Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flirtin' with Disaster

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

A friend stopped me on the street yesterday to point out that I was riding a skateboard with an iced coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other.  Not a pretty sight, I conceded.  Forty-year-old father of three, skateboarding. I only bought the board last week, my first time riding one in 22 years.  It felt like plugging in an ancient lamp and finding out it still works, miraculously. Oh! This is something I can still do! I guess I'm not dead yet after all ...

When you're in the forest dark, shame doesn't factor anymore. I bought the board at the mall from a punk kid who was born the same year I last rode a skateboard, 1989. My 4-year-old was tugging on my pants, begging to leave. "Can we go home, Daddy?  I'm boooored."

As we tried to get out of the mall, some smiling guy in a zoologist outfit tried to sell us a pet marsupial that looked like a squirrel crossed with a monkey.

Everybody keeps telling me I'm going to get killed on this skateboard. 

Then two contractor buddies come over yesterday to assess how much I'm going to fork over to insulate my basement.  Both of them are southern transplants like me, one from North Carolina, one from Texas.  The NC guy is bald with tufts of red hair on the sides and a fu manchu beard, looks vaguely like a redneck Harpo Marx, and quiet like him, too.  The Texas guy is tall and rangy, tells weird jokes, likes free jazz. Anyway, before they left I made them both stand in my living room while I blasted "Flirtin' with Disaster" by Molly Hatchet at top volume on my stereo.  I looked at them while air-guitarring that hickory-smoked solo.  Right?  Yes?  See? Remember this?  Figured they'd get this. Back when men were men, before the dandifying effects of liberal arts educations and the testosterone-vaporizing effects of fatherhood.  Doughy, chinless white dudes in denim with flowing locks and really bad split ends, driving loud and fast in cobalt-blue Camaros on sizzling interstates in August. Big gnarly laughter, beer dribbling down beards, hellbound and heedless ...

I'm travelin' down that lonesome road
Feel like I'm draggin' a heavy load

They both nodded politely and looked at me with a faint air of sympathy. $460, just for the materials.  Did I mention that I spilled coffee all over my laptop last week and destroyed it?  It's a paper weight now.  Had to fork over more money for a new one, which I'm tracking via FedEx as it makes its way here from Shanghai. 

Welcome to the new Driftwood Singers.  Same as it ever was. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fix My Mind

I've been stewing in this new/forthcoming Damien Jurado record for a few weeks now. The alchemical transformation of downerism into uplift is an ongoing mystery. There's a stretched horizon of mellotron, a staggered backing vocal response to the main lyric, echoing hand-claps, a bleak crossroads where Lambchop and Lee Hazlewood intersect under it all. JP was listening the other day before she knew what it was and said "I guess I like My Morning Jacket more than I thought."

"Cloud Shoes" -- Damien Jurado

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Here at TDSP, the rate at which we go back in time is at least five times the rate forward, essentially leaving us terminally in the 1970s. But we still do go forward occasionally. Some. A bit. Now and then. And now, after Hugo Chavez finally made the world safe for Twitter, when it's probably nearly jumped the shark, we're now on board for this thing. Lefty, me, is getting his Tweet on.


If you bother with this sort of thing, follow us. It's where a lot more do-nothing gets done nowadays, and with terrifying efficiency, so it can't be all bad. Time wastage as a news ticker. The urgent sense of going somewhere while going nowhere. Hey, maybe we've finally come full circle! Ouroboros and what not. Anyway, let's see if this lasts longer than the podcast did.

Meanwhile, Bonnie Prince Billy covering the Grateful Dead:

"Brokedown Palace" - Bonnie Prince Billy

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mogrify Me

There was some delicious false hope in the air today. A taste of spring that was snatched back as soon as the sun went down. But while the fantasy lasted I got out with the kids (waddled in mud and slush), pretended it was warm, stood in the sun and walked around the block. Started reading the most recent Nick Hornby book -- a pleasant, sensitive plot-centric counterbalance to the awesome manly pressure-cooked rage and absurdist dissolution of the new book of Sam Shepard stories (like a tincture of Thomas McGuane and Cormac McCarthy served as a literary boiler-maker) that I just finished. Impending spring lights the fuse, March -- bathed to the root in liquor and all, and then when April rolls around it starts to feel cruel and impossible. Overripe. I'm just ready for the liquor-root-bath. Here's some music that's just out or is being released in the coming months. It may give you hope.

The Sam Amidon draws on folk material, taking spooky murder ballads, sibling death romps and religious passion (or an R Kelly track, which he does, too), and delivers the songs with a strange moving aloofness, and the string arrangements by Nico Muhly provide surprising movements and spikes, harmonic ripples and rhythmic snaps. It might bring to mind Gavin Bryar's "Chris Blood Never Failed Me Yet," or Harry Smith, or John Adams, or Steve Reich, or the band Midlake.

The Free Energy (pictured) sends you back to 2004, to 1994, and then back again to 1974, maybe. There are waxy gobs of Thin Lizzy, Pavement, Spoon, Weezer and the Hold Steady all mogrified and muddled. I was ready to love something. And I love this.

The Ravenna Colt is the new project by Johnny Quaid, the first guitarist from My Morning Jacket. You can hear many of the MMJ trademarks in this music. His somewhat pinched trebly tone is unmistakable, the hang-gliding vocals, the taste for epic riffage (with implied beards), and even the thinly masked Kentucky pride makes you want to get all windbaggy about limestone aquifers and the Ohio River.

I'm gonna go make some pizza.

"How Come That Blood" -- Sam Amidon

"Hope Child" - Free Energy

"South of Ohio" -- The Ravenna Colt

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Knights of Infinite Resignation

The Detroit Harmonettes pass the obscurity test. Can't find much of a trace on wikipedia or elsewhere on the web, and one has to bore down deep into rare European compilations to track down a trail. Their apparent vanishing act is probably complicated by the fact that their name is very much like a more well known gospel vocal group, the Harmonettes (out of Chicago, I think). I got this track off of a record called Detroit Gospel. It was on the Gospel Heritage label, a division of the British label Interstate Music. There are about six other groups on the record, with lineups and mini histories for each one, except the Detroit Harmonettes. I didnt' realize the extent of the data black hole until after transferring this one from vinyl. Detoit's gospel groups funneled right into the Motown machine, but who knows what became of the I don't know where the Detroit Harmonettes. I get the feeling that the two tracks of their featured on Detroit Gospel are maybe the only to recordings from a single 78 they cut. DeLuxe Records, 6039. The shuffle-swing on the drum kit pumps some secular muscle into things here. The voices sound like nothing quite so much as a shiny and bright horn section. And the sentiment, "I Gave Up Everything," well, it's something you either can relate to, or will be able to relate to.

"I Gave Up Everything" - the Detroit Harmonettes

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Found a beautiful compilation of early Charlie Rich in a junk shop in Red Hook today (Songs for Beautiful Girls, Pickwick/33). I'll forgo the overstatement: maybe the most soulful white man ever recorded. As Mr. Poncho put it: sounds like Elvis, only smarter. Britt Daniels of Spoon weeps into his pillow at night wishing his band could achieve the sound in these songs. The production is pure late 50s Sun Records [Ed.: Well, sorta; see comments], but even more subtle and sophisticated than usual, pushing more into black music than others were willing to go, more jazz and gospel bits brightening the corners. And Rich's blues vibrato is a lost treasure of 20th Century music history. No wonder Peter Guralnick, the Elvis biographer, dug him back up in the early 90s and produced his last album.


I Can't Go On - Charlie Rich

It Ain't Gonna Be That Way - Charlie Rich

A Field of Yellow Daisies - Charlie Rich

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cellular Accounting (Yogic Integers)

I used to work on a farm with a couple yoga teachers, and they'd stop in the row and teach us some stretches. We came up with the theory of "opposite yoga postures" with regard to bending and weeding or standing and hoeing -- basically mixing up the effort to not get all bunched up and knotted. Some tension. Some release. I went to a yoga class this morning. My first. The class was just the thing. A vacation from the self. A deep-breathing encounter with all the inconvenient truths of the body and the mind. There's some deep-tissue reckoning that needs to be made. The instructor kept reminding us to witness the body, the breath, the surge and flow of it all. (I've witnessed the body plenty, I think. It all comes back to the Fat Elvis Paradigm.)

To fully explore the material at hand. To take the form, the repeated form, the confines, the limitations and make a full cellular accounting. The idea made me think of Lefty's post about The King (witness the body), about completely inhabiting a song, about transfiguration and transformation through the full embrace of matter. And that got me thinking about these songs from the unbelievable collection Fire In My Bones, a three-disc compilation of African-American gospel from 1944 to 2007. This is a herculean effort, sort of along the lines of a Harry Smith or John Fahey-type esoteric epic archival grappling. I loved when The Art of Field Recording came out, revealing that there were still loads of raw and inspired performers to be tracked down and documented, some of them just up the road. But Fire in My Bones is sort of the American Anthology of Folk Music flip-side to that; it demonstrates that tons of incredible music has been recorded (or performed on the radio) that might otherwise just slip through the cracks of our media-saturated lives. (The set was compiled by blogger and music writer Mike McGonigal and released on Tompkins Square Records)

To hear Precious Bryant take something as worn-by-use and so-familiar-as-to-be-empty as "When the Saints Go Marching In" and perform some kind of dual spirit substance-swap, turning it both to radiant fire and gnarly rock, is to realize the liberating powers of constraints and limits.

Isaiah Owens performs a complete electric shamanic possession, squeezing oil from shale.

I also started listening to George Meredith's The Egoist on a book on tape. I heard this:

"To begin to think is the beginning of disgust of the world."

I guess that's a warning.

"When The Saints Go Marching In" - Precious Bryant

"You Without Sin Cast The First Stone" - Isaiah Owens