Musical Monday: Bon Jovi

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Are you laughing yet? I’m really not a Bon Jovi fan. When I was in the 5th grade (1988), I had the flu, and my dad wanted to buy me a present to make me feel better. I asked for the cassette tape of Bon Jovi’s album, “New Jersey.” I don’t remember why I liked it at the time. It was the first cassette tape (of popular music, anyway) that I ever owned. I heard “Lay Your Hands on Me” driving home from work today and thought, “Why did I like this when I was 10?” I still have no clue what about it appealed to me. But any time I hear a song from that album (“Bad medicine is what I need, whoa-a-oh!”), I will always remember being sick and in 5th grade and getting my first tape. And everyone thought I was really cool when I got better and went back to school, too. We passed my Walkman around on the playground while twisting our swings tighter and tighter, like a telephone cord. Then we’d cling to one of the front poles on the swing set, and let go on the count of three, spiralling and zig-zagging backwards, kicking up wood chips, enjoying the sporadic and unpredictable movement in the middle of a militarily structured day.

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Musical Monday: Acoustic Syndicate

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Went to Charleston, SC this weekend to see Acoustic Syndicate at the Pour House. Awesome show, awesome venue. Since Ziggy’s is no longer in existence (sadly), this has to be my new favorite place to see live music. Just the right size, good acoustics, good beer, places to sit, comfortable outdoor area. Two stages, two bars. My only complaint is that it is relatively hard to maneuver yourself from the bar to the floor to the restroom and so forth if it’s very crowded. I think every hippie in South Carolina (and a few from North Carolina, like us) turned out for this show — it was their first since returning from playing in Jamaica, and we were all suffering from withdrawal!

If you want a copy of the recording, leave a comment! Taper Nerd recorded sound, and Jen videotaped!

Stay tuned for more details on the rest of the trip on Travel Wednesday!

Musical Monday: Darrell Scott

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From Wikipedia: Darrell Scott is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has written several mainstream country hits, and also has established himself as one of Nashville’s premier session instrumentalists. Scott has collaborated with Steve Earle, Sam Bush, Emmylou Harris, John Cowan, Verlon Thompson, Guy Clark, Tim O’Brien, Kate Rusby, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and many others. He won an AmericanMusic Award in 2007 for Songwriter of the Year. I’m typically not a big fan of music that can be labeled as “Americana,” and dominates public radio in our area. But Darrell Scott is one of my mom’s favorite musicians, and I actually really enjoy his music and his voice.

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Buy or download the latest album here.

Musical Monday: Bubba Sparxxx

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So you know how your freshman year in college, when people are trying to get to know each other, someone always asks, “What kind of music do you like?” Actually, this is still a good indicator for me of whether I’ll get along with someone or not. But back then, most people would say something like, “Oh, I like everything. Except maybe rap and country.” Well, then I’m sorry, but you don’t like “everything.” I realize that those people were trying to be adaptable and not send any potential new friends running, but dude, that’s so boring.

I would never call myself an aficionado of rap or country, BUT(!) I do like the occasional rap or country song. I have plenty of random singles on my iPod from the likes of Jay-Z, Outkast, and Garth Brooks. I can’t say I own any complete country albums. But I do own two complete rap albums: License to Ill by Beastie Boys and Deliverance by Bubba Sparxxx. It just hit me that they’re both white. How odd. Beasties are just nostalgic and fun to me, and remind me of some good friends and some crazy times. Bubba Sparxxx is unique in many ways, and that’s why I like him.

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Being from the deep South (LaGrange, Georgia), his lyrics reflect a sort of deep-seated anger (but also an inner strength) that I think a lot of extremely poor people in the South experience. I know the people he raps about. I have met some of the characters in his songs. He writes about the poor white South’s own personal version of the ghetto, which is arguably no more positive an existence than urban black ghettos, only no one really talks about it. And like some black rappers have done for the young black community to empower and motivate them to think differently about their circumstances, so Bubba Sparxxx does for a different segment of the population.

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Just as the perspective of black youth today is still influenced by the experiences of their ancestors in oppressive conditions, there are aspects of the poor South’s plight that go back to the Civil War and the years afterwards spent trying to rebuild what was lost. I think Bubba Sparxxx hits on this concept without coming across as a racist redneck. I don’t think there is anything racist about him. And we would all do well to look at the similarites he’s pointing out between low-income, disadvantaged people in general, regardless of skin color.

One of his themes lyrically is the idea of a “New South,” which he believes we are experiencing today, and which he encourages young people to nurture. Think about the concept of “Old South” and all the negative things it stood for (some of which linger even now). He’s in effect preaching the opposite, telling people to rise above their differences and their circumstances, and to be proud of who they are and where they come from. But he also jokes around about the dumb redneck stereotypes, because as those of us from the South know, those stereotypes exist for a reason, and there really are some people like that.

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I also really like the fact that he incorporates some traditional Southern-sounding music into his songs. The Deliverance album features Yonder Mountain String Band, which is one of my favorite “jam grass” bands from Colorado. Even though they’re not technically from the South, I respect the fact that they are carrying on the Southern musical tradition of bluegrass. He has sampled their original tune “To See You Comin’ Round,” about which YMSB’s bassist, Ben Kaufmann, had this to say:

“I think it’s great. Timbaland is responsible for the original mix, and it could be a revolutionary idea. In the song, the beat is still there and what really comes through is the voice and the fiddle. I’ve always thought that you could take acoustic instruments and hybridize that sound with the hip-hop beat to get an acoustic hip-hop experience. There can be no limits.”

bubba2 Buy it or download it here.

Musical Monday: Ryan Montbleau Band

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My friend Jen and her lovely husband, Taper Nerd, introduced me to this band a few months ago after seeing them live several times. They are from Massachusetts and are often compared musically to Martin Sexton. Ryan’s voice reminds me of Gavin DeGraw. When I told Taper Nerd this, he said, “Gavin Who?” Waaay too mainstream for these people. So perhaps Ryan Montbleau is the Gavin DeGraw for the anti-mainstream set. They bring a lot of different styles into their music, so it would be unfair to say, “Well, they’re a jam band,” or “They play zydeco,” or “Folksy singer-songwriter stuff.” It’s jazzy, bluesy, bluegrassy, jammy, funky, and soulful all rolled into one. This is music that’s appropriate for all occasions, from ping pong night with the guys to wine and gossip with the girls, a long road trip or a lazy afternoon. It’s fun, and they don’t take themselves so seriously, like that douche John Mayer. They have a song about breakfast, for Pete’s sake. I love pleasant surprises, and this band definitely qualifies.

You can download some shows for free here. Or you can leave a comment and I’ll try to get you a copy from Taper Nerd.

Musical Monday: Phish IT

Last week’s big music news (at least in my world) was the announcement that Phish has set summer tour dates after a 4+ year hiatus, and one of the stops includes the Asheville Civic Center. As someone pointed out to me, Asheville is the only indoor venue and the only stop in the South on this whole tour, so it will probably be the most difficult to get tickets for. I don’t give up that easily. My ticket request is in through the Phish lottery, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try the dreaded Ticket*ast%r$. Hopefully out of everyone I know, someone will be able to get tickets to at least one show. But it won’t be easy.

So in honor of the Vermont boys’ reunion, I’m sharing the DVD documentary of the last show I saw. It was a euphoric, muddy, non-stop extravaganza of people, music, and fun that is in my top 10 list of favorite memories. 2003 was an excellent year of music and traveling for me.

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I was going to write my own summary of this festival DVD, but the one I found on Amazon says it all: “Shot in breath-taking High Definition, the DVD follows the band, hailed by Rolling Stone as ‘America’s Greatest Jam Band,’ along with 70,000 loyal Phish fans from all over the world to IT – a two-day festival in remote Limestone, Maine, that marked the end of their summer 2003 tour. This 2-DVD set includes over 4 hours of music and offers an exhilarating look into what has made this band a cultural phenomenon for the past 21 years.”

See you in Asheville on June 9! (I hope!)

phishitdvd   Buy it here.

Musical Monday: Trenchtown Rock Anthology

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I never get sick of Bob Marley. His music makes me insanely happy, and I have nothing but good memories associated with it, which is nice. Today’s musical selection is a 2-disc set of early Wailers. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my friend, and he chose this album from my iPod, even though he also owns it. This is, I think, a testament to the staying power of the album. Or it could just be a testament to his love of reggae. He is good at reminding me about great music I’ve been ignoring for too long, and at dancing to reggae. And dancing to reggae is just not something I can see the world ever having too much of going on.

This compilation is not for the uninitiated. You’ll find some song titles you may recognize from later Island Records recordings, but here they are raw, scratchy, less stylized. It’s not often you hear a CD that sounds like vinyl, but this one does because the engineers kept the sound authentic by not “remastering” all the good stuff out. One of my new favorites is “Do It Twice,” along with a really great version of “Soul Rebel.”  There are also several tracks on this album that you won’t find anywhere else.

You can download it for free here.