Small Bear Records presents Tinsel Machine [Album]

Tinsel MachineAnyone who knows me personally could rightfully attest to the fact that I am not a huge fan of the holiday season.  It’s cold, materialistic, and just down right annoying to be a part of.  Yes, I know it is a time to get with the family and express our love for one another and blah, blah, blah.  And yes, I partake in all the holiday events to keep the excitement alive in my children’s lives, but inside I am the ill-conceived love child of the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge.  Only difference being that there hasn’t been a ghost or creepy looking 5-year-old to show me the error of my way.

And what is the most annoying part of the holidays for a snob like me?  It definite has to be the music.  I die inside a little more each time I hear about that dumb old woman who got run over by a reindeer.  Yes, whether it is songs about bells making their obvious tones, or some freak reindeer who must have been more near a nuclear power plant or some such place.  This is why I was sort of surprised when a dear friend of mine suggested that I check out a collection of “Christmas Songs” that was recently released by the brilliant indie label known as Small Bear Records.  On their second annual Christmas compilation, Small Bear pulls out the big guns with some of their finest artists as well as few guests.

There is a little bit of everything for everyone on this 16 track collection.  There is an alternative instrumental version of an old Christmas classic that I can actually dig, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, performed by the great Nanaki.  Klur Confused & The Fuck Pigs have the nice little punk rock ditty that is aptly titled, “Fuck Christmas”.  46 perfect seconds if you ask me!  Even more enjoyable are brilliantly honest tracks like “There’s Nothing Very Interesting To Say About Snow” from Eight to Infinity and “Crushed at Christmas” by The Bordellos.  And our old pal Phil the Tremolo King in his infinite wisdom even shows up with a beautiful duel of instrumentals “A Walk In the Snow/Oh Tannenbaum”, which is absolutely delightful, even to my dear black heart.

Yes, I may not be a huge fan of this time of year.  And I seriously can’t stand some of the music.  But, occasionally something cool like what Small Bear Records has produced comes along to lift the spirits even an old Scrooge like me.  So if you are like me, find a little something to make yourself a bit happier this time of year with Small Bear Records’ Tinsel Machine.

Pick up a copy of Tinsel Machine on a name your price scale right HERE.

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Secrets For September: Letting Go EP [Album]

Letting Go ArtIt has been a while since I got around to reporting the latest news from one of my favorite European indie labels known as Pastime Records.  The time was about due.  And what in to my wondering fingertips should appear in my inbox, but a bit of good news from the label on one of its latest acts to join the roster known as Secrets For September.  And boy was I blown away.  I believe the phrase “delightfully surprised” is a perfect explanation.

I have come to expect a few things from Pastime Records.  Acts like Andy B, Falling Trees, National Pastime, and more have all created some beautiful indie-pop cuts that I have always enjoyed.  But, Secrets For September is a bit different.  Pastime has seemed to dive in to the world of, wait for it, straight up rock and roll!  And while I will always enjoy the jingle jangley ditties to be released, I also know when it is a perfect time to rock out to genius guitar work and brilliantly written power ballads.  And nothing gets me more excited to rock than hearing a beautiful female fronted band like this one.

Frontwoman Ellie Taylor has a beautiful voice that creates sensational melodies behind Matthew North’s wonderful guitar work.  And as the rest of the band emerges to create a solid state of rock and roll, it is just a damn beautiful site.  Their latest single “Letting Go” is a bit more light hearted than some of their other tracks, but is still a wonderful example of good times filled with happy rock.      Their latest EP in support of “Letting Go” features this brilliant new single, and four wonderful live tracks, including a ten and half minute experience of their cut “Friends Forever” that could go on for hours as far as I am concerned.

Yes, I can say with the utmost confidence that Secrets For September is a wonderful, and different, addition to the Pastime Records roster and/or history. The songs are gold as far as lyrical matter is concerned, and the sound of the group is absolutely tight and brilliantly conceived.  There is so much to love about this group already, it is exhilarating to think about what might be next for them.  I know I will be sticking around to find out simply because “Letting Go” might very well be one of the best singles of 2013.  Yes, it is that damn good.

Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits present Meal Deal with the Devil & The Bobby Joe Ebola Songbook [Book/EP]

BJE at Powell'sSo, last night I finally got a beautiful presentation of a couple of wonderful projects that I have been meaning to share with you fine readers for quite sometime.  It was in a back corner of Portland, Oregon’s beloved Powell’s Books (the one on Hawthorne, for the locals out there) on a delightfully chilly Monday night when two of my favorite players in the world of independent music made their way up from their beloved Bay Area and joined some of their wonderful artist friends to tell a few folks about what they have had up their sleeves in the last year or so.  It was a wonderful intimate performance that I am always going to remember as being one of my favorite hours in live music watching history.  In fact, I recommend that all shows be acoustic and take place in book stores.  But, I digress…..

Corbett Redford and Dan Abbott, better known to many of you as Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits, are no strangers to the Trainwreck’d Society.  We’ve covered them various times in the past, and I have been a fan of this wonderful duo, and sometimes full out band, since I was a young lad trying to figure out where all these hairs were coming from as they appeared in my nether regions.  Their creativity and ingenuity has always been an undeniable force in the world of indie music.  And their amazing DIY attitude and mannerisms that have led them to be what I consider America’s premiere blue collar band are at the very least commendable and worthy of the praise of every creature and low rent music blogger on the face of the earth.  Honestly, I could continue on with another 10,000 words on how much I am in absolute man love with these guys, and how grateful I am that they still walk the earth to this day strumming funny little ditties that look at the world in the brightest of light even if the shading is a bit off-putting and stirred with realism that scares the shit out of all of us.  Seriously, after twenty years of performing in some aspect or another, this is one of the finest groups to exist in our day and age.

Alright, now that the hypothetical dick sucking is well under way, I am so excited to tell you even more about how fucking fantastic these cats are.  As I stated before, balls deep of course, BJE’s creativity is by far one of their finest attributes.  Hilarity is often a common centerpiece around their work.  But it is always hilarity within reason, the type of funny stuff that makes you think a bit more than you ever would have before.  Think John Stewart and Stephen Colbert in a folk/punk duo, but with more fart jokes (if that is possible).

BJE Meal-Deal-With-The-Devil-Cover-e1381187058442And on their latest efforts, these fine gentlemen have created…..a listen along kid’s book?  Well, maybe not exactly.  It is billed as a “Horrible Little Listen-Along Book”, and depending on how apt you may be to teaching your kids about the horrors of livelihood, it could be a wonderful “kid’s book”.  But, thing is for sure, this wonderful book and accompanying EP, Meal Deal with the Devil, is a delightful bit of comedy intermingled with some hints of perversion and sympathy for the not so righteous.  The 5 track EP contains three awesome new unreleased cuts (“Punk, You Let Me Down” definitely has a very strong message, but the Huffington Post already covered that in a far more elegant manner than we ever could.  They never claimed to hypothetically blow they band.  But, of course they probably would).  And when you get to the final two tracks, this is where the fun begins.  This is where we enter the Listen Along section, and the wonderfully illustrated and delightfully hilarious tails “Down at the Jamboree” and “The Town With No Beer”.  Corbett Redford narrates the whole bit as we follow along to the brilliant pictures and amazingly detailed drawings orchestrated by Portland’s very own Jason Chandler (big dog behind Horrible Comics, and esteemed member of the awesome punk band The Frustrators).  The stories are funny, delightful, and just a down right good bit of fun.  There are so many great aspects to this fun little book, but I think a passage describing the book in the book itself states it best:

Meal Deal with the Devil has been expertly designed and crafted to provide many wonderful years of being lost in a closet at your Mom’s house after you move out, and that poor woman has suffered enough already, with all of your crap.”

Well said, if you ask me.

BJE-Songbook-CoverSample-17Jul2013And of course, in BJE’s own well deserved narcissistic manner, releasing a single book and accompanying EP just isn’t enough.  No, the band decided that after all of these years, and hundreds of songs written between the two of them, it was time to release to the world, the Bobby Joe Ebola Songbook.  190 pages, continuing over 98 songs spanning the life and times of BJE since the band began (which I would learn was all in an attempt to get laid.  And seriously, what other reason is there to start a band?).  And in the fashionable duality of man, BJE offsets any negativity of being narcissistic (I see none, though) with a generous and extremely selfless act of not simply releasing a book with a bunch of lyrics and chords and maybe a quick introduction begging you to give them 16 dollars to continue playing music.  No, this is another beautiful piece of art.  Once again, Jason Chandler joined the team to edit (and release through Microcosm Publishing) as well as dozens of other wonderful illustrators, artists, and manic fools creating some wonderful art to accompany the words.  Folks like Petr Sofra, who did a perfect rendition of characters from one of my favorite old school BJE tracks, “Freshman Philsophy”.  And the list goes on and on.  And further more, there are little tidbits of history and fun facts that are fascinating as well!  In fact, there are so many tidbits of information about the band’s hometown of Pinole, California, that I might have decided to take a trip through there some day!

All of this being said, there simply isn’t enough digital space on the inter webs to truly state just how wonderful Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits truly are.  The magnetism towards a group like this should be bloody obvious, and with great reason.  The band has withstood the tyrannical test of time for such a long time, and have proven that they have the illustrious fortitude to continue rocking on until the dawn’s early light sends them packing on to another plain of existence.  What surprises me the most about BJE releasing a sing a long book BJE photoshootand songbook at the same time (with efforts that almost drew them lifeless during production), is how surprised I actually WASN’T by these fine folks doing such a thing.  If it is innovative and original, Corbett and Dan will fucking go there.  If it is delightful and brings joy to others, these guys will go out of their way and slay the dragons of impossibility to make it happen.  These are some cats who care about their work and the joy it brings to their fans, the old and and the new.  I have never been more serious in my life when I say that Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits is one of  the finest acts to exist today.

And on that note, I’m going to need a Kleenex and a toothbrush.  Goodnight Everybody!

You can pick up anything BJE related at the band’s awesome WEBSITE.  You can also pick up Meal Deal with the Devil and Bobby Joe Ebola Songbook right now from MICROCOSM PUBLISHING.

Also, it would behoove you to support the great Jason Chandler, who was instrumental in making this project happen.  Check out his band The Frustrators and definitely check out Horrible Comics, “drawings for immature adults and unsupervised children”.

Collisionville: The Revenge of Two-Gun Pete [Album]

CollisionvilleAny true fan of rock n roll music can relate to the feeling that being reminiscent of days past can be a dangerous bit of ground to tread when it comes to digging in to new music.  There will always be many nostalgia driven musicians out there who will be stuck in their ways from the “good old days”, and we should be entirely thankful for this.  So let’s say that I am very grateful for a bad like Collisionville.  This San Francisco based group of old school stylized rockers is almost too good to be true for fans of modernized “classic” rock, and their latest album The Revenge of Two-Gun Pete is a phenomenal collection of original tracks from a group that blends CCR with a bit of Neil Young, and then throws in some Jack White-esque creativity in there for good measure.

The Revenge of Two-Gun Pete in its entirety seems like a tribute to so many different styles of music, spanning 60 years or so.  There is a bit of a jingle jangling country on the album’s title track, as well as on “Heart Out in the Sun”, although this cut quickly turns in to a terrific sort of power rock ballad pretty quickly as well.  There is even a bit of 90’s radio friendly alternative on the album’s opening cut “The Ballad of Herman P. Willis”.  But beyond the homages to several decades of rock and roll, there is also some damn beautiful songwriting going on here.  Beautifully sad, or simplistically true tales of a life better left lived.  Frontman Stephen Pride spills his soul to us so perfectly whether he is picking a banjo, or strumming the old six string until his heart bleeds.  This is good time music for all the sad times, and down beat music for the upbeat times.

Collisionville may not strike you as a truly innovative group on first listen.  But, give it a second listen, and you might just fall in love with their divine nature.  The are old timey, filled with stripped down acoustics, and just a whole gaggle of fun.  And their album The Revenge of Two-Gun Pete is a wonderful example of the well orchestrated mayhem these rocking ramblers are able to create.  If you find yourself in the Bay Area, or wherever the road may take these cool cats, it would behoove you see these guys live and in person.  I could only imagine just how much fun that could be!

Pick up a copy of The Revenge of Two-Gun Pete for yourself right HERE.

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: Love Has Come For You [Album]

Steve Martin & Edie BrickellIt has been my experience that nothing can make you feel like such a hipster douche as discovering an amazing new album  featuring two people that you truly admire….whilst wondering aimlessly through a Wal Mart.  This very event happened to me just a week ago.  I had a few minutes to kill, so I decided to do the old school routine and look through the racks.  Of course, I seem to have taken myself off the radar what the big cats have been doing these days, so I was absolutely enthralled when I saw one of my favorite actors has teamed up with one of the finest female vocalists of our time to create Love Has Come For You, a wonderful little batch of Appalachian style bluegrass songs performed precisely on key and true to form.

It is widely known to most that Steve Martin is not only a brilliant comedic and dramatic actor, he is also an acclaimed banjo picker.  Anybody who has watched Martin and Kermit the Frog duel it out can attest to this.  And Brickell has proven herself in the last three decades as being one of the finest female vocalists and songwriters of the modern era.  And on Love Has Come For You, the duo manage to blend a beautiful mixture of old school mixed with something old, something new, and everything wonderful.  Even the album’s opening line is symbolic and proof to this claim (“When you get to Asheville/send me an e-mail”).  For fans of bluegrass, this is probably one of the best albums of the genre to be released in a very long time.  And for fans of Brickell, you might just find her best work as a vocalist to date.

Each track on this amazing album is a wonderful little story in its own right.  Some are happy.  Some are sad.  And some are downright silly at times.  But what makes this album so wonderful is the exhilarating experience it is as a whole to listen to these two masterminds of all things creative express their love for self expression in such a fun way.  If you can’t sit with a goofy grin on your face when you listen to “Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby”, then you must have sold your soul to the worst kind of devil.  Steve Martin and Edie Brickell may have just introduced the world of bluegrass to a whole new audience in the same manner that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss did a few years ago.  Except much better!  Let’s just hope they choose to listen.  Or that my fellow pretentious douchers find themselves wandering aimlessly in a Wal Mart as well to discover this amazing album.  Although now that I know it exists, I would recommend iTunes.  You’re welcome everyone!

Dedere: Little Ease in the Bell Jar [Album]

Dedere - Little Ease in the Bell JarSeveral years ago, during the second or third phase of social media hierarchies taking control, and in the early days of my “career” writing about music, I wrote about a little known and now disbanded group known as The Golden Year.  They didn’t last long, only releasing one EP on a small little Olympia WA based record label that doesn’t seem to exist anymore either.  But I can clearly remember stating that frontman Jared Brannan was like the Dostoevsky of folk music due to his incredulous and thought provoking song writing.  That was over six years ago, and a few more bands in the books, but the same truths hold themselves to be self evident when I hear Jared, now much holder and more mature (one would imagine), spill his emotional guts with his much anticipated return to music with his new project Dedere and new album Little Ease in the Bell Jar.

Though calling Dedere a folk act would probably be a bit misguided, it is certainly obvious that the aura of storytelling is as important of a factor to Jared as it was oh so many years ago (what I’ve deemed “the Myspace dynasty”).  For Little Ease in the Bell Jar, Brannan also has recruited some new friends as well as some old.  TWS family member Adam Smith (Grandhorse) even returns to work with Jared in support of a few tracks, as well as a plethora of other fine Portland based musicians.  But, what is most awe inspiring about this collection of tracks is the obvious and immense amount of personal triumph that is on display for the world to hear.  This album may literally be a few years in the making, but the end result almost sounds as though it is actually closer to 30 years in the making for Jared Brannan.

With elements of electronic driven rave sequences with a mixed bag of soft core folk rock melodies, there really is so much to love about Little Ease in the Bell Jar.  From start to finish, this is a wonderful album to blare in your studio apartment between episodes of Twin Peaks and your second pot of coffee on a cold winter’s day when all you want to do is say “fuck the world”, I’m living in the bell jar today.  So relax your mind, and find the time to lose yourself in the pretty little screwed up work that Jared Brannan has been waiting his whole life to share with you, the worthy recipients of crime, punishment, and a trip through the haunted house of his soul.  Or, you know, just enjoy some damn good storytelling and magnificent musicianship.  The choice is yours.

 

Check out Little Ease in the Bell Jar for yourself right HERE

Marshall McLean Band: Glossolalia [Album]

Marshall McLean - Glossolalia - coverJust in the nick of time, Marshall McLean and his new band of sorrow filled yet merry men have managed to create one of my favorite albums of the year!  Yes, the former frontman of one of the finest groups to ever emerge from Eastern Washington known as The Horse Thieves has created yet another landmark album to come from the Spokane area.  Glossolalia is a thought provoking and intelligent collection of folk tracks that have heart, spirit, and most importantly – a healthy helping of soul.

Marshall’s voice is so distinctive and noticeable, that it is almost impossible not to compare him and his new band to The Horse Thieves, a group that has graced the digital pages of this site time and time again.  But, there is definitely a few differences to be noted.  Well, differences might be a bit of an overstatement, maybe just advancements.  There is definitely a bit more electric tools being used thanks to the addition of fellow Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho based musicians like bassist Justin Landis (who has some of the finest bass lines I have ever heard in folk music), Jamie Frost who kills it on the steel pedals, and Caleb Ludwig beating his way to heaven on his Ludwig drum kit.  With so much talent strewn about on this album, it is like supergroup for little known artists who have been entertaining the city of Spokane and its surround areas for such a great long while.

I always find myself at a sort of bias conundrum when it comes to hearing new works from Marshall McLean or any of his associates.  But, it is with great reason.  These guys are simply incredible!  It has been two years since I stumbled in on an acoustic set of Marshall McLean and a few friends on a winter’s Tuesday night and was absolutely stunned by his stimulating storytelling, beautifully simplistic guitar work, and the ability to create an overall warm feeling as he strummed through his tales of happens and pain, travel and longing, and everything in between.  So, it is such a damn pleasure and relief to be that Glossolalia is not just another addition to his musical library, it might be his best work to date.  With a new band in place, a new set of eyes to the future, there are no limits to how far Marshall McLean Band can ride the same old dusty trails that many modern folk groups have wondered down, and also come out with clean boots and strong sense of accomplishment.  Because when you have an album as good as this in your holster, there is now way you are going to lose the draw.  This is a beautiful collection of brilliantly told and performed tales for the modern folk fan.  It is definitely an album that is not to be missed.

You can listen to and pick up a copy of Glossolalia at the bands WEBSITE right now!  So what are you waiting for?