Protomartyr 3/15/18, Denver

Dates: March 15, 2018

Location: Globe Hall, Denver CO

Motor City meets Mile High City – Globe Hall, to be exact. Pictured above: the band introduces their new merch table official.


This Detroit, MI fearsome foursome crawled out of the Motor City about the turn of this past decade (2010-ish) and have released three full-length records of grinding post punk and it’s a beautiful thing to these ears.  With that sound, part The Fall and part Joy Division, and part American noise (think Jesus Lizard, etc.) you’d think they’ve summered in Manchester or something, but no, Detroit is home. I mean you ever been to Detroit? Me either but I’ve read/heard a lot about it and that’s enough for me. I can now see why vocalist Joe Casey drinks so much. You would too.

Casey was dressed to the nines on this evening, or at least he had a sports coat on over his button up shirt while the other three, guitar/bass/drums, dressed more like…well, me. Jeans, t-shirt and beat-up sneakers. My hearing would’ve gotten beaten up on his night had I not brought along my trusty, squishy blue ear plugs that saved my sorry ass.

With three terrific records under their belt (two on Seattle indie Hardly Art  while the latest, 2017’s Relatives in Descent, was released on Domino) the set was culled from all three with healthy dollops from all three (and who doesn’t like dollops?).

Back to Casey, oh sure he can be amiable with the mic on one hand and his can of beer in the other, but give the guy some serious lyrics and he goes from Dr. Jeckyll into Mr Hyde in about three seconds (in the best way possible, like a poor man’s David Yow or something). While Casey crooned like Yow-meets-Como the rest of the band put their heads down, hard hats on, and went to work grinding out gem after bent gem and songs like opener “My Children” “I Forgive You,” “I Stare at Floors” and “Trust Me, Billy” (which sounds like the name of a Killdozer song) all hit we, the fan, square between the eyes (I can see!”).

After much hooting, howling, hollering and harassing bartenders the band came out and played “Scum, Rise!” and called it a night. They got the hell out of Denver, hightailing it out of town with tires squealing and middle fingers raised. On to the  next city and vowing never to return to the Mile High City (until next year). ‘mon back, fellas!


6 String Drag 3/9/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: March 9, 2018

Location: The Pour House, Raleigh NC

6 String Drag

N.C. Americana legends hosted an album release (and re-release!) party at the capitol city’s Pour House venue—and packed that House.


String Drag held a party in Raleigh on Friday night, March 9, celebrating the release of their outstanding new record Top Of The World as well as the re-release of 1997’s Steve Earle-produced High Hat. Helping out Kenny, Rob, Luis, and Dan were Scott McCall on guitar and Matt Douglass on saxophone, who sat in on a few songs each. Celebrating over 20 years of making music, they put on a life affirming rock and roll show for the faithful fans who packed the Pour House spending the night dancing and singing along.

Go HERE to read the recent BLURT interview with 6 String Drag and HERE to listen to our premiere of Top Of The World track “Waste Of Time.” (Full disclosure: The new album and reissue are both on BLURT’s sister business Schoolkids Records, and our editor also helped craft the group’s official bio for Schoolkids.)

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

6 String Drag

Scott McCaughey Benefit 2/12/18, Chicago

Live at Chicago’s HideOut venue, the show was officially billed as “The Concert for The Emperor of the Bathroom: A Benefit for Scott McCaughey. Singing the praises of the beloved Minus 5/Filthy Friends/Young Fresh Fellows/R.E.M./Baseball Project musician were The Thirsty Birds:  Jon Langford, Nora O’Connor, Kelly Hogan, Dag Juhlin, Max Crawford, Susan Voelz, Jason Narducy, Rick Rizzo and others. According to the organizers, “the Chicago music community sends its love and support to their friend, Scott (who suffered a stroke last November). Assembled are friends who have played with Scott over the years and have survived their fair share of after-show drinks with the man. This show will be a celebration of Scott’s songbook, and proceeds will go towards the medical fund set up by his wife, Mary Winzig, to help cover his medical expenses as he recovers.”


Portland show’d the love for Scott McCaughey back in January, so Feb. 12, 2018 was Chicago’s turn to embrace the man who some call “Sled”.

The HideOut hosted this gala, which featured the creme de la creme of Chicago’s music society, playing under the one night only moniker: The Thirsty Birds. An exemplary evening of talent was shown and given.

Two real standouts were Jason Narducy’s take on R.E.M.’s “Finest Work Song”, which really had one asking, whatever happen to the passion from the song’s creators? The second, wha tha fuc moment was had during the evening’s closer of “Dear Employer”, sung by two angels—Nora O’Conner & Kelly Hogan—with the passion and reasoning of angels who just might know what it is like to up and quit on the big boss and flip him the bird while on the way out of them pearly gates. It left this reviewer blubbering and quivering in goosebumps, until the room emptied and it was safe to wipe away the tears and take a hit off the inhaler.

Cash was raised and thee good vibes shared was palpable and true. All glad tidings are going towards helping Scott’s safe, speedy, and thorough recovery.

Now, namaste that mutherfucker….



































(note the matching shades…)
















Girl Ray 2/26/18, Denver

Dates: February 26, 2018

Location: Larimer Lounge, Denver CO

Live at Denver’s Larimer Lounge, the British trio charmed all in attendance with their tuneful indie-pop.


Hey, I’m liking these early shows. This North London trio, who were opening for Porches (a band I hadn’t heard of but must be some kinda big deal as the show was sold out) so they hit the stage at 8 PM sharp. Huzzah!

Back to Girl Ray, much has been written about these three young ladies. Poppy Hankin on guitar/vocals, Sophie Moss on bass and Iris McConnell on drums (they also had a male on keyboards/second guitar as well) who had recorded a slew of singles before they even graduated from high school. Then, last year Moshi Moshi Records released the band’s terrific debut LP, Earl Grey and I was truly surprised (but excited) to see Denver on their tour. I’m not sure what I was doing when I was 19 but I sure as hell wasn’t touring another continent with a band (it all must be a bit surreal for them).

They opened up with the low-key “Stupid Things”  (where the keyboardist came in handy) and from there played plenty off off said debut like “Ghosty,” “Preacher,” “Just Like That” and as well as a few of their early  singles like the great “Trouble,” “Don’t Go Back at Ten” and they even pulled out a few new songs (none of which I caught the names of).

I’m not sure what song it was but Hankin and Moss did this neat little dance/spin around and then spun back the other way. It was as perfect a move as when Stephen Malkmus would wiggle his butt in early Pavement gigs.

The songs are well-crafted and have a certain uniqueness about them. Sure, you can tell there’s a bit of C-86 influence as well a some folk music too (and let’s not forget the band proudly calls bands like Pavement, Hefner and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci among their faves), but the never go for the easy hook  as the songs have fun starts/stops and choppy bits all over the place. Plus Hankin’s vocals sound wise and mature beyond her years (though they all appeared very shy on stage).

I’m really glad I left the house on this Monday evening. If they ever make it back here I’ll be front and center again and if they don’t, well, I can say that I was there in 2018.



NHD – And the Devil Went Up to Portland

Album: And the Devil Went Up to Portland

Artist: NHD

Label: self-released

Release Date: November 03, 2017


You can be assured that anything Salim Nourallah is involved in is going to be of the most superior quality. As both an artist — on his own and as part of the brother act the Nourallah Brothers — and producer of the Old 97s in particular, he’s achieved consistent quality on every single outings. NHD, which finds him collaborating with singer/songwriters Alex Dezen and Billy Harvey, has no trouble sticking to that standard, as is evident from the first notes of the trio’s superior debut And the Devil Went Up to Portland. A surprisingly tender take on the Thin Lizzy gem “The Boys Are Back In Town” offers initial evidence, although it quickly becomes clear that the group need not depend on covers to exercise their prowess. The sweeping “I Sent a Postcard” and an unlikely narrative documenting a mugging, “Hello From an Emergency Room In Hollywood,” quickly deliver on that initial promise. Further gems await — the loping, Steve Earl-like “Devil’s Dice,” the insistent “Gimme a Go,” the wistful “Complicatedness” and the woozy, banjo-plucked “You’re the Light,” chief among them. Ultimately, it all adds up to an initial bow that is, in every regard, about as good as it gets. No exaggeration intended.

DOWNLOAD: “Hello From An Emergency Room In Hollywood,” “The Boys Are Back In Town,” I “Sent A Postcard”

LIGHT WIRES – The Light Wires / The Invisible Hand 2LP

Album: The Light Wires / The Invisible Hand

Artist: Light Wires

Label: Sofaburn

Release Date: November 24, 2017

The Upshot: Essential alt-rock postcards from the past that fans of Jeremy Pinnell’s current work will cherish.


Late last year Rolling Stone proclaimed Kentucky singer-songwriter Jeremy Pinnell one of their “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” and with good cause; his sophomore album Ties of Blood and Affection had been notching Sturgill Simpson comparisons along the lines of “no frills honky-rock with plenty of pedal steel, Western swing and vocals as smooth as the highest dollar whiskey” (as RS put it). And I didn’t need any convincing, not after having been already knocked out by Pinnell, so much so that BLURT premiered one of his tracks from the album.

Yet a decade or so before going solo, Pinnell was heading up The Light Wires, a pop/Americana-tilting indie-rock quartet whose lone self-titled album, in retrospect, clearly gave notice that this young man was a major talent. Now his label, Sofaburn, has reissued The Light Wires alongside the essentially unreleased (it was originally a 2008 private issue of 50 copies) second album, The Invisible Hand, as a double-LP pressed up as—vinyl freaks, alert!—a one-black wax/one-red wax, gatefold sleeved gem. (See below.) Far from sounding like an artifact from the mid-aughts, this collection of Pinnell tunes is imbued with a certain timelessness that, another decade hence, fans will be eagerly out-nerding one another as they claim belated allegiance to this or that song. Backed by drummer Rick McCarty, guitarist Andy Hittle, and bassist/producer Mike Montgomery (also of Ampline and R. Ring), Pinnell sounds like a kid who grew up thumbing through an older sibling’s ‘60s and ‘70s albums and coming of musical age during the alt-rock and Americana explosions of the mid ‘90s, ultimately forging his own unique hybrid vision and forming a band.


Highlights are too many to list here, that’s for sure. “Talk To You Tonight,” from the first album, is a Whiskeytown-esque strummer with guitars and organ humming along behind Pinnell as he works through the regret of heartbreak in his yearning, Ryan Adams-meets-Eddie Vedder voice. Twangy midtempo country-rocker “Belly of the Beast,” also off the debut, with its irresistible titular chorus, is the proverbial coulda-shoulda been a radio hit. The Invisible Hand, likewise, is crammed with moments that, in a perfect world, might have been the stuff of arenas and thousands of hands thrust skyward. From Springsteenian opening track “Go On By” and the jangly majesty of “The Sinking Ship” (with a guest trumpeter, of all things), to luminous ballad “You Can Light” which gradually turns anthemic and, in turn, drop-dead-cathartic, and (speaking of anthemic) the Gin Blossoms-like “The Hum of Black Machines,” with its haunting lyrics about the abject loneliness of being cast aside and no longer loved, these are mature, full-formed compositions that have stood the test of time.

They’re also a fascinating glimpse behind the Pinnell curtain, essential postcards from the past that fans of his current work will cherish.

DOWNLOAD: “The Hum of Black machines,” “Go On By,” “Talk To You Tonight”

JOHN SURMAN – Invisible Threads

Album: Invisible Threads

Artist: John Surman

Label: ECM

Release Date: January 19, 2018

The Upshot: Veteran woodwindist’s trio avoids the sterility that plagues much chamber jazz and becomes a delight.




Veteran woodwindist John Surman has played it all in his five decades of activity, from free jazz to fusion to chamber music, with everyone from John McLaughlin to John Abercrombie to Jack DeJohnette. Invisible Threads finds the Englishman in a quiet but extroverted mood, thriving in the company of Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and American vibist Rob Waring. Surman’s horn work glides the melodies over the changes, swooping up the scale and down again, avoiding flash with just enough energy for momentum. Ayres’s frisky fingerings and minimalist chords and Waring’s expertly placed mallet strikes conjure warm backdrops for Surman’s excursions, setting the perfect stage for gorgeous treatments of “On Still Waters” and “Autumn Nocturne.” Surman gives his lyrical lines a Middle Eastern feel on “Byndweed” – his soprano sounds like it’s charming snakes atop of Ayres’ busy keyboard work. He switches to a lush tenor for “Concentric Circles,” a track that also highlights Waring’s ringing vibraphone. Surman’s woody clarinet tone soothes Ayres and Waring’s restlessness on “The Admiral,” while his soprano dances playfully around his compatriots’ swirls on “Pitanga Pitomba” and “Summer Song.” He returns to tenor for the relaxed swing of the title track, which closes the record on an irrepressibly upbeat note. With a certain whimsy driving the playing and the obvious joy the trio has in working together, Invisible Threads avoids the sterility that plagues much chamber jazz and becomes a delight.


DOWNLOAD: “Byndweed,” “Autumn Nocturnes,” “Concentric Circles”


MICHELLE MALONE – Slings & Arrows

Album: Slings & Arrows

Artist: Michelle Malone

Label: SBS

Release Date: March 02, 2018


With her stunning new album, tellingly titled Slings and Arrows, veteran singer/songwriter Michelle Malone expands into new terrain with a personal statement that’s both revealing and reflective. She examines issues that have clearly become ingrained in her psyche and etched a deep impression. In the process, she finds an astute balance between desire and disappointment, all in equal measure.

As a result, Slings and Arrows comes across as more than mere meditation or typical rumination. It’s driven and defiant, and uncommonly bold in the way it exacts its raw energy and embraces it as part of her signature sound.

Although it’s not a concept album in the strictest sense, Slings and Arrows does look at a myriad of scenarios and set-ups from the perspective of the disparate characters that populate these songs. It’s through their hardships that Malone draws parallels with the situations that have led to her own conflicts with family and friends. Yet, given its relentless rhythms and her ability to bandy about the blues — opening track “Just Getting Started” sounds like ZZ Top redux, a tack that carries over to the emphatic “Beast’s Boogie” — its tangle and tenacity leave little room for softer sentiments. Still, the soulful strut of “Sugar on my Tongue” and the arched defiance of “Love Yourself” (I love my country but it makes me cry/When I think how great we’d be if we were unified”) leave no doubt as to where her feelings lie.

Ultimately, this is an album that defines Malone in ways that she’s rarely expressed before. Suffice it to say that in these tough times, these lessons about overcoming obstacles ought not to be ignored.

DOWNLOAD: “Just Getting Started,” “Sugar on my Tongue,” “Love Yourself”



HY MAYA – The Mysticism of Sound & Cosmic Language 2LP

Album: The Mysticism of Sound & Cosmic Language

Artist: Hy Maya

Label: Smog Veil

Release Date: January 19, 2018

The Upshot: Challenging improv, Prog-jazz, and experimental sounds from a criminally obscure Cleveland band—part of the Pere Ubu extended family, no less.


A few months back, the estimable Smog Veil label, archivist of all things Cleveland and vicinity, issued a terrific red vinyl/one-sided 12” EP, Terminal Drive, by Pere Ubu synth maven Allen Ravenstine and percussionist Albert Dennis, as part of the label’s “Platters Du Cuyahoga” series, which to date has included titles from the Schwartz Fox Blues Crusade (reviewed HERE), the Mr. Stress Blues Band, and the Robert Bensick Band. It’s been an impressive and revealing series to date, connecting a lot of musical dots that no doubt have proven elusive thus far to all but the most plugged-in Clevo die-hards (or longtime residents). Folks like yours truly typically know about Ubu, Rocket From the Tombs, and the other usual suspects, but the available knowledge and resources have always been relatively slim, which is why Smog Veil—particular kudos to stalwart liner notesman Nick Blakey and his research partners Frank Mauceri and Andrew Russ—has become THE go-to resource. Without the label’s ongoing diligence (obsession?), a crucial chapter in American pre-punk history might’ve gone permanently lost, or at very least, overlooked.

Which brings us to Hy Maya, whose complete 1972-73 output—shows caught on tape, a few rehearsals and demos, plus a “proper” Cleveland studio session—are collected as The Mysticism of Sound & Cosmic Language on CD and vinyl (gorgeous blue/marbled wax at that, as a double-LP gatefold set with insightful liner notes from Andrew Russ), which also includes a thick booklet boasting plenty of rare archival photos and gig posters alongside an extensive oral history from members Bensick, Ravenstine, and Cynthia Black, plus journalist Charlotte Pressler. The lineup was apparently in constant flux, Bensick being the sole constant, at pints not featuring Ravenstine—Black was an occasional member—while including, variously, bassist Albert Dennis, Pere Ubu drummer Scott Krauss, pianist Bob Friedhofer, and percussionist Richard Schneider. Yeah, this was the proverbial “art-rock” collective, and perhaps its essential instability was what prevented Bensick’s outfit from earning more than a few brief mentions from journalists over the years—and also prevented any music being officially released, until now. Kudos to the label and studio whiz Paul Hamann, who tackled the daunting task of tape transferring and mastering, along with Sam Habash, who was responsible for the actual tape restoration.

The Mysticism also makes for the proverbial “uneasy listening,” in part because it’s sourced from both live and studio material rather than being an actual “album” in the conception/execution sense. That’s not to say it isn’t a fascinating listen, however. From moments of raw improvisation to more textured drones and injections of industrial noise to backwards passages—the minimalist track “Left Brain Reflexions” features exotic percussion flourishes, searing electronics, and even a person whistling— Hy Maya clearly had been kissed by the creative muse.

That they probably confused as many as they entranced didn’t do ‘em any favors, but my bet is that the members had the ability to surprise one another each time they rehearsed or performed, and that’s something you can’t quantify, artistically. Oh, did I mention that this is the kind of album that has the ability to surprise every Clevo-attuned listener – and make ’em believers? Utterly, transcendentally, essential.

DOWNLOAD:  “A Quantum Mechanic Mambo” (1972 studio recording, featuring flute, jazz bass, world percussion), “Hold the Holograph” (1972 home recording at Ravenstine’s house), “Ship of Fools” (1972 live recording, possibly the most “straightforward” track in terms of having a full band arrangement and spoken word vocals—like a poetry recitation—from Bensick), “Dance of Illusion” (1972 rehearsal, a 16-minute slice of piano/bass/drums Prog-jazz with Bensick vocals).


SETH WALKER – Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House

Album: Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House

Artist: Seth Walker

Label: Royal Potato Family

Release Date: February 23, 2018

The Upshot: Roots rocker truly “comes alive” onstage in Pennsylvania and leaves the audience demanding more—encore!


It seems rather apt that the eclectic Americana roots musician Seth Walker would choose to record his live album in the quiet, unassuming Mauch Chuck Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA. Much like the venue, Walker’s not trendy or flashy, but timeless and damn is he ever impressive.

Though the set captured on the album is only nine tracks long – recorded last May – it gives a perfect snapshot of Walker’s brilliant live act. From the onstage banter to the drawn-out jams that veer from folk and bluegrass into blues and jazz territory at times. Tracks like the seven-minute long “Call My Name” and the New Orleans-inspired “2’ Left to the Ceiling” and “Way Past Midnight” go a long way to show his musical depth. He also gives a beautiful, stripped down rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” accompanied by accordion.

With nine albums to his name, Walker had more than enough material to put out a live record twice as long, but sticking to that adage, he clearly leaves you wanting more.

DOWNLOAD: “Call My Name,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “Way Past Midnight”