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Urban Folk: issue six
Urban Folk: issue six
Urban Folk: issue six
Urban Folk: issue six

Urban Folk: issue six

Urban Folk: issue six
Urban Folk: issue six ! It finally happened o f t h e l atest! It finally happened

of the latest issue for you to enjoy at your leisure. Read it on your computer when your boss isn’t looking, or print it out

and you can still read it on the can. Send us an email and we’ll put you on the list to be notified when new issues go up. It’s a subscription that nobody has to pay for. Free for you and me! Spread the word. All ads and web addresses will take you straight to the artist’s website with the click of a mouse. Very soon we’ll have back issues, staff bios, and maybe even some music. In other news, enjoy the issue, the end of the year laments are over and we’re celebrating new and wonderful things. New albums from Hamell on Trial, Brook Pridemore, and The Bowmans give us plenty to be excited about. Also, welcome Gonzalo Silva, the smooth singing bass wielding underground hero as our new subway stories writer. Don’t forget, we’re

turning one year old next issue. Keep your eyes out for the extravaganza

I won’t say it’s the fanciest site around, but it’s there, with a downloadable pdf

-Dave Cuomo, Editor

Contact us at

Send all mail to Urban Folk at 306 Jefferson St. 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237

In This Issue: On the Cover - hamell on trial (photo by lippe) Letters to
In This Issue:
On the Cover - hamell on trial (photo by lippe)
Letters to the Editor
– tellin’ it like it is
Hamell on Trial
– jonathan berger explores the legend
Myspace Song Picks - dan costello bring us into the 21st century
Curtis Eller–
dave cuomo finds a method to his madness
Brook Pridemore
– andrew hoepfner bears witness to the birth of a masterpiece
Erin Regan –
paul alexander puts a story to the pictures
Ching Chong Song
– dan costello introduces us to anitfolk’s newest insanity
Exegesis Department
– pastorman benjamin squires finds god in hamell’s song
Folk You!
– dave cuomo tells of leaving and lost friends
Subway Stories
– introducing gonazalo silva
Be an Urban Folk friend!
Rock the House - darren deicide tells us how it’s done
Alec Wonderful
– reviewing the works of juanburgesa and the undisputed heavyweights
Trial Travels
– ricki c. goes on the road with hamell on trial
in the Minivan
- brook pridemore finds the redundancy that is the joy of recording
Paul’s Perspective
– paul alexander reconciles himself to the never ending task of recording
Puzzle Contest - deborah t proves herself the mistress of enigmatology
Winner’s Feature - brian mathius! intrerviewed by deborah t
CD Reviews
– brook pridemore, the bowmans, tim fite, ian thomas, and more
Urban Folk wants you!

Back/inside cover - $85 (7.5” x 10”) Full page - $75 (6.8” x 9.5”) Half page - $45 (6.8” x 4.7”) Third page - $30 (square: 4.8” x 4.8”; tall 2.2” x 9.5”) Quarter page - $25 (3.4” x 4.8”)

circulations is 2,000 distributed around cafes, campuses and transit facilities

How can I help out and be a part off my community magazine you ask? Three easy ways! Distribute - You hang out in places we’ve never even heard of, you know you’re neighborhood or campus better than anyone. Contact us and we’ll set you up with a stack to put out around your corner of the city. Spread the word! Advertise - Ads are how we stay alive. Buying an ad gets you exposure and does your part to keep this magazine going. If you don’t feel ready,

maybe you know someone who is. Send them our way, we’re cheap! Contribute - Articles, poetry, reviews, whatever you got, send it to us, We don’t promise we can print everything, but we will read and respond to all submitions.

Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor send letters to
Letters to the editor send letters to
Letters to the editor send letters to
Letters to the editor send letters to
Letters to the editor send letters to

send letters to

Dear Urban Folk, What is up with this ‘Editorial collective?’ Who are these people of which you speak? It only seems to come up around the Reviews, and I want to know who panned my demo.


Lithuanian Louise

Hey LL, It’s none of your damned business who the Editorial Collective is. They listened to your crappy 3-song demo, and, probably, you shouldn’t have two cover songs on a songwriter’s demo (although, considering the original, maybe it should’ve had more). The point of the Editorial Collective is to share opinions and come up with consensus on the releases we hear. The shield of anonymity might seem cowardly to some, but then again, if you don’t like it, write your own damned reviews. Or don’t submit to Urban Folk. Or something…

Dear Urban Folk fanzine, I couldn’t help but notice, in UF #4 (with the Bowmans on the cover), there was, in Dave Cuomo’s article about Pay to Play scams, some quotes from an Englander named Emily Watts. Then, in the next issue (you know, with Beat the Devil on the cover), there was an article by a Londonian named Emily Wasp. Just how many Brits are polluting the Urban Folk scene?

Sincerely, Sussin’ it out in Sussex

Dear SS, You caught us. Emily Watts and Emily Wasp are one and the same; both proudly back in the UK and missing the US massively. If you can hear us all the way over there, Emily, please know that we miss you, and we want you to return that package of crisps right away. Oh, and could you send us some fags?

Dear Urbanics, What can I do for Urban Folk?

Thanks, Tenaciously in Tenafly

Dear T’n’T, Contribute, contribute, contribute. Here’s what we want from you: Pictures, words (reviews, poems, articles, interviews)…

Here’s what we want from you: Money, ads, connections to others who want ads, location to drop off copies… We want your help. We need your support. Bring it on!

Dear Urban Folk magazine, How do you spell Bellowsky? Is it Buloski? Or Belousky? How do you spell Bilowski? Wearisome in Wichita

Well, W in W, That’s something of a sore point. We misspelled the great poet Stephen Belowsky’s name when referring to him. Had we only checked his website,, then we would have known exactly how to spell Belowsky. We could also have read more poetry from the guy. Oh well.

Dear guys at the best magazine ever (who aren’t Jann Wenner or George Plimpton), I can’t help but notice that there are different open mics on Tuesday night, hosted by different writers at Urban Folk. Why is this? Is it some sick folk music conspiracy? Should I begin wear tin foil hats or purchase bottled water?



To whom it may concern, You’re dead to rights. A conspiracy is in the works: a conspiracy of fun! Paul Alexander’s been hosting his Creek and the Cave on Tuesday nights for close to a year now. He’s opened up Long Island City as gigging locale for many many musicians. But now that Dave Cuomo has taken over Jezebel’s music night at the Lucky Cat, we have dueling events. Each week, the hosts contact each other at the end of the night and compare notes on the number of sign-ups, the number of audience members, the number of drinks sold, and the number of arrests made. Last week, Paul won. Next week? Who knows?

Dear Urban Folk, Who writes these letters?

With care, Curious in Canada

Dear C in C, Who do you think?

Hamell on Trial

Hamell on Trial by Jonathan Berger
Hamell on Trial by Jonathan Berger
Hamell on Trial by Jonathan Berger

by Jonathan Berger

Hamell on Trial is the epitome of AntiFolk. Of the innumerable artists that have been in and inspired by the Fort, Hamell has been the most consistent, the most powerful, and, in certain ways, the most successful. Hamell on Trial, the one-man acoustic punk band fronted by Ed Hamell, started seventeen years ago as a lark for a benefit gig. “I had never played solo before and never really listened to acoustic music,” Hamell recalls. “Every musician in town was going to be there, so… to differentiate myself from the James Taylors of the world, I decided to call it Hamell on Trial, figuring it would be a one-time deal. After the show, I was offered a record deal from a local label… so even an idiot like me realized I was on to something, and the name stuck.” And a career was born. The Syracuse New


and witty, as romantic as a leather jacket and as realistic as an upstate day job, Hamell wraps his raps up in what’s been called an attack- dog acoustic guitar. The package is irresistible.” Further compliments abounded. Praise came in forms like “the Clash boiled down into one upstate New Yorker,” “BeckmeetsJelloBiafra” or “one-man tornado.” Descriptions often took the form of absurdist mixings (“Uncle Fester on crack”), to elemental forces (“sound like a thunderstorm”). Still, the typical amazement at the live show never translated into record sales. In the last ten years, Hamell’s recorded for Mercury, for Evangeline, for his own Such-A-Punch label, and, most recently, for Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. Hamell met DiFranco seven years back after she caught an intimate show at Avenue B’s Manitoba’s. DiFranco was impressed enough by his motor-mouth

delivery, his heartfelt lyrics, his aggressive acoustic playing, and his sweaty bald head, and, in 2000, they played some dates. It went well, and Hamell opened more and more DiFranco shows, to larger audiences. It was a turning point. After years driving across the country, playing cozy rooms to enthusiastic drunks, Hamell’s luck was changing. Then in May, 2000, driving through Hershey, PA, Hamell’s car tumbled off the road. He sings about the experience on 2003’s Tough Love, on the track “Downs:” “Almost died in a car accident, they cut me from the wreck / Flew me to the hospital with a brace around my neck / Said I would relearn to walk, my wife sat there and cried / I thanked God for what I had and what they had prescribed…” The pathos, the humor… none of it lost in the accident. Time was, though, and momentum. While his body healed, his braces removed, Hamell, laid up in Upstate New York, considered his professional future. “The accident, well, I mean, I travel so much… Hundreds of miles a day. And I’m a good driver, but odds are, I would have had a crash sooner or later. I started thinking about a show, in a theater, in a city for a few weeks in a row…” This thinking became more pronounced after the birth of Detroit Hamell, Ed’s son with long-time wife, Linda. Songs were written. Gigs were played. The plan was hatched. Since then, Hamell’s released four albums: 2001’s Ed’s Not Dead, a live album (taken from those early shows with Ani DiFranco), 2003’s Tough Love and Yap (a spoken word disc), and now, the brand spanking new Songs for Parents who Enjoy Drugs. The album, produced by DiFranco, and featuring her voice and playing on numerous tracks, is bound to increase

album, produced by DiFranco, and featuring her voice and playing on numerous tracks, is bound to



Hamell’s profile – as is the stinging political nature of the album. “This album is for all those liberal-minded people who can’t fathom raising a child in this world of non- tolerance,” Hamell explains in his press kit. Songs like “Coulter’s Snatch,” desperately trying to float rumors about right-wing icons, “Civil Disobedience,” which implores

“Fight for what’s right or else you are a putz,” and “Values,” which presents President Bush as the worst possible role model for children today, all present precisely what Hamell’s politics are. Hamell doesn’t think he’s really that far to the left. “I’m

a moderate,” he says on-stage, “I’ll tell you how I know. I like to roll down Pennsylvania Avenue, like in Apocalypse Now, and I want to see all their heads on pikes… but here’s how I know I’m a moderate: I want them at all the same height.” While the audience laughs, he adds, “I’m a Libra

– I like order.” Songs for Parents is a frosty blast of funny frenetic fury. “This isn’t one of those Barneyed-out, ‘I’ve got a kid, isn’t that precious’ kind of albums,” Hamell comments. “I’m trying to make the point that us left wingers have to breed. There’s too much breeding going on with the right.” The album re-imagines Hamell’s songs (which, played live, are always presented solely by the 51 year-old singer and his ‘37 Gibson) with keyboards, drums, sound effects, and, frequently, Ani DiFranco’s voice. The songs rarely suffer in comparison to his live show. But the live show is the best thing you’ve never seen, which is why it’s so exciting to hear that Hamell is finally presenting his years-old idea of a one-man show. Debuting at Knitting Factory and entitled “An Evening of Politics, Polemic and Pills,” the series will feature the furious playing, the obscene jokes, the skuzzy stories – pretty much everything you’d expect from a typical Hamell on Trial show. So what makes this one-man show different from the one-man band? Hamell explains, in the Old Office of the Knitting Factory, before the gig: “Marketing. “I’ve been thinking about this for years,” he clarifies, “but

I do love to tour. I can do 200 shows a year. Now, I’ve got

this record, and I’m trying to get it licensed, and the guys in Europe are saying, ‘Great. Hamell’s got a new album. What else is happening?’ So I’m thinking, if I raise the profile with this show, get it into a theater, do something bigger, that’ll make all the difference.” But, really, how is the show different? “It’s a tough sell,” he admits, “Descriptions don’t do it justice. I don’t say that in an arrogant way. It just sounds weird when you reduce its elements to, ‘It’s a bald guy with an acoustic guitar, and he’s funny, and it’s political and filthy dirty and loud as hell sometimes, and embarrassingly quiet sometimes, and it’s the

most value you’re going to get for your money anywhere, and if you’re feeling down, he’s going to pick you up, he’s like a gas station attendant in that regard, getting you from point A to point B…’” Perhaps the answer resides in the show. Performing one of the new tracks, “Apartment #4,” a Songs for Parents cut

not previously road-tested, Hamell stops between each verse and gives a hilarious description of the events just referred to (not unlke Urban Folk’s Exegesis column). Offering history and perspective and detailed information, he explains everything you wanted to know about the fourth apartment Hamell shared with his wife, and far, far more. He explains just why the door falls down in the third verse, just how the drug dealer paid the thieves to beat him, and how it feels to listen to Elvis’ earliest hit 400 times in a row. It’s the kind of thing that could only have happened at a Hamell on Trial show, but never has. It’s the sort of thing he’s saved for this special occasion. “I’ve got a place in my heart like Apartment #4,” he finishes to riotous applause. “Tomorrow, you’re friends’ll ask you about the show,” he says, then continues, enacting both parts of the conversation. “’Was it theater?’ ‘It was punky theater.’ ‘What was the show about?’ ‘It was about love, and redemption, and don’t be a big dick.’” The audience reacts. When he leaves the small Knitting Factory stage, the audience claps, shouts, stomps. Eventually, a consensus is drawn, and they cry, as one, “Ham-ell. Ham- ell! HAM-ELL!” Bald head bowed, he returns to the stage, to continue a tour that never seems to end.

photos by Lippe

Bald head bowed, he returns to the stage, to continue a tour that never seems to

A Hamell


In the last ten years, Hamell on Trial has released numerous albums for numerous labels. Before that, there were other records, but those listed below are the ones you have the best chance of purchasing. All but the first two are available through Hamell’s website or Righteous Babe Records. If you have any of the other albums, I want ‘em.






Doolittle Records, Big as Life was purchased by Mercury, then presented to a public that was resoundingly uninterested. There are lots of overdubs on the album, but without drums, the dubs replicate the wall of sounds that makes up Hamell’s live show. There’s certain muddiness to it all, but, of all the studio recordings, Big as Life most closely represents how Hamell actually performs his material. Highlights: “Sugarfree,” “Harmony,” representing the hyperactive kinetic energy of Hamell’s songwriting. “Open Up the Gates,” a touching ballad to his mother. “Blood of the Wolf,” a potent story- song – if song it may be called. “Dead Man’s Float,” which rocks – hard.

Originally recorded

a song about a crazy friend, and all the things he used to do.

“The Meeting” is, as Hamell calls it, his “raison d’etre,” and

it explains what his art is all about.

d’etre,” and it explains what his art is all about. Choochtown (2000): Recorded for less than

Choochtown (2000):

Recorded for less than $500 in his basement, Choochtown features the song-cycle that could be called Scenes from the Toddle House, a diner that houses the events and characters that link “When Bobby Comes Down,” “Choochtown,” “Joe Brush,” “The Mall” and “Shout-Outs.”. This self-released album is the epitome of Hamell as a hard-boiled story-teller, and, while the budget seems kind of obvious on a couple of tracks, it is probably his most successful record to date. Highlights: “When Bobby Comes Down,” “Choochtown,”interconnected songs, describing, like noir Roshomon, a series of events through multiple points of view. “The Long Drive,” an excellent noir detective story, told in song. “Hamell’s Ramble,” another in a long line of signature songs with a killer riff that is so menacing, so threatening, I’m afraid to even talk about it any more.

The Chord is Mightier than the Sword (1997):

The only album recorded for Mercury, The Chord paints with a wider palate, recorded sometimes with a band (i.e. “In a Bar”), sometimes solo (“John Lennon”). There are many of the story-telling songs that make up much of the early albums, though the studio experiment “Mr. Fear” is very different, and very good. Beck’s Odelay seems an influence, with stylistic changes abounding. Highlights: “Mr. Fear” has a full band sound, plus a hint of hip hop flavor. “The Vines,” a story of mindless government work over an acoustic groove. “Red Marty” is

Ed’s Not Dead; Hamell Comes Alive! (2001):

Released on the heels of Hamell’s 2000 car crash, this is the album that most perfectly

represents Hamell on Trial. While taken from several shows,

it seamlessly blends them together, as if you’re listening to

the artist from behind a column at an amphitheater. There are three new songs, but mostly it’s just the ‘hits’ from his prior albums. One man, and one guitar, with all the smartass jokes and comments you could’ve heard on-stage. Highlights: Tracks one through sixteen. This is the perfect Hamell on Trial album, at the apex of his ability.

Mercuroyale: The Best of the Mercury Years (2002):

England’s Evangeline released a collection of songs from his two Mercury albums. Most of the content of the individual albums are here. If you can’t get your hands on the two disks, this is an affordable and feasible supplement. Highlights: See above – except for “Mr. Fear,” which, inexplicably, didn’t make the

Tough Love (2003): The first studio album after the infamous crash, the first album after the birth of his son (the last track on the album is “Detroit Lullaby,” for his first kid), the first release withAni DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. Despite the multiple producers and studios involved, there’s a consistent feel to the whole CD. Numerous songs hint at the politics he increasingly embraces in song and story. Highlights: “Hail” presents a heaven where tolerance reigns supreme. “Tough Love” retells Natural Born Killers with tuba. “Dear Pete” is an epistolary Elmore Leonard-style story. “First Date” recreates an ancient hit from yesteryear while recalling the worst first date imaginable.

Yap (2003): The spoken word album. Representing the other main aspect of Hamell’s live performance – the story- telling. Some of these stories, or variants thereof, have been road-tested for years. There’s a couple of musical cuts, but mostly it’s a distinct change of pace , released concurrently

with Tough Love. Highlights: “The Disconnected,” about an out-of-town show and the future of rock and roll. “Glover’s Eulogy,” about a deceased drinking buddy and roadie, his big heart, and his joie de’vivre.

Songs for Parents who Enjoy Drugs (2006): Produced by Ani DiFranco. Political and familial, Hamell exploits his relationship with his son to discuss and harangue the American machine. Most of the songs have more players and arrangement than is typical for Hamell’s live show. They seem more fluid and work better than usual, when Hamell messes with his style. Lots of surprises, songs unfamiliar to even the most regular Hamellhead. Highlights: “Coulter’s Snatch,” featuring the line, “There are some douches that’ll never fail you lest they come up ”

“Civil Disobedience” declares

against Ann’s genitalyou

war on the authority. “Jerkin’” declares Hamell’s monogamy on the road. “Values” declares the president’s a schmuck. “Inquiring Minds,” starts off the record, declaring how he fully plans to lie to his child about his storied past (just hope the kid doesn’t get his hands on the album).

how he fully plans to lie to his child about his storied past (just hope the

Invisible Noise

Invisible Noise myspace music picks by Dan Costello
Invisible Noise myspace music picks by Dan Costello
Invisible Noise myspace music picks by Dan Costello

myspace music picks

Invisible Noise myspace music picks by Dan Costello

by Dan Costello

OK, so the digital revolution is well under way. Thanks to digital download sites and networking sites like, a person can listen to more music now than ever before. With the great power of the human race, we have networked ourselves silly. I’m not trying to blow smoke up in here, but the Urban Folk reader, simply put, is smarter than your average bear. You can actually use these sites to expand your mind and not just your imaginary social circle. Using that beacon of silly networks, we are positioning ourselves on the cutting edge. Here are ten tracks you should go listen to on, right now.

tracks you should go listen to on, right now. “Miss You More” by 13 Scotland

“Miss You More” by 13 Scotland Road. Bill’s impressive guitar work, and Aaron’s flutes balance each other nicely. Their lyrics are simple and poetic.

“Edward is Dedward demo” by Emmy The Great. She’s a UK antifolker, full of sweet sounds and often biting imagery. She actually reminds me of Dave Cuomo, if he was a girl.

“Make It Last” by The Bowmans. Their album is coming soon, but ‘til then you MUST listen to this. Their vocals rival the best. No, they are the best.

Quirky girls, unafraid to

poke fun at themselves or others. Apparently another of their songs was a Euro-Pop hit. You can hear that here, too.

“Girl Beer” by The Hazzards.

“Start Your Engines” by Ching Chong Song. (See feature on these guys). But I can’t talk about this duo enough. I’ve been listening to this track at least once a day for forty two years, and I swear Im healthier for it.

“Somebody Else” by Rav Shmuel. Listen to Rav, and you’ll be one of the smart people saying, “Matisyahu? Shmatisyahu!”. This guy is the real thing: a beer-drinking songwriting Rabbi.

“Dairy Milk” by Spinmaster Plantpot. A capella singing – or is it rap? Or noise? What the fuck is this? Well, it’s one of those things you just have to hear. I have quite a bit of respect for anyone who gives Chaka Khan a shout out.

“Without You” by Milk Kan. These guys just opened for the Violent Femmes. Some of the lyrics might make more sense to Brits, but the sentiment is loud and clear.

“Scarecrow” by Erin Regan. (See feature) Why doesn’t this girl have a record deal yet? Someone’s gonna make you pay for these songs someday, get ‘em now while you can!

“Don’t Love You Anymore” by Carl Creighton. Repeat all of what I said about Erin (except where the ‘she’s become ‘he’s). The sweetest boy voice you’ve never heard – unless you have already heard it, in which case you’re probably hooked.

--compiled by Dan Costello (who, of course, can be heard at

Curtis Eller

Curtis Eller american storyteller by Dave Cuomo

american storyteller

Curtis Eller american storyteller by Dave Cuomo
Curtis Eller american storyteller by Dave Cuomo

by Dave Cuomo

A banjo is a strange instrument. It comes to us from the darkest parts of American history. Beginning as a stringed gourd instrument brought over by West African slaves, it was used by whites as a symbol to mock the slaves in caricatures, frequently drawing big lipped grinning figures playing a banjo with simple minded glee. For the slaves it was one of the foundations that jazz was built on, offering a moments’ freedom, at least in song. Times changed and it became a symbol of independence for turn of the century women to pick up the instrument of the down trodden, as if it had been created to speak to those who weren’t always allowed to speak for themselves. In a convoluted course through drunken Southern jams into the modern world of respectable bluegrass, today it comes to us as an emblem of nostalgia and folk authenticity. It is a symbol of pure Americana, containing our largest sins with our most persevering and hopeful characteristics. It is the instrument that Curtis Eller could not ignore. He grew up around it, playing it as a kid, then trying to forget about it due to its notoriously unhip nature. He worked in the circus, dabbled in theatre, and played rock n’ roll, but nothing ever felt as natural as the banjo. Finally he allowed himself to claim it fully, falling in love with the hollowness of the sound, the way the notes die instantly leaving an awkward space behind for the audience to contend with. He plays it in all manners that it can be, fast and wicked, hollow and forlorn, bright and alive. Whether or not he makes the instrument hip is open to debate. Certainly it is enjoying a revival from both the flourishing bluegrass world, and the modern roots and folk revival scene just sprouting up, although from the latter one gets the impression that the unhipness is precisely the appeal. It would be easy to look at Eller’s music and see this kind of irony as a part of his aim. He performs in suspenders or strange fitting suits that call to mind nineteenth century evangelists or tonic salesmen, matching up with the pictures he frequently uses for posters and as album artwork (created by his wife Jamie Wolcott) which call to mind creepy old time carnivals and freak shows. In the middle of songs he will perform contorted acrobatics, stretching his legs into impossible positions without skipping a beat. His songs on first listen sound like a throwback to the earlier parts of the last century, the banjo taking prominence and his wailing preacher’s voice accompanied by a tuba, squeezebox and call back old time harmonies. The subjects match up, as he tosses around lines about Abraham Lincoln, Buster Keaton, and Stephen Foster.

about Abraham Lincoln, Buster Keaton, and Stephen Foster. “It’s funny, even though it was in antifolk

“It’s funny, even though it was in antifolk that I first found a home, they are the ones who usually don’t get

it, they seem to think

I’m just being retro,” he

says, “the punk crowds get it the best, the older folkies too, but the punk crowds are a lot more fun to play for.” Setting him apart from other ironic or kitschy throwback musicians is the sincerity and darkness behind Eller’s art. Looking beyond his arrangements,hehasthe emotional personality of a contemporary singer/songwriter in his lyrics and melody craft. When he sings about his long gone subjects, he does it with

a deep intimacy and

understanding. He uses them as icons, but he has fallen in love with the icons and carries on a personal relationship with them. The nostalgia is so sincere that a song calling out for Buster Keaton to come back and revive a Hollywood that

has been floundering “since they started in with the talkies,” sounds as emotional and heart tugging as a forlorn song to a lost lover. Similarly in a song about Stephen Foster he tries to reconcile himself to what it means to stand in the place where Foster died mysteriously, and have no one else seem to care and remember. In “Coney Island Blue,” he vividly paints the picture of Luna Park’s former glory before calling out repeatedly “Don’t no one remember Luna Park?” adding “How I wish I’d been there/ in 1903 after dark/ when they would light the place up like the day time.” In what must be the maddening feeling behind his nostalgia, even he can’t connect completely to the past he is holding on to. Curtis Eller becomes a bit of a conundrum, a preacher sounding retro singer trying to make us remember our past with the diligence of a bitter history teacher. In the same way that the banjo had to travel through the

worst aspects of our history before coming out the other side, so too Curtis has to take us through the dark sides of where we come from before showing us the good. Much has been written about his song “The Execution of Black Diamond” from his first album 1890, with good reason. It is a creepy and intriguing song, about a subject Curtis loves to glorify, the circus. It is based on the true story of a 1929 circus elephant whose trainer was hired away by a woman in Texas to train her horses. Two years later the circus traveled back through the town, and the elephant recognized the woman and killed her in a rage. In retaliation it was paraded through the streets and eventually shot, with the mayor firing the first bullet. It’s a bizarre story whose implications of guilt run too numerous to count, leaving not even the elephant innocent. In the same way he likes to fuse modern technique with an old time sound, “Taking Up Serpents Again” the title track to his most recent album draws the lines clearly from the worst parts of our past to the worst of our present. “Just like that son of a bitch gonna wind up in the Whitehouse every time And the war between the States was just a bell they had to ring/ You can bet it was a sure thing.” Despite the glorifying look at our culture found in many of his songs, he seems to find that the dark side of our society is as undeniable in the past as it is today. Folk music is traditionally about story telling, a designation Curtis is perfectly comfortable with, often breaking out into an extended tale from American history in between songs during a performance. “Playing in America,

I like to remind people where we come from, that it’s not all bad. There are really amazing parts of our culture that we need to remember when we don’t like the direction our country is going,” he tells me. Given the current state of affairs it is easy and a little simple minded to look around and decide that all things American are bad, but “if we can be proud of parts of our culture, it can inspire us. Always walking around and hating America won’t do a whole lot of good. We need something to build from.” In Europe it serves a similar purpose, reminding other countries that we aren’t all bad. “I guess in a way I’m sticking up for us,” he says. This optimism means more in the light of all the terrible things he acknowledges in his songs. It makes sense that one must look the old racist banjo caricatures honestly in the face and understand where they came from before we can finally thin the overdrawn lips and turn the impish grin into a human expression. He is an artist whose own bio touts him as trying “to capture the spirit of the Harford Circus Fire of 1944,” a horrifying disaster that killed 167 people. It continues “Although there are sure to be many acts of heroism by performers and crew alike, ultimately it will prove to be the greatest disaster in circus history.” So maybe he’s not an optimist, but he is doing what he can anyway. In the end that’s all any society could ask of him. artwork by Jamie B Wolcott:

In the end that’s all any society could ask of him. artwork by Jamie B


Uncontrollable Urge recording in the poconos with brook pridemore by Andrew Hoepfner
Uncontrollable Urge recording in the poconos with brook pridemore by Andrew Hoepfner


Uncontrollable Urge recording in the poconos with brook pridemore by Andrew Hoepfner
Uncontrollable Urge recording in the poconos with brook pridemore by Andrew Hoepfner

recording in the poconos with brook pridemore

by Andrew Hoepfner

Everybody gets soul sparks in their heads, heartbeats from their imaginations. Musicians are fantastic, because their urges are overpowering, giving them little choice but to obey. The sound in their skulls must be echoed in its complete, genuine form. A group of folk artists revealed this to me out in the Poconos the day I watched Brook Pridemore record an album. “I’ve had like a hundred jobs or something.” Brook Pridemore shakes his head. “Just bottom rung, you know, pushing carts. Swinging warehouse bags and stuff. So to be honest, I don’t have any idea what I’d do if I wasn’t playing music.” Pridemore has followed the call of sound a long way, from Detroit, to New York, and across America’s lonely bars and haphazard living rooms. The music has been driving him some time, and his new album, The Reflecting Skin, proves there’s still has gasoline in the tank. The title track rolls down a blurring highway with the thunder of a stampede, melting ten thousand memories and miles into one bright, blinding riddle. Frantically rattling guitars, a hungry, relentless snare, and a steadily humming outer space omnichord all echo the headfirst journey that Pridemore has embarked upon. At the steering wheel, the singer’s quick, nasal lyrics narrate

steering wheel, the singer’s quick, nasal lyrics narrate lost ponderings and split-second epiphanies, jumping back

lost ponderings and split-second epiphanies, jumping back and forth between sense and nonsense. With a resilient grin, Pridemore sings of the downtrodden, where nothing feels good, but you’ve gotta keep moving. Suddenly, on the third line of the chorus he interjects, “There’s a bathroom on the right,” a left-field reference to the infamous Credence Clearwater mistranslation. Quickly, the song ties back together by juxtaposing, “And I’ve not seen nothing in my life that is good without a fight.” The smart maneuver between punchline and heartfelt truth is a reoccurring trick throughout Pridemore’s songwriting. The singer is constantly throwing out lines for the audience to catch, messing with your head, playing with words that make you laugh and guess, playing with words that move you deeply. Dan Treiber, who runs Pridemore’s label, Crafty Records, has offered me a ride to the recording studio in his CD- strewn van. He, too, is Pennsylvania bound, at the mercy of the folk punk songwriter’s wandering muse. My friend Steve Seck, Pridemore’s accordion player, waits with me on the frost bitten curb of 14th Street, and soon the three of us wind down the Jersey expressway under gray overpasses, past the skeletons of trees. Talkative and hospitable, Treiber

us wind down the Jersey expressway under gray overpasses, past the skeletons of trees. Talkative and

gives us a brief education on the constant struggle of promoting and releasing indie records. He describes how he rented, broke down, and borrowed a total of five vehicles on Pridemore’s last US tour. “So it was sort of like, we had no choice,” he explains from the driver’s seat. “We rented a car, and we finished the tour, but I had to put all this money into an engine that didn’t get us anywhere. This was just a series of bad luck, you know, who woulda knew? But it was

a blast.” After 8 releases and a widening abyss

of debt, the stress of running Crafty Records was heavy, and Treiber was about to call it quits. Yet amidst the lightning fray of seeing Brook Pridemore live once more, the head of the label again felt that creeping urge. The songs have a contagious fighting spirit inside of them, bright eyes and sharp teeth. Upon listening, Treiber knew that he had to keep Crafty Records going, if only to amplify Pridemore’s music. Financially, the odds are stacked against these labels, kept alive in basements and bedrooms. But

small labels operate like the unwavering musician, driven by a heart full of love for creation, not dollar bills. Treiber shares with us the satisfaction he had in tinting Pridemore’s last album cover, First Name/Last Name, in the Minor Threat shade of red. He speaks of a punk rock kid in North Carolina who had homemade Crafty Records patches waiting for him and Brook when they toured through. These are the real rewards for the label’s hard work. Five more albums are set to be released this year. Dan Treiber can’t resist. Our tires crunch over January snow as we park at the isolated forest cabin that houses Brook Pridemore’s - recording efforts. Inside, a small collective of AntiFolk music-makers are buzzing, melding their creative energies. Upstairs it’s like a band motel, where Pridemore and a shifting cast of guests have been sleeping for ten days now. It’s still morning, and nobody’s washing up. Everyone’s all got stubble on our faces and dirty socks on their feet.

A giant pot of coffee awakens us from this strange slumber

party, and into the day’s work. Over on an electric keyboard, Dan Costello is rumbling and composing. David L. K. Murphy constructs an impromptu slide guitar part, tracing

up and down the neck, searching for the right line. Steve Seck heads downstairs to smooth out a chord on one of last week’s sessions. Scrolling from left to right, a rainbow of sound waves display on the giant monitor in the studio’s control room. Pridemore, in a plain winter hat and gruff, blonde goatee, presides over the situation, guiding people through their vocal harmonies, making sure the piano part doesn’t come in until the second verse. We are inside that slow, focused process that it is to record a studio album. Hours pass. Everyone here is under the same spell, our wheels eagerly spinning with expression. Murphy is hunched upon a bed in the backroom working on a song of his own, lassoing an airy melody that’s eluded him since August. Later, Costello will drive me home down the BQE, talking about the day job he’s abandoned to follow music.

talking about the day job he’s abandoned to follow music. I myself manhandle an armful of

I myself manhandle an armful of tripods, cameras, and keep a voice recorder in my pocket, trying to capture the feeling that’s infecting the day. The impulse that led us all into sound booths, clapping hands, clutching headphones, releasing into microphones. The big stereo speakers fall silent when nighttime falls. As I sit down with Brook Pridemore to reflect on what’s happened here in rural Pennsylvania, the darkness makes way for a quieter, contemplative side to the musician. I become aware of a grimness underlying the recording, as he shares that he’s been dealing with the suicides of three of his friends. I asked Brook what he thought had caused the deaths. Hesitatingly, he makes his best guess. “I think you get to a point where, you get done with the things you’re supposed to do, you have to go to school and you have to get a job. It seems like all three of these guys got to that same point where they didn’t know what to do next. It’s a pretty depressing thing that I think I went through at one point. I kind of lost my rudder for a couple years, there.” I see clearly now the intersection of Brook’s broken, bleeding lyrics and his catchy four chord choruses that gleam of sweaty, punk rock youth. The words are Brook Pridemore’s struggle, and the major key is his way out. “And that’s the point of music,” observes David L. K. Murphy. “Look at the blues. That’s about triumph. And what a good name for a person, Pridemore,” he adds. “Pride not in the sinful sense, but in the, almost, grateful sense.” Maybe after a day of intense concentration, releasing into laughter is inevitable. Or maybe Steve’s accordion just sounds like the ocean. Whatever the reason, the six of us finish off the Poconos sessions by retreating to a large couch and belting out a loud, rowdy sea shanty. In a fireplace circle, each of us invents a verse, pretending to be grog swilling, eyepatch wearing, sexually frustrated pirates. And this ridiculous song fills me with joy, for the day has ended as it started, with music breaking out in an irrepressible and free way. We are singing because we have to.

Erin Regan

Erin Regan Southern Belle by Paul Alexander
Erin Regan Southern Belle by Paul Alexander

Southern Belle

by Paul Alexander

Raised for the most part in Northern Virginia, Erin Regan first appeared in New York City on a fateful Sunday at the Underground Lounge in November of 2004. Erin came to New York City because her aunt offered her a couch to sleep on, because she found no meaningful musical outlets in Virginia, and because in her words, "I wanted to leave a part of my former life behind." It's a story familiar enough to many songwriters in New York City, but as anyone who has spent even one evening listening to Erin Regan probably could already assume, the life Erin is trying to "leave behind" has been one many of us only write about secondhand. Regan began frequenting Lach's Monday night Anti-Hootenanny at the Sidewalk soon after she moved here, and despite drawing a high number and sitting nervously in the back her first time, by her second appearance, she had booked her first show in New York City. "I've always written," Regan explains. From an early age Regan was fascinated by the poverty she saw around her and took pen in hand. "First stories, and then songs." After picking up the guitar at the age of 14, Erin quickly applied her poetic talents to songwriting, changing media, but maintaining the same self- reflective motifs. It should comes as no surprise that Erin has experienced her share of hard times. Born into a family stricken by rampant drug and alcohol abuse, Erin lived in foster care for a brief period, and she has moved from one relative to another for most of her life, encountering many forms of abuse along the way. "When I moved in with my mother’s sister, they had to leave their bedroom, and they moved into their basement, which was cold and dark, and her boyfriend hated me, and every day, would ask if I was still there. After a month of me living there, he moved out. I

had to get out of there." Regan's art stands on its own for its sincerity and power, but strike even deeper when you realize she's sharing actual experiences. Not all of her experiences with family have been horrendous, though. Erin's Aunt Maura O'Connell only gave her a place to live, but she also helped Erin develop connections to generate demos and create press kits, and, eventually, play at the Living Room, Arlene Grocery, CBGB’s, and the Bitter End. Yet, even after what many of us would consider a more than moderate amount of success, Erin still loves to play at the Sidewalk Café, where she appreciates both “the vibe and supportive atmosphere." It’s at the Sidewalk where she gets most feedback and the greatest sense of community. Erin considers herself a writer first, and as such, reads a fair amount of poetry. Currently, her favorite poem is "Getting You Drunk" by AntiFolk’s self-proclaimed poet- laureate, Jonathan Berger. Perhaps it’s the poem’s subject matter, perhaps it’s the meter or word choice,

or because Erin just thinks

"He’s a hottie." Whatever the connection, her appreciation of other’s art is profound, as is her own focus on lyrics. Mesmerizing as an Erin Regan performance can be, especially the first time you witness it, the show becomes all the more poignant as you concentrate on her lyrics; small stories of intense loneliness and suffering. With lyrics like "When we get thirsty we'll go to 7-11 like Elliot Smith in 'St. Ides Heaven'" from "Mom's Car," Erin weaves a tale she admits comes from a period in her life which generated most of her material. At 17, Erin moved in with her two- year boyfriend. Three years later, they broke up – badly. Erin, who had given up songwriting during the relationship, moved out, attempting the near-impossible feat of "staying

songwriting during the relationship, moved out, attempting the near-impossible feat of "staying photo by Jamie Ferri

photo by Jamie Ferri

friends." Following the break-up, Erin began feverishly writing again, resulting in "Mom's Car," which virtually transcribes one of her trips back to Virginia. "There was no one else to stay with, so I was at his parent’s home. He came to visit me there, so we got stoned in his Mom’s car, and he dropped me off while he drove away to see his new girlfriend. He’s pulling away to get some, and I’m drinking tea with his mother!” Bittersweet and incredibly personal, Erin finds a way not only to tell a powerfully personal story of memory and pain, but to also to reference one of her greatest influences, the late Elliot Smith, while avoiding being derivative of the similarly gifted wordsmith. Two items that come up often in Erin’s songs are heartache and alcohol. Erin denies being an alcoholic, though, with a quick "What songwriter doesn’t drink?" Erin's "Two and Twenty Years" briefly deals with the demons of drinking. As with the lyrics "I'm two and twenty years, nine and eighty tears, and two beers away from dying," Erin admits that consumption helps compensate for insecurity and self-prescribed "lack of social graces." Still, to those who critique her, to all of her new "hangers-on," who "don’t really understand the rough life it took me just to be here today," she speaks directly in "Two and Twenty Years"’s chorus: "You say you know me." Not all of Regan's art is autobiographical. "Silhouettes of Trailers" or "SofT" as she affectionately calls it, has Erin musing about what it must be like living in the trailer park she often saw driving into Virginia from North Carolina, where she briefly lived while undergoing physical therapy for a boating accident that left her almost unable to walk. ‘Cause the park looks so dark from 95,” she sings over a haunting melody. Erin says that she has always “really liked the dirty details in life,” stating “perfection scares me… wife beaters and ash trays are more real.” In addition to the obvious influence of Elliot Smith, Erin has always found solace and influence in the music of Fiona Apple, another talented female singer/songwriter whose lyrics suggest that, like Erin, she’s been through more than her share of hardships. Raised on a healthy helping of both Neil Young and the Grateful Dead, Erin credits both artists along with Joni Mitchell for helping her understand both the power and the craft of self-confessional composition. In addition, Erin also has very clear folk inspiration from her time with her Uncle Michael O’Connell worked on Grassroots Stages, a documentary, about the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival. At the North Carolina festival, the sight of many young performers playing washboards, jugs, and other traditional Appalachian folk instruments really struck a chord in Erin. Now, she has her own accompaniment in the form of Steven Brown, the maestro of the mandolin. Being a girl in a songwriter scene primarily populated by guys must be difficult at times. Nevertheless, Erin Regan takes her position in stride, secure that she writes songs as

well as any guys on the scene. Still, she’s willing to play the sex card, falling into the role of "sex pot" both to shock and to control her audiences. At the same time, drawn to those as passionate as she, Erin sings, "I never date musicians, but I fuck them all the time." In an unfinished composition Erin asserts, "What’s the deal with all you metrosexuals? I don’t know if you want to fuck me or go shopping." Still, she claims, "I don't want to be seen just as a girl with tits singing about sex." But, influenced by the AntiFolk scene, she speaks more bluntly than previously. An early poem states, "I saw a man today, in the Tastee Freeze, he had on a NASCAR hat, shirt, and jean jacket. He ordered the tater tots, but I know what he really wanted. I know." Despite all Erin’s successes at East Village clubs, and numerous demos floating around her home and Myspace. com page, there are no albums available. Soon enough, that may change. Erin has been doing quite a bit of recording just outside of Woodstock, NY at a studio called the Make Believe Ballroom with the help of producer Tom Mark. In all, she estimates that she’s recorded between thirty and thirty-three songs at Make Believe, and if she can get the money together, she hopes to remix a handful of these tracks, add a few other musicians to them, and put out a short album. "I need to be a little more stable in my rent situation, so I don’t have a lot of money to spend right now." However, she’s already come to question some of her songs. Like so many who immerse themselves in such a talented musical scene, Erin feels some of her older material seems "cheesy." Erin is always furthering her craft, working to capitalize through composition on the concept that "there’s something beautiful about simplicity, though you have to work to find a new way to say ‘I love you’ or ‘you broke my heart.’" All in all, Erin is more than content continuing along the path she’s begun to pave in the New York music scene, and vows to continue visiting her "homestead" at the Sidewalk every week. Even still, she’s also setting goals for herself, among them putting out an album, playing and writing even more, and just managing to live her life on her own. Preoccupied with not sounding "arrogant" to other songwriters, Erin says, "I write songs because it's cheaper than therapy," adding that she couldn't stop writing if she wanted to. "It's kinda like taking a shit – you just have to get it out, and I'm not thinking about what anyone will think, I just have to get that shit out – Of course, I also want people to like me."

Ching Chong Song

Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello
Ching Chong Song A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song by Dan Costello

A Big Little Duo Called Ching Chong Song

by Dan Costello

Julie LaMendoza wants to be Carmina Burana. “I’ve always wanted to be an opera singer.” Her voice lends itself to high drama. Along with Dan Gower, as the duo Ching Chong Song, she sculpts songs of indescribable passion - when they repeatedly sing “I live in a house and I want to fuck my landlord,” with each repetition there is a change in perspective, something slight, something funny or tragic grows with the song. An audience listening to this leans forward, searching for every nuance. It’s right there for the taking. There’s nothing to hide: A piano, a saw, a boy and girl singing. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Ching Chong Song is like nothing you’ve ever heard in your life. They are complex. And they are not for the faint of heart. Dan Gower grew up in Spokane. He went to college for music composition and became a fan of famed Argentinean composer Alberto Ginestera (look this up - he’s worth a Google). Also a big fan of the Indigo Girls and REM, Dan moved to Santa Fé for a year and a half, was in a million bands, and finally, last year, settled in Bushwick. Meeting Julie was a revelation. “It came together really fast, and it was good right away. It wasn’t arduous.” With his short, cropped hair and thick-rimmed glasses, Dan looks like a composer. His piano playing is tremendous – tender, vicious, and technically wowza. His compositions are insanely complex and at the same time, completely familiar. “Start Your Engines” has an off-kilter ivory rhythm that most musicians would stumble over. Add the serious vocals, really tight harmonies, and what happens couldn’t be written on the page by even the most technical writer. It’s sheer magic. The smiles on the faces of these performers will tell you how much they enjoy their process and performance. At times tender (listen to “Who You Sleep With”), at times dreamy (“Cigarettes”), their personality constantly shines through. In “Old Man,” Julie mourns the loss of her friends’ love. It has a Kit Kat Klub piano, a Frankenstein saw, and a moaning lyric that evaporates like glycerine into a showstopping moralistic finale. Upon hearing a song that travels as far as this one, a listener might think, “Is there anything these two can’t make music about?” It’s refreshing when incredible collaborators truly love each other. On meeting Dan, Julie is more exactingly

graphic. “It was like my sphincter dropped out and my heart dropped out of my mouth. It was like I peed my pants. I got a blister from running to him, because I was running to him all my life.” They met through friends. On their

first outing, Julie suggested a preferred pastime – sledding down the concrete slope under the Brooklyn Bridge on milk crates. Dan didn’t want to go. Julie remembers, “I totally

said, ‘If you don’t want to live life, OK

this reminder, as if to indicate this philosophy has pervaded their time together. It’s another sign that their musical revelation is a personal one. That “Live Life” philosophy has taken Julie around the world. She performs with her whole body, she’s one of those free-spirit performers who obviously could tell you stories all night, but instead just embodies them. “I’m a drifter. I slept on couches for ten years.” She grew up in the Midwest and was involved in theater and music. She cites Daniel Johnston, Lucinda Williams and Afroman among her influences. Why does she sing? “It’s the thing I’ve been doing since I was little and I love it. It’s kind of what I imagine praying would be like.” “Being a piano player is tough, guitarists can play anywhere.” Dan has an upright in his apartment, a hefty piece of furniture that occupies one entire wall of the living room. Dan just bought a toy piano to accommodate this issue. “But it’s not the same.” When they played The Glass House in Brooklyn after Dan Fishback’s excellent theater piece, the toy piano was a hit. While they both live in Bushwick, they’ve been getting some East Village play. “I came to AntiHoot three years ago, when I was passing through New York” recalls Julie. “Lach was telling some funny jokes. I came back this year, he’s telling some of the same ones. They’re still funny. It’s so comforting. And sure, out of fifty performers someone might suck once in a while, but that’s when you grab a cigarette. There’s always something incredible to listen to. It’s insane how good it is.” On a late night in 2005, Ching Chong Song was the revelation. Those of us lucky to be in the audience remember it vividly. Lach, who founded AntiFolk and has been hosting nights of music in the East Village since 1983, considers

it a watershed moment. “Halfway through their first song,

‘” Dan laughs at

the East Village since 1983, considers it a watershed moment. “Halfway through their first song, ‘”

I knew I wanted to book them, I knew I wanted them to

play the AntiFolk Fest, they were just delightful. One of the things that’s kept me doing this so long is that on a Monday night, you never know when an act like Ching Chong Song

is going to show up and make it all worthwhile.” They have

moved from two songs on a Monday, to packing the room. They begin a residency at Sidewalk on March 10 and play every two weeks until they leave for Berlin to play some shows and record an album. How do they write? Julie sleeps with a tape recorder next

to her bed. “One song, ‘Rorisa,’ came totally from a dream. She was eating sticks of butter and everything, I just woke up and taped it.” Dan’s a bit more elusive. “I don’t think

I really know where the song comes from.” Dan’s talent

with the keys is matched by Julie’s adventurous saw skills. There’s a horror movie element, but her saw isn’t a sound effect - it’s an instrument. Julie solos on the damn thing. And frequently, as they listen intently to each other, Julie and Dan can finish a song in perfect tune. It’s miraculous. Now what’s with the band name? From Wikipedia:

“Ching Chong is an ethnic slur directed at people of Chinese

nationality or ancestry. It is most frequently encountered in

In 1917, a ragtime piano

the United States and Australia

song entitled “Ching Chong” was co-written by Ted Baxter and Max Kortlander.” Julie grew up with a player piano at home, one of the rolls was “Ching Chong” and she loved

the song. There are also many offensive nursery-style rhymes about “Ching Chong Chinaman,” some involving

whorehouses and the spread of venereal disease. It’s not hard to see how this might become a problem. “The band name just came to me” says Julie. Recently they started getting hate mail on myspace, from angry Asians who think they’re insensitive (one letter went something like, “My grandmother was called that her whole life ”) Sick of the drama, on a whim, they changed their name to Nung Song Sam. Really? I had to ask each of them why. Julie’s response: “I made this girl at work cry. I don’t mind feeling like an asshole, but I don’t want people thinking we’re ig’nant. It means ‘One Two Three’ in Thai” Dan? “It’s not malicious.” So Nung Song Sam it is. For a second. The next morning

I received a voicemail from Julie. “Ummm, I think last night

we told you we changed our band name. Uhhhh, we were really drunk. We’re still Ching Chong Song.” Thank God. For a second I thought this wasn’t the most liberated band I’d ever met. The songs aren’t afraid to offend and nothing is off limits. Everything with these two is honest, just like the interviews we had. It’s a totally

appropriate name. Their onstage presence is like a party, like

a jolty piano roll on an old Wurlitzer. You have to see them

live to understand. Their shows are like good sex. When it’s done, you catch your breath and wonder if it could ever be that good the next time. With these two, the songs and the shows always are. Don’t miss them. Ever.

the next time. With these two, the songs and the shows always are. Don’t miss them.

Exegesis Department

Exegesis Department justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell
Exegesis Department justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell
Exegesis Department justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell

justify the music

Exegesis Department justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell
Exegesis Department justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell

Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell

justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell Benjamin Squires , Please explain Hamell’s song
justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell Benjamin Squires , Please explain Hamell’s song
justify the music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell Benjamin Squires , Please explain Hamell’s song

Benjamin Squires,

music Benjamin C. Squires on Ed Hamell Benjamin Squires , Please explain Hamell’s song Don’t Kill

Please explain Hamell’s song

Ed Hamell Benjamin Squires , Please explain Hamell’s song Don’t Kill God called down from the

Don’t Kill

God called down from the mountain, God called down from the sky. He said, “I told you, I told you, I told you. Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill.

Don’t Kill for lovin’, please don’t kill for hate. Don’t Kill in My name, Don’t Kill for heaven’s sake. Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill.

Once again you didn’t understand Me, Or you disobeyed from all I can detect. From what I remember I did more than ask you, I commanded it, from what I recollect. Thou Shalt, Thou Shalt —what part of ‘Thou Shalt’ don’t you understand?

Was it the ‘Thou’ part that threw you? Thou means you. Was it the ‘Shalt Not’ part that confused you? Shalt Not means DON’T. Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill.

There are no divinely sanctioned murders. Who’d know better than Me? I’m God, why don’t you hear Me? I’ve been saying the same shit for centuries. You say it’s Me that you worship. All you Christians, all you Muslims, all you Jews. I’m going to say it one more time, DON’T KILL YOUR NEIGHBOR. Jesus Christ, this shouldn’t be news. Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill—I thought I etched this in stone!”

© 2003 Trial Size Publishing/ASCAP.

news. Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill, Don’t Kill—I thought I etched this in stone!” © 2003 Trial

“Don’t Kill” by Hamell on Trial is the perfect song for teaching the Fifth Commandment in Confirmation class. However, play the song for your seventh graders, and you’ll probably have a long line of parents and elders at your door. “Just what are you letting our kids listen to?” Given that danger, I only use this most perfect song for teaching the catechism with our older confirmands, what I call AltConfirmation (students in high school needing more individualized discipleship). The song really catches the attention of students who are on the verge of throwing in the towel on this whole church thing. Hamell on Trial is a crazed, acoustic punk artist that pulls no punches. His 2003 album, Tough Love, opens up with an electrified, acoustic, throw down blues punk song from God Himself. When you think of God’s reaction to murders and wars, do you ever really realize just how frustrated God must be? Hamell does. On “Don’t Kill,” he puts outrage, sarcasm, frustration, and judgment on the lips of God. Sure the song is tongue in cheek at times, but it certainly drives home the point that God doesn’t condone killing. With all of our hand-wringing over violence in TV shows, movies, music, and video games, “Don’t Kill” is the kind of song that we need to say it forcefully, repeatedly, unabashedly, passionately, and with a little dose of sarcastic humor, that God said, “Thou shalt not kill.” While in the United States we’ve been quick to condemn Islamic fundamentalists for killing in the name of Allah, Hamell actually calls Christians to remember that killing in

our God’s Name would be wrong as well. Even though God gives the power of the sword to the government, “Don’t Kill” reminds us to watch our rhetoric. Are we turning the war in Iraq into “divinely sanctioned murders”? Hamell combines the role of both folk singer and punker, protesting society’s ills. Here he cautions us from assuming God is on our side of the killing; God’s desire is that there would be no killing. That seems so apparent (“What part of ‘thou shalt’ don’t you understand?”), but we need reminders like this song. The problem is that this song uses one cuss word. That’s where you’ve got to be careful and know your situation before using this song in class. However, I think the judicial use of a cuss word actually helps drive home the point of this song, since that is how we show our frustration. If God can call our sins “menstrual rags” in the prophets, it doesn’t seem that far of a step to think that He would use a cuss word to get our attention today. Now Hamell also uses “Jesus Christ” in a double entendre in the last stanza. Here God could be addressing Jesus, but it also looks like God is using His Son’s Name in vain as many people do today. It’s clever, but of course, breaks the second commandment even while trying to call us back to following the fifth. Finally, you may have trouble at first, because the song addresses Christians, Muslims, and Jews, equating all three religions. However, used in the context of a conversation with your students, here’s room for a side discussion about how people view the differences between religions and why someone might conclude that these three religions specifically are all worshipping the same God.

If you can set all of this aside, then definitely use Hamell on Trial for teaching. After “Don’t Kill,” the album only continues to take on edgy subjects, using questionable lyrics. However, much like “Don’t Kill,” those other songs with their rude language, drug references, etc., actually point towards positive decisions and even Christ-like living. Even if you’re not planning a Bible study or hot topic discussion, listen to Tough Love. The album rocks in a way that some full electric albums never do. Hamell uses all of his energy to lay havoc on the strings of his acoustic guitar, banging around, looking to protest like a prophet calling attention to our sins.

Benjamin Squires is Associate Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, WI.

This review originally appeared at www.

is Associate Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, WI. This review originally appeared at www.
Folk You! an exegesis of sorts by Dave Cuomo “I play acoustic right now, but

Folk You!

Folk You! an exegesis of sorts by Dave Cuomo
Folk You! an exegesis of sorts by Dave Cuomo

an exegesis of sorts

Folk You! an exegesis of sorts by Dave Cuomo

by Dave Cuomo

Folk You! an exegesis of sorts by Dave Cuomo “I play acoustic right now, but I’m

“I play acoustic right now, but I’m in a metal band. The rest of the band is moving up here soon.” “So you play solo acoustic metal?” “I guess so ” “That’s awesome. I go to a few open mics around here that are kind of fun. I could take you sometime.” “That’d be great, thanks.” We traded phone numbers. “What made you move here?” “Our town in Texas was kind of small. We wanted to come somewhere we could have a chance at really doing the band.” “So you came to Boulder?” I couldn’t help but feel a little worried about her decision. “The only bands that make it around here are hippy jam bands. Me, I’m moving to New York as soon as I can.” “Well, we’re in Denver really.” “Still. Huh.” I realized I didn’t want to tell her that she had just uprooted her life to come to the wrong town, and I could see a little worry creep into her face that was turning defensive. “We’ve found some other cool bands already and some good clubs. I think it’s ok.” “No, yeah I’m sure. I’m sorry, I have a habit lately of thinking that everyone should go to New York. Hey, how about playing me a song before you go?” I always made it a point to encourage others to play when I was out busking. I considered it part of my job in spreading the joy of music. She took my guitar and started playing dark metal sounding leads that came out pretty awkward on an acoustic. She moved into power chords that, while she played them well enough, still gave good evidence as to why solo acoustic metal is a relatively untapped genre. Then she started singing. It was amazing; sweet powerful, and worked like a pro. It made me want to drag her in front of whoever signed Evanescence and tell them that no, this is a voice, and one with a hell of lot more to say than those over produced christian mannequins would ever have. Over the next few weeks, she took me to metal shows in the suburbs while I took her to open mics in Boulder. At the open mics the reaction was usually the same. She’d start off with a long awkward acoustic metal guitar intro, at which point the host would look over at me as if to say “what the

I ran across the CD while going through and importing

my old collection to put on the ipod I had just gotten for christmas. It was a CD-R with the band name “Milkleg”

written on it with a sharpie in handwriting I didn’t recognize.

It had to be older because all the local demos I’d gotten in

New York were meticulously cataloged already. Curious, I

put it in to hear a haunting acoustic intro that didn’t remind me of anything I remembered. Skipping ahead to a full on metal song, the voice gave it away. Rachel! Of course, how could I have forgotten? She had a beautiful voice, similar

in style, but ten times better than Evanescence, whose song

was all over the radio during our short friendship. Filled with the desire to write to her and tell her all about New York, maybe even try and sell her on the idea of coming out here with her band, (I have a habit of doing that with my old musician

friends) I googled Milkleg to see

if I could find a website with any

contact info. The band’s website

was the first to come up, but the

tagline under the title threw me

a little sideways. Entering the

site I was struck dumb for a few minutes. I thought I had to have

made a mistake, but there was

no doubt I was at the right site.

It felt like a scene out of a bad

sci-fi movie, staring at a terrible possible future in an alternate reality that had to somehow be changed.

in an alternate reality that had to somehow be changed. I was playing a love song

I was playing a love song on Pearl St. on a sunny afternoon

in Boulder when I first saw her standing there. What month

or time of year it was I have no idea, the last six months or so in any town are always a blur when I know I’m leaving.

She was short and cute, with an open and friendly face. She walked up and tipped me a dollar. She was young, dressed

in grungy fashion, with large trusting eyes.

“That’s a really good song,” she said with a sincerity that allowed me to appreciate the flattery. “Thanks,” I said, always happy to be approached by a cute girl. Not wanting her to walk away, I tried to think of a conversation starter. She beat me to it. “I just moved here, I was hoping to meet some other musicians. Do you know any good places around here to

play?” “What kind of music do you do?”

hell is this?” Then she’d start singing and everyone’s look would change to one of adoration. It worked like a charm. If she could just get over this metal thing, I used to think, she’d make a damn fine folk singer. She had her heart set on the metal though. It turned out the band was comprised of a drummer who was staying in Texas and her boyfriend of many years, Cody, the bass player who was supposed to be moving up to join her soon. This came as only a small disappointment to me. While I may have harbored a small crush at first, we were becoming good friends and I was just happy to have a songwriting buddy. On warmer evenings we would sit down by Boulder Creek, playing each other songs, and work shopping long into the night. Like any good workshop it became a sort of therapy for us both, as we delved into all the issues and drama that created the songs in the first place. She was younger, and seemed a little naïeve at times, but she was sharp too. As time wore on she began to worry about the absence of her boyfriend. It was obvious how much she loved him, she spoke of them like soul mates, but it always seemed like it was becoming longer and longer before he would move up and more of an uncertain fantasy that he might come at all. They were both beginning to get restless. Meanwhile

I was just beginning to fall for Jennie, which was nothing

but a bad idea, considering she was older, taller, and much more punk rock than I would ever be, not to mention that we both had plans to skip towns in different directions soon. Before I had really even admitted my feelings to myself, I had already finished a song about it, which I tried to regard as fiction. Rachel too was coming up with lyrics she didn’t want to admit might be true. We commiserated our mutual love sicknesses, over beers and by the creek, always with the songs as the backdrop, helping each other find the lines we needed so badly to sing. We’d go out to the bars together and I would bring Jennie as my friend and Rachel started bringing an older guy who seemed like a dopier version of her descriptions of Cody. We lived out those songs together as much as we sang them. Once or twice I warned her of the

awful habit I had of flaking out on new friends after awhile. I never knew why it happened, all I knew was that sometimes

I would become scared to pick up the phone when someone

called who I actually really liked and cared about. After not answering a few times I became too embarrassed and guilty to call or pick up again. I had lost more than a couple friends this way. I hoped that in telling her it would somehow make it not happen. She seemed amused but not overly concerned. One night we traded CD’s. I gave her the ep I had just recorded at home and she gave me a copy of her band’s album they had recorded back in Texas. We happily agreed to give each other honest critiques. I was really anxious about what she would say. At the same time I tried putting on her CD a couple of times and always got distracted before being able to give it a full listen. I think I just didn’t know how to listen to metal. I avoided her for a little while, embarrassed by the fact that I hadn’t taken the time to listen to it, and not knowing what I’d say. When we finally did hang out again, I avoided the topic as long as I could, but of

course it came up. I didn’t want to hear about my own CD anymore. The reviews coming back from my other friends weren’t that great, and I didn’t really want to hear anyone else tell me that it didn’t sound honest and came off kind of didactic. She was polite but didn’t say much better. I tried to stammer through anything I could think of to say about her CD, before giving up and admitting that I hadn’t really had the time to give it a fair listen. I promised to do it before we saw each other next. Finals and graduation hit. I lost touch with my friends as

I scrambled to fit most of a semester’s work into a couple weeks, making sure I could pass everything and graduate on time so that I could still move before the fall. Once I was finished up with school my life became consumed with preparations for moving and the reckless yet miraculous beginnings of a relationship with Jennie. I purposely distanced myself from many of my friends thinking it was kind of silly to go through the motions of keeping up relationships that were going to be over so soon anyway. Rachel would call and I would feel a simultaneous pang of guilt that I still hadn’t listened to her CD, mixed with the understanding that every time she called and I didn’t pick up it became less and less likely that I ever would or that I would call her back. I would stare at the blinking caller ID while the phone rang knowing I was doing exactly what I always did, and that she would know because I had told her all about it. Soon after, I left town.

I stared at the picture on the website for a long time. In it

Rachel was smiling contentedly and Cody, who I had never seen before, was holding her close and either laughing or grimacing in terrible pain. The headline over the top read “In Loving Memory, Rachel and Cody” The fact that Cody’s laugh looked so much like a grimace only drove home the fact harder, and I could almost see them and feel the pain of what happened in his expression. I clicked on the “about the kids” link and scanned through the sentimental remembrances to find what I wanted to know. “Rachel Wicks, Cody Vargas,

left this earth January 22, 2005 in an auto accident,” it read, “Someone was in a hurry.” The site was being run by their parents as a memorial, still selling the band’s CD’s and t- shirts.

I couldn’t bring myself to believe that what I was seeing

was real. I racked my brain to find some way that it might be

a mistake. I looked through some of the pictures and came

across one of Rachel sitting contemplatively by a river, much like I remember her. My denial faded like a wave

washing over me. Whenever I had left a town or lost friends,

I guess I always pictured them as someone to run into down

the road sometime, in five years or twenty, to sit in a diner

with and share experiences over a cup of coffee. I couldn’t

road sometime, in five years or twenty, to sit in a diner with and share experiences

understand that she was really gone forever. For a moment I

felt guilty for the way we had left off, but I quickly realized how self centered this was. Wherever she was, I doubted very much she was concerned by it. There was something about how her and Cody had been together, not that they had both died, but that they had each other in the end. I pictured them the happy couple of the spirit world, free and content. Unconsciously I had the urge to write her and ask about how they had gotten back together. Again the feeling of permanent loss washed over me. I thought of her family and what it must have meant for them. They had moved up to Colorado with her to devote themselves to helping her follow her dream, and now that dream was dead. I found the fact that they were selling her CD’s online through the website so touching, and so terribly sad at the same time. I’m sure any artist would have wanted the same. A year and a half after she had given it to me I put on her CD. Laying back on the couch I listened to it start to finish in focused silence. It was better than I had thought. The angst and impatience in their lyrics and music were eerie, as if this world had never been enough for them. Full eloquent comments and critiques formed in my head. The more things that popped into my head to say to her about it, the more watery my eyes got. After I finished listening to the album, choking on the words I wanted to say to her, I saw her parents email address at the bottom of the website. The least I could do was write them a letter. Even a year after she had died, I figured that sharing my experiences with her might offer something. Her dad wrote back quickly and said he wanted to post it on the message board on the website. We emailed back and forth, with him sharing openly what it had been like to go through and how they were coping now. They were carrying on, but they sounded lost.

I spent the rest of the day reading the message board. It

was sad, touching, and yet it filled with me a strange kind of hope and optimism. At the beginning it is saddest, showing friends and family mourning and unable to make sense of the tragedy. As it goes on the tone begins to change. People begin writing directly to them like letters to a far off friend, they are missed, but still an active part of their lives. The letters change from nostalgia to something inspired by the lives of the kids, almost prayers, relating hopes and wishes to the kids as if they could read them and inspire them from the spirit world. The more I read, the more I thought, who’s to say they can’t? It may have been a random tragedy, but those close to them were creating a meaning out of it that

was inspirational and beautiful.

I realized there was one way I could speak to her, the same

way we used to speak to each other when something was impossible to say. I could write a song. The idea filled me with dread. Always plagued with doubts about my abilities and chronic writer’s block, I knew this was something I had to do, but at the same time if I got it wrong or couldn’t finish it I would feel terrible as if I had disrespected their memory. I tried to talk myself out of it, thinking that performing a song about this for applause from a stage would only cheapen their lives. We were songwriting buddies though. She would

have chided me for not doing it. Reluctantly and scared I began the laborious task of sorting through what to say. It took a month. It was a month of depression and agonizing, lying face down on a mattress sometimes for hours feeling empty and useless, unable to find anything real or honest to say about something so blindingly real and necessary to sing. I forgot how to write entirely, what a verse or chorus was supposed to do or be. I started it twenty

different ways and deleted all of them. It called into question all my artistic ability and everything I wanted to think I was, everything I was scared I wasn’t when it came down to it, everything she seemed to be so purely and easily in my memory. John Sfara told me to remember that people always glorify the dead as if they aren’t real people, turning them into saints and golden caricatures. “Real people are full of dirt and problems,” he said. “At my funeral,” he told me, “I want to be berated.” Rachel was no more the perfect poet than I was. We had struggled next to each other with our writing the same as I was doing in her wake. Perhaps I really was speaking to her.

I started the song one more time determined not to delete in

the pursuit of perfection. By this point though I had thought about it too much to remember what were my real feelings, what was honest and not clichés I was trying to borrow in

pursuit of a good song. It had to be honest, but I didn’t know what that meant anymore. I looked outside and began with

a metaphor about the weather. If I couldn’t attack it head

on and write truly, I would approach cautiously from the side and hope that my real feelings could poke their head through in the imagery. I finished it and found it pretty, but again I was angry at myself for still not being able to say anything real to her, for hiding behind pictures of snow and not even being able to give her a mention in her own song. Whether or not it was poetic, I hated it for having been too scared and incapable to say what I wanted except in the most abstract sense. “If that’s what you’re feeling, that’s what you should say,” Jennie told me. She was right, we had been friends in our writing and she would’ve certainly understood what I was going through. One last time I approached the blinking cursor in front of an empty line, and wrote honestly about what was wrong with what I’d written. As I said it, my fingers kept typing, and in frustration I blurted out onto the screen jumbled confused rhymes about what I wanted to say instead, finally approaching my memories of her, spiraling down into the helpless frustration of trying to find something meaningful in what had happened. They are as clumsy and unwieldy as my feelings around the matter. I stopped. I can’t say I felt satisfied, but I finally felt like I had found her in the lines. I’m still not sure if I got it right, whatever that means, but I do feel like a little piece of her and our songwriter’s friendship with all its shared frustrations is alive in the lyrics. Honestly I think that’s all I really wanted, a way to keep a part of my friend alive where I could reach her. A song cannot change things or make them ok, but in singing it I could feel it where I needed it most. I like to think she would’ve liked it.

whod’ve thought that winter wouldn’t come we always thought it’d be there with it’s cold familiar sun and I just bought a brand new coat oh, did I look good in it ready to fight the cold but now it’s just a decoration hanging on the wall

every snow will turn to slush and turn to gray but nobody was thinking this when the blizzard finally came we threw open our doors rushed out in the freezing wind and though it only lasted for a day that’s all we needed we just wanted one more day

Rachel, I never meant to leave forever I guess I always thought you’d be there when I came home again no, I never said goodbye and I still don’t want to have to so I’m keeping you alive the best I can

well yes, you died in winter but still this song feels kind of pitiful as if some kind of metaphor could measure up to you but still I think you might’ve liked it probably would’ve done the same but you’d have screamed it like a banshee, all pissed hollow and naked before you turned around and sang it sweet enough to raise the dead

Rachel, I could say you’re the snow that never grays that it’s so easy to be innocent sitting pretty in a grave but you’re not the snow, you’re not a season you were an anxious angel bleeding, singing pretty over empty chords, unsure and always waiting for the demons you created, trying to turn it into gold and sometimes near succeeding, but you didn’t you were cut short and left your audience here standing, staring dumbly at an empty stage, trying to find some hidden meaning in the shattered broken bones all scattered random on the floor

in the shattered broken bones all scattered random on the floor more stories at

Subway Stories

by Gonzalo Silva

The Meaning

I went into the subway

by Gonzalo Silva The Meaning I went into the subway The Attraction When I was 9,

The Attraction When I was 9, I was mesmerized by a juggler performing outside Faneuil Hall in Boston. It was not the performance so much as the crowd he attracted with just a couple of bowling pins. At the end of his act, he flipped his fedora and collected dollar after dollar with a certain ease. While traveling through Spain with my family at age 11, we walked past a man jamming away on an electric guitar in the middle of a plaza. He seemed oblivious to the world around him despite the fact he was obnoxiously loud. I was transfixed. My parents had to drag me away. That was all I thought about for the rest of the trip. One time when I was a teenager visiting relatives in Chile, I spotted a guy strumming a flamenco guitar on a park bench. He was a bohemian, an alternative presence. He was

surrounded by friends and pretty girls and didn’t have a care in the world. I envied him.

It wasn’t until I enrolled into Berklee College of Music that

the idea of performing on the streets became an obsession. At the time, a singer/songwriter by the name of Mary Lou Lord was creating a buzz around town. She was known for playing outdoors and underground all over Boston and Cambridge. Donations never ceased to flow into her guitar case. When I heard a rumor that major record label executives were going into the subway to check her out, it was clear what I had to do.

The Messenger

I play bass. The electric bass, in my opinion, is the most

versatile instrument in the world. Unlike the piano, you can take it anywhere. What other instrument can you play a

to perform my songs with

the naïve notion I would

get discovered. Little did I know I would be doing the discovering. I’m a Taurus/Gemini. I don’t particularly follow astrology, but according

to what I’ve read, I fit the

profile. I’m supposedly stubborn and extreme. This tenacity might

explain why I’ve chosen and endured the life of

a street-musician. Had I

known in the beginning what the past ten years would be like, I might have gone to law school instead. Nonetheless, here I am.

I once told a guy what I did for a living, and the first

thing he said was, “You’re a ‘busker’.” Busker? No, “street- musician.” The word occasionally popped up, but I simply ignored it. To my ears, it sounded funny. I thought it was Old English. Busker. I found myself sometimes uttering the word with a Cockney accent. Not too long ago, I was browsing the Web when, out of boredom, I decided to look up ‘busker’. Sure enough, several

pages pertaining to the art of street performing appeared. To my surprise, hidden in a random page, I learned that busker

is derived from the obsolete French word ‘busquer’, which

means to search. I’m a searcher? What is a street-musician searching for? Spare change? Seemed like an odd word to designate what I thought was a straightforward pursuit. Looking back, I must concede, I’ve been “searching” all my life. Whatever compelled me to become a street- musician, came from an inherent tendency of jumping from one extreme to the other in search of what works for me. In all the time I’ve spent stubbornly pursuing my passion underground, I have also sampled countless books, philosophies, disciplines – you name it – in search of my identity. By now, with a pretty good idea of who I am, why I’m here, and where I’m going, I feel I have something to say. Also because we live in uncertain times and my fate as an artist has yet to be realized, I figured it would be wise to

record my soul. Just in case. This is my story.

single note on, or a single line motif, and truly make people dance? The most muscular instrument in an ensemble, it can pivot in any direction and assert the course of a jam. It’s half of the rhythm section, but it can also jump forward and solo. Always supportive, but can it be supported? You

can pluck it, pick it, pop it, slap it, strum it, do anything you want to it. If you can’t fully compose on it and accompany yourself with it, someone should tell me before it’s too late.

I love it.

towards my music. For starters, body language. I’ll take anything I can get down there. Whether it be a smile, a wink, a thumbs up, a gesture of silent applause, or even a shrug of the shoulders of those who wish they had spare change. I’ve had a handful of strangers walk by through the years who’ve given me a pat on the back. I’ve been hugged by men and women. One time, a woman paused me in the middle of a song and gave me the most thrilling kiss on the lips. Of course there’s no better expression of approval than full-on applause. Understandably it takes a bit to go out of one’s way to make noise in this sea of indifference, but when someone does, it’s greatly appreciated. It’s usually one person who sparks a flurry of claps amongst the timid. Once in a rare while the whole platform joins in chorus of hands, and everyone seems happy. I’ve acquired numerous tokens of appreciation: cards, notes, drawings, poems, photos, and sometimes the most

elaborate works of art expressing appreciation for the cause.

I once received a dozen roses inside a beautifully adorned

box. The roses were not real, but fashioned from poems she

wrote. I can’t begin to imagine the work she put into them. In the beginning, my naïveté did a good job of protecting me from negativity I would encounter down the road. Had

I been aware, I probably would have given up. Fortunately,

my blinders gave me a couple of years to get my feet wet before reality reared its ugly head. There is the roll of the eyes, the shaking of the head, the hands on the ears, the sudden retreat to the other end of the platform. The scowls, the cringing, the laughter. Yes, the laughter. There were times I would have rather been spit at than laughed at. And yes, that has happened too. I’ve been given the finger. I’ve been told to shut up. Some have yelled “you suck!” My favorite? “don’t give up your day job”. If they only knew it was my day job. No one has ever inflicted any significant pain towards me, but I have come close to experiencing the wrath of some highly disturbed people; schizophrenics yelling at the top of their lungs, among others. But just as many are afraid to express their gratitude, many are afraid to express their disdain. Those who speak out, usually do it under their breath and won’t

look me in the eye. The beautiful thing is, looking back, both extremes have always existed. No matter how hard I try, it has taken me this long to finally realize I can’t please everybody. With that realization comes freedom.

The First Time My first subterranean performance was on January 4, 1994, at Park Street station in Boston. The subway system, known in Boston as the T, is comprised of four lines: Red, Blue, Green, and Orange. Park Street, located in the center of town, is where the Red and the Green lines intersect. With connections to the other two lines, Park Street is always teeming with activity much like Times Square in NYC. There are three platforms on the Red line. The center platform between the inbound and outbound sides is the main stage of the underground scene. This prime real estate, which is rarely vacant, was where I nervously headed on my first day. I couldn’t bring myself to play there, so I went upstairs to the Green line in search of a less conspicuous location.

I settled on a small bench at the far end of the platform.

My knees were shaking. I took forever to set up my gear. Eventually I dove in with what I considered to be the best song of the few I had written so far. No reaction. I tried another tune. Nothing. I was about to quit, when a woman in front of me casually tossed a few coins into my case. Victory. I played on. I don’t remember how long I stayed, but I played each song more than once. In the end, I made a

total of $5. I was elated. I was hooked. In the beginning, what I heard inside my head was not necessarily what came out of my mouth. How I survived my first years underground, I don’t know. I’m a singer, because I’m a songwriter. My songs are my children. To keep them from being adopted, I’ve taken it upon myself to sing the best I can. I’m not a naturally gifted singer. Although I could have taken lessons, it is the self discovery of my voice that fulfills me. It is through the sheer repetition of my songs that I’ve acquired any proficiency.

The Good, the Bad and the Lovely Although I perform to a vast sea of indifference, I’ve had the pleasure and the pain of experiencing every imaginable reaction to my music. It goes with the territory. While the good has outweighed the bad, it only takes one person to dampen the day. Donations aside, I have been pleasantly surprised by the many different ways people have expressed their appreciation

surprised by the many different ways people have expressed their appreciation more stories at:

more stories at:

Rock the House!

by Darren Deicide

A new year is coming, and this is a sad issue of goodbyes before we start fresh in ’06…in every ending there is a new beginning as they say…” –Dave Cuomo, Issue #5

Sure, we took a beating at the end of ’05 with the shutting down of many great venues and the loss of great acts. But the lamenting is over! Hope you got it out of your system, everybody, because it’s time to start talking about those “new beginnings”. Now before you roll your eyes, turn the page, and poop out another turd in disgust at the notion of another opinion piece (yes, I read Urban Folk while I take a dump too…it’s ok), this rant and rave is aimed not solely at the musician. This also goes out to the audience…you the audience that truly appreciates and thrives off folk art…you who don’t settle for glossy pretentiousness in their music and only settle for raw energy and stripped-down talent…you who are sick and tired of mass production passing for creativity…you who think that our mass, corporate culture has gone too far in its quest for superficiality and thinks we need to return to simplicity and honesty. You are truly the connoisseurs of culture. How many times has this scenario happened to you? One of your favorite roots artists is playing at a New York City club. “Cool, now I have something to do on Thursday night other than trying to concoct some sort of new recipe out of these 6 year old noodles and this red pepper that has somehow turned brown,” you think. So you take the first train to the show and arrive on time. The crowd is a bit restraint, you notice, but you go with flow anyway. You order some beers and quickly pound a couple down in the hopes that things will loosen up. The first act goes on, and the crowd watches with a cold trepidation. “I bet I could’ve made something good out of that rotten pasta and vegetables,” you think. Damn, you’re hungry. So you order something and shovel that down fast. You’re favorite act goes on and puts on a killer performance. The crowd reluctantly clapped in some parts and laughed at a few jokes, but the show ends with you feeling like it was a mediocre experience at best. “I have CD’s for sale if anyone is interested,” your fav musician says. “Cool!” you think to yourself. You’ve been waiting for an opportunity to pick their CD up. You open your wallet…broke! “Holy crap! What happened to the $50 I came to the show with?!” And you didn’t even feel like it was really worth it. Well, after the door price, food, drinks, and tips, you figure that you did spend that much money. You go home wondering if the little bit of fun you had outbalanced the amount of money you lost. Musicians…how many times has this happened to you? You just landed a gig at a New York City club and feel like an opportunity landed right in your lap. “Right on,” you say. “Finally I can get some props for all those times I spent gigging at open mics. I’m finally playing a show where I’m

is more than this! You go home wondering if the little bit of

you is this $5.” “$5!!” you mentally scream. But you just turned out at least 20 heads that you are certain came from your friends and family. You even recall seeing all of them drinking and eating food from the venue. They didn’t come there because they love the food and drinks of the place. They came to see you! Besides, it cost you more than $5 hopping all the trains to get the gig, not to mention the night that you lost where you could’ve been working that crap shift at your wage-slaving job. One hour of minimum wage

for all these months. You play a blazing set despite the cold trepidation felt from the audience. “I have CD’s for sale if anyone is interested,” you say as you’d only expect donations for your homemade CD-R’s. Still, nobody buys any. The other musicians pull off equally great sets, but nothing seems to move the crowd in a meaningful way. “Well, I guess I should grab my door money and be on my way,” you say to yourself. “Next time I’ll get even more people out. This is only the beginning,” you encourage yourself. You go up to the proprietor to get your cut and he says, “Well, the turnout was a little lower than we expected, so all we got for

a great chance to show off what you’ve been talking about

and arrive on time. The crowd is a bit restraint, you notice, but you go with the flow anyway. Besides, a bunch of your friends and family showed up to cheer you on, so this will be

billed,” you think. So you take the first train to the show

fun you had outbalanced the amount of money you lost. Those who have been to an amazing roots show of any kind know that what this art form has to offer compared to other genres of music is that it creates genuine moments between a musician and an audience. Most other genres don’t do that. If you go to a dance club, there is barely any interaction between a DJ and the people on the dance floor. When you go to a hip-hop show, you’re either concentrating on the MC’s flow or you might be involved in a break dance cipher on the floor. When you go to a metal show, the deepest you may connect with an artist is by throwing the two pronged metal hand sign in the air and banging your head. But a great roots show is a different kind of atmosphere. A great roots show is made not by the musician…it really is made by the audience. Without that connection, a roots show can easily miss its full potential. At a great roots show an audience might be stomping their feet, clapping their hands, and the musician is fighting to be heard over their raucous. Sometimes at a great roots show an audience might be quietly and stoicly grabbing on to every word of the artist, as if the artist is saying something to them that they always knew was true, but never had the words to express. Coming from a roots-rock musician, let

me tell you non-musician audience members, we know when those moments happen. It’s something different in the air. It’s almost like you can taste or smell it. And that’s what I mean by connection. The great roots show is not made by the artist to be consumed by the audience. It is a moment created by everyone in the room. Those moments don’t happen all the time, but when they happen, they really do show what this music is all about. I have experienced those moments quite rarely in your typical New York City club. But I have experienced those moments more often than not at the house show…a cleared out living room, a cleared out basement, or a cleared out attic with a homemade bar, a packed room, and sometimes a potluck. The door price is low, and it has all the enmities of a New York club. There is no need for a PA because the venue is intimate enough where it’s completely unnecessary. We’re talking totally acoustic! Within blues, a whole culture was built around it called the “juke house” or the “juke joint”. Eventually, riverboat casinos and white entrepreneurs saw the profitability that the jukes had and seeing its potential they built their own establishments to grab those audiences. Eventually, the culture would be co-opted into these new venues, and the juke would exist as a side note for the more underground blues musician. The same happened with the advent of punk. Kids wanted rock music to go back to an original feel it had lost. They wanted it to be loud, fast, and they wanted it to rebel. So they had shows wherever they could, but mostly in basements and garages. The same thing happened again. Entrepreneurs saw what was going on and realized they once again missed the boat. So they signed up all the bands they could and built their own establishments and the basement and garage show was relegated back to being the place where underground bands developed themselves. Fast forward to the year 2006. Once again, there is a stranglehold on dominant culture, and not much seems to be exciting in mainstream music. Everything is overproduced and meaningless, and acts are manufactured and molded into preset ideas of what a quintessential music idol should be. A young generation feels alienated by all of this. There’s no connection to what concerns them, and they see right through the charade. So they want to go back to simple musicianship that speaks of the very real problems and anxieties that we face in the world right now. They save money and start to buy cheap, used and beat up acoustic guitars from pawn shops. On a rare occasion, a kid will revisit their love for some obscure instrument that their mom forced them to take lessons for, like an accordion. They spill their hearts out and sing from the gut. If their voice is gravely or raspy, well, that just adds character. Besides, the point is the heart not the standardized way of singing that’s being forced upon everyone. What I’m describing is what is a burgeoning scene that is rooted in a network of house venues. Some people call it roots-rock. Some call it folk-punk. I’ve even heard it called “neo-roots” music. Whatever it is, it is folk music all the way. But this scene has discovered something that I feel our New York City-based roots music community

has not: the power of the house show. I sincerely believe that the moments that I was describing earlier in this article that rarely happen, but are the essence of roots music, rarely happen because most of the time that we play clubs, we’re bending over and getting screwed really good by people who don’t care about this art form. They only care about how they can make their pockets fat by using musicians who are desperately looking for any outlet for what they wholeheartedly believe in. And how are we supposed to lighten up, have fun, and connect to this music when we know this is going on? Everyone is getting the folked out screw…audience and artist alike. I don’t want to go to a show and drop $50 only to realize that the show wasn’t that good. I don’t want to play a show knowing that the venue is running out the backdoor with my audience’s good-willed financial support. But there is an alternative. We can do what the jukes did and the punks in the basements and garages did. We can connect to the house show network. When I go to a typical house show I can expect a no more than $5 cover, and I can expect the majority of that money going to the artists.

I can also expect booze and food. If there’s none there, I

can dip to the corner store and get my own and bring it in.

I can expect an atmosphere that fosters what roots music

needs… a lax sense of community, and a genuine and deep

connection between the audience and artist, so much so that I can expect to be blown away at least once by a performance. And if we do this as a scene, the NYC clubs will take notice and will have to pander to our buzz, much in the same way

it happened with juke joints and the basement punk show. If

they refuse to be fair about how musician and audience alike are treated, then we can create a competitive market that

will force them to be fair, because if they aren’t, we will pull their support base “rug” right from under their feet. “Alright Deicide, so you think the house show is the way to go huh?” you may question. “Well, how come you ain’t doin it yourself, you hypocrite? See, it’s not as easy as you thought huh?” Actually, it is pretty easy. All you really need to do is talk to your neighbors and hand them your phone number, so they call you instead of the police if there’s a problem. Then clear a sizeable room out, make some flyers, and send out some emails. That’s really all it takes. And, I am doing it, smarty pants nay-sayers. Soon, I will be doing PA-less shows in Jersey City at my house, and

I hope to really make it a place where people can enjoy great roots shows. In fact, this summer, I’m planning on putting together the 4 th Roots N Rock Whiskey Party but with a twist. I think it’s gonna be converted into a summer BBQ. So cmon! Let’s rock the house.

Judge, Jury and Executioner

Reviews by Alec Wonderful


Reviews by Alec Wonderful JUANBURGUESA Kinesis alec wonderful; self portrait worth. Who knows when Berger
Reviews by Alec Wonderful JUANBURGUESA Kinesis alec wonderful; self portrait worth. Who knows when Berger
Reviews by Alec Wonderful JUANBURGUESA Kinesis alec wonderful; self portrait worth. Who knows when Berger
Reviews by Alec Wonderful JUANBURGUESA Kinesis alec wonderful; self portrait worth. Who knows when Berger
Reviews by Alec Wonderful JUANBURGUESA Kinesis alec wonderful; self portrait worth. Who knows when Berger

alec wonderful; self portrait

worth. Who knows when Berger could again earn that 37 cents?), he keeps going on for measure after measure, while the band struggles to find the end of his spiel, so they can transition into the chorus. And it doesn’t even seem like the lyrics of verse one connects to verse two. I mean, they’re all about love gone wrong, and the use of technology to rectify the situation, but is that a narrative? None that I can see. Abouthalfthetrackssufferfromthatlevelofdisconnection. They’re words from the writer’s short-attention span canon that have been sewn together to create song-length works of art, but the stitches are completely visible to any and all. The stronger tracks are those that maintain a singular identity, like “Wendy” and “Yes,” coincidentally, the only two tracks that maintain any rhyme scheme whatsoever. Two other tracks are worthy of note. One is the aforementioned “Gingerbread Man,” which is the only song on the album that is sentimental, and entirely devoid of what Berger might claim was “humor.” Also recommended is the snaky and insidious “Preteen Girls,” which somehow evades

admitting anything that is blatantly illegal, but it still just wrong. There is an excellent marriage of lyrics to music on that one, even if it sounds vaguely familiar. But then again,

I have heard most everything under the sun. After all, I am

a genius. But maybe that’s the problem. Could I be reviewing this record by the wrong standards? I mean, this is only the debut release of this poor young kid, and here I am, judging it by the Wonderful Yardstick. I wonder why people would bother with anything less than my art, but they still buy records by Eminem, the Stones, and Mozart, so there’s no accounting for taste. Who knows? Maybe I’m just out of touch, and this kind of thing is the voice of a new generation, the art that everyone in the world will unaccountably love. No, it’s just crap.

I like Jon Berger. He’s a nice enough kid; servile,

obsequious, smart enough not to argue with me; I respect that in a journalist. I even like his poetry – sometimes. He’s clever, and occasionally funny (of course, that doesn’t mean his words bear up to repeat listening. I mean, once you’ve heard the joke, what more is there

to get?). I’ll occasionally go out – in disguise, of course

– to see his gigs (he calls what he does stand-up poetry,

or ADD art, or performance poetry), and I have a good enough time. I consider it a mitzvah to do good for others,

to be supportive in this community that I virtually created. Sometimes, I even learn something. In fact, I learned something listening to his debut recording with his band, JUANBURGUESA, called Kinesis.

I learned that just because someone’s a poet doesn’t make

him a lyricist – even if he rhymes. Jonathan Berger’s style is a breathless rant, full of sound and fury, signifying loneliness. It’s energetic, and somewhat spastic, and comes out in tiny spurts, as if he needs to get all the related thoughts out before catching breath. It is not, to say the least, rhythmic. The band is. JUANBURGUESA, made up of all former AntiFolk regulars Andrew Heller (from the Heller Theory), Sanjay Kaul (from Lunchin’), and Aashish Pathak (from the Heller Theory, Lunchin’, and Size), are a pretty tight group, both live and in the studio – where it’s much easier to pull off cohesion. Here, on Kinesis, they walk the line between rock and funk, creating a style that could perhaps be called frounk, but, in the final analysis, probably shouldn’t. They create good music you can tap your toes to and perhaps want to steal (too late, though; I already did). They sound good, and make stylistic jaunts into coffee house jazz (on “Go Man Go”), 50’s-style ballads (“Tina’s Song”), and atmospheric folk (“Gingerbread Man”). More often, they adhere to the party line of party pop, creating music to groove to,

and what is placed powerfully above it? The whining white-boy arrhythmia of a Mister Jonathan Berger, who

keeps talking and talking, no matter where the beat is.

I swear, on the Primus-influenced “Modern Technology”

(I say ‘influenced,’ but I just hope that Les Claypool never hears the track, else he sues JUANBURGUESAfor all they’re

say ‘influenced,’ but I just hope that Les Claypool never hears the track, else he sues

Undisputed Heavyweights:

greatness. But it’s all a ridiculous sham, isn’t it? The biggest room they’ve played so far is Southpaw, which, no mistake is a larger, more prestigious room than the upstairs’ space at Pianos or the Sidewalk Café, where they debuted over a year ago. But superstars? Come on. There’s an interview on their website with Eric Clapton, about his former involvement with the band. It’s fake; I checked. I asked Clapton while verifying quotes on my memoir piece in Urban Folk’s last issue. He has no idea who they are. So who are they to have such pretensions of greatness? What kind of sick little minds would go to such effort to give their ego such reign over their promotion? It’s sad, really, Sad, and delusional. They’re songs aren’t bad, though. “Roll Your Windows Down”? Good tune. Nice harmony. I could have written it. Coming up this year, there should be more than this two- song thing with some interview at the end. Maybe by then, they’ll give up all this ridiculous behavior, and just play the damn songs.

all this ridiculous behavior, and just play the damn songs. Past, Present, Future, Domination I

Past, Present, Future, Domination I just don’t get it. The Undisputed Heavyweights, made up of Wes Verhoeve, Jeff Jacobson, and Casey Shea, have this whole gimmick about being the greatest thing in the world. Their website is (Bigger than Elvis would make more sense; even at his peanut butter and banana biggest, Elvis didn’t weigh as much as the three guys in the group combined). They write lounge- inflected acoustic pop material, some of which come from

their individual songwriting careers, and some from their collaborative efforts. It’s fine enough, though really, their charm is strongest in performance, where Casey Shea plays rockstar while the whole outfit (occasional adding a rhythm section to the mix) suits up to perform sophisticated pop. But the name, the website, their entire shtick is about how great and famous and superior they are. I don’t get what they hope to accomplish with that. I mean, sure, it’s fun to play a room the size of Rockwood and scream out, “Hello, New

York!” Maybe there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of

there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of
there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of
there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of
there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of

undisputed heavyweights

there’s even some psychological benefit for the fans to think that they’re in the presence of

On Trial Travels

by Ricki C.

Ricki C., is a singer-songwriter from Columbus, OH who goes on the road with Ed Hamell, and sometimes writes about it.

March 1996 Austin, TX

I first encountered the phenomenon that is Hamell On

Trial at the South By Southwest Music Convention in Austin, Texas, March 1996, at a huge outdoor Mercury Records showcase (10,000 people in the street on a gorgeously warm Texas afternoon/evening). Ed was signed to Mercury then, Big As Life had just been released, and they were using him to keep the crowd occupied between the other performers’ sets. While roadies scurried around changing out amps, drums, etc. Ed would play from the very front of the stage, maybe five songs at a time, three sets in all. From the very first dive bomber kamikaze guitar strums and the staccato spitting delivery of the best lyrics I had heard in years it was rock & roll love at first sight. The next day I lucked into seeing him at a really, really small coffeehouse in his allotted South By Southwest slot. I was there to see the act following him and had arrived early to snag a good

seat. While Ed was setting up I thought to myself, “Cool, this is the guy I saw yesterday at the outdoor show, but how the hell is he going to play this tiny coffeehouse? He’ll have to tone the act down so far it won’t work.” Only he didn’t tone it down. He played a fifty-seat coffeehouse at exactly the same manic intensity and nearly the same volume he played the huge outdoor show. People walked out of the place holding their ears during the first song. I, of course, was in six-string sonic heaven. This was everything I had been looking for since I quit playing in bands and started doing solo acoustic shows: extreme volume and attitude, great lyrics, a sense of humor. This was fiercely intelligent rock & roll played on an acoustic guitar with no hint of lingering folkie kum-ba-yah-ism. He played for about a half-hour at that breakneck go-for- broke pace, doing a lot of the same songs he had played the previous day. And just when I was almost ready to write him off as really, really good but as something of a punk novelty act, Ed paused, looked at the audience and said very simply, “This is a song for my mother.” He strummed into “Open Up The Gates,” one of the warmest, most beautiful sentiments I have ever heard anytime, anywhere from any songwriter, let alone from this bald, sweating punk madman.

I was floored. I looked at the total stranger next to me

whom I had been talking to a little before the show and his mouth was literally hanging open. I said, “Can you believe this song from this guy?” and he just shook his head no, he couldn’t even speak. Then after the song (which, kinda typically for Ed, manages to threaten God in the midst of a heartfelt tribute to his mother) he roared into “The Meeting” and it was over. I tell you all of this just to point out that, as

transfixed as I was by the music, I was cringingly afraid to

go up to the guy to tell him how much I had enjoyed his set. The Hamell On Trial stage act is that of a madman and Ed plays that part well.

I saw him again in March 1997 at South By Southwest.

He had a whole set of new songs potentially even better than the ones I saw him play just a year earlier. (including “The Vines,” the song that ended my 20-year career of warehouse work and sent me into music full-time.) In August of ‘97 he played Columbus and I cadged my way onto the bill as the

opening act. I got to the club early, watched his soundcheck, screwed up my courage and walked up to him as he was packing up his guitar. I held up my CD covers to Big As Life and The Chord Is Mightier Than The Sword and said, “Hi, I’m your opening act and I just wanted to get the gushing fan stuff out of the way. Could you autograph these for me?”

I was fully poised, balanced back on my heels, ready to

take off if he growled, “Motherfucker, do you think I don’t

have anything better to do than sign your little CDs?” Instead he smiled and said, “Ah, you got my CDs. Do people know who I am here?”

I said, “Yeah, you get airplay on our local NPR station, I think it’ll be a good crowd.”

I thanked him and started to walk away after he signed

and he said, “Hey, come on back to the dressing room and we’ll talk.”

I replied, “No, I don’t wanna bother you.” (First rule of opening acts - Never bug the headliner.)

Ed said, “I’m in that car eight hours a day, every day, by myself, I never get to talk to anybody, come on back.”

I looked around. “Don’t you have a roadie?” I asked. “Do I look like I can afford a roadie?”

It turns out we bought all the same records in all the same

years (Lou Reed, MC5, Stooges, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, Mott The Hoople, the New York Dolls). We’d both seen The Who in their prime, ‘68/’69 when Moon ruled the world. We lived very similar rock & roll existences (i.e. played in bands for years, then going solo acoustic). We had the same kind of working-class reprobate rocker friends - him in Syracuse,

New York, me in Columbus, Ohio. When he was going onstage that night I said, “Hey, I’ve seen you play before. I know you’re gonna break strings. Why don’t you show me where your extra strings and tuner are and I’ll switch them out for you if anything goes wrong.” He just stared back at me and said, “Really?” “Yeah, doesn’t your opening act offer that wherever you go?” Ed said, “No, nobody ever offers anything, anytime.”

I played roadie that night. I helped out around the Midwest after that. When the Ani Difranco tours came up I got a tryout and made the grade. I stuck around.

October 1999 Gettysburg, PA It’s the second night of Ed’s first tour with Ani Difranco.

It’s a little 3-date tryout that leads to longer tours with Ani and eventually culminates in Ed being signed to Righteous Babe Records, Ani’s label. (By the way, for those of you scoring at home, I’ve been involved in music as either a guitarist or roadie since 1968 and have never met anyone in the music business nicer than Ani Difranco.) We’re sitting in Ed’s dressing room after his opening set. Ed’s toweling off sweat and I’m making a peanut butter sandwich for dinner before I head out to the merch table and

suddenly feel very unglamorous and un-rock & roll. “Somewhere right this very minute Oasis is snorting cocaine off groupies’ stomachs and I’m making a peanut butter sandwich.” I say to Ed, “I’m not sure this is how the big-time rock & roll tour is supposed to go.” “No, I like this.” Ed replies, “We’re not cool.” I’m enormously heartened, I go back to my sandwich.


August 2001 Chicago, Illinois Ed plays Schuba’s. The show goes ballistic, as

it so often does at Schuba’s. Great sound, a clued-

in crowd, all the stars align, it’s a killer night. After merch I’m packing gear and the crowd of well-wishers that always forms post-show boils down to one 20-something kid. He wants to help pack gear, which I always hate because I don’t want amateurs fucking with the equipment. I’m sorry to come off like Mr. Pro Roadie here, but the guitars and amps are precious to me and you wouldn’t let Hitler baby- sit your kids, would you? Anyway, the kid hits us up for a ride when we’re leaving. He says his friends took off without him since he stayed to talk to us, intimating that it’s somehow our fault he’s stranded. I point out the El is still running, but of course he’s broke. We’re tired, we’ve gotta drive all the way back to Columbus, then do a radio interview in Cincinnati the next morning, the kid lives in the opposite direction, but Ed’s a sucker for a sob story, so off we go. We tell him before we leave that we don’t know Chicago; that we’re dropping him at the bottom of his freeway exit, then getting right

back on, that we are not taking him to his door and he agrees. Of course the drive he claims will take 10 minutes is more like 40. I’m fuming, Ed’s even

a little pissed. The kid lives closer to Wisconsin

that to Schuba’s. And, of course, when we finally exit it’s a fucking ghetto. The kid asks us to run him all the way home because he doesn’t feel safe here. “Hey, it’s your neighborhood,” I say, “deal with it.” I pull into an open gas station with a pay phone and the kid whines, “It’s only another 10 minutes.” There’s something about the repetition of the ten minute lie that seals the deal and Ed, notoriously soft touch that he is, tells the kid to call a cab if he’s that scared. As we pull out of the gas station the kid is walking to the phone under the baleful gaze of two black thugs blasting DMX from a Dodge SUV. “He’s going to be killed, isn’t he?” Ed asks. “Oh yeah, he’s a dead man.” I reply as I gun the rental car onto the freeway and we head home. He brought it on himself. Sometimes it’s cold in Chicago, even in August.

All material © 2004 by Ric Cacchione, all rights reserved.

More stories at: All material © 2004 b y R i c Cacc hi one,
Get in the Minivan by Brook Pridemore

Get in the Minivan

by Brook Pridemore

This month I traveled to Mountainside Studios, in Mt. Pocono, PA, to begin/complete work on my The Reflecting Skin, my “difficult” third album of original songs for Crafty Records.

This is not traveling in the sense I’m used to. Stuffing a bunch of crap in an overnight bag, driving all over creation in a cramped minivan, night after night dropping into progressively crazier bars, houses and used cardboard box stores: I can do this. Endless cans of gross, generic beer, days on end without a shower or kitchen, broken strings, bleeding fingers, catching a random throat oyster in my mouth while I’m singing: all worth the effort in order to meet a few new kids who get what I’m doing. Holed up in this Fortress of Solitude, day after day, banging out the same chords, words and melodies over and over again until everything is note/letter perfect? Not what I’m used to. First of all, there’s the waiting. Rich Rescigno, owner, proprietor and sole staff member of Mountainside likes to do rough mixes between takes, in order to get a clear sound of what the final recording will sound like. While this is a helpful rubric, it also adds up to a lot of sitting there, playing air guitar and going, “Can I sing now? How about now? Now?” I moved to New York to play music, but there’s another reason: Subconsciously, I never felt comfortable growing up in the turtle-paced Midwest, where leisure time is paramount to all other aspects of life. Like an ADD kid with a sugar buzz, I have to always be going and doing about a hundred things at once. This is very conducive to touring in a van, where you’re pretty much always sitting, but somehow always moving. At the studio, it seemed like we’d barely get one vocal done before somebody’d be calling for a lunch break. By about the third day there, the local Chinese delivery lady knew my order by heart, but still seemed befuddled by all of my specifications. (Doesn’t everybody order General Tso’s Tofu in Mt. Pocono?) Steve Seck spent the first weekend with me, laying down his accordion parts over my unaccompanied voice and guitar (this is another slap to my face: studio albums are typically recorded one instrument at a time). Overnight, we each became obsessed with Larry the Cable Guy and old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, debating who was the better host, what was the best episode, etc. Steve told me that the last time he visited our native Detroit, he couldn’t seem to get away from people in t-shirts bearing Larry’s signature phrase, “Get ‘er Done!” This revelation made me realize that I’d left Detroit almost ten years ago. I’d think time would pass slowly in such an isolated situation. I had the place to myself (or with whoever was there for the night) after Rich went home, but he keeps his studio stocked with entertainment: Digital cable, plenty of

DVDs and Playstation.

When I was there in 2004 to record First Name/





there in 2004 to record First Name/ even Last Name, Rich left us a porno DVD,

left us a porno DVD, but I don’t think anyone got use out of it. Time passes in a weird way at Mountainside. On one hand, there’s the waiting, the sitting, the breaks for lunch, the watching TV, the same bed night after night, all the things I’m not used to. On the other hand, there’s all this endless stimuli, a new decision to make every few minutes. Time flies while you’re sitting around doing nothing. My friends the Ghost Mice came all the way from Bloomington, IN for the last day of recording. Chris and Hannah have been making music for over ten years in one band or another, but neither of them had ever been in a “fancy” studio. I got a huge kick out of getting one of my favorite bands to come be on my album, and I think they got a huge kick out of playing on the session. One of the last nights of recording, I came up from the basement studio to find Dan Costello, Steve Seck and Andrew Hoepfner singing a ramshackle sea shanty they’d apparently made up out of thin air. The song caught Rich’s ear, and he suggested we put it all together and make a lo-fi recording. Using David LK Murphy’s laptop, Dan, Steve, Andrew, David, Dan Treiber and I belted out a verse each of blue/inane pirate humor. Arguably some of the most pointless music ever set to tape, this is probably my favorite snapshot moment of the experience: A bunch of kids making their own fun to break the tedium. I am very happy with the outcome of the Reflecting Skin sessions, and, although it doesn’t make for very exciting storytelling, I’m thankful I got to be there.

Paul’s Perspective

the never ending story

by Paul Alexander

The first question most people ask me these days is “Where the f#@k is the album!?!” A fair enough question, as I have indeed been working on said “masterpiece” for what is going on a full calendar year, and talking about it

for even longer. So, after selecting songs, writing new ones, bickering incessantly with my producer, recording backing tracks, hiring musicians, re-recording backing tracks, accepting that my producer does know best, singing lead vocals, taking voice lessons with Don Lawrence (expensive

– but worth it!), and re-recording lead vocals, I have still yet to complete my album. That’s right. As of this moment in time I have finished all the “tracking:” Tambourine parts 1-4 have been laid down, the kazoo solo in track 6 has been ironed out, and all of my hidden messages have been imbedded into the songs, and yet, there’s more to do! How can that be, you ask? There’s no good excuse, but there are some real reasons it’s taken me so long. First off, had I paid for this album by the hour, not only would I never have been able to afford the amount of time I’ve spent in the studio, but I probably would have been finished with the entire project in a matter of a month or so — which, in hindsight, seems like a better option. That said, since I paid my producer one flat rate for whatever amount of time it takes to complete the album, I have been both blessed and cursed with the privilege of placing my project on a Chris Martin-esque schedule. From second- guessing certain performances to questioning my choice of songs, producer, and musical contributors at times, and basically allowing perfectionism coupled with the fact that our perspective inevitably changes with the passing of time,

I have wasted entirely too much time and effort making

changes to an album I would only later go back to change

again. I have been to accept my tracks as they are, failing to recognize that they will serve as a “snap shot” in time

if I just let them be.

Besides that, I have also been so wrapped up in the music that I have let other details surrounding the creation of an actual album slip by me. It’s not that from the beginning I didn’t give endless hours of thought to the fact that album art has often defined some of my favorite albums, it’s just that, for all my sketches and brainstorms and conversations with artists and graphic designers, no design has yet felt like it “fit.” So, because of the same perfectionism that has left me undecided between such titles as Once Around the Sun, Call it Good, Who I am, and Still Life, even after my album has been mastered and is ready to be pressed, I’ve still got innumerable decisions to make before it can be released. Finally – and this my last excuse now – despite saving

money on production, a substantial day job, in order to do my mastering with Benjy’s good friend, the Grammy-winning mastering engineer Scott Hull, pay a graphic designer, get some new photos taken, and then pressing copies of the final product, I am left in dire need of more capital, more bread, more currency, more money — you get the idea? So, if you want to make a donation to support the cause, feel free to contact me through my website. Otherwise, just check out a show – one of these days, it’ll be my album release party. It’s not that I’ve hated all of the time I’ve spent working and reworking and reworking my album; I’ve actually had a really good time. Spending so many hours with my producer has proven invaluable, as Benjy King has become more a friend and mentor than a producer. I suppose the biggest reason I haven’t finished this endeavor is because I try to live by the sentiment that once Miles Davis expressed: “The joy is in the pursuing, not in the attaining.” Yet, as my now- mentor Benjy has taught me well, as selfish an undertaking as creating an album can be (and a “solo album” at that!), albums are made for the listener even more so than for artist. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks for continuing to ask me about how the f#@king album is going… it’s been so long I’m glad you still care. And despite the fact that this album has taken me “once around the sun” and provided all of you Urban Folk readers and “Crowin’ at the Creek” regulars what seems like a never ending story, I promise to do my best to find a way to enjoy releasing this album as much as I have had making it, and get it to all of you as soon as possible.

releasing this album as much as I have had making it, and get it to all

Puzzle Contest

Puzzle Contest with puzzle editor Deborah T.
Puzzle Contest with puzzle editor Deborah T.

with puzzle editor Deborah T.


1. The Cover-Ed












































































































































2. Anti-conventionalist, wanderer -Or- Slacker?

3. It’s Free for You and Me!

4. Shared Environment

5. Anxiety About the World or About Personal Freedom (Common Theme in # 22)

6. Non-commercial Publication

7. Performers Frequent Them

8. End of Set Sound… Hopefully

9. Refrain

10. (Staff Writer) Paul Always Seems to Have One

11. Lyric Poet, in Medieval Times; #1 May Be a Contemporary Example

12. This is the Sixth One

13. The work of Jon Berger or Belowsky (or Belowski, or Bellowsky, or…)

14. Justifiable Self-Respect, No Less! (A Last Name in AntiFolk)

15. Crowning Achievement

16. Sibling Taunt: “I’m Not Review-ee

17. # 9’s Counterpart

18. Ineffably Delightful Musical Duo (Hopefully You “Saw” The Feature)

19. Debut of a Recording, Often Accompanied by a Party

20. A Glimpse Behind the Lyrics

21. Our Transit Tales Feature

22. Music Genre: Originally, Antiestablishment; Typically, Frank and Abrasive

23. What We Want From You… In the Form of:

” -Or- One CD

A. Your Money. Buy Ads!

B. Your Time. Write Something!

C. Your Love. Keep Reading!

24. Now, If You Think You’re Right, Send Your Solution to Deborah T, the Puzzle


1. Read Urban Folk! Seriously. -No, seriously …I mean it.

2. Take a few stabs at the clues, and THEN try to find those words. –Mental stabs!

3. Make sure you find the ENTIRE answer in the puzzle. -Check for plurals too.

4. Clues can be found backwards and diagonal. -In addition to the “baby” way.

5. Work in pencil. -Or carefully with a highlighter… ‘cause it’s prettier!

6. Work with your friends or your band. -We can always have a group thing

7. Be a winner! -Or, if that’s not possible, just solve the puzzle correctly & get interviewed in Issue # 7.

the puzzle correctly & get interviewed in Issue # 7. the rules: be the first person

the rules:

be the first person to email or snail mail (submissions handed to us in person will not be accepted) the completed puzzle to, or 306 Jefferson St. 1R Brooklyn, NY 11237

the prize:

be featured here! You will be interviewed by Deborah T. and win a short feature in the next issue of

Urban Folk

We have a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a
We have a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a
We have a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius

We have a Winner!

We have a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius

Out with the Bad Habits

In with Brian Mathius

a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a mild January evening.
a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a mild January evening.
a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a mild January evening.
a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a mild January evening.
a Winner! Out with the Bad Habits In with Brian Mathius It’s a mild January evening.

It’s a mild January evening. I meet Brian Mathias at Odessa Restaurant on Avenue A. He orders the pierogies. I get tea. There is the rumble of thickly-accented conversations on all sides. There is the cash register zinging behind us. There is the server coming over to check on us every 10 minutes …every time, it seems, that Brian is mid-answer. One time, she comes to ask if he would like more pierogies, and he thinks she’s asking him if he’d like cocaine… It must be the noise. Brian is calmly smiling in the corners of his mouth. He’s soft-spoken. He rambles like ivy when you get him started. He tears napkins into teeny, tiny pieces. We get started.

He tears napkins into teeny, tiny pieces. We get started. DT: So, they wouldn’t get you

DT: So, they wouldn’t get you a keyboard?

BM: No, no, they did. But they really wanted me to use

I messed around on it for a while, but it

wasn’t… I mean, guitar you can really teach yourself. I was in like sixth grade I think, when I got the keyboard. I was into the Beastie Boys and Run DMC, and I was like putting the beats on. I was making up little raps with the keyboard. DT: Do you remember any of the songs that you wrote, or subject matters you dealt with? BM: I think I was just talking about other kids in the sixth grade. And, I had this crush on this girl. And, I had some beef with another guy. I was probably posturing, and y’know, doing whatever you think is cool in sixth grade. I don’t know… DT: So, is there any of that influence in your music now? BM: Well, there’s not much posturing, and there’s not a lot of beef in my music, now… I think it’s a little more introspective and sorrowful, now. I’m pretty confident that I don’t try and impress anyone when I write music. It’s a pretty honest process for me.

it, and I did

You read it here, Urban Folk readers; Brian Mathias is off the (metaphorical) beef, off the (imaginary) cocaine, off the alcohol, and duly off the sugar. However, he can still tear into a good napkin.

DT: Brian, you have just returned to New York to give music a go. How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it? BM: Like acoustic folk/rock/blues… Those are the three genres that I generally give people. And I’m, you know, a singer-songwriter, who blends those three genres because those are my main influences. DT: Do you have any bad habits… besides tearing up napkins? BM: One of the things that terrified me about moving back into the city was that all the bad habits I did have would be tempted… and magnified… and multiplied. DT: What sorta habits are we talking about here, Brian? BM: You know, just partying. DT: …Cocaine? BM: Pierogies! It was pierogies that I was doing! Um… (Silence) So, I quit drinking, which has been really good for me. Not that I was out of control drinking, it was just… well, there’s so much opportunity and so much potential for good in New York, and growing… But, there’s also opportunity for screwing up. So, I made a pact with myself, that I was gonna quit drinking before I moved to the city. That’s been really good. But it’s funny, as soon as I quit drinking, I developed this horrible sweet-tooth, …and I swear, I swear …I didn’t drink every day, or anything …but I started eating sugar every day… LOTS of it. So, now I’ve had to quit sugar, because I quit drinking… it’s becoming like a terrible cycle. DT: Right, so what’s gonna replace sugar? BM: Tearing napkins… It’s like plugging a dam with your fingers… You put a finger in the dam, and you know, somewhere else the water starts comin’ out, so… DT: Did you grow up with music in the house? Did your parents expose you to music as a child? BM: Yeah, my brothers …I have two older brothers, and they were always bringing it home. My mother actually sings in the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. But, in terms of playing music, I kind of had to find it. I made attempts, you know. I begged my parents for a keyboard, and they were convinced I wasn’t gonna use it or something…

CD reviews

CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective
CD reviews send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237 by the editorial collective

send your cd to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237

by the editorial collective

The Bowmans Far From Home The Bowmans have a lot to live up to on this album, having played these songs around the city for the last year, fans are expecting a certain aching beauty comparable to their live show from the recording. The key to their sound has always been the striking harmonies that Claire brings to Sarah’s melodies. They have a contemporary poppy folk sound combined with a bit of an artsy flair. The songs are catchy, usually fairly soft and easy in the melodies, but fun where they need to be, lightening up just enough to keep the ear from becoming fatigued over the course of the album. Both of the sisters are excellent singers, and Sarah holds her own as a writer and arranger. Pretty songs occasionally become amazingly beautiful such as on the room silencing breakdown to “The Kitchen Song,” which was inspired by her background in classical music including an understanding of Gregorian Chant. All at once the music stops and Sarah’s lonely vocals float delicately out alone before Claire joins in with an ancient churchlike lift that slowly rises back into the rhythm of the song. They sound their most natural when backed up by a simple acoustic arrangement, perfectly complimenting the sound of their voices. It is the difficulty of music like this that despite how pretty it might be, to be content to stick to slow acoustic songs with lush harmonies would become redundant. Fortunately they balance out the soft beautiful moments with catchy upbeat tracks that are enjoyable and carry the album along. The production is well done especially considering that Sarah learned the necessary engineering and mixing skills on the fly to complete the album mere hours before their last tour. The arrangements contain instruments and layering too numerous to pick out much of the time, but it is put together tastefully, without getting in the way of the songs and the singing. Whether or not all of the layering adds to the songs, is difficult to say. The songs are striking enough on their own that I’m inclined to think that they are best when left bare, again though it helps to keep the album moving forward to see them trying different things. The fact that their back up band was composed of friends such as Alex Lowry, JD Benjamin of the Creaky Boards, Osei Essed and Will Orzo of the Woes, Peter Hess of The Greek embassy, Jeff Jacobson of the Undisputed Heavyweights, all talented musicians and songwriters in their own right, helps the feeling of raw inspiration on the album, as friends coming together can bring out the best ideas in each other. This is an inspired album showcasing great songs performed excellently, retaining a sense of fun and fresh creativity wrapped up in a mature sounding production. That fact that they do all this with an independent spirit not waiting

for labels or agents to begin booking national tours and promoting, instead always working harder than they should have to doing it themselves, only adds to the allure and their chances of success.

Brian Bergeron The Closer EP Full of smart arrangements and bold dynamic changes, Brian Bergeron leads listeners through a musical journey on this ambitious EP. Brain may believe as he states in “Time Is On Our Side,” that “I don’t have the kind of voice for this song,” yet his voice is as rock solid as the album’s cover art throughout the EP’s five well written compositions. The guitar work by Brian’s co-producer, Andy Renault, does much to move the songs along, and behind Bergeron’s memorable melodies, this short work more than makes up for its limited track number, by replaying itself in your head hours after your last listen. Nevertheless, beautiful backing vocals and competent hand drums aside, anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing Brian Bergeron live during his ever so brief residency in the New York City area, knows without hearing a note of this recording, that it is Brian, with his own passionate guitar work that helps quickly draw audiences to a song like “Speed,” and as Brian is returning to Boston all too soon, for the time being at least, this EP is all The Closer to Brian’s captivating live presence anyone here in New York is going to get.

h ere in New York is going to get. Brook Pridemore The Reflecting Skin What

Brook Pridemore The Reflecting Skin What has Brook Pridemore done this time? Only made the best album of his career. This may be no great stretch, of course. “Metal and Wood is basically stuff I don’t play anymore, but people in Michigan seem to like it. First Name/Last Name isn’t bad, but this one…” The Reflecting Skin, Pridemore’s latest, is a big sprawl of a record; chock full of 11 songs, all of which have been heard throughout New York and Pridemore’s hundreds of touring destinations. All these songs exist here with full arrangements from strange players, including the usual suspects (David LK Murphy, Toby Goodshank, Dan Costello, Andrew Hoepfner) as well as Mountainside Studio regulars and Indiana idols the Ghost Mice (most notably on the subtle “Sensormatic.”) All of the typical Pridemore strengths are

here: crazy energy, desperate sentiment, opaque lyrics, but added to the mix are instrumentation, arrangement, sonic

offerings unparalleled in his past. It fleshes out his material, and consistently makes the album much stronger. “Hand in Hand (Foot in Mouth)” has a glorious Replacements moment in the chorus. Paul Westerberg’s sense of mid- western desperation clearly means something to Pridemore, as evidenced by the following “Someone Else’s Life is Hanging Over my Head on a String.” “I’ll be Here All Night” is beautiful, with a barbershop quartet of AntiFolk artists, “John Darnielle,” named in honor of the songwriter inspiring the song, shuffles along with more drive than usual, leading directly into “The Fake Joie/DBG Song.” Pridemore has been a standard-bearer of the DIY spirit as long as he’s been in New York, but with The Reflecting Skin, he forgoes DIY for DIT (Do It Together), collaborating with a growing cast, building a larger community of artists. This would be

a good thing, even if the album weren’t – but it is. It’s real good.

Grey Revell

Little Animals The first song Grey Revell played in New York was “The Crows,” featuring the memorable line, “There’s no telling where we’re going; there’s no telling where we’ve been.” Since then, Revell’s been a bunch of places. With a nouveau SoCal style, Revell was born and bred in the suburbs of LA. He left New York three years back to return to his roots, and yet, has never recorded an album in his hometown. Revell, along with his AntiFolk songstress wife Patsy Grace, lived in another LA (New Orleans) until they got a little concerned about the weather. It was in that Big Easy city that Revell recorded Little Animals, his fifth release, and the first with every single sound recorded and produced alone in home four-track studio, while his family slept mere yards away. This is a family production. His wife designed the CD package. His son’s fingerprints are throughout the release. Revell’s lyrics, always atmospheric and imagistic, now seem more mature, more resigned, as if written through the haze of fatherhood. This is the most mature album of Revell’s career. His vocal delivery seems tired, melancholy. There painstaking effort put into every single sound on the minimal Little Animals. The poignancy throughout the title track and “The Devil’s Boots Don’t Creak?” Moving. Powerful. Bittersweet. “Redesign me?” Heartbreaking, and

a little scary. Immediately followed by the Big Star (Alex

Chilton was a fellow New Orleanser. New Orleansian? Does it really matter now?)-flavored “I’ll Still Remember.” Another beautiful love song is “I Love the Way You Hold My Head,” with the traditional Revell charm: “Baby you are such a thing, dancing with your feet of fire.” Around the seeming exhaustion (all recorded in the months immediately leading up to Hurricane Katrina), there is hope. There is beauty, no matter where else he may go.

Ian Thomas Live at Rockwood Music Hall I’ve seen Ian Thomas live several times and I don’t say it lightly when I proclaim that one of those performances was the most powerful and awe inspiring sets I have ever seen in my life. That was live and in person however, and it’s hard to capture something like that on a CD even if it’s a live recording. This recording from Rockwood Music Hall gives you a glimpse of what I’m talking about. If you have grown accustomed to how some of his songs sounded on his first release “A Young Man’s Blues” then you will be surprised (perhaps pleasantly, perhaps not) to find him playing some of those older songs a bit differently. It’s not that they’re not necessarily as good versions, they’re just different, and not necessarily better. If you have never heard of Ian Thomas before then this CD will floor you regardless. Some may call Thomas’s music a throw back, but that is near sighted and unjust. He is first off perhaps the best young songwriter in or out of New York. His guitar playing is so masterful it comes off sounding like two people playing at the same time. In fact when I first heard him on CD I was almost convinced that he double tracked some guitar parts; later when I saw him live I understood just how good he was. On this recording he showcases all that and his ability to rip the reeds off a harmonica; not to mention he can also play a mean kazoo. Thomas takes the melodies and sensibility of timeless American folk and blues and brings them barreling into the 21 st century. On songs like “Lonesome Blue Ocean” and “Halfway Gone” he captures love lost as well as anyone can. His voice on tracks like “Open Letter To A Lover” and “Ain’t Gonna Dredge” can send a chill up your spine. There is something about the delivery of these songs that gives you the feeling that he is not simply singing them to you so much as he is revealing some secret gospel. Don’t get me wrong though, Thomas can also throw down some powerful stoppers that make you wanna get up, clear the floor and start a fucking hoe down.

Jessica Delfino Dirty Folk Rock Jessica is a comedian first and a musician second, a fact that comes across quite well on this album. She can be funny, although her range is quite limited, pretty much to her vagina. The album opens with a live track she introduces as being one she likes to play for anti war protests. She then breaks into a song about leaving a guy because as she tells us repeatedly in the chorus “You don’t eat my pussy right.” The second song has a different angle exploring the fact that “once a month for a week we bleed from our vaginas.” The third one moves into new ground about excrement as sex and the love it breeds, or fails to keep alive. Clever rhymes ensue. The rest of the album follows a similar pattern, even on a more “political” track, the chorus “Fuck the FCC,” can’t help being followed up by a “Fuck, suck, cunt” refrain. The glaringly obvious thing about this album is that Jessica’s musicianship doesn’t live up to the high brow

comedy. The tracks are either simple, awkward, and badly recorded voice and guitar, or an even more awkward Casio sounding electronic backing. Either way, they don’t help get her message across. So what is her message? On “Jessica Jokes” she does an extended monologue about women, body images, and media fueled materialism. Perhaps this is all a feminist way of reclamation. This would make it more noble and possibly give it a point, but honestly one track does not make a concept album (or concept artist, as all her other work seems to carry the same theme). Other than that one moment, all we’re left with is “Get it, I said Vagina again!” We got it, we’re moving on. She has a DVD coming out soon though, here’s to hoping she has more to say in her stand up. In her CD liner notes she makes a desperate Sally Struthers style plea for people to send her the random quarters hanging around their houses to fund her various art projects. She even provides an address. That’s actually kind of funny. There is hope.

Luke Kalloch Four Songs (A Demo) Low fi and lush all at once, original and familiar. Artfully arranged, despite bearing a disclaimer that states, “all instruments played (for better or worse).” I left this album

glad Luke did his own grunt work, as everything that I loved about Sonic Youth, the Smashing Pumpkins, and other bands who wrote melodic songs that rocked rather than piano ballades, while capturing some of the great parts of what makes rhythmic 80’s dance pop so popular right now, came out in Luke’s four song demo. And just think this is merely

“demo,” who knows what great work is yet to come from this new transplant to our scene.


from this new transplant to o ur scene. a Marco Argiro not coming home Outsides

Marco Argiro not coming home Outsides of the music, the layout to this album is a little funny. Not only is Marco the center framed focus of every surface, he also felt the need to write after

every track “words & music by Marco Argiro.” Somehow

it seems that once at the end would have sufficed. Actually

the album is quite good. Especially for an independent self produced project almost entirely recorded by Marco Alone. It’s a little sterile and slicker than it has to be, but for a young independent musician this sounds extremely

professional. Stylistically it borders on the emo/ pop punk line, with touches of acoustic influence. His melodic sense is good, taking a lot from The Beatles which always serves music like this well. The songs sound rich and fully textured adding a decent energy to the sound with full rock band arrangements. To be honest most of these songs wouldn’t

sound out of place as a background on The OC, which you can take how you will. A little lacking in innovation, but solid and well done for what it is. The one thing I’d say is that even though there is good energy in the recording there sounds like something small is missing. The tracks sound lonely and in a way you can’t put your finger on you can tell that this album was created by one person trying to create a full band feel. Something of the spark of joy that people create together is missing. It’s as if all the elements are in place, but the electricity to give it life is missing, that spark that can’t be fabricated. Really he does fine on his own, but with that little extra push that a band’s presence might add to his already more than competent songwriting and musicianship, Marco would be on to something truly exciting.

Mark DeNardo Doppelganger Seeing Mark DeNardo live was an experience. He got on stage with his acoustic guitar, plugged in his PSP and told us “This song’s about Brooklyn. It’s the story of two intergalactic spies facing off in their final epic battle.” “How’s that about Brooklyn?” someone asked. “Oh yeah, it’s set in a midevil Bushwick.” He pushed play on the video game system starting an elaborate series of bloops, blips, and a low pleasant humming. Over the top of the twenty first century electronica, he played a perfect punk influenced folk song with powerful vocals and acoustic guitar. The strange sounds emanating from behind him backed the song up surprisingly well. The video game influence on his lyrics and music was amusing for being so enjoyable. Doppelganger carries much of the same idea, combining electronica with solid songwriting, but with few exceptions minus the acoustic guitar. On this recording, the electronic layering is thicker and more prominent, sounding bluntly like a video game on much of the album. The sound becomes a bit much for my taste and I miss the balancing effect that a guitar or other form of natural instrumentation has on too few of the tracks. The biggest problem with the production is that it often overshadows his songwriting which is really quite good. It’s catchy offbeat and not as angular as one might expect from a project like this, but just enough so as to give it an artsy flair. This is an older release, so there is hope from his current live show that he is reaching a new level of balance where the songs can come through the quirky sounds that give him his character.

Muaddib s/t An amazing guitarist and talented musician, Muaddib creates a strange ethereal sort of music. Recording all the music solo, there’s a lot to be said for the talent that went into the production. It is an eclectic mix, from spanish guitars, to bits of heavy metal and hardcore, and always the thick haunting vocals. It jumps tracks and rhythms easily showing

off his composition talents. The amount of artistry that went




guitars, mathematical bass

lines, and indy rock influenced electric guitars create a zen

like atmosphere that sounds as

Eastern does anything Spanish or Western. Taking into account the thick vocals, the obtuseness of the arrangements, and the ethereal quality that makes the melodies hard to hold on to, this isn’t always the easiest album to listen to. It sounds as if his talent as a musician doesn’t quite live up to his songwriting skills. But skipping through the more difficult songs we come to “The Mojo Song” at the last track. A sweet melodic

folk song of farewells it shows Muaddib as a writer plenty

this is apparent especially considering it was all done by

Tim Fite Gone Ain’t Gone Tim Fite is quite a character. In his bio he claims to have been born without any blood, something I don’t believe literally, but it fits in nicely with what he does. He is a collector of lost and forgotten bargain bin CD’s. If it cost more than a dollar, he won’t use it. His album is composed almost entirely of these CD’s sampled and pieced back together from their instrumental sections. Much of what he samples is alt country or Americana, giving a rootsy feel to the album. According to his press materials he has created “a hip hop record that sounds like folk music, a loop based record that feels organic.” I couldn’t have said it better. The samples all feel very organic, mixed to sound fluid rather than cut and pieced together as many others who dabble in the art do. His voice accents his musical choices perfectly, alternating between a lazy drawl and a Brooklyn based hip hop feel. Usually they are good and melodic in a folky country way, again making

him sound less like a sampler and more like a songwriter. At times his lyrics become self aware of what he’s doing, such as on “If I Had a Cop Show” a pure punk track with his voice over stating “If I had a cop show, this would be the theme music,” then going on to describe all the tough cop things he would do during the opening theme like shooting

a naked girl, sliding over the hood of a car, beating a man and spitting on him. On “Not a Hit Song” he begins with

a lazy flanged country twang guitar part, singing “This is

It’s not a sad song,

not a hit song, not even a good song

might even be a bad one.” The awareness slightly breaks the

illusion the rest of the album holds of organic recreation, but

person. Eclectic percussion

with nylon string flamenco

but person. Eclectic percussion with nylon string flamenco able to construct an accessible, enjoyable song. It

able to construct an accessible, enjoyable song. It doesn’t showcase the same amount of talent that the earlier tracks

did, but it is more fun to listen to. We wouldn’t want to

suggest that he hold back his talents any, but perhaps he might be able to find a way to fuse the two, creating more accessible songs that he could layer his musicianship over to accentuate rather than dominate the music.

Seven and Counting United in Rivalry United in Rivalry starts off with a good bit of fun and

promise with a hard hitting straight ahead alt country song


personalizes the album and idea, making it easier to accept


makes you want to move. These guys are here to have

what he’s doing. It is an infectuous album, catchy, with good


and try to make you dance, drawing on the classic

hooks and strong grooves, a little strange and bizarre at times,

Americana traditions of soul, rock n’roll, and country. There is nothing showing off any extraordinary virtuosity, or

but with a voice that hooks you in and makes you not want to care about much, a pleasant apathy. Maybe the sampling

clever artistry, but that’s not the point. It sounds like a group of people who just like music too much to not be compelled to form up and play it. The first and the last song are the best

just part if this laziness, but it feels good and sounds good,

so who’s to complain? The album artwork is almost worth the price alone, obtuse pastel colored drawings of pieces of



most alive, the last one a nicely arranged full harmony

fingers over random shapes and lines, with a thick booklet of

chorus of repeated “glory, hallelujah,” that makes a perfect ending note. In the middle of the album it can be pretty hit or miss. They all trade off vocals and some of the songs have

striking and bizarre doodles that say nothing. Anti- Records

a slightly awkward and amateurish sound. The highlight is when Mayteana Morlaes kicks in as the lead with a sweet


Touching You


powerful voice. It serves to me further evidence that

Lovely Songs

their aim is mostly to have fun and enjoy what they do, that


Lovely Songs is an album containing intriguing song titles

she is not the permanent lead singer, being the most talented

such as “Laser to Anus,” “Kill a Newspaper Editor,” “ Death


obvious choice for the job. But when you’re having fun,

is the Answer,” “Gandhi’s Last Words: ‘Pacifism Doesn’t


doesn’t want their turn at the mic? I’m sure these guys

Work,’” “Kill a Newspaper Editor Pt. 2,” “Homosexuality


rock a late night bar, after you’ve put a few back and

is Wrong,” “Humans are Shit,” “Subjugate Your Tits,” “I’m

forgot that you don’t actually know how to dance, but don’t really care anymore.

a Colored Person,” & “Christians Cheer Sept 11 th. ” If that

sounds like your thing, there are ten more waiting for you.