Talk of the Town

The Collective is a KDHX.org blog aggregator for some of the Saint Louis area’s finest cultural and political blogs. It’s a one-stop spot for staying in touch with the local blogosphere. Recent must reads include KDHX’s own Rob Levy (posting at 52nd City) on the St. Louis International Film Festival, St. Louis American editor Chris King capturing a meeting with a legendary Russian poet, Michael Allen unearthing the story of the beautiful Bremen Bank Building, Urban Review STL covering the sale of the last Native American mound in St. Louis and a passionate essay about Proposition 8 and human rights by Doug Duckworth. And that’s just for starters.

Oh Sh*t, He Said F*@k!!

As a KDHX programmer, I keep my ears open all the time, looking for new music to share with all the nice folks who listen to my show. Recently, I was quite taken with a new song by Ben Folds, “You Don’t Know Me,” from his latest album, Way to Normal. Now, mind you, I can’t name another song by Ben Folds which has ever impressed me even a little bit (despite quite a few recommendations from the great pop songwriter Scott Miller on his brilliant blog). This was something unusual for me, and I eagerly took home a promo copy of an EP containing the song. (Hey, you didn’t think I’d pay for it. I love you guys, but I can’t buy everything I play for you, or I’d never eat.)

So, I gave the EP a closer listen in my car, and was bopping my head and congratulating myself for expanding my musical horizons and all that, when all of a sudden I nearly steered the car into a highway sign with exasperation. Because, in a bouncy little pop song, for no good reason, he sings the following charming verse:

If I’m the person that you think I am (Ah ah ahh)
Clueless chump you seem to think I am (Ah ah ahhh)
So easily led astray,
An errant dog who occasionally escapes and needs a shorter leash, then
Why the fuck would you want me back?!

Now, why the fuck would he sing that word? Because, while “piss” seems to have been dropped from the lexicon of forbidden verbiage, “fuck” remains right at the top of the list. Oh, sure, George W. Bush can go on TV and say rich people deserve billions of dollars while poor people need to pull themselves up by thinner and thinner bootstraps, but somehow or another, that simple little emphatic utterance can make radio stations pay thousands of dollars in fines.

Recently, the Supreme Court has been hearing arguments regarding the casual use of profanities, based on Bono of U2 getting so excited about receiving some award or another that he said he was fucking happy on live TV. Now, I’m not expecting the Court to come out on the side of reason – there breathe very few Americans of any age above 6 who haven’t heard or said this word in some conversation or another at some point, so chill the fuck out and let it go so we can concentrate on worrying about the content of sentences, rather than their form. But, I sure do wish I could be a fly on the wall at those hearings. Maybe I could play Antonin Scalia this Ben Folds song and see what he thinks.

Dar Williams Visits KDHX

For those who’ve followed her career since 1995, starting with the spare and intensely direct debut The Honesty Room, it may seem strange to call Dar Williams an icon, but that’s what the young New Englander has become on the contemporary folk scene. She’s not quite Ani, but she’s got her own socially conscious way with an acoustic guitar and a good song. Dar is currently on tour in support of Promised Land (she’ll be appearing at the Duck Room on Friday), her eighth studio album.

She’ll be stopping by the KDHX studios on Friday to tape a batch of songs, so listen for her on Coin-Operated Radio on Friday night, on Musical Merry-Go-Round on Saturday morning and Songwriters Showcase on Sunday morning.

White man’s burden

I’m sure by now, most of you have encountered Christian Landers’ very funny blog, “Stuff White People Like“.

If you haven’t yet, keep in mind that his satire target is not White people in general, or the easy target redneck types, but educated, liberal, urban types. A whole lot of his commentors still don’t seem to get this and bother to argue with him and each other.

Anyway, the latest posting hits quite close to home, and it’s funny shit. For somebody like myself, and a whole lot of other KDHX denizens, this calls into question what, for me, is one of my very reasons for living. Hell, I’m in the middle of what’s three generations of White guys who feel it’s our mission to preserve Black music culture.  Of course, this can be construed as awfully condescending. One can even extend this thing in our KDHX world into music of rural white folks that they don’t listen to anymore. Can anybody here stomach what passes for Country music these days?

I’ve been thinking about these matters a lot lately anyway, and wish I had some profound insight into what makes us music geek types tick, particularly the roots-oriented among us. Anybody smarter than me care to elucidate on this?

Weekend Decisions

It’s been an insanely great fall for live music in St. Louis; this coming weekend is no exception. Here are my picks:

Fri 11/21 Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pu**y @ Pop’s

Fri 11/21 Dar Williams @ the Duck Room

Sat 11/22 Little Joy and the Dead Trees @ the Duck Room

Sat 11/22 Elf Power and Vic Chesnutt @ Off Broadway

Sat 11/22 The Hard Lessons @  Cicero’s

OK, so it’s not humanly possible to do all three on Saturday. While I hate missing Vic (the new record with the Elves is a bit of a rough ride) and the Hard Lessons, (a ferocious rock power trio with some twangy edges), I think I’ll opt for Little Joy and the Dead Trees (pictured above), mostly for the latter, who have been in heavy iTunes rotation since I picked up the Portland band’s Fort Music EP on eMusic. If you like bristling, smart and hooky rock, you might want to join me at Chez Duck.

What are you doing?

Magnolia Avenue Session: Carrie Rodriguez

At the age of 30, Carrie Rodriguez has had a pretty impressive career. She studied music at the Berklee School, toured with Lucinda Williams, and has leant her world class fiddle to recordings by John Mayer, Patty Griffin, Jimmy LaFave and Walter Hyatt. Chip Taylor took her under his wing, and the two have been collaborating since 2002. On her most recent album, She Ain’t Me, Rodriguez gets deeper into her songwriting, working with Gary Louris and Mary Gauthier, as well as famed producer Malcolm Burn.

If you have to pigeonhole Rodriguez, you’d call her Americana, but that just means she pulls together the sounds of country, folk and pop into her own spirited style. She was in town last week performing at the Duck Room, the scene of her Twangfest 11 set. Along with guitarist Hans Holzen and bass player Kyle Kegerreis, she stopped by the KDHX studios to tape a live session. I’m psyched to air it on Feel Like Going Home this Wednesday morning on 88.1 FM and streaming live at KDHX.org.

Here’s a teaser track from the session.

Absence (Live at KDHX)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

There’s a hole in my neighborhood down which of late I cannot help but fall

My current most favorite musician in the whole wide world is Guy Garvey, the lead singer and songwriter of the Manchester, England band Elbow. have been head over heels in love with them from the moment the first record was released; four albums in and it’s still an active romance.

The latest Elbow album, Seldom Seen Kid, is more than partially responsible for my wish to return to the KDHX air waves. Like everyone at KDHX, I am always eager to present music that my listeners will love. After years and years at KDHX, I can’t hear new music without thinking how it will sound in the context of my show. Without a show when I first received Seldom Seen Kid, I was itching to get Emotional Rescue back on the air as soon as I had listened only once. Really, I love the record that much.

Elbow have a way of sounding anthemic, epic and intimate all at once. No matter how soaring the instrumentation (and oh, how they can soar!), Garvey’s voice remains conspiratorial and personal, as if he’s whispering his thoughts right into your ear. In short, no matter how big the tune, there are no Jesus Christ poses going on here.

As a bit of a side job, Garvey hosts a weekly program on BBC Radio-6 Music, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. One of his regular features is asking listeners for their “default” songs, defined as the music that’s in your head when you’re not actively listening to anything else. “Grounds For Divorce” from Seldom Seen Kid has been my default song for weeks now and I’ve been doing my best to infect my listeners with its magnificence. To that end, I present here the video for the song.

And if you wake to find yourself humming about a Chinese cigarette case tomorrow, I will happily take the blame.

Discovery: Nik Freitas

Last week, as with many weeks, I played a Fairport Convention song on Feel Like Going Home. Later, I checked my inbox and found a nice note from a listener who loved the track (“Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” as sung by Sandy Denny on the band’s soul-shattering Unhalfbricking) and confessed to somehow having missed out on the band.

Some might despair or snicker at the admission, but I find it a wonderful thing. Even the headiest of music heads miss records they should by all lights love desperately; we don’t know everything and we shouldn’t. There’s always more music, new and old, to discover. It’s a multiverse thing.

Nik Freitas is a young California-based songwriter, singer and dude-who-plays-and-records-everything. Apparently he’s been releasing music since at least 2002, not that I would have known that sans Google. He works out of his modest home studio, buying and selling gear to keep the power on, though he’s not much interested in lo-fi aesthetics. He has pop visions–Paul Simon and Todd Rundgren come to mind–but not for their own sake. The songs on this year’s Sun Down, his first record for New York label Team Love, reflect on family, friendship and love, and how all three evolve with time, sometimes leaving us bewildered, sometimes broken. But Nik always dusts himself off and sets out again at life. He’s an earnest and hopeful chap at heart.

Nik has made a few tunes available for download at his website. Here’s the title track from Sun Down. Order the full album here.

Nik Freitas on Myspace.

Sun Down

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

← Previous PageNext Page →