I was supposed to write an article for the Westword about the ten best songs of Fall Tour, but they played so well I could have gone to twenty. Here is a link to the article, including photos I took wandering the Boardwalk early mornings while everyone else slept. I was really excited to go to Steel Pier, as that is where W.C. Fields got his start and I love all things circus and carnival and W. C. Fields. When I went it was completely isolated, and very cool for getting pictures. It was also a little dangerous with the rides all unlocked, and I quickly found out that was because it was NOT open and I was trespassing. I was told “if we don’t stop unlatching the gate, they are going to start ticketing!” Silly wooks.
Mike Donovan sounds like a city punk who went to the country and found out he fits right in. Former member of the grittier Sic Alps, he shows himself to be an extremely capable singer/songwriter with this solo effort. The single “Do Do Ya” has such a great guitar twang background slinking up the half step melody, sounding like early Rolling Stones honky tonk. His soft, almost muted at times guitar tone is gorgeous on opening track “New Fieldhand Bop” as he strums just ahead of the beat, sliding each note into place and giving the whole thing some sass.
The tempo of “Fly Them Yourself” drags too slow for my taste, but the energy is high on most tracks, “Sic Ballad” having a soulful “Hey Joe” reminiscent verse; electric guitar sounding just properly dirty enough. The spaghetti western horns and slide guitar of “Sexual Reassignment Surgery Blues” gives serious credence to a song that could be seen as novelty. “MP3 Farm” has a forceful downward strummed rhythm that begs for getting down, and a simple acoustic major key solo. Overall, it’s a really well produced album, he can write beautiful songs, and he sounds good singing them.
Mike Donovan “Do Do Ya” video
This month I was fortunate enough to be near Queens, NY to see the famed street art Mecca before it was torn down to be turned into condos. The place had a couple guys taking pics of their cars up on the sidewalk, and you had to get out of the way of delivery trucks (the place still has companies doing business inside), but otherwise it was fairly empty and magical. The owner whitewashed the building last Tuesday, saying it would break his heart to see the art go down with the building, an excuse not very well-received. Recent news is that he may have to pay damage costs to the artists, and numerous people have been arrested for tagging the white washed building. End of an era.
For decades artists came here to legally paint on the walls, from elaborate bubble letters to giant Biggie murals, the styles displayed on the place reached far in variation. Leased to a company that made 8-tracks then cd covers, the digital world left business slowing down, and art then going up.
Since Banksy was in town when I went, I was on the hunt. I had a mini heart attack when I saw this little boy with dynamite stencil, thinking I’d found one early. Alas, upon closer inspection, it had been there for awhile. Anyone know who did this?
Luckily, I was near Coney Island and managed to get a pic with the Banksy piece that day an hour before they put a metal gate over it. Street art is temporary, get out there!
What 5 Pointz looks like now: whitewashed 5 Pointz
When you see over twenty tracks listed, you think either someone has a lot to say, or they need an editor. Cass McCombs is the former, his sound is so pleasing and easy going he could have recorded a box set and it would have all been listenable. With Mike Gordon of Phish playing bass here and there, the thumping backbone of the rhythm section lets his vocals echo and wisp above it all while remaining strong and direct. “Big Wheel” trucks along strong, a beat similar to “When the Levee Breaks” chugging on as Cass purrs seductively with the slightest sneer. The slide is used to maximum beautiful effect in “Angel Blood”, amazing AM pop hooks that remind me of early Beatles through it and the remainder of the album. Some tracks are more segments of songs, as McCombs seems to be sharing any idea he had at the time, fully formed or not. “Brighter!” appears twice, a melancholy song that sounds like it would have fit in on the Twin Peaks soundtrack, and then having cult actress Karen Black take over the vocals the second time around, giving the song and even eerier turn as her final performance before succumbing to cancer.
“There Can Be Only One” has a very Velvet Underground feel to it with the flat story telling vocal delivery, bouncy bass from Mike Gordon (Go Cactus!) and shimmying drums from Furthur’s Joe Russo sprinkling all over the album. “Name Written on Water” is as close to an homage to Bob Dylan as you can get, the repeating Watchtower sounding rhythm growing stronger and stronger as his snarky delivery questions life. The production on this album is great, warm with a vintage feel that just sounds so damn pleasant. This is one of the better and more prolific songwriters out there right now, and with his galley of talented collaborative friends, there’s no telling the body of work he will create in his lifetime.
“There Can Be Only One” with Mike Gordon:
I posted this song a few weeks ago, the video is out now and it’s gorgeous. When the lace comes off her face, I actually gasped, Anna Fox Rochinski is such a stunner. The whole thing has such a beautiful, sun drenched feel, the lazy day in the park images blending seamlessly with the dreamy tune. This band continues to impress me and hit just the right spot. It helps that the picnic layout looked like it came out of a Free People catalog, who doesn’t love bohemian multi colors.
In the world of indie rock and pop, there are a lot of bands that really elaborate on their ideas live through improvisation. I compiled a list of the best newer bands that certainly aren’t typically considered jam bands, but whose songs openly stray from their studio recorded brethren in concert, causing unique and surprising moments at every show. White Denim (pictured above) lead the list, but it’s certainly not a competition, all of these bands I highly recommend live. Check out the article over at the Westword, and hit like if you like it!:
I had the chance to catch up with Shakey Graves before his Ogden show with Devil Makes Three and he gave me the scoop on future collaboration possibilities, Guate boots, and dealing with Austin’s finest cable company. Check out the interview over at the Westword: