Author Archives: Jude Warne

Sasha Dobson,
The TVD Interview

Smack in the middle of an era full of complications—and amidst a year of fear and confusion—singer-songwriter Sasha Dobson has released her four-song EP “Simple Things” that reminds all of us to divert our attention toward what truly matters.

A child of hardworking musical parents from Northern California, Dobson first garnered traction as a jazz vocalist who crafted a sonic and spiritual space for herself amidst New York City’s West Village jazz scene. Sasha befriended recording artist Norah Jones, who recognized a similar musical inclination toward the subtle, nuanced elements of artistic approach that she herself possessed, and together they co-founded the girl group trio Puss N Boots along with Cat Popper.

But Sasha’s rock inclinations were left unattended. A vow to write and write and write was held to, as Dobson devoted herself to the craft that she was simultaneously used to from her upbringing, and coerced into pursuing via her many artistic collaborations as a young artist in California and New York.

“Simple Things,” the captivating four-song EP recently released under her own name, is Dobson’s testament to the potentials of the rock idiom. And it’s a beautiful experiment heralded by the guidance of veteran producer and Blue Note Records label head Don Was who believed in Sasha from day one. A stellar San Rafael session at Bob Weir’s TRI Recording Studios with Jay Lane on drums, Was himself on bass, and Sasha leading on guitar and vocals, resulted in a lovely and authentic product by which to showcase her talents.

You’re from California originally—what brought you to the New York area? Have you lived here for a long time?

I’m a little over twenty years in New York. I spent ten years in Manhattan and ten years in Brooklyn. And I just saw myself cycling into this routine of gigging every night. I was working and I was busy, but I wasn’t building anything beyond that. And I knew that if I distanced myself from the city, that I would only say yes to gigs that made financial sense or that I really, really wanted to do. Because as musicians we’re starving for work, and so you get into this momentum.

I come from a long line of musicians who were eternally overworked. So I moved to Far Rockaway, New York for the beach and the lifestyle, but I actually ended up working more because at the same time, my career opened up more. But I did start really making sure that when I said yes to a gig or project with someone that it made sense. Certain artists like myself who are musicians’ musicians, we burn ourselves out. And I come from a long line of really hard-working musicians, blue collar musicians if you will, like people who work with other musicians and spread themselves so thin. And so for me, I just thought, I think that my life path, aside from singing jazz, is writing music.

Even though it’s not what I set out to do, and even though I fell into it kind of guilty by association—I worked with all these songwriters, I dated and lived with a great songwriter for many years who’s a dear friend of mine. My life has been deeply influenced into this category that it fell into and I needed the space to sort of dive into that. And ever since then, “Simple Things” and the last Puss N Boots record, and my next project—this jazz record I’m about to put out—they’re all a product of making the room to write all the time.

I’m getting a lot of work done. The only real drag, for me, aside from losing all the big tours that we had planned this year, is that my social life—as dorky as it sounds—was also my work. And so whatever isolation that I kind of created by living out here and kind of love—I don’t get to balance it out by going and doing a gig every night or a session. But it’ll pass.

So you had a tour planned around the release of this record originally before quarantine started?

This year was the busiest year of my adult life. I’ve never had so much going on at once. I can’t even believe I have the financial structure to survive this pandemic period, because if it were last year and I didn’t have savings from making a record with Puss N Boots—my band with Norah Jones… we also put out a record this year, which kind of afforded me this project. I really had planned my whole year out. And the universe was like, “fuck you!”

But I’m not the only one; we’re all kind of going through that. I think a lot of us were hoping to have a great year. So you just keep going. On the other hand, my new jazz project was just sort of a trail off of this. You know, you get into a zone with whatever productivity you’re into, and I was just in this really super hustling zone at the beginning of the year, and my jazz band is a big deal for me. That’s kind of like another topic, but it’s something that I think, because I was so fired up about “Simple Things” and that coming together, I just knew that as soon as the tour was over with Puss N Boots, I was going to want to have something else in the mix after “Simple Things.” The point is that if I didn’t have these two projects to work on right now during this pandemic, I’d be just so lost. I have them to focus on and push out into the world, and it could be worse.

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Marcus Eaton,
The TVD Interview

“Seems impossible to tell seasons apart, or know exactly which way the weather’s going to go,” states singer-songwriter Marcus Eaton in “Closer,” the third moodily introspective track on his EP “Invisible Lines,” released last month on vinyl. New and timely in its themes of isolation, sociological questioning, and nature awareness, Eaton’s EP stands as a semi-unintentional testament to the wild, sad, and unpredictable times we are currently living through.

The release date of mid-May was chosen months before the pandemic took center stage. But over the course of the EP’s five original tracks and one cover song, Eaton makes it clear that he is the ideal artist for the right now. He puts forth thoughtful and comfortable-in-uncertainty reiterations and spin-offs of his “Closer” observation. The revolutionarily minded “Step Aside” that inspires personal power and potential political change, the flight-focused “Shadow of a Bird” that encourages risk-taking and assuages fear of failure, and the responsibility-oriented “Handed Down” that investigates the concept of cultural inheritance, all address eternal themes of the human experience: physical and emotional solitude, penning one’s own most authentic creed, and trying to do the right thing while also honoring personal spiritual and material desires.

Different musicians who surmised the same truths that Eaton has on “Invisible Lines” could have reverted to rebellion, rage, ridicule, or disenchantment. But he appears to have chosen an alternate path, that of pursuing newness and insisting on hope. Even his choice of cover song, Sting’s classic world-conscious “Fragile,” merges with these same themes and fits perfectly alongside originals. Eaton’s guitar prowess, carefully cultivated over years of inquiry, practice, and spiritual searching, has served as his artistic calling card for much of his career and once again takes center stage—and exquisitely so—on “Invisible Lines.” As does his compositional penchant to get to the heart of the matter—for the universe at large—via the most musically captivating route.

Eaton released his first album with his jazz fusion-forward group The Lobby in 2003, which was followed by three solo albums before “Invisible Lines.” And his ongoing musical collaboration with the legendary David Crosby ultimately spawned last year’s acclaimed Grammy-nominated documentary Remember My Name, directed by Eaton’s brother A.J. and for which Marcus wrote and recorded a stark and stellar original guitar-based score (with Bill Laurance). And really, what better than intense instrumental acumen and sonic sophistication, to prepare a younger musician for working with an eminent and complex artist like David Crosby?

In conversation with Marcus Eaton, we learn more about the genesis of “Invisible Lines,” his myriad of guitar heroes, and his musical collaboration with one of the most talented and paradoxical artists in rock history.

You produced this new EP, “Invisible Lines,” yourself, but the whole thing—the sound quality, the mixing is very impressive.

Thank you. I’m really proud of this new project because I did it myself. My friend Billy Centenaro mixed it, and he took it way beyond what I expected. When I got the mixes back from him, it was the first time I heard the emotion that I put into the album come back to me. It really affected me; the emotion was translating—before, the emotion wasn’t hitting people. So that just shows you how important mixing is. My friend tracked the drums for me in his studio. We did the strings at my home, the violin parts on “Invisible Lines.”

Those were live players?

That was one live player named Lizzie Ball, she’s incredible, she used to play with Jeff Beck, a top violin player in London. I’d had some temporary synth parts that were replicating strings. She got into it, just went crazy, did like thirteen or fourteen tracks.

Can you discuss working with David Crosby in the past, and your connection to him, as a younger person? Did it feel special, like “not everyone gets to do this,” working with the legends, the masters?

The Crosby thing—what I love about it is that it was so organic. It happened through my friend Norm Waitt, who saw me open for Tim Reynolds, this incredible guitarist I’ve always idolized who plays with Dave Matthews. I started listening to him at 18 and thought if I could ever play with him, that could be the thing. And I ended up touring with him a lot. So on one of these tours, in Aspen, I met Norm Waitt, who asked if I wanted to play at his Christmas party in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a blast, and then Norm said “I really think you need to meet my friend David Crosby.” I found out that Norm had a record label, which he’d built around Crosby, because he loved his music so much. So that’s how I met David. A couple of months later he asked if I’d like to come and play on his album which became Croz (2014). So it was very organic, not through management, or lawyers—a lot in music happens that way—but this was organic. A ’60s-style “hey man, come and jam in my living room” sort of thing. It was very special.

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Needle Drop: Mike Jacoby, From London
to Long Beach

Long Beach Calling is the latest album release from SoCal Alt Country rocker Mike Jacoby; its title and that of its corresponding song—as well as its pink-and-green-lettered cover image—offer direct allusion to London Calling, the quintessential career-defining Clash album released in 1979.

London in the late seventies was riddled with cross-class strife, uneven economics, and dissatisfied plebeians. Long Beach, California in 2019—according to Jacoby’s song—is in a similar state, albeit of a mellower and narrower sort. The town, the area, has an element of Golden State beauty but mainly exists in varying states of decay—the truth of which Jacoby’s vocal snarl, and the simultaneous multiple guitar lines that drive the track—some aggressive, some playful—indicate.

“Long Beach Calling” sets the LP-length precedent for humorous songwriting and impressive instrumentals that the listener will experience over the course of eleven original tracks. From the record’s earliest notes, it becomes clear: this is very much a Guitar album. Songs like “Here & Now” and ‘Smile” possess the abundant energy of songs off the Clash’s London Calling album, but musically wear clothes in a style more akin to ’90s rock, in the vein of early Wilco and Monster-period R.E.M.

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Donald Fagen and The Nightflyers, The TVD Interview

“I wish I had a heart like ice,” Donald Fagen—or rather his character, uber-hip yet lovelorn jazz DJ Lester—yearns in “The Nightfly.” The track is a high point on an autobiography-infused nostalgiAlbum of high points. The Nightfly, Fagen’s debut solo recording—which also featured classics “I.G.Y.” and “New Frontier”—was nominated for seven Grammy awards and released in 1982.

Fagen’s latest solo venture comes in the form of a touring band appropriately dubbed The Nightflyers. From July through September, the bunch will play in a myriad of venues across the US, as well as the Yokohama Blue Note Jazz Fest for a tour closer. The Nightflyers are new for Donald, more or less; he first ran into the twenty-somethings bunch—Connor Kennedy (guitar, vocals), Lee Falco (drums, vocals), Brandon Morrison (bass, vocals), and Will Bryant (keyboards, vocals)—on the Woodstock-area music circuit. Stepdaughter and musician Amy Helm, also based in the Woodstock area, had worked with them in the past. Donald Fagen and the Nightflyers’ current setlist mainly borrows from Donald’s four stellar solo albums—The Nightfly (1982), Kamakiriad (1993), Morph the Cat (2006), and Sunken Condos (2012)—with some innovative covers and Steely Dan classics, too.

Fagen first formed a reputation as vocalist-pianist and songwriter, along with his musical partner Walter Becker, creating the Steely Dan nucleus. Influenced by literature and jazz, science fiction and noir, and all things Beatnik, Fagen and Becker created one of the most cerebrally complex yet often-mass-marketable song catalogues in the American popular music of the 1970s. Consider for a moment the miraculous and sometimes twisted perfection of the band’s lyrics—no topic seemed off-limits for songs, and many dealt in the murky nether regions of human relationships—which can sometimes get creepy. Steely Dan’s characters, however dastardly or morally questionable their intentions were, always possessed a layer of relatable loneliness.

As a solo artist, Donald Fagen is perhaps under-recognized for the romantic view of life expressed in his music. Frequently and rightfully lauded for his impressive cerebral prowess, he is sometimes snubbed for the more emotional side of his unique aural persona—one that is ridden, however coolly, with noble feeling, steadfast mensch-ness, and a lushly detectable yet fittingly understated sex appeal. A persona that’s the sonic equivalent of Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca, decked out in a white dinner jacket—solitary, strong, sarcastic, and unavoidably ardent when it came to the gal he loved. Like Lester the Nightfly, Rick insisted he’d “stick his neck out for nobody.” He yearned for “a heart like ice”—but couldn’t swing it.

In conversation with Donald Fagen, and Connor Kennedy of the Nightflyers, we learn more about the current Nightflyers tour, their musical and lifestyle influences and inspirations, and Connor’s recently released solo album, Somewhere.

Donald, a great deal of your solo material features seemingly cynical characters who also possess an undertone of a romantic worldview, a worldview that I’ve found to be pretty popular in the great noir protagonists of literature and cinema—like Philip Marlowe.

That’s fair, that’s fair.

Do you envision yourself in this way too, as the protagonist of your own life experience, having a soft spot for what you love, despite your intellect’s best intentions?

I think that’s a very fair way to describe the music. It’s hard to say. I think it’s sort of egotistical to put myself in a position of having the same kind of bigger-than-life personality as, you know, some of the people in noir literature, like say, Philip Marlowe, something like that. But I am attracted to that sort of thing, and I always think that the best of noir literature—you know, “noir” is actually a word that is fairly recent. They didn’t call it that when it was written. But there’s something about that vision of life to me that seems true to real life, I think. I think you’re right—there’s a romance to it. There’s a cynicism to it, skepticism, and humor, also. So I think that’s become part of my style.

Yes. I was watching the film version of Chandler’s The Big Sleep again recently and Philip Marlowe seems like this knight in shining armor that’s trying to work his way through this muck of all these crazy and corrupt characters, even though he seems that he’s a bit cynical.

Right.

He does stand out as being the one guy who’s doing the right thing.

Yeah, it’s like Al Franken, you know.

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Needle Drop: Honey West, Bad Old World

“I’m crazier than ever—I don’t wanna get better!” Ted Zurkowski sings in “Dementia,” the cleverly catchy single off Honey West’s Bad Old World album. Honey West is a band—not a woman—and they’ve released their debut record this past May via Readout Records.

As the single’s title and group’s name suggest, New York-based Honey West has a soft spot for the long-lasting. Perhaps this soft spot isn’t too surprising, given Honey West’s intimate relationship with rock and roll legacies. Vocalist-guitarist (and actor, founder of New York’s Shakespearean Co. Frog & Peach) Ted Zurkowski makes up one half of the group’s songwriting and conceptual nucleus. Multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald makes up the other half—you might know Ian too, in fact, if you’re a classic rock regular, you probably do.

McDonald is perhaps most immediately recognizable via his major roles in the foundation and subsequent super-success of rock bands King Crimson (1968-9) and Foreigner (1976-80). The versatile musicality, innovative composing, and production prowess that McDonald displayed during his stints with both bands is impossible to deny. The creative hand that he wields now with confidence and grace on Bad Old World, re-proves these same truths.

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The Yardbirds’ Jim McCarty, The TVD Interview

There are two schools of thought when it comes to band legacies. The first being—once the original lineup is disbanded, the band is dead forever, its name included. The second being—as long as a founding member or two remain involved, as long as a spark of the band’s core identity somehow remains, the band can go on living and using its name. The Yardbirds are of the second school, and for the past few decades, drummer-composer Jim McCarty has led the blues-rock group that he co-founded in a way that maintains its awe-worthy history and simultaneously insists upon a perpetual newness. The same kind of newness that accompanied the Yardbirds’ nightly rave-ups during their early ‘60s Crawdaddy Club residency, once the Rolling Stones had outgrown the role.

The Yardbirds have had several lineups since then and demonstrated a knack for choosing wow-worthy guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all served time in the group. The latest Yardbirds features McCarty alongside several other stellar rock musicians bearing an affinity for blues-rock and the Yardbirds’ rich artistic past: Johnny A (guitar), Kenny Aaronson (bass), Myke Scavone (vocals, blues harp, percussion), and John Idan (vocals, guitar). Frequently touring, and working on new material, the group is determined to keep its sound going.

Jim McCarty has a bountiful legacy all his own. He established The Yardbirds with Paul Samwell-Smith (bass), Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), Top Topham (guitar), and Keith Relf (vocals) in 1963. Though the band broke up in 1968, McCarty has reclaimed it and its sound since the early ‘90s. In addition to his Yardbirds tenure, he was part of several other groups like Renaissance (1969-70), Shoot, Illusion, Box of Frogs, Stairway, and Pilgrim. Not to mention the solo albums McCarty has released, the most recent being Sitting on the Top of Time (2009).

Since their inception in 1963, The Yardbirds’ have issued forth a mysterious sound that communicates a deep knowledge of blues music history, an ongoing dialogue with Eastern and world music, a closeness to aural psychedelia, and a penchant for penning songs that felt right at home as hit singles. The first was the stellar “For Your Love” in 1965, and it was followed by such gems as “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things,” “Mister, You’re a Better Man Than I,” “Over Under Sideways Down,” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” It was Jim McCarty’s drums and musical ideology that helped navigate the group’s quest for new sonic discoveries. Fitting then, that he would still be navigator of the band, set on propelling it into the future with confidence, while never forgetting from whence the Yardbirds came and their powerful contribution to the history of rock and roll.

In conversation with Jim McCarty, we learn more about the origins of the latest Yardbirds lineup and 2017 tour, his and the band’s musical creeds and histories, and the guitar-hero legacies left behind by greats Clapton, Beck, and Page.

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Bobby Whitlock
and CoCo Carmel,
The TVD Interview

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, All Things Must Pass, and Exile on Main St.—three rock and roll albums with several captivating commonalities. All were recorded and released in the early 1970s. All are now widely regarded as some of the most remarkable albums ever made in the history of popular music. All were included on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list, too. And all featured singer-keyboardist extraordinaire Bobby Whitlock.

He was Eric Clapton’s right-hand man during their membership in Derek and the Dominoes, the outfit responsible for Layla (1970). At a time when Clapton sought to distance himself from the powerful rock trio format established with Cream, Memphis-born Whitlock served as the ideal partner with whom to co-create a warmer and bluesier sound. Derek and the Dominoes, with Eric as frontman, was born. Whitlock produced, co-wrote, sang, and played keyboards on the Layla record; “Thorn Tree in the Garden,” the exquisitely heartbreaking album-closer, was Whitlock’s own. He was an essential player in the collaborative All Things Must Pass (1970) sessions, providing George Harrison’s post-Beatles masterwork with plenty of organ, vocals, tubular bells, and even a whistle. He was the main source of “I Just Want to See His Face,” an otherworldly standout track on what many consider to be the Rolling Stones’ finest record, Exile on Main St. (1972). To note, Jagger and Richards have yet to properly credit Whitlock for his contribution.

Bobby played crucial supporting roles on these seminal rock records, but he’s also accrued a slew of session creds and released several solo records since then. Of late—over the past sixteen years—he has worked and played with multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, and ladylove CoCo Carmel. Saxophonist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, CoCo’s struck with a plethora of musicality of her own. Dr. John, Jon Bon Jovi, and her ex-husband Delaney Bramlett (who wielded a hand on her 2003 solo release First Fruit) are just a few of the sonic giants she’s worked with. Possessing a shared passion for blues rock music—and each other—Bobby and CoCo combine their rich artistic pasts to create raw, emotional, and spiritually-charged music of the present. Carnival, their stellar live-in-Austin album, was released in 2013, and there’s another record in the works too.

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America’s Gerry Beckley, The TVD Interview

“Days, where’d you go so fast?” Gerry Beckley asks in “Bell Tree,” his bittersweet beauty-soaked song on America’s Hearts album. The band’s fifth studio recording, which also featured Beckley’s chart-toppers “Sister Golden Hair” and “Daisy Jane,” was produced by George Martin and released in 1975.

Beckley’s latest solo record Carousel is due in stores next month (September 9th) via indie label Blue Élan Records. Over the course of the album’s nine original tracks and three cover songs, Beckley offers up more seasoned articulations of his “Bell Tree” question. The irresistibly-catchy “Tokyo,” the Beatles-ish “Lifeline,” and the poetic “Once a Distant Heart,” all deal directly with our mortal inability to transcend the weight and power of time passed, passing, and soon-to-be-passed.

Other artists who have come to the same philosophical conclusions that Beckley has on Carousel might have been tempted toward anger, regret, fear, or perhaps worst of all, to wear Cynicism’s Crown of Superiority. Consider what its tracks titled “Minutes Count” and “Serious” may imply.

But Beckley seems to have taken the other road, the one on which happiness and personal power reside. His McCartney-esque gift for melody still reigns supreme on Carousel and his lyrics showcase a healthy dose of realism and inventiveness, at one point even daring to utilize the logistical word “Zihuatanejo,” a move worthy of Warren Zevon himself. Beckley’s thoughtful renditions of Spirit’s “Nature’s Way,” Gerry Rafferty’s “To Each and Everyone,” and Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” jive well with the rest of Carousel’s thematic content and allow the listener to reconsider the familiar songs in a newly visioned light.

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The Storyteller’s Story: Testimony: A Memoir by Robbie Robertson

“At the age of nine I told my mother that I wanted to be a storyteller when I grew up. She smiled and said, ‘I think you will.’”
Robbie Robertson

“He got what he wanted but he lost what he had.” Rock writer Greil Marcus, aficionado-scholar of American music, cultural history, and of The Band, uses this Little Richard quote as a jumping off point to tell the story of American rock ‘n’ roll music in his 1975 work Mystery Train.

Little Richard’s line is the quintessential punishment that often seems to accompany American success stories, like those of Jay Gatsby or Charles Foster Kane. It doesn’t seem to apply to that of Robbie Robertson however, co-founder, main songwriter, and lead guitarist of The Band. (Robertson is Canadian after all.) From a reading of his recently released autobiographical work Testimony: A Memoir, one can conclude that Robertson got a great deal of what he worked for and managed to not lose everything that he began with.

Instead of sacrificing or wasting, he gathered, accumulated, and expanded. As an individual and as a writer, Robertson seems to be acutely aware of his vast past and how it shaped him, presenting it in Testimony with all the detail and vitality of yesterday’s events.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “storyteller”—and rather obnoxiously so—as “someone who tells or writes stories.” Sure, but what makes a good storyteller? Perception, awareness, insight, objectivity, passion, respect for truth, concern for communication, and an allegiance to an authentic representation of self experience.

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America’s Gerry Beckley, The TVD Interview

“Days, where’d you go so fast?” Gerry Beckley asks in “Bell Tree,” his bittersweet beauty-soaked song on America’s Hearts album. The band’s fifth studio recording, which also featured Beckley’s chart-toppers “Sister Golden Hair” and “Daisy Jane,” was produced by George Martin and released in 1975.

Beckley’s latest solo record Carousel is due in stores next month (September 9th) via indie label Blue Élan Records. Over the course of the album’s nine original tracks and three cover songs, Beckley offers up more seasoned articulations of his “Bell Tree” question. The irresistibly-catchy “Tokyo,” the Beatles-ish “Lifeline,” and the poetic “Once a Distant Heart,” all deal directly with our mortal inability to transcend the weight and power of time passed, passing, and soon-to-be-passed.

Other artists who have come to the same philosophical conclusions that Beckley has on Carousel might have been tempted toward anger, regret, fear, or perhaps worst of all, to wear Cynicism’s Crown of Superiority. Consider what its tracks titled “Minutes Count” and “Serious” may imply.

But Beckley seems to have taken the other road, the one on which happiness and personal power reside. His McCartney-esque gift for melody still reigns supreme on Carousel and his lyrics showcase a healthy dose of realism and inventiveness, at one point even daring to utilize the logistical word “Zihuatanejo,” a move worthy of Warren Zevon himself. Beckley’s thoughtful renditions of Spirit’s “Nature’s Way,” Gerry Rafferty’s “To Each and Everyone,” and Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” jive well with the rest of Carousel’s thematic content and allow the listener to reconsider the familiar songs in a newly visioned light.

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A jaunt around NYC’s Other Music with The Ludlow Thieves’ Dan Teicher

A short while back I went record-shopping with Dan Teicher, guitarist-producer-founder of pop-rock-plus-strings band The Ludlow Thieves. We decided to hit up Other Music, a high-end music store in Manhattan’s NoHo area.

The store takes vinyl seriously, selling brand-new records (amongst other items) of masterwork albums from yesteryear and yesterday, at exorbitant prices. Well, exorbitant for us vinyl enthusiasts whose sense of pricing halted its modernization when our musical taste did—i.e. 1994. Still, Other Music deserves kudos for matching lofty price tags with lofty musical principles, offering up a vinyl selection that Rob of High Fidelity could, theoretically, be proud of.

Teicher is quite into vinyl and quite into music history, which is evident in both his solo visual media scoring and the collective musical journey of his burgeoning band The Ludlow Thieves. He is the guitar guy and producer for the group—a band that has headlined the major venues in New York City.

The Thieves, an ensemble-first band that counts two vocalists and a violinist amongst its members, recently released their EP “Skyline” and will be celebrating yet another EP release entitled “Sing Me Back” this Friday with a performance at Webster Hall.

But there is more too—much more!—on the way. Teicher, like many of us, sees both the upsides and downsides of the digital age and its effects on musical consumption. Amidst our jaunt around Other Music, these up and downsides were discussed, as were the Thieves’ main influences, why modern-day listeners prefer intro-less songs, and what to do when your parents neglect to properly care for their own vinyl collections—the bastards.

Dan Teicher: I assume you must be a vinyl nut.

Well yes, but I don’t buy as many new records as I would like to—only because, look at these prices. Thirty dollars for one album? Like, what?!

It’s so cool to have vinyl. But—it’s hard to justify getting a new album unless you’re trying to seriously support a new band. My record player’s a shitty little record player too. It’s like a classic old-school player, and I’m trying to figure out a way to involve it in my studio set-up to get a better sound quality out of it. I’d almost rather listen to a CD if I’m going to support a band because for me and my audio set-up, a CD would have better sound quality. However, I’m all about raiding the racks for one-dollar used records. But it doesn’t look like they have too many of those here…

Yeah, this is pretty high-end. Which in theory is super cool—taking vinyl seriously. How did your band, The Ludlow Thieves, get started?

Well, I started performing under the name Ludlow Thieves by myself. I recorded something which will never see the light of day that I sang on. About two weeks after I recorded it, I listened to it with fresh ears and was like “Oh, I should not be singing at all.”

I tend to like guitarists’ voices though, even when they’re not typical singers, like when Keith Richards sings.

You like when Keith sings? Well, you know what—when we get to that Rolling Stones point, when we all go do our solo albums, maybe I’ll reconsider.

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Mellow Obsessions: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

So nice, we read it twice. —Ed.

Genre-wise, Josh Rosenthal’s new book is a medley of memoir, music criticism, and a how-to guide on music listening.

Entitled The Record Store of the Mind, it loosely tells the story of Rosenthal’s musical life from his origins as a PolyGram intern right up until his recent-ish (2005) founding of Tompkins Square Records. Along that route, he had stints at larger operations—Columbia and Sony.

Rosenthal’s releases through Tompkins Square over the past ten years have largely consisted of reissued and long-forgotten musical material (i.e. Roland White’s 1976 album I Wasn’t Born to Rock’n Roll) and never-before-released-but-should-have-been-long-ago material (i.e. Tim Buckley’s Live at the Folklore Center, NYC – March 6, 1967). This chosen focus stays true to Rosenthal’s record collector character—forever seeking out a classic bit of vinyl that people have forgotten about and need to hear again right away.

This kind of mindset places worth upon history, it places worth upon the effects of passed time on a work of art. It places worth upon the voice of a narrow perspective that spoke directly from a given year, a year during which a myriad of events occurred, a year that was defined by statistics which determined its color and taste, statistics that could never be reproduced in that same way ever again.

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Pete Donnelly,
The TVD Interview

Pete Donnelly’s musical resume is pretty damn impressive. He’s the bass player firmly associated with legendary rock band NRBQ. He’s the singer-songwriter with several solo releases to his name. He’s the co-writer of “I Can’t Imagine,” the title track of Shelby Lynne’s recently released album. And of course, he’s the founding member of phenomenal rock band The Figgs, having worked with The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, as well as the great Graham Parker.

Along with Mike Gent, Donnelly founded The Figgs in 1987 and they are still going strong, with a recent album release that just might be their best yet. Other Planes of Here is an eight-track wonder of a record, a record that sets forth free-sounding tunes at once loyal to aurally stimulating melodies and compositionally new. While staying true to their rock-heavy roots, The Figgs have allowed their musicality to grow and their sound to evolve into one that incorporates and is influenced by a variety of instruments and genres. The result, manifested this year in Other Planes, is thoroughly, thoroughly good.

In conversation with Pete Donnelly, we learn more about The Figgs’ story and the making of Other Planes, as well as Donnelly’s numerous artistic influences and his warranted and well-articulated thoughts on the current state of the music industry.

First of all, congratulations on the new Figgs album Other Planes of Here, it’s really great. How did you devise its overall aural aesthetic? Because it seems to be a newer sound for you guys, incorporating more experimental musical components, more computerized effects.

Yeah, the Figgs certainly have an organic process. I think that we usually edit down quite a bit and focus on being sort of a pop band versus an experimental band. We tend to be tight and to the point, but we do have another side of us which is very experimental. I think in this case we decided to let it go and to not edit the process. We sort of wanted to take the audience into the process of recording, and I think the experimental side sort of opened a doorway into what gets our songs together. Often times we would edit that out of the final picture, but here we decided to leave it in.

How would you describe the band’s typical compositional process? Do you guys usually write together?

We do all kinds of things. I’d say that traditionally, Mike (Gent) and I write songs and come together in the studio or a rehearsal space, blast through a number of them and just see what clicks. As we’ve gotten older over the years, we’ve tried certain things where we’d write in the studio, come up with a theme or musical idea, just sort of experiment with it and write a song to it. It’s generally a more modern technique, making tracks and then writing to them. Sometimes we’ll have an unfinished song that one of us will come and finish. So it’s kind of anything goes. But because Mike and I write so much and come to the table with many songs, I think it’s the collaboration that makes it. Songwriting on paper is writing down a title, music, and lyrics, but the band contributes so much to, as you said, the aural picture. And I think on the new record, you can expect a lot more of that.

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TVD Live: Blackberry Smoke and The Temperance Movement at Webster Hall, 3/28

In the year 2015, it sometimes seems difficult to locate real and true rock and roll that’s new and isn’t just a regurgitation of rock and roll from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. This difficulty can be accounted for by any number of elements—auto tuning, the decreasing influence of record companies in the world of musical artistry, and MTV.

A while back Portlandia put forth a brilliant take on what had happened to MTV by placing a pre-teen girl in its leadership position as explanation of its ideological demise. The difficulty in question is just that however, a difficulty—not an impossibility. This past Saturday night at Webster Hall in New York City serves as exhibits A through infinity to attest to this latter fact.

Blackberry Smoke, having released four studio albums since its start in 2000, is most often described as a “southern rock” band, which it is—but this categorization seeks to minimize the band when it should be maximized and subsequently lauded. Blackberry Smoke is a straight-up rock and roll group. The band’s sound is derived from lead singer and guitarist’s Charlie Starr’s spot-on command of each song performed, along with support from fellow guitarist Paul Jackson, bassist Richard Turner, keyboard player Brandon Still, and drummer Brit Turner.

Holding All the Roses is the group’s latest release, and a number of tracks were showcased at the Webster Hall gig, including “Let Me Help You (Find the Door),” “Rock and Roll Again,” and “Living in the Song.” A terrifyingly gorgeous rendition of the group’s emotionally melodic work-of-art-track, “The Whippoorwill” would have stolen the show—if surprise guest Robert Randolph hadn’t stepped out to contribute to “Ain’t Got the Blues.”

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TVD Live: Ray LaMontagne at the Beacon Theatre, 11/14

For those of us who are retrospectively inclined music-wise, last Friday night at the Beacon Theatre was a dream come true. Ray LaMontagne put on a show akin to those we might imagine were performed back in 1971 when guitars reigned supreme, or perhaps back in 1968 when light shows were still a thing.

The collective emotions produced by those onstage and off vacillated between groove-yourself-into-feeling-good and self-reflect-yourself-into-feeling-reverent. Whatever end of the spiritual spectrum one found oneself on at any given moment during the concert, it was the hip place to be.

LaMontagne and his backup band, which included the excellent brother-sister duo The Belle Brigade (who also provided a stellar opening act of their own tunes), offered up selections from this year’s far-out(!) album Supernova; “Lavender,” “She’s the One,” “Airwaves,” and the show-stealer “Supernova” (the song) were of note. Ray’s greatest hits canon made up a large part of the show’s set list as well; “New York City’s Killing Me,” “Trouble,” “Repo Man,” and “Jolene” gradually generated eureka moments.

The best bit of the concert may just have been the acoustic set halfway through, when LaMontagne and his musical director, slash one of the wow-est bass players around, Zachariah Hickman, went to town on the best of Ray’s ballads. Stripped down and bare, the songs’ power was more immediate, and LaMontagne’s understanding of and allegiance to the history and evolution of the rock-pop-folk (ropolk?) singer-songwriter was undeniable.

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