Tag Archives: steve earle

Take Five

In the News

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the bargain bin. For a dollar or two — plus a good chunk of time spent digging around — you can find a CD that will change your life. The extra work and savings can make the discovery all the more exciting. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, right?

In recent years, I’ve stumbled across the self-titled album by Owsley in more than one bargain bin. I remember discovering Will Owsley’s debut nearly a decade ago and just rolling in it, listening to it over and over again. I was in a huge power pop phase back then, and Owsley hit just the right spot.

Last Friday, Will Owsley died. Yesterday, he was laid to rest. He was 44.

You may not think much about it, but that album you see for a buck — perhaps even dozens of copies of it for a buck apiece — is a precious thing. It’s someone’s ultimate creative expression, attempting to articulate a depth of feeling in one jewel-cased statement.

Owsley’s two albums, his self-titled debut and his follow-up “The Hard Way,” were his statements, his treasures, and they are made even more precious by his sudden death. It makes me think about those copies of his album, leaning against one another idly in the bargain bin. I hope someone finds them and buys one, listens to it and realizes that they have something really valuable on their hands. I hope it changes their life.

I encourage you to read the touching tributes to Will Owsley by Merlin Mann and John Darnielle and Addicted to Vinyl. But also read Elisabeth’s, because she makes a really important point: “Take the opportunity to tell the artists you appreciate how much and why you appreciate them. Let each other know why you matter.”

It has been a tough year in the music world already. We’ve lost Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous, Alex Chilton and now Will Owsley, three of them by their own hand. This makes the gift they gave us, their music, all the more fragile and valuable. I bet we all wish we had the chance to tell them, as Elisabeth did to Will, that their music mattered to us. Really mattered.

I want to end this commentary with the gift of music, because I think that’s only fitting. First, you can go download the Japan-only sole release by The Semantics, Owsley’s early power pop project with Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) and Millard Powers. Secondly, I’d like to offer up an Owsley cover that I must have scavenged from Napster back in the day, and I am really glad to still have in my possession.

Goodbye, Will Owsley. I hope you’ve found peace.

Owsley – Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley cover)

New Releases

Yes, I got the New Pornographers and Hold Steady albums. And yes, they are great. I have no eloquence to shed on them just yet, as I am still drinking them in. But man, are they tasty.

Not exactly new releases, but new to me… the Marshall Crenshaw collection I ordered off of eBay arrived, and it is just as awesome as I’d hoped. I love Rhino collections for their great liner notes, where I learned a lot of Crenshaw’s life, career and evolution as a songwriter. I also got a Steve Earle collection from my YourMusic queue. I am infatuated with his contribution to David Byrne’s “Here Lies Love,” sure, but I long ago got hooked on “I Ain’t Never Satisfied” thanks, once again, to WERS. So I thought I’d dig deeper. I am very pleased with what I’ve heard to date.

Live Music

On Sunday, I decided to hit the Harvard Square Mayfair. I roamed around, catching snatches of the various musical performances and taking it the carnival-like atmosphere. When I came to the Church St. stage, though, I paused. The band playing sounded great, and while I didn’t recognize them, their song sounded familiar. Was it… yes, a cover of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” which my brain has somehow picked up from the Top 40 ether. The crowd was totally eating it up, dancing and waving their arms.

The band, Darlingside, continued the set with their own songs, and the crowd’s enthusiasm carried over. How could it not? These guys, who brand themselves as a “string rock quartet,” were charming, talented, brandishing mandolins and an electric cellos and playing some catchy, tight songs. Maybe “Tik Tok” whipped them up, but songs like “Surround” (see below) kept the crowd frothing.

Around the Web

As promised, here is my Higher Ed Music Critics blog post compiling my favorite songs of 2010 so far. I used Lala to embed the tracks while I still could, since Apple is closing up the Lala shop. What do you think of my picks? Anything I’m missing?

Also, via Higher Ed Music Critics maestro Andrew Careaga, check out the Brett Domino Trio‘s nerdy Justin Timberlake medley, complete with kazoo and recorder:

Finds of the Week

The Futureheads‘ new album, “The Chaos,” isn’t due out in the US until next month, but it’s available for download now via Amie Street for about $5. Go snag it!

Also, download this free Merge sampler from Amazon MP3 while you can. Magic awaits you therein.


Take Five

Finds of the Week

  • All week, I’ve been enamored with the David Byrne/Fatboy Slim project “Here Lies Love.” Enamored may not be a strong enough word. Maybe a bit obsessed. The story is compelling, the songs are well crafted and the sheer quality of the talent involved in the project is staggering. Byrne does a great job of capturing the flavor of the 1970s-80s club anthems that Marcos reveled in, especially in the title track sung by Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), and he never sacrifices narrative. In fact, the whole thing hinges on narrative, which may be which I am so captivated by the project. Usually, I’m not a big liner notes person unless the lyrics are involved, but in this case, they are a must-read. You can appreciate the album without the historical baclground, but that’s like listening to it in mono.My favorite song (of the moment) may be Steve Earle’s contribution, “A Perfect Hand,” which is kind of cheesy but I think that’s why I love it so much. It’s also just a great pop song. “It’s a winning combination / if a lady understands / that the king and the queen of hearts / could be a perfect hand.”
  • I admit it. I hadn’t paid much attention to Jakob Dylan since the 1990s heyday of the Wallflowers, despite my abiding appreciation for “Bringing Down the Horse.” When I saw that his new album, “Women and Country,” featured the vocal talents of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, I was mildly intrigued. But it took Dave pointing out their NPR Tiny Desk concert for me to understand what I was missing. Now, “Women and Country” is very much on my list.
  • I snagged Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” for $7 used at Newbury Comics, and it did not disappoint. I think I’ve sated my DS urges for the time being, but it’s probably just a matter of time before I start digging into Mark Knopfler’s solo catalog. So it goes.

Live Music

Last Friday, as promised, I caught Freelance Whales’ live in-store at Newbury Comics. I got there a hair before 5PM and was able to snag a spot right up front. It turned out that Newbury was having some problems with their PA, so the band ended up playing acoustic. They were unfazed by the technical difficulties and proceeded to deliver a fun half-hour set. “Weathervanes” is a great album, full of friendly pop and delightful instrumentation. Sure, they are cute and guileless, but also quite talented. A fun way to kick off the weekend early.

Being the nerd that I am, I shot some grainy video of “Generator^First Floor” with my Blackberry. Check out the lead singer Judah Dadone’s remarkable resemblance to Mark Ruffalo in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

New Releases

I learned from KEXP that Cloud Cult is releasing a new EP, “Running With Wolves,” on (fittingly) Earth Day. Lucky for me, it’s available for download right now. Four songs for $2.99 is not a bad deal at all, especially when the EP includes their awesome cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” long only available via one of KEXP’s live in studio compilations.

In the News

I’ve spoken a lot about the amazing music I’ve discovered through WERS. Well, this week is one of their biannual pledge weeks. If you support awesome music, pledge some cash to WERS by Apr. 18. You can also tune in and hear some great live performances, to boot.

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, I’ll be heading back to Newbury Comics for Record Store Day. In addition to hopefully snagging some fun promos, I am also looking forward to seeing the New Collisions and the Morning Benders perform live. (Find out if there is a Record Store Day event near you!) Also, at the Independent in Somerville next Tuesday, Brad from Bradley’s Almanac will be hosting a listening party for the upcoming New Pornographers release, “Together.”

Speaking of Cloud Cult, theyapparently have a new full-length, “Light Chasers,” coming out Aug. 17. On top of the new Futureheads album I just found out about (“The Chaos,” coming out June 1, download the track “Struck Dumb” here), this music year keeps getting better and better.