The TVD Storefront

Col. J.D. Wilkes of
the Legendary Shack Shakers, The TVD Interview

The term “renaissance man” is one that isn’t utilized a whole lot these days. In the case of Colonel J.D. Wilkes, the term fits like a glove. A bonafide Kentucky Colonel, Wilkes has been the enigmatic frontman for the Legendary Shack Shakers, a high-energy amalgam of blues, gypsy, twang, and just about anything else that they can fit in, for going on twenty years now. More recently, he partnered up with his wife Jessica in the Dirt Daubers, a more back-to-basics blues and rockabilly unit.

These two bands that Wilkes is most well-known for only scratch the surface of the man himself. Artist. Author. Musician. Filmmaker. He is doing it all in the name of preserving artistic elements of the South and keeping musical traditions alive and well. This is a man who is deeply proud of where he is from, and rather than yell “Yeehaw!” and rant about the War of Northern Aggression, he demonstrates the rich beauty and time-honored heritage of the unsung musicians who helped shape country and bluegrass music of today. Wilkes was a pleasure to speak with, and he could barely contain his passion for the music that is in his heart and soul.

How did the Shack Shakers decide to start back up again?

Well, our drummer had some heart issues that he got squared away. He got a pacemaker put in. I think it just came down to, the material was there, the desire was there, the health was there…the financial need was there. It was just a lot of things coming together at the same time, all those elements coming together. There’s also been offers for festivals and things. Europe’s come’a callin’. The demand is there. Timing, supply and demand, that’s what it’s all about. It’s a band, it’s a brand, it’s a product, and sometimes you have to go away before people can appreciate you.

Oh, yeah. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and all of that.

That is exactly right.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Debby Schwartz,
A Garden of My Own

Debby Schwartz is properly appraised as a veteran musician, a singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist combining broader than usual range with a fairly low profile. As part of the small but potent roster of the NYC/Connecticut-based Twin Lakes Records that might change; her new LP A Garden of My Own offers 11 strong selections in a contemporary electric folk vein.

I was familiar with the output of Debby Schwartz long before recognizing her by name, having crossed paths with her band The Aquanettas roughly a quarter century ago. Flaunting a handle reminiscent of the B-52s, their first and sole full-length Love with a Proper Stranger sported a sound comparable to the Bangles if they’d been from Hoboken and didn’t hit the big time; appearing in early 1990, it was a thorough byproduct of the decade prior.

As issued by Nettwerk/I.R.S. Records the disc never found an appropriate audience. My exposure to The Aquanettas came through a casual acquaintance rather than a personal copy, and after giving it a fresh spin via the resources of the internet I’m bluntly kinda bummed I didn’t pick it up, though I don’t recall ever seeing it in the racks back then.

If I never stumbled across Love with a Proper Stranger, until very recently I didn’t even know Schwartz’s Wrongs of Passage existed. Released in ’98 on Joan Osborne’s Womanly Hips label, it seems to have fallen through the cracks, and I still haven’t heard it. I do know her bass and vocal work in Patrick Gubler’s post-Tower Recordings outfit P.G. Six however; it sets the table for A Garden of My Own quite nicely.

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TVD San Francisco

TVD Live: Sam Smith
at the House of Blues Boston, 9/15

Photographed by Jason Miller-1-2

While Sam Smith might not sing and write the type of music I usually cover here at TVD, I am making an exception for an exceptional talent. I was fortunate enough to catch Smith during a recent trip to Boston where he kicked off his US tour. This UK crooner is quite close to being the hottest ticket on the planet as he has quickly gone from buzzworthy crossover artist to full-on global superstar.

For those who somehow don’t know this phenomenon, Sam Smith is a soul singer/songwriter who rose to fame two years ago when he was featured on Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch.” Earlier this year his debut album, In the Lonely Hour was released and has so far moved over two million units. That is unheard of in this day and age of streaming and single downloads.

Photographed by Jason Miller-2

Smith wears his influences on his sleeve often recalling Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, but I would say he’s much closer to a male version of Adele with a touch of classic, hipster soul. Smith took to the stage at the sold out House of Blues in Boston walking into an array of brilliant white lights. The look on his face was a mix of confidence and appreciation—confident that he was truly coming into his own and appreciative for the crowd who would hang on every single note from that point forward.

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TVD Asbury Park

TVD’s Garden State Sound with Evan Toth

All jokes aside, New Jersey is a pretty great place. While it has a lot of offer as a state, it also has a rich musical history that many people remain unaware of. Everyone knows about Springsteen and Sinatra, but there’s more out there too, including a diverse current music scene.

Tune in to Garden State Sound with Evan Toth to explore music with connections to New Jersey. You will hear in-depth interviews with some of Jersey’s best music makers and have the opportunity win tickets to some of the best concerts in the state.

Garden State Sound is hosted by longtime NJ radio personality and musician Evan Toth on WFDU.FM.

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TVD Dallas

Beat Connection: Letting go, moving forward, and swinging for the fences

When it comes to sweet beats ‘n good vibes, Beat Connection does the damn thing.

It’s impossible to listen to “Another Go Round,” the Seattle-based trio’s latest sonic gem, without busting a sporadic dance move or two. Spiked with the cross-cultural sounds of sitar strings, hand drums, and tropical-meets-nu-disco grooves, the jam is both feverish funk and new wave electro-pop. It’s like fruity rum punch, but with a secret dose of tequila—breezy and tasty and seemingly harmless, but by the end of the night, bound to put a dangerous bounce in your booty.

Beat Connection debuted “Another Go Round” via Stereogum last week, the second new single previewing the group’s forthcoming LP. Since premiering their glittery, delightful first full-length album, The Palace Garden, back in 2012, the BC guys have been performing gigs around the country, and working on new stuff here and there. But now, with two dazzling new singles, a promising sophomore record on the rise, and plans to perform on major stages like this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, big things are soon to be happening.

We spoke with producer and founding member Reed Juenger about their latest single, the upcoming record, and impending ACL debut. Beat Connection is growing up, paying rent, and straight up bringing the heat.

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The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Joe Con, “Said and Done”

Venice Beach troubadour Joe Con seamlessly blends folk, pop, and hip hop with a deft touch for melodic poetry. His newest EP, “I Choose You” shows a more tender side of Con’s versatile and prolific catalogue.

There is little left unsaid on the EP’s first single “Said and Done” which finds Con in a reflective mood, crooning over a snappy beat laced with acoustic guitar and harmonica. Couplet after couplet, the laid-back songwriter details the romantic highs and lows of diehard love while managing to fit the entire history of the relationship into the soothing four-minute single. It is a well-executed lullaby of a song which is aided by a bouncy chord progression, sweeping strings, and Con’s honey coated Kentucky drawl.

“I Choose You” is an assured work that buzzes with catchy grooves and broad pop sensibilities. A combination that is sure to please various walks of life from hip hop heads to folkies. Joe’s aesthetic, which has often included searing blues and braggadocio rhyme slinging, has become more and more aimed toward Top 40—with an unabashed flair for pop hooks. A sugary tablespoon of beach rock with clever arrangements and cool delivery.

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The TVD Storefront

The Turtles’ Mark Volman, The TVD Interview

Back when pop music had real prestige, The Turtles were one of its finest practitioners. Their success was due in no small part to a DIY approach to music and their collective ear for a great song. The band first hit the charts with a version of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” in 1965. From there, they covered songs from bands like The Byrds and recorded tunes from songwriters like Warren Zevon and the mostly forgotten—yet incredibly prolific—Alan Gordon, who co-wrote their signature song, “Happy Together.”

Despite numerous personnel changes, Mark Volman never fully abandoned the idea of The Turtles. He and Turtles bandmate Howard Kaylan departed from the band for a time and joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, calling themselves Flo (Mark) & Eddie (Howard). They continued to tour and record as Flo & Eddie (separate from Zappa) through the ’80s until they regained control of The Turtles’ name. Today, Volman and Kaylan bill themselves “The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie” and gig around the world with fellow ’60s and ’70s pop acts on their popular Happy Together Tour.

Volman has thrived in the music industry for the better part of fifty years. His incredibly varied career has included work as a backup singer, record producer, screenwriter, and college professor. When he’s not touring with The Turtles, Volman chairs the Entertainment Industry Studies Department at Belmont University in Nashville.

Volman most recently oversaw the creation of a Turtles box set containing newly remastered 45RPM vinyl singles (out now), a perfect tribute for one of the most beloved pop bands of the ’60s. Our conversation with him last week makes it clear why his students have voted him “Outstanding Professor” and why The Turtles’ music endures in 2014. 

I remember really liking “Happy Together” as a kid because it was this upbeat song in a minor key, and so it kind of stuck in my mind…

[Laughs] Well, I think that the effervescent minor key to major key was a big part of The Turtles. Ultimately, it shaped the sound of our songs. I think that “Happy Together” certainly is a good demonstration of that; “Elenore” was probably the one that was more famous by kind of the fact that we were lampooning ourselves. Again, I think in the beginning, we had no idea that it was going to end up doing what it did!

Your big hits came in such a brief period of time, and they’re so well-crafted—almost like Rodgers and Hammerstein type story-songs. Is that what you set out to do when you got into music?

Well, we were experimenting with a lot of different [things], and we were fortunate. We came along when songwriting was still thought of as the most important thing. From our standpoint, we never really worried about what material we were doing, whether we were writing it or not; the most important thing was that we had a piece of music we felt we could stand behind. Because our live show played such an integral part of our survival in that era, we wanted to make sure that the music we were performing on record was something we could do on stage. I think sometimes you take for granted the fact that so much of the music that came out of Southern California—The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys…there was a whole slew of artists who were making records, but not playing on their records.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD’s Press Play

Press Play is our Monday morning recap of the new tracks received last week—provided here to inform your vinyl purchasing power. Click, preview, download, purchase.

DZ Deathrays – Fixations (AL-P of MSTRKRFT Remix)
Sam Smith – Stay With Me (Bender Remix)
Wise Girl – So Broken
The High Learys – I’m A Fool For You
Anabot – Candy-Eyed
Grammar – New World
Douglas Francis – Hedonic Treadmill
Lookas – LOKO (Dani Deahl Remix)
Cassorla – The Right Way
Anushka – Atom Bombs

Sillyboy – Do it Again

Clockwork Radio – Sitting Bull
Selena Garcia – Brother
Nite Fields – Vacation
Negativland – Right Might
Ennui – Summer of Love
Mary J. Blige – Just Fine (GAMPER & DADONI x Mingo Starr Remix)
Double Plus Good – Never The Same
Dream Boat – The Rose Explodes
Baby Baby – Turnip
Gwyneth Moreland – Pine Box Sailor

3 more FREE TRACKS on side B!

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Music City U.S.A.!

Drink all day and rock all night/ The law come to get you if you don’t walk right/ Got a letter this morning, baby all it read/ You better head back to Tennessee Jed.

I dropped four flights and cracked my spine/ Honey, come quick with the iodine/ Catch a few winks, baby, under the bed/ Then you head back to Tennessee Jed.

Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be/ Baby won’t you carry me back to Tennessee.

Although I’d personally rather be in the canyons of Los Angeles, Tennessee ain’t bad in my book. The first thing that comes to mind about my annual trip to Nashville is “southern hospitality.” The people down here are truly different from where I come from. I try pretty hard to be a “nice guy,” but I could never compare.

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TVD Chicago

TVD Live: Riot Fest 2014, Sunday, 9/14

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Sunday of Riot Fest, or what I had been referring to all weekend as “Pattiday,” was easily my favorite day of the weekend.

It was no secret that I was really excited for Patti Smith. My expectations were high, to say the least, and I had to resign myself to basically waiting hours until I could be in Ms. Smith’s presence again since I saw her in May 2013 at The Vic. In the meantime, I would party hard with Andrew WK and sway to the catchy stylings of Tegan and Sara all while stuffing my face with as much beer and Cevapicici I could handle. It’s Sunday, people. Go big or go home.

Seeing Patti Smith live is truly something special. The entire set was dripping with sentiments for her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith whose birthday it was. “I wrote this song in 1978 for my boyfriend, Fred Sonic Smith who became my husband and we had two children. We lived in Detroit and now I’m here and it’s his birthday. Happy birthday, Fred. I never sing this song without thinking of you,” she said before diving into “Because the Night.”

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