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Living Room Songs — track 5 “Bash Bish Falls” by John Reischman and the Jaybirds from Stellar Jays.

The first instrumental track, and a change of pace. The three proceeding songs were all pretty serious, and the song immediately prior to this one, “I Wish To The Lord I’d Never Been Born” was very patient and internal, and it felt like time for something more lively.

This track certainly is lively. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except that I think it’s great and that, even though it’s very fast, they all really seem to be listening to each other throughout. They way they trade off playing lead works well (you can see that visually in this live performance), nobody has to keep up full speed for the entire song.

It’s very fun, and a nice pallet cleanser before the mix heads into a different mood.

I’ve mentioned the Clumsy Lovers before but I wanted to mention my favorite of their albums (of the ones I’ve heard), Barnburner. It maintains a remarkably consistent and successful of good matured sarcasm about human behavior.

Take, for example, the first song on the album, “Good To Be Alone” a delightful satire of the impermanence and confusion of adolescent relationships.

The lyrics sketch a storybook romance (of sorts).

I once knew a girl she worked at the mall . . .
She looked so good in jeans. . . .
I remember when I’d sneak her home at 10 …
we once stayed out late / it was much more than a date . . .

The chorus describes the relationship falling apart for reasons that the character cannot figure out. The lead vocals say, “We changed in different ways” and “It’s good to be alone sometimes” but a quieter voice says, “deep down there’s a fire . . . maybe there’s a chance.”

The music is so happy that it never suggest deep seated anger or self-deception, but just someone who is emotionally confused, but still holding their head up. Perhaps it is even possible that they are not confused but are both happier alone, and still aware of a longing, deep down, that the relationship hadn’t fallen apart.

In the context of that mood they do a very nice cover of Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (another Bob Dylan cover). I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with the more venomous side of Dylan’s songwriting, and this song is certainly in that register. Lines like, “I once loved a woman, a child I’m told / I give her my heart but she wanted my soul” or “Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say / To try and make me change my mind and stay / We never did too much talkin’ anyway” are so obviously one-sided they make you wonder what they woman in question thought was going on, and realize that the song provides no way of knowing.

In the Clumsy Lovers’ version the lightness of the music, and the comparison to the first song, plays up the essentially adolescent nature of the emotions in the song. The narrator is so one-sided that he can’t be taken as having ever been an honest partner in the relationship. That’s true about the original of the song as well, but I appreciate the way the Clumsy Lovers are able to smile at the song.

I don’t have a favorite album. There are too many choices, and too many ways in which an album can be good for me to ever want to pick one favorite. But I can distinctly remember a time when I did have a favorite and I was reminded of that today.

In 7th grade my favorite album was Failure by the Posies. A choice that stands up rather well, if I do say so myself. It’s still my favorite Posies album. At that point the Posies were Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow, just out of High School, recording in their parents’ house. According to allmusic.com Failure was recorded as a demo and Pop Llama liked it enough to release it as an album (on cassette). As they say in the liner notes to the CD version, “[W]e warn you that you are listening to a disc that was not only recorded in someone’s living room, on used tape at that, on eight tracks but was released inauspiciously as a cassette over a year and a half ago with the intention of selling a couple hundred copies to our friends and such. Little did we know, that like musical George Bailey’s we found ourselves unexpectedly blessed with darn near 10,000 friends. Fortunately, they didn’t all stay at once. Some of you may know that our house is rather small and gloomy and hardly the place one invites dignitaries. Which, if you have been so kind as to pay full retail and not hassle your record-store-cashier buddies for a discount, you are.”

As you can probably tell from those notes, they were clever, a little bit bored, and listened to a lot of music. As it turned out, they were great musicians as well. It is the classic story of rock and roll surprise success (though they never really rocked, and their success was ultimately modest). Failure is my favorite of their albums because it is the one in which they seem most relaxed in their ambitions. All of the other albums feel, to me, like they’re consciously trying to do something different, and it isn’t completely comfortable. Failure, by contrast, feels unselfconscious in a very positive way.

My favorite song, in seventh grade, was Under Easy, a sarcastic song about being frustrated with someone (a friend? or a boy/girlfriend?) who is wallowing in adolescent angst. Despite not being a particularly angst-ridden adolescent I identified with the target of the song.

They certainly weren’t above adolescent angst themselves. Take, for example, I May Hate You Sometimes. Some of the lyrics are almost painful, “I’m another one just like you, a human being.” but others are fantastic, like the opening, “Here we are, only been a couple of years, maybe longer.” That is a near-perfect opening line, particularly for someone just out of High School. “I don’t want to live up to your expectations / I don’t want to be the one to end relations / I may hate you sometimes, but I’ll always love you.” That was a line that made a big impact on me at 12. I think I’ve carried that around for a long time as an image of someone trapped in a non-functional relationship who has tied themselves completely in knots. It’s an easy emotion to empathize with.

I don’t generally post youtube links for a couple of reasons. The main reason is just an element of self-discipline. It’s important to me to mostly post songs that I’ve lived with for a while. I will occasionally put up something that’s new to me and that I’m excited about, but I like to emphasize music that I’m familiar with. I worry that youtube makes it too easy to find novelties. The second reason is similar, I don’t like the sound quality on most youtube videos and I like to listen to things on different systems as a way to get different sense of the sound, and that isn’t possible with youtube videos.

All of that said, I do see videos that are well worth a link, and here are a couple:

1) A delightful video of Wayne Henderson at PSGW. I first heard a recording of Henderson about four years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since (in fact, I had a very small role in the story of how his latest CD got released). The video has good sound quality and really shows off his particular casual musical dexterity. He isn’t working hard at all, and he sounds like he can do whatever he wants without ever being in a hurry. As an extra bonus, it was recorded at PSGW which is always worth a mention (just don’t ask me to explain how they chose the cover photo for the current brochure).

2) For a completely different mood, there is this video of Townes Van Zandt performing “Waiting Around to Die.” I think some of that footage was in the Townes Van Zandt documentary “Be Here To Love Me,” but I don’t remember if that entire clip was included. I don’t know that the performance is particularly impressive, as a performance, but I think it gives a very interesting sense of Townes’ charisma. He’s capable of being simultaneously casual and jokey while also having moments of intense emotional focus and openness. He can be himself while being around or chanelling intense emotions and you can see how that would be really compelling to people around him.

That clip also made me think of the description, in “Be Here To Love Me,” by Townes’ wife, about the start of his songwriting career. She said that they had gotten married not that long before, Townes decided that he wanted to start writing songs, shut himself up in a small room for a week, and then came out excited to play her his first song — “Waiting Around to Die.” At that point she realized the marriage was not going to be exactly what she expected. Clearly Townes Van Zandt was not particularly inclined to alter how emotional journeys for the sake of the people around him. But he did become a truly amazing songwriter and performer.

3) Finally, a clip of music that I am less familiar with. Via Ta-Nehisi Coates there are some great Joan Armatrading videos from a session live in studio. I’ve just recently bought a Joan Armatrading collection and I think it’s going to take me a while to get used to her style but that I will really like her when I do. At first listening there are parts that I find distracting. Her performance is an interesting mix of being stylized and formal and also intimate and emotional. I suspect that the parts that feel overly formal to me are a sign of not being familiar with her musical style. But I’m interested to try to listen enough that I can focus on the real emotion in the songs.

A little while ago I mentioned that a band containing a pair of High School friends of mine had gone into the studio to record material for an album.

I subsequently commented that I had been enjoying the advance copy that I received, and that there would be more information at a later date.

That time has arrived. I have heard that CDs will be back from the duplicator next week. As soon as I find out information about how to purchase the album, I will give you the hard sell and try to convince as many of you reading this blog as possible to buy a copy. For now, however, it’s time to celebrate a project done well — the upcoming album Red Over Red by Trenchmouth.

Red Over Red cover art

There are two things I want to talk about, first how much I like the album, and secondly a little bit of what I know from sitting in on the recording process.
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For the break in posting, life has been busy.

But, I have exciting news! I spent last weekend hanging out with old friends of mine while they were recording an album.

It is an essentially amateur effort, recorded over a weekend, but I was very impressed with what I heard, and am looking forward to sharing some of that with you in a couple of months when it’s ready for release. Start thinking now about who in your life would appreciate a copy of an album of traditional music, mostly Irish and Sea Shanties performed with a “take no prisoners” attitude as a lovely summer solstice gift (guessing on the approximate time it takes to finalize and print a CD).

I hope to post some new music soon.


I’ve been thinking hard about what track I wanted to pull as a second track from the Couplings compilation that I mentioned earlier. There is a (seriously) fantastic song about a dispute over fishing rights between Newfoundland and Spain. Given my interest in pop music, and covers I ultimately decided on a version of the Gram Parsons’ song We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning that I think does something very interesting and quite successful with the song. The performance pairs Larry Stevens and Shelly Brown.
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I was listening to an album that I hadn’t listened to in a while, and was really impressed.

It was done as a document of the local music scene in Victoria BC. I know the person who produced it (and how can you not like someone who titles their label “Pucker Lips Music … a division of Apocalypse Enterprises Inc.”), and I knew that I liked it, but I was really surprised to remember how successful it is. It manages to capture the feel of a live music scene without being too earnest, for lack of a better word.

I want to quote the liner notes at length, at some point, but first a teaser. The opening track off the CD is by two people who had never done ny recording before (which is true of several of the tracks) and it’s an astonishing debut — Little Bird of Heaven.

I think it’s a remarkable example of the distinction between “people having fun playing music” and “people playing music that makes them happy.” In this case, I think it’s palpable that the act of playing this music brings them pleasure.

It is special to be able to hear that in a recording.

Update: I realized that I forgot to credit the performers — Katherine Dennison and Shanti Bremer.

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