Monthly Archives: January 2014

RIP Pete Seeger

 

Reading Rainbow.  That was my first introduction to Pete Seeger. I had no idea who this old guy with a beard was reading from a book on my beloved show. But when he started reading Abiyoyo creating voices for all of the characters, I knew immediately that this old guy must be awesome. His voice was kind and gentle – perfect for storytelling – but with a mix of authority.

It seems odd now to think that a radical folk artist would appear on a kid’s television program.  But Reading Rainbow was a pretty radical show, come to think of it. It weren’t for that show, I probably would have a lot of catching up to do in terms of Americana and folk-tales in my 20’s.  Pete Seeger probably realized this too – that it was the perfect platform to inspire young kids about America’s history.  Abiyoyo wasn’t just a folk tale. It was Seeger’s way on insuring that kids like me would eventually be interested in American culture and what it should and can stood for.

I’d love to say that my world-view point forever changed the moment that I saw Seeger on Reading Rainbow.  It would make for an amazing story that a light bulb clicked off in my head at the age of 7 or however old I was.  But the musicians who did  (and still do ) inspire my outlook couldn’t have done it without Pete Seeger.  Every time you listen to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Seeger’s there. He’s there every time Bruce Springsteen plays his heart out for 4 hours. His presence is even found on hip-hop albums that depict a harsher lifestyle than average American.

It’s often said that the older you get, the more conservative and passive you get.  I’ve certainly seen it happen.  Thank God for Pete Seeger who taught us all that you can still cause as much as trouble and hold onto your convictions into your 90s.

The world needs more like him.

New Music: “See What You’re Doing to Me” – Ryan Hobler

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Ryan Hobler’s “See What You’re Doing to Me” could very easily be the soundtrack for the deep freeze that’s been taking over the country for the past month.  Hobler’s haunting vocals sound like they were recorded in a desolate cabin that was encased in snow.  It might not make you feel warm, but it’ll make you feel like you’re not alone in the frigid weather.

Check out the video for “See What You’re Doing to Me” below:

For more info on Ryan Hobler, check out his web-site here.

New Music: “Gimme Danger” (Stooges Cover) – Anna Rose

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“Gimme Danger” was considered one of two “ballads” off Raw Power.   In the hands of many other bands, “Gimme Danger” would be the loudest track. For her cover of “Gimme Danger”,  Anna Rose takes a cue from “the ballad” label and turns the Stooges’ gritty masterpiece into a slowed down bluesy groove.  Gone are Iggy’s menacing vocals and James Williamson’s blistering guitar.But make no mistake, Rose sounds just as dangerous and wild. Her singing might be softer, but underneath there’s still plenty of darkness.

Check out “Gimme Danger” below:

New Music: “If You Touch Me You Might As Well Kill Me” – Workout

 

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Every once in a while, you come across a song that sounds unlike anything you’ve ever heard.  “If You Touch Me You Might As Well Kill Me” is one of those songs. It contains elements of traditional Eastern European music, Spaghetti westerns and glam-rock.  On paper, this description sounds down-right ridiculous.  But trust me, it’s not.  If indie-rock music is heading in this direction, 2014 could be a very good year.

Check out “If You Touch Me You Might As Well Kill Me” below:

 

The song is the first single off of Workout’s 2nd LP Rockit Science.

www.workoutbrooklyn.com

 

New Music: “Ides of Fall” – Jared & the Mill

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Arizona’s Jared & the Mill have recently released the video for “Ides of Fall” from Western Expansion.  The video is an emotionally charged video showcasing the band’s interaction with its audience.  Check it out below:

The band have also announced a tour which will see them stop at SXSW.  For more infer on Jared & the Mill check out their Facebook page.

Is Tom Morello A Good Fit for the E-Street Band?

A few years ago, while flipping through the channels I stumbled upon the broadcast 25th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary Concerts.  I had read about the concerts previously and was intrigued by the one of a kind collaborations: U2, Fergie and Mick Jagger doing “Gimme Shelter” (which was god awful), Lou Reed and Metallica, and Tom Morello playing guitar with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

I happened to switch on right as Morello was blasting his way through the end of a re-worked version of Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.  Morello has always been an impressive guitarist, but his work here was incredible. His famous scratching style of playing perfectly suited the dark injustice that lay at the heart of the lyrics. Both the audience and the band were clearly feeding off of Morello’s energy. This was a performance for the ages.

It shouldn’t really come as surprise that Morello and Springsteen would be brothers in arms. Morello might be a bit more extreme – and perhaps even smarter than Springsteen – in his politics but they’re both cut from the same cloth: standing up for the working man and other social injustices of the world.  They both share a love of Woody Guthrie and believe that popular music can carry a lot of weight.

At the time I just assumed that Morello was just a fan and friend who would occasionally pop up at Springsteen shows.  But fast forward a few years to the release of 2012’s Wrecking Ball and Morello appears on 2 tracks: “Jack of All Trades” and “This Depression”.  His signature sound is apparent on these 2 tracks, but he never out-steps his boundaries.  These two songs are among the most political on an album that is almost explicitly political.  When Springsteen’s narrator on “Jack of All Trades” concludes that he’ll “shoot the bastards on sight” who won’t give him a job or a chance, the song begs for Morello’s sonic intensity to end the song.

In the 2 years since Wrecking Ball, Morello has become a de facto member of the E-Street Band.  He’s filled in for Steve Van Zandt on tours and re-worked some of Springsteen’s solos to fit his style.  And now with Springsteen’s latest album High Hopes, Morello is all over the album.

And with the exception of a studio version of the re-worked “Tom Joad” which they’ve performed  many times live, I’m not entirely sure it’s a good thing.  Morello’s style is beat suited to heaviness – which is why “The Ghost of Tom Joad” works – but elsewhere his fills and leads sit clumsily alongside the soul influenced “Heaven’s Wall” and the horn-heavy title track.  Even worse is his riff on “Harry’s Place” which sounds like it could be a Rage Against the Machine out-take.  I kept waiting for Zack De La Rocha to come out of hiding and go a guest verse on the song.

Let’s also keep in mind that the E-Street band already has 3 great guitarists: Springsteen, Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren.  Do they really need another one – even if he’s technically not a full-fledged member?  I would say no, as long as Springsteen can still do the knife-cutting solo on “Candy’s Room” and Lofgrin still gets to stretch out on “Because the Night”.

I understand why Springsteen would want Morello around. With Rage he created a whole new sonic palette of what the guitar could do. Nobody sounds like him. And of course, there’s their political views.  Parts of High Hopes sound as if Springsteen is over-reaching simply because he can and Morello is more than willing – and why wouldn’t he?  (I’m not necessarily blaming him for wanting to play with Springsteen.)  It seems to me like Springsteen is putting a friendship and common interests above the music. This might be the first time I would ever accuse Springsteen of settling for something sub-standard.

If Morello and Springsteen want to work together further they might be wise to explore a true collaborative album.  Morello’s solo work as The Nightwatchman fits in perfectly with the themes Springsteen has explored in albums such as Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad.

In other words: leave the wah-wah at home and create a real protest album together.  Now that would be a radical idea.

New Music: “Reverie” – Side Saddle

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If need to thaw yourself out from the Polar Vortex this week, check out Side Saddle’s “Reverie”.  With lush harmonies, evoking mid-1960s Beach Boys, this song is sure to get you feeling warm in no time.  A folk-pop gem.

“Reverie” can be found on Side Saddle’s latest EP The Postcard due out March 25th.