Some kind of Soul Mining: The music of Tim Easton


Take any John Prine song, A myriad of guitar riffs rooted in blues and folk, some early Dylan, and some plum picking for good measure  and  you  get Ohio-born, Joshua-Tree-living Tim Easton. ”

Easton, driven westward both geographically and musically since his college days in Akron Ohio, finally settled one hundred and forty  miles east of  Los Angeles in the sweet little outpost known as Joshua Tree.  A place where the work of contemporary artists can be found among cactus and creosote, where eclectic and soulful music  is made among the  Ocotillo and the yucca.  Though his  home base is admittedly Joshua Tree honky tonk watering hole Pappy and Harriets, Tim’s toured extensively in support of his four albums to date, landing in Europe and Asia in addition to a myriad of cities in the United States.  A 2006 tour opening for Lucinda Williams landed him at the Pabst theate in Milwaukee, the Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford Oregon, and the Paramount Theater in Austin Texas expousing revealing his soulful influences of Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie.

Easton’s Folk Americana vacillates between the low down bluesey  growl of “Burgundy Red” from his 2009 release “Porcupine” to the  gospel meme hootenanny of “carry me” featured on 2001’s “The Truth about us” “Get What I got” also off Porcupine, offers a post punk downtempo vibe, with a slight nod to CCR  hiding quietly in plain view.  “Porcupine” combines Easton’s exploratory past while welcoming an edginess,that compounds all the elements digested by Easton over the years.

As if making  cathartic blues Americana wasn’t enough, Tim creates inspired folk art paintings that are currently centered on the motif of ‘the guitar.’  Certainly the god’s cannot be so indulgent! as to afford an already great musician an outstanding talent in a second craft,  But oh yes the god’s gluttony exposes them.  Easton’s paintings turn out not to be sophomoric indulgences by any means, in other words, they are not musings stretching weakly into another creative genre. They are  inspired and informed.  True pieces of mature art.  If you ventured out to SXSW in 2009  Tim’s visual representations were on display at the YARD DOG  gallery, as will several pieces from the 500 Individually painted vinyl jackets supporting”Porcupine.”  The vinyl jackets for this album were  paintings combining wood stain and designs of guitars and porcupines.  Tim’s other folk art uses found wood, oils and acrylics, chalk and pastels, and mostly features the guitar as it’s main subject.    If Musician, visual artist, aren’t enough to fill one’s creative palate, the “creatively-voracious” Easton also writes and is the founder and publisher of a community newsletter and ‘zine called The Joshua Tree Republic.”

A Video snippet of Tim Live in Bucyrus, Ohio exposes Easton telling the crowd that ‘the song he’s going to play next is called, ‘Carry Me’ at which time  very drunk woman whom has apparently been very disruptive during the show with a raspy voice finally yells, “SLAYER!!!, SLAYER!!!”  Tim isn’t caught vulnerable, instead he capitalizes on the situation with a deadpan and swift response by saying, ‘the day I play a Slayer song, is the day you get married.”   Easton comically takes interruptions, hecklers in stride.  and with humor, marches on, no bother and begins picking.

This is Real Folk music, an undeniable a romp  through the desert. It’s music about relationships – both coveted and lost.  The beauty and the tragic things too.  This is Americana,  This is the real Hootenanny, this is some kind of rave up, this is Tim Easton.

Find Tim Easton at: http://timeaston.com

~Chrissylong

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Transformations: The voice of Ray Lamontagne


Ray Lamontagne

What drives transformation?  a sucre / bitter caulderon of fear?  A wrenching cliff of uncompromising tragedy? The sheer squamous epithelial  and yet permeable giddy gas of love? how about DNA or fate?  In the amazing case of Ray Lamontagne, it was all of those things and more.

I was inevitably late to the game due to cold oatmeal sitting on my table, math papers to help with, and photographs to re-touch and post for market (yes I do some stock photography)…I had only heard, correction been yelled at,  whined at, and threatened by a good friend to have a listen to Ray Lamontagne for a couple of weeks, but trust…it was a long and wincing two weeks.   It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in learning about my friend’s “avant-auteur voice of a million years ago happening right now in our backyard”  per se, I certainly was,   But things were getting in the way,  one of which was the stomach flu I was stricken with, my body laden with oatmeal the only food item that I could keep down in the safe regions of my stomach.  The night after my body had resumed homeostasis, and my children stopped comparing me to the zombie app that they had just downloaded onto my now idle iphone, I decided to put my toes in the provervbial water in order to test out the heat coming off Mr. Ray Lamontagne with a cover of the well known Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy.”  I was aghast.  Loving the song was easy again, now that I hadn’t heard it in oh, say about 6 months, but what astounded me was Lamontagne’s voice.  Never had I heard such as voice.  This voice was audio HDR.  A sharpened image with nuance and texture that was unlike anything I have ever heard before.  A raucous pleasure of sound languising in places that were meant to be exploited and quiet in places that only shone more brightly for their omission. La Montagne is a young-un.  At least to me.  Born in 1973, Ray had an uncompromising and less than idyllic childhood as the story goes.  His father musical and violent turning LaMontagne inward, writing and fighting in his Utah high school.  Later working in a shoe factory. The story goes one morning at 4 a.m., LaMontagne heard “Treetop Flyer” by Stephen Stills and wtih an epiphanous decision decided to pursue his singing and songwriting more fully. Amassing 10 songs for a demo he was soon opening for acts such as Jonathan Edwards and John Gorka. .He recorded his first album for RCA in the US and Echo in the UK.   It’s trickey when deciding what genre to put Lamontagne in.  So far, he’s been labeled folk, but I’d have to add a genre for truth / varied instrumentative / emotive.  The man reeks of past trouble, tragedy, introspection, sunshine and immersion from pain into foot-stompin’ soul music.  If Ray comes to your town, don’t miss him.  I won’t.  Beg, borrow or steal to get there.  It promises to be cathartic.

http://8tracks.com/mixes/4159/player_v3
~Chrissylong

Other Freak folk folks to check out:

Devendra Barnhart

http://8tracks.com/mixes/144498/player_v3

Micachu and the Shapes: Bite your lip, get up and Dance.



The Precocious, multi-instrumentality of Micachu and the Shapes is like camping on an English moor full of howling wolves as you dance to a Kraftwerk album with Gavin Friday, Marke E. Smith and Guggi.  You’ll need a tour-guide in for this moor party because it’s a bafflingly intricate, yet uneasy place. Walking at night, you feel your feet sink into the moor, tin pans crash, an acoustic guitar rants and a shock of Roux-like hair bounces in and out of the frame. Just aloft you spy Colin Newman stoking a sonic campfire as he types on his iphone.  The fire crackles repetitively with a  waffle and snap.  You are at a zeitgeist sleepover, a tempiscore melding of sense datum.   Yes, you are overloaded but in a playful dreamlike state, these things are expected!   In fact it feels downright amazing, the music in the background has a restless energy,   a crack, a pop.   Set against a nefarious groan or the heaving low hum of soft machines, this eclectic pop is tamed by a warm and yet  distinctive androgynous voice.    That is the sound of Micachu and the Shapes, and it’s not a dream.  Micachu (Mica Levi) is tangible! and in a club somewhere tonight playing a vacuum cleaner.

Mica sits staccato, with an unexpected and painterly face. Her voice and  demeanor  project an element of confident-uneasiness. a careless androgyne, tall with a complex grin,  she is an ‘artiste de artist,’  one  bringing sounds useful to Dee jays, club-goers and the lucky and hard working denizens of Rough Trade, San Francisco.  So far everyone fron Bjork to Beck are calling her one of their “influences.”  or at at least “the most un-classifiable pop experimental music existing today.”   That’s pretty good when the avant-garde of the uber popular alternative are calling you “one of the lovely bones with which we are collectively building this thing we call popular music”.

Straddling many genres of music at one time, Michachu has got the concept cornered. How does someone play front instruments, sing,  and add the sound of a vacuum cleaner along with pops and clacks purposfully (and perfectly) set in time to a thick bumping background track? In my humble opinion the only contemporary rock band able to cross this boundary and do well with so many genres was  The White Stripes.  Jack White did whatever he wanted, and Meg was the co-ideator / conspirator in those avant experiments that turned into great songs.   The only constant was his voice as the music always surprised, swelled and dipped as he wailed and groaned in new and different ways.   Experimental, though, it was not.    It was exploratory. In Micachu and the Shapes’  type of ‘experimental’,   there’s  an element of  “I don’t care, I do what I want, what feels right at the time, and by the way… to hell with this ‘image thing”.   It seems  Levi and company do not ascribe to any specific assemblage of their art, it simply is… “what it is.”

Micachu and The Shapes’ songs arent’ about punching other girls in bars, thanks Lilly, we’ve had enough of that.  It was fun in the begining, but now we have to see other people.   The female role in new music must get some plaster and lathe ready and quick, because Micachu just ripped that house a hole in the wall.

As Micachu swoons into a neutral plastic bounce, “Golden Phone,”  seems to reference her ‘style,’ that is, if she could be categorized…

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound
This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found
Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white
It built the warmth back and there was light

Crimes everywhere yeah, but I don’t want that
Love’s all around yeah, but I don’t want that
Gold in my hair yeah, but I don’t want that
Bring me that nonsense sound and I’ll be back

Well, crushed up bit of stuff, can you pull their ear?
Their legs are far too stiff and they can’t get near
I’ll make this call back to you in a year
Mongrels, this nonsense sound won’t disappear

The song ‘Lips’ explores grime and punk crossover sounds.  Not unlike the likes of early Gang of Four, or Wire, Mica and the Shapes sharp and staccato dithering make you wanna get up and dance.

Die, die, die, your lips  a big lie

You lie all the time, but you still get by.

You bite your tongue but you don’t comply

Dry your tears away with your tie

You drive that truck but you’re still let by

Drop, drop, drop, your lips a big lie

In ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Eat your Teeth’ Mica samples and manipulates every squeal and stray breath.  She and The Shapes, processes them into pop staccato explosions.  In contrast,  ‘Golden Phone’ is a dirty punk song, breathless and beguiling.

This is the Golden phone, can you ring me back?

Ten mongrels home alone bring the panic back

Sound traveled in the air then they blew it back

The took out all the noise and it all went black

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound

This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found

Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white

It built the warmth back and there was light

‘Worst Bastard’ is pure punk brilliance; whilst “Vultures” may have the same basic background as Glen Branca’s, “The Ascension” Lesson No. 1″  I could be wrong though.  Branca’s wall of sound is exactly  the intricacy Micachu uses in their swirling and full soundscapes, and especially on this song.   The new Shapes’ album “Jewellery” is on track for album British Album of the year and I’m not surprised.  It may have to fight with La Roux’s signature album “La Roux” but they really are different territory.

In “Curly teeth”, Micachu uses a squeaky sound as a background layer and a dissonence that actually works under her defined and short shap vocals. “Curly teeth” does not dissapoint in fact as with other Shapes’ songs, it surprises once again.

I stumbled upon Micachu and the Shapes about 3 months ago via my favorite performance artiste chanteuse Bjork, and in my humble opinion, this unclassfiable band headed up by Mica Levi  is  channeling the best of electronica, rough wire, punk, avant-garde, pop, and dance. This stateside inhabitant will be sure to see them when they turn up at any venue within 40 miles of me.  Even if you just go to see someone use a vacuum cleaner onstage, don’t miss them when they come to town.

The Willowz ~


The Willowz

When Anaheim was bad she was very very  bad. (Think “The Block at Disney” and The Mighty Ducks)  and… when Anaheim was good she was very very good… think “No Doubt” , good Udon, cheap mexican food (The “B” on the window as you enter means: “BEST.)”   The Cold War Kids, The Mighty Ducks in ’03 and ’07… and THE WILLOZ!!   Anaheim, a sometimes Fickle and brazenly pompous beauty, has redeemed herself by allowing the germination of this  willowy band of musical choristers.

The Willowz were once called “Just out of high school long-hairs” with a  “Billy Corrigan on helium” for a lead singer.  Now everyone’s eating their words.

Punk, soul, blues, an electric hybrid.  Isn’t that what making music is all about?  Bit o’ pixies, bit o’ sonic love, go ahead pull up a chair and listen.  Have a pen and paper nearby, you’ll have to make a list of the influences that you can hear and yet listen hard and close because they are so well blended, twisted, molded, melded and lit up with a blow torch that you’ll have trouble really naming them.  Again.  That’s the way it should be.  At once familiar and yet not, what goes into the willowz is original and made in the perfection of it’s own collective raw personality.  A sonic, yet organic, tree like sound.  Yes the Willowz are like trees.  Branches wild and strong and able to span in any direction.  2007 ‘s release “Chataqua” proved that they band could comb new limbs and encourage growth in new directions.  Witness “Evil Son”  …met a man with an evil stare said I’m the wicked one and quite aware, I lost my nerve, I said don’t despiar…My evil son time to prepare.” The song traverses melodic soulsey balladry and progresses to a Wolfmother  free-for-all in a matter a few stanzas.  Complete with a gong and a slide of the entire neck of a gretsch or the like and some bells, These Willowz aren’t afraid to make a rattle in the garden.  The rattle in this song isn’t entirely the stuff of seasoned auteurs, but the seeds are sewn.

From the bedroom and into the bedlam, Willoz made the trek in 2002 with Richie James Follin and Jessica Reynoza leading and grew their sound.  Perfecting the best and losing the rest, this band is an organic petrie dish project that has been obviously carefully nurtured.

“Willowz” came to Jessica in a dream  when a tree told her that the word “Willow”  would being her musical enlightenment. I’ve had dreams where a word was prominent but they told me things like, “Ride your horse to the front of Vons and then fold it into the baloney package, take the stairs in the pagoda go to the top and  attend school given by headmaster Angela Merkel sporting a small whip made from whale bone.  But I digress.

Good news can travel fast even if all your friends don’t listen to NPR.  Later in blustery ’02 The Willowz  released a 7” on the infamous Posh Boy records with  Robbie Fields producing.  Traipsing back to the arms of that  “mean girl Anaheim”  that somber fair weathered friend who pushed them around at the lockers and ignored them in the hallways, The Willowz then began playing kick-ass shows to ever growing crowds.  Simultaneously moving and in and around Los Angeles, in 2004, Dionysus records soon released their first record “The Willowz.  In a pungent and yet sweet turn of events the OC Weekly named “The Willowz’s” record as one of the top 10 albums of the year!    v

They had snagged Paul Kostabi as their producer and the record was done in a few days.  There’s nothing like raw unknowingness to lend a disjointed and yet energetic spell of desire to the sound of a record.  The Jackson Pollack method of laying music like paint worked well.  Wild abandon tempered with some direction to the splatter of the sound.  Okay some say J.P. planned every stray swath of paint but he applied but  I do not agree.  There’s joy, surprise and improvisation even in the most wild, fractured and wonderful art.

The Willowz

Soon after touring greater North America, and Europe the Willowz music was featured in the cinematic and odd “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”  Soon nominated for a grammy, Willowz were surprised when the Eternal Sunshine filmmaker Gondry had a dream about the Willowz song “I Wonder” and flew them out to NYC to make a video for them. Soon touring with the likes of the Weirdos, NY Dolls, the Dirtbombs, the Greenhornes, Wolfmother, the Ponys, Tom Vek, Ted Leo, YGM, OK GO, the Gossip, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Dwarves, Burning Brides, John Cale and many others, The Willowz had come full circle and seemed to be the musical version of someone’s  Tibetan dream set in Yarlung South Central Tibet was coming true. But noone was selected as the Rimpoche just yet.

In February 2005 the Willowz re-released their self titled album on Sympathy For the Record Industry and titled the album “Are Coming” (with a four more songs on it). The follow up “Talk in Circles” was released June 2005 (also recorded in a garage by Paul Kostabi, this time as a four piece and with a little more focus on making an album) on the Long Beach, CA label Sympathy for the Record Industry by way of record mogul Long Gone John. “Talk in Circles” received extraordinary reviews, including “46th Best Album of the Year” by Rolling Stone and was also featured in another one of Gondry’s films, “The Science of Sleep”.

The Willowz were nominated by LA Weekly as one of the tope bands of 2005. More singles followed “Talk in Circles” on such labels as Contaminated, Acid Bird, and Sympathy. The second album was followed by a DVD, “See In Squares”, released on Sympathy. “See In Squares” contained 27 unique videos, all by different directors, and additional live concert footage at a catholic school summer camp in Oklahoma, several of these videos have gone on to win national and international awards.

For the third album “Chautauqua”, to be released on Steve Aoki’s Los Angeles label Dim Mak, the Willowz headed to the eastern countryside and set up a studio, this time in a basement, with Paul Kostabi producing again. They recruited Aric Bohn on guitar and Tony Mann back on the drums. “Chautauqua” provides the energy and rawness of the first albums with a thicker rock sound more focused on songwriting. They came out in ’09  and are in heavy rotation in a round L.A. with Steve Aoki lending support.  Do not miss the chimerous impression that is “The Willowz.”

~  Chrissylong

http://lala.com/zQ2n

Tracks:

Note:  The new music section will be written by Garet Whipple and has yet to be cleverly named!  But keep a watch for Garet’s new column!  Music spans from new pop to dance, trance and rock.  Garet knows the scene and writes with reverie.  Stay tuned.

How to make a Mars Volta – Recipe for a rainy day.


Take one part Steve Wynn Dream Syndicate guitar, 2 parts Raspberry puree, one part voice of emotive  the love child of Serj Tankian and Tommy Shaw (find it in the  alt / prog rock section of your local Trader’s preferably the one in Glendale,) dust lightly with some finely ground Mothers of Invention, and finally add a pinch “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”.   Mix well.  Add two teaspoons John Fruisciante  into the mixture and boil down to a nice reduction.  Let cool, add two drops of alt / prog / Roger Waters and whip to a slight screamo (wait until you see peaks).   Mix some  Thurston Moore (be sure not to use any Kim Gordon though) pour into  a  9×12 ungreased pan and set aside.  Now, prepare your oven.  setting it to “burn / sizzle and pop” and trip out on the fog that forms inside.  Put the visceral confection in the oven at 425 for 30 minutes.  Soon the concoction will ignite and send sparks in all directions!  What you have here is a creation that will burn your hands but… you won’t be able to move away!!  Pour this eclectic, yummy paroxysm into your limited edition “Nick Cave” serving plate and enjoy!  Feel the sweet burn as each bite of this prodidgeous culinary course goes down.  Aint it kinda beautiful?

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Band Spotlight: The InFlight Nymphs: Chords don’t lie.


At the time they had two albums,  Three girls,  and a foreshadowning of a great band down the line.   Fresno California singer-songwriter Jessica Taylor began her organic career, chaneneling a smoky Joan Baez  by way of a post “Horses” Patty Smith.  While alternately pounding her piano and plucking her guitar, Taylor hit the clubs in 2001.   Interspersing her compositions with Deanna Pierro’s smoky Neneh Cherry-esque  mini-slam verse.   Pierro, though co-conspirator on several songs, soon went on to other projects.  The brooding trip-hop-spoken-word dalliances were lifted out of the bands’ master plan and traded in for the beefed up sound of Janell Brown’s bass.  Audrey Johnson was soon added on drums eventually being known for banging out organic, thick and desperate beats. The Nymphs have an organic sound from the past and represent like a pure and simple powerhouse.  Think Femme Black Keys with an Ani Difranco square of carpet on the linoleum floor.  Okay maybe they would argue that.  But you get the idea.  Hey! you can’t pigeon-hole The Nymphs, but I’m sure I’m not the first to try.  In order to put a “sound” in someone’s mind, (in order to get them to decide whether to go see the band – based on words), you’ve gotta do it.    In reality, there just  isn’t any place to corral them!  Built Tough and real, no lip-schtick needed here.  The Nymphs are pure poetic angst without a bone of pretension to be found.  Real music, Yep.  Fresno?  No. Wait. Really?  yep!….Central California?  Like the place that started out as a sandy / loamy desert?  Yup. Congregations from Fresno Churches at the turn of the century dug the first canals to bring water to the fields.  An African American man and his wife planted the first grapes, giving rise to the areas precious Thompson Seedless variety.  Plenty of people know what it’s like to back down, but the town of Fresno just doesn’t  do it.  How do you turn a desert into the fertile crescent of California?  With hard work.  These folks are   California’s keepers of all the feeding flora.  Inflight Nymphs, are becoming the  “raconteurs du jour”  of the “fresno sound”  Now there’s a real reason to be excited about Northern / Central California’s music scene:  Fres-NO, is slowly becoming, “Fres-YES.   Okay, it’s true that Fresno’s the only town in Cali with air that you can ACTUALLY SMELL!   and whose city government is so brutally out of touch that that when deciding what acts should be put on the coveted  G/L for “special events,”   they actually chose Andre Bocelli to ring in the arrival of the new “Save-Mart”!!!)  At any given moment, The Inflight Nymphs are somewhere between Fresno and San Francisco  and occasionally tripping on over  to La La Land. Right now they are probably sitting at one of their favorite “Fres-no-torious” dives comfy  in  low rise jeans, stringy hair, and Sticky Fingers T-shirt, hashing out another song list for a show.  Gotta plan it, make it right, make it rock. These things matter, Cuz hips may lie, but chords don’t.

P.S. if you didn’t get to Fresno to Andie’s you probably missed The Nymphs again.  Go to “www.inflightnymphs.com for future dates.

As soon as I get MP3 links, I’ll load as many songs as I can. Until then…

Cheers!   ChrissylongPicture 78

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