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Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Cuatro De Julio!

In music on July 4, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Happy Fourth of July!

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I Love John Doe.

In music on June 26, 2007 at 11:37 pm

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Okay, so I have a lot of catching up to do with the blog, as some of you have pointed out.  And I’ll start here.

I’ve been a fan of the LA punk band X since the early 80s.  I saw the RHCP open for X in 1984 at San Diego State, and in the short history of rock and roll music I’ll argue that there are few runs of records like X’s first four albums.  I mean, “Los Angeles,” “Wild Gift,” “Under the Big Black Sun” and “The New World” are all, in their own right, poetic punk records, fiery yet human, ya know?  And taken as a group?  They can’t be topped.  I mean, most groups come out with a great first record, and then, because they wrote the first record over years and years, their second one sucks big donkey balls.  Or their third one.  Or, in the case of REM, right around the fourth record you can start to smell the rot.  And your shoes stick to the floor.  But X?  4 great records.  Great, great records.  Sure, they fatally attempted to go “metal” on their fifth record, but in an ideal “Jeff Universe,” X would have been as popular as Britney Spears.  And they probably would have worn underwear, even!

Anyway, that’s my X rant.  But this post isn’t about X.  It’s about John Doe, who, yes, was a founding member of X.  And, since X sort of broke up in 1987 or so, Doe (not his real name – did you see that coming?) has been embarking on a solo career that’s gone more in a country rock sort of direction, albeit with that distinctive John Doe voice.  Oh, that voice.  Longing, anger, lust, sorrow…to hear John Doe sing is to hear angels sing.  Angels who live in ageless motels alongside dusty old highways, waiting for something better to come along, all the while knowing deep down inside that nothing better is coming along, yet holding on to that last shred of hope that maybe they’re wrong.

That’s John Doe.

Anyway, so John Doe played the Lion’s Lair last Friday night, and I dragged Kath out to see him, because I know she has impeccable taste in music and I was hoping that John Doe’s voice would mesmerize her the way it does me and then I could share my worship of the man with somebody.  And, besides, I needed a date.  And she had nothing better to do.  So we went.

But first, I bought and downloaded his most recent record “A Year In The Wilderness” (okay, so you kids don’t call them “records” anymore – hell, they’re not even “CDs” anymore!  They’re “downloads!”  But give an old coot some room, all right?  I’ll call them “records.”  And my beer is “moonshine.”), which just came out a week or two ago.  Now I’ve heard all of John Doe’s solo records and they’re all quite good, but this one is something special.  Featuring guests artists like Kathleen Edwards, Jill Sobule, Aimee Mann and Dave Alvin, the songs on this record are uniformly fantastic and make me want to take a drive.  Seriously, the acoustic “A Little More Time” in a car on the eastern plains of Colorado in the summertime might just be the soundtrack to a very good day.  Hell, I’ve already driven through downtown singing the rocker “Lean Out Yr Window” at the top of my lungs several times.  Did you hear the dogs howl?  While John Doe’s voice is angelic, mine’s more truck-stop bathroom.  The point is, if you have an extra $15 laying around or are looking to pick up this summer’s best record, buy “A Year In The Wilderness” here.  It’s that good.

And so, having heard the record before the show Friday, I was pretty excited about going.  After a pre-show dinner at The Irish Snug, Kath and I went over to The Lion’s Lair, which is a tiny bar.  I had no idea it was that small, and it was a great place to see John Doe.  The opening band was Dead Rock West, and we saw some of their set, which was quite good, in a country-rock-with-harmonies sort of way. I’m a sucker for harmonies, so I really enjoyed them.  And then John Doe came out and his band consisted of members of Dead Rock West,  including the female who sang harmonies, and it was mind-blowing.  I mean, I realize I compared John Doe’s voice to down on their luck angels earlier, but (if you’ve ever heard X, you know what I mean) combine his voice with a good female voice and the angels are no longer down on their luck; they’ve moved from the motels to the Ritz Carlton.  While the combo of John and Exene’s voices was a big part of the X sound, this new John Doe sound, with women who are actually singing on key (no offense, Exene), is awesome.  Kath and I stood there with our vodka tonics in our hands and our jaws on the floor as he played all kinds of his solo material and several X songs (“More Fun In The New World,” “White Girl”) with an intensity that would make performers half his age faint from exhaustion.   I’ve seen a lot of concerts, and this has to be in the top 5.  Tiny club, intense performer, songs that make me want to hit the road, and harmonies?  I was in heaven.  It was utterly magical.

Remember my ideal “Jeff Universe?”  There, John Doe would win Grammys and get played on the radio.  A lot.  And we’d all be talking about his songs instead of what jail is like for a spoiled heiress.

Exhausted, happy, and drunk, Kath and I went to Pete’s Kitchen afterwards for a late snack.  You want to see something funny?  Offer Kath a cup of coffee.

Johnny Cash’s House Burns Itself Down

In music on April 11, 2007 at 10:41 am


Johnny Cash’s Tennessee house burned down Tuesday. Which would seem like a tragedy, on the surface. However, it seems that it had been sold to Barry Gibb, who was going to use it as a vacation home.

I was thinking about this this morning, and I think that one of two things happened: Either the house burned itself down or Johnny and June threw a match down from heaven. I mean, c’mon! Barry Gibb living in Johnny Cash’s house? The one he and June lived in from 1968 until their death? Barry Gibb? I mean, I find the Bee Gees amusing (see my disco post later this week), and Barry writes a decent song, but we’re talking about Johnny and June Carter Cash: One of the greatest love stories of American music! The songwriter(s) and singers of a ridiculous number of American music classics! Of course their house wasn’t going to be a vacation home. It should have been a freaking museum. At least.

Flogging My Molly

In music on February 19, 2007 at 6:45 pm

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Growing up on the mean streets of San Diego, California, I never really had much use for punk music.  Too fast, too mean, not nearly as fun as that “New Wave” that gripped me.   

However, a funny thing is happening to me as I get older.  I’m becoming more and more left wing, which is not the topic of this post, but I’m also becoming more and more enamored with punk rock.  But not your ordinary, run of the mill, “Let’s Lynch The Landlord” punk (although that is a great song); no, my punk has to have roots. 

Let me explain.  For whatever reason, I’m not really a fan of punk for punk’s sake.  Black Flag doesn’t do anything for me; The Sex Pistols aren’t even on my radar.  But add another element of music to it, and I’ll love it.  Social Distortion is punk with a dash of Johnny Cash; X is rockabilly punk; The Clash regularly threw reggae into their music.  And all three bands are regularly near the top of my “recently played” list. 

Which brings me to Flogging Molly.  This band….well, it’s hard to describe.  But it’s not.  Flogging Molly is Celtic Punk; happy little melodies and traditional Irish instruments (mandolin, accordion, and fiddle, among others) sped up to light speed.  I call it “heart attack music” because I often think someone of my age could easily have a heart attack listening to Flogging Molly.  A friend of mine calls it “Riverdance on speed.” 

But that’s far too simple.  It’s more than that.  To whit, Flogging Molly has songs about pirates (“Seven Deadly Sins”), the frustrations of life (“The Worst Day Since Yesterday”), and rebels (“Rebels of the Sacred Heart”).  Songs that sometimes start out at mid-tempo, with a lovely little melody played with a flute, and you find yourself singing along with the fantastic melody but then, all of a sudden, the song takes you and throw you off the precipice into something much more manic and energetic, but you can’t stop singing along because it’s so catchy.  And you’re dancing.  And you’re reaching for a Guinness to toast your friends.  And your good fortune to have found music that touches your soul.   

And touch your soul it does.  This is happy music.  Celebratory music.  Music of life.  That’s the part that gets me.  Witness the following lyric, from “Rebels of the Sacred Heart:” 

“Now bless me father for I have sinned
But it`s the same old story again and again and again
Ah well, such is the bread of an everyday life
From mornin’ to noon to this shadowless night”

Good ol’ everyday living music.  Something we can all relate to.  You screw something up, you sin, you make a stupid mistake?  At some point, you gotta stop yourself and say, “Ah, well, that’s part of life.”  I love that lyric.

Which brings me to Flogging Molly’s best song.  Out of an amazing amount of great music (they have 3 studio CDs and 2 live CDs – all of which are worth picking up), it’s hard to suggest that any song is better than any other, because there really isn’t a bad one in the bunch.  But then there’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive.”  It’s a slower song (one of a handful in their repertoire) , played with acoustic guitar, and it’s perhaps the most powerful song they have:

“If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll thank for all the things you did in my life
If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll come back down and sit beside your
feet tonight
Wherever I am you’ll always be
More than just a memory
If I ever leave this world alive

If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll take on all the sadness
That I left behind
If I ever leave this world alive
The madness that you feel will soon subside
So in a word don’t shed a tear
I’ll be here when it all gets weird
If I ever leave this world alive

So when in doubt just call my name
Just before you go insane
If I ever leave this world
Hey I may never leave this world
But if I ever leave this world alive”

Somebody please play that song at my funeral. 

Flogging Molly plays next Monday, February 26, at the Boulder Theater.  It’s been sold out for weeks (as all FM shows usually are) and my tix are all spoken for (you KNOW who you are!), but you should beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to this show.  They are the best live band around.  You’ll spend two hours in a show bouncing around to the fast songs, getting moist in your eyes to the slow songs; you’ll feel like you’ve been hanging out with dear friends who just happen to play a mean fiddle and play Celtic music at 200 bpm; but most of all, you’ll leave the show feeling alive and invigorated.  That’s what Flogging Molly does.

Such is the bread indeed.    

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Cross-posted at Waking Up With Morning Song