One of the year’s most pleasantly subtle surprises (for these ears, not to mention KDHX DJ Darren Snow) has been the solo album by Tracey Thorn (also of Everything But the Girl) called Love and Its Opposite. It’s a record that merges songwriter soul with mostly spare settings of guitar, drums and keyboards. It’s dream pop, I suppose, but confessional, frequently dark, and always wonderfully sung.
“If the remixes for the last single “Why Does The Wind?” were aimed at the dancefloor, these are perhaps aimed more at the head. People often only remember the dance remixes I have been involved with, and forget the great futuristic re-works of my voice over the years by people like Photek, Omni Trio and Howie B. If my versions of my songs are often plain and direct, these mixes add question marks and blind alleys, and I like that. It adds a different colour and makes them closer to my work with Massive Attack perhaps.”
Check out the spooky, elegant remix below.
“Kentish Town (WALLS remix)” by Tracey Thorn and WALLS
Smithsonian Folkways has just released two collections, featuring recordings by North Carolina old time legend Ola Belle Reed and a host of musicians from the Big Easy. And, as usual, the label is offering up a few gratis downloads from each. Get more info on Rising Sun Melodies here and Classic Sounds of New Orleans here.
“Look Down That Lonesome Road” by Ola Belle Reed
“We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City” by Doc Paulin and his group
Let’s get the disclosure out of the way: I’ve been friends (and/or collegial rivals) with Chris King since at least the late ’80s, when both of us were in grad school for English and American Literature at Wash. U. I use the word “rival” as King was the young upstart who, for a short time, threatened my delusional primacy at the seminar table.
That didn’t last. Country punk semi-stardom ended his academic career. I don’t have nearly as good an excuse.
Since then we’ve gone on road trips, done field recordings, edited klezmer and banjo tunes, taped Irish and St. Louis poets in my apartment, and hung out for what surely amounts to years in bars, on porches, in cars and in living rooms, sharing songs, stories and ideas — some of which have born fruit, others of which have evaporated as they should.
Back in the day, I only saw his now notorious band Enormous Richard once, and couldn’t make it through the whole set. I was a jazz snob at the time, and musicality meant something.
This past Saturday, ER regrouped for a reunion gig at the Duck Room, the reconstructed site of the band’s Cicero’s salad days. I paid the $5 cover and got a glimpse of what I missed in the ’90s. The band was sloppy and sweet, utterly serious about their lack of seriousness, and King prowled about the stage and the floor like a game show host some 11 pints to the wind, his jeans ripped up to the knees (a nostalgic sartorial signature), while the music — spiked by Elijah “Lij” Shaw‘s fiddle and banjo — careened off into the twangy folk pop punk that the six dudes christened “skuntry.” They played all the hits, the dance floor whirled, and I stayed till the end.
Enormous Richard has recently reissued the classic Enormous Richard’s Almanac. Get all the details and snag some free downloads here.
Postscript: I missed the first band, the Lettuceheads, but caught Karate Bikini, who I had somehow never seen before. If you’re looking for a heavy power pop fix with flute and saxophone and a triple guitar wall of sound, KB is the St. Louis band to beat.
I have nothing against the Kings of Leon. But then I’m not a pigeon.
The Hitchcockian surrealism of what is surely to become a legendary rock & roll debacle — well-coiffed rock band cancels mega outdoor show after overdose of guano — may be this weekend’s news alert, but 25 miles east, in a club in old St. Louis, a grizzled rocker and a young pickup drummer reminded a room of 50 people why songs, stories and spirit still matter.
Santa Monica, Cal. native Peter Case probably shouldn’t be touring at all, given that he nearly died from a genetically doomed heart last year, and as he has a history as leader of power pop icons the Nerves and the Plimsouls, a catalog of much-covered songs and steady work as a producer. You’d think that would be enough to take it easy at age 56.
But here he was back at Off Broadway, where he first performed in 1988 or ’89, playing a duo set with Joe Meyer, a drummer he met for the first time that afternoon, and delivering classics like “Everyday Things,” “Million Miles Away,” “Two Angels,” and “Entella Hotel,” the latter being the kind of song you can hang a lifetime of songwriting on, save that Case has a couple 40 more where that came from.
Which is where, exactly? Even if he knew he wouldn’t say, though Case is one of those observers on whom nothing is lost, as evidenced by the short and touching and hilarious passage from his rock & roll memoir As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport that he read midway through the set and demonstrated by his initial confession that he “doesn’t have any Chuck Berry stories” (when I requested one), but he told two good ones anyway, before leaping into a flawless cover of “Nadine.” Case’s voice is torn up a bit with the years, and with every song he looked more and more like Dave Van Ronk, but his big postmodern red and black guitar rang out, he riffed on Eddie Hinton and his new songs, primordial rockabilly-and-blues-gut-checks, were cool and dauntless and cagey and real. Rock & roll case closed.
“The mission of KDHX is to build community through media, with diverse and independent voices that enrich the perspectives of our audiences.”
Here at KDHX we’re finishing up a brand-new website. It’s been a year-long project, starting from surveys, research, and whiteboard brainstorms and ending up with a website that will help KDHX fulfill its mission in new ways.
What makes this new website great is that it takes “community through media” to a new level. It provides a new, rich medium through which KDHX DJs, programmers, and producers can deliver and add to their content. At the same time, it creates a space for people to engage with that media and continue the conversation. This means a far richer experience than a website that’s just about the social aspect, just about posting media, or just has information about an organization.
I was actually really quite intimidated by the scope of the project when we started a year ago. Having been in charge of quite a few areas in which I had no background or experience, I’ve learned an incredible amount over the past year (probably more practical development skills than I gained in four years of college). Reading back over some email exchanges and some meeting notes from the beginning of the project reminds me of just how far we’ve come.
One of the hardest and most rewarding things we had to do actually had nothing to do with technology. KDHX encompasses a quite diverse group of people; the staff members, volunteers, DJs, producers, interns, and community members I have worked with and consulted brought a wide range of ideas, needs, and passions to the project. This variety is a huge asset to the project and the organization, but coordinating and aligning such different opinions was a challenge. We’ve had to make sure that everyone’s opinion is heard and taken into account while keeping the resulting website from ending up as just the least common denominator of all of these inputs, and it’s great to feel that we’ve accomplished that.
I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work here with such fun people! My year as an AmeriCorps VISTA is up, but my experiences of both community and media at here at KDHX are an ongoing gift.
You know Chuck Lavazzi as a long-time KDHX volunteer and editor of the Performing Arts Reviews that you hear on KDHX every day (and may peruse at KDHX.org). Chuck is also a gifted actor and entertainer, and he’s bringing back his one-man vaudeville show, “Just a Song at Twilight,” to the Kranzberg Arts Center for a one-night-only encore on Saturday, July 24 at 8 p.m. The performance is directed by Tim Schall, with music directed by Neal Richardson, and features the piano of Anna Blair.
Tickets and information are available at Licketytix or by calling 314-725-4200, ext. 10.
Here’s a video from the show that premiered this past spring.
An official selection for the 10th Annual St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, Broken and Wonderful, directed by Josh Rolens, takes as its subject Bob Reuter, one of the River City’s most revered musicians and photographers, and host of 88.1′s “Bob’s Scratchy Records,” every Friday afternoon.
The short documentary screens at 4:30 p.m. at the Tivoli on Sunday, July 18. Judging by the trailer below, it looks to be pretty terrific.
The strip malls of the Midwest are so maligned, perhaps rightly so, but they’re ours, and they’re not going away anytime soon.
Matt Millia, the singer and songwriter of Frontier Ruckus, knows that. He and his bandmates hail from suburban Detroit, and on their new record, Deadmalls and Nightfalls (due out on Ramseur Records on July 20), they celebrate and eulogize those plazas, and the ghosts that haunt them.
They’re places of memory, Millia explained during the band’s in-studio session on 88.1 KDHX and Feel Like Going Home this morning. They’re not places for a band this spontaneous and inspired, who take the old time instruments of saw, guitar and banjo (played with Scruggs-style speed and dexterity by David Winston Jones), and all the junk shop trumpets and worn-out drums, and make a memorable, melodic noise, in and around Millia’s flash flood of consciousness lyrics.
Fans of the Avett Brothers and Delta Spirit won’t want to miss them at the Old Rock House in downtown St. Louis tonight.