Red Dog Guitars – Mewmaw’s Clothesline

Red Dog Guitars – Mewmaw’s Clothesline
SONG OF THE DAY

My primordial memories exist as patches: a white teddy bear, lost somewhere, the memory of the loss greater than the memory of the bear; my father’s black car, carrying a bunch of bananas from the car to the house after he returned from the grocery, the bananas filling both of my tiny arms; the picture of the woman hanging sheets on a clothesline. The woman was on the right side of the picture, standing as she clipped the sheets to the line. To her left, the sheets rippled slowly in the summer air, suspended above the green grass of the back lawn.

Fast forward several years and the memory of the picture, long forgotten, bubbles up to the forefront of my consciousness. What happened to that picture? It must be around somewhere, since my parents never threw anything away. Casting about the house, I found the picture of the woman hanging sheets on a clothesline.

As a small child in central Tennessee, I had never experienced mountains, crags, or sheer granite cliffs. It was impossible for me to make sense of the scene depicted in the painting. I had, however, seen my Grandmother hanging white sheets on her clothesline. I remember toddling along after her, clutching a clothespin and handing it to her. The painting, then, was interpreted through the filter of my experience.

The picture was, coincidentally, painted by my Grandmother, Sarah Waldrop, a self-taught artist. Like me, she had never personally experienced mountains or cliffs. All of her paintings were copied from calendars, postcards, or pictures in magazines.

“Mewmaw’s Clothesline” is from the album, Dust Bowl Blues – Cigar Box Guitar Music, by John McNair of Red Dog Guitars, released in 2010. All tracks on the album were played on three- and four-string cigar box electric guitars. To quote the notes on the album’s Bandcamp page, “My goal with this album was to take the listener back to the 1880’s to 1930’s and relive those Dust Bowl Ballads and Delta Blues Guitar Spirituals played on cigar box guitars. There is no singing or band and no regular guitars.”

A follow-up album, Cigar Box Americana – Cigar Box Guitar Music, was released this month.  The album comprises seventeen tracks of haunting, primitive music. “Huntz Meyer” is a good example. In the shimmering tones one can hear blues, country, and the ungerminated seeds of rock.

To hear more music cigar box music, visit the Bandcamp page for Red Dog Guitars. And be sure to visit their website, where you can order the guitars themselves, or order a DVD that demonstrates how to build your own cigar box guitar.

Christopher James – Mount Kisco Moon

Christopher James – Mount Kisco Moon
SONG OF THE DAY

No matter where you go, there you are. – Confucius (possibly)

If no one ever left home, everyone on Earth would be packed into the small slice of East Africa where our collective humanity originated. I’m sure East Africa is a perfectly wonderful place, but I wouldn’t want to share the facilities with seven billion people. Besides, who would drive the taxis? No matter where you go, the taxis are driven by people from somewhere else. I’ve never been to Lagos, Nigeria, but I have a theory that all of the taxi drivers in Lagos are from New York City. Or possibly from Mount Kisco, just a brief steamship voyage up the Hudson.

In “Mount Kisco Moon,” Christopher James contemplates leaving home. He’s “done it once or twice before,” but the Moon just keeps pulling him back in. The photographs on the town’s website don’t convey a sense of evil magnetism, but I suppose the winters can be a bit harsh. For those of you keeping score at home, Susan Dey, famous for pretending to sing and play keyboards with The Partridge Family, graduated from Fox Lane High School, which is actually in nearby Bedford but who’s keeping score? The point is that the area has fostered some fine musical talent.

Christopher James, aka guitarist and singer with Art School Dropouts, is attempting to record and release one song a day in the month of May, and compile them in the album, In The Month Of May. Each of the songs released so far is very good, illustrating an excellent songwriting talent. As of May 19 we have 10 songs, so Chris is obviously going for quality over quantity. I know of one other person who tried to release a song each day. He posted three tracks and they all sucked. Christopher’s music doesn’t suck (remember, folks, you read it here first).

We previously featured the music of Christopher James back on May 4 when our Song of the Day was “Dead Guy Tour.” When I Googled ‘christopher james dead guy tour,’ the top hit was this article about a Christopher James being shot dead in a Dallas hotel room. So I need to talk to my web site guy about that SEO thing that I’m paying for.

“Mount Kisco Moon” was my second choice for today’s song. The initial choice was “Oh Lois Lane,” also from In The Month Of May. It’s a beautiful, bluesy love note from Superman that really shows off Chris’s voice. I switched to “Mount Kisco Moon” because I didn’t want to waste that bit about the taxi drivers. Memorable lyrics from “Oh Lois Lane:”

Oh Lois Lane
I am in a phone booth again
I must resist from calling you
As my calling is not just for you

Where does Clark Kent change into Superman these days? The restroom at the Verizon store?

You can support deserving independent musicians like Christopher James by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Chris on Facebook and Instagram. And while you’re at it, follow Art School Dropouts on Bandcamp, Facebook, and Instagram.

And check out Christopher’s art on his website. Who needs art school?

Commutes – All That I Can Say

Commutes – All That I Can Say
SONG OF THE DAY

A good song starts with the right recipe: a few flakes of folk, a wooden ladle of country, and a big pile of pop, all dolloped onto a rock foundation. Heat until it simmers and you’ve got “All That I Can Say” by Commutes.

“All That I Can Say” is a slow-moving wall of sound, all guitars and drums and what sounds like an electric piano chiming in the background (whatever it is, it’s a great, well-played touch), topped by solid vocals and harmonies. There are no histrionics here, just Good Music.

As a Certified Music Journalist, I am obligated to inject at least one Obscure Reference into each review. The Obscure Reference for today is that the guitar solo on “All That I Can Say” sounds like the guitar solos on Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” (Weld version). That’s probably because Neil threw every trick in the How To Play Rock Guitar video into those solos, so any medium-tempo guitar instrumental that has followed leaves listeners saying, “Uh, gee, that sounds like ‘Powderfinger.'”

Commutes is Griffin Urbano with some help from his friends. He played all of the instruments on “All That I Can Say” with the exception of the drums (provided by Matthew Urbano). I don’t know anything about Griffin other than that he’s from Seattle, is active on Twitter, and has one previous release on Bandcamp, the six-song EP, Take It (from 2016). Judging from “All That I Can Say,” about all that I can say is that Griffin is a very good songwriter and performer who has a bright future. I plan to hear more good music from Griffin and Commutes in the future.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Griffin Urbano, aka Commutes, by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his music, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Griffin Urbano and/or Commutes on Facebook and Twitter.

Honeycreeper – Vagina Tax

Honeycreeper – Vagina Tax
SONG OF THE DAY
GUEST POST BY FLUFFY

Hi, everyone, this is Fluffy. The cat. Sometimes I write the Food Guy’s log post that he puts on the Winternet. Tonight he wanted me to write it because he said I might have “a better feel for the subject matter.” I’m not sure what that means. I think it means “the Food Guy is too lazy to write his log post so he made the cat do it.”

Our song for today is “Vagina Tax” by Honeycreeper. At first I didn’t know what this song was about. The Food Guy said he didn’t know either because he couldn’t understand all of the words. I think that is just an excuse. I think the Food Guy kinda knows what it’s about but he didn’t want to be accused of “mansplaining” it to the cat. Anyway, I went on the Winternet and found some of the words on Honeycreeper’s website

We’re not blonde, we’re not models
And we can sing a bit
You don’t have to like us
Because we don’t give a shit

Honeycreeper is four girl cats. And I think these girls cats are saying that they aren’t fancy purebred show cats, but they don’t care and they are going to claw the heck out of the sofa. And if you spray water on them they will just come right back and claw the sofa again. I think I like these girl cats.

When the Food Guy writes his log post, he always includes what he calls Obscure References. He is good at coming up with Obscure References because his head is full of Obscure Shit. So I asked him for a good Obscure Reference and he said, “The melody and guitar line sound like ‘I Melt with You’ by Modern English and the harmonies sound like The Partridge Family.” See, what did I tell you about his head being full of shit?

The four girl cats in Honeycreeper are Lisa Burner (guitar and vocals), Jessica Villegas (lead guitar), Kelsi Thrap (bass and vocals), and Lindsay Keast (drums and vocals). They are from Iowa. I don’t know where that is. The Food Guy said, “Just look for a place with lots of corn and that’ll be Iowa.” Sometimes I think the Food Guy is mentally ill.

“Vagina Tax” is from an EP (that stands for Extended Play) called Honeycreeper that will be released on June 1. I think everyone should go to Honeycreeper’s Bandcramp page and buy this EP. You get seven songs for only five dollars. The Food Guy is too cheap to buy the entire EP so he just bought “Vagina Tax.” Sometimes I am amazed that he actually feeds me Purina Pro Plan cat food and not some cheapass Little Friskies shit.

You can follow Honeycreeper on Facecrook, Tweeter, and Instantgram. I am sure they would enjoy getting to know you as long as you aren’t a weird stalker like the Food Guy.

Rodriguez – Crucify Your Mind

Rodriguez – Crucify Your Mind
SONG OF THE DAY

Few albums are recorded, released, exist in a dormant, hibernative state for forty-two years, then arise from below the ground to be recognized as products of genius. There are exceptions but, in most cases, if an album hasn’t gained traction within a year of its release, it is consigned to the Cutout Bin of History.

For my Millennial friends who have never experienced the pleasure of groping through a Cutout Bin, a brief history lesson is in order. Back in the day, before the entire Universe was digitized and uploaded onto a server in Palo Alto (yes, Virginia, one night while you slept we were all reduced to a Python script attached to an executable that can be downloaded from the App Store), record companies anticipated new releases by pressing massive numbers of vinyl albums. If the record failed to sell, the record company – or the distributor – would be stuck holding a shitload of albums and album covers. So to reduce the inventory, someone would ignominiously whack off a corner of the album jacket, slap a $1 sticker on it, and put the defaced record in the Cutout Bin, where budget-conscious music lovers – or those truly desperate for something to spin on their older brother’s turntable – could sift through the chaff in hopes of finding the wheat (you never did). Sometimes the store would practice a cruel trick by shrink-wrapping together a poorly-selling album by a semi-good artist and a terrible album by a total non-entity and charging you $2 for the set. Thus I obtained a Canned Heat album, along with an album by a bald folk singer of whom I had never heard (and to whose record I never listened).

The vast majority of the pressings of Sixto Rodriguez’ two albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971) no doubt ended up in the Cutout Bin. The musical career of Rodriguez himself ended up in the Cutout Bin, set aside but not destroyed, awaiting rediscovery sandwiched between the Has Beens and the Never Weres.

The sudden “disappearance” and equally sudden “resurrection” of Sixto Rodriguez was wonderfully related in the 2012 documentary, Searching for Sugar Man. If you haven’t seen it, set aside a couple of hours this weekend and watch it. Like most people outside of South Africa and Australia, the film was my introduction to the music of Rodriguez; I had never heard a single note from Rodriguez before I pressed the Play button to start the movie. And before the credits rolled on Searching for Sugar Man, I had purchased and downloaded Cold Fact and Coming from Reality.

Some refer to Rodriguez as “The Hispanic Bob Dylan.” I don’t grasp the comparison. I suppose “Crucify Your Mind” has some lyrical similarity to Dylan’s less frenetic work, but musically it is closer to early Neil Diamond. I love the horn parts, pitched low and simmering like an organ. Unlike Dylan, who is often intentionally obscure, Rodriguez speaks to the Human Condition with words that are poetic yet unmistakably blunt. A few brief illustrations:

And you assume you got something to offer
Secrets shiny and new
But how much of you is repetition
That you didn’t whisper to him too
(from “Crucify Your Mind”)

Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas
And I talked to Jesus at the sewer
And the Pope said it was none of his God-damned business
While the rain drank champagne
(from “Cause”)

I wonder how many times you’ve been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
I wonder do you know who’ll be next
(from “I Wonder”)

That is powerful stuff. It’s difficult to imagine that “I Wonder” came out in 1970. And, unbelievably, people really do get laid off just before Christmas. Gotta reduce the year-end payroll.

Sixto Rodriguez is still alive at age 75, and reportedly still lives in the Detroit home that he bought for $50 in 1976.

Bonus Video: Rodriguez performing “Crucify Your Mind” on the David Letterman Show, backed by a 25-piece orchestra.

Tilly and the Flowers – Queen of Awkward Situations

Tilly and the Flowers – Queen of Awkward Situations
SONG OF THE DAY

“Queen of Awkward Situations,” by Tilly and the Flowers, has a smiling, sixties-ish, Huey Lewis meets the Zombies vibe. And you are welcome to continue soaking in those sunny rays for as long as it takes the tonearm to make its inevitable journey from the outer edge of the record to the terminal groove encircling the label. The lyrics, though, suggest the B-side of the vinyl disc is scratched and worn from always lying face down on a turntable that hasn’t been wiped off since the last time The Lettermen were on the charts. Listen closely to the words, and you might need to toss a slug of whiskey into that cherry Coke you’ve been sipping.

I neglect everyone I care about
Cause I don’t want to be a pain
I think I’ve got it figured out
But I’ve got the rules for the wrong game…

Tilly and the Flowers is the solo project of Forth Worth musician Stephanie Buchanan, aka guitarist and lead singer of The Crystal Furs. Steph describes the music of Tilly and the Flowers as “retro-flavored pop that goes down like a candy-coated razor blade. Come for the bouncy melodies, stay for the soul-crushing lyrics.”

Stephanie has an excellent voice, with a resonance and quality that would be perfect for crooning Carpenters songs in a piano bar, if the piano was played by Warren Zevon. Which I would definitely pay to see, since Warren has been dead for fifteen years. Steph likes to throw the listener a curve now and then, changing keys and tempos, and using non-standard (that is, not your basic I-IV-V) chord progressions. You’re tapping your foot and nodding your head, ready to sing along with the chorus and – whoa, where did it go? It’s part of what makes Tilly and the Flowers just not quite the typical retro pop project. That is to say, there’s some Intelligent Design at work here.

Besides Steph Buchanan on vocals, guitars, and songwriting, Tilly and the Flowers is (are?) Paul Boll (guitars, programming, and engineering) and Alan Pollard (background vocals). “Queen of Awkward Situations” is from their new ten-track LP, Girl in the Background, which includes the previously-released single, “Charlatan.”

You can support deserving independent musicians like Tilly and the Flowers by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. Call now and you can receive all ten tracks of Girl in the Background for the low low price of only $5! Operators are standing by! And be sure to follow Tilly and the Flowers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.