Friday, October 31, 2008


"Republicans. That's what scares people these days.
That, and Democrats."
- Todd Snider

Todd Snider - Tension.mp3
Patterson Hood - Sinkhole.mp3
Todd Snider & Patterson Hood, Live at the Georgia Theatre (Live Recording - 2003)

This crew scares the bejesus out of me:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Comes After the Blues

Jason Molina is one of the best song writers of this decade. This track is off of 2007's Sojourner box set, a collection of new material, reworkings of older tracks, and demos, and is from Disc 1 "Nashville Moon."

Magnolia Electric Co
- What Comes After The Blues.mp3
Buy: Sojourner

I don't know very much about this band other than I love this song. How can you not, with lyrics like "This glimpse of brilliance is better than a long look at mediocrity."

Ha Ha Tonka - St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor.mp3
Buy: Buckle in the Bible Belt

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


A great track from another criminally underrated album from 2007. Two Cow Garage also released Speaking in Cursivethis October. I haven't totally digested it yet, but so far I like what I hear.

Two Cow Garage - Mediocre.mp3
Buy: Three

Josh Ritter is a fabulously talented singer/songwriter, and an even better live performer. I have seen him live twice in the last two years - once solo with an acoustic guitar and a glass of whiskey, and once with his full band. I adored his 2006 release The Animal Years. This track is off of his 2007 album. As a whole this album is not as solid as The Animal Years, but it is still pretty damn good.

Josh Ritter - The Temptation Of Adam.mp3
Buy: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aspect of an Old Mail

Life is getting in the way of my hobbies, so I am going to keep it simple over the next few days and just post a few tracks from 2007 that I really love which I feel were overlooked by professional rock critics and general music lovers alike.

This track is off of the final Mendoza Line album. Tim Bracy and Shannon McArdle broke off both their marriage and their musical collaboration in 2007, and the result was this amazing album. This song, written by Bracy, features a duet between McArdle and Okkervil River's Will Sheff, and may be my favorite song of 2007.

Mendoza Line - Aspect Of An Old Maid.mp3
Buy: 30 Year Low

Hailing from Austin, Texas, The Gourds have put out seven quality alt country and bluegrass records over the last 13 years. If heartache and regret can be described as "gorgeous," then this track nails it.

The Gourds - Promenade.mp3
Buy: Noble Creatures

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Your Rocky Spine

Great Lake Swimmers is a trio form southern Ontario who put out the wonderful album Ongiara in 2007. It’s a very mellow, mid to low tempo record, perfect for a rainy or snowy Sunday afternoon. The opening track, “Your Rocky Spine,” displays beautiful banjo picking, along with backing vocals from Sarah Harmer. There's a feeling of deep longing and melancholy throughout this record, but there is also a feeling of hope. The songs are recorded using minimal instrumentation - mostly acoustic guitar, banjo, double bass, and drums played with brushes. Music critics categorize this as “indie pop” and compare it to the work of Elliott Smith and Iron & Wine, but I believe that, like the other two artists, this record has large crossover appeal to many genres and age groups. Very consistently gorgeous throughout the record.

Great Lake Swimmers is playing tonight at Lee's Palace. I can't go for various reasons (most of those being that I suck).

Your Rocky Spine.mp3
I Am Part Of A Large Family.mp3

Buy: Ongiara (2007)
Listen: Ongiara is streaming in its entirety here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The John B. Sails

I'm still on a high from the Okkervil River show last week, so I thought it would be kind of fun to post about the evolution of "The John B. Sails." According to our friends at Wikipedia, "The John B. Sails" is a West Indies folk song which first popped into American culture in 1917.

Alan Lomax published a record of field recordings from local singers in the Bahamas that were recorded in the 1930's.

Cleveland Simmons Group - Histe Up the John B. Sail.mp3
Buy: Bahamas 1935: Chanteys And Anthems From Andros And Cat Island (1999)

Between the folk song and the Beach Boys version in 1966, dozens of other artists did their own renditions including The Weavers and The Kingston Trio. Read the fascinating article in Wikipedia on how Brian Wilson wrote the most famous version of this song in under 24 hours.

The Beach Boys - Sloop John B.mp3
Buy: Pet Sounds (1966, reissued 1999)

A few years ago some DJ's made dance remixes for all of Pet Sounds.

Tinypixel - Sloop John B.mp3
See Hippocamp Ruins Pet Sounds for more remixed tracks.

Finally, Okkervil River turns Sloop John B. into a suicide note from poet John Berryman.

Okkervil River - John Allyn Smith Sails.mp3
Buy: The Stage Names (2007)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Epic Crap Tuesday

I hear this song occasionally on Q107's "Psychedelic Psunday." Its so weird and trippy, you have to wonder what these guys were smoking when they recorded it. According to allmusic, Focus is a Dutch band that was formed in Amsterdam in 1969 (hence the access to the good drugs). "Hocus Pocus" actually cracked the US pop charts in 1973, reaching #9 (#20 in the UK).

If you like "heavy guitar riffs, neo-classical organ, and Alpine yodeling," then this song is for you.

Focus - Hocus Pocus.MP3

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The very first Uncle Tupelo song I ever heard was "Moonshiner." Wow, what a vocal performance by Jay Farrar. It blew me away. I would listen to that one track on repeat for hours and hours. "Moonshiner" is off of the album March 16-20, an acoustic album produced by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, which contains original Uncle Tupleo tracks along with reworkings of traditional folk and country songs.

Uncle Tupelo - Moonshiner.mp3
Buy: March 16-20, 1992 (1992, reissued 2003)

I did not know that Bob Dylan did his own version of "Moonshiner" until I saw the superb Todd Haynes biopic I'm Not There (2007). In the notes that accompany the The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 set, Dylan is quoted as saying that singing this song is an "exercise in tonal breath control."

Bob Dylan - Moonshiner.mp3
Buy: The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991
Bob Forrest, lead singer of the L.A. punk band Thelonious Monster, contributes his own version for the I'm Not There soundtrack.

Bob Forrest - Moonshiner.mp3
Buy: I'm Not There (Soundtrack 2007)

Finally, Cat Power delivers an absolutely devastating version.

Cat Power - Moonshiner.mp3
Buy: Moon Pix (1998)

eMusic has 30+ versions of "Moonshiner/The Moonshiner," so if you don't like any of these versions, try a few more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jay Farrar Friday (2)

What a week! Who needs a soul cleansing Jay Farrar bender? I do!

For background on Jay Farrar, see Jay Farrar Friday (1).

From Uncle Tupelo's first record, the title coming from the Carter family classic. This album combines rock, punk, and country, and describes the desperateness of growing up broke, bored, and disillusioned in the rural Midwest. This landmark album launched a new chapter in Americana music.

There's nothing left now but broken pieces
Of one man's broken will to care

Uncle Tupelo - Life Worth Livin'.mp3
Buy: No Depression (1990, reissued in 2003)

Son Volt's third album may not be the critical "masterpiece" that many critics labeled Trace, but I find myself going back to this album more than I go back to Trace. Many other Son Volt fans have said the same thing.

The blues have shone and kidnapped your heart
Didn't think it would happen, but now I know you better

Son Volt - Son Volt - Hanging Blue Side.mp3
Buy: Wide Swing Tremolo (1998)

This track is from Farrar's second solo album. It is a coming home song referencing a rural county in southeastern Missouri.

Always kept a common thread
To bind together when apart
You're back in Dent County

Jay Farrar - Dent County.mp3
Buy: Terroir Blues (2003), no longer available on Amazon, but you can find it on iTunes and eMusic.

This track is originally off of The Search (2007), but this acoustic version was offered as an iTunes exclusive bonus track. I hate iTunes exclusives, and I know it something that the record label makes the artist do, but it really stiffs the real fans. Gorgeous background vocals from Shannon McNally.

Still out there with the coffee stains and puttin' miles on shoes
Can't escape the smell of cigarettes, still livin' out these American late-night blues

Son Volt - Highways And Cigarettes (acoustic).mp3 (2007)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

For Real

Concert Review: Okkervil River with Crooked Fingers, October 12, The Phoenix, Toronto

Every time I see this band live, I love them more and more. Okkervil River played to a near capacity crowd on the Sunday of Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and blew the roof off of the place. If you were in a turkey-induced coma before the show, the tryptophan was neutralized with a large dose of high energy rock. Lead singer Will Sheff is one of the best and most charismatic front men in indie rock today. He dances and flails around the stage, engages other members of the band, wails on his acoustic guitar (I think he has broken a string every time I have seen OR), and really gets the audience excited about the music. The set drew largely from 2007's The Stage Names (my top album of that year) and its 2008 follow-up The Stand Ins. Sheff actually got the usually noisy and talkative Toronto audience to stop checking their Blackberries for a few minutes and pay attention during "A Stone" leading into "Blue Tulip." Its a good thing too, because Sheff gave an unbelievable vocal performance that was part a capella, and partly backed by his acoustic guitar and Lauren Gurgiolo on pedal steel. WOW!

One of the great things about OR is the incredible musicianship all of the band members give to the performance. I counted 14 different instruments in use at one point or another, including coronet, accordion, mandolin, and wood blocks. OR closed with one of their oldies, the murder song "Westfall," which really impressed me because it got most of the crowd to sing along. Considering that even the most in-tune indie rockers (outside of Austin anyway) didn't really know about this band until its 2005 release Black Sheep Boy, it was really impressive to see the fan base dig back to the older work.

I'm spoiled in that I have seen OR four times in the last 13 months, but damn, I can't wait to see them again.

Set List
1. Plus Ones - The Stage Names (2007)
2. Singer Songwriter - The Stand Ins (2008)
3. A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene - The Stage Names
4. Black - Black Sheep Boy (2005)
5. The Latest Toughs - Black Sheep Boy
6. Starry Stairs - The Stand Ins
7. Calling and Not Calling My Ex - The Stand Ins
8. John Allyn Smith Sails - The Stage Names
9. Pop Lie - The Stand Ins
10. A Stone - Black Sheep Boy
11. Blue Tulip - The Stand Ins
12. Lost Coastlines - The Stand Ins
13. Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe - The Stage Names
14. For Real - Black Sheep Boy
15. Unless It's Kicks - The Stage Names

16. A Girl in Port - The Stage Names
17. Okkervil River Song - Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See (2002)
18. Westfall - Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See

If Stephen Malkmus is the alpha male of indie rock, then Eric Bachmann is the indie rock iota or kappa male (somewhere behind Bob Mould, but before Lou Barlow). Bachmann is a former singer/guitarist of the 90s indie rockers Archers of Loaf, who now heads the band Crooked Fingers. Crooked Fingers opened the show with a 13 song set that varied widely from solo acoustic guitar, to instrumentals, to rock. I am not overly familiar with Crooked Fingers' catalog, and I picked up their new CD Forfeit/Fortune that night (it was released on Oct. 7 in the US, but hasn't been released in Canada). Their rock songs were great, but the slow acoustic tunes were lacking and felt out of place. However, the crowd was delighted when they played the Archers of Loaf track "Web in Front." Other tracks that I caught included "Crowned in Chrome" and "New Drink for the Old Drunk" from Crooked Fingers (2001), "Man 'O War" from To the Races (2006 Eric Bachmann solo), and "Let's Not Pretend (To Be New Men)," "Luisa's Blues," and "Your Control" all from Forfeit/Fortune (2008).

Archers of Loaf - Web in Front.mp3
Buy: Icky Mettle (1993)

Crooked Fingers - New Drink for the Old Drunk.mp3
Buy: Crooked Fingers (2001)

Crooked Fingers - Lets Not Pretend (To Be New Men).mp3
Buy: Forfeit/Fortune (2008)

Eric Bachmann came off as a little bit surly during his performance. This may be his normal personality, but then I got to thinking about Bachmann, who in the mid-90s was in the one of the indie "it" bands with hits on US college radio. Now Bachmann, who must be pushing age 40, is opening for one of the "it" bands of the mid-00s. This is happening in my career too, where a younger person is getting acclaim doing what I used to do, and quite frankly, its depressing. But at the same time its pretty cool to see Bachmann still doing what he loves, even if it is a step down on the concert bill. We should all be so lucky to be have a 15+ year career doing something that we love and while achieving some fame, if not fortune. Here's to another 15 years Eric! Don't let the kids keep you down! Even if the kids are kicking your (and my) ass.

See photos of the show from my favorite Toronto music blog, Chromewaves.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Poutine

On this Thanksgiving Canadienne weekend I am very thankful that I get to see one of my favorite live bands tonight, Okkervil River. I am very grateful that this will be the fourth time in 13 months that I have seen them (Sept. 21, 2007; Sept. 22, 2007; April 9, 2008 - I didn't write a review, but Okkervil River opened for the New Pornographers, and blew the New Pornos off of the stage. Note to touring bands - try to get an opener that isn't going to upstage you.) I am especially thankful that I have seen/will get to see four of the best live acts within a span of one month (The Sadies Oct. 3/4, Okkervil River Oct. 12, Drive-By Truckers Nov. 11, The Hold Steady Nov. 11 - I know you are jealous).

The Toronto Star had a good article today on Okkervil River, which contained a short interview with lead singer Will Sheff. Towards the end of the article Mr. Sheff wonders if Canadians have poutine for Thanksgiving dinner. Since I am not Canadian, I cannot answer this question, but I can tell Mr. Sheff that he can find the best poutine in Toronto at the chip trucks on Queen St. in front of city hall.

Singer Songwriter.mp3
Buy: The Stand Ins (2008)

Plus Ones.mp3
Buy: The Stage Names (2007)

For Real.mp3
Buy: Black Sheep Boy (2005)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fight Songs

Ever been in a terrible situation where you really need the comfort of friends and family, but its impossible for them to be there to help you? Thank god for music and MP3 players. I recently took comfort in an old friend, Fight Songs, by one of my favorite bands of all time, the Old 97's. (I can't believe that I haven't blogged about them yet. Yeah, I have only been a blogger for three months, but still.) This album was a departure from their previous releases of hard rockin' alt country tracks and contains a lot more power pop and rock tunes, but it retains the 97's strong lyrics and song writing. This album also contains the only song from the 97's catalog that got some mainstream radio play, "Murder (Or A Heart Attack)," which is funny to me as the song is about a cat. Here are some tracks that I took solace in during a rough patch.

Lonely Holiday.mp3
Busted Afternoon.mp3
Buy: Fight Songs (1999)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Text messaging during a rock show is not cool. Checking your Blackberry every five minutes during a rock show is not in the least bit cool. I don't care if you are expecting a message from fucking Dick Cheney. If you are using your Blackberry at a rock show, you are a tool. Using your Blackberry to take photos of random female audience members, who may or may not be music bloggers, is really fucking creepy. No wonder you don't have a girlfriend.

Don't be a loser. Leave your Blackberry at home if you want to rock, and stop annoying the rest of us. Don't make me kick your ass!

Nirvana - Stay Away.mp3
Buy: Nevermind (1991)
If you don't already own Nevermind, then you might as well take your Blackberry and give up now. You suck.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More Missing Socks

Concert Review: The Sadies, Saturday, October 4, The Horseshoe, Toronto

Saturday of Aimz:
1. Wake up at 11, hungover from too much Keith's.
2. Pull it together with the help of coffee and donuts.
3. Drive out to Scarborough to buy a new curling broom. (If this isn't the start of a Canadian country song, then I don't know what is.)
4. Drink 2.5 liters of water, eat half of a large tomato, mushroom, and basil pizza, and take a two hour nap.
5. Shower for the first time since Thursday.
6. Proceed to lose even more of my socks when they are rocked-off at The Sadies show.

Lucky me! Two Sadies shows in one weekend! On Saturday night they only played 42 songs. About half of them were the same as Friday night's gig. Both of Dallas and Travis Good's parents joined them on stage, with dad Bruce joining in on autoharp, harmonica, and vocals. Justin Rutledge and Matt Cameron were back as well, along with Matt's band mate Steve (sorry, I missed their band's name) who sang a rock cover of "Black Boys on Mopeds." Some kid named Josh, who looked like he wasn't quite old enough to shave, joined in on drums and maracas, and even "played" Dallas's guitar with his drum sticks. I was especially thrilled to see Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor make a surprise appearance, singing and playing guitar on some traditional gospel songs, as well as singing lead in the Sadie's own "Within a Stone" and Blue Rodeo's "Diamond Mine." The last part of the show including the encore was heavy on kick-ass covers, including Johnny Cash's "Big River" only done in the Waco Brother's style, and the Mekons' "Memphis, Egypt."

If you are looking for me this week, I am probably at the mall buying more socks.

Sinead O'Connor - Black Boys On Mopeds.mp3
Blue Rodeo - Diamond Mine.mp3
Waco Brothers - Big River.mp3

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Missing: My Socks

Concert Review: The Sadies, Friday, October 3, The Horseshoe, Toronto

Friday of Aimz:
1. Accidentally set alarm for "p.m." and roll into work very late.
2. End up working until 10 p.m.
3. Change out of work cloths into jeans and my cleanest dirty shirt (which happened to be a Lucero T-shirt laying on my bedroom floor).
4. Run to the cash machine.
5. Have beer for dinner.
6. Lose my socks when they are rocked off by The Sadies.

The Sadies played, I shit thee not, 50 songs in just over two hours. They performed tracks from all over their 12+ years of recording, plus various covers by artists like The Kinks, The Flamin' Groovies, and Bob Wills. Of course, it isn't a Sadies show unless some other members of the Good family show up. This time Dallas and Travis's mother Margaret sang lead on a few songs and backed up a few others, and cousin Darcy joined in on the fiddle. Friend Matt Cameron joined in and sang some killer tunes including a blistering cover of "I Hate the Blues." And, much to my surprise and delight, local country singer Justin Rutledge joined in for the song "Still On My Mind."

I'm going back for part two tonight, where they promised to play at least 20 different tracks. This time I will bring an extra pair of socks.

Bob Wills - Stay a Little Longer.mp3
Dead Moon - I Hate the Blues.mp3
George Jones - You're Still On My Mind.mp3

Friday, October 3, 2008

Intro to The Sadies

The Sadies are my favorite (or favourite) Canadian band. I attempted to make a sampler of their music, but as you can see I drew heavily off of their live album. This is because the only way to truly appreciate The Sadies is to see them live. Even this live album does not do them justice. They are incredible musicians, and its nothing for them to pop out 30-35 tracks in one high-energy show. The band is lead by brothers Dallas and Travis good who alternate on lead guitar and lead vocals. Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky round out a kick-ass rhythm section. Guests usually stop by during their shows, including Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, Jon Langford of the Mekons, Neko Case, and heck, every time I have seen them live, Dallas and Travis's mother Margaret makes a guest appearance to sing lead or backup (see "Before I Wake"). And, its impossible to categorize The Sadies. If you like rock, surf rock, country, alt country, psychedelic, bluegrass, gospel, or garage rock, this band (and this sampler) has something for you.

The Sadies are playing tonight and tomorrow night at The Horseshoe (see "The Horseshoe"), which happens to be in my 'hood in Toronto. I'll be there!

01 Introduction.mp3 - New Seasons (2007)
02 Why Be So Curious (Part 3).mp3 - Favourite Colours (2004)
03 Dying Is Easy.mp3 - In Concert, Vol. 1, Disc 1 (2006)
04 Pretty Polly.mp3 - Precious Moments (1998)
05 The Trial.mp3 - New Seasons (2007)
06 Of Our Land.mp3 - Stories Often Told (2002)
07 Taller Than the Pines.mp3 - In Concert, Vol. 1, Disc 1 (2006)
08 Before I Wake.mp3 - Tremendous Efforts (2001)
09 The Horseshoe.mp3 - Tales of the Rat Fink (2006)
10 The Story's Often Told.mp3 - Stories Often Told (2002)
11 Anna Leigh.mp3 - New Season (2007)
12 Uncles Larry's Breakdown.mp3 - In Concert, Vol. 1, Disc 1 (2006)
13 Lucifer Sam.mp3 - In Concert, Vol. 1, Disc 2 (2006)
14 Higher Power.mp3 - Pure Diamond Gold (1999)
15 Ridge Runner Rag.mp3 - Tremendous Efforts (2001)
16 Tiger Tiger.mp3 - In Concert, Vol. 1, Disc 1 (2006)

You can buy The Sadies albums and MP3's from Maple Music, or from Amazon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Heart of Stone

Chris Knight is the most underrated songwriter in America. He has been picked up and dropped by the major labels all throughout his career. I had the privilege to see him perform and to meet him last year, and he was very humble and soft spoken. I'll take raw emotion and brilliant songwriting in a Kentucky trailer over Nashville radio bombastic hair gel, fake smile pop-crap like Rascal Flatts any day. I recommend his entire catalog.

Rural Route.mp3
Buy: Enough Rope (2006)
Brilliant 5-star album. Not a bad track on it.

My Only Prayer.mp3
Buy: The Trailer Tapes (2007)
Knight recorded these tracks by himself in his single-wide trailer near Slaughter, Kentucky, back in 1996, and finally got to officially release them last year. Stripped-down and very raw, but still amazing.

Heart Of Stone.mp3
Buy: Heart of Stone (2008)
From his August 19 release. Let me know what you think of it!