Archive for May, 2008


More twang in the mailbox

Carlene Carter and Justin Townes Earle have a bit in common. Both have fathers who, aside from being country music legends, overcame serious drug habits and both have battled their own drug addictions. Both also have fine new records out.

Imagine you’re the son of Steve Earle and you’re named after Townes Van Zandt. No pressure there… Justin’s debut, The Good Life, is straightforward, subdued country with a shuffley swing feel that’s perfect for recovering on a Saturday morning but his sweet voice sounds more like the dulcet tones of George Jones then his father.

Hard Livin’
Ain’t Glad I’m Leavin

The good folks at the Hear Ya blog have a live session up here.
Buy The Good Life from Bloodshot Records.

Stronger, the first record in over twelve years from this country rock survivor sounds more mainstream than Earle’s record, thanks in large part to the production by ex-Doobie Brother John McFee. But that doesn’t keep this from being a welcome comeback. Carlene’s in fine, soulful voice and the lyrics (all self penned), full of redemption and hard fought victory, are some of her best and most personal work.

The Bitter End
To Change Your Heart

That last track features some sweet autoharp that would make her mother June proud. Buy Stronger from Yep Roc records.


Love vs Hate

For a battle as old as humankind I’m having a hard time thinking of songs that explore the classic duel between love & hate. No one would deny that love by itself is the most prolific muse in any art form, let alone pop music. Hate has inspired its fair share of memorable songs as well (“Positively 4th Street” and “You Oughta Know” spring instantly to mind). But what about songs examining the relationship between the two? The subplot of Good vs. Evil gets plenty of play if we’re talking about heavy metal or video game soundtracks but the pop world largely shies away from the subject. I’ve thought of the two songs below as thematically linked for some time and hopefully they’ll stoke the fires of discourse with you, kind reader.

Ballad Of Love And HateThe Avett Brothers

The seventh record form this Concord, NC trio made my Best of 2007 list. The song’s a heartbreaker about how L&H are inextricably intertwined, depicting them as a dysfunctional couple.

“Love writes a letter and sends it to hate.
My vacations ending I’m coming home late.”/

“Hate reads the letter and throws it
No one here cares if you go or you stay.”

and later:
Love has been waiting patient and kind.
Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign.

That the one that she cares for who’s out of his mind

Will make it back safe to her arms.

Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.

Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor

He says, “Love I’m sorry” and she says, “What for?”

“I’m yours and that’s it, forever”

Happy Noodle vs. Sad NoodleLogan Whitehurst & The JSC

From the serious to a seriously whimsical take on the good & evil side of things. In the end happy and sad can’t really do without each other. Heartbreaking in that Logan was a truly gifted individual who left us too soon. The humor evident here pervades all his material. A rich stockpile can be found here.

If you can think of any more musical explorations on the theme of love vs. hate, good & evil, Cain & Abel, whatever leave a comment! If they can be on the same t-shirt they must be in the same song…


New music

The Gossip – Live In Liverpool
When oh when are we going to hear some new music from The Gossip? Their last record, the fabulous Standing In The Way Of Control, came out almost 3 years ago and they’re still flogging it on Letterman. At least we have a new live record to tide us over. This raw, ferocious set was recorded last summer where Beth & Co seem to be spending all their time with their NBF’s in the UK. All their garage/dance punk faves are included along with covers of Aaliyah (meh) and Wham! (thumbs up!) The band’s primal live act is captured in all its intensity with far better sound than 2003′s Undead In NYC. Beth Ditto’s feral R&B howl is in full effect and the band is hyper-tight.

My two favorite tracks so far:
Standing In The Way Of Control (obligatory at this point)
Yr Mangled Heart

The Little Ones – Terry Tales & Fallen Gates EP

I saw The Little Ones open for Quasi at Noisepop earlier this year and just couldn’t get behind them. Maybe I was too prepared for Sam Coomes’ morose musings to let in a little sunshine. My loss. The second EP from these LA popsters is so damn cheerful and sparkly my mouth hurts from smiling so much. Fans of The New Pornographers will be glad they picked this one up.

New Branches

Hard Place – Get Your Hopes Up
Despite the fact that Nathan Shafer is replaced by Ashley Huizenga the second release from this LA/SF glitchy disco tinged glam throwback act is pretty close to their debut EP from ‘04. Think The Cars meets CSS or Bonde do Rolê. Adding a female foil to Freddy Cristy’s sleazy Sparks lounge act is an interesting move and from the looks of the photos on their myspace page their live act is quite a spectacle. Another bold (and hilarious) move is posting negative reviews of their debut.

Last Goodbye


New music/dvd from The National

So what does The National do after releasing one of the hottest records of last year? Well of course they enlist old pal and current La Blogotheque auteur Vincent Moon to direct a movie that’s kinda about the making of said record but also about, if I may quote from Beggar’s Group USA, “how music is made today — not with classic rock bravado, or debauched indulgence, but through novelistic attention to detail, a collective implosion of personality, and worried worried nights”.

But a simple dvd won’t slake the thirst of all those new fans clamoring for more material so you have to slap an odds and (surprisingly few) sods ep to go with it. Bravo! Moon’s movie “A Skin, A Night” and accompanying The Virginia EP comes out next Tuesday, almost a year to the day after their fantastic Boxer full length.

The Virginia EP tracklist:
1) You’ve Done It Again, Virginia (w/ Sufjan Stevens, previously unreleased)
2) Santa Clara (UK b-side)
3) Blank Slate (UK b-side)

4) Tall Saint (demo)
5) Without Permission (unreleased cover of UK alt. folkster Caroline Martin)
6) Forever After Days (demo)
7) Rest Of Years (demo)
8) Slow Show (demo)
9) Lucky You (from last year’s Daytrotter session)
10) Mansion On The Hill (live Springsteen cover)
11) Fake Empire (live)
12) About Today (live)

Check two of my favorite tracks so far:
You’ve Done It Again, Virginia
Without Permission

It’s all more of their distinctive brand of after hours indie pop that feels like the bastard love child of Tindersticks and Spoon. A couple of the demos sound to these ears like full fledged songs ready for release, particularly “Forever After Days” while others are intimate sketches recorded in the Dessner home. The live tracks include the Springsteen cover that’s been all over the international network lately and a robust 8+ minute version of “About Today”.


Spoon coming to the Fillmore

Tickets for Spoon’s three night run at the Fillmore in SF (9/22-24) go on sale this Sunday. They’ve been near the top of the lengthy “must check ‘em out” list for some time now and the chance to hear material from one of my Top 20 records from last year at one of the best live venues in town pushes the pull-out-the-wallet button in a big way.

There’s been talk of pre-sales ending at 5PM today but after becoming a signed up fella for one of the big mersh stations here in the Bay Area it looks to me like the damn thing’s either broken or sold out… I’ll just have to hop on the phone at 10AM Sunday like ever’body else.

For an idea of how fabulous an evening of indie pop this will surely be check out WYEP in Pittsburgh’s stream of an in studio performance they did last Wednesday here. If mp3′s are your thing Gregor over at Captains Dead has posted their live set from Sydney in January here.

All that literate, hook laden songcraft for only $25? I’m in!


Jim Marshall exhibit in SF

Gallery 291 in San Francisco is hosting the premier show by one of the greatest rock photographers of all time. A San Francisco native and staff photographer for Rolling Stone in the earliest of days, Jim Marshall was backstage at so many epic events in music history it boggles the mind. We’ve all seen the infamous shot of Johnny Cash reacting to Marshall’s request for a picture “for the warden” at Folsom Prison (I’d post that one but we try to keep things kid friendly around here). He was the principle photographer at Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival (incredible shots of Otis Redding and Jimi setting his guitar on fire); his work adorns the covers of The Allman Bros. Live At The Fillmore East, Cream’s Best of Cream, Jimi Hendrix’s In The West and many others; he was the only photographer allowed backstage at The Beatles final concert at Candlestick Park. Hard to imagine this is the first extended showing of his work, no?

Marshall will be at the opening reception at Gallery 129 tonight from 6 to 9 PM at 291 Geary Street, Floor 5 in San Francisco.

A great slide show is on the gallery’s website here. More photos here.

Catch me on KALX in Berkeley

I host the Cuppa Joe show on KALX in Berkeley every other Wednesday from 6 to 9 PM. You can tune at 90.7 or online by clicking HERE ------------------------------------------- NEXT SHOW: October 28 FUNDRAISER SHOW!! ------------------------------------------- Check out past playlists HERE
Got something I HAVE TO HEAR? Wanna send me free stuff? Email me at


Quick note about the tunes

The mp3s on this blog are to give folks a little taste. Imagine they're those little pouches on the bag your Sunday paper comes in. You know, the one's with a packet containing just enough toothpaste to brush your teeth once or twice. They are left up for a limited time. If you find something you like support the artists by dragging your friends to their shows and/or buying their CDs/records/schwag. If you are the artist (or their label/representative) and don't want an mp3 on here, please email me ( and I'll remove it posthaste.
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