Flashlite #190

Paul WesterbergThe Replacements fans should pay special attention today. We have a new track for Paul Westerberg and also a new one for Chris Mars. Chris’ song is a part of an effort to raise fund for Slim Dunlap’s recovery after a severe stroke this February. And we also have Kevin Bowe, a musician from Minneapolis who collaborates with Westerberg on Bowe’s new record. Nels Cline is on guitar. We also have the brand new album for Natural Child. They already had one really good one earlier this year called For The Love Of The Game (we have a review of that one), and now they have another fresh one called Hard In Heaven. Scott Reynolds (ex All) is trying to put a new record together, and we culled one of the demos from the Internet. Chris Brokaw (ex Come and Dirt Music) is also back with a new record called Gambler’s Ecstasy and we have a recording from his Cleveland live show. New name today is Cory Branan from around Memphis and Bad Sports from Denton TX. We also represent some very interesting compilation records.

Eamon McGrath – (Acoustic) Signals;
Natural Child – She’s Got A Mind;
Natural Child – B$G P$MP$N;
Ian Hunter – Comfortable (Flyin’ Scottsman);
Bad Sports – Red Overlay;
Chris Brokaw – Danny Borracho;
Chris Brokaw – Crooked (Live in CLE);
Paul Westerberg – My Road Now;
Kevin Bowe and The Okemah Prophet – Everybody Lies;
Chris Mars – When I Fall Down;
Scott Reynolds – Ladders Made Of Smoke;
River City Tanlines – Pretty Please;
The Stones – Down and Around;
The Textones – You Can Run;
International Submarine Band – Sum Up Broke;
Stream Of Consciousness – Till You’re Through;
Rick Jarrard – High Coin;
The Byrds – Lady Friend;
Cory Branan – Survivor Blues.

Natural Child – For The Love of The Game

Natural Child - For The Love Of The GameNatural Child is a trio from Nashville TN. When you hear Nashville, the immediate association is country music. These three guys though, sound like they could be from Atlanta or Memphis. What we have here is a garage rock dealing. And it’s a lucky draw.

They’ve been playing together for a few years. Wes and Murph were long time friends, discovering music together, united in their love for The Rolling Stones and Neil Young and they decided to form a band together. Marv on drums joined later. After some singles, the first record appropriately entitled 1971 came out in 2011. Indeed, it sounded like music that was brought over to us after a time machine trip from 40 years before us.

This year sees the group extremely busy. In breaks of their constant touring arrangement, they recorded the new album For The Love Of The Game in their practice barn, so it has that immediate live feel to it as you’d think it should.

The sound of the band is a typical power trio. All three instruments are playfully arranged together and every instrument is up in front of the mix. Singing is often in a duet between the bassist Wes and guitarist Murph.

The songs are carefully crafted and there’s a lot of dynamical range to them. Third song Baby sounds like it could be a great single outside of the record, and other songs build up an atmosphere of a developing record and it rolls down the grooves like a snowball down the hill. This is something that really makes this record great and something that we miss from the old classic rock lps. This sort of atmosphere is only interrupted a few times, once with a drunken sing-along No One Writes Sad Songs Anymore which shows a great competence of the band as classical songwriters. Well, you can’t live in Nashville and not learn how to write good songs. And then there’s Paradise Heights, reggae tinted tune that wouldn’t be out of place in Joe Strummer’s repertoire. Finally, there’s a cover of Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got To Memphis, which is not only a direct proof that the bands knows the history of rock and country extremely well, but also that they have excellent musical tastes.

The fun-packed record clocks out at the 37-th minute. The vinyl print sounds very good, but I could not identify what record plant mastered and printed the record. And just as I type this review, I’m finding out that there’s a brand new Natural Child record out already, barely half a year after For The Love Of The Game, and it’s called Hard In Heaven. Meet the hardest working band in the business!

First published on rockxs.com.

Flashlite #189

Perry BaggsThis show is dominated by several new names today. First, we have the Connection – a power pop band from Portsmouth, NH. They are joined by Wyatt Funderbunk as a guest, who we also have for the first time. Then we have the Black Oil Brothers, an interesting unpretentious mixture of traditional blues and other types of art. For instance, on their site you can download a nice story of a struggling painter. Another new name are the Australian band The Murlocks. We also have some good old friends here with new music. Singing Loins are about to put out the new record called Here on Earth and David Eugene Edwards is back with another Woven Hand release. Nick Cave invited Mark Lanegan to sing on the soundtrack for the movie that he wrote Lawless.

We also say goodbye to Perry Baggs, the drummer of Jason and The Scorchers who died on July 12th this year after a long battle with diabetes and kidney problems. Last month the Scorchers, held a memorial to help cover the funeral costs. We play two songs from the Scorchers repertoire, cowritten by Baggs.

Mikal Cronin – Situation;
Jason And The Scorchers – Six Feet Underground;
The Connection – I Think She Digs Me (With Wyatt Funderbunk);
Thee Oh Sees – Lupine Dominus;
Redd Kross – Winter Blues;
Dawes – Coming Back To A Man (Live in CLE);
Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers – Midnight Bus;
Dan Stuart – Clean White Sheets;
The Black Oil Brothers – Not Gonna Leave Her;
Link Wray – Fire And Brimstone;
Mark Lanegan – Fire and Brimstone;
The Wandering – Glory, Glory;
Othar Turner’s Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps – Glory Hallelujah;
Woven Hand – King O King;
The Murlocs – Manny’s Bar;
The Singing Loins – Crying Out Loud;
Jason And The Scorchers – Far Behind.

Redd Kross – Researching The Blues

Redd Kross - Researching The BluesIn the past decade or so, we witnessed a surge of reunions, particularly of bands that meant something in the seventies and the eighties. Some of the bands just tour, perhaps make a live album and try to relive the past without changing much. Others make new records. Often times the motive is to draw larger crowds to the gigs than each band member would individually, or perhaps these bands simply want to go back to the youthful years. In any case, reunions are typically in shadows of the famous past. Exceptions to the rules are scarce. I can only think of Mission of Burma and their reunion album On Off On which is as great as anything they did before, if not better, more mature and stronger piece. Now we have a new example in Redd Kross.

Redd Kross formed in the days of LA punk surge, in the late ’70s. The early years were chaotic, but we remember well their ferocious first album Born Innocent, an all cover album Teen Babes From Monsanto and they contribution to the legendary low budget punk movie Desperate Teenage Lovedolls.

The nineties see Redd Kross riding the grunge wave on a major label, although their sound was decidedly power pop and bubblegum. The big show business wasn’t nice to them and they disbanded in 1997. We would occasionally hear about Redd Kross through the years, through their playful website and pioneering work in podcasting.

But, as we said in the first paragraph, they reformed this year. The new line up is some ways the classic Redd Kross – the two McDonald brothers (Jeff and Steven), Roy McDonald (no relation) and Robert Hecker. They were the line up in the late 80s, during the Neurotica period. But, as we hinted, this reunion is not your typical reunion. The new album just bursts with energy, humor, great songs and harmonies.

Let’s face it, Redd Kross albums, well other than the first two, are slightly overproduced. Especially the nineties output. It was possibly their desire to penetrate into the radio market. This new record is crisp and raw, energetic attack to your hi-fi system. There are no tricks, frills nor polishes. Yet, everything is perfectly optimized. The length clocks out just about over thirty minutes, which just leaves you for wanting more and the only option is to repeat the record. This is sort of an effect so rarely seen on today’s records.

The songwriting is flawless. There’s a lot of humor through the horror imagery (Dracula, Frankenstein). The sounds are lighthearted, and just slightly ironic. The harmonies are gorgeous, and I have a feeling that the band worked very closely on arranging them so perfectly. At the same time, the whole deal appears to be effortless. A lot reviews around bring comparisons to Cheap Trick, but what’s funny about this album is that it’s greater and more fun even in comparison to the classic Cheap Trick recordings!

Unexpectedly, the album that’s most fun in years comes from a band that reunited. This puts Redd Kross in a very special place in the history of rock music.
First published on rockxs.com.

Flashlite #188

Joe SouthThree rocking returns today. ZZ Top open the show with a new heavy rocker from their new record La Futura. Dinosaur Jr also rock with a new song from the new record I Bet On Sky. And Ian Hunter is back with a playful new record When I’m President. On the power pop front, we introduce the new artist, a librarian from Portland, Maine, Kurt Baker. Juliana Hatfield is back with a new untitled record. And then we have two new live albums, one for Los Lobos and other for Joe Strummer. Actually, the latter is a combination of an anthology and a live record from his days with The Mescaleros.

I would like to dedicate today’s episode to Joe South, a wonderful rock’n’roll singer songwriter and an imaginative guitar player who died last week.

David Bromberg – Nobody’s;
ZZ Top – I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose, You;
Dinosaur Jr. – Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know;
Pods – Name In Vain ;
Juliana Hatfield – Everybody Loves Me but You;
Juliana Hatfield – Closet;
John Fred And His Playboy Band – Where Will You Be;
Mott The Hoople – Sucker;
Ian Hunter – What For;
Wreckless Eric – There Isn’t Anything Else;
Death of Samantha – Rosenberg Summer (Live in CLE);
Kurt Baker – Sleeping With the Television On;
Joe Strummer – Coma Girl;
Joe South – Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home;
Joe South – Clock Up On The Wall;
Los Lobos – Reva’s House.

Eamon McGrath – Young Canadians

Eamon McGrath - Young CanadiansEamon McGrath comes from Canada. He grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canadian Western province, North of the US state of Montana, with lots of prairies. This is where he started to come up with his first songs, recording them in his house and distributing them around on cd-rs to friends and fans. There is about 15 to 20 of those proto albums that he made in very small amount of copies and it is unclear what exactly is contained in those releases. Perhaps some songs repeated in multiple versions, but what we can tell for sure, they were all recorded relatively cheaply in lo-fi technology.

Some of these first recordings appeared on McGrath first official release for an actual label White Whale Records in 2009 on a compilation record 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light. This is when I first heard of McGrath. Although 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light record is technically a compilation, it really flows as a normal release. All songs are fresh and show a great consistency and a talent of a new songwriter. This is also around the time when McGrath moved to Toronto to pursue his musical career more actively.

With a label, growing audience and extremely positive reviews from the British press, McGrath quickly established his name as the greatest new name coming from Toronto. The quality of the songs also showed that some of the current great songwriters, such as Greg Cartwright and Harlan T. Bobo from Memphis TN, got a new challenger from an unexpected place. The race for the greatest contemporary songwriter is on.

This year brought another release for McGrath. As you can see from the title Young Canadians, the record is a patriotic view on the Canada today and the generation to which McGrath belongs to. He is quite young, in his early twenties, and he can already claim to be the poet of his generation. Images of the Canadian life and landscapes fill the lyrics of the songs. This is not an idealized picture of the world around McGrath. It’s similar to Springsteen’s Nebraska or Born In The USA – it’s patriotism with consciousness.

Talking about Springsteen, this is a name that is often quoted as a strong ingfluence on McGrath. But, it is not the only influence. I can also hear a lot of Warren Zevon, particularly when some cynicism springs through some of the lyrics. On the other hand, McGrath also never hides some of the fresher influences. Paul Westerberg is often mentioned in his interviews and Bob Mould from his “poison years” is another one that I hear. Just listen to the screaming vocals of the closing track Saskatoon on this album, and you will understand what I’m talking about. The synthesis of all these influences in McGrath music is for one perfect. He is picking on some of the most wonderful songwriters in the history of rock’n’roll. Also, the synthesis is seamless. He wears the influences proudly, but also brings a lot of new things into the mix.

It would we wrong to understand McGrath purely as a singer songwriter, although this is pretty logical if you are basing your conclusion only on his records. However, the news comes to us that his live shows are totally rocking, and his live trio sounds more like Black Flag than the E Street Band. If you ask me, that’s kind of a surprise I’d love to experience!

McGrath is raw, unpolished jewel that is rare to find. He breathes greatness from every grove on this new record and we can consider ourselves lucky to be his contemporaries. He takes all from the life and experiences around him and fiercely returns it all to us on a record. May the spirit of Bob Stinson be forever with him.

First published on rockxs.com.

Flashlite #187

Dob LybanSinger singwriters today… some of the greatest ever. Dan Stuart, founding member of the Green On Red is finally back with with his second ever solo album, the first since his excellent debut Can O’Worms in 1995. The new album is called The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings. Italian band Sacri Cuori backs him up for this effort. Then we have Patti Smith who also has a new record out called Banga. Grant Hart is preparing a new solo double album called The Argument based on Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. The album is still not out, but two songs from it came out on a 45. Jon Dee Graham was recently in Cleveland, at Beachland Tavern and he’s in our Live in Cleveland segment. He also has a new album out Garage Sale which I picked at the show. And then there’s the new album from the guy on the picture. We say goodbye to Scott McKenzie, who sadly died recently. Finally, we have an exclusive new tune from a Zagreb band Vex And The Voxtones, who will participate on the upcoming tribute to The Records.

Patti Smith – Mosaic;
Sacri Cuori – El Gone;
Dan Stuart – What Are You Laughing About;
Dan Stuart – Waterfall;
Grant Hart – So Far From Heaven;
Nova Mob – Space Jazz;
Scott McKenzie – No, No, No, No, No;
Scott Mckenzie – What’s The Difference;
Jon Dee Graham – Sleep Enough To Dream (Live In CLE);
Jon Dee Graham – Just Like That;
The Rubinoos – Leave My Heart Alone;
Vex and the Voxtones – Not So Much The Time;
The Records – Not So Much Time;
Spitballs – Boris The Spider;
The Flatlanders – Number Sixteen.

Nova Mob – The Last Days of Pompeii: Special Edition

Nova MobWhen the story of Husker Du ended in 1988, Grant Hart briefly started a solo career, only to put together a new band in 1990 called Nova Mob with two of his Minneapolis friends: Tom Merkl on bass and Michael Crego on drums. The group’s first album was something nobody wanted from Grant Hart in 1991. It was a rock opera with a seemingly bizarre libretto. It was a make believe story with real life characters about the engineer of the Nazi V8 bomb and one of the leaders of the US space program, Wernher Von Braun. In the opera, Von Braun finds himself towards the end of the World War Two on a losing side with a desire to escape. In a prayer to Germanic god Woton, Von Braun asks for an ability to travel in time, which Woton grants through a gateway. Von Braun first travels in future, he learns out about all the space achievements which he would end up contributing in the 50s and 60s. In his adventures, Von Braun runs into the Roman lawyer Pliny.

They both end up traveling back to past to the ancient Rome and city of Pompeii, witnessing the eruption of the Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD which turns the city and a whole civilization to ashes. Yes, you may think to yourself, pretty wild story. But when it came out in 1991, it made a lot of sense to me. I lived in Yugoslavia at the time and my city saw destruction similar to what happened to Pompeii, although disaster wasn’t natural – it was due to the war. So I could easily work Von Braun into the whole story. I loved the record and I still do, very much!

Of course, as it usually happens in this world, complex work of art doesn’t get a deserved notice. Original “Last Days of Pompeii” saw a shaky distribution through a newly established indie label Rough Trade International. My print of the LP contained bumps, although it otherwise had a pretty good sound. “International” was the part that didn’t work in the name of the label. Distribution was poor and interest for the record was also pretty low. But luckily, Grant Hart decided to reissue the record in 2011, twenty years after it first came out.

So, this review is dedicated to the new reissue, which came out on Cond’or Records, distributed in the USA by MVD Audio. Again, the news about the record was very slow and interest of the audience was poor. I only found about the reissue recently by a chance. Although, it seems quite logical for Grant Hart to make this move, since he’s about to release his second rock opera called “The Argument” based on the Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. Perhaps he wanted to prepare the audience for the new complex work, which is being announced these days as a double album.

The reissue of The Last Days of Pompeii is not your average reissue. Ok, it has a few bonuses, which is pretty normal for reissues. But, it is not a remaster, it is in fact an entire re-mix of the original record. Some songs sound radically different than the original tunes. While some songs like “Admiral of The Sea (79 AD)” and “Space Jazz” definitely benefit from the new remixes, two of the songs “Where You Gonna Fall” and “Lavender and Grey” receive makeovers that do not fit entirely. For instance, vocal mix in “Lavender” and guitar distortion on “Where You Gonna Fall”, were better on the original record. Still, the discovering all the new sounds on the record is a great fun if you are familiar with the old mix. To my knowledge, nothing was re-recorded, only original tapes were used in the new mix, although I could be wrong. We should check with Mr. Hart.

The vinyl print of the reissue is very well done. It’s a heavy weight record, with nice and clean grooves, in a nylon inner sleeve (not just paper!), excellent fidelity and it contains a free download. The mastering and printing was done in Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, which is clearly being established as one of the best plants for record printing at the moment.

Lastly, the record cover is completely different. It is an abstract collage with a falling tower, roman remains, statues, mountainous landscape and a building that hangs in the air. The original record had a chaotic collage of tiny newspaper clippings, cuts and rips. Both are done by Grant Hart who has several exhibitions of his collage work in galleries over in Minnesota.