Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Repost: Review of I'm Not There

I have a lot of crap going on this week, including the fact that I haven't done my lousy taxes yet (due April 30 in Canada), so I don't have a ton of time to blog. Here is a review of the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There that I wrote after seeing it at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007. I watched this film again last Saturday night, and I like it more every time I see it. I wonder if Bob has ever seen it?
I caught the second screening of I'm Not There, the biopic of Bob Dylan directed by Todd Haynes, at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2007. It gave me a huge headache. Not the film exactly, but from the venue. To accommodate the large audience, I'm Not There was screened in a ~700 person lecture hall at Ryerson University. I was in line to get in to the sold out show a half hour early, but apparently not early enough. I had to sit in the 4th row from the front, and by the time hour two rolled around, my back and neck were killing me and my eyes hurt from being so close. Being a lecture hall, there was no reclining seating that the theatre industry has spoiled me with for the last decade. Plus, no vending! GASP! No popcorn! And, the screening was at 12:30 pm so I came to the screening directly from work, and I didn't get lunch and was very hungry.

Crappy venue aside, the film is pretty amazing (even though I was tuning out during the last half hour). The acting is superb. Cate Blanchett is astonishing! She should be a shoo-in for Best Actress this year (Edit: she didn't win!). Christian Bale is amazing too - didn't recognize him at first - as is the 11-year-old Marcus Carl Franklin. Mr. Franklin has quite an acting career ahead of him. And, you get to see Heath Ledger (mostly) naked, so what's not to like?

Its definitely an artsy-fartsy movie, very non-linear and not for the average joe-blow American/Canadian. I tried to imagine my conservative, small-town-America father, who is a 'Nam vet and a graduate of the college class of '69, watching this movie without being completely confused. I can hear him saying, "What is this crap? I don't get it." However, Dylan fans will love it. Non-Dylan fans who appreciate film as an art form will really dig it too. But it is long. Although, in retrospect, I am wondering if my perception of its length was due to my bad seat. I mean, I sat through three hours of Lord of the friggin Rings with no complaints.

The Characters (in rough order of appearance in the film, although the characters do jump around in time and some characters overlap):

1) Marcus Carl Franklin – "Woody Guthrie" – 1959, 11 year old boy, film shot in color. Metaphor for Dylan's early life on how he started to learn how the world really worked, and how he started to form ideas and transfer these thoughts to song. Woody, originally from the fictional town of Riddle, Missouri, is hopping trains with hobos and traveling around the country. Very moving scene where he visits the real ailing Woody Guthrie in the hospital and strums guitar for him.

2) Ben Wishaw – "Arthur" – 19 year old Dylan, early 1960s, shot in black and white. Smallest role. Dylan as a young, rebellious, somewhat naive poet. Its only him and some cigarettes on the screen. Like he is being interviewed or interrogated. Sort of narrates the film, but not really.

3) Heath Ledger – "Robbie Clark" – Dylan from circa 1964 to 1977, mostly focusing on his personal life and marriage to "Claire" (played by Charlotte Gainsborough), a very loose interpretation of Sara Lowlands and probably an amalgamation of other women in Dylan's life. Shot in grainy color to reflect the time period. "Robbie Clark" is a famous actor and actually plays "Jack Rollins" (Christian Bale's Dylan) in one of his film roles. Actor as a metaphor for the perils of fame. Robbie is constantly away from his family working (touring?) on film productions, and has many extra-marital flings while on the "road." Robbie and Claire's rocky relationship and marital problems are mirrored by the Vietnam war.

4) Christian Bale – "Jack Rollins" – Dylan from 1961-62 and jumps to his conversion to Christianity (~1974). 60s "footage" is in black and white, 70s "footage" is in grainy color like above, while the present day is in color. Told from the perspective of a present day documentary reflected through the eyes of people who knew him "back then." Notably, Julianne Moore plays the character "Alice Fabian" who is a present day Joan Baez. 1970s evangelist Rollins is awesome.

5) Cate Blanchett – "Jude Quin" – when Dylan goes electric in 1965-66. Black and white. Best impression of Dylan as he is classically known (big hair, sunglasses, wears all black). How he deals with the backlash of going electric at the "New England Folk Festival." Follows his drug use and his fighting with the press, especially the BBC. Hysterical scene of implied drug use with the Beatles. Blanchett just nails his mannerisms and quirkiness. Michelle Williams plays the fashionable blond Coco Rivington, who is a metaphor for Edie Sedgwick . Another hysterical scene with drugged-up Dylan and Alan Ginsberg (played by David Cross), dancing around a ten foot crucifix, and Dylan yells at the stone Jesus, "Play your old stuff!" The segment ends with Dylan's infamous motorcycle crash.

6) Richard Gere – "William 'Billy' McMaster" – grizzled, late in life, maybe takes place back in the late 50s? Color. Reclusive "Billy the Kid," who takes on "Commissioner Garrett" who wants to plow over his town of Riddle, Missouri, to build a superhighway. He meets young "Woody Guthrie" (Franklin) who begs him to take on Garrett. Garrett is also a metaphor for all of the reporters who have hounded Dylan for most of his life. Billy argues with Garrett, and ultimately loses, but he realizes that there are still things worth fighting for. He hops a train, finds his guitar, and keeps on keepin' on. The movie comes full circle.

The soundtrack looks incredible, and will be released in North America on October 30. The soundtrack consists of most of my favorite rock and Americana bands, indie and otherwise (Eddie Vedder, Iron and Wine, Jeff Tweedy, Willie Nelson, The Hold Steady, among others). Sonic Youth does a bitchin' cover of "I'm Not There" in the ending credits. But, fear not Dylan fans, most of Dylan's originals are intact in the film. I'm Not There opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 21, and in Toronto on November 28. I can't wait to see this film again. Here's to hoping that my initial reaction was entirely due to my bad seat. (Edit: It was!)
Tunes from the soundtrack that appear in the film:

Jim James & Calexico - Goin' to Acapulco.mp3
Fantastic scene in the Richard Gere/Billy segment where singer Jim James of My Morning Jacket sings this song and leads a band (eclectic indie rockers Calexico) during a daunting funeral march.

Richie Havens - Tombstone Blues.mp3
In what what can only be described as casting brilliance, Havens appears in the film playing this song along with young Woody (Franklin).

Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers - Ballad of a Thin Man.mp3
Cate Blanchett/Jude lip syncs to Malkmus for all of his (her?) singing scenes. Awesome. The Million Dollar Bashers serve as a "house band" for the soundtrack. They are a super group consisting of guitarist Lee Ranaldo and drummer Steve Shelly of Sonic Youth, guitarist Nels Kline of Wilco, guitarist Tom Verlaine, keyboardist John Medeski, and bassist Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan's current bassist).

John Doe - Pressing On.mp3
Christian Bale/Jack lip syncs to Doe for his "born again" scene. Also Awesome.

Buy: I'm Not There Soundtrack CD (2007), I'm Not There DVD (2008)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Some Classic Folk and Country

I'm still on a high from Justin Townes Earle's show last Wed. night. Here are a few tracks that JTE covered last week.

Mance Lipscomb
- So Different Blues.mp3
Buy (e-music): Texas Blues Guitar (1994)
I can't find when this was originally recorded, but I am going to guess the early 1960s.

Doc Watson - The Train that Carried My Girl from Town.mp3
Buy: The Essential Doc Watson (recorded 1973, CD released 1990)
Song first recorded by Watson in 1963.

Pete Seeger - Down in the Valley (Traditional).mp3
Buy: American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1 (2002)

Buck Owens - Close Up the Honky Tonks.mp3
Buy: Together Again/My Heart Skips a Beat (1964, reissued 1995)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: Justin Townes Earle at The Horseshoe

Review: Justin Townes Earle, April 22, 2009, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
Almost everyone I talked to had the same reaction when I told them I was going to see Justin Townes Earle (JTE), son of Steve Earle (SE). They grimaced. Most of my friends are in their late-20s and early-30s and are only family with SE's more recent work and political activism. And a lot of them are writing off JTE simply because they think his music will be SE 2.0.

I have to admit that I was (am?) way late to the SE party. Many of my music snob friends tells me that SE hasn't released a good album since Transcendental Blues (2000). I only have SE's discography from 2000 on. In fact, my buddy Rick reminded me that I saw SE with the Del McCoury Band in St. Louis in 1999, but I told him that he was mistaken. Then I found my ticket stub (I save every ticket stub of every live music show and sports event I have ever been to). I don't even remember going to that show! (D'oh!)

My point is that the fact the JTE happens to have a famous musician father had absolutely no influence on me at all. To me, JTE is a musician who put out a killer EP in 2007 (Yuma), and an even better album in 2008 (The Good Life). He might as well be Joe Guitarist from Nashville (and there are lots of Joe Guitarists from Nashville).

I arrived at the Horseshoe by myself (as usual) about a half hour before JTE took the stage. I could not believe how dead the place was! There were maybe 100 people there, max. (350 capacity). The only time I have ever seen fewer people at a Horseshoe show was for the criminally under-attended Chris Knight show in 2007. What the hell people? JTE was roaming around in his red gingham shirt, chatting with people, having his photo taken, signing records. He's a real tall, skinny dude, and clearly did not inherit his father's physique.

JTE took the stage with his sidekick, the incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Cory Younts. These two characters spent the next 90 minutes entertaining the heck out of me. JTE told stories between each song and engaged the crowd. He mocked Younts, callin' him "Hillbilly," and the two of them played off of each other. Between JTE's finger-picking guitar playing, and Younts blasting me away on the banjo, mandolin, multiple harmonics, and backup vocals, I was in country music heaven! The duo easily switched between classic country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and folk. JTE commented (paraphrasing), "Hillbilly music is great because you can do two songs in the same key back to back with almost the same lick."

A very poignant moment came when JTE introduced the song "Mama's Eyes." After acknowledging his famous father, he said that his mama is Carol Ann Earle, and he was "raised by the back of her hand," and that he will "always be my mama's boy." His classic style is certainly very different from his dad's country-rock music. I'm hoping that more people start appreciating JTE as an artist in his own right, and not make a judgment on his music based on his old man's records.

1. They Killed John Henry - Midnight at the Movies (2009)
2. Ain't Glad I'm Leavin' - The Good Life (2008)
3. I Don't Care - Yuma EP (2007)
(Dedicated to Woodie Guthrie)
4. What Do You Do When You're Lonesome - The Good Life
(Some people were actually two-steppin' during this number)
5. Mama's Eyes - Midnight at the Movies
6. New song
7. The Ghost of Virginia - Yuma
8. Someday I'll Be Forgiven For This - Midnight at the Movies
9. I'm Leaving You This Lonesome Song - Carter Family Cover
10. South Georgia Sugar Babe - The Good Life
11. Hard Livin' - The Good Life
12. So Different Blues - Mance Lipscomb Cover
(JTE Solo)
13. Turn Out My Lights - The Good Life
(JTE Solo)
14. New song "Hillbilly Gospel"
15. Hesitation Blues - Traditional
16. What I Mean to You - Midnight at the Movies
17. Can't Hardly Wait - Midnight at the Movies, Replacements Cover
(Introduced the song by saying that these guys from Minnesota, "aren't hillbillies, but they act like them.")
18. Far Away in Another Town - The Good Life
19. Halfway to Jackson - Midnight at the Movies
20. The Good Life - The Good Life
21. You Can't Leave - Yuma
22. Poor Fool - Midnight at the Movies
23. The Train that Carried My Girl from Town - Doc Watson Cover
24. Walk Out - Midnight at the Movies

25. Down in the Valley - Traditional
(Mentioned that they recently recorded a version of this song with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit for the upcoming documentary Coal Country)
26. Close Up the Honky Tonks - Buck Owens Cover

Mama's Eyes.mp3
Buy: Midnight at the Movies (2009)

Hard Livin'.mp3
Buy: The Good Life (2008)

Both of theses albums, as well as the Yuma EP, are fan-freakin'-tastic. Pick them up pronto!

JTE and Cory Younts do a really nice set for Daytrotter. I also found a killer JTE live solo set from September 2008 at the Hear Ya blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can't Hardly Wait

Alt Country + Classic 1980's Alternative = Very Happy Aimz! I love it when two of my favorite genres come together. Justin Townes Earle covers the Replacements classic on his new album, and its pretty friggin' sweet! I'm going to see Justin Townes Earle tonight. Can't hardly wait indeed!

Justin Townes Earle - Can't Hardly Wait.mp3
Buy: Midnight at the Movies (2009)

Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait.mp3
Buy: Pleased to Meet Me (1987, reissued 2008)

Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait (Electric Outtake).mp3
Buy: Tim (bonus track on 2008 reissue)

Drag the River - Can't Hardly Wait (Live).mp3
From: Suburban Home Records Spring/Summer 2009 Sampler (FREE!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

April Feel Bad For You Comp

The Alt Country Tab monthly comp.

Feel Bad For You April 2009
1. John Wesley Harding - "Someday Son"
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (2009)

2. Elvis Presley - "Wooden Heart"
GI Blues (1960)

3. Lee Harvey Osmond - I Can't Stand It.mp3
Buy (Maple Music): A Quiet Evil (2009)

4. Cravin Melon - Sweet Tea.mp3
Buy (MP3 only): Where I Wanna Be (1995)

5. Romantica - Queen of Hearts"
America (2007)

6. Romantica - "Ixcatan"
America (2007)

7. Rimsky-Korsakov (Eugene Ormandy - Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra) - "Russian Easter Overture"
Scheherzade-Russian Easter Overture (1991)

8. The Hold Steady - "How a Resurrection Really Feels"
Separation Sunday (2005)

9. Art Brut - "Replacements"
Art Brut vs. Satan (2009)

10. Doug Paisley - "What About Us"
Doug Paisley (2009)

11. Bee Gees - The Lord.mp3
Buy (MP3 only): Cucumber Castle (1970)

12. Asskickers - Everything Is Going Up.mp3
Buy (MP3 only): Home On the Range (2002)

13. The Devil Makes Three - "Help Yourself"
Do Wrong Right (2009)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lucero Show

Lucero played at the Horseshoe on Sunday night, and my folks were in town for the Easter holiday so I was debating whether to go to the show after they went to bed. Thanks for the advice good buddies, but I did not go. I was cleaning up from dinner after my folks hit the hay, when I looked up to see that it was 10:15pm, and Lucero was scheduled to go on at 10:30. If I had busted my butt I could have made it in time, but I decided to relax, have a beer at home, and skip the show. Did anyone out there go to it? I haven't seen any reviews from it yet.

Here's another Lucero track that I love. The narrator welcomes his buddy back from a tour of duty, presumably in Iraq, and he offers to sleep in his car so his army buddy can get laid. Now that's a good friend! Ben Nichols frequently writes songs about people joining the army, or people being involved in some type of military service. I don't know very much about Mr. Nichols. Was he ever in the military? Or maybe some members of family? Or does he just have great reverence for people who defend their countries? Regardless, he has written some great songs about people in the military, and here is one of my favorites.

On the Way Back Home.mp3
Buy: Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers (2006)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Damien Jurado Repost

Damien Jurado played in Toronto last night, but I was too wiped out from a long weekend with my folks to attend the show. Also, I have seen him twice before, both times opening for Okkervil River in 2007. I'm actually surprised that he even came back to Toronto, considering the last two times he was in town he got robbed (his van was broken into outside of the El Mocambo in 2005), and then ignored (see below). Still, it would have been nice to see him with his full band.

Here are two mini reviews I wrote in 2007 about Mr. Jurado opening for Okkervil River.

Friday, September 21, 2007
Lee's Palace, Toronto, Ontario

Damien Jurado opened the show with a solo acoustic set and was clearly out of place at this venue. His soft, beautiful vocals were completely lost on most of the audience. Some jerk behind me said “dude, this isn’t a coffee house.” Then Jurado told a story about how his van was broken into and all of his stuff stolen the last time he was in Toronto. Most of the people there were not even paying attention to him and loudly talked and clinked beer bottles. I really felt bad for the guy, and he seemed completely uncomfortable in that setting.

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Pepper Jack Cafe, Hamilton, Ontario

Half way through his opening solo acoustic set, Damien Jurado told a hysterical story about a philosophical discussion with his young son Miles, which went something like this:

Dad, why do you play such sad songs?
I don't know. That's just what I do.
And people pay to see you play?
Yeah, that's how daddy makes his living.
So, you make them sad?
Yeah, I guess.
Dad, you are ripping them off!

I got to the Pepper Jack Cafe a bit late and missed the first part of Jurado's set, but as soon as I walked in the door it was obvious that this night was going to be exactly the opposite as Jurado's performance on Friday night in Toronto. First, the venue was tiny. Tiny to the point that I said, “whoa” out loud when I entered. The capacity was about 150-200 people, and it was not sold out.

Jurado was sitting at the front of the stage, his beautiful voice projecting over the attentive crowd. Between songs he was telling stories and interacting with the crowd. In fact, in direct in contrast to the Toronto debacle, the crowd actually got more attentive and quiet as more people entered the cafe. His banter was hysterical: “So I am going to play some upbeat stuff now so that you won't need a shirk after this show ......OK, maybe that didn't sound upbeat to you, but it is an upbeat song when my band is here. I heard the drums in my head.” The sound was a lot better than vacuous Lee's Palace, and Jurado had more energy in his voice. Jurado commented, “This is really nice. Usually I am in loud venues.” And some of the Okkervil River boys were milling around in back, perhaps to catch Jurado in his element.

Paper Kite.mp3
Buy: Caught in the Trees (2008)

Denton, TX.mp3
Buy: And Now That I'm in Your Shadow (2006)

Buy: Rehearsals for Departure (1999)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Halleluiah came to in a confession booth. Infested with infections. Smiling on an abscessed tooth. Running hard on residue. Crashing thru the vestibule. The crucifixion cruise. She climbed the cross and found she liked the view. Sat reflecting on the resurrection. Talking loud over lousy connections. She put her mouth around a difficult question. She said, "Lord what do you recommend? To a real sweet girl who's made some not sweet friends. Lord what would you prescribe? To a real soft girl who's having real hard times."

The Hold Steady - Crucifixion Cruise.mp3

She crashed into the Easter mass with her hair done up in broken glass. She was limping left on broken heels. When she said, "Father can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lucero Conundrum

Lucero is playing in Toronto on Sunday night, April 12. I love this band. LOVE this band.

My parents will be in town on Sunday night and are staying over. What should I do? They will be in bed by the time the band goes on, but they will be pissed off if I ditch them and go (even if they are asleep). And, they will probably want to have an early breakfast, which means that I will either be really hungover or still drunk from the night before.

Help me gentle readers. What should I do?

I Don't Wanna Be the One.mp3
Buy: Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers (2006)

Last Night in Town.mp3
Buy: Nobody's Darlings (2005)

Ain't So Lonely.mp3
Buy: Tennessee (2002)

Kiss the Bottle.mp3
Jawbreaker cover which they usually do live. Recorded in Knoxville, Tennessee, May, 2004.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lazy Guy

I have no ambition to do anything. I don't want to clean my apartment. I don't want to exercise. I certainly don't want to do more than the absolute minimum at work. I barely even want to update my blog.

This song by Slobberbone very succinctly sums up my life right now.

Lazy Guy.mp3

Buy (MP3 only): Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (2000)
Such a great country rock album. You must own this one!