Tag Archives: Alejandro Escovedo

Lonely Hearts for a Lonely Day

Valentine’s Day…for some, an occasion to hit the store for flowers, candy and cards and celebrate that special relationship over dinner (and hopefully some post-meal intimacy). For others, it’s a long and painful day where every turn reminds us that despite our best efforts, we are alone.

Music plays an important part in any emotional setting, of course, and for those celebrating their bliss there is a litany of sentimental songs to choose from. Most songs are about love, after all. But if you’re on the dark end of the street, songs are anything but celebratory. They become daggers plunging through your chest, each one seemingly so specific to your situation that it must have been written with you in mind.

All day long, commercial radio will no doubt fill your ears with the happy, peppy songs. Bloodshot Records has stepped up to take care of the rest of you by providing the Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Day Sampler. The free download features country, rock and blues from their label artists including Robbie Fulks, Wayne Hancock, Old 97’s, Alejandro Escovedo, Andre Collins and Bobby Bare Jr.

Click here for the free sampler.

Bloodshot has two other free “Best of 2010” samplers here and here. There’s a wealth of free MP3s available on Amazon with new promotions every month – bookmark this link for tracking those down.

Now put the sharp objects away and press “play“…

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T.G.I.F. – Ten 2010 Bridesmaids

Putting together a “best of” list is hard for me, because there’s so much out there to enjoy every year and many albums appeal to me in different ways. Lists are subjective, of course (despite what Rolling Stone may insist) and try as I might I can’t put six pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. So while I consider the Top Ten an honor, the near misses – Bridesmaids, as I’ve been calling them – are no slouches either.

To beat the tired drum again, anyone who is claiming that there is no great music being made simply isn’t trying hard enough to find it. I’m out there beating the bushes constantly and I can’t keep up with it; certainly even a cursory attempt to widen one’s horizons would be richly rewarded (there’s a bunch of links at right for starters). And as always I welcome the emails from readers that start “have you heard…” as they often open new doors for me as well.

So this week, in no particular order, let me present Ten 2010 Bridesmaids – albums that didn’t make the Top Ten but weren’t far off. When I post the full “best of” lists in January these will certainly be there, so give a listen and be rewarded! (Amazon links included – many on sale right now!)

And on this TGIF Friday I’m especially thankful.

01) Peter Wolf – Midnight Souveniers…Like fine wine, Wolf just gets better and better with age. A far cry from his kinetic J. Geils frontman image, Pete has quietly entered the small plateau of artists perpetuating organic, honest music for the ages. A musical archivist flexing his talents.

02) Smash Palace – 7…If the cover art’s nod to Revolver doesn’t tip you off, let me. Smash Palace is in the upper tier of powerpop bands with traces of Cheap Trick, The Beatles, Tom Petty and Badfinger in its mix but a fresh and original sound. Solid songwriting, incredible vocals, songs that are pure ear candy. Radio’s loss; your gain.

03) Paul Thorn – Pimps and Preachers…”If I could be a tear/rolling down your cheek/and died on your lips/my life would be complete”. Holy shit. I’m new to Thorn’s world, but this is a gritty brew of John Hiatt, Warren Zevon, Bob Seger and Alejandro Escovedo. I am on board now.

04) The Master Plan – Maximum Respect…You were so sure that you didn’t get a record from The Del Lords, The Fleshtones or The Dictators in 2010. Well, you were wrong! The collaborative side project is back for a second album and as you might expect, it kicks ass! If “BBQ” doesn’t get you hopping, you are a zombie.

05) Teenage Fanclub – Shadows…Back after a five-year break and sounding like it was a day. Fannies know what to expect, for the uninitiated, think a sophisticated pop blend of XTC, Big Star and some classic California sunny pop (Beach Boys, CSN). A little subdued for some, I prefer to call it atmospheric.

06) New Pornographers – Together…The phrase “greater than the sum of its parts” sets the bar very high when talking about this collaborative unit, but damned if I don’t find every one of their albums irresistible. Any band that can make whistling as cool as a snapping snare drum is okay by me.

07) Graham Parker – Imaginary Television…Another guy who just defies the calendar and continues to pump out great songs; he’s a better singer, songwriter and guitar player now than in his popular prime. Also be sure to pick up his live set with The Figgs.

08) Deadstring Brothers – Sao Paulo…Imagine the Gram Parsons / Keith Richards sessions in the Stones’ golden era were invaded by Ronnie Wood from The Faces. Wine flowed. Tape rolled. Absolute gospel – rock – country blues bliss.

09) The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever…Just missed…I thought the personnel change would impair their urgency and their passion but they are as good as ever. The first five songs are absolutely perfect and the album would be worth it if it ended there.

10) Nick Curran – Reform School Girl…I wasn’t a follower of Curran but damned if he isn’t channeling Little Richard, Phil Spector, Fats Domino, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Sonics on this album. This is a party whittled down and stuffed in a jewel case; besides – how can you not buy an album with a title like this one?

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Blast From The Past – Bobby Gaylor

My mind often plays connect-the-dots.

I was reading emails from friends about the recent Alejandro Escovedo concert with Hamell On Trial as an opener – a perfect pairing that I sadly missed – and the reviewer mentioned how he had met Escovedo in Austin while both were clerks ar Waterloo Records. Hamell, a native of upstate New York, eventually migrated there when starting his solo career, a decision that led to his explosion onto the alternative scene and his initial major label deal.

Ed Hamell is a literate and wordy guy, so I found myself referring to him when I’d come across similar artists, or at least those who would issue combinations of spoken word and music. And while dwelling on that memory, I remembered Bobby Gaylor‘s song “Suicide“, which caused quite a stir upon its release…although many people misinterpreted the point of the song in their “Born In The USA” kinda way.

Video: “Suicide

So thanks to my random and erratic brain synapses, here’s my ten-year old review of Gaylor’s Fuzzatonic Scream album, which originally ran in Consumable Online

If you have had a radio on these past couple of months, you’ve probably heard “Suicide”, the arresting spoken-word track that has polarized the listening audience. No, it’s not a pro-suicide song, although it wouldn’t be the first time that dimwitted people have rallied against a song or poem without comprehending it. But it does cleverly begin with an off-the-cuff attitude that hooks your sick sense of humor, before spinning on a dime midway through to head towards its very anti-suicide coda — “Hey, you were born – finish what you started!” Whether it’s the overwhelming majority of people who are moved by the track or the 10% or so who are offended, the phone lights up whenever the track airs.

Bobby Gaylor’s phrasing and Boston accent will remind you of Denis Leary, although his comic story style owes more to performers like Ed Hamell and monologists like Eric Bogosian than any stand-up comic (well, this side of Chris Rush, anyway.) His skewed reality is not so different from ours, but few people have the ability to tell as colorful of a story while still remaining believable. If you have that one friend who can make any situation or story sound funny, or scary, or important, well, that’s Bobby Gaylor in a nutshell.

What is unusual is the musical accompaniment; one is more used to hearing laughter or silence rather than music.  Occasionally it works wonders;  “Suicide” plays like an alternative folk song, “Animals” would play well on The Discovery Channel, and “Tommy The Frog Killer” has a pulsing Euro-sound rolling underneath like an independent film. Which makes sense of course, since soundtrack composer and musician/engineer Marc Bonilla provide the “score” to Gaylor’s tales. Not all stories are funny – although “Hit A Guy With My Car” is morbidly hilarious – but they’re all compelling with or without the music. Masturbation, families, animals, violence, and the artlessness of smelt fishing all get a turn under his microscope.

“Suicide” will no doubt grab your attention, and may indeed change your life, but Gaylor is no one-trick pony. And for those who can’t handle the truth, yes, the radio-edit version of “Suicide” is included as well as the full-blown rant.

Listen to clips at Amazon.

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