Halloween is traditionally the kind of holiday just made for club shows. A great time to dress up in crazy outfits and go out dancing and drinking. So no surprise that plenty of that will be happening this weekend. Instead of the usual shenanigans, why not check out this fascinating show on Thursday, October 27 at Columbia City Theater that brings together a host of local roots musicians and songwriters inspired by the immortal novel/film "The Shining."
The Bushwick Book Club Seattle has been producing shows inspired by books for a little while now and have built a great following. If you've read the book (or seen the movie... we like movies too!), it's such a great idea to gather together to experience songs written about the work. It's kind of like a songwriting challenge, with very accessible results. The idea comes from a monthly book club/songwriters event in Brooklyn, but local Seattleite Geoff Larsen started a Northwest branch just a year ago. They've already covered material as diverse as Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. You can hear some of the results on Bushwick Book Club's Bandcamp page.
I can't wait to hear what the artists have come up with for The Shining. The movie is iconic, of course, mainly for Jack Nicholson's electrifying performance as a father steadily going insane in a deserted mountaintop hotel. I'm a huge fan of The Shining, and I've been to Timberline Lodge outside Portland, where much of the movie exteriors were shot. I'd say that The Shining is the Godfather of horror movies; a perfect creation.
The book was written by Stephen King, and it's easily one of his best. The movie stays pretty close to King's novel (with the exception of some freaky topiary lions that come to life in the book), so if you've haven't read the book, you're probably fine. But read it anyway. It's the perfect thing to read on Halloween!
Here's a sample track from a previous Bushwick Book Club event that paired songwriters with The Time Traveler's Wife. Local singer Vince Martinez nails the task at hand. He's written a song that's loosely inspired by the book, but clearly touches on larger themes. Also, in this case, his song is probably better than the book, from all accounts (I haven't read it, sorry). And for future Bushwick Book Club meetings, I'm putting my vote in for George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones (which I'm reading now and can't put down).
Also, for our folkie friends, Northwest songwriter Wes Weddell has written an excellent ode to a bagpipe, inspired by Shel Silverstein's poem "The Bagpipe Who Didn't Say No." Wes does a great job of bringing Silverstein's rye humor and slightly sad, wistful themes to the song. Masterfully done.
10/26/2011 | comments (0)
Hearth Music Promotions is going strong this month with two albums of compelling folk and roots music. Plus we're incredibly proud to announce that our artists Pharis & Jason Romero and Ivan Rosenberg & The Foggy Hogtown Boys are at NUMBER ONE and NUMBER THREE on the international Folk-DJ Charts for September. Sandwiched right around Gillian Welch, who's at number two. Yay!!
Pharis & Jason Romero: #1 Top Albums and Songs of Sept 2011 on Folk-DJ Charts, #4 and #5 Top Songs ("Forsaken Love", "Hillbilly Blues"), #3 Top Artists!
Ivan Rosenberg & The Foggy Hogtown Boys: #3 Top Albums and Songs of Sept 2011 on Folk-DJ Charts, #7 Top Artists
FOLK-DJ RADIO CHARTS
Misner & Smith's California Folk Roots, Kyle Alden's Vision of Yeats' Poetry
Misner & Smith: Live at the Freight & Salvage
Misner & Smith are a gem of a musical pairing, offering a refreshing take on contemporary folk music. Their lovely harmonies and perfectly blended voices fit within classic American traditions, and their songwriting and storytelling transport the listener to a world of their creation. That is the hallmark of any folk singer worth his or her salt, but Misner & Smith have a truly unique quality in the chemistry of their duets that set them apart from the field. Perhaps it’s a shared appreciation and connection to the musical history of their Bay Area home, or maybe it’s simply fate that brought these two artists together, but whatever the impetus for their musical journey, we are unquestionably the better for it.
The duo’s new album Live at the Freight & Salvage is both a testament to their undeniable talent and the quality of their live performances. Recorded at Berkeley’s famed acoustic venue, the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, Misner & Smith’s album sounds as good as most studio albums, but with the added energy of a live show. Upon first listen, it’s a pleasant surprise when the audience breaks into applause at the end of “Greyhound Days”, the memorable first track; aside from the album’s title, you would never know everything was recorded live in one take. That’s how tight their harmonies are and how impressive the performance is. The true beauty of Live at the Freight and Salvage is that you can hear for yourself how much Misner & Smith love their audience and how much fun they're having.
Misner & Smith: Madeline (Paradise Cracked)
Misner & Smith: Piccolo Pete
Kyle Alden: Songs from Yeat's Bee-Loud Glade
The jester walked in the garden:
The garden had fallen still;
He bade his soul rise upward
And stand on her window-sill.
Reading these lines from Irish poet W. B. Yeats, Bay Area musician Kyle Alden felt the words leap from the page as a song. He had just been to Ireland on tour with his Irish folk band, the Gas Men, and it seemed like Yeats was following him around. While traveling through County Galway, Alden stopped at the house where Yeats used to live, and at Coole Park, immortalized in the poem “The Wild Swans at Coole.” Back home in San Anselmo, California, Alden pulled down a dusty collection of Yeats’ poems and found a trove of potential songs. It was if they were just waiting for a melody and a voice. Alden picked up his guitar and soon had “The Cap and Bells,” a touching allegory of love between a jester and a queen.
Kyle Alden has deep ties in the Bay Area roots music scene, with feet firmly planted in both folk rock and Irish traditional music. After growing up on the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Alden turned his rich voice and his talent on the guitar and mandolin towards Irish music as well as his own work. He also has a notable solo career, having brought out three of his own albums in the past six years. After twenty years of collaborating with some of the top talent in the business, Alden called in some favors, and has brought master mandolinist Mike Marshall, former Frank Zappa bassist Scott Thunes, and violinist Athena Tergis, a featured soloist with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra, to lend a hand with this tribute to Ireland’s greatest poet.
Songs from the Bee-Loud Glade takes thirteen of Yeats’ poems and sets them to Alden’s signature modern folk style. Irish tradition weaves in and out, but so does the fingerpicking and slide guitar, along with beautiful harmonies and instrumentation. Brought to life with passion and skill, Yeats’ poems don’t feel a day old. Some burst with energy; some drift peacefully—all capture some part of the magic of Ireland and its incomparable bard.
Kyle Alden: Brown Penny
Kyle Alden: The Cap and Bells
10/25/2011 | comments (0)
Friday, November 25
A Tribute to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
featuring Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, Kevin Barrans & Friends, Ben Fisher, RedDog, Folichon Cajun Band, Pacific NW Sacred Harp Singers, Norman Baker, Virgin of the Birds, Jeremy Burk, Sokai Stilhed, Colin J Nelson, and special animation by Drew Christie
Free Harry Smith Compilation CD with Entry (courtesy of Ball of Wax)
Columbia City Theater
4916 Rainier Ave S.
Tickets $10 adv/$15 door
Show at 9pm
The gnomish genius and Bellingham native Harry Smith was renowned for his psychedelic paintings, mad knowledge of the most arcane corners of human lore, and frightening intensity. But mostly he's known for his seminal "Anthology of American Folk Music." Originally released as three volumes of LPs, the music on the "mixtapes" was a loving ode to the weird, dark recesses of American roots music. Culled from his collection of 78rpm records, the Anthology introduced America to lost artists like Dock Boggs, Charlie Poole, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, and entire genres of Americana, like Cajun music or Sacred Harp singing. The influence of Harry Smith's Anthology is still felt today, and on November 25, Seattle's Columbia City Theater will host multiple generations of Northwest artists who've been inspired by the Anthology.
Levi Fuller's Ball of Wax is co-presenting this show along with American Standard Time and Hearth Music. Levi's kind of like a modern Harry Smith, minus Smith's bizarre habits and strange hygiene. For years he's been compiling albums of Northwest musicians, digging deep into our local scene to move beyond the usual list of "accepted" bands in town. His musical tastes roam all over the map, and we've been working together to develop a lineup that can do some kind of justice to the mystical eclecticism of Smith's masterpiece. For this show, Levi's put together a compilation of Northwest artists covering songs from Smith's Anthology. This CD comes free with entry to the show!
We're very proud to present Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, one of the best roots music songwriters around and an artist who really gets the heart and soul of Smith's old-timey music collection. Kevin Barrans of the Maldives will be joining us as well, a NW banjo player and Sacred Harp singer who will also bring along the Pacific NW Sacred Harp Singers. If you've never experience live sacred harp singing, it's a hair-raising experience, full of harmonies eerie enough to echo back from the depths of a sin-ridden hell. Seattle's favorite old-time stringband RedDog will contribute some songs, featuring Doug Yule of the Velvet Underground on voice and fiddle, Folichon Cajun Band will plumb the depths of Smith's Cajun collection, and Levi's got a whole host of surprising guests from the indie roots scene, like Virgin of the Birds, Ben Fisher, Sokai Stilhed and more.
As a very special treat, Seattle animator and mad genius Drew Christie will premier a new animation based on John Cohen's (New Lost City Ramblers) meeting with Harry Smith. You can check out Christie's previous film on Cohen here:
10/25/2011 | comments (0)
Each year, the massive behemoth of festival anarchy that is the Northwest Folklife Festival releases a compilation album of live recordings drawn from their huge pool of festival performances. I used to work on these when I was at Folklife, so I know how hard it is to search through the many recordings. In fact, you can listen to a lot of these recordings yourself, if you're interested. Folklife maintains a page on their website of recorded performances from the last festival. There's a ton of listening there! Check it out:
Listen to past Folklife recordings
The best things about the annual Northwest Folklife Festival are the crazy juxtapositions of music genres. No other festival can give you reggae, taiko drumming, old-time stringbands, indie rock, Zimbabwean marimba, and underground hip-hop on the same stage on the same day, one after the other. And that's the best thing about Folklife's new compilation album, Roots & Branches Vol. 3 - Live from the 2011 Festival. As in the making of any good mixtape, the tracks meld together despite the wildly disparate genres. You wouldn't think that the barn-burning bluegrass of Nell Robinson with John Reischman & The Jaybirds could segue into the bagpipe/fiddle music of renowned Celtic band Molly's Revenge, or that the drunken-master surf guitars of The Corespondents could switch over to the Latin-funk of Picoso. Balkan accordion from Mary Sherhart & Michael Lawson finds an unlikely friend in the old-time picking and clogging of Squirrel Butter, and old-school funk masters Wheedle's Groove segue perfectly into the sleepy electric blues of The Jelly Rollers. It's a wild ride, and like the festival itself, you never know where this album is going to take you next.
The Corespondents: Massive Choosits
The Jelly Rollers: Reno Factory
NW Friends: TONIGHT (Friday, Oct 21), Northwest Folklife is hosting a CD Release Party at Columbia City Theater! Spoonshine, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, The Corespondents, Mary Sherhart, and Chris Cunningham of Ravenna Woods, will be performing. It will be great fun!
10/21/2011 | comments (0)
We're always happy to host a guest blog from our resident accordion expert, Dr. Squeeze. Here he writes about the new album from two Irish master musicians: Jackie Daly (accordion) & Matt Cranitch (fiddle).
Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch's Irish Roots
by Dr. Squeeze
I have always been a huge fan of Jackie Daly. I admired an early photo of him with his gentle elfish looks and macho tattoo from his early days in the Merchant Marine. He had the look of a gnarly box-playing seaman who had knocked around the far-away ports of the world, picking up tunes and bar fights. I was impressed that he was a master of not only the C#/D box, but the B/C box, the Melodeon, and the Concertina. His first CD set the tone for the rest of his repertoire – the seminal, unaccompanied Music From Sliabh Luachra that came out in 1977 and featured the famous tattoo photo along with never before heard tunes from an unknown region of Ireland. After a diet of Sligo and Clare tunes, Jackie’s introduction to the music of his home was authentic and refreshing. He then became the first of the De Danann accordionists, appearing on their CD’s from 1980 to 1985. Some critics think that it’s thanks to his playing that the accordion went from a dance band instrument (think Jimmy Shand) to a concert-stage instrument. Jackie Daly has played with many of the great Irish fiddlers, including Seamus Creagh (Jackie Daly agus Séamus Creagh 1977), Kevin Burke (If the Cap Fits 1978 and Eavesdropper 1981) and later in Patrick Street until 2007. He played with Séamus and Manus McGuire in Button and Bows.
Finally, in 2010 Jackie has teamed up with Matt Cranitch to return to his Sliabh Luachra roots in The Living Stream. In Gaelic, Sliabh Luachra means ‘the mountain of rushes.' It is a region of Munster, Ireland bordering the counties of Cork, Kerry, and Limerick. The music features many polkas and slides and the region boasts such legendary musicians as Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Paddy Cronin, Padraig O’Keefe and Donal Murphy. In The Living Stream we have two great authorities, promoters, and performers of the Sliabh Luachra repertoire. Fiddler Matt Cranitch had already teamed up with Dónal Murphy on accordion in 1995 to produce a CD of music from Sliabh Luachra called Sliabh Notes (pronounced sleeve notes). [ed. -This album is one of our favorite Irish trad albums and is sadly out of print.] On The Living Stream Cranitch joins Jackie Daly to pay tribute to the great musicians and rich heritage of their home turf. They go back to their roots to present us the jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, barndances, slides and slow airs that are still played at set dances in their native counties. We hear tunes from Julia Clifford (The Tenpenny Bit and Art O’Keefe’s), from the collections of O’Neil’s and Breandán Breathnach (The Heather Breeze/Tap the Barrel/The New Mown Meadow), a hornpipe from Denis Murphy (An Trí is a Rian), some of Jackie’s compositions (The Kanturk Jig and An Ghlaise Bheo-The Living Stream). These are just a few of the gems to be found on this recording.
For more information on the music of Sliabh Luachra, here is an excellent and very comprehensive article by Terry Talarek King.
Matt Cranitch & Jackie Daly: The Tenpenny Bit/Art O'Keeffe's
Matt Cranitch & Jackie Daly: The Gullane Polka/The Blackwater Polkas
10/16/2011 | comments (0)
Next Gen Folk Column
Victory Music Review October 2011
Note: The Next Gen Folk column is intended to be more than just a perspective on roots musicians from a younger generation. The goal of the column is to show positive ways that different generations work together in roots music. The goal is to show how music is passed on and celebrated from generation to generation. The Congolese band Staff Benda Bilili is a powerful example of this kind of work.
Staff Benda Bilili. Très Très Fort.
2009. Crammed Discs.
When writing about music from Africa, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the stories behind the music. Africa has traditionally excited Western imaginations (and stereotypes) more than any other place. And sometimes the story is so powerful that you can’t ignore it, which gives the music a special meaning. This is the case with the Congolese ensemble Staff Benda Bilili. You just can’t make up a story like this.
The musicians of Staff Benda Bilili are handicapped and live on the streets outside the Jardins Zoologique in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Riding around on motorized tricycles all day (local kids push them when the tricycles run out of gas),they hustle a living from the city streets. They’re surrounded by, and have taken in, street children, or sheges. One of these former street kids, Roger Landu, is also a stunning virtuoso in the band. A mere 17 years old, he built his own instrument: a one-string lute he calls a satonge. It’s got a tinny sound from the homemade materials (a coffee can), but despite its humble origins and single string, he blazes through guitar riffs that would stun any six-string instrumentalist. I can’t imagine the ingenuity and creativity it would take to rise above a life in the streets with an entirely hand-made, self-taught talent like that. All the members of Staff Benda Bilili have hard-won stories like this. One example is Bandleader Ricky Likabu who works many odd jobs, hustles alcohol and cigarettes from his tricycle outside clubs, and, according to the liner notes, still sleeps on cardboard in the streets.
But despite the hard-luck exterior image of the group, handicapped people in Kinshasa occupy a key role in the city (at least according to the album’s liner notes) running goods back and forth across the border (due to an exemption on customs taxes), and enjoying a reputation as fearless, well-educated, outspoken advocates for themselves and others less fortunate (the sheges, or street kids, whom they protect). This is reflected in the lyrics of Staff Benda Bilili, as they sing about the importance of polio vaccinations (their handicaps stem from polio afflictions as children), speak out against corporate control of food, present a call to action for Africans “Black man, get up, stand up, Africa is being destroyed./If Africans don’t unite they’re going nowhere/Africa belongs to Africans/Let us love and help each other,” and admonish those who would judge them, “Don’t judge the life of a man/one doesn’t choose one’s life.” The songs are sung in Lingala, and are heavily informed by Congolese music traditions which were themselves originally inspired by Cuban music that had traveled back to Africa. The more you look into the modern history of music, the more you see music turning in circles, traveling away from and returning to the source endlessly.
On the one hand the music of Staff Benda Bilili is a powerful testament to overcoming adversity, but on the other hand, it’s a more positive vision of life in the Congo. A sign that life goes on, no matter where you are or what your circumstances, and that hope unifies us all. Staff Benda Bilili are now touring internationally and have a critically acclaimed documentary of them making the festival rounds. In the song “Tonkara,” Staff Benda Bilili sing about chance, and how it can strike anyone at any time. “I once slept on cardboard/Good luck hit me, I bought myself a mattress/It can happen to you, to him, to them/A man is never finished/Chance can hit you without warning/It’s never too late in life/Someday I’ll make it too.” Think about the kind of chance that brought these street performers across the world and landed them brand-new careers as international stars. Now that’s an inspiring story.
Staff Benda Bilili: Moziki
Staff Benda Bilili Documentary
Roger Landu on the santonge
NOTE: This article first appeared in the Victory Music Review, a monthly publication for acoustic music lovers in the Pacific Northwest.