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POCKET FISHRMEN – The Greatest Story Ever Told LP

Album: The Greatest Story Ever Told LP

Artist: Pocket Fishrmen

Label: Saustex

Release Date: November 17, 2017

www.saustex.com

The Upshot: Punk rock like they useta make via re-recordings of the Austin provocateurs’ back catalog o’ tunes.

BY FRED MILLS

Art-punks or punk art? These guys ain’t tellin’! From Austin (but of course), Pocket Fishrmen reportedly disbanded in 2000 following a colorful 14-year run. How colorful? The band’s 1988 debut 45 was an ode to “Amy Carter,” who at the time was working on a law degree at the University of Texas—history does not record whether or not this invocation of former President Jimmy Carter’s daughter put the quartet on the Secret Service radar, but even if it did, the ‘men were far too busy moving forward, penning and performing such sensitive numbers as “Go Go Saddam Hussein,” “One Blowjob, One Handjob, One Vagina,” “Pot Mountain,” “Priapus Power,” “Yen For Your Yang,” “Flaccid is the Night,” and “Gay Jew Conquistador.” Yeah, the pre-millennial era was a different time and a different place in terms of how we viewed satire, provocation, and political correctness within a punk rock context. Not to mention songs about your dick. Just ask Pocket Fishrmen peers such as the Meatmen, the Mentors, the Queers, and the Dickies.

The Greatest Story Ever Told is a career overview, re-viewed via re-recordings of “classic” fan and band faves. It may or may not be strictly for longtime devotees, but I must admit that if I were 16 or 17 and I came across this band on, say, Spotify (which it is), I’d summarily blast the shit out of it from my upstairs bedroom and dare my parents to come in and ask if I’d finished my homework. Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be self-regenerating. For me, I’m particularly partial to the straight-up thrash of “Colonoscopy” (and not just because I recently had my first experience in riding the snake), the anthemic Pistols/Ramones-a-fied “Queen of the Gorillas,” the synth-strafed, power-chorded classic rock mutation that is “High on Rock and Roll,” and of course the aforementioned, brilliantly nimble “Amy Carter” (because I still own the original single)—I seriously doubt there will be any musical tributes in the years to come for Barron Trump, so this one will always be unique in its own right.

Fans of the sturdy vinyl format (standard black or limited red, take your pick) are particularly well-served with the release because the 14-song LP is abetted with a bonus 16-song CD. That’s a whole lotta fishin’ goin’ on, folks. And judging from the poster below, it’s still goin’ on….

DOWNLOAD: “Amy Carter,” “Priapus Power,” “Yen For Your Yang,” “Colonoscopy,” “High on Rock and Roll,” “Flaccid is the Night”

COUNTERFEIT MADISON – Opposable Thumbs LP

Album: Opposable Thumbs LP

Artist: Counterfeit Madison

Label: Anyway

Release Date: November 17, 2017

www.anyway-records.com

The Upshot: Theatrical ivory-pounder with a soul-gospel voice to woo the angels with—and the kind of record that makes the listener eager to see her in person.

BY FRED MILLS

Though Columbus, Ohio, artist Counterfeit Madison (born: Sharon Udoh) had released several singles and EPs prior to 2016, it was that year’s Counterfeit Madison Meets Nina Simone: A Celebration of Blackness that served salutary notice this was a major talent awaiting discovery by the public at large. (You can grab it as a free download at her Bandcamp page.) Now comes the soulful singer’s set of original material, Opposable Thumbs—a title which on the surface should refer to her prowess at the piano keyboard, but in its implied defiance, telegraphs much, much more—and right from the get-go, there’s a riot goin’ on. “Shout About Clout” commences with some titular shouting then gives way to synth-and-piano powered rock-gospel arrangement sonically urging the listener to rise up.

As the album unfolds you’re treated to bluesy, soul-infused balladry (“Light Switch,” “Song for the Loyals,” “Concept of Life #1 in B Major”) that showcases both her piano skills—there are some overt neoclassical flourishes she’s fond of—and her octave-spanning prowess as a vocalist, not to mention underscoring how much she can sound like Simone at times. This is in contrast to the jaunty, jazzy, theatrical rock ‘n’ roll (“I Hope It’s Alright,” “Bartlett’s”) that has no doubt earned her a reputation as a flamboyant, charismatic stage performer. One suspects that Opposable Thumbs is no preparation for experiencing Madison in person, but it’s as good a calling card as they come. I can’t wait for a chance to see her live.

Available, incidentally, in digital and heavyweight vinyl formats—clearly, you want the latter, right?

DOWNLOAD: “Song for the Loyals,” “I Hope It’s Alright”

Jerry Yester – Pass Your Light Around

Album: Pass Your Light Around

Artist: Jerry Yester

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Release Date: October 06, 2017

 

http://omnivorerecordings.com/

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

In retrospect, it seems remarkable that the recordings that make up this compilation remained unreleased for so long. Jerry Yester was, and is, an important player in America’s seminal folk scene and his list of credits — The New Christy Minstrels, The Modern Folk Quartet, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Association, his band Rosebud and various roles behind the boards for the likes of Tim Buckley and Tom Waits — make him one of the unsung heroes who helped transition traditional folk to unabashed rock ‘n’ roll. Nevertheless, it’s the music he recorded on his own and with collaborator Larry Beckett that deserves discovery. Yester and Beckett drew from a remarkably wide array of styles — folk (of course), cabaret, psych, chamber pop and numerous motifs in-between. The result is an impressive set of fifteen disparate songs, mostly recorded throughout the ‘70s while Yester was taking time to contemplate his next move.

Listening to these tracks now becomes something of a revelation. Given their imaginative arrangements, one gets the sense that these great lost treasures have stood the test of time. Like Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, Yester is unafraid to bend the boundaries and borrow influences that range from classical to cabaret. The songs that result — a jaunty “Pass Your Light Around,” the celebratory “My Dusty Darling,” the cooing Beach Boys-like “Brooklyn Girl,” the expressive ballad “With a Hickory Pole” — are all simply stunning, and they not only beg an initial listen but repeated hearings as well. In the end, one can only marvel at the fact that Yester is indeed an unsung hero. To call this an exceptional offering doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

DOWNLOAD: “Pass Your Light Around,” “My Dusty Darling,” “Brooklyn Girl”

The Orphan Brigade – Heart of the Cave

Album: Heart of the Cave

Artist: Orphan Brigade

Label: At The Helm

Release Date: September 29, 2017

www.atthehelmrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

A communal combo as well as a supergroup of sorts, The Orphan Brigade more than measure up to the sum of its parts. Despite its sprawling line-up, rotating regulars Neilson Hubbard, Joshua Britt, Gretchen Peters, Ben Glover, Barry Walsh, Kris Donegan, Heather Donegan, Danny Mitchell, Will Kimbrough, Natalie  Schlabs, Eamon Mcloughlin, Audrey Spillman and Kira Small find common ground in songs of resolution and resolve, music that absolutely soars with genuine passion and purpose. “Flying Joe” and “Pile of Bones” suggest vintage circumstance via folky sing-alongs, but the tracks that fall in-between — “Town of A Hundred Churches,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Osimo (Come To Life)” in particular, look towards the heavens, sweeping the listener along with impassioned hymns of promise and praise. Every song is massively moving in its own way and there’s not a single offering that doesn’t stir up the sentiment, whether it’s the heartfelt balladry that echoes through “V.I.T.R.I.O.L” or the breathless beauty of the solemn yet reassuring “Pain Is Gone.” Two albums on, The Orphan Brigade find inspiration with hushed deliberation and dramatic rallying cries that consistently stir the senses and resonate with every majestic refrain. As 2017 comes to a close, this remarkably moving masterpiece clearly qualifies as one of the year’s best. It should not be ignored.

DOWNLOAD: “Town of A Hundred Churches,” “Flying Joe,” “Osimo (Come To Life)”

Bjorn Meyer – Provenance

Album: Provenance

Artist: Bjorn Meyer

Label: ECM

Release Date: September 29, 2017

http://ecmrecords.com

The Upshot: Former member of Ronin and a bass maestro submits a showcase for instrumental melodicism.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Solo bass guitar albums tend to preach to the converted, appealing mainly to megafans of the instrumentalist involved. Provenance, the debut solo album from Bjorn Meyer, may change that. The former bottom-thumper for Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, the Sweden-born/Switzerland-based Meyer has experience bending improvisation to melody’s will, and takes full advantage of his skills here. Lovely, sedate pieces like “Traces of a Song,” “Trails Crossing” and “Banyan Waltz” find melody lines and stick to them, with Meyer using the round thrum of his instrument to carry the tunes, rather than pummel them. “Pulse” lives up to its title with a more insistent groove, but the melodic appeal still reigns. “Dance” and “Squizzle,” the latter performed on an acoustic bass guitar, get busier and funkier, as one might more typically expect from a bass-oriented project, but still sing. Most of the songs bring to mind solo acoustic six-string players from the American Primitive school, where melodic repetition meets subtle skill and a certain sweetness holds technical Onanism at bay. Provenance isn’t a technique-oriented shred-a-thon, but a showcase for instrumental melodicism that just happens to use the bass as its medium.

DOWNLOAD: “Traces of a Song,” “Pulse,” “Banyan Waltz”

LOCH & KEY – Slow Fade LP

Album: Slow Fade LP

Artist: Loch & Key

Label: self-released

Release Date: September 15, 2017

 

https://www.lochandkey.net/

The Upshot: Dreamy SoCal indie pop that transcends both genre and geographic borders.

BY FRED MILLS

With their breezy, jazzy, cabaret-esque brand of sunshine pop, L.A. husband-and-wife team Loch & Key are the perfect antidote to the new dark ages contemporary society finds itself immersed – unwillingly, for most of us – in. if 2010’s Jupiter’s Guide For Submariners was more aligned with traditional indie rock of the era, Slow Fade finds the group sounding less like SoCal scenesters and more like trans-national scene stealers – clearly, over the past few years, Sean Hoffman (ex-American Music Club) and Leyla Akdogan have refined their vision to such a point that “dreamy” and “edgy” can coexist within a single tune, from Hoffman’s brash guitar work to Akdogan’s sensual, breathy vocal coos to a general sense of anything goes, arrangement-wise.

Highlights? “More Tales of the Could’ve Been Kid” is sinewy and sexy, its synth/guitar attack and opiated vocals suggesting Garbage fronted by Hope Sandoval. Album standout “Barstow” is a mesmerizing slice of minimalist psychedelia (speaking of Mazzy Star!) that will have you putting the track on perpetual “repeat.” “A Throne for the Clouds” is a thrumming, cinematic-esque number that finds both players sharing the mic, with tingly results. “Gil Perez” updates the classic Laurel Canyon folky sound for newcomers to the fold while inviting fans of Francoise Hardy to drive up into the hills and join the party. And in 2017, to conjure images of vintage doo-wop is to thwart all genre expectation; here, “Big Cats” finds an a capella chorus of Leylas harmonizing with such effortless grace that one imagines the vocal form revival starting here.

Easily one of the more delightful surprises of the year – and the perfect way to close things out on an optimistic note.

Consumer Note: Grab the vinyl, naturally!

DOWNLOAD: “Barstow,” “More Tales of the Could’ve Been Kid,” “Gil Perez”

 

Filthy Friends 9/23/17, Chicago

Dates: September 23, 2017

Location: Goose Island Block Party, Chicago

 

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Chicago, Il.

Down at the Goose Island Block Party, our man with the plan in the Windy City had the best view of all…

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARTY PEREZ

What a way to celebrate this year’s Autmnal Equinox.

And in the good company of some Filthy Friends, all the while being able to sample some new fall batches of local craft beer. Where did all this goodness go down, you might ask? Well, friends at a block party put on by Chicago’s oldest and largest craft breweries; Goose Island. Let us praise and raise a toast to sir John Barleycorn.

A spectacular setting sun illuminated the short, fun and upbeat set put forth by Corin Tucker and the Friends: Pete Buck, Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, and Linda Pitmon. After that they had to cram into the van and bust out of Chicago for the drive to Cincinnati to make Saturday’s afternoon festival show.

Highly recommend catching thee Filthy Friends, should they make it out your neck of the woods. Considering the members of the Filthies and their varying schedules, it does make for a special occasion and/or a logistical nightmare to get all them Filthy Friends under the same roof for a house party.

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Puddles Pity Party 12/15/17, Nashville

Dates: December 15, 2017

Location: Marathon Music Works, Nashville TN

The singing clown at Marathon Music Works packs ‘em in.

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY: MARK JACKSON

Puddles, the 6’8” singing clown, who you might recognize from the hit TV show America’s Got Talent, first gained popularity on YouTube with the help of Postmodern Jukebox in a viral hit cover of “Royals” by Lorde. Puddles brought his modulated voice to a packed house at the Marathon Music Works on a Friday night. This show was a little different than most of the shows that I cover, as it was a combination of comedy and singing — a perfect night out for a couple, or a fantastic family night that is safe for any age children.

As you might suspect from a clown, Puddles, who doesn’t speak, did entertain the crowd with some comedy, such as a chair that he pretended to be so heavy that he could barely push it across the stage, playing a fake guitar, and a few props. This act could have very easily fell into the cheesy overdone traveling comedy show if it were not for the genius mind of Puddles who uses a projector with great videos and props that blend seamlessly with his magnificent voice to tell a story and keeps the crowd entranced. Puddles also used the crowd as part of the show, from bringing people up on stage during some songs, to become part of the show, to a crowd sing along karaoke style. I simply cannot stress enough how entertaining this show was, but the true magic of the show is the voice of Puddles.

Puddles covers a wide variety of songs and genres, but he makes them all his own. A few of my favorite covers of the evening were “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Under Pressure” by Queen, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.,  but my favorite and the one I couldn’t wait to hear was Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me”.

Instagram: @markjacksonphotography1

 

 

 

Smith & Myers 11/11/17, Nashville

Dates: December 11, 2017

Location: Cannery Ballroom, Nashville TN

Live at the Cannery Ballroom with the Shinedown guys going acoustic.

PHOTOS & TEXT BY MARK JACKSON

Brent Smith and Zach Myers from Shinedown are out touring with an acoustic show covering several of Shinedown songs, but this is tour is so much more than that. This tour is a mashup of storytelling and cover songs in an intimate setting in smaller venues. The bad news for you is that if you don’t already have a ticket to this great night of music you have missed your chance as all remaining dates have already sold out.

Both Smith and Myers are from Tennessee which I think made this night even more special for the guys to play in the Music City. The guys had the night before off in Nashville, so Zach, who is a huge Garth Brooks fan and friend, surprised Brent by taking him to meet Garth, who was playing at Bridestone Arena.

The setlist changes nightly so you never know what you will hear, but that doesn’t matter because they are all awesome. The first song of the night was “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. They also of course played “State of my Head,” “Simple Man,” “Cut The Cord” and “Second Chance” by Shinedown,.  The guys played everything from Adele to Tom Petty to Prince. Zach even told one of his secrets of how he, as a boy, wanted to be the guy in a boy band who didn’t sing, but who did the sexy breakdown talking in a song to the ladies. He even gave a little sample of how he would do it. I think the ladies in the crowd approved.

***

The opening act who is from Myers’ hometown of Memphis was Zack Mack (Myers is also a member). Zack Mack returned to play with the boys a few songs at the end of the night. This was a night that people in attendance will be talking about for awhile.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Vols. 1 (Southern Rockers) & 2 (Punk Rock), by Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Title: Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Vols. 1 (Southern Rockers) & 2 (Punk Rock),

Author: Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Publisher: Excitable Press

Publication Date: November 03, 2017

www.excitablepress.com / https://excitablepress.wordpress.com

The Upshot: The Rev at the front lines interviewing everyone from the Georgia Satellites, Webb Wilder, and Charlie Daniels, to the Ramones, Jello Biafra, and the Screamin’ Sirens —and living to tell the tales.

BY FRED MILLS

The good Reverend Keith thumbs once again through his back pages, having not long ago published the final volume of his reviews (albums, DVDs, books, etc.) archives and now turning his attention to some of the interviews he’s published over the years. Dating back to his ‘80s journo days when he was music critic at Nashville’s The Metro publication (he currently calls Batavia, NY, his home), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives offers some choice snapshots of artists both big and small, and the results are both engaging and, at times, revealing. Never forget that musicians often toe the party line when being interviewed, donning their promotion ‘n’ publicity hats and dutifully plugging their latest record, their current tour, and of course their eternally cool selves.

Volume One covers a subset of artists clearly very dear to Gordon’s heart, the southern rockers who began emerging within the post-punk college scene of the ’80s. Having previously devoted an entire book to Jason & the Scorchers, his inclusion of an out-of-print interview from ’86 with Jason Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges is a no-brainer. The 1990 story on the Georgia Satellites is, likewise, a logical choice, for both of those bands were hugely influential across the Southeast back in the day; I should know, I was on the scene myself as a Charlotte-based music critic. Some may raise an eyebrow over a Charlie Daniels piece, I suspect, given Daniels’ reactionary image among liberal-leaning sorts. But at this point Daniels wasn’t particularly interested in pushing a conservative agenda, and his insights on country music (“It’s become so static”) are as applicable now as they were at the time. And speaking personally, revisiting Texas’ Slobberbone and Nashville’s Webb Wilder were treats; Gordon rightly pegs the former as having built-in appeal to rednecks and punks alike, while the latter opens up candidly on a number of subjects instead of dipping into his well-documented oddball persona.

Volume Two is no less close to home for Gordon, who has been a lifelong champion of punk rock, something that no doubt made him stand out as a music writer in Nashville. Kicking the book off with a 1990 conversation with Jello Biafra, at the time under scrutiny once by various moral majority types in the wake of the 2 Live Crew dust-up, things quickly devolve —er, kick into high gear! — from there. Prior to reading about them here, I was not familiar with hardcore outfits Blanks 77 and Choreboy, and I’m always up for a piece on the Descendents, DOA, the Meat Puppets, and the Ramones. The ’93 interview with Billy Idol on the occasion of his prescient album Cyberpunk was also an unexpected treat, the rocker coming across as extremely thoughtful and curious rather that interested in polishing his rebel-yell image. And any writer who will cover the Screamin’ Sirens is tops in my book. Having hung out with the distaff twang-punks one raucous, debauched, memorable evening in the mid ‘80s myself, and knowing the Rev as well as I do, I think I can safely say that his summit with lead vocalist Pleasant Gehman was a writer/musician pairing destined to be.

Gordon has a knack for drawing people out, and while this can be attributed either to an empathetic bedside manner in which the profile subject realizes Gordon coming from the same place as they are, or to the fact that he’s a biker-sized dude who could easily beat the ass of pretty much any musician aside from Glenn Danzig, the results are a win-win-win for readers, subjects, and author.