Monthly Archives: September 2015


Album: Weirdo

Artist: Five Eight

Label: Chicken Ranch

Release Date: July 10, 2015

Five Eight 7-10

The Upshot: Mid ‘90s release from the Athens outfit stands as the band’s creative apex, a perfect example of taking distinction into richer, more mature territories.


Five Eight is one of the great never-quites in the American underground. The Athens, Georgia trio-cum-quartet made the right kind of noise, musically and otherwise, with its first two records – 1992’s I Learned Shut Up and 1993’s The Angriest Man are both masterclasses on how to translate nervous angst into thrilling guitar rock. Those LPs set the stage for Weirdo, a mature step forward that should have been the band’s breakthrough to the proverbial bigger and better things. It didn’t happen, as these things so often don’t. The band soldiered on, as it does to this day, and Weirdo slipped out of print.

Until now. Austin-based Chicken Ranch Records resurrects Weirdo as a beautiful double LP with bonus tracks, a reworked cover and a sharp remastering job from original album producer David Barbe. All well and good, but superfluous unless the original work is worth the return trip. Unsurprisingly, it is. Not content to simply return to the same hooky well that informed the first two records, Five Eight consciously evolves here. Herky-jerky rhythms, clashing dischords and a refined attack mark tunes like “Stars,” the appropriately titled “Tense It Up” and “You Never Look in My Eyes,” which remain tuneful despite the discomfort. The yearning “Mystery James,” the bonus cut “Strings” and the tense “What They Did,” on the other hand, balance emotional instability with more accessible melodies for intense semi-singalongs. That goes triple for “Hurt You” and “Behead Myself,” which lavish some of the record’s strongest tunes on some of its most upsetting lyrics in a way few bands even attempt, let alone so successfully. The title track, performed by leader Mike Mantione alone, boils the album’s damaged heart and feeds it back to its creator, tough on the outside and tender on the inside.

By avoiding paved roads in favor of the ditch, Five Eight bends itself into new shapes while still keeping to familiar sounds. Weirdo stands as the band’s creative apex, a perfect example of taking distinction into richer, more mature territories.

 DOWNLOAD: “Behead Myself,” “Mystery James,” “Hurt You”


Album: Wild Heart

Artist: Samantha Fish

Label: Ruf

Release Date: July 10, 2015

SAm Fish 7-15

The Upshot: A true blues star emerging to international prominence.


It was hard not to take notice of Samantha Fish. A beautiful young woman in her mid-20’s on stage in a short skirt with legs that go straight up to heaven and a blues guitar sound that goes right down to hell. Often barefoot on stage with a cigar box guitar, this Kansas City native plays a dirty slide, turning a classic like “Shake ‘Em On Down” into a blues exorcism. This is slide plying you do not hear much anymore, a homage to the masters like Elmore James and Duane Allman. On her first two albums, she also showed her potential with intense vocals and excellent original songwriting.

But you had to wonder how this Kansas City girl found the devil’s music. Now on her third release, Wild Heart we get a clue. Fish has been traveling the backroads of Louisiana and Mississippi and enlisted Luther Dickinson as producer of the CD. It shows. Excellent choice. Dickinson has blues in his blood. He is a founder of the North Mississippi All Stars and son of the legendary Jim Dickinson, who is about as Memphis as Elvis.

What Samantha has been edging toward all along has found a home and perfect expression on Wild, her strongest work yet. Mississippi Hill Country Blues is like no other blues in the world, as far removed from its Delta Blues cousin as you could be. Hill Country Blues, with its emphasis on rhythm, percussion and few chord changes, was called trance music when played by the late slide masters Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Those masters are gone but their kin folk joined Dickinson in creating the North Mississippi All Stars.

Wild is an excellent record. It is not all Hill Country blues. There is a country blues cover of a song by Delta blues father, Charley Patton, “Jimmy Lee Blues, Pt 1” and a fine Southern ballad, “Lost Myself.” But when you hear Fish’s guitar crescendo on “Highway’s Holding Me” and the slide riff that starts “Blame it on the Moon” and the angry slide on “Turn it Up” you are hearing songs that could easily approach trance status if expanded on stage. Indeed, they might be so hot performed live that barefoot Samantha might have to protect her bare feet. It will certainly be interesting to see.

Besides, producing, Luther Dickinson plays bass, lap steel and mandolin. Other Hill country stars like Lightnin Malcolm and Sharde Thomas, a Mississippi fife drum player and granddaughter of the legendary Othar Turner, guest star.

Wild shows Samantha Fish emerging as a true blues star. This CD is worth listening to and Samantha Fish is worth following.

DOWNLOAD: “Road Runner,” “Highway’s Holding Me Now,” “Turn it Up”



HALEY SLAGLE – Liar’s Best Friend

Album: Liar's Best Friend

Artist: Haley Slagle

Label: self-released

Release Date: September 04, 2015


 Hayle Slagle 4-15

The Upshot: West Virginia songwriter offers stripped down and hauntingly beautiful set of folk/alt country songs.


Long before auto-tune, vocal dubbing and a slew of other recording studio tricks, bands actually just set up a mic or two in a room and recorded their songs live. Imagine that.

Haley Slagle, a fixture on the Morgantown, WV music scene for years, recorded Liar’s Best Friend by setting up inside a friend’s house and knocked out nine songs – with the musicians sitting around in a circle – in just two sessions. The result is a stripped down and hauntingly beautiful set of folk/alt country songs that sound timeless in their execution.

Over the years, Slagle has shared the stage with folks like Lucero, Jason Isbell and Lydia Loveless and you can hear the influence of her contemporaries, as well as folks like Patsy Cline and Kris Kristofferson, in the songs here. Stripped of flashiness and unnecessary flourishes, the vocals and lyrics take the spotlight.

DOWNLOAD: “Ghosts Don’t Care,” “Whisky” and “Wishes and Stars”


PAUL WELLER – Saturn’s Pattern

Album: Saturn's Pattern

Artist: Paul Weller

Label: Warner Bros.

Release Date: May 19, 2015


Paul Weller 5-19

The Upshot: As close to heavenly as Weller’s ever been.


In a very real sense, it’s a credit to his credibility that Paul Weller earned himself the nickname the “Modfather,” even though he came along a good ten years after the original Mod brigade had made its initial appearance. Nevertheless, Weller’s absolute dedication to the cause – that is, his adoration and admiration for the likes of the Small Faces, the Kinks, Traffic and other members of the English establishment — imbued him with an authority and authenticity nearly as striking as that of that of the artists that inspired him. His work with the Jam and the efforts he mounted on his own helped reinforce that notion, and while Style Council might have seemed a slight diversion, it still affirmed his industrious intent. Even so, Weller continues to convey a nagging impression that there’s better work ahead of him, and that for all his accomplishments he’s yet to make an album as good as those he offered early on, “Wild Wood, “Stanley Road,” and his self-titled debut among them.

Weller himself seems aware of this need to reassert himself, and as a result, “Saturn’s Pattern” begins with a one-two punch that’s as prominent and pronounced as any album opener in recent memory. “White Sky” and the title track establish the fact Weller’s ready to rock, and if the track that follows, “Going My Way” creates a lull, it soon amends for that with some beautiful Beach Boys-like harmonies and harmonics. Weller’s fixation with synths and effects still clouds his melodies at times, but the highlights of this album — the soaring choral sing-along of “I’m Where I Should Be” and the cooing choir of “Phoenix” — emulate the perfect pop Weller’s clearly capable of conceiving. Though only nine songs long, “Saturn’s Pattern” is as close to heavenly as Weller’s ever been.

DOWNLOAD: “White Sky,” “Saturns Pattern,” “Going My Way”


Woggles/Ugly Beats/Soulphonics 9/25/15, Austin

Dates: September 25, 2015

Location: Continental Club, Austin TX

8. The Woggles 9_25_15

The Upshot: Back to the garage, but no tuneup necessary because this machine is in high gear.


September 25 in Austin, and a whole lotta shakin’ going on at The Continental Club. Starting with rawk/folk maximum jangling of The Soulphonics….

1. Soulphonics 9_25_15

3. Soulphonics 9_25_15

2. Soulphonics 9_25_15

…followed by local Get Hip Recordings ‘60s garage/surf/powerpop/nuggets and everything related legends The Ugly Beats…

4. The Ugly Beats 9_25_15

5. The Ugly Beats 9_25_15

…then rounded off with The Professor, The Flesh Hammer, Buzz Hågstrom, and Den Elextro:  aka THE all time greatest rock ’n’ roll dance party shakin’ most fun you’ll ever have at a live show vets The Woggles (also pictured at the top)!

6. The Woggles 9_25_15

7. The Woggles 9_25_15

9. The Wogggles 9_25_15

Below: Steve Wynn (and Linda Pitmon, not pictured) drops in just in time to catch The Ugly Beats

10. Steve Wynn drops in

Dawes 9/25/13, Raleigh NC

Dates: September 25, 2015

Location: North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh NC

Dawes Blurt (8)

The Upshot: With the addition of Dicky Betts’ kid Duane to the lineup, the poppy roots combo expanded its sound to make material from its new album come alive onstage.


It was a wet Friday night as Dawes rolled into the NC Museum of Art on their current tour in support of their fourth album All Your Favorite Bands. Given the rain that had fallen all day, thanks to a low pressure system stalled on the coast, the outdoors crowd was smaller than it probably otherwise would have been, but the fans that were there were definitely the die-hards, singing along with all the songs old and new.

To be honest, I had only listened to the new record once, and my immediate impression was that this collection of songs about love and loss didn’t hold up as well alongside their incredibly strong first two records. Well, as with most of my favorite bands (see what I did there?), the tunes took on a new life when played live. Hearing them in concert, alongside the older material, one can hear the development of the Taylor Goldsmith and the band’s songwriting. Notably, the ballad “Now That’s It’s Too Late, Maria” sounded sweet (with Goldsmith throwing down some tasty licks in between the lines), leading perfectly into “Coming Back To A Man from Nothing Is Wrong.” Throughout the night, Taylor and his younger brother Griffin (on drums) provided great sibling harmonies that added depth to Taylor’s words.

Dawes 1

Dawes Blurt

Dawes 5

Dawes 2

Dawes 3

For this tour Dawes is augmenting the band with Duane Betts on second guitar, looking, and with his Goldtop Les Paul, sounding, every bit like his father’s son. I was afraid the addition would clutter the arrangements, but the younger Betts proved to be more than tasteful enough, as he added subtle touches and strong leads to the songs, adding a bit of southern style to the band’s LA sound. A standout of the evening was “Somewhere Along The Way,” with Duane taking the solo and Taylor joining in to create a very Allman Brothers-esq harmony lead, drawing applause from the North Carolina crowd.

By mid-set the rain had let up and the band treated us with “Peace in the Valley” which gave everyone, Taylor, Griffin, Duane, keyboardist Tay Strathairn and bassist Wylie Gelber time to stretch out a little. Following the new “Things Happen,” came “A Little Bit of Everything,” which gets me every time, and the celebratory “When My Time Comes.” It may be clichéd at this point to sing along with that song at a Dawes concert, but it feels good and that’s what music is all about, right?

Closing with the title track of their new record, the band put their instruments down and Taylor led the crowd in singing along, “may your brother’s El Camino run forever and may all your favorite bands stay together.” A satisfied audience singing along with Dawes—I couldn’t think of a better way to close the season at Raleigh’s unsung gem of a venue.

Dawes Blurt (7)

Dawes Blurt (6)

Dawes 4

Yo La Tengo 9/24/15, Glenside PA

Dates: September 24, 2015

Location: Keswick Theatre, Glenside PA


The Upshot: Playing in the Philly suburbs on a week night, the band seemed to be enjoying every minute of the set.


It’s been two decades since indie rock lifers Yo La Tengo pulled their tour bus into the Keswick Theatre parking lot. The nearly 100-year-old venue tucked away safely in the quiet Philly ‘burbs is a classic venue, but not the first one that comes to mind when you think of indie royalty.

Cleary Pope Francis didn’t both to check the band’s release schedule when booking his end of summer/last-fling vacation – a trip that has turned the streets of Philadelphia into the set of some dystopian B Movie, with parking lots and major roads off limits even days before the father could swing by Gino’s for a cheesesteak. The reason the band was relegated to the ‘burbs for the evening wasn’t lost on singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan; “Anyone going to see the Pope?” he asked between songs, which led to laughter and a few loud groans from the audience. Singer/drummer Georgia Hubley quickly added, “Ok, Pope discussion over,” before moving into the next song.

Despite playing to a half-full audience – thanks to public transportation limbo that was wreaking havoc on the city that week – the two set show was remarkable satisfying regardless. Billed as “An Acoustic Evening with Yo La Tengo,” bassist James McNew played a stand-up bass and Hubley set her stool aside for the evening, playing the drums standing up, mainly with brushes. The band even brought back Dave Schramm on guitar for this tour.

An early member of Yo La Tengo, his last full record with the band was 1990’s Fakebook – a mainly acoustic album comprising covers and five originals. With the band now touring behind Stuff Like That There, another quiet record of mostly covers, the addition of Schramm was a natural.

Regardless of the Act of God (or at least God’s emissary) factors the band faced playing the show that night, the group remained loose, even jovial, throughout the show. “This next song was written by a Muslim, so we’re going to send this one out to Ben Carson… That guy’s a nut,” he introed before moving into “Here Comes My Baby,” by Cat Steven’s. Playing a lot of material from Fakebook and the new album, there were a slew of ambitiously solid covers from The Cure, Devo, Johnny Cash, but the one that got the most approval was when the band launched into “Dreaming” by Philly adoptee Sun Ra.

“When we come to Philadelphia, we always do something by Sun Ra,” Kaplan said. “Maybe it’s not always good to the same thing…. But it’s freaking Sun Ra!” Even playing in the’ burbs on a week night, the band seemed to be enjoying every minute of the set. God knows the audience was.


THE MUFFS – The Muffs

Album: The Muffs

Artist: The Muffs

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: August 14, 2015

Muffs 8-14

The Upshot: L.A. band’s classic ’93 debut had heart, and it had songs—and is now abetted by bonus tracks for a must-own reissue.


Diehard fans of the Muffs might well argue that the band’s self-titled 1993 debut isn’t the classic LP in their catalog. (The band certainly has.) Let’s leave that to the trainspotters, but one thing is for sure: The Muffs is a unique item in the group’s repertoire. This is the only album the group recorded as a quartet, as leader Kim Shattuck and bassist Ronnie Barnett are joined by drummer Criss Crass, holding down the chair for Roy McDonald (who would join with the next album and remains in place), and rhythm guitarist Melanie Vammen (another direct link to Shattuck’s previous band the Pandoras). It’s also the band’s most “produced” record, made with soon-to-be superstar boardsman Rob Cavallo just prior to his work with Green Day, and clearly geared to the nascent alt.rock radio overground.

Radio sheen notwithstanding, though, The Muffs lays out a plan of attack for the rest of the group’s career: short, sharp would-be singles that evenly split responsibilities between punk rock and power pop. Take away the distortion and Shattuck’s Joan Jettesque snarl and “From Your Girl,” “I Need You” and “Everywhere I Go” wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘60s hit parade. On the other chord, remove the troutfishing hooks from “Big Mouth,” “Not Like Me” and “Lucky Guy” and the sneering blast would take over. “Another Day” could be dropped onto a Nuggets compilation and fit in just fine. Catchy tunes and punk attitude still make a tasty meal, and the Muffs mastered it from the get-go.

This edition not only includes the usual remaster, but also adds a slew of bonus tracks. There’s an intriguing  “cassette version” of “Everywhere I Go,” while the pile of solo four-track demos includes non-album songs and a raw feel that still highlights her way with a pop hook. Add illuminating song-by-song commentary from Shattuck and you’ve got a reissue package done the way it should be, keeping the music sounding as it should while adding the kind of extras that actually make it worth the repurchase. Plus, as Barnett says in his liner note essay, “It had heart, it had songs, and is the basis for our still ongoing career.” Spin it again 22 years later and all those things still prove true.

DOWNLOAD: “I Need You,” “Another Day,” “Everywhere I Go” (cassette version)

GOLDBERG – Misty Flats

Album: Misty Flats

Artist: Goldberg

Label: Light In the Attic

Release Date: July 24, 2015

Goldberg 7-24

The Upshot: A lost acid folk gem from 1974 finally sees the light of day.


Barry Thomas Goldberg began his musical journey with early power pop band the Batch, but that’s not how he’s earning his late life infamy. Instead it’s with Misty Flats, a twilight acid folk record recorded in 1974 in a two-day recording jag with outsider musician Michael Yonkers and unreleased until now.

In a way, that timelag was precipitous. Goldberg’s fragile, melodic, folk sounds most like Big Star’s Sister Lovers sessions, a sound for which the early ‘70s was not ready. Forty years on, that sound has been hugely influential, for good and ill. Pretty, heartworn tunes like “Never Came to Stay,” “Magic Cloud” and “Cry a Little Bit” and psychedelic howls like “Pop and Ice” and “China Doll” sound as contemporary as Chilton’s work does today. Yonkers stays low-key in the mix, avoiding the skronk of his own recordings and backing the songwriter up with supreme taste. The sparse, a couple-of-guys-and-a-microphone sonics could have been recorded in 2014 as easily as 1974, making the production timeless.

Goldberg may have to wait for Misty Flats to find its time, but at least now his casually hard work will be heard as contemporary.

DOWNLOAD: “Cry a Little Bit,” “Magic Cloud,” “Never Came to Stay”


LA LUZ – Weirdo Shrine

Album: Weirdo Shrine

Artist: La Luz

Label: Hardly Art

Release Date: September 04, 2015

La Luz

The Upshot: Three dimensional surf/garage noir from distaff point of view, with Ty Segall producing.


Yeah! I love this all-female Seattle quartet’s debut from 2013 (It’s Alive) and was absolutely psyched to hear that they had a new record coming out. Not only that, but how the band was continuing at all following a nasty van accident while on tour in November 2013 (thankfully the band members, while having some injuries, were okay). I’m happy to say that Weirdo Shrine is everything that the debut was and more.

I was even more psyched not just to hear that they got garage rock maven Ty Segal to produce the record, but that they recorded it in a surf shop in San Dimas, California. What that means is that the reverb (the band’s sound has been described as “surf noir”) is even more omnipresent and leader Shana Cleveland’s songwriting is better, more confident. Despite all of the surf comparisons, the band is hard to nail down, at time coming across surfy and reverby and other times dark and haunting (they occasionally remind me of the Dum Dum Girls, another favorite here). A few ace cuts on here include the shakin’ “I Wanna Be Alone (with you)”, the Galaxie 500-ish “I Can’t Speak,” the absolutely sparkling “With Davey” and the turbocharged “Hey Papi”).

Not only is there a batch of killer songs, but you get a pair of 3-D glasses to go along with the 3-D record cover. How’s that for caring about the consumer! Huzzah!

DOWNLOAD: “With Davey,” “Don’t Wanna be Anywhere,” “Hey Papi,” “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine”