Roots Rock: Shooter Jennings, Rob’s Shuffle and Pete Seeger

metallica_sxswROOTS ROCK TWANG NEWS:  No, I’m not live from SXSW. Would be cool, I’m sure.  Austin is righteous.  But get this: Metallica played a show at Stubbs BBQ Friday night.  Metallica at SXSW?  That ain’t right.  The word that they were going to play the festival even reached Indy before the show. Still, what was billed as a secret gig at South By Southwest on Friday night (March 20) had the band buzzing through a 13-song set. And the tie in?  It was part of the Guitar Hero: Metallica showcase. Just over 2,000 fans were allowed in.  Reports had the joint guarded by a dozen police officers and 75 security guards.  Yep. Secret gig….

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THREE  MORE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:  Nickel Creek’s singer-songwriter and fiddler Sara Watkins is releasing self-titled debut. It is interesting for the wide range of collaborators for its 14 tracks, among them Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Led Zep’s John Paul Jones produced the album  in L.A. and Nashville. Sara Watkins hits stores April 7.

pete-seegerDave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen are among the dozens of musicians who will celebrate American folk music legend  Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday with a gala concert at Madison Square Garden on May 3.  Other performers will include Kris Kirstofferson, Tom Morello, Billy Bragg and Ben Harper.

Max Weinberg’s 19 year-old son Jay will fill in on a “small number” of Bruce shows, replacing his Dad, who has a new old gig as the Conan O’Brien “Tonight Show” bandleader when Conan debuts in his new time slot. This will no doubt see a continuing “the world is ending” frenzy among Springsteen fans with too little other stuff, like real life, to do. Our lesson?  That’s just the way life is; you make decisions based on what you can do and make the best of situations that will never be perfect.  It’s only rock and roll, for goodness sakes. It’s the Hippy Hippy Shake.
playiconROB’S “FIRST 5″ IPOD SHUFFLE EXPERIENCE – Week 3
Inside the randomness that is my digital library. It put the ipod on shuffle and the first five songs that come up each week I share.  Comments always welcome between friends…

 

revolver1.  “For No One” -Beatles
Not a hit, right?  Yep.  Just another Beatles song, right?  Well, this one little song makes me remember just how freakin’ brilliant these guys were.  I really think nearly every song off of every album (exception? “Revolution #9”) was worthy of being a hit song, or played on the radio or said something profound.  Many times, it did all three.  This song, from Revolver, speaks of lost love and failed opportunity more accurately than nearly all the 2,369,000 songs on the same subject that have come since it was originally put on vinyl.

jethro_piano12. “Open Cages” – Jethro Easyfields
From his Elixir album, I put this on the ipod as I was getting ready to write the story on him for NUVO.  I have come to relish the slow build and the delayed gratification of his songs.  I haven’t a problem with the live feel of the recording and the non-slickness (OK, roughness) of the phrasing. But his writing says something about people who live in Indiana.  To me, it says we are not too city and not too country.  We are Midwesterners.  Like us or move along.

georgia_satellites13.  Battleship Chains” – Georgia Satellites
While “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” was the well-deserved money song from the band’s self-titled debut album, it was “Battleship Chains”  that was the record’s secret bubble gum pop song, rolled in raunchy rock dirt, a little too loud for radio.  But I think it has always sounded good loud. And elicits a volume knob clockwise turn when it comes on. Rick Richards, not Dan Baird, on lead vocal.

john_cougar4. ”Welcome to Chinatown” (Live)” – John Mellencamp
Johnny Cougar playing at a club called Four Acres from a bootleg version that refers to a radio broadcast. The song would appear on his John Cougar album. BONUS: This is shortly before he formed the complete, most important band of his career – the one that would tour and record for the Scarecrow and Lonesome Jubilee records.  DOUBLE BONUS: The Little Bastard dumps in parts of “My Sharona”, “It’s Only Rock and Roll” and tries to get the audience to yell something dirty on the radio.   Power chords, Larry Crane’s rock and roll guitar and even a piano solo paired with that classic Mellencamp “screw you” attitude.  A mediocre song given new life live.  A gem of a bootleg.

recklesskelly_washere5.  “Wicked, Twisted Road” – Reckless Kelly
One of the very best of the Red Dirt genre – bands mainly from of Texas and Oklahoma that are Americana and alt-country with even more twang and in-your-ear guitars.  This one is one of the more intimate numbers.  From the Reckless Kelly Was Here live album.  Think Steve Earle, if he was 30 years old and off of heroin.
Here’s what it all looks like…


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GOOD WEIRD NEIL
In a previous blog. we told you about Neil Young’s new album Fork in the Road, due April 7. 
Watch great interview with Letterman about the car:

Neil now has a bunch of videos related to the record’s release.  And Neil’s weird, man.  A good weird.  Like the “I don’t give a shit,  I’m right” dude who really is right…

Watch the “Johnny Magic” video here in all its lo-fi brilliance. Neil in a car…singing.

shooter_bwAND FINALLY…
CMT Crossroads featuring Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson premieres Monday, March 23) at 10pm on CMT.   I saw Shooter at the Music Mill a couple years ago.  He rawks…
Shooter listed his top 10 songs and albums on CMT.com.  

Songs
1. “Seed of Memory,” Terry Reid
2. “Belle of the Ball,” Waylon Jennings
3. “The Writ,” Black Sabbath
4. “She Shook Me Cold,” David Bowie
5. “Sea of Japan,” Earl Greyhound
6. “Astronomy,” Blue Oyster Cult
7. “Feelin’ Better,” Hank Williams Jr.
8. “Wild and Blue,” Jessi Colter
9. “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around,” Black Mountain
10. “Black Helicopter,” Matthew Good

Albums
1. White Mansions, Various Artists
2. The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails
3. The Man Who Sold the World, David Bowie
4. Ol Waylon, Waylon Jennings
5. White Album, the Beatles
6. Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
7. Seed of Memory, Terry Reid
8. Phases and Stages, Willie Nelson
9. The New South, Hank Williams Jr.
10. Consolers of the Lonely, the Raconteurs

Bonus Shooter: country-frying the Dire Straits…

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Dropkick Murphy’s Do Bruce, Todd Snider in Bloomington

VIDEO I LIKE: I watched this thing three times when I found it.  Almost perfect Dropkick Murphy cover version of Springsteen’s “Badlands”  – Played with a little more abandon, a little punkier, but still really true to the roots of the song and the Boss.  And longtime Springsteen fans will know the opening chords played by the band before they kick into the song was the same intro Bruce used withe the E. St. Band during the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour.

Quick Hits:   Been using the Vimeo web video player for some of the work I do with a couple different musicians.  Though YouTube is the mosnster that we feel compelled to feed to try and hit a wide audience, embedding a video looks better with other services,a nd I like the non-branding the Vimeo’s player gives me.  Plus it is a cleaner, nicer looking video…

part of my morning routine is working at the desk and listening to tunes.  It has been a Pandora-driven experience the past two weeks.  I think I am going to have to remove Will Hoge from the list of artists that I use to build the sound of the station.  I really, really like Will’s music, but by using him as a point of reference has alos give me some Pete Yorn, Sister Hazel and Matt Nathenson.  Not terrible, but not the sound Rob’s Roots Rock Radio is going for.  We just played some Seger from “Live Bullet” a minute ago, so all is now good.  Clik that link above to sample the joys of loud, crunchy, roots, sweaty rock.  It’s good for you too.

…Todd Snider for two shows in Bloomington this weekend.  Friday and Saturday at the Bluebird.  Todd seems to love the club, and it is a cool place to see the East Nashville singer/songwriter/stoner/genius.

Roots Rock Update: BoDeans, Old 97’s, Free Music

Great bit of info to pass to my friends this week: two free audio downloads, some excellent  roots-rock videos from the old Letterman show, Rob’s Top 5 Shuffle and a whole bunch of stuff that you (exhibiting behavior – reading this – that shows you are either really smart or really buzzed) are going to be glad to know…

BODEANS REISSUE DEBUT ALBUM;
GREAT OLD DVD FOOTAGE TOO

Rhino is releasing the Collector’s Edition of Indianapolis faves and the roots rock pride of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s BoDeans first album – “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams”. It includes a remastered and expanded version of the original CD and an unreleased 1985 performance filmed in Minneapolis on the DVD. Captured on July 15, 1985, the video is from the legendary First Avenue. During the hour-long show, the band played 17 songs, previewing several tracks that would appear on the group’s debut almost a year later.
ALBUM TRACKS
1. “She’s A Runaway”
2. “Fadeaway”
3. “Still The Night”
4. “Rickshaw Riding”
5. “Angels”
6. “Misery”
7. “The Strangest Kind”
8. “Say You Will”
9. “Ultimately Fine”
10. “That’s All”
11. “Lookin’ For Me Somewhere”
12. “Try And Try”
13. “Sail Away” -Demo
14. “Amen” – Demo
15. “Small Town Ways” – Demo
16. “Janey” -New Recording
17. “Turn Your Radio On” – Demo

 

VIDEO: BoDeans on Letterman back in 1987

 

MORE ROOTS NEWS: After appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman back in January, the Randy Rogers Band hits The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Monday March 16.

 

Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller is planning a June 9 release for his fourth solo album, a self-titled affair on Shout! Factory that he recorded during January and February in Dallas. Miller — whose last solo album, “The Believer,” came out in 2006 — worked on “Rhett Miller” with Salim Nourallah, who produced the Old 97’s 2008 release, “Blame it on Gravity”

 

Miller told Billboard Magazine that he “plans to tour in support of “Rhett Miller,” both on his own and with Old 97’s. In fact, he says, the band, which will be on the road this summer, is thinking about incorporating solo sets by Miller and bassist Murry Hammond as part of an ‘evening with’ concept.”
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Interesting interview with MySpace Music President Courtney Holt on the CNET.com website –
A peek into stuff that is worth reading if you are a musician or a music fan.

“What we can expect down the road: a do-it-yourself tool for small-time artists to add their content to MySpace Music, perhaps. More music videos, and more music-centric video programming. And more revenue streams, including merchandise and ticketing. ‘We’re going to be doing that in a big way in the near future,’ Holt said. But the real nemesis would be a music offering from Facebook, the social network that snuck up from behind to surpass MySpace in global traffic. That’s a rumor that’s arisen from time to time and refuses to go away. ‘I don’t know what they’re doing,’ Holt said on the prospect of a Facebook music service, ‘and I don’t have a comment on it.’
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MUSIC TO KEEP
DOWNLOAD A FREE SONG Here’s one that popped up on one of the blogs I read. Worth passing along…
Click here to check Dave Alvin (of The Blasters) covering Jackson Browne’s “Redneck Friend”.

 

FREE MP3 ALBUM OF GREASY COUNTRY ROCK
Big Rock Candy Mountain is a Chicago roots/trucker/rocker blog. Finally updated for the first time since late January – they have just posted a quirky-yet-killer downloadable mp3. Just wanted to spread the word.
The Big Rock Candy Greasy Fingers Mix
(mp3 link follows track listings)
1. Rock Bottom (Wheels On Fire)
2. Lookin’ For A Thrill (John Paul Keith and the 145’s)
3. If I Get Low Enough (Johnny Dollar)
4. The Good Times (The Chatham Singers)
5. Downtown (Mott The Hoople)
6. My Own Kick Going (Ronnie Self)
7. Wild West (Quintron)
8. Blue Train Station (The Cynics)
9. Party Dolls And Wine (Red Steagall)
10. Veronica Lake (New Bomb Turks)
11. The Lord Is Coming Back (Reverend Beat Man)
12. Every Goddam Thing To Hell (Rev. Frost)
13. There’s A Higher Power (Brother Claude Ely)
14. Relief Is Just A Swallow Away (Eddie Noack)
15. The World’s Greatest Sinner (The A-Bones)
16. Swing Low Sweet Truth (The Mustang)
17. Dirty Nails (Tennessee Tearjerkers)
18. Get It (Scat Rag Boosters)
19. Back Door Man (Black Oak Arkansas)
20. It’s The Law (Bob Log III)
21 Daddy Wants A Cold Beer (Menster Phips and the Phipsters)
22. If You Don’t Like My Apples (Gentleman Jim)
23. Truck Stop Girl (Little Feat)
24. Atom Bomb Baby (Carlos and the Banditos)
25. One More Beer (Big Bill Lister)
26. Satisfied (Elder Charles D. Beck)
Download “The Big Rock Candy Greasy Fingers Mix” (mp3)
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playiconROB’S “IPOD SHUFFLE EXPERIENCE” – Week 2
Inside the randomness that is my digital library. We put the ipod on shuffle and the first five songs that come up each week I share. Comments always welcome between friends…

 

1. When The Love is Good” – BoDeans
Hey, we just talked about these guys! I have been seeing Sammy and Kurt and the BoDeans for more than 20 years. Damn. A great, great live show (always best at the Vogue) and one of the bands that stayed together, held pretty true to their roots, and can still get after it live. The “Home” album was recorded following a tour where they opened for U2 in 1989. Some of the Edge and Bono influence here. But that’s OK.

 

2. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” – Martin Zeller
Anyone remember the Gear Daddies? Zeller was the leader of the late 80’s band out of Minnesota. Raspy, Springsteen-esque rock, both on their albums and on this cut. Sung with more a sense of resignation (and with a pedal steel) than the subtle hope in Bruce’s original. From an album of Springsteen tunes called “One Step Up, Two Steps Back”.

 

3. Cold & Empty” – Kid Rock
At this point, everyone realizes Kid Rock just want to be Bob Seger, right? Because this cut has 70’s production all over it, and this was before he put out that “Night Moves” rewrite featuring the Skynyrd and Warran Zevon hooks. And I defend Kid Rock. He’s maintained a (good) career when many, many others from 15 years ago have not. And he rocks live. Still probably the dirtiest, drunkest, party-crazy audience I’ve ever been a part of was for his show in the infield at the Speedway a couple years ago for Carb Day.

 

4. ”Lookin’ For Job” – Todd Snider
This stoner boy has become an Americana music hero. This one is from “The Devil You Know” from 2006. More of a band album than recent releases, though a bit more loosely played than his old band used to be. He’s smart (one of the wittiest and strongest lyric writers in the genre) and has a need to play live. Tours mostly solo now, but his show with three other instrumentalists at the Egyptian Room at the Murat last November was cool. And about 1,500 watched the show that night, 12 years removed from from the smoky, sweaty, rowdy shows at the Patio with his band the Nervous Wrecks.

 

5. ”The Indifference of Heaven” (Live) – Warren Zevon
From the the “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” complilation. Warren and acoustic guitar. A hard strumming acoustic. Another guy who had the gift of writing genius lyrics. And any song that references Springsteen (“ruce and Patti don’t live around here”) is extra cool.

 

VIDEO: Martin Zeller of the Gear Daddies doing “Stupid Boy” on Letterman

ONE MORE STORY: R.E.M. made a surprise appearance March 11 at Carnegie Hall. It was a concert/tribute show that featured 20 different performers playing R.E.M. tunes. The band came on for the last song, and played “E-Bow The Letter” off of 1996’s “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.” Patti Smith accompanied Stipe on vocals. What? No “The One I Love”? Sheesh.

 

Long-time Athens resident Vic Chesnutt and Elf Power did team up for a version of “Everybody Hurts” and Apples in Stereo rocked “South Central Rain”.

 

Set and performer list for the R.E.M. tribute:
“Fall On Me” (the dB’s)
“The Apologist” (Fink)
“Man on the Moon” (Keren Ann with Calexico)
“Wendell Gee” (Calexico)
“The Great Beyond” (Rachael Yamagata with Calexico)
“Sitting Still” (Bob Mould with Calexico)
“Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” (The Feelies)
“Nightswimming” (Ingrid Michaelson)
“Hairshirt” (Glen Hansard)
“South Central Rain” (Apples in Stereo)
“Shaking Through” (Guster)
“Supernatural Superserious” (Marshall Crenshaw with Calexico)
“Driver 8” (Rhett Miller with Calexico)
“World Leader Pretend” (Kimya Dawson)
“Everybody Hurts” (Vic Chesnutt with Elf Power)
“Perfect Circles” (Kristin Hersh and the Throwing Muses)
“At My Most Beautiful” (Dar Williams)
“(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” (Jolie Holland with Calexico)
“I Believe” (Darius Rucker with Calexico)
“New Test Leper” (Patti Smith)
“E-Bow The Letter” (R.E.M.)

Roots-Rock Twang Update

jethro_small_pianoMy piece on Indy musician Jethro Easyfield appears in the March 6-11 edition of NUVO. He’s a good dude.  I enjoyed spending a couple days with him and getting a clearer picture of what he does.  He’s quirky – not in a bad way, but he ain’t no slick Nashville boy. either.  Jethro is rural Indiana with a unique voice and lyrics that take a couple listens to catch.  And it is still all good.  I love the backing band, “the Arrowheads”, that he recorded with, and has played with in the past (tuba, anyone?).  He’s someone who could bring the band to a gig and play just about any venue that would hold 100 folks, and rock the place.  It will be interesting to see if he climbs higher than where he is now.  After peering into what Jethro is about, I think he is criminally underrated and could have a bigger influence on the Indy roots-rock live music landscape.  Whether he can grab that, and whether others identify his uniqueness as a positive, we shall see.  I just hope the guy captures some more ears.
neilyoungheartofgold_filmstillNeil Young’s new/old invention  is a  1959 Lincoln Continental that runs entirely on alternative energy -and it also serves as source material for “Fork in the Road,” Young’s new album,.  It is out April 7 .

The album features longtime NY sideman Ben Keith (pedal steel guitar, keyboards), plus Chad Cromwell (drums), Rick Rosas (bass), Neil’s wife Pegi Young (vocals) and Anthony Crawford (vocals, guitar).

Here is the “Fork in the Road” track list:
“When Worlds Collide”
“Fuel Line”
“Just Singing A Song”
“Johnny Magic”
“Cough Up The Bucks”
“Get Behind The Wheel”
“Off The Road”
“Hit The Road”
“Light A Candle”
“Fork In The Road”

The album is about Young’s involvement with the Lincvolt Project, He spearheaded, with biodiesel expert Johnathan Goodwin, a car that uses no gas – a cool old car is the hook . I read about this project in the past year, and Neil believes in the endeavor.  He may be considered a rebel with his ideas, but rebels can do brilliant things.  I think Neil qualifies on both counts….Rebel and brilliant.

The  vehicle, Young’s own 1959 Lincoln Continental, is making a cross-country gasoline-free road trip to Washington, DC.  It will be filmed.

MY BEST INDY WEEKEND SHOW BET:
The Bittersweets – Royal Theatre in Danville 
Roots rock just sounds good at the great little theatre.  It’s not too far to drive, plus they sell micro-brewed beer in a little tap room in the theatre.  It’s a listening crowd, respectful but not quiet.  And The Bittersweets (w/ Cara Jean Wahler opening) create anthemic Americana. This is one of those shows that Indy-ites who are into hitting the best shows before a great band gets even bigger need to catch. ($18 door ($7.50 students) – all-ages show)
BONUS: The band has a free live album you can download on their website.  Another reason you can tell they have a clue about how to work it in 2009….

HIS FIRST (AND MAYBE LAST) GREAT BAND
Faces reunion may still happen in 2009 — but probably not a full-scale tour or album – and maybe not with Rod the Mod.
From Billboard
Keyboardist Ian McLagan says the latest idea, proffered by guitarist Ron Wood at a lunch in London with McLagan and drummer Kenney Jones, is “we do a couple shows and film it. Whether Rod (Stewart) wants to do that…I’m hoping he’ll be into that ’cause it’ll be such a lot of fun. It’s what the three of us would like Rod to agree to.”  The Faces, with Stewart’s touring bassist, got together during November in London to play for three days in various configurations. McLagan  says the sessions were “really, really great.”

McLagan says that Wood is currently in Los Angeles and plans to talk to Stewart about the latest idea. “I’ll get a call eventually, and maybe we’ll do something in June or July,” McLagan says, ” ’cause I don’t want to do anything next year. I’m not gonna wait again. It’s either gonna be this year…It’s now or never! I’ve got my fingers crossed, but I’m not going to waste energy trying to make it happen. I’ve worked for 30 years trying to make it happen. It’s now in the lap of the gods — or the hands of Rod, maybe.”

Live Faces from 1972 – how can you not like this band?

I’M DIGGIN THIS: Grungy bluegrass folkies Avett Brothers do a little Bruce.

 

ROB’S “FIRST 5 IPOD SHUFFLE EXPERIENCE”
With a nod of the head and friendly wave of the hand to ickmusic.com, one of my very favorite music blogs, I’m gonna rip of their idea and  give you a little peek into what’s in my music library; what I listen to when I’m in the car or walking the dog. I’m going to put the ipod on shuffle and the first five songs that come up each week I will share with you.  Feel free to comment on what you get on your First 5 Shuffle, or about the songs you see pop up each week here.  And smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

1.  “Chips Ahoy” – The Hold Steady (Live at the Non-Comm Radio Convention)
As with a lot of the stuff on my ipod, it’s live.  Bootleg copy recorded from a soundboard, it captures the grit and power of the critical darlings. I’ve never completely drank their kool-aid, but I do like their sound, most of the wordiness and the sheer volume that emits from the speakers.   

2. “We Can’t Make it Here”  – James McMurtry
Literate Crunchy Texas Country Rock.  That’s his category.  From the album “Childish Things”.  I love this song, his honesty, and his Lou Reed-esque vocal delivery.  He’s way too smart for me. Buy the first album, featuring Mellencamp’s band members backing him.  Almost 20 years old, and it still rocks.  And so does his new stuff.

3. “Close Enough For Me”  – Henry Lee Summer
From his one and only live album.  If you remember Henry Lee from the heyday, he was an unstoppable force in concert –  full of hair, bravado, wearing Chuck Taylor high tops, slamming vocal chops and the ability to take a band and a crowd into the “magic” of what happens when the band is in the pocket and the crowd is crazy. This cut is a loose, groovin’ thang, with Carl Storie blowing on the harp.  I miss this Henry Lee….

4.  “Babo O’Reilly”  – Bob Walkenhorst
Who cover via the ex-lead singer of a late 80’s roots-rock band The Rainmakers. I had a serious love affair with the band’s “The Good News and the Bad News” cassette tape around 1990 .  Nasty Telecaster guitars, a rock and roll snare drum really high in the mix and songs that told stories, and even some horns in a couple tunes. Bootleg here recorded live at one of his solo gigs.

5.  “Dancing Queen – The Yahoos
One of Dan Baird’s (Georgia Satellites) side projects.  Greasy cover of the iconic ABBA song.  He turns it into a rock anthem.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Rock Sideman Icon Ranch: Steve Van Zandt  – aka Little Steven from the E St. Band – has some interesting things to say about rock and roll and his desire to get his vision on Tv, or someplace else.

From Rollingstone.com

“We’ve been working on a TV series for years and came very close. It’s probably my greatest frustration right now, by far. Three years in a row we came within five minutes of a network deal. They keep backing out at the last minute, they’re afraid of music on TV. They tell me it never works. I tell them, ‘I know why it doesn’t work — because it always sucks. How about we do a show that doesn’t suck? Let’s try that!’

“We could do a fantastic TV show and I think that would change everything. It will completely focus this traditional rock and roll and contemporary garage rock movement. The main thing we would do and what you haven’t seen the last 30 years is that it will have kids dancing to rock & roll. I just feel that one day we were dancing to rock & roll and the next we started listening to it, and it’s been downhill ever since — somewhere around 1967 or so. I’m exaggerating only slightly. It may end up on cable.

We may have to start it on the Internet, or a fucking cell phone. It’s something I’m determined to do.”

***

With digital cable, and the web, there are more and more sources for live music and videos, and getting to something ultimately valuable and intelligently unique is tough.  Frustrating sometimes.  And while there is more music available  that one or five or nine years ago, there is nothing on TV that has the singular drive to be garage rock-unique. I listen to Van Zandt’s excellent “Underground Garage” program on WTTS, and his Garage Rock channel on Sirius/XM.  Some of it is challenging, most of it is pretty damn good and they are nearly all inspired recordings. He seems to be about the real.  He pushes me to know the past and then blowtorching the preconceived notions of what something should be.  He plays stuff I hear nowhere else, believing in his (this) music and presenting it with passion.  Can’t ask for much more, other than some talent to back it up.  Which he has.  He should get this project done.  Even if it becomes just one more option for people like us.

RN

Rock and Roll Wednesday Night Communion with Jethro Easyfields

jethro_localshotNew Easyfields album ‘Elixir’ recorded with full band
originally published in NUVO Newsweekly

On the eve of a monumental snowstorm in late January, Indianapolis singer-songwriter Jethro Easyfields and I are sitting at Red Key Tavern, talking for over two hours about his new album and where a guy like him finds success. A knit cap atop his unshaven face and wearing a black Rolling Stones T-shirt and winter coat, he looks like a guy who would have a PBR in front of him. Instead, he’s drinking a Heineken.

Easyfields is a man brimming with ideas, full of stories and naturally inquisitive. He muses about the expanded opportunities (via the Web) and reduced possibilities (with an economic recession and consolidated record industry) for a musician at this historical moment.

Easyfields’ new album Elixir is a full-on, full-band, hard-strumming acoustic guitar-led piece of Americana music that was recorded in five sessions over six months with his backing band, the Arrowheads. It rings of influences ranging from The Band to Tom Petty to Steve Miller. And it’s a bit of an odd record, due mostly to the uniqueness that is Jethro Easyfields. There’s a decided looseness to the album, and he says that’s the way he wanted it.

“I always go in with sounds in my head,” Easyfields says. “I wanted the recording to be live and be real. Tell me if I am singing off key. Maybe I can fix it later, or maybe I don’t want to fix it.

“If there’s a few mistakes on it, or it’s a little wobbly here, we’re not perfect people,” he says of the cuts that made the new record. “It’s not overly produced. We made it in my living room, with Pro tools and a big-ass mixer. Scott Kern, who plays guitar on the album, is the co-pilot and the guy who has the ears. He had headphones on saying, ‘Keep going. You got it.'”

In prison for no damn reason
Easyfields’ teetering voice sings of Indianapolis and Indiana on a number of songs from Elixir. In his late 30s, Easyfields is a Northern Indiana country boy living in the city, with experiences garnered through years spent banging his guitar around streets and in clubs. Before Indianapolis, it was Fort Wayne, New Orleans and Phoenix.

“My interest grew with music and I had played and done what I thought I could in Fort Wayne. So I was like, ‘Where do I go? Memphis? New Orleans?’ So I went directly to New Orleans. I talked to someone who said, ‘You gotta go down there – you have the fever or something,'” he remembers. “I was there for six or seven years, really just going down to make sure the blues I knew was real. I mean, you have to go through some stuff – your dog has to die, you have to get robbed.”

In New Orleans, he did manage to have an “Alice’s Restaurant” moment.

“I was put in prison for a couple days for obstructing a sidewalk for no damn reason,” he recalls. “I was not even with my guitar. I was trying to help a friend … and we were up against a wall. And we were arrested. Put in a chain gang with murderers. For obstructing a sidewalk. Had to go to court, pay $120 or stay seven days.

“That kind of changed my mind for a second. ‘Should I be here?’ It made the skin a little thicker,” he admits. “I was there for a reason.”

Po Boy Chronicles
Easyfields’ two Web-only albums, Po Boy Chronicles and Retrospective, are archived at http://www.musicalfamilytree.org/band/jethro_easyfields (which offers unlimited, free mp3 storage to musicians currently or historically based in Indiana). Some of the 51 tunes on those two albums eventually ended up on the new CD. He recorded Po Boy, the longer of the two albums, after returning from a visit to New Orleans (which he made after he had moved to Indianapolis).

“After I went to New Orleans again, I came back after Katrina, and wrote 30 songs. And I can’t really put out a 30-song album. Who’s gonna buy that? So I put it up on the Web site, and gave it away for free because there is some topical stuff there. Some people may think it is interesting, come to a show and now I have a new album – boom!” he says, talking about how to reach new audiences. “The more you do, the more people will hear it. You gotta get your name out there.”

But there was a time when Easyfields wasn’t comfortable with putting everything out there.

“I’m trying to explain the trials and tribulations of everything around. Sometimes, it gets personal. You just try to find someone to appreciate it,” Easyfields says. “I sang all these songs about my life and then I’d go home and cry. I didn’t care if there were five or 150 people there. I would think I gave out too much information. It is kind of like therapy in reverse.”

Snowy open mic night
It’s another Wednesday night, and Easyfields is going to play his music for a tribe of friends at the open mic night he hosts at the Northside bar and music venue Locals Only. This tribe of mostly local musicians has been gathering just about every week for nearly five years. Despite the rotten weather following that once-impending snowstorm (I went to see Easyfields a few days after we chatted at the Red Key), the crowd continues to straggle in. By the time 8:45 p.m. comes around, a crew of 20 or so has filtered into the bar, and the number will expand to not quite twice that figure over the next couple of hours.

“I don’t go to church anymore,” Easyfields admits. “But everyone needs their own church. Sometimes that stage is like an altar. Performers have to get up there to breathe and muscle through what they believe in.”

With a long-sleeved orange shirt covered by a vest that would make Petty proud, and another knit cap, Easyfields carries his guitar case to the stage to get the music rolling. He’s a one-man gang tonight, turning on stage lights, running sound, making sure the visiting musicians can find electricity for their amps and moving vocal mics to the right place.

But before he plays roadie and MC to other hopefuls, Easyfields is going to play a few songs himself. Taking his spot on a tan padded stool, he wastes little time getting to his music. Spending the first 30 minutes of the evening on stage, he runs through six songs, including “Rabbit Foot,” one of the songs on the new record. He also does “Cult Status,” his ode to B movies, and “Man on the Moon,” a song among the 30 recorded and put online following one of his trips to New Orleans.

After six songs, Easyfields is done, and for the next several hours, performers, both solo and band, take the stage. None is able to match the confidence, the songwriting or the passion that Jethro Easyfields showed.