steel

Boris Garcia: Today We Sail

Dear Music Friend of mine:

As we all know, bands with genuine musicians have a life cycle. No matter their level of chops, they start as beginners with lots of energy and perhaps less of the subtle judgment skills that great musicians have -- the ability to listen to each other, the ability to know when not to play.

And if they don’t fall into the snares of ego and delusion, they grow. They listen more, both to other music and each other, and they hear more (two different things!), and they reach a higher level.

Boris Garcia is the band that just fell together, and now with Today We Sail, three CDs later, they’re playing at a place that’s ever richer, ever more creative. The simple acoustic feel of their first work has become much more varied: a case in point is “Walking Barefoot,” which begins with a hard-edged rock sound that becomes lovely mandolins and then almost sounds like a full orchestra – an effect they get from just a very few strings (Producer Tim Carbone’s fiddle and Bud Burroughs’ mandolin) – amazing. And Bob Stirner’s lyrics are getting deeper, more evocative: “I’m not indifferent much or maybe, surely, I’ll be on my way, I’ll be on my way/You can’t see Santa if you don’t believe, I’ll be on my way…”

Jeff Otto’s whimsicality maintains its strength here, with “Song Dog” and “Deaf Dumb and Blind” – “But why can’t I see, that love’s for fools and I’m a fool so love’s for me” – but the playing is truly impressive, with piano punctuations sliding against the pedal steel – very hip, very deft. In fact, Chip Desnoyers’ pedal steel (with mandolin in “Song Dog”) is all over Today We Sail, and it’s powerful stuff.

Boris’ songs range from the power rock chords of “Mighty High,” which comes across as almost Springsteenish to me, to “Long Black Hair,” which takes me to “Long Black Veil,” to “Good Home,” which is a sweet love song that opens into a grand psychedelic guitar jam. And lots more.

They’re all over the musical map, but in this case it’s a good thing.

My, how the kids have grown.

Press: D. McNally, dennismcnally@mac.com

Today We Sail is available from www.borisgarcia.com or www.amazon.com

The Mynabirds Toast the Holidays with X-Mas Single

Today the Mynabirds release a limited edition 7" on Saddle Creek that features "All I Want is Truth (for Christmas)", an original (anti-) Christmas song, and a cover of the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" on the B-side. The first 200 copies from Saddle Creek's online store will be offered on white vinyl. A black vinyl version of the 7" is available at retail outlets, and all records include a free digital download. The songs are also available at all digital outlets. If you haven’t checked it out at Brightest Young Things, a free mp3 of "All I Want is Truth (for Christmas)" is available now via Saddle Creek by clicking HERE.

With charming chords descending the wurltizer keys like falling snow, the Mynabirds' "All I Want" starts out like a typical Christmas song. But by the second line, it's clear that this is singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn's cry for anything but another ordinary holiday. "All I Want" navigates global warming, messy politics, endless wars, and American consumerism, and brushes it all away to remind us of the snow-white core of the holidays: love. "Have yourself a happy little New Year," Burhenn sings, "'Cause the politicians will be at their same old arguments: Should we start another war or should we raise another tax?" Burhenn declares that she's opting out of society's endless back and forth to "sit down with [her] love and…remember what it means to celebrate without a single store-bought thing." Like a mug of hot cocoa served with a dash of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth", "All I Want" goes down like an old standard in a whole new era.

"This Will Be Our Year" is the perfect song to close out a year of haunts and minor catastrophes to look to something new. The slide of J. Tom Hnatow's pedal steel colors the Mynabirds' version of this Zombies' classic as a sweet, country-tinged take on the original. Both "All I Want" and "Our Year" were recorded to tape in a single day at Inner Ear in Arlington, Virginia with producers Chad Clark and TJ Lipple at the helm. A host of DC friends joined in, including the Roofwalkers' Elmer Sharp (drums), Ben Licciardi (backing vocals), and Raj Gadhia (bass and vocals); These United States' J. Tom Hnatow (pedal steel); and Winston Yu (strings).

What We Gained in the Fire - Video

Also out now is a new video for "What We Gained in the Fire", the opening track from the Mynabirds' debut album. The video premiered on Friday at AOL Spinner. Director Rob Walters layers new Super 8 footage of singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn traversing a snowy landscape with vintage footage of her own family's home movies that span three generations. Stretching from the 1940's to present day, the viewer gets a window into a family story, watching clips of young love blossom, of babies growing into men, piecing together what might really be going on behind the nuclear family facade.

"U.K.'S MOST ORIGINAL BAND" FLIPRON

Flipron, the British quartet that has been described as "Tom Waits meets The Kinks on a carnival midway," will make their U.S. debut in September with a string of showcase dates that begin in New York at The Bitter End on September 11.  Drawing on diverse musical influences as far-ranging as 1920's Hawaiian Steel guitar rags, laid-back Western Swing, Klezmer stomps and old-time folk ballads, Flipron are known as brilliant wordsmiths and entertaining eccentrics.  Their milieu is classic rock songs that take winding, unexpected turns, as evidenced on the newly-released sampler CD, WITH BREATH BATED AND EYELIDS UNBLINKING, which was specially compiled for the U.S. shows with selections from the band's three studio albums.

Before arriving in the U.S., the band played several high profile summer shows in the U.K., including a 10-date stint at the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival and an appearance at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival that takes place annually in the band's hometown.  Flipron have played the Glastonbury Festival (this year's Festival was attended by over 150,000 people) six years in a row, with 2008 seeing them play a record 10 shows on separate stages at the event.

Signed in the U.K. to independent Tiny Dog Records and hailed by the British press as "the most original band in the UK," Flipron is a band that continually marches to the beat of their own drummer.  As example, the video for their new single, "The Coolest Names in Showbiz," was shot on location in Dorset and made for a whopping £80 using one light borrowed from videographer Alex Heath.   The video, in which members of the band tie frontman and songwriter Jesse Budd to a chair and cut off his curly mop of hair, can be viewed on YouTube. The song, which includes lyrics like "Your mouth is doing business in some well paid conversation/while a million pigeons launch in geometrical formations and hanging high above your head," is about "sacrificing an easy life to discover what you might really be capable of," according to the band.  "We at least discovered that the strutting, curly haired singer was capable of having his hair cut."  "The Coolest Names in Showbiz" is included on the BREATH BATED sampler.  It is available from iTunes and other digital outlets.

Flipron comprises Jesse Budd (vocals, guitar, mandolin, lap steel, accordion); Joe Atkinson (organ, piano, backing vocals), Mike Chitty (drums) and John Thompson (electric bass).  They are poised to conquer America with their unconventional approach to music. 

Their scheduled U.S. appearances are as follows:  September 11-The Bitter End, New York; 14-Hotel Café, Los Angeles; 16-3rd and Lindsley, Nashville; and 17--World Cafe Live, Philadelphia.

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants: Debut Self-Titled Album Out 7/13/10

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants is a new project from Shiflett, already known as the lead guitarist for Foo Fighters and the frontman for Jackson United. Steeped in his love for classic country artists (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings), rockabilly (Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran), and deep-rooted rock bands (The Rolling Stones, The Replacements), this new album is packed with soulful pedal steel- and twang guitar-accented songs. The album highlights his talent and versatility not only as a skillful guitarist, but also as a songwriter. These infectious Americana-laced rock songs are some of the best he's penned, from the chiming keys and buoyant, ringing guitars of "Get Along" to the pedal steel- and mandolin-lined heartache of "Bandaged," and from the spry, Old 97s-ian "Baby, Let It Out" to the rueful country swing of "Death March."

Shiflett wrote the songs on Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants over the course of 2008-9, inspiration first striking when a friend asked him to perform at Orange County's punk-rockabilly Hootenanny festival in 2008. After re-immersing himself in his Americana and old country music collection to prepare a short set - and then playing a brief acoustic tour with friend Joey Cape of Lagwagon - he began writing what eventually became the new album. Recorded at the Foo Fighters' Studio 606 in Los Angeles, CA, this past December and January, the core band on Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants is Shiflett (vocals, guitar), 606 house engineer John Lousteau (drums, in addition to engineering), and Derek Silverman (keyboards). The album's additional instrumentation was performed by an array of fine musicians, including Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Jenny Lewis, John Hiatt) on bass, Greg Leisz (Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Whiskeytown) on pedal steel, Stevie Blacke (Beck, Weezer, Colbie Caillat) on violin and mandolin, and Audra Mae on backing vocals.

Track listing for Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants:

  1. Helsinki
  2. Get Along
  3. Bandaged
  4. God Damn
  5. Burning Lights (Joe Strummer cover)
  6. An Atheist's Player
  7. Not Going Down Alone
  8. Baby, Let It Out
  9. Death March

Summer touring news for Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants will be announced soon.

Otis Taylor's new album, 'Clovis People,' set for May 11 release

Otis Taylor digs the past. Whether it’s the songs he wrote a decade ago, or ancient civilizations that lived more than 10,000 years ago, he’s drawn to stories from another time, and he’s compelled to retell them in a way that’s relevant in the modern day. On Clovis People, set for release May 11, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, Taylor writes his own history.

It’s the ideal project for the architect of a sparse and hypnotic style that has come to be known as “trance blues.” Taylor has spent his career crafting songs that are wide open to interpretation — thematically as well as structurally. “I give people a starting point, and then they can take it where they want to take it,” he explains. “That’s true for the people playing my music as well as the people listening to it. That’s how art should be. A person looking at a painting should be able to interpret it in whatever way he wants. The more words you put into a song, the less freedom the listener has to decide what it means.”

The album title is inspired by a recent scientific discovery very close to Taylor’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Barely 100 yards from the edge of his property, archeologists dug up a cache of tools and other implements belonging to a civilization known as the Clovis people, who walked the earth briefly about 13,000 years ago and then mysteriously disappeared.

“That’s amazing to me,” says Taylor. “There have only been four or five sites like this found all over the country. That means these people probably walked on my property. My music only goes back about ten years, but there’s something about reaching back to an earlier time and revisiting the stories of the past from a new perspective that I find compelling.”

Helping to shape that new perspective is a crew of players who lend a variety of shades and voices to the mix. Among them is guitarist Gary Moore, a guest musician on two of Taylor’s previous recordings (Definition of a Circle in 2007 and Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs in 2009), who moves in and out of the tracks with a hard riff here, a subtle accent there, and just the right atmospherics wherever he appears. Also on hand for nine of the twelve tracks is pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell — a member of the Campbell Brothers, the African-American gospel group that has developed a sound commonly known as “sacred steel.” In addition, Clovis People features cornetist Ron Miles and bassist Cassie Taylor (Otis’ 22-year-old daughter).

The set gets under way with the haunting “Rain So Hard,” a bluesy number that employs an intriguing mix of pedal steel, cornet and theremin as the backdrop to Taylor’s unsettling lyrics about a hard rain turning to snow and falling on a scene of betrayal and deceit.

“Little Willy” and “Lee and Arnez” are two previously unreleased songs. The former is a fictional tale of a school shooting — a song Taylor wrote in 1990s, but then shelved in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting of 1999. “Lee and Arnez” tells the story of a couple that Taylor remembers from the neighborhood where he grew up. “They were my parents’ best friends, and they had a boxer dog that I really loved,” says Taylor. “This would have been the 1950s, which were still a difficult time for black people, but I have great memories of this couple and their beautiful dog.”

“It’s Done Happened Again” is built on an urgent rhythm that plays like a frantic heartbeat. “The song is about that moment when someone who got his heart broken hears about someone else who got his heart broken,” says Taylor. “It’s that moment when pain and empathy converge, and you say, ‘Oh yeah, I know where he’s coming from.’”

“Harry Turn the Music Up” recalls Taylor’s memories of the Denver Folklore Center, a place he frequented when he was a boy in the early ’60s. “The song follows a groove that’s deep in the pocket, and it’s really powerful,” says Taylor. “The Denver Folklore Center was a place where nobody cared if you were black or white, skinny or fat. It was a place where everyone was accepted.”

“Babies Don’t Lie” rides on a single chord and speaks to the profound vulnerability of innocents. But somewhere underneath the simple and recurring lyrical line is the question of how and when dark forces take hold and turn some innocents into monsters.

“Think I Won’t” is a showdown-flavored track that captures the moment when a mother confronts a drug dealer in a schoolyard. “There are some badass moms out there,” says Taylor. “Sometimes people don’t realize how tough black women can be. It’s a matriarchal culture, and there are some moms who’ll kick your ass in a half-second if you threaten their children.”

Indeed, some instincts are eternal, whether the frame of reference is 2010, 1950 or some time before recorded history. Clovis People is in some respects a vehicle for Taylor  — an archeologist of a different kind — to re-examine some of the truths he’s uncovered in his own era and preserve them for listeners in some future time.

“I went back to my musical past with these songs — all the way back to my first album,” says Taylor. “I like finding different ways to retell the old stories. They continue to mean something — to me, to the people who hear them, to the musicians who play with me — many years after I first told them.”