Pruett) 3:39
10. Mt. Sandia Swing 4:23
11. Birdland Breakdown (John Reischman) 3:54
12. Lady Time (Lyndsay Pruett) 3:44

Tour Dates:
3/15 Wed – The Station Inn – Nashville, TN *w/ The Dustbowl Revival
3/16 Thu – The Earl – Atlanta, GA w/ The Dustbowl Revival
3/17-18 Fri-Sat – Anastasia Music Festival @ St. Augustine Amphitheater – St. Augustine, FL
3/21 Tue – Taos Mesa Brewing – El Prado, NM
3/22 Wed – House Concert – Albuquerque, NM
3/23 Thu – Last Exit Live – Phoenix, AZ
3/24 Fri – Coconino Center For The Arts – Flagstaff, AZ
3/25 Sat – Seven Grand – San Diego, CA
3/29 Wed – Throckmorton Theatre – Mill Valley, CA
3/30 Thu – Neck of the Woods – San Francisco, CA
3/31-4/1 Fri-Sat – WinterWonderGrass – North Lake Tahoe, CA
4/6 Thu – The Stage at KDHX – St. Louis, MO
4/7 Fri – Rhythm and Blooms Festival – Knoxville, TN
4/8 Sat – Albino Skunk Festival – Greer, SC
4/12 Wed – Willie’s Locally Known – Lexington, KY
4/13 Thu – The Fire Pit’s Side Bar – Milwaukee, WI
4/14 Fri – Mid West Music Festival – LaCrosse, WI
4/15 Sat – Two Brothers Roundhouse – Aurora, IL
4/29 Sat – WV Craft Brew Fest – Lewisburg, WV
5/12-13 – Fri-Sat – LEAF – Black Mountain, NC
5/19 Fri – Lower Town Arts & Music Festival – Paducah, KY
5/20 Sat – Moonshiner’s Ball – Berea, KY
5/26 Fri – Rooster Walk – Martinsville, VA
6/8 Thu – Founders Brewing – Grand Rapids, MI
6/9 Fri – Parliament Room at Otus Supply – Ferndale, MI
6/10-11 Sat-Sun – NorEastr Festival @ County Fairgrounds – Mio, MI
7/15 Sat – Red Wing Roots Music Festival – Mount Solon, VA
7/29-30 Sat-Sun – FloydFest – Floyd, VA

TIFT MERRITT – Stitch of the World

Album: Stitch of the World

Artist: Tift Merritt

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: January 27, 2017

www.yeproc.com

Tift 1-27

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

It’s taken a relatively short time for Tift Merritt to work her way up the rankings of today’s more sensitive, soul-baring brigade, a distinction that’s put her name on the lips of all those prone to point out those deserving of being the ones to watch. That’s unlikely to cause any argument from her faithful followers, who have already anointed her as a balladeer worthy of all the ballyhoo she’s been accorded, with every new album meriting the increased anticipation that’s clearly her due.

Stitch of the World is no exception, and while the majority of the songs are of the exceedingly mellow variety, it offers further proof of the fact that Merritt has now emerged as one of Americana’s most distinctive songwriters. While opening track “Dusty Old Man” conveys more than a hint of driving defiance, and “Proclamation Bones” offers up some sizzling slide guitar, the remainder of the tracks find her in reflective mode, all cozy sentiments instilled with sublime reflection. In fact, the sweet sentiments contained in songs such as “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,” the shimmering and subdued “Icarus” and the gentle and reflective “Something Came Over Me” find her gliding easily across this tranquil terrain, adding to the engaging and accessible lure of the album overall. While some might complain that the tone is a bit too uniform throughout, the overall impression is one of sweet serenity, adding up to an entirely engaging effort that makes this a supreme standout by any measure.

What a lovely World view indeed.

DOWNLOAD: “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,”“Icarus,” “Something Came Over Me”

To Be Heard Booking Launch Party March 17-18 in N.C.

launch party

Celebrating the unveiling of an impressive 18-band roster of Tarheel bands.

By Blurt Staff

Recently a new independent booking outlet, To Be Heard Booking, launched in the North Carolina Triangle area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) to help N.C. bands hit the road. They’ve already amassed an impressive, diverse, 18-band roster—viewable here—that includes The Veldt and Happy Abandon, the first two artists to sign with our sister business, the Schoolkids Records label (formerly Second Motion). (Below is Happy Abandon.)

happy abandon

To celebrate, To Be Heard is hosting a big launch party this coming weekend featuring 10 of those 18 groups—two parties, in fact. Friday night will be a The Cave in Chapel Hill, then the following evening the bash will be at Raleigh venue Slims. Both shows start at 8:30 and are $5. Details are below, and you can also get the low-down here at the booking agency’s website.

Friday March 17th – Chapel Hill, NC – The Cave

Body Games, Davidians, Al Riggs + The Big Sad, Majestic Vistas, and Ravary

Saturday March 18th – Raleigh, NC – Slims

Naked Gods, WIld Fur, SE Ward, Peter Vance of Happy Abandon (solo), Fluorescence

 

 

New Track Alert: NC’s Temperance League “All There Is”

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Tarheel rockers prep fifth longplayer for 2017 release.

By Blurt Staff

Hoist a pint and down a shot in honor of Charlotte, NC, combo the Temperance League, who you might remember from our previous coverage—such as last year’s Day of the Dove album, of which we noted thusly:

 “[The band’s dedication to] rock ‘n’ roll, whatever the long acclaim odds, and whatever the shrinking rewards, says as much about the art form’s pull as it does its Quixotic practitioners. With producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement) overseeing recording at his Fidelitorium studio, Temperance League has slightly reframed its earlier references—which have ranged from working class Springsteen anthems and rebellious Heartbreakers’ singalongs to Ramones fuzz and the Byrds’ jangle—into a work whose sonic depth matches that of its lyrics.”

So frontman Bruce Hazel now lets us know that the group’s fifth platter—presumably destined to be on vinyl, and colored wax at that, if past efforts are any gauge—is in the pipeline, called Space Aquarium, and they are chuffed to give everyone an early taste. Check out first single “All There Is”:

Hazel, commenting on the track, tells us, “I think ‘All There Is’ was the first song I wrote for this project. It’s a perfect first sample of Space Aquarium. The lyric and sound of this track epitomize the meaning and feeling of this album. Once again we worked with Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium.

“Each time we work there I feel we have evolved. This record has a different tone than any of our previous releases. We reached for something and I think we achieved our goal. The vocals are warmer and more honest. This is a big step for us. I’m proud of this work.”

Boy howdy to that. More details to follow. You can read/hear more about/from Temperance League simply by plugging their name into the little search box at the BLURT homepage. Don’t forget to check out our 2013 interview with Hazel conducted by his fellow Charlottean and longtime supporter John Schacht.

Can’t wait for the full-length, gents.

STRAY OWLS – A Series of Circles

Album: A Series of Circles

Artist: Stray Owls

Label: Potluck Foundation

Release Date: February 17, 2017

http://www.potluckfoundation.com/

stray-owls-2-17

The Upshot: Dandy duo from North Carolina conjures sonic imagery both past and present via an eclectic, melodic, adventurous collection of memorable tunes.

BY FRED MILLS

Though still relatively young as a band, with two EPs released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, Mebane, NC (near Chapel Hill), duo Stray Owls seem old at heart, with an expansive, inclusive sound that dips back years, if not entire eras. That the Chapel Hill/Durham PotLuck Foundation label they are releasing their debut longplayer on bill itself as a label for “music nerds” doesn’t seem entirely coincidental. The fact that A Series of Circles was produced by veteran Tarheel studio maven Jerry Kee (Superchunk, Polvo) doesn’t seem to be random, either.

As the album unfolds, sonic ghosts of everyone from Nick Drake, Syd Barrett, and Elliott Smith seem to hover benevolently in the ether, as layered acoustic guitars and close-mic’d vocals conjure a profound intimacy, one which is also tinged with sufficient amounts of sonic looniness to prevent the listener being lulled into complacency. For example, the sing-songy folk that is “Franklin Borough” bears the tap-tap of a typewriter at one point; “Ok, Ok” incorporates some creamy mellotron lines and a momentary xylophone melody; and “Cut & Paste Time Machine” lives up to its title via a succession of tempo and tonal shifts that include, variously, fuzzed-out guitars, trilling, Andean-style flutes, choirlike harmony vocals, and a synth-strafed sonic collage.

One also imagines that contemporary avatars such as the Flaming Lips and the sheer bloody-mindedness that informs Neil Young have also informed the Stray Owls’ aesthetic. The brilliant, nearly six minutes-long “Ruin is Formal” seems to be a culmination of sorts, at once wispily anthemic yet strummily unhurried, with producer Kee’s drumming providing a jumping off point from which Scott Griffiths and Matt French can aim for the kosmiche horizon. It’s psychedelic as hell, but richly folkish, at once expansive yet ruminative, and followed as it is by the stomping, distorted, whacked-out closing track “Red Flags” (also close to six minutes), you ultimately are not just observers of the pair’s journey, but part of it.

Add to that “old at heart” notation listed above—wise beyond the years. If these owls are strays, you’ll no doubt be eager to take them in and offer shelter and sustenance.

DOWNLOAD: “Ruin Is Formal,” Ok, Ok,” “Red Flags”

Incoming: New EP from The Veldt; Signed to Schoolkids Records

theveldt2017

N.C. outfit also opening for Modern English in April, with more national dates t.b.a. soon. Listen to a key track, below.

By Blurt Staff

A couple of weeks ago we dropped the news that respected indie label Second Motion Records was changing its name to Schoolkids Records, which (not so coincidentally) is also the name of the North Carolina indie record store chain that’s the BLURT magazine sister business. Now comes the official announcement of ‘90s shoegaze legends The Veldt signing with us and prepping a new EP for a June 2 release. Titled The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation, you can check out the track “Sanctified,” below.

The Veldt will open for Modern English at several shows in April; dates below. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know about the band — and to our friends in The Veldt, welcome to the Schoolkids family. Plenty of good memories from all those shows in the ‘90s, and even some contemporary memories, too.

skids-logo

The band formed in the late 80’s in Raleigh, North Carolina amongst the royalty of the legendary North Carolina music scene, including bands such as Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, The Connells, Dillon Fence, The dB’s, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Ryan Adams and many more

Initially signed to Capitol Records in 1989 and eventually finding their way to Mercury Records, The Veldt embarked on a musical journey that changed their lives. Soon, they were in the studio with dream-gaze guru Robin Guthrie, playing American concert halls with Cocteau Twins, and opening for The Jesus and Mary Chain in England. They worked with leading producers Lincoln Fong of Moose on their debut album Marigolds and Ray Schulman (Bjork, Sugarcubes, The Sundays) on Afrodisiac.  The Veldt were a sensation from the start as they became a part of a movement of innovators, who came of musical age at a time when rhythmic rebels were reflective, gritty and wild. Their sound inspired future generations of alternative artists, including TV On the Radio.

Apart from Robin Guthrie, they have collaborated with TV On The Radio, Mos Def, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Lady Miss Kier (Deee-Lite), and most recently A.R.Kane. They have shared the stage with The Pixies, Throwing Muses, Echo & The Bunnymen, Cocteau Twins, Manic Street Preachers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis and Living Colour, among others.

The band reformed in 2016 and immediately received incredible enthusiasm upon their return.  Their new EP started to make the rounds with a vinyl release via Leonard Skully Records last year, resulting in significant press attention, including an outstanding feature in The Guardian (UK), who wrote “the new songs invite paradoxical praise: serenely assaultive and vertiginously soothing.”  The band participated in an East coast mini-tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre this past spring, embarked on two central Canadian tours, and continued to tour Europe last summer, in addition to playing multiple festivals in Italy, Spain, France, the UK, USA, Sweden and Denmark.

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THE VELDT supporting MODERN ENGLISH

April 10: Washington DC – Rock & Roll Hotel

April 11: Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s

April 13: Boston MA – Brighton Music Hall

April 14: Brooklyn NY – Rough Trade

 

PETER HOLSAPPLE – “Don’t Mention the War” 45

Album: “Don’t Mention the War" b/w "Cinderella Style"

Artist: Peter Holsapple

Label: Hawthorne Curve

Release Date: February 03, 2017

http://halfpearblog.blogspot.com/

holsapple-45

The Upshot: Against richly melodic backdrops, the dB’s member offers up character studies of poetic intent. Oh, and by the way: Support the home team, folks.

BY FRED MILLS

Despite being one of North Carolina’s most prolific and respected songwriters, Winston-Salem ex-pat (and current Durham resident) Peter Holsapple actually hasn’t released that much under his own name. There was early 45 “Big Black Truck,” a primal slab of psychobilly punk garage, released in 1978 at the tail end of his stint with the H-Bombs and serving as a segue into his lengthy tenure with the dB’s; a limited edition Australian-only cassette titled Live Melbourne 1989, which documented a solo radio station session; 1997’s gorgeous Out Of My Way CD; and let us not overlook his 1991 collaboration with dB’s songwriting foil, Chris Stamey, nicely titled Angels, and several accompanying Stamey-Holsapple singles.

Longtime Holsapple watchers, of course, know simply to scour record credits if they want to unearth a wealth of Holsapple material, from the dB’s albums and EPs (include, in this tally, the Chris Stamey & Friends Christmas Time album) and his work with the Continental Drifters, to the very early Rittenhouse Square album and the (possibly apocryphal) Great Lost H-Bombs Double EP 10”—not to mention a number of online-only tracks he’s slipped into the digital realm on occasion.

All of which is to say, a new Peter Holsapple record makes for a special event, one which we fans don’t take lightly. The fact that the new item is a mere two-songer potentially allows each track the kind of proper consideration that might’ve been elusive if placed in the context of a full album. The A-side, “Don’t Mention the War,” finds Holsapple joined by Mark Simonson from the Old Ceremony on drums and acoustic guitar and James Wallace (Phil Cook’s band) on piano and drums, plus tuba textures courtesy Mark Daumen. Holsapple handles guitars and organ while spinning a 6 ½ minute tale in which the narrator observes and comments upon a beloved uncle’s return home and subsequent battle with PTSD (“he sweats and he shouts and he turns white as a sheet… he opens his eyes, he’s still seeing the dead… he hasn’t picked up a guitar in nearly three years, I can scarcely recognize the same man”). Midway through the song the drum pattern turns overtly martial, underscoring the implicit tension in what’s otherwise a richly melodic, midtempo slice of pure pop; the tune’s subtly contrasting sonic elements help lend gravitas to the unsettling lyrical character study.

Meanwhile, “Cinderella Style” has a gentle, nocturnal vibe primarily wrought by Holsapple’s acoustic guitar, bass, and organ, with Simonson adding delicate touches of vibraphone and Skylar Gudasz contributing flute flourishes. “Love can mend a dress,” he sings, going on to describe the creation of a physical garment of calico, gabardine, satin, silk, and velveteen while hinting at the metaphorical implications of the act. The tune is relatively brief, deliberately restrained, and perfectly poetic in its imagery.

Holsapple recently told me that he opted for doing a single because he wasn’t quite sure he should thrust a full album’s worth of new material into the market, given music consumers’ relatively short attention spans and tendency to favor tracks over albums nowadays. Fair enough. But the critic – and yeah, the fan – in me think he’s underselling himself. I told him as much, too. All that music mentioned at the top of this review (not to mention his contributions to other artists’ work, such as R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish) comes stamped with the Tarheel TMOQ, so I have no doubt whatsoever that we fellow North Carolinians would be first in line for a Kickstarter-type campaign and any resulting record store product. People vote with their wallets, after all.

And while I’m loathe to invoke any electoral notions considering what we’ve all gone through recently… could I nominate Peter Holsapple for Minister of Music? Poobah of Power Pop? Raconteur of Rock? Hmmm…. why the hell not?

DOWNLOAD: The vinyl 45 comes with a free download code, so your choice is obvious. Incidentally, you can check out the video for the A-side here.