Tag Archives: freedy johnston

Take Five with the Radio Free Song Club

My affection for Freedy Johnston is no secret. Back in March, through his Facebook or e-mail list or some other modern convenience, I learned that he was a contributor to a new podcast project, the Radio Free Song Club. I tend to follow Freedy wherever he goes, so off I went.

What I discovered was a special creative project, the brainchild of musician Kate Jacobs, enlisting veteran songwriters to submit one song per month for an audio podcast. Contributors include Peter Holsapple, Laura Cantrell and Victoria Williams, with special guests such as Beth Orton and Syd Straw. The final product is a mix of submitted songs and live performances, hosted by Nicholas Hill, whose 15-year background in radio includes stints at WFMU and Sirius.

Six shows in, it’s obvious that there are only two priorities at hand: songwriting and friendship. It’s a refreshing and inspiring sense of focus. Sure, they could easily start video recording performances to put on YouTube, put on a concert or release a compilation of songs. But they’re not worried about that. There’s a deadline to hit, after all, and music to share with friends. That’s all that matters.

For the listener, this is a sneak peek into a musicians’ dinner party. And it functions as a great and entertaining gateway to musicians with whom you may be less familiar.

The seventh podcast, which came out toward the end of last month, featured the addition of a personal longtime fave, Amy Rigby (along with her husband, Wreckless Eric) to the cast. Just one more reason to stay tuned.

I recently spoke with Hill and Jacobs about the project:

How did you begin assembling the talent behind Radio Free Song Club? Was there a rubric you had in mind when assembling the cast of characters?

Kate: You know, there was. I started it and put it together mostly with some help from Nicholas. I wanted to find a way to use the Internet that would be fun, that would be collegial and involve friends of mine and also be creative but not be so hype-y and self-promoting like individual websites are or like some of the social networks are. I wanted it to be small and clubby so it would be fun. The people we ended up asking were people I’ve known over the past 20 years I’ve been doing this. There wasn’t any real plan to it. Dave Schram is someone I’ve worked with for years, he’s worked a lot with Pete [Holsapple] and Peter [Blegvad]. They’re such amazing songwriters. Freedy, I’ve known for many years, I’ve been a big fan of his writing. Nicholas is a big fan of Victoria [Williams].

A lot of us are at home with children, with less touring and band activity. You get so tied up in other aspects of life. It’s a particular generation of writers, people who’ve been doing it for a while and are in different phases of their careers but have a lot of skill. We wanted it to stay very small, people with a certain attitude, sort of brainy and smart without being super mainstream. We wanted it to be a little loose.

Nicholas:  We were looking specifically for people who were not necessarily at the peak of their career but sort of had careers of varying strengths and characteristics and were apt to have a new outlook as songwriters. The audience has gotten extremely dissipated with the advent of the internet and record labels turning into non functioning entities. It becomes necessary for artists to seek out new outlets for their work. People are getting creative about it. Touring and selling CDs on your own has become more successful as a way to reach an audience than putting a record out.

Everyone is looking for a way to put their songs into the world. Songs are like children, you write them and some are nurtured and cared for and go to the best schools. Songs are unique entities that really have a life of their own and come back to haunt you many years later. Not that I’m a songwriter but I’m aware of that and I’m familiar with a  lot of writers

Part of the structure of Radio Free Song Club is a monthly deadline for this array of songwriters. How has deadline-driven songwriting shaped the character of this project?

Nicholas: Completely. As a DJ I’m used to playing whatever I feel like. But oddly, in this particular guise, I can’t do that. I play only the songs that I’m given that night. The show is really unique in that it’s put together, it’s produced by everyone involved. It has a character of the moment as opposed to reflecting my tastes or reflecting the tastes of any one artist. It’s more like it’s a flavor of the moment. It was really remarkable when Vic Chesnutt died after we did our first show, and all the sudden, everyone was inspired to write something about him (“Four Songs for Vic Chesnutt” [MP3]). It wasn’t planned, it was just that a number of the people were moved by his death and were friends of his and it was disturbing. Death was ever present that season, a lot of people we knew died.

That’s really a unique thing, doing radio that is not programmed. I’m really proud to be a part of it. It’s been inspirational to me. I’ve never done much singing, and all of the sudden I find myself inspired to do songs with these people. That’s been interesting, too.

Kate: It’s been very inspirational for everyone involved. Having a deadline has meant that they‘ve really been forced to finish songs they may not otherwise or come up with a song. I talked to Victoria Williams today and told her about the people who will be in studio next week. She’s never been in the studio with us and we were discussing the people in the studios available to back her up to overdub over her recording, whatever she sent us, some really wonderful people, many of her close friends, people who’ve been in her band. I think Calexico may be our guests next session, so that will be fun. And they’ve both played with Victoria in their bands over the years. That right there is an inspiration to her to go finish her song so she has something for those folks to play on.

People have been surprised that it’s been very motivating. Initially, people thought, “I can’t do that, it’ll be too much pressure.” It’s had a motivating effect. People like the deadline. We have a lot of things coming in under the wire, people e-mailing things during the show. It gives it a certain energy. And it’s only one song so it’s not like you’re trying to complete a record. It’s very doable. To write and record one song is not that big of a deal. It’s also inspired people. Peter Blegvad is a really interesting writer and artist, but he hadn’t been writing songs for years, and this has pulled him out of retirement. He’s the first one in every month. He’s been writing a lot of interesting things. It’s been a motivator. and I think for Holsapple, too. He talked about being in a writer’s block. It’s been a good kick in the pants. I wanted a place to bring finished material so it didn’t sit around.

What is your favorite song to come out of the Radio Free Song Club?

Kate: One of my favorites is “A Little Bit of Something Wrong,” [MP3] a Freedy song, which is a stunning song, just beautiful. The melody and the words. Classic Freedy Johnston. There’s one in the last show, the seventh show, by Peter Blegvad, “Golden Helmet,” which is really beautiful. I love Victoria, she’s the one who shares the most raw material and really lets you into her rough drafts. That’s really wonderful. She’s very willing to work it out on the air.

Nicholas: In a selfish way, I’m really excited about the ones I’ve sung on, but in terms of the other ones, I’d say the first show, Peter [Holsapple]’s song that opens the first show (“Oh My I Gotta Write a New Song” [MP3]) really blew my mind. It took what the show was about and put it in this emotional true story and out came a song about breaking through writer’s block to write a song. That was pretty great. Also, Victoria’s song for the first show (“Fall Experience” [MP3] was really fabulous for me. Blegvad’s songs every time blow my mind. I love Kate’s song (“Tell It To the Marines” [MP3]), the third show, written in the style of an old pop tune, about the financial crash. A metaphor for a breakup with a bank.

I feel like Radio Free Song Club is as much about friendship and camaraderie as it is about music, could you talk about that?

Kate: That kind of camaraderie is a real gift for musicians. It’s such a collaborative form. You have a band you have other people. It has a very social aspect to it I was missing because I was at home and writing and recording and occasionally playing a gig but I was not really seeing people that much. I wanted to have a more active engagement with my friends who play music and see what they’re doing and share what I’m doing.

Nicholas: I don’t necessarily wonder why someone writes a song about a certain subject. Songs speak for themselves one way or another and don’t need a lot of extra digging. It’s more about casual conversation and getting the artists comfortable with how their songs are being presented and getting the artist comfortable enough to perform live in the studio. … I am just hoping to have that experience be fun and pleasant for people, as opposed to tearing into the songwriter about what their story is. That’s usually not the best time to ask somebody. They’ve already bared their soul, they don’t want to bare it any more.

What is special, in this video-centric era, about an audio-centric experience?

Kate: We don’t want to have any video on the show. Nicholas was a DJ for many years and has produced a lot of radio in his day. It’s a completely different space when you’re listening to the radio and you don’t have the images. I really prefer it. I don’t have the patience to watch video, music video. It doesn’t appeal to me. I like to listen to things. It takes too much time and attention to watch a little video. We wanted it to be a radio-like experience, something you could listen to in the car, while taking a walk, that wouldn’t be tethered to the screen.

Nicholas: I think that video takes away from experience. When we first started the show, someone said “We’ve got to videotape this,” and I said “Absolutely not.” This is a radio experience. If you’re videotaping it, one, who’s gonna watch it, and two, they’re watching something be produced for audio. It takes away from the power of the event. This allows the listener to imagine what’s happening and it allows us to pretend a little bit if we want to and bring more imaginative ideas to the fore.

I find the act of sitting and watching music in video format really uncomfortable, where if you’re listening to a song, it’s not taking energy; it’s giving you energy. If you’re watching a song on video, your time is completely taken over by the image whether it’s good or not. You’ll sit there and watch an image even if it’s bad just because it’s a song. … You’re not collaborating with the material. You’re purely a victim of it, in a way. If you’re listening to music, you’re collaborating. You’re sharing in the experience. Your experience of listening is adding to the experience, whereas with video it’s all given to you in a way that makes it not as satisfying.

Who would be your dream contributor to Radio Free Song Club, alive or since passed?

Kate: The other day, I thought, “We need someone like Tom Lehrer on this show. I’m gonna write him a letter. We need someone consistently funny.” Every show we’ve had at least a few strong songs. Not a lot of them are really funny. I thought it’d be good to have someone who always sent something topical, funny, upbeat, smart. Maybe Tom Lehrer would be my answer. Apparently when you ask him if he’s going to write any new songs, he asks, “Oh, has hell frozen over?” so I don’t think he’s going to respond. But I think it would be great. He doesn’t take it too seriously and he’s always funny.

Nicholas: I’d love to have Ron Sexsmith. I interviewed him once and it was really beautiful. He was such a gracious guest and a real intelligent writer. His songs are spectacular. Another Matthew Caws. I think his writing is so brilliant. His songs are really personal but also sort of universal. Those are two people we’ve asked but haven’t been available. Both I think would be really great contributors. Moreso than Bob Dylan, who probably wouldn’t be interested. Maybe they’re both too successful or something like that to get pinned down to something of this nature. It takes a unique person to want to do it.

Take Five

Find of the Week

Thanks to a tip from Ryan of Ryan’s Smashing Life, I grabbed the most recent Static of the Gods album “Knowledge Machine” free from their Bandcamp site. I am listening to it as I type, and while I had been unfamiliar with the band before, I am absolutely loving them now. Appropriate parts shimmer, grandeur and pop-rock splendor. Jen Johnson’s powerful lead vocals really drive the record — imagine Karen O with a smidge of Asobi Seksu’s Yuki Chikudate, and a little Emily Haines snarl thrown in for good measure.

The bad news is, it’s no longer available for free. The good news is, it’s still awesome and at $8, worth the download. Plus, they’re playing June 25 at the Middle East Upstairs. In the meantime, have a listen.

New Releases

  • This week, I picked up the new Pernice Brothers, “Goodbye, Killer,” and the new We Are Scientists, “Barbara.” I highly recommend following @ashmont on Twitter — Pernice’s manager (and co-author) Joyce Linehan — if you want an ongoing backchannel to your listening experience (and to experience in real-time the barbs that led to the companion book “Pernice to Me“). Want to preview the album? You still have a few days to do so for free via Spinner.
  • Amazon MP3 offered a deal earlier this week — the new Mates of State cover album, “Crushes,” for $2.99. That deal has since ended, but the 10-song set is still available for affordable download at a tidy $5.99. Artists covered include Fleetwood Mac, Tom Waits, Dear Nora and Girls.

Live Music

Freedy Johnston is playing in Somerville on Saturday night, at the Rosebud in Davis Square. A year ago, on June 17, 2009, I saw Freedy Johnston for the first time, also in Somerville, after nearly 15 years of waiting. The show blew my mind. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I am unsure if I’m able to make it to this Saturday’s show, but you should definitely go. Brett Rosenberg will be opening. It’s $12. And when it comes to singer-songwriters, Freedy Johnston is a living legend, no exaggeration. Go.

Around the Web

In the News

Brad Searles pointed this article out to me — Michael Chabon’s essay “Tragic Magic: Reflections on Power Pop,” originally published in McSweeney’s #33. It’s a compelling examination of Big Star as exemplar of power pop, while also explaining what exactly what defines that genre:

True power pop is rueful and celebratory at the same time, glorifying desire and frustration, which is why so many power-pop songs concern themselves with the subject of Tonight, or Tomorrow Night, or Saturday Night, or some other night that will only be perfect for as long as it can be deferred.

Bonus: Second Thoughts

Stay tuned next week for the beginning of something special!

Take Five

In the News

Alex Chilton died.

I probably heard a half-dozen covers of “Thirteen” before I ever heard the original. I most certainly heard the Replacement’s eponymous tribute to the man before I picked up “#1 Record/Radio City.” I definitely came to appreciate the songs and cultural impact of Big Star later in the game than many of my peers.

But appreciate, I do. And the news on Wednesday that he had died of an apparent heart attack was an unexpected gut-punch.

It’s already been a tough year for rock music, with the loss of Chilton preceded by the deaths of Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkous. (As a worthy sidenote, I very much appreciated Bill Janovitz’s blog posts on Chesnutt and Linkous, as well as Brad Searles’ reflection on the death of Linkous and Kristin Hersh’s tribute to Chesnutt.) A lot of talent and inspiration has departed all at once, it seems.

For the next few days, the center of the music universe resides in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW music festival, where Big Star had been scheduled to perform on Saturday evening as well as participate in a panel on the band’s legacy. The show will go on, of course. But in the absence of Chilton — Chesnutt and Linkous, to boot — the music on Sixth Street will seem a little quieter.

    Find of the Week

    I learned about the Radio Free Song Club via Freedy Johnston’s e-mail list. Turns out one of my favorite musicians is part of a collaboration of veteran songwriters — including Peter Holsapple, Laura Cantrell, Victoria Williams and others — who write a song a month on deadline for an online radio show, where they then get together and talk about the process. I always get a kick out of these types of projects, where musicians sit down with musicians and give a peek into the creative process. The show just kicked off in January, so they’re only two episodes in. Let’s hope it runs on for a while.

    RIYL…

    This week, John in the Morning on KEXP – who I listen to every morning at work — played a song by a Canadian band called The Acorn. I loved it, took note of the band and looked them up when I got home. The songs I’ve listened to so far have been from their 2007 album, “Glory Hope Mountain,” and they sport lush, vibrant folk arrangements, inspired in part by the life of the lead singer’s Honduran mother. Rad stuff. Go check them out.

    CD Audit Project

    It’s done! All of the CDs are listened to and the list has been updated accordingly. All that remains is selling off whatever didn’t make the cut. I’ve listed a bunch on Amazon (who knew my Brendan Benson EPs were worth so much?) and plan on hauling the rest to Newbury Comics this week. I’ve already sold two via Amazon!

    I wonder, is it weird to, well, first of all, bother auditing my CD collection, and secondly, to approach the project with such verve? I guess it relates to a couple of things. One, I like projects. Two, I dislike clutter and dead weight. Three, I like accuracy (and my list was terribly out of date). Four, I like forcing myself to listen to stuff and make decisions about it — it makes my music collection less of a dead thing on a shelf and more of a living library. Five, I’m a nerd. What more can I say?

    Looking Ahead

    I’m going to London next week! I’m going to have some free time to myself in the city, and I’m wondering if I should be a music nerd tourist and find some real geeky landmarks to visit. Any suggestions?

    I’m also creating a spring running mix. What are some must-adds from new music? I’ve already got Ted Leo, Surfer Blood, MGMT, Thunderhawk, Mumford & Sons, The New Pornographers and Gorillaz.

    Concert Review: Freedy Johnston

    It was a tough night for Freedy Johnston. But it had nothing to do with the fact that only about 20 people had come to the Center for the Arts at the Armory in Somerville for his scarcely publicized show. And it wasn’t just because his guitar bit the dust earlier that day. Rather, he was frustrated because he could not properly tune the guitar he borrowed from opening act Mike Fiore to play the title track from his forthcoming, long-awaited album, “Rain in the City.”

    “I just want to do it right for the people,” said a visibly annoyed Freedy. After a few moments and a couple of muttered curses, he abruptly got up from his chair on stage, banging the guitar into a mic in the process, grabbed one of the folding chairs near the front-row table I shared with my friend, and plopped down in the middle of the audience. The twenty-odd of us turned around to face him, along for the ride, ready for wherever he was taking us.

    Unplugged, he launched right into a spirited cover of Wings’ “Listen to What the Man Said,” which is on his covers album “My Favorite Waste of Time.” It was as if he had to work through the frustration that his guitar was giving him, and the only way he could do it was by playing a song, and damned if that same troublesome guitar wasn’t going to do the job for him, whether it liked it or not. As he went back onstage, he said, “We artists are not stable types. You may have learned that.”

    If we hadn’t know this before, we certainly knew it by then. This was only one in a serious of magical moments at Freedy’s June 17 show, the first being the fact that he showed up at all (read more about my first near-Freedy encounter).

    Inside the Armory

    This was my first time at the Center for the Arts at the Armory, and it was a miracle I was there at all. The only way I found out about the show was via a posting on the Somerville Arts Council Yahoogroup. Really. Later on, I saw a press release republished by the Somerville Journal. But in terms of promotion, there wasn’t much. No buzz among any of the Boston music bloggers I follow. No posters around town — that I saw, anyways.

    I hadn’t yet been inside the Armory. I’d followed the protracted construction process, the conflict with the neighbors over parking and other snags and delays. But the end result seems well worth the wait. On the first floor, there is a galley area that also doubles as a nice function room for a small talk, reading or film screening. The main hall, however, was truly impressive, and made me realize the building was much bigger than it looked on the outside. The high, exposed-beam ceilings have been coated in insulation foam that was painted purple. It makes the ceiling feel like a permanent sunset. The hardwood floors, brick walls and exposed air-ducts give the building a hip, industrial loft feel. Along the sides of the space, birch trees mounted upright on wooden platforms were wreathed in white lights. The audience area consisted of some folding chairs scattered around, with some cocktail tables set up closer to the front. The tables were covered by white tablecloths adorned with pictures of fruit. Imagine Club Passim in a gymnasium, and you’ll be close.

    The folks running the show seemed a bit disorganized — I’m not sure how many live events they have hosted there yet — but they did not lack in kindness, graciousness and enthusiasm. Everyone received us warmly. There’s a bar, which is nice, and prices are quite affordable ($4 beer/wine, except $3 PBR, and $2 water/soda)

    The intimate stage was set against a moveable wooden backdrop and made homey by a rug, lamp and some plants. As Freedy mentioned at one point during the night, it was nice to think that at one point the hall had been filled with guns and ammunition, and now it was filled with music. Indeed, the acoustics in the large hall were spot on. And that’s why we were here, after all. Not for an architectural survey. For the music.

    We got to the Armory nearly a half hour before the 6:45 doors (I may have been slightly over-eager), which gave us time to take in the facility. But we also got to hear Freedy soundcheck. I even saw him briefly, looking at the setup in the hall. The knowledge that he was in the zip code assuaged anxiety I didn’t know I had built up — or had leftover from nine years ago, apparently.

    I’m not sure what I was thinking — that there would be a line of people waiting to see Freedy Johnston play, clamoring when the doors opened to get seated up front? It was us and one other guy, some diehard who had seen him three or four times. The thing Teresa and I learned was that nobody else knows who this guy is. We would excitedly tell people about the show, and get blank looks in return. Oh well. It’s totally their loss.

    The Concert

    “Thanks for having me over to your house,” Freedy said when he took the stage, seemingly unbothered by the small number of people attempting to fill up the cavernous hall. When I heard the notes from “Evie’s Tears” float out of his initial noodling, my breath caught. As the song, one of the best on his most popular album, “This Perfect World,” began to fill the hall, I couldn’t believe my luck. I was sitting ten feet from a man, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, playing a song from an album that had helped define a formative part of my adolescence. There were just about 20 other people in the room sharing this moment with me, including one girl and her male companion who seemed like an even more hardcore Freedy fan than me. I felt as if we were being told a secret nobody else knew and it was ours to relish, and if anyone else found out what they were missing, they’d be pissed.

    After “Evie’s Tears, he played a couple of new songs, “Too Close to the Rio Grande” and “Neon Repairman.” Freedy then pulled out his cover of “Wichita Lineman,” which had inspired the previous song, before playing a song from “Blue Days Black Nights,” “Pretend It’s Summer.” Next up was a poppy new track, “Don’t Fall in Love With a Lonely Girl.” I started getting excited for October, when “Rain on the City” comes out on Bar-None. He then reached back for the title track on “This Perfect World” before playing two more new songs, “Central Station” and  “When The Love is Gone (?).” He had tried to play the title track to the new album, but was unable to get the guitar appropriately tuned. Then he hopped back to another TPW track, “Cold Again.”

    At long last, he played his one hit, “Bad Reputation,” telling the story about a guy who came up to him at a show and said he had played that song everyday while he was imprisoned. “If he did play it every day in the pen, I”m sure he got lots of death threats eventually.”

    Hearing Freedy play a song is likely on my top 10 or 20 all-time… it’s impossible to describe. It felt like closure. It felt natural and right and inevitable. It felt glorious.

    Sitting up front, I enjoyed studying Freedy’s mannerisms. He was conversational and self-effacing. Looking like a cross

    between Dr. Cox from “Scrubs” and John Malkovich, he did this thing after every song where he would sort of sit back, lean from left to right and smile widely, exuding a blend of humility, graciousness, pride and happiness. A way of saying both “Shucks” and “Damn, I love this job.” At times, though, he seemed to wrestle, both with himself and the guitar. “No, you play it like this,” he told the borrowed guitar as he tried to tune for “Evie’s Tears. “Let’s try that again, Fred,” he muttered when he bungled a lyric in “Pretend It’s Summer.” It was a real joy to watch the way he works, a fine complement to the music.

    After playing another song by request, “Remember Me” from the 17-year-old album “Can You Fly,” he re-attempted “Rain in the City,” resulting in the above-described moment. Afterwards, he took more requests, and I called out one of my favorite Freedy songs, “I’m Not Hypnotized” from the album “Never Home.” To my absolute pleasure, he agreed, and he nailed it. Next up were the haunting TPW album-closer, “Emily,” CYF’s “The Mortician’s Daughter,” and “Caroline” from the old EP “Unlucky.”

    As the show came to a close, he thanked us for our patience and attentiveness, expressing his pleasure with the venue and, despite everything, the evening.

    “That’s all I can do, is entertain you with chaos,” he said. For his last song, the third time was the charm, and he finally succeeded in playing “Rain on the City.” It’s fitting that, the next day, a several-day long rainy stretch began in Boston. But that’s okay. I saw Freedy Johnston live, after all these years. And that’s worth a few blue days and black nights.

    A Very Exciting Edition of Take Five

    A special edition of Take Five this morning, because when I woke up today, there were two delightful pieces of news in my inbox:

    • Freedy Johnston, one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, is playing a rare show on the East Coast. Near Boston. In Somerville. A mile from my house!!! NEXT WEDNESDAY. At an awesome new venue I’ve been meaning to check out. Good morning, indeed!

      album-this-perfect-worldI got turned on to Freedy Johnston in high school. My friend Becca had a friend back home in Pennsylvania with whom she thought I would get along. We exchanged a couple of letters (as was popular to do back in the day), and we definitely connected. She was into music the same way I was, and as I recall, she was also interested in writing. One letter was accompanied by a cassette tape onto which she’d recorded two albums: Dave Matthews Band’s “Under the Table and Dreaming” and Freedy Johnston’s “This Perfect World.” This was around 1996, and I was actively listening to 103.5 WPLL, a pretty hip adult contemporary station that was playing some of my favorite songs of the era like Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye,” Peter Murphy’s “Scarlet Thing in You,” and the two big singles by these artists, DMB’s “Ants Marching” and Freedy’s “Bad Reputation.”

      My_Favorite_Waste_of_Time__Large_I must have played that tape a hundred or more times. I can talk about the Dave Matthews Band another time — I would go on to become a huge DMB fan in college, though I only saw them live once, and I still hold that their early stuff was pretty amazing — but the real story here is Freedy. “Bad Reputation” was the only radio hit he really had, and that’s a shame. From the perfect pop of his album “Can You Fly” to the somber, rain-slicked tones of “Blue Days, Black Nights,” Freedy runs the spectrum of longing in his songs. He’s a gifted storyteller, a craftsman when it comes to mood and melody. That album on the tape, “This Perfect World,” bundled together Westerbergian pop perfection (“Two Lovers Stop”), country twang (“Gone Like the Water”) and sparse, affecting ballads (“Cold Again”) into a timeless package. Over the years, I’ve snagged his entire discography, including his live and cover albums, and never been disappointed by a single note he’s plucked.

      I am supposed to have seen Freedy Johnston already, way back in college. I had my tickets. I was seated in the venue, Cambridge’s venerable Club Passim. I even saw the opening act, local country boy Mark Erelli. But Freedy never showed. The reason? He didn’t know he had the gig, and he was still in New York. We all got refunds, and some bonus tunes by Mark Erelli, but I’ve carried that disappointment with me all these years. On Wednesday, it will finally evaporate — as long as Freedy remembers to make the trip. And as if things couldn’t get better, he’s also got his first album of new material in eight years (“Rain on the City”) coming out in October!

      The sad post-script to this story is that I honestly forget the name of the girl who introduced me to Freedy. Doubly sad, a quick scan of my tape rack didn’t turn up the mix in question (and I DON’T throw stuff like that out). Alas.

    • Girlyman, one of my favorite bands, announced that their new album, “Everything’s Easy,” is available for pre-order. Recorded at their home in Atlanta, the album’s got three tracks I have already heard via their outstanding live album. The pre-order price is steep ($25) but it will be well worth it, both to get the album early and to reward a band that really puts their hearts into their work.

      I’m not that into the folk scene, but not due to any dislike, simply because my preferences veered in a different direction. (Back in the day, though, I was a huge Indigo Girls fan.) But a friend introduced me to Girlyman, and my love for them transcends genre. Not only are their songs consistently compelling, catchy, heartbreaking and obscenely well-crafted, with harmonies to die for, but their live show is one of the best that I’ve ever seen.

      I’m not one to see a band I like everytime they come to town, but Girlyman breaks the rule for me, simply because their on-stage chemistry (and their infamous banter, much of which is captured on the live disc) makes the show doubly entertaining. Not only do you get to hear some incredible music, you get to see a comedy show. When they play in Boston, they usually take up a two-night residence in the intimate environs of, yes, Club Passim, and when I see them clustered up on that humble little stage, I always feel like I am at a dinner party with friends and not at some rock show. That, I think, is the mark of outstanding artist-audience rapport.

      As the years go on, the members of Girlyman only improve their musicianship and songwriting abilities, so this new album is bound to be a treat.

    OK, a couple other random items to round out the five:

    • Per a suggestion from Andrew, I’m going to try — try — thinking about my desert-island top five albums. I told him that if my brain short-circuits from trying to narrow this down to five must-haves, he’ll be getting a bill. (In the meantime, Andrew has his top 100 all picked and ranked.  Impressive.)
    • I’ve fallen way behind on my downloading. Lots of MP3s on my desktop and lots of blog posts starred in Google Reader, but I haven’t pulled them into iTunes. I’m hoping to remedy that this weekend
    • I also haven’t made much headway into the unlistened-to pile of albums on my desk, though I did give the new Eels a spin. I think it’s definitely going to be a grower — it was pleasant enough, but nothing hooked me. I also listened to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” a few times, and that was pretty great.

    Hmm, those last three were about things I haven’t done or haven’t listened to. I’ll try to be more proactive the next time Take Five comes around :-)