Physical Media

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I'm worn out by the non-stop talk of the end days for all physical media. From music to the news to books and films, it's all doomsday. I was talking about this with N recently and we both agreed: Do we really want ALL of this on our damn computers? She was reading a magazine (the print kind) and we both agreed: absolutely not.

As more folks move towards storing all entertainment on their laptops and phones, I seem to be moving back to where I was ten years ago. I'm buying more physical music than ever, we have a Sunday subscription to the NY Times, I buy 2-3 books per week and well, the movie side of things doesn't concern me as much (since it's a visual media, I think it's fine if it goes the way of the computer).

I miss Harp Magazine, No Depression and Magnet arriving in my mailbox. I miss Tower Records and the local CD shop. I wonder how long it will take for all the others to vanish. I know one thing for certain: I will never ever buy a damn Kindle. Maybe it's better for the environment, but books seem to have a life to them, a life that can't be damn downloaded. I will also never sell my CDs or records, aside from Roger McGuinn's Back From Rio which I've been trying to sell since 1992.

I just got the new Eels record Hombre Lobo on vinyl and boy does it look nice. And it sounds great. Two things that can't be said for some crappy collection of MP3s.

Albums of Weeks 20 & 21

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Townes Van Zandt : Delta Momma Blues
Fat Possum, 1971



Jay Bennett & Edward Burch : The Palace at 4am
Undertow, 2002

Off PCH 1 (Photo)

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PCH 1, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Wilco Songs Co-Written by Jay Bennett

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Glorious Noise has gone to the trouble of searching the ASCAP/BMI databases for Tweedy/Bennett co-writes.

If you look at the list, it's pretty clear that Bennett not only played a critical role in the production and evolution of Wilco's sound, but also in the songwriting. He shares credits on a good portion of the tracks on Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as well as the fantastic Mermaid Avenue records.

The list:

1. AIRLINE TO HEAVEN (Mermaid Avenue)
2. ASHES OF AMERICAN FLAGS (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
3. BLOOD OF THE LAMB (Mermaid Avenue)
4. CALIFORNIA STARS (Mermaid Avenue)
5. CAN'T STAND IT (Summerteeth)
6. CANDYFLOSS (Summerteeth)
7. CHRIST FOR PRESIDENT (Mermaid Avenue)
8. ELT (Summerteeth)
9. FEED OF MAN (Mermaid Avenue)
10. HOODOO VOODOO (Mermaid Avenue)
11. HOW TO FIGHT LONELINESS (Summerteeth)
12. I'M ALWAYS IN LOVE (Summerteeth)
13. I'M THE MAN WHO LOVES YOU (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
14. IN A FUTURE AGE (Summerteeth)
15. JESUS ETC (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
16. KAMERA (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
17. LAST CALL WITH CARSON-BG CUES (ha!)
18. LET ME COME HOME (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot outtake)
19. LET ME COME HOME INSTRUMENTAL (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot outtake)
20. LITTLE WHITE COTTAGE (Mermaid Avenue outtake)
21. MAGAZINE CALLED SUNSET (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot outtake)
22. MY DARLING (Summerteeth)
23. NO CHURCH TONITE (Mermaid Avenue outtake)
24. NOTHINGSEVERGONNASTANDINMYWAY (Summerteeth)
25. PIEHOLDEN SUITE (Summerteeth)
26. POOR PLACES (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
27. POT KETTLE BLACK (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
28. RADIO CURE (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
29. REMEMBER THE MOUNTAIN BED (Mermaid Avenue)
30. REPLACE YOU (with John Stirratt)
31. SECRETS OF THE SEA (Mermaid Avenue)
32. SHAKIN SUGAR (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot outtake)
33. SHE CAME ALONG TO ME (Mermaid Avenue)
34. SHE'S A JAR (Summerteeth)
35. SHOT IN THE ARM (Summerteeth)
36. SOMEDAY SOME MORNING SOMETIME (Mermaid Avenue)
37. SUMMER TEETH (Summerteeth)
38. WAR ON WAR (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
39. WE'RE JUST FRIENDS (Summerteeth)
40. WHISPERY KISS (unreleased? with Tweedy)
41. WHO'S THAT GIRL (Sherry Rich with Ken Coomer and John Stirratt)

Tomorrow morning I head out on a three-day trip where I likely won't have access to the world wide web. That said, I will close out my few day tribute to Jay Bennett here. I'm sure the soundtrack of this trip will be largely the music of Mr. Bennett.




Rest in peace, Jay.

A Fellow Musician on Bennett

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My friend and former lead singer of Star City, Jason Lewis:

I feel like I have to say a little more about Jay's passing. He was one of those rare people that came into my life at a time when I was ready to learn and he taught me more than I can say about recording, music and how to be an open, giving, presence in life. He taught me how to hear and record music in ways I'd never imagined. And now I'll never have the chance to properly thank him. I am profoundly grief stricken.

I got the chance to record with Jay back in 2002-2003. I was just coming out of my band of six years and Jay was not long out of Wilco. I needed to do something on my own, but I felt I needed a guide. Jay and I had met several times before and when I had a batch of songs together I got in touch with him and went out to Chicago for a week to work on the songs, just the two of us. When I got to the studio I came up the stairs to the loft space and found the door open, a pile of stuff in the stairway, an acoustic guitar with a throw rug duct taped to it and a trail of blood leading into the studio. What the hell was going on? I called out. There was no answer. I ventured into the space, following the trail of blood until I found Jay asleep on an air mattress in a back room. I woke him up and he told me he'd been recording the night before and was trying to get a mic flown as high as he could in the stairwell when the mic stand broke and the mic fell and smashed him in the face. That explained the blood.

I tell this story because, to me, that's what Jay was all about. He was willing to try anything to get the sound, anything at all. In the course of those sessions we hung an amp from bungee chords in the same stairwell at its highest point and blasted a drum loop through them so we could have the natural reverb of that space. We cranked a Vox AC30 about as loud as it would go at 5am to get THE guitar sound we needed for that song. Generally we would work from about 1pm to 6am, sleep a few hours and then get back to it. One morning, about midway through the week I crashed and Jay kept working. I woke up hours later to find him in the control room, working on a bass part for one of the songs. He said, "I just finished three bass parts for this song: one's crazy, one's in the middle and the last one's simple. Listen to them and decide which one you like." Then he went off to sleep. He was so bleary that he could barely keep his eyes open as he wandered away, but it was clear that nothing had been more important to him than getting those bass parts out. He had to get them. And as soon as he did, he was released.

Jay was a unique musician and recordist, but not simply because of what he could do. On my project it was what he wouldn't do that stood out to me. I expected to go out there, play him my songs and then he'd work his magic on them, play a ton of the instruments and that would be that, but we got a couple of days in and he hadn't played a single note. I kept trying to get him to do stuff and he was reluctant. Finally he just said, "Look, I could do that, I could play a bunch of stuff and I could Wilco all over your record, but then it wouldn't be you. You know what you want and I know that you can do it. I'll step in when I need to." I was floored. I can't tell you how much it meant to me at that time in my life to have someone say that to me. After that moment we were equals in the project. I had confidence in what I was doing. There are not a lot of folks as gifted as Jay was who could step away and let someone else do their thing and trust what was happening.

That's the Jay Bennett that was absent from "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and largely from the public eye, the enigmatic artist willing to try anything at all to get the sound, including letting someone else make it if that's what was right. Toward the end of that week we were listening to what we'd done, talking about mixes and the rest of what need to happen to get the project completed. Sitting there in the control room he turned to me and said, "I'm really glad you came out here to make this record with me, but you know, you didn't have to. You knew what you wanted these songs to be. You had the vision. You didn't need me." It meant so much for him to say that. But he was wrong. I did need him, even if it was just to give me that confidence to know I could do it myself. That was his gift, to me and I'm sure countless others who had the privilege to work with him. That's why he was a very special man.

Thank you, Jay. You meant a lot to me. You did everything you could to get the sound, now rest in peace.

Titanic Love Affair

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Before Bennett joined Wilco, he was in the Urbana, IL power-pop outfit Titanic Love Affair.

Wilco at the Ski Lodge

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Of all the lineups, none topped Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, Bob Egan and John Stirratt. These shows, during the Being There tour, were simply a blast. I'll never forget the Irving Plaza show when a full-on food fight broke out when the band brought out the deli tray. My buddy Bob got drilled in the temple by a Coomer-hurled tomato.

Back to the ski resort. Egan's faceplant at 3:08 is classic.

Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett : Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL, 7.25.99

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One of the best live shows I own. Link at the bottom.

James Alley Blues
She's a Jar
New Madrid
Blood of the Lamb
Willow Garden
Auld Triangle
Another Man's Done Gone
Hesitating Beauty
Via Chicago
Sugar Baby
I Got You
Forget the Flowers
I'm Always In Love
The Lonely 1
Summerteeth
True Love Will Find You
Casino Queen
California Stars
Hoodoo Voodoo

Download

Jay Bennett 1963-2009

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I remember the day Marvin Gaye died. I was only ten years old, but I remember my friend Mark's father telling us that Gaye was dead. I didn't know his music at the time, but perhaps it was my burgeoning love for music that left a mark. I still remember exactly where I was sitting.

Amazingly, 25 years later, very few of my favorites have passed away. Johnny Cash was a tough one, but Cash's music never hit me to the core like my favorites. There's music I like and then there's music that drives deep. The latter camp is crowded by the artists I post about relentlessly on this blog: Wilco, Bruce Springsteen, Damien Jurado, Nick Drake, Richard Buckner and a few others.

To say that 1994-1996 was a turning point in my life would be somewhat of an understatement. I grew up with Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo was the prologue, but it was Wilco that really changed me. I remember working in Manhattan and hearing that vinyl copies of Wilco's second record, Being There, had been bouncing around prior to release. I called every record store in the phone book. I finally found one in Hoboken that had a copy. I begged the guy to hold it for me. I dropped everything and hopped on the Path train.

It was really Wilco's second, third and fourth records that solidified them as my favorite band, perhaps ever. Jeff Tweedy was the man behind the mike, and usually the pen, but the guitarist he brought on before the recording of Being There, Jay Bennett, changed not only Wilco, but Jeff Tweedy. Shelved were the alt.country ballads that Tweedy could write while napping, and introduced were an array of sounds, crashes, beeps, organs, and gorgeous harmonies that turned Wilco from a good band to one of the world's best. Bennett evidently wrote the music to the stunning "California Stars." He wrote "My Darling" for his niece. He was the second force that Jeff Tweedy needed, and has never been able to replace.

This evening I learned that Jay Bennett died last night. Ever since his dismissal/departure from Wilco on July 4, 2001, I've wondered about Jay. I was disgusted when Wilco's manager Tony Managherita basically scoffed at Bennett's prospects in the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, but unfortunately, Marghertia was right. Bennett's career floundered without Jeff. He released one great record, The Palace at 4am, with his buddy Ed Burch, though few took notice.

I met Jay Bennett once up in Boston in 1995 or so. It was before a Wilco set and he seemed like a nice guy. He offered me a shot of tequila. I think I accepted. But it was watching Jay and Jeff work together that made them one of the most important rock pairings in recent memory. But following his exit, as Wilco reached the masses following the publicity and critical praise behind Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Jay Bennett fell off the radar, but not my radar. His contributions to Wilco, and at the risk of sounding dramatic, my life, won't soon be forgotten. Jay Bennett was 45.

Things That Can Make Your Day

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The nice owner of my local coffee shop just caught a glimpse of our classic garbageman making his way up the street. She immediately grabbed a cup, filled it up and brought it out to him.

And then this kicked in:

June 1st

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As of this day, I have some decisions to make with respect to this blog. As I mentioned briefly in a post a few days back, I have landed full-time work. That job commences on June 1 and it will likely be a very time-consuming role. In addition, as I creep closer to completing a first draft of my book, I would like to spend a good portion of my free time working on that.

Will I have to spend a little less time on this here blog? Well, yeah. I mean, I was averaging about 80 or so posts/month over the past few months, and I can't imagine I can sustain that.

I'm sure I'll find time.

Springsteen "Spirit in the Night" @ Hammersmith, London 1975 (Video)

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I watch this and think, "Where are these acts today?" No one even touches this raw talent and emotion, and no one has since, well, I guess Bruce Springsteen. There are some good bands and all, but where's the rock n' roll?

Just Downloaded

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Bruce Springsteen @ Roxy Theatre, Manayunk, PA, November 17, 1973

I was six days old when this show happened. I wonder if I was into Bruce yet. I was definitely into Seger.

Book Update

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It's been some time since I've mentioned the "book I'm working on." First off, no I didn't make the whole thing up. Secondly, I'm still on track to complete it this year.

It's been quite the experience. I can easily go three weeks without writing one word and then suddenly a thought hits me and I run to my laptop. After a month-plus of nothing, last night I had a memory from a decade ago. A few hours ago I completed the first version of this story and I'm quite happy with it. After adding some more color, this could turn out to be my favorite story in the book, and as of yesterday morning it didn't exist.

I remember watching a recent interview with Neil Young where he talked about his writing process. He basically said that aside from absolute emergencies, everything else must come second. When you're hit with something, you have to drop absolutely everything and let it out. He'd be at important dinners, have a thought and just up and leave the table. No explanation. I now understand this. I can't count the number of times I've had a quick glimpse of what could unfold into a story, promise to revisit it later, and realize days later I'd lost an opportunity.

That's it for now.

Brent Best "Robert Cole" (Video)

Today's "Greatest Deal Ever" Purchase

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Chuck Berry, Chess Records Box Set, Vinyl, 6 Records
$14.99

Also picked up:
Silver Jews American Water
Whiskeytown's Record Store Day 7"
Heartworn Highways DVD

"I'll Fight"

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This song's incredible.



This is the quickest any Wilco record has grabbed me. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Thanks FDR

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In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act. Tossed into that bill were provisions that basically forced the states to pay unemployment compensation under certain conditions. No, I did not know this history offhand, and yes, I pulled it from Wikipedia.

For the first time in my career, I have been a beneficiary of this legislation, and I must say, my standing would've been far more troublesome had it not been for this help. Add to this Obama's stimulus package, which reduced my monthly COBRA payments from about $340 to $125, and well, I suppose I should thank my government for the assists.

On June 1 it looks like I can tip my cap and move on. These seven months have passed by mighty fast and I've certainly grown in many respects. Sure, I wish I did some traveling, but not knowing when I'd land the right job again had me moving about things pretty conservatively.

Not only am I grateful to have had some help during this period of uncertainty, but I feel incredibly lucky to have found not just a job, but one that should prove to be challenging and rewarding.

Shed It Like a Change of Season : The Essential Joe Pernice

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The Essential Joe Pernice
Cigarette Sandwich
The Pill
7:30
Clear Spot
Lift Me Up
PCH One
Freight of Fire
Number Two
Hundred Dollar Pocket
Waiting for the Universe
In a Ditch
Baby In Two
Flaming Wreck
Monkey Suit
Penthouse in the Woods
Bum Leg
Silo

"Crestfallen" would've made the cut, but my version skips, so it got the shaft


Dream Double-Bill Confirmed

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Okkervil River opening for Wilco on the West Coast.

Top 5 So Far

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I think I did this 2-3 days ago, but eh:

1 Wilco (The Album)
2 Chip Robinson Mylow
3 Brakes Touchdown
4 Neko Case Middle Cyclone
5 The Gourds Haymaker!

First Impressions of Wilco (The Album)

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As I'm sure you've noticed, I rarely, if ever, review records right after they come out. Unlike films or books, records take me months, if not years to fully absorb and offer up a real opinion. That said, I've now listened to the new Wilco record, eh, maybe fifteen times, and I'm gonna say that this is a mighty fine record. "One Wing" sounds like the best song on the record, with "Bull Black Nova" a close second. "You and I" is a pretty little ballad. It's the second part of the record that I'm still trying to wrap my arms around. The first half is very good.

My guess is that this one will fall in the middle of the Wilco canon, behind Being There, Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, perhaps even with Sky Blue Sky and a step above A Ghost Is Born and A.M.. Then again, it's far too early to really say. But thus far, this sounds like another great release by a band that is likely the best American band since R.E.M.

San Francisco Top Ten

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Now that I've grown to love this city, especially with all the free time I've had, I suppose it's time to create my top ten favorite spots in the city. In no particular order:

Green Apple Books & Music : I love everything about this place. I always first check out the used store for cheaper fiction, the occasional vinyl find and music books. And they have a massive magazine section. Then I head over to the new books store which is just absurd.

Yamo : For $5.25 you get a wonderful Burmese meal. The place fits about ten people total, and the staff basically just chucks stuff everywhere, but this is one of the city's finest stops.

Duboce Park : I hang here a few times a week. I head over with a book and my iPod and just sack around, rumble with various dogs and waste a few hours.

Amoeba Records : Maybe the greatest place ever constructed by human hands.

Peete's Coffee @ Broderick Street : I stop in here after every run. They have a nice little patio where I listen to tunes, chug some coffee and ponder many things.

Little Star Pizza : It's the only true great pizza I've had in the city and the jukebox is better than any bar in California.

Hanabi Japanese Restaurant : The bill for N and I is usually about $25, which is next to nothing considering I'm fat and we order a lot. Add to this the classic guy behind the bar, the nice staff and some darn fine rolls. We head here about three times a month.

Animal Care & Control : If you're looking for a cat, dog, bird or maybe hen, please stop in here before going to the SPCA (it's right next door). These people do the hard work and they have the animals that are truly in need.

Rooky Ricardo's Records : Best collection of soul music I've ever seen. You can also land great finds in pop, 45s and other throwback nuggets.

Alamo Square Cafe : It isn't Fillmore Grind, but Mohammed and his family have done a great job of fixing this place up. The coffee is good and the food is excellent. And they're just nice folks.

Chappaquiddick Skyline's "Hundred Dollar Pocket"

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Sometimes iTunes shuffle can be the greatest gift this world has to offer. Alright, coke slurpees are probably the best, but man, when you get that random track that you'd forgotten about and it starts at the perfect time, just when you seem to need/want it, well, that's about as good as it gets.

As always, I'm sitting in my living room alternating between my book, keyboard cat videos and tunes. And then suddenly the first few strums of a song came on and I stopped it all and grabbed my headphones. Wow.

Chuck Berry "Maybellene" (Video)

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Paul McCartney's "Ram"

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When considering McCartney's career, I'm shocked at how little attention this record gets. This has to be right there with Lennon's Plastic Ono Band as the best post-Beatles releases. I've listened to it more than anything else in the past month. Buy it.

Album of Week 19

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Wilco : (The Album)
Nonesuch, 2009

The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse

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For even middle-of-the-road fans of Rouse, the 2004 DVD/CD companion The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse is a must have. First things first, the DVD kinda sucks. There are a few clips that make it worth a viewing, one of which I believe includes a quick shot of the back of my head, but the goods here lie in the companion CD, which must be culled from cuts that didn't make his two best records, 2002's Under Cold Blue Stars and 2003's 1972. It's amazing that Rouse didn't release this collection as an official release as it's far better than his last three records. The lead track, "Michigan," is among the best songs he's ever done, and every single track on the ten-song-set is quality, including a very nice cover of The Kinks' "A Well Respected Man."

It doesn't look like you can buy the set direct from Rouse, but Amazon has it for $15.49. If you got this far in the post, it probably means that you outta pick it up.

Over the Wires : Chip Robinson

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I always point to 1997 as the year. My thirst for music, combined with a 12-month period that saw one stellar release after another, changed everything for me. Like an addict, music took precedent over everything else. I skipped a good friend's wedding to go see a Whiskeytown show at Tramps (she stopped speaking to me). I arrived to my girlfriend's own party at about 2am after seeing Richard Buckner at the Mercury (we survived a few more months), and these were only a few of the times I'd chosen music over other life responsibilities. I really couldn't help myself. I'd see Wilco in town and then drive to Boston to see them the next night. There was no end.

And then in 1999, I booked my first trip to South By Southwest. I mean, I was seeing a few shows a week as it was, why not just jam about 60 or 70 into four days. I will never forget walking into my first show, Lullaby for the Working Class, at Liberty Lunch, and feeling the spirit of it all. But there was one band that I simply couldn't wait to see: The Backsliders. Sharing the bill with Joe Henry, it was this Raleigh, North Carolina outfit that represented the rock n' roll that this first trip to Austin was all about. And boy did they put on a show. Fronted by Chip Robinson, a guy who looked straight out of a Larry Brown novel, and hell, may have been the basis of one had Brown surived a little longer, Chip played the guitar and yelled as if nothing else in the world mattered, and that night at the Liberty Lunch, well, nothing else did (above photo is from that gig).

The Backsliders released two fantastic records, Throwing Rocks at the Moon (1997) and Southern Lines (1999) before disbanding in the wake of the still yet to be resolved overhaul of the music industry. And until just a few months ago, Chip Robinson was out of music. Oh, he'd spring up at the Lakeside Lounge in New York from time-to-time, or maybe a benefit down in Raleigh, but Chip was no longer making records. And then very quietly, earlier this year, he completed Mylow. His buddy Eric "Roscoe" Ambel produced, and it is honestly as if he hasn't skipped a beat. Actually, Mylow is as good, if not better, than his two records fronting The Backsliders.

After all this time away, I recently caught up with Chip. Following my first installment a few months back with Matthew Ryan, here's round two.

Over the Wires : Chip Robinson

It's been ten years since the release of The Backsliders' "Southern Lines." What have you been up to?

Whoa!! 10 years, a breath and a blink of an eye. After Disney dropped most of the roster (including The Backsliders) from Mammoth Records, non-chronologically, I worked as a doorman, a bartender, got evicted, lived in a borrowed truck for a couple of months, worked for a company doing custom print framing, moved to NYC, was a bike messenger for a while, was a bike mechanic for a few years, moved back to North Carolina twice only to find no work and am back in NYC working at a bicycle shop in Brooklyn. Brought another son into the world, spent some time in a downward spiral, lost some close friends, found some close friends, rode in a pick up truck for 3 weeks from Tela, Honduras to Raleigh, North Carolina with my friend Van Alston, played a lot of gigs. Sometimes I just gotta laugh when I think to myself that I have lived a life that would've killed a lesser man.



How do you look back at the Raleigh music scene of the mid-to-late 90's? You had The Backsliders, Whiskeytown, 6 String Drag and a slew of bands that were instrumental in the "alt.country" movement.

It was exciting, crazy, fun. The music scene in North Carolina was really thriving. Between Raleigh and Chapel Hill, a lot of bands got record deals. Saturday nights would be going to see some friends' band play (if we weren't gigging). Sundays would be hungover softball with guys from C.O.C, Cry of Love, DAG etc. It was a completely different climate, business wise, than it is today. There's still a bunch of great bands down there working and touring.

What led you back into the studio after the long hiatus?

Roscoe (Eric Ambel) had been bugging me to do a record since he produced Southern Lines. The intersection of scheduling and cash (or lack of) finally happened last year when I had moved back to New York. Roscoe was rehabbing from wrist surgery after getting doored by a cab on his bicycle and we started recording in his apartment. Basic acoustic guitar and vocals.

How was it working with Roscoe?

Like getting a root canal? Just kidding. Actually, it was very relaxed and productive. A lot of good coffee and excellent sandwiches. We would do the basic tracks in the afternoon, and Roscoe would do guitar and keyboard parts at night, which couldn't have been an easy task with a cast on his arm. We'd send mixes via email to Rob Arthur, and he would send back these great keyboard parts for the songs. In the past, I've got to admit that the whole idea of digital recording just did not appeal to me. But I got thinking that these days most people listen to music on an iPod or their computer. Not exactly Hi-Fi. The average person doesn't listen to vinyl through a vacuum tube stereo. And yet, the technology for D/A conversion has improved enormously. Sonically though, I can still hear the difference between an analog and a digital recording, digital has gotten pretty damn listenable. The software available now are great tools. At the end of the day, we made a pretty damn fine record, if I say so myself.

I'd argue that this record just might be your best. The Backsliders were signed to the now-defunct Mammoth Records. How do you see this record getting out there? Can people buy it now?

Chris, Thanks, those are mighty kind words. We have been shopping Mylow for a while. The crazy state of the music industry hasn't brought us any takers. Oh to be a 17-year-old girl with big knockers and minimal talent. But I digress. Right now we are putting together a limited release package, signed and numbered. Something for the fans, you know. Skillet Gilmore (Whiskeytown's original drummer) and photographer Raymond Goodman are getting the artwork together as we speak. Info on how to pre-order a copy is on my blog, Bicycle Skeletons.

What are your general thoughts on music distribution during these times? On that note, would you mind if I put a song up?

It's an exciting time when when an artist can have control, at least digitally, via iTunes, Tunecore, Orchard etc. Really speeds up the money pipeline. As far as filesharing, the anarchist in me screams that music isn't created, it's channeled, therefore no one has a right to sell it. But the writers and singers have to pay the rent and feed their families, that's the reality. A buck a pop for a song isn't greed, you know? Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead and others have started the redefining of the business and that is exciting. We have the power to re-write the book now. Finally, yes sir, you may post any song of mine you see fit for human consumption.


Eight Books

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Northline by Willy Vlautin, Fiction, 2008: 9.3




Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver, Stories, 1989: 9.6

The Saddest Song Ever Written

Wilco (The Album) Leaks

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I can't recall the last time I looked forward to an album this much. I will now listen from this moment until early Sunday.

Perusing the CD Racks at Best Buy

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New Dylan: $24.99
New Bruce: $19.99

Pretty solid deals.

This American Life, Modern Love & Tom Waits

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One of the first stories from This American Life I listened to was the story of a single mother from Eugene, Oregon and her relationship with her two daughters, both of whom ran away at a very young age (one for three months, the other for an entire year). The story's incredibly vivid and follows their journeys from Oregon to Reno to San Francisco all the way down to Texas. You can listen here.

Last night I settled down for an hour or so with the Sunday Times. I've always been a fan of the Modern Love stories in the Sunday Styles section. The stories are short and always centered around a relationship, usually between a husband and wife. But this week it was about the family in the paragraph above. The story picks up well after they'd run off, but once again shows the fragility of the relationships. But strangely enough, there's one thing that brings them together after all these years, and that's the music of Tom Waits. Perhaps more than anything outside of ourselves, it's music that can do that.

I would recommend listening to the above story and then reading The Long Way Home from the Times.

Wilco (The Album) Cover vs. My Photo ((Kind of) Infringement!)

The New Yankee Stadium

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I exchange e-mails and text messages with a few friends during and after almost every single Yankee game. We usually complain about the pitching (a whole lot of that this year), bad managerial calls (again, a lot) and how the team's doing overall. After spending $400 million plus in the off-season on three bodies, the first month-plus of the 09 campaign has obviously been a disappointment.

But there's one topic that we've barely touched on and that's the new Stadium. The two guys I chat with most both live not too far from the Bronx and it's unfathomable to me that neither has made it to the new ballpark. And neither seems to have any plans to do so in the near future. At first, I thought it was more a case of nostalgia. I mean, each of us had probably been to north of 100 games in the old Stadium. One friend and I witnessed Game 6 of the 1996 World Series from right around the left field foul pole. I'll never forget turning to him about a minute after Charlie Hayes hauled in the final out and seeing tears streaming down his face. We celebrated with the police officers. We went to Stan's after and guzzled a few more beers in celebration. We partied with hundreds of folks, most of whom must've had some sort of union affiliation.

Of course, there were more run-of-the-mill trips to the Stadium. We'd see them fall to Baltimore on a Tuesday night or battle out an extra-inning win over Minnesota on a Saturday afternoon. There were so many games. And we always felt a part of it all. We talked to the folks around us, we joked with the Stadium staff, even a trip to the men's room was met with passionate banter about the bullpen or the injuries or damn Boston.

As far as I can see, nothing about the new Yankee Stadium feels this way. I know, I haven't been there. But $2600/game seats that run down the baselines? I used to run up-and-down those same aisles in the old Stadium trying to grab an autograph from Rickey Henderson or Mike Pagliarulo. When the Stadium was full, we'd wait until the seventh or eight and sneak down to those seats. Now those seats seem millions of miles away. Yankee Stadium seems the epitome of everything that Bush represented and Obama does not. George must really be ill to let this be happening.

I'm sure I will be back in New York this summer. I will visit family and friends and the latter visits will likely be full of conversation about the pinstripes. But there's yet to even be a hint of an interest in going to the new park. If you add up the offseason acquisitions and the cost of the stadium, the total cost hovers right around $2 billion. That's a lot of money to turn away so many who called the old Yankee Stadium a second home, but see a new Stadium that seems to lack all the charms and basics that made the park across the street such a part of us.

Mystery Holiday in San Francisco (Photo)

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I'm about to settle into some light reading or perhaps some work on the potters wheel, when suddenly I hear explosions outside. I head to the roof.



, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

San Francisco Weather (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

This American Life

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Yes, I am very late to the game. Folks have been recommending this show for years now and I've repeatedly given that, "uhhh, yeah, I'll check it out" look. I've only made it through three episodes thus far (all in the last three days), but boy have they been excellent.

This American Life is a once/week radio program on Chicago Public Radio hosted by the calm and engaging Ira Glass. Each show is usually comprised of a few stories based around one topic. Subjects can range from timely and largely-covered issues such as the recession to more personal topics, such as this: Plan B: There's the thing you plan to do, and then there's the thing you end up doing. Most of us start off our lives with some Plan A which we abandon...switching to a Plan B, which becomes our life. But it's not the selection of what to cover that makes these shows so compelling and real; it's the people and the twists and turns that make up the plotlines. Although the delivery of the shows can skirt around the pretentious, overall it's like Raymond Carver stories being read over the airwaves.

Apparently there's a television series as well. For now, I will stick with the online radio shows. I still have years of stories.

1/3 Mark of 2009

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Yes, the first four months haven't been all that impressive on the new release front. The Springsteen record's a clunker. The M. Ward, Tim Easton and Bonnie "Prince" Billy records have their moments, but certainly don't measure up to their normal output. So yes, there have been disappointments, but there have also been a few bright spots. Here are a trio of my early-year favorites:

Neko Case : Middle Cyclone
The record's slightly inconsistent, but the good songs are very good. "This Tornado Loves You," "People Got a Lotta Nerve," "Magpie to the Morning," and "Don't Forget Me" could land on my songs of the year mix. But then there are songs like "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth," which has the writing maturity of a pre-schooler.

The Gourds : Haymaker!
I need to give this record much more time. The Gourds rarely release a sub-par record, but this one's so good that it stands among their best. Jimmy and Kev have once again nailed a perfect back-and-forth set of fun, thoughtful and charming tunes.

Chip Robinson : Mylow
Does anyone outside of Chip, his cat Mylow and I know that this record's out? If not, well, it's a real shame. The former frontman of Raleigh, North Carolina's The Backsliders releases his first solo record and it's a beauty. The writing is fantastic, the guitars are blazing and the rock n' roll's back. This is as good as either of The Backsliders records. You can buy it here. And if you don't, well, enjoy being an asshole.

Sound: CD vs. AAC/128

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This is the first time I've ever done the comparison. I put on "Wishful Thinking" by Wilco, a song that is fairly simple, but has a lot of subtle sounds kinda floating in the distance. The difference between the two is far from minor. After just a second, it was like I was listening to two different recordings. The song coming from the CD was crisp and clear, while the crappy AAC version was muddy and flat.

I either need to re-rip my entire catalog or just punt my computer.

Album of Week 18

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Brakes : Touchdown
Fatcat, 2009

My Picks for Bonnaroo

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I won't be there, but given the large number of quality acts, let's get a little what-if schedule going. I will say this: This lineup far exceeds Coachella. And I hear it's an extremely well-run festival.

If I Were There:
Fri, June 12
1215 - 115 : Tift Merritt
215 - 245 : Patterson Hood & Screwtopia
245 - 400 : Animal Collective
500 - 615 : Grizzly Bear
630 - 730 : Justin Townes Earle
1000 - 1100 : Justin Townes Earle
1230a - 145a : Public Enemy

Sat, June 13
1215 - 115 : Alejandro Escovedo
200 - 300 : Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
315 - 345 : Heartless Bastards
520 - 600 : Brakesbrakesbrakes
600 - 800 : Wilco
900 - 1230a : Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Sun, June 14
1245 - 115 : American Princes
130 - 230 : Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
430 - 500 : Okkervil River
500 - 615 : Merle Haggard
645 - 815 : Neko Case

That's a heck of a lot of great music, especially when you consider a bunch of the boring, yet popular, acts that I'm leaving out (Beastie Boys, NIN, Phish, Ben Harper).

Saturday Night at Bonnaroo, Main Stage

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6pm-8pm





9pm-1230am


Guy From NPR's Top 100 English-Language Novels of the 20th Century

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It's embarrassing how few of these I've read. I've bolded those that I actually completed. I've italicized those that I started reading, but ultimately rifled at a wall.

1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

4. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
5. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
6. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
7. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
8. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
9. Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow
10. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
11. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
12. U.S.A. Trilogy, John Dos Passos
13. The Untouchable, John Banville
14. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
15. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike
16. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
17. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
18. Beloved, Toni Morrison
19. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
20. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
21. Light in August, William Faulkner
22. My Antonia, Willa Cather
23. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

24. A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines
25. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
26. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
27. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
28. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
29. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
30. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
31. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
32. The Sportswriter, Richard Ford
33. The Lay of the Land, Richard Ford
34. Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
35. Aloft, Chang-Rae Lee
36. Appointment in Samarra, John O'Hara
37. Atonement, Ian McEwan
38. So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell
39. Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
40. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
41. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
42. Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
43. A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin
44. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
45. Animal Farm, George Orwell
46. Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

47. The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford
48. The Secret Sharer, Joseph Conrad
49. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
50. The Day of the Locust, Nathaniel West
51. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
52. Felicia's Journey, William Trevor
53. Ironweed, Willam Kennedy
54. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
55. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John LeCarre
56. In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O'Brien
57. A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
58. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
59. The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk
60. The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara
61. The Human Factor, Graham Greene
62. Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs
63. Paris Trout, Pete Dexter
64. Howard's End, E.M. Forster
65. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
66. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
67. Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth
68. Fabulous Small Jews, Joseph Epstein
69. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
70. Roscoe, William Kennedy
71. Charming Billy, Alice McDermott
72. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
73. Razor's Edge, W. Somerset Maugham
74. Lying Awake, Mark Salzman
75. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
76. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
77. Light Years, James Salter
78. Black Dogs, Ian McEwan
79. Spartina, John Casey
80. A Fan's Notes, Frederick Exley
81. Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
82. Blood of the Lamb, Peter De Vries
83. Empire Falls, Richard Russo
84. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
85. Double Indemnity, James Cain
86. The Sunlight Dialogues, John Gardner
87. The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy
88. Seize the Day, Saul Bellow
89. Rabbit is Rich, John Updike
90. Deliverance, James Dickey
91. The Bird Artist, Howard Norman
92. Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov
93. City Boy, Herman Wouk
94. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carre
95. Advise and Consent, Allen Drury
96. A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe
97. Sophie's Choice, William Styron
98. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
99. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
100. A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo

Here

Damien Jurado Primer

Damien Jurado @ Bottom of the Hill, SF, 5.5.09 (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Justin Townes Earle made it almost until summer as the top show of 09. Well, tonight at Bottom of the Hill, before a near-packed room, Damien Jurado put on a tremendous show. As he closes out a long tour, Jurado looked to the crowd, "Wow, I didn't expect this many people to show up." And for an early week show that got underway around 1030, neither did I.

It was basically a best of Jurado set, highlighted by "Medication" (no pin dropped, but you would've heard it), "Coats of Ice," "Ohio" (again with the pin), "Gillian Was a Horse," "Letters and Drawings" (people were pumped), "I Can't Get Over You," and at least a dozen others. And as I just scoured my iTunes to recall the songs he played, I'm amazed at how many incredible songs he didn't play. In ten years or so, this fella has built a massive collection of great songs.

On a breezy and misty Tuesday night in San Francisco, Damien Jurado gave about 200 people all he had. And he seemed to appreciate us just as much as we appreciated him.

Why Does This Remind Me of the Movie "The Hours?" (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

On the Turntable

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Forecast (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Bruce Springsteen "Human Touch" (Video)

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Until 2007, Human Touch was unquestionably Springsteen's worst record. Released in 1992 alongside the stellar Lucky Town, HT includes such dreadful tunes as "Real Man," "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)," and "All or Nothing at All." I'm talkin' songs that really suck. But among the garbage are a few gems, most notably the title track, which much to my surprise, still holds up 17 years later.

After 15 years in the Springsteen cellar, with the release of Magic and this year's crappy Working on a Dream, could this early 90s clunker rise from the basement? Perhaps Springsteen thinks so, as he and the band performed the title track in Greensboro two nights ago.

Joe Pernice "Bum Leg" (Video)

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Justin Townes Earle (Video)

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His set at The Independent a few weeks back is the best show I've seen so far this year. Very unique, charming, humble and clearly a performer who couldn't and shouldn't be doing anything else.

Golf shirt guy doing the interview is classic.

[Untitled] (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Albums of Weeks 16 & 17

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Damien Jurado : On My Way To Absence
Secretly Canadian, 2005



Johnny Cash : Unearthed
American, 2003

Midnight (Photo)

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

At My Window

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I suppose I could say Crater Lake up in Oregon, Big Sur or perhaps the canals of Amsterdam, but when I think of my favorite spot in this world, right now it's this small corner of my living room. During my six months of downtime, I have spent hours on end, day after day right here. The trees are bountiful, the breeze is often perfect, and an array of colorful birds drop in and out throughout each day. If I look to the right, there's a line or buildings, one yellow, one beige, one green and one light blue. They rise as the street rises and create a bit of a staircase of buildings. Up to the left is a much taller apartment complex that seems to provide proof of life once the sun has fallen. And on a clear night, the moon is almost always resting straight ahead.

I sit in this chair and listen to music, sometimes 3-4 records in a row. I read. I make every single phone call from this chair. I think. I find branches and colors and movements that grab me every single day. There's an old fence that marks the end of my building's property, but right beyond, small yellow buds jump above. And right in front of me is a fig tree. We've eaten those figs. And soon we'll be grabbing the next batch.

But it's really the wind and the green and the sky. To my eyes and ears, it may just be the most beautiful place in the world.

Top Five Songwriters Right Now

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#5 Joe Henry






#4 Will Oldham





#3 Josh Ritter





#2 Damien Jurado





#1 Jeff Tweedy