Category Archives: Music News

Guadalcanal Diary/Woggles’ Jeff Walls 1956-2019 RIP: An Appreciation

 

From the Editor: Atlanta/Athens musical maverick Jeff Walls passed away this week from what was described as a rare  pulmonary disease. He’d battled it for some time, and a GoFundMe campaign that his old Guadalcanal bandmate Murray Attaway had organized had already raised $45,000 towards a double-lung transplant. At the GoFundMe page a tribute reads, “Jeff Walls passed away on May 29th surrounded by his family. With broken hearts, we will continue this fundraiser and all the scheduled events as a memorial to this remarkable man, and to continue to help his family with the overwhelming medical costs of his care.”  To call Walls a mainstay of the Georgia – and the entire Southern – indie/alternative music community would be an understatement; I saw him early on with the legendary Guadalcanal Diary in the mid ’80s, sometime later with his rockabilly project Hillbilly Frankenstein, and in recent years with garage maestros The Woggles (who were also beloved guests at BLURT’s SXSW day parties at the Ginger Man club in Austin – scroll to the bottom for a video clip from that show). You can read a moving remembrance penned by veteran Georgia music journalist Tony Paris here, and below, our man in Atlanta, John Boydston, submits his own memories in words and photos. There will be memorial concerts to help raise funds for his medical bills later this month: June 7 at The Foundry in Athens, and June 23 at The Earl in Atlanta. – FM

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

Below: Woggles at Hole In The Wall, Austin SXSW, 2013

Jeff Walls was so up-close and friendly with everyone that you didn’t need to be a personal friend to get his full attention, and have conversations like you were in fact a longtime buddy catching up.   A mutual friend describes it well —  ‘When you were eye-to-eye with Jeff and he started telling you something, you just shut up and listened cause it was always amazing stuff.’   No matter what he was talking about it was cool and he let you in.   His friendliness, candor, and humor were always on.  Then throw on top of that what he is best known for: his incredible musical talents, showmanship, and studio chops that were already fully-formed when Guadalcanal Diary cut their first LP in 1984.  (True with that whole band in fact.)

Below: Woggles at Ginger Man, Austin SXSW, 2013
 

And the things I learned just following his Facebook feed and interacting there after I’d met him and shot a couple of SXSW gigs by The Woggles in 2013.   That band was a photographer’s dream, even in the darkest of clubs.  Especially in the darkest of clubs.   They shared my pics that weekend to great acclaim, and Jeff would continue to be highly complimentary of my “shutterbuggery” and thank me for my services every chance he got.   That was cool, cause I would learn Jeff didn’t say anything he didn’t mean.

Below: Jeff Walls w/Blasting Cap (which he formed with Guadalcanal Diary’s Murray Attaway) in Atlanta in 2016
I caught up with Blasting Cap, a band he put together with his wife Phyllis (on bass), GD co-founder Murray Attaway, and drummer Robert Schmid of the Swimming Pool Qs, and a gig at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta in early 2015.  I got some shots of band, and was sitting talking to Q’s singer Anne Boston (who were playing next), while Blasting Cap was winding down their set.  She said it looks like Jeff is getting ready to do something funky and suggested I go behind the stage and shoot whatever it was.  Got there just as Jeff was doing his Stratocaster toss, which I was not expecting.   Jeff’s rock and roll stage showmanship was never not on.   I attempted a GIF of that moment you can see here.

And you got deep thoughts from the guy too – here’s a quote from a private exchange we had on FB talking about the fickle biz he was in – “I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be successful and be admired for music that you secretly hated … Not that I’ve ever had that problem! I think that the less-imaginative, mediocre musicians usually have the opposite problem: They fall in love with everything they do (no matter how god-awful it may sound to others). Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep doing it.”

Below: Jeff Walls with the Plimsouls in Athens in 2016

The next year I caught Jeff in Athens, GA (Ath Popfest) in a retooled version of The Plimsouls, with that band’s original guitarist Eddie Munoz, and Atlanta’s Bryan Malone also filling in for a short East Coast tour.  I forget the bar name, but the stage area was set up like a living room, and these guys exploded for a power-set of Plimsouls hits. Jeff played bass.  Also got to talk to Jeff before the show and that conversation was mostly about how much he loved his family, many of whom were there and ready to rock.  Being a grandparent is the best, he told me.

While I do not have photos, I did catch Guadalcanal Diary twice – once in 1986 at 688, and then a reunion show in 1999.  Plus Jeff’s band Hillbilly Frankenstein in 1993 at Atlanta’s Cotton Club. That might be one of the best rock and roll shows I’ve ever seen, and his timing with the retro-upswing of the ’90s was spot on.    Night and day from GD’s music, it just proved what brilliant a musician and showman Jeff was.

Anyone who can do all that and be the world’s nicest guy will truly be forever missed and appreciated. (Amen. – Ed.)
****
Below: A video clip of the Woggles performing at the above-mentioned BLURT day party during SXSW in 2013.

Track Premiere: Eli Musser “Smile”

Culled from the singer-songwriter’s upcoming debut, it’s an instant pop delight.

By John B. Moore

New York, by way of West Virginia, musician Eli Musser name checks the melodic pop “Big Four” when it comes to influences: Beach Boys, Byrds, Big Star and The Beatles.

And it’s not hard to hear those influences on the song “Smile (‘Cause Somebody Loves You)” off his upcoming debut, Content, due out this fall. Check it out for yourself here, on this Blurt exclusive song premiere.

Says Musser, of the track, “I wrote ‘Smile’ as an anthem of optimism and comfort while going through a tough time: moving to New York in my 20’s brought a lot of changes and loneliness. The uplifting lyrics and hummable melody are simple and direct; the arrangement and production are also a knowing nod to the buoyant studio sounds of the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s a song intended to speak to those who wonder if anyone has their back. The answer is ‘yes’.”

Content was mixed by Bryce Goggin (of Pavement, Evan Dando, Sean Lennon, Ramones, etc., renown). It’s familiar guitar-based rock, brimming with catchy pop melodies and refreshingly personal lyrics. Connect here: https://www.facebook.com/musserofficial

 

Track Premiere: Curse of Lono “Blackout Fever”

Track culled from upcoming, must-hear live album…

BY JOHN B. MOORE & FRED MILLS

Curse of Lono is easily one of the best Americana/Southern Gothic band to not actually come from the South or even from the America for that matter. Since their relatively recent founding, the London four piece has delivered  three near-perfect records (one EP and two LPs) on the Submarine Cat label – check out some of BLURT’s coverage to date:

Curse of Lono 12” EP

Severed LP

As I Fell

They are back with 4am and Counting, a stellar new album of stripped-down live versions of classics from their first two records. Recorded live at Rag Tag Studios in London, the band worked with Grammy-winning producer Liam Watson (White Stripes ‘Elephant’) and Mixer Oli Bayston (Boxed In) for this one. The record also features Pink Floyd slide guitar player BJ Cole and harmonica player Nick Reynolds. The record comes out on July 12th—although fleet-footed fans already scored it as a limited edition pink-vinyl LP on last month’s Record Store Day. (“Easily my favorite score during RSD 2019, from the packaging and sweet colored wax, to the actual sonics, as it has an immediacy and edginess I can’t recall experiencing in some time,” commented BLURT editor Fred Mills.)

As the band is obviously favorite here, we are beyond thrilled (or chuffed, if you’re reading this from the UK) to be premiering the song “Blackout Fever.”

“We wanted to capture the vibe we get when we’re jamming late at night,” explains frontman Felix Bechtolsheimer. “So we booked a couple of days in the studio, invited a few friends down and pressed record. Toe Rag Studios is an incredible place. There are no computers. There’s no technology to tempt you. We just played everything completely live like we do when we’re messing around in our rehearsal room, with no overdubs or studio trickery, so what you hear is exactly what was played.”

The band will be touring Europe for much of this summer, and you can view tour dates at their Facebook page.

More useful links:

 https://www.curseoflonoband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/curseoflonoband/

https://twitter.com/curseoflonoband

https://www.instagram.com/curseoflonoband/

 

 

 

Video Premiere: Floating Children “Hive Mind”

Glam-bam-thank-you-Ma’am! You’ll be ditching social media and reverting to real-world activities soon, thanks to the band and the surreal video’s creator. (Photos credit: Emma Esser)

By Blurt Staff

North Carolina musical institution The Floating Children take their “dancing tribe” on a surreal journey in the new animated video for current single, “Hive Mind.” Created by NC State College of Design professor Greg Carter, the video follows avatars of band members as they navigate the weird world of social media, ultimately re-discovering the bonding and uplifting power of music. The song itself also captures  the Floating Children performance aesthetic – building to a chanted crescendo, it piles crunchy guitars, a theremin, swelling harmonies, a toy piano, and more into what the band rightly calls “a mountain of ear candy.”

“It’s a bit like ‘Yellow Submarine’ re-booted for our new, digital age of human exploration,” says Carter (pictured here).

He’s not kidding – you half expect a pack of Blue Meanies to pop out of the frame at some point. We’re pretty stoked to be able to share the video with the BLURT audience, so check it out below:

Hive Mind – Black Hat mix from Greg Carter on Vimeo.

“We didn’t just go to town on this production, we went to the Emerald City by way of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” says Floating Children lead singer Billy Warden. “The glitter and glee of our shows are all over these grooves.”

Sums up guitarist Jeffo Holshouser: “‘Hive Mind’ is our glam band grand slam.”

The song was produced by Michael Graziano and Artem Smirnov at Raleigh’s Thread Audio studios, and the band subsequently discovered Carter’s animated art at Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum. They note that at that point they knew they “had their man – he could bring it to life with appropriate ‘zip and zow.'”

Fittingly, the Floating Children unveiled “Hive Mind” with a surreal “happening” at Raleigh’s leading downtown gallery, ArtSpace. The spectacle included:

  • The national anthem performed by Micah Gaugh on his famed double sax

  • Mister Rogers readings in character by Raleigh attorney Gene Davis

  • The percussion stylings of Bongo John

  • An appropriately antic set by the band which was crashed by a man in a gorilla suit

From “Hive Mind”:

“Can’t put your phone down?
Come to our gig in your town
You won’t need a code
Just let your joy explode …
Come on, expand your hive mind”

Incoming: N.C. Cold Mountain Fest w/Calexico, Milk Carton Kids, YMSB

Third annual acclaimed event takes place May 31-June 1 in Canton, North Carolina.

By Fred Mills

With the festival season already in motion (the celeb clusterfuck known as Coachella not duly noted), here in the Tar Heel state – where BLURT is based – the concert-going denizens are gearing up. Literally in our backyard is the third installment of the Cold Mountain Music Festival, taking place May 31 and June 1 in Canton, North Carolina, at the undeniably gorgeous Lake Logan, and our magic 8-ball tells us that it promises to be a winner.

Allow us to quote from the organizers, and watch this space for updates and additional info.

With music as its centerpiece, Cold Mountain is pleased to be hosting a tasting board of artists ranging from the folk, funk, Americana, bluegrass and post-rock worlds, with highlights including a very special full band performance by Grammy-nominated outfit The Milk Carton Kids, critically acclaimed “desert noir” duo Calexico, crowd-favorite bluegrass ensemble Yonder Mountain String Band, fast rising troubadour J.S. Ondara, and “soul queen” Kat Wright, among others. With two full days of nonstop music, attendees can expect an immersive and balanced weekend of electric, hip-shaking tunes and swoon-worthy acoustic melodies. Also to note, daily schedules and single day passes have just been released, making it easier than ever for folks to curate their ideal festival experience.

Tying it all together is Lake Logan’s pristine 300-acre property surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest, where a variety of outdoor activities will be available, including paddle-boarding (on Cold Mountain equipment only), swimming, and fishing (with valid permit).

With music, food, sun and sand, Haywood County’s own Cold Mountain Festival is the ultimate weekend retreat. General admission weekend, single day, and youth passes are available at www.coldmountainmusic.org and range from $20-$100. For more information on camping, dining, and more, please visit www.coldmountainmusic.org/faq.

 

 

Boy Howdy! Creem Documentary Film Interviews

Director Scott Crawford and writer/co-producer Jaan Uhelszki talk about their documentary on the legendary rock mag. Check out a film teaser as well as an extended trailer following the interview.

BY ROBIN E. COOK

Creem was a zany, larger-than-life rock magazine that could only have emerged in Detroit in the late 1960s. The personalities behind Creem were equally colorful, such as founder Barry Kramer and writers Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs. The magazine’s history is told in Boy Howdy! The Story of Creem, with interviews from former staffers and rock star fans.

The documentary was screened last month in Austin during South by Southwest, and Blurt interviewed the film’s director Scott Crawford and writer/ex-Creem scribe Jaan Uhelszki. (Ed. Note: Crawford, incidentally, originally founded Blurt in 2008, following the demise of his popular music magazine Harp; he subsequently handed off the reins to current owner Stephen Judge to embark upon a career in film. Jaan Uhelszki, in addition to her storied career as a journalist, was a contributor to both publications. I was proud to work with both of them. Don’t miss this film, period.—FM)

Upcoming This Month: Monolith on the Mesa Festival

Put your transport settings on “Taos” (and don’t forget to bring ‘shrooms to this new festival,,,)

By Jonathan Levitt

The maiden Monolith on the Mesa music festival will take place on May 17 and 18th in Taos New Mexico. When I saw the lineup, I immediately booked my flights and started listening to some of the bands I thought I would never have a chance to see like Om, Dead Meadow, and Woven Hand.

Having grown up in the southwest, northern New Mexico was often a favorite summer destination for my family. Psychedelic music has often drawn inspiration from the desert southwest, with its dramatic thunderstorms and intense heat as well as certain mystical elements mythologized by folklore and druggy culture. Two years ago when I was living in Santa Fe it snowed on April 29th and then a few days later hail storms hit the area. Taos experiences even more unpredictable weather from what I hear, so things might get interesting! Festival founders Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham (we’ll be running an interview with them soon) have curated what looks to be the festival to beat in 2019.

There will be plenty of local vendors selling their wares, and according to the festival, both the indoor and outdoor venues should allow for a more intimate interaction between band and audience. I will attempt to film some of the festival for our readers in the hope that some of you will be similarly inspired to make the trek down to New Mexico. Anyway, on to a few of the bands.

OM, whose album Advaitic Songs has been on constant rotation in my life, manages to seamlessly blend Indian musical elements and their heavy narcotic churn.   Check out this amazing clip from 2013


Dead Meadow, who hail from Washington D.C., have seven amazing albums of psychedelic brilliance under their belt and this show from 2017 suggests what a blistering set they can deliver:

Let’s also not forget that Jason Simon is also a part of the band Old Mexico, whose brilliant album was reviewed in these very pages just a few months ago.

David Eugene Edwards’ band Woven Hand takes the fire and brimstone of 16 horsepower and blends it with widescreen mysticism. This show that was performed at a Synagogue in 2011, shows the incandescent transitory nature of their music.

There are also bands that I only recently discovered, such as Canadian band Weeed who bring the heavy on this titanic tune “Rainbow Amplifier Worship”—check out this live version:

And then there’s Green Druid with their sludge version of “My Sharona”:

Not to mention Pinkish Black with this epic track entitled “Loss of Feeling of Loss”:

Video Premiere: Holiday Gunfire “She’s Got A Machine”

Trippy track plucked from the group’s recently released debut on Cornelius Chapel. (Photo credit: Jackie Lo)

By John B. Moore

Less than two years after the Alabama-based Holiday Gunfire came together over fireworks, booze and BBQ, the group is already out with their self-titled debut LP. The record is a raucous, wildly diverse tour through the world of rock, drawing in influences across the spectrum from punk and garage to power pop and ’90s alternative.

Given that, BLURT jumped at the opportunity to host the trippy video premiere for the band’s latest single, “She’s Got A Machine.”

“The initial idea of the song happened when I was visiting the Hemingway House in Key West,” said Lester Nuby III. “I had the idea of an actual physical machine that someone could use to break someone’s heart. Destroy their life/Kill their spirit. What would that look like? Where is it kept? And over time, the person that uses it also is destroyed. A true uplifter! Enjoy!”

With that in mind: enjoy!

Holiday Gunfire’s self-titled album is out now on vinyl, CD, digital and streaming formats via Cornelius Chapel Records

 

Video Premiere: Luther Russell “At Your Feet”

Track taken from the rocker’s recent album, Medium Cool.

By Fred Mills

You know the name Luther Russell: the L.A.-based singer songwriter adept at navigating multiple genres all at once, from power pop to indie rock to twangy Americana to classic ’70sesque rock. He’s also one-half, along with Big Star’s Jody Stephens of Those Pretty Wrongs, and he recently turned up at the Wild Honey Foundation’s Kinks tribute concert.

We’re stoked to be able to premiere a video of a track from Russell’s new album Medium Cool (issued Feb. 22 on Fluff & Gravy ) titled “At Your Feet,” so take a look below. It was directed by NYC musician Luke Rathborne, who was also behind videos for Those Pretty Wrongs. Our own John B. Moore, in his review of the album, enthused how Russell shuns “trendy musical fades for a timeless set of guitar-driven, strong narrative songs that could have come out at any time over the past 40 years.”

“For me,” says Russell, “the key to this song is in the bridge. ‘Hear the rose parade / marching through town / The new pom-pom girls / Make the same old sound’. The old guard switches to the new, and that goes for love and its inevitable fog of war. We’ve all had the feeling where the one we need most sees all but you, lying pale and impaled at their feet.

“Jason Hiller brings a rolling understanding with his bass after the bridge and all the colors refracted by the rain bleed down the windshield. Count it as a loss, but a bittersweet one.”

 

Yours truly reviewed Russell’s 2018 anthology, Selective Memories, writing, “Although he’s not quite a rock ‘n’ roll Zelig, Luther Russell has reared his head in enough disparate settings — from the Bootheels (with Jakob Dylan, no less) in the late ‘80s and the Freewheelers in the ‘90s, to myriad solo incarnations (that found him in the company of such talents as Marc Ford from the Black Crowes and Ethan Johns) and, most recently, guesting at the Wild Honey Orchestra tribute concert – to presume that his music industry Rolodex is pretty damn fat. The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist also finds time to team up with Big Star’s Jody Stephens as Those Pretty Wrongs, so he’s got pretty damn good taste, too.”

So what are you waiting for? Check out Russell’s latest and prepare to be amazed.
 

 

Sara Romweber (Snatches of Pink, Let’s Active, Dex Romweber Duo) 1963-2019 R.I.P.

“You just had to see her play once, and you’d never forget her”: One of the best damn rock drummers ever. Above: brother Dex Romweber with Sara. Scroll down to check out some video and audio.

By Fred Mills

The full details have not been disclosed yet, but what we do know is that Sara Romweber, the kit-crushing drummer for North Carolina’s Snatches of Pink, Let’s Active, and Dex Romweber Duo, has passed away at the age of 55, reportedly from cancer. As I write this the tributes from fans, friends, and fellow music critics are pouring forth on Facebook, testimony to how much she was respected in the music community – and loved in general.

I first met Sara in the early ‘80s when she was the diesel engine helping power Let’s Active  (pictured above, with Mitch Easter and the late Faye Hunter), and she was both hilarious and deliberately weird, full of offbeat jokes and muttered nonsequiturs. Sometime later, after leaving the band, she got together with Michael Rank, Jack Wenberg, and Andy McMillan in Chapel Hill to form garage/trash/twang renegades Snatches of Pink, a true rock ‘n’ roll antihero outfit whose uncompromising style and attitude had a way of creating a loyal fanbase even while club owners would sometimes be aghast at the group’s “unprofessional” behavior. Yours truly, writing in a 2015 essay titled “Why Snatches of Pink Was the Greatest North Carolina Band of the Late ‘80s and Early ‘90s,” observed, “Booze clearly fueled this band, which had slimmed down to a trio, McMillan having assumed the bass position (and sharing vocals with Rank) for 1989’s Dead Men. This LP, along with next year’s 4-song mini album Deader Than You’ll Ever Be, which was cut live at CBGB as a promotional radio release, is what solidified their image as a hard-drinkin’, unrepentantly badass group who clearly did not give a shit what folks—and, significantly, club owners and bookers—thought about the band as long as they came out to the show.” (Below: Snatches of Pink.)

I have more than a few memories of hanging with Sara, Mike, and Andy before and after shows, and Sara was just as hilarious as ever, yet in getting to know her a little better, I was struck by her intensity when it came to talking about favorite films and, especially, books. (One has plenty of time to read books when one is in a touring band.) In between tossing back shots we had a number of discussions about great – and even not-so-great – authors.

Later, during the late ‘00s and well into the current decade, Sara joined brother Dexter as the Dex Romweber Duo (above). I’ll never forget working at Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC, during the 2012 Record Store Day blowout: the Duo was scheduled to play a set that afternoon, and when Dex and Sara finally rolled up I went over to greet them. “Fred!” Sara shrieked, and gave me a huge hug – due to my moving around quite a bit, it had probably been 20 years since we’d seen each other, and it was a wonderful feeling to know that even after all that time she instantly recognized me and remembered some of the, uh, misadventures I had shared with the Snatches gang.

My deepest condolences to the Romweber family and to everyone who knew and loved Sara. May she rest in peace. Below are a few remembrances that have just been posted online that I feel are well worth sharing.

***

Stephen Judge, Schoolkids Records: “All of us at Schoolkids at devastated to hear this news today of the passing of a good friend, Sara Romweber. Sara was an amazing drummer and an even better person. Always lit up the room with her smile and charm. She loved coming to the shops on Record Store Day and she and her brother Dexter played our shops many times over the years. She was an inspiration to us all.”

Michael Toland, Austin Chronicle/Blurt: “One of the best rock & roll drummers to ever beat the skins. I saw SOP (when they were going by the name Clarissa) at the Electric Lounge one night and she was astonishing – precise, grooving and, above all, powerful. One of the unsung rock drumming greats.”

Michael Plumides, former owner of Charlotte’s 4808 Club: “The last show was performed by Snatches of Pink two nights later. No one showed up because the entire city thought we were out of business. They had revoked our ABC permit that day. That afternoon, Sara Romweber brought me a little hand-painted black bat on a string that she said she made for me. I adored Snatches of Pink but Sara especially and frankly, I was one of the few people in town who would book them.”

David Menconi, 2019 Piedmont Laureate and former music critic at Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Whenever I’d see Sara Romweber onstage, I would ask myself: How does she hit those drums so hard? Because even though she was slightly built and soft-spoken, Sara could bring the thunder. Sarah did not seem like one to call attention to herself. But you just had to see her play once, and you’d never forget her.”