Neko Case — “The Pharoahs”

We saw Neko Case at Workplay in Birmingham last night. Amazing show. Her voice is absolutely outstanding, she comes across as very humble and grateful, and her band is excellent — the songs from Middle Cyclone sound even better live. Which is saying a lot.

So tonight with the light on the back porch fading I sat down and figured out how to play “The Pharoahs.” Since I use to bookmark the tabs/chords for all the songs I know how to play, I need some sort of source for publishing the chords to the song, so I’m using the old blog. And bookmarking myself. Special. So this is really for me, and not so much for you. But play along if you’re interested — this is a really great song.
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Avenues Rarity — “All The King’s Men”

Sorting back through the music library today for Christmas music, I found myself scrolling through the Avenues outtake library (specifically, to find the Avenues Christmas Epic — “Merry Christmas, Donkey Babies.”  It’s a long story.) Anyhow, in the process I stumbled across this little recording of “All the King’s Men.” Had almost forgotten about this one — I think this is the only recording we have with vocals, done with myself and Dan and Kevin Honnoll in Ocean Way studios right around the time Kevin and I were finishing our last semester at Belmont, spring of 2003.

By the time this recording was made, I think the song was well over a year old. I remember that I was listening to Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” about twice a day every day (still one of my favorite songs) while I was writing the lyrics/melody, so this worked its way into being an homage of sorts.

If recollection serves me right we played this live twice, and the live version had drums in the chorus, lap steel, and Kevin played mandolin on the verses, and I remember how ridiculous he looked holding that tiny mandolin sitting on his drum stool.  Still, wish I could remember what it sounded like with everything.

Avenues — All the King’s Men

Recommendation: Hotpipes — Future Bolt

Props to Nashville locals (and nice dudes) Hotpipes for just releasing another great record, Future Bolt — that’s two outstanding albums in two years, with each being a significant step forward from their previous work. This time around, they continue to do “bombast” better than most anybody, and they apply that sound to the sharpest set of songs they’ve written yet.  This one’s in heavy rotation right now.

Hear samples at 

Two Things Collide: My Love for Elvis Costello and Vinyl just reported that Elvis Costello’s new record — awesomely titled Momofuko — is coming out April 22nd. And get this: it’s not even going to be available on CD, but rather as vinyl-only with a free digital download.

This puts gas in my go-cart for three reasons:

  1. I admittedly have a man-crush on Elvis Costello. Seriously, it’s a completely hetero-obsession with his amazing body of work, his unique and surprisingly versatile voice, his genius songwriting, and his penchant for big glasses and looking totally cool while holding a guitar. His last record, The Delivery Man, is one of the most solid albums I’m aware of from an artist in his fourth decade of output, so I can’t wait to hear this followup.
  2. As a vinyl collector, this move is almost like EC writing me a letter and telling me how cool I am. Vinyl has become my format of choice, especially now that most labels are making free downloads available with vinyl purchases. It’s the best of both worlds — I get the warm, analog sound and the killer physical artifact, and a hassle-free digital version for flexible listening.
  3. This now means that April, the month of my birth, contains three of my most majorly anticipated releases: the new Elvis Costello, the new R.E.M., and the long-awaited (as in ten years) third record from Portishead.

EC is playing the Ryman on April 23. We have great seats, thanks to my wife — one of the best birthday presents ever. It will be my first time to see EC live with a band. (We saw him last year with the Nashville Symphony. Amazing, but I’m looking forward to seeing EC hold a guitar like a badass and hopefully play “Hope You’re Happy Now” or “Man Out of Time” or “Welcome to the Working Week”.)

The New R.E.M. Record

First, a bit of history:

R.E.M. is, and has always been, my favorite band. It sounds completely ridiculous but it’s no exaggeration to say that R.E.M. changed my life. My teenage years were spent basically studying rock music with R.E.M. as the jumping-off point, and I still go through a reliable annual period of complete obsession with their back catalog. During college, I actively contributed and lurked at, the finest R.E.M.-related messageboard on the internets. I once wrote a terrible, non-sensical short story on a bulletin during a church service by stringing together R.E.M. lyrics. Later, I wrote a 10-page essay applying deconstructionist critical theory to Murmur for a 300-level college english class. My wife and I have done the “R.E.M. Walking Tour” of Athens, GA (a small town wander session that passes you by unmarked landmarks such as Bill Berry’s former apartment, and a pile of rubble that used to be their rehearsal space) — and I thought it was farking awesome. I’ve seriously discussed the idea of starting an R.E.M. cover band.

All that said, I hated their last two records. Actually, I thought I hated their 2001 album Reveal. Then they put out Around the Sun in 2004, and Reveal suddenly had highlights. The live album they put out last year was mostly abysmal. I know it’s not the general concensus among all R.E.M. fans, and I know it makes me sound all ““, but in my opinion, it’s been hard to be an R.E.M. fanboy in the last eight years.

Even with the positive pre-release buzz on the new record, I’ve been diluting my anticipation with a healthy dose of “meh”.

So, we received a promo copy of Accelerate last week at Grimey’s, and my crew had it queued it up for me as I walked in the door on Saturday morning.

And I loved it.

Sure, I’ll admit it’s probably the geek in me, but I haven’t felt that way listening to an album since I was in high school… maybe since the first time I heard ‘”E-Bow the Letter” sitting in the driveway, listening to the radio on my mother’s car. Accelerate is a propuslive record — one that crackles with life that this band hasn’t really had since Monster or even Document. It’s not exactly a settling back into the jangly IRS-records sound that most longtime fans secretly (or not-so secretly) clamor for… it’s more an ackowledgement of the past tempered with strong forward motion. On Accelerate, R.E.M. sounds both mature and eager, and it’s a sound that they sound very comfortable in, which suddenly seems to be the root element that was sorely missing from the last two records.

It’s not perfect — “Hollow Man” kind of blows, “Song for the Submarine” seems like it may be a grower — but I’ve always argued that R.E.M. haven’t ever really made a “perfect” singular album. All’s I know is that once the record was over, I immediately wanted to listen to it again, and I’ve been jonesing to hear it since.

You can stream the album for free on Facebook with all the cool kids on 3/24. I will.