Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash...

One of the best books I read this past year.

Amazon has a better discreption than I could come up with:
A Heartbeat and a Guitar tells of the collaboration of two
distinct yet connected musicians—iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering
folk artist Peter La Farge—and the album they created, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.
It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles
that informed this album, one that has influenced the likes of Bruce
Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

D’Ambrosio has interviewed dozens of
Cash’s and La Farge’s friends, family, and collaborators, including
surviving members of his band, his producers, and Pete Seeger and Kris
Kristofferson, creating a dramatic picture of both an era of radical
protest and the making of one of the most controversial and enduring
works of political pop art of the 1960s.

I found the book both moving, insightful and as readable as any plot driven pulp adventure novel I have come across in years. If you are a fan of Cash, folk music, or the history of the early 1960s this  book needs to find it's way into your hands.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FFB: A death in?

My mom--- what can I say? Well on the good side she was/is a voracious reader. I don't tend to like the cozy tea, cats and overly clean murder and Death books that she's always read, but I figured that as she is in a nursing home and really there isn't any room for her to have more stuff, I would give her a FFB entry for Christmas this year.

I started by asking her if there was book from her past that stood out in her mind that others might not know of. Her first answer was Little Women. I politely informed her that Little Women really wasn't a forgotten book and tried to get her to dig a little deeper. The answer she came up with was A Death in Connecticut. She said it was a non fiction book about a murder in Falls Village where her childhood best friend's family lived. She around the south and the east coast, living in North Carolina and Philadelphia before her father, a Southern Baptist Minster, landed a church in Millerton NY. She spent her youth in Millerton, which is right across the border from Falls Village, CT where the book is set.

I then asked her about the book, and she really did not recall much, but did drop big bomb shell was that her very first boyfriend "Buzzy" was involved with the group of people that were suspected in the killing. She said that it was the mother of one of the group that had been killed and the son was suspected. She said that Buzzy had run away from home when they were 'dating' and that of course her parents didn't approve of him. That was as much as I got out of her about the book, so my next step was to start looking for the book on line.

That proved harder than I expected because while there is a book called A Death in Connecticut, there really isn't much information about it. What I did stumble on was a book by Joan Barthel called A death in Canaan which pretty much sounds like the book she was talking about.

From Amazon reviwer: By Robert S. Gartner
On September 28, 1973, 51 year old Barbara Gibbons, the quirky and
eccentric mother of 17 year old Peter Reilly, was murdered in Canaan
(a.k.a. Falls Village), Connecticut. State troopers arrived on the
scene and immediately seized on Peter as the suspect in the killing.
What followed was a three year journey through the Connecticut judicial
system finally ending in his exoneration. In between, however, in a
show of grass roots support, friends and neighbors rallied to his
defense and formed the Peter Reilly Defense fund.

There appears to be a 1978 TV Movie of the story as well. Anyone recall this book or the film? Comments, thoughts?

More FFB over at Patti Abbotts blog HERE

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009: A look back at the music from t...

2009: A look back at the music from this year

I don't do top ten lists, not for the year and not for the decade. I used to think that it only mattered what I was into during a given year, and then I realized how limiting that was. I then went around saying that it was what I was still listening to 10 years later that was the real deal-- but really if I liked something for a short period of time, and it gave me joy and then kinda dropped off, is that really a failure? I don't know.

anyway, this is what caught my ear in 2009

Neko Case, what can I say about Neko that I haven't already? She's got that voice and the presence. Her intelligence and passion are evident in her music and she is simply one of the people out there in the culture that makes me happy to be alive. Oh and I want to buy her a cup of tea and pick her brain in the worst way.

Jet Black Berries
I just wrote about these guys and their new album Here, the only thing that I have to add is that I didn't imagine how it would re-energize my Rock and Roll muscles at during these last months of 2009.

Devil Makes Three
It's blue grass with an edge? or something like it. Devil Makes Three just had the energy and drive of punk mixed with a 30s feel and rural music.

The Thermals
I've been a fan of these guys for a couple of years and was glad to not only hear this new album, but to see them live this past year.

These guys are from Flint, MI-- and they carry on the sound and spirit of country music legend Waylon Jennings. I look forward to more from the band.
Classic 30s crooner Powell started and sang in a bunch of those Busby Berkeley musicals, The Gold Diggers of 1933 was the of the films, but later entries like Dames, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1935 had some of the better music.
There is an intersection of punk and country music that I am drawn too. I think it's that the stories they tell are coming from the same place, a darkness, a Noir mood that screams things are not right and that 'you're fucked'. There is also a confluence of energy, anger, rage, confusion and dark humor that often seeps into the lyrics and music. Miss Derringer is somewhere in that fog of roots-punk-noir and on their Winter Hill record they explore world of 30s gangsters and their crimes.

Black Moth Super Rainbow
Do you remember the 70s low budget creepy TV show In Search Of? If that shows was going to be remade these guys would have to score it. I'm not a big fan of electronic music, but there is something about this band and it's sound that I dig.

Drivin n Cryin
One of my all time favorite bands are back with a great hard rock album filled with hooks and a righteous anger about the state of the working men and women of the USA.

Top 25 most played Tracks I added to my iTunes in 2009
People Got A Lotta Nerve by Neko Case from Middle Cyclone
This Tornado Loves You by
Neko Case from Middle Cyclone
Just Like Honey by Headless Heroes from The Silence Of Love
AMONG THE SURVIVORS by The Latebirds from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
They Call Me Hopeless Destroyer by Brimstone Howl from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Hard Times In America by Willie Nile from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
The Plank by The Devil Makes Three from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Detroit City by Drivin 'n' Cryin from Whatever happened to the Great American Bubble Factory
Welcome to my World by Jet Black Berries from 2009 EP
Gloom Doom Buttercups by Kittens Ablaze from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Death By Desire by Miss Derringer from Winter Hill
One Horse Down by Baskery from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Up And Down by The Chesterfield Kings from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Working Man's Blues by The Devil Makes Three from Do Wrong Right
Polar Nettles by Neko Case from Middle Cyclone
What Stephanie Wants by T.S.O.L from Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Free Downloads
Forever Heavy by Black Moth Super Rainbow from Dandelion Gum
Wrong Hill by The Earps from Here Come The Earps
He's Dead, She's Alive by Iggy Pop from Préliminaires
Angry at the Sun by The Lost Brothers from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Now We Can See by The Thermals Now from We Can See 7"
White As Diamonds by Alela Diane from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
Honeymoon Hotel by Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler & Chorus from Lullaby Of Broadway: The Best Of Busby Berkeley At Warner Bros. (Disc 1)
Trouble by The Dirt Drifters from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
My Best Friend's Hot by The Dollyrots from SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists

It's not only the end of the year but the end of the decade, and a lot of media outlets are buzzing with their best of the decade lists. I just wanted to give a nod to a couple of albums that really stayed with me through the 2000s.

Thee Ultra Bimboos- Bimboo Wizard
Why didn't these women make it to the mainstream? maybe because they didn't want to. Four attractive Finnish women who rock, but have enough pop in their sound to appeal to the mainstream audiences. Forget The Donnas, Thee Ultra Bimboos were the real thing, and their final album Bimboo Wizard was easily my favorite from the last decade

Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands- Snake in the Radio
Former drummer for the Screaming Tress, Pickerel headed into the Alt Country sound, which seems to be the place that all former punk rockers who still have something to say end up sooner or later. Snake in the Radio has a dark undercurrent of Gothic lament. If you like Lee Hazelwood or Johnny Cash, it's an album that you should check out. The follow up Cody's Dream is similar, bu explored more rock, jazz and blues.
Speaking of The Screaming Trees, former singer Mark Lanegan has kept busy with many projects during the decade. Records with Greg Dulli from the Afgan Whigs and Isabella Campbell from Belle & Sebastian have gotten the most press, but it was his album bubble gum that I liked the best. It just show cased his voice and range, the songs ranged from folk/country ballads to strait alt rockers. As with the Screaming Trees final album Dust, Bubble Gum is a forgotten gem of a record from the decade it was released in, and I have high hopes that it's going to continue to find an audience years after hitting the shelves.
The Hellacopters- By the Grace of God & Head Off
Few bands have meant as much to my life in the last decade as The Hellacoptes did. I had the good fortune to become acquainted with a couple of the guys in the band and the Nordic Garage Rock Scene that they helped to build in the late 90s and into the 2000s. As with Thee Ultra Bimboos they managed to get little attention in the USA while inferior bands playing similar music had hits and became underground rock heroes. The 'Copters embodied a spirit of inclusion as they explored the sonic pallet of punk, soul, metal, hard rock, alt rock and carried the banner of Hi Energy around the world. Like so many of the bands that they were inspired by, and often covered in tribute, they are the kind of band that kids a hundred years from now will be discovering. By The Grace of God was their most accessible record, and I got to see them a couple of times when they were touring for it in Sweden and Norway in 2002. Head Off, their final record is a collection of covers of bands that they know, and many of whom played around Sweden with them when they were starting out.

The Forbidden Dimension- A Cool Sound Outta Hell
What can I say, the Forbidden Dimension is one of the bands that really can do no wrong in my book. They put out three albums in the 90s and only one in the 2000s-- but it was worth the wait. Sure it's not the same sound that they had a decade earlier, but lead singer Jaxxxon Phibes and his little audio comic books always work their way under my skin, each in their own time and moment.

For all the bands I have mentioned I have included links where you can find more info. If you are interested in hearing any of their music, I would suggest popping on over to youtube and looking for their videos.

thoughts? comments? bands/artists/ records from 2009 or from the decade that you thought should have gotten more attention?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jet Black Berries EP (2009)

JBB 2009 EP

“Come Join Our Dance” ,opens Welcome to My World the first new song by The Jet Black Berries released since 1988. That opening line is kind of interesting to me because I know that one of the last songs that they were working on before the JBB’s called it quits in ’88 was called—Come Join Our Dance. The line is not only picking up where the band left off, but also a new invite to their rebirth.

The Rochester New York band is back and ready to push forward on a musical journey that started in 1977 when Gary Trainer and Kevin Patrick started a band called New Math and built a punk scene around a bar called Scorgies. New Math musically started as a punked out Kinks like unit and grew darker and more psychedelic until they collapsed in 1984.

That would be the end of the story, only Gary had started working on a Gram Parson meets William S Burroughs Space Western concept album called Sundown on Venus. The core the last New Math line up reformed and changed their name to Jet Black Berries. Sundown landed on the Pink Dust label and the Return of the Living Dead soundtrack and put out two more albums before calling it a day.

Now they are back, albeit with a new singer and a updated sound. Their new EP, featuring Welcome to My World and new versions of two New Math songs (American Survival and Ominous) has just been released in advance of a new full length due out next spring.

As a fan of their original recording, I was a little hesitant about the EP, but I’ve given it a number of spins and am left wanting more. Welcome to My World is a driving hard edged slightly psychedelic tune. American Survival was a comment on the survival movement of the 1980s, and the greed and fear of the paranoid extreme edge of those who worried about the end of the world.

Ominous is the most changed from the original. The 1980s version was a dark, direct, clear and stark warning that there is something out there. This version is more atmospheric, hazy, and less assured. It takes the fear and unease of the original and makes it more mysterious and otherworldly. On that count it works well, and fits well with the newest version of the JBB sound.

The EP is forerunner to a full length slated for release in the spring. I’ve heard a couple of the other new songs that they are working on and hope that they will continue to mine their old tunes as well as writing new ones. The EP is available as a digital download from iTunes and at local record shops in the Rochester New York area.

Jet Black Berries on Myspace

Thursday, December 10, 2009

FFB: Kids books.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I assume that neither of these books are truly forgotten, but at the same time I can't imagine that a lot of well meaning- lefty teachers would be horrified at the thought of children reading these books today. My Side of the Mountain is the story of a young man who saves his money and runs away to live off the land in the mountains. Where the Red Fern Grows follows the story of a young man who saves up to buy a pair of prime 'coon hunting dogs in the Ozarks.

When I think of my favorite books from childhood these two are the first that come to mind. They are books I encountered in elementary school, re-reading them numerous times before I got to Jr High School and started to move towards more adult fiction. I loved the adventure, the spirit and the dedication of the protagonists as they worked, planed, learned and grew. These were stories about boys becoming men, and seeking their place in the world. The stories also dealt with nature, being in the woods, having to depend on yourself and facing the fears of loss, loneliness and the potential of failure.

I hope that kids entering their teens still read these books, and that they still dream of adventure. I was watching the film Anvil: The Story of Anvil the other night (I highly recommend checking it out by the way), and at the end one of the member of Anvil comments that life is: The places you've been, the things you've done and the people that you've met. I think that both of these books capture that idea perfectly.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

FFB: The oral histories of the NYC, LA, and SF punk scenes

when I was a kid back in the bad old days of the late 1970s and early 80s Punk Rock was a force to be feared, demonized and marginalized. TV shows went after punk with everyone from WKRP in Cincinnati to CHIPS exposing the evils of the music, the pre-CSI show Quincy famously had an episode where the cause of death was listed as "Punk Rock". Why? where did all this animosity and hate come from? I know why the older people hated it, but why did the baby boomers feel so threatened? The answers, they ain't blowing in the wind, they partly explored in the three Oral Histories that make up my Friday Forgotten Book(s) for this week.
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain was the first book of the three to come out and in many ways is the model for the other two. The authors went to the sources, the musicians, the managers, the club owners, the photographers along with friend and family tell in their own words the story of punk from from the Velvet Underground to Iggy and the Stooges to the Ramones. The authors simply take the stories they have been given and shaped a narrative out of it. This is one of the most brilliant elements of all three books multiple points of view and version of events are presented and by in large the journalist stays out of the way.
We Got the Neutron Bomb : The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen was the next to hit the shelves. The LA punk scene had long been the forgotten little brother scene to what was happening in NYC and London, but ended up giving the world the bands that would carry punk rock from the 70s through the 80s and into the 90s alternative explosion. It was the LA second wave of punk that really spread the gospel of what punk was really about across America and around the world. The constant touring of Black Flag, the DIY ethic and the irony that these bands were living in the back year of the record industry who wouldn't touch them all play into a fascinating narrative about and time and place that many never knew existed and many would like to forget.
Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor is the newest entry for the oral history of punk book shelf. Drawing from the same format as what came before-- well the title says it all. Where the other books are weighted towards the events of 1970s and into the 80s, this one has a lot more to say about the 90's and into the present day. Part of the reason is that after Nirvana and the alternative scene broke wide open punk was embraced by many as the immediate precursor to the sounds that dominated the popular media for a few years. One of those bands was Green Day who have extensive roots in the Bay Area. The book also explores the early days of the scene when bands like The Avengers and the Nuns played at the Sex Pistols final show, and the Dead Kennedy's had yet to fall to Tipper Gore and her PRMC crusade against the evils of Rock Music.

With three books about various scenes out I hope that other will start exploring what was going on in their areas, and look forward to oral histories of: London, Vancouver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Rochester NY, Boston, and DC. I also hope that someone will do a oral history of; Horrorpunk/deathrock, Cowpunk/ Paisley Underground, Psychobilly and the Garage Rock Revival of the 1980s.

thoughts, comments, favorite punk songs or bands?

(More Friday Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott's blog)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nov 2009: Short Story month

Nov 2009: Short Story month

As previously mentioned on this blog, I took a break for reading full length novels to catch up on the stack of short stories collection I have kicking around. I fulfilled my one Hard Case Crime a month by listening to the Audio Book of The Colorado Kid by Stephen King. My one Donald Westlake a month came from reading a bunch of his short stories. I do have to note that I started out strong with the short stories, but faded at the end of the month when I got my hands on a copy of the Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor which I am still making my way though.

So what did I read this month? Here's the list:

From A Loud Humming Sound Came from Above by Johnny Strike

Night Flamers

Other Ports, Other Hells

From Expletive Deleted

Lucky Bastard by Jason Starr

Pearls by Reed Farrel Colman

Spit by Ken Bruen

Find Me by Anthony Neil Smith

From Guns of the West
Lay My Money Down by Bill Crider
Deadlock by James Reasoner
What Gold Does to a Man by Louis L'amour
Gunny by Bill Pronzini

From Riverworld and other stoires by Philip Jose Farmer

The Volcano

Henry Miller Dawn Patrol

Brass & Gold

From The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution by Donald Westlake

The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution

You Put on Some Weight

No Story

The Sincerest Form of Flattery



Just One of those Days

Sweetest Man in the world

From Trouble is what I do by Rob Kantner

My Brothers Wife

Perfect Pitch

The Eye Went By

Sleeping Dogs Lie

The Forever Trip

Dec 2009? back to reading full length novels, I am going to try and hit a couple of Westlake/Stark books, along with at least part of the books that I had slated to be read in 2009 that I haven't gotten to yet-- and some other stuff.