by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason
Artist: Lily Locksmith
Album: 45rpm 7″ Single ‘Player’ b/w ‘No Use But O’Well’
Label: Enviken Records
You take the average American somebody and ask them to name a few things associated with the very proud and noble country of Sweden, most of the time their answers will be very generalized and textbook-ish. Yes, they will normally bring up the meatballs or those chewy little candy fish. They can also tell you that it’s the birthplace of the world’s most favorite furniture monger, IKEA and sputter a few quotes from that puppet chef. All-in-all in those, well honestly few moments, it feels like we have been very unfair to Sweden.
One thing that isn’t usually touched upon is the fact that behind the United States and the United Kingdom, Sweden falls squarely into third place as being one of the biggest exporters of music worldwide. Think of ABBA…or don’t. Think of Ace of Base…ok, really the individual contributions aren’t exactly what we are tallying up here, just the overall Swedish vibe cast across the world. How about The Cardigans? Does that do anything for you? Yeah, NO? Dammit.
Inside of Sweden exists a tenacious subculture that embraces the fashion and music of the American 1950’s and 1960’s. It is known as “Raggare” a lifestyle that exists across Europe into parts of Asian as well. It would and can be described as a living homage to that time with a flaunted love of fast ass cars, vintage American pop sensibilities and the lovely, raucous sound of Rockabilly music.
Out of that movement most recently has sprung forth the classic twangy, R & B sound and bold vocal styling of one, Lily Locksmith. This girl from the “heart of Sweden” exudes soul-felt talent and can at times invoke spirits from that particular time in the past.
Her latest single Player, available now from Enviken Records, is a cover of the Nick Curran and The Nitelifes tune. On it, Lily unleashes a fitting tribute to the late Curran in a song that has a very familiar gallop of Little Richard with the chesty attitude of Big Mama Thornton; she sings about how she is tired of her man’s overly cavalier approach to love and how he “treats her like a clown”. Her heartache comes out as straight up rhythm and blues sass, it’s quite clear that she is ready to pull out a chain and thrash this man who dares to treat her so.
On the flipside of Player is the song No Use But O’Well, which is admittedly this writer’s favorite. What could be called a “jump blues” number, this bewitching bright B-side is everything that defines the term “hot”. A steady back beat, wide opening vocals and quick, stabby and licky guitar work…this can’t be 2017, right? Where are all the electronic bleeps, farts and whistles?
I am romanticizing of course. The world, though bloated with hate and mediocrity always has room for a tiny bit of romance. Especially for a time and place in the world that ultimately led up to a cultural explosion that was experienced around the world, music has always been that unspoken universal language. Lily Locksmith and her band have a way of lighting up that corner of time that many believe was closed forever.
You can check out a digital copy of Lily Locksmith’s single Player by heading over to www.envikenrecords.com. While you are there why not look into the beautiful, limited edition red vinyl version of the record? There are only 500 so might as well grab a few, right? Also, both Player and No Use But O’Well have lovely music videos that accompany them and are available on the Enviken Records’ YouTube channel. Lily Locksmith is everywhere, if you miss her it’s your own damned fault.
by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason
Louisville, Kentucky — April 14th, 2017
I never really attended church as a child. Many of my friends did, sometimes their parents would invite me along, probably just to keep from hanging out on their front porch while they were away. The few times I went, I usually sat there unaffected, packed tightly within the cottony-soft blankets of ignorance. Feeling as moved spiritually as I would sitting in the lobby of a restaurant waiting for a table. Just enveloped in boredom with other people listening to crappy music, each hoping to be picked next.
I recall my first experience with true “religion” when it arrived around the time I was twelve-years-old. The song “Imagine” by John Lennon was playing on the local college radio station. As it occurs to me now, the lyrics enthralled me. Those words had such a haunting beauty I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. Goosebumps formed on my forearms and I began to weep softly.
That was what I considered to be my first encounter with what I felt and still feel is a direct channel to a higher power. Music. Music is my religion. I do not worship it, though I am nourished by it. What is it about hearing music that moves a person in such a manner? When the tones cause an involuntarily emotionally and physically reaction. I always look for that same feeling in all the music that I consumed. I don’t listen blindly in other words. The sensation of being moved in such a manner is almost an obscure luxury in recent years. So much trash to sift through for so little nutrition. Those moments of finding something singularly cool become so much more special, I always fall backwards into the profound and surrender to the entire experience, every single time.
I had the opportunity recently to bask in that magnificent old time feeling once’t again. This time I took a trip to Kentucky for another “spiritual” first, to see Jonathan Richman, who is at his core a true American Rock-n-Roll original and legendary singer/songwriter. Richman is a prime example of how it is to be a rock star that has the integrity to operate within a set of their own standards. There is rarely huge advertising campaigns announcing his arrival. It’s all word of mouth. There is no merchandise table. He hits the stage with drummer Tommy Larkins and both create a very personal live experience where Jonathan pours out every ounce of his lovely essence. You feel like every song performed is especially for you.
Richman has achieved fame by adding a major contribution to the development of what became known as the American punk movement. A sound that grew largely out of the “garage band/proto-punk” bands of the 60’s. Richman’s early band The Modern Lovers has been cited as being very influential to musicians and writers across many genres and mediums. Jonathan Richman’s music has been said to be one of the central arteries between bands like the Velvet Underground to the blossoming origins of the New York City and English punk scenes of mid 70’s. He eventually dropped the name Modern Lovers and began touring simply as Jonathan Richman. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s Richman maintained a worldwide cult fan base performing around the globe, followed by a widening spotlight on him with his appearance in the Farrelly Brother’s epic comedies, 1996’s ‘Kingpin’ and ‘There’s Something about Mary’ in 1998.
I felt evidence of the legend of Jonathan Richman, live and in person that night at Zanzabar in Louisville within the opening strains of his first number “My Baby Love Love Loves Me”, Richman immediately gained the warm attention of the crowd and never once did they let go. Jonathan merrily held his guitar up high and gave his hips a swivel, all very sweetly and sincerely, keeping with his reputation as being child-like and exuding a certain sort of whimsy. He charmed the crowd with the things he said and the little dances he would erupt into even in the middle of songs, leaving Tommy to provide the percussive footsteps. The goosebumps hit me right about halfway through “Springtime In New York”. In the course of the show there were many times I felt that same kid-ish feeling where I was just pulled into the absolute joy of the occurrence.
Jonathan’s ability to relate to an audience is something I honestly have never experienced in a live show. The crowd was asked to sing along with “People Are So Disgusting” as Jonathan went through many worst case scenarios of motel existence and his sympathy towards those who have to clean up the messes. His eyes would move from person to person, each time you could see the little light of connection.
(video courtesy of Christopher Martin)
My friend Chris Martin, the fella responsible for getting me to the show later told me that “Jonathan looks at people until they smile. Then finds another person.” The point is all about getting everyone in the room singing and playing along, making them participants in the performance rather than just mere observers, especially when Jonathan looks out into the crowd and reminds them that it’s ok for them to give him “the beat”. In many cases he is like if Bob Dylan had a younger, more pleasant brother. The show ended with a updated version of a The Modern Lover’s era song, “Old World”…
“I say bye, bye, bye, bye old world.”
…and there were those who hooted and cheered for an encore, Jonathan walked back onstage, read a wonderful poem and it was done…dignified.
Through some mutual folks, my friends and I were able to meet Jonathan and Tommy as they were in the process of packing up gear and finishing up a brief nosh before hitting the road. Jonathan was speaking with someone from the venue about the issue of sound proofing. Jonathan’s sound live is not loud, he makes it powerful and that power certainly was concentrated in that room. He was talking about audiences listening to live music comfortably and said that when the club owners allow bands to dictate loud volume criteria the owners are just catering to the band’s sense of stage fright.
As Tommy was packing up the last bit of his gear, things quieted down and we finally spoke with Jonathan. He told us about touring around, he and Tommy travel around quite frequently and do it very simply. Usually the arrangement is Jonathan and Tommy in a modest van and a double handful of nameless motel rooms; in some cases they make it abroad and play to appreciative crowds in Europe and Asia as well. Jonathan also said that he likes to go to schools and perform for kids. He has no problem taking the class that has the most unruly child. He proudly confessed to us that usually by the end of the show that unruly kid is leading the applause. Both guys were very welcoming to us and though the visit was brief it has had a very lasting effect on me. We said so long and both Jonathan and Tommy hopped into their van and proceeded to make their way to Chicago.
by: Kidman J. Williams
Artist: Sheryl Crow
Album: Be Myself
Label: Warner Bros.
Sheryl Crow’s first album “Tuesday Night Music Club” hit the scene in 1993 and since then she has earned herself nine Grammy Awards and sold more than 35 million albums all over the world, along with five of those albums breaking the platinum mark.
This future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t done too bad for herself by just putting her real self out there album to album. Crow’s honesty has always been her drawing power. And let me tell you, she doesn’t disappoint on her newest effort “Be Myself,” due out April 21, 2017.
“So for the first time in my life, I made it a point to sit down and really listen to my old records.” Says Crow. “I’d drive my kids to school and play the old stuff as I came back home. That helped me remember what it felt like when I was just beginning as an artist.”
“But,” she clarifies, “it wasn’t about repeating myself. It was about revisiting where I came from and seeing where that would take me now.”
“Be Myself” has a welcoming throwback sound; the same sound that gave Crow the ability to speak to every fan on a personal and individual level while letting us know that she is just one of us with the same salient struggles that we all have to live with and endure.
She also reunited with producer, songwriter, musician and her partner on the early albums of her career.
“Musically, this record is about coming back together with Jeff Trott,” Crow said. “This past summer, because of what was going on in the world and particularly in the United States; I began to feel a sense of urgency about writing. So he came out from L.A. for a couple of days here, a couple of days there, and we turned out some good old-school Sheryl Crow tunes.”
Usually I wouldn’t start with the fourth track on an album, but in this case I will because the hit is not the most attractive thing on this album. The self-titled track and single “Be Myself” is a great catchy soundtrack song for this summer.
Trust me when I say there is nothing wrong with this anthem song declaring to the world that being yourself is the best self you can be. It just isn’t the finest work on this great album. And frankly, after we end up hearing it three times an hour on the radio for a whole summer, we are going to be begging for relief wishing that we were someone else.
“Love Will Save the Day” is the kind of song that saves people from themselves. We have all been there. Those times where everything is hopeless, despairing, and desperate. Whether it is a break-up, problems with your family, or maybe even your own anxieties crippling your life; this is the song you put on repeat in your dark room lit by one single candle while you fade out with your headphones on and forget about the world for a while.
Right from the opening of the song with that vinyl scratch embedded into the background of the song as the guitar gently holds you to its breast and tells you everything is alright while an angel resonates into your ears, “We get lost along the way. I know it hurts right now, but it will fade. Sometimes it is hard to find some light, with darkness on the left and on the right, believe me that love will save the day.”
The very funky second track, “Halfway There” is a whirlwind of sound with a message of compromise, something this world has forgotten how to do.
The song is jammed full of funky guitar riffs, grooving beat, and a guitar hook that seems to come in on the four count, giving it a unique movement. The lead guitar has a great break part that incorporates a nod to the psychedelic era of the late 60’s.
Crow nails it with “Be Myself.” She harnessed all of who she is, where she came from, while staying true to herself and above all, she is honest with her fans.
She gives you all of her fears, love, while being very topical, and most important, she leaves you with hope. No matter how dark things seem Crow makes sure that the listener understands that it will always get better. And she really knows how to have fun as well, as she explores all of the nooks and crannies of the human experience.
Sheryl Crow is out on tour right now. Click Here for more information.
- Alone in the Dark
- Halfway There
- Long Way Back
- Be Myself
- Roller Skate
- Love Will Save the Day
- Strangers Again
- Rest of Me
- Heartbeat Away
- Grow Up
- Woo Woo
by Kyle K. Mann
Artist: The Doors
Album name: The Doors- 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
As the hype continues this bizarre year of 2017 over the 50th anniversary of all things 1967, on March 31 Rhino/Elektra released “The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” which is meant to be the last word on the self-titled debut.
Is this package worth the 60 bucks?
I’ll say yes, though I’m not as objective as some readers might like. As I’ve noted previously, the Doors are a band I saw at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom before they were famous, and I have a great deal of built-in affection for them.
Well. So, whaddya get for the dough?
In brief, two CD versions of the original mixes of the vinyl release, one stereo, one mono, and a third bonus CD of the band playing at San Francisco’s Matrix club, as well as a mono vinyl record album. The latter CD is live material released a decade back, but that is, according to the story, now taken from a first generation source. Indeed, this live CD sounds considerably better than the last version.
For me, the stereo CD version of the original studio tracks is stellar, with the attention to sonic detail staggering. Listening to the tracks using a new HP laptop and it’s bundled PowerMediaPlayer, and a pair of new audio-technica headphones, I’m noticing details I had never heard before. The crispness on the high end is breathtaking, including the marxophone hits on “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” and the astonishing cymbal tones John Densmore achieves throughout “The End” and especially at the conclusion of that track.
For this superb sonic excellence we have original producer Paul Rothschild (and engineer Bruce Botnick) to thank. Densmore complains in his first book about the many hours Rothschild spent tuning and tweaking the drum tones in the studio, in setting up to record. I’m willing to bet Densmore will agree it was all worth it now, because the drums are simply impeccable on the stereo mix. Again, as one example, the various tones of drums and cymbals on the percussion-driven “The End” are staggering. About the only thing I can compare it to is the clarity of the drum sound on the late 70s Steely Dan recordings, like ‘Aja.’
Rothschild famously insisted that he wanted the Doors’ music to still be listenable in 20 years. Here we are, a full half century later, and his triumph is complete. Rothschild, who died in the 90s, would have loved this release. Elektra Records owner Jac Holtzman was quoted as telling Rothschild when he assigned Rothschild the production, “…do NOT fuck this up.”
I would say Rothschild pulled it off.
Now, as to the mono recording. Frankly, the disc I have is subpar. Perhaps it’s this particular CD I have, but there seems to be something wrong with the audio, particularly the vocals. It’s breaking up, fuzzy, unclear. For something that is supposed to be an audiophile’s delight, this mono mix ain’t cutting it.
I never liked mono anyway, so again, I’m not truly objective. I want Densmore and the bass on the left, and Krieger’s guitar and Manzarek’s organ on the right, with Morrison in the middle. Everything all mushed together sounds unnatural to me, weak and thin, undynamic. Listening in the headphones is a diminished experience for me.
That aside, the mono CD I have breaks up when the music volume picks up. It’s clearly discernible. I won’t be playing it, it’s unlistenable.
The question then becomes, is the mono vinyl album (“180 grams” as the front album sticker proclaims) the same? I can’t answer, because my turntable is in storage. And most of you either don’t have an old-school phonograph, or have it stashed away in the garage, covered with dust.
So I don’t see much in the mono releases, either the unheard vinyl album or the CD.
Which brings us to the live Matrix recording, warts and all. In brief, this is what pushes my buttons to tell you that if you are a Doors fan, this 60 buck package is worth getting. What a great live version of “Soul Kitchen.” Even with no echo effects on the vocals and instruments, and the oddness of the sparse applause, this is a worthy effort, with the tracks ordered in the same way as the album, although 3 of the shorter tracks originally on Side Two are missing.
Yes it’s strange to hear “Alabama Song” without the jingling marxophone and the big group vocals. But the live track has some different magic to it. The stripped-down version shows both what a great live band the Doors were, and by comparison how much work Rothschild really did to nail the production into a classic.
I even appreciate the tuning up before “Light My Fire.”
This signature hit, delivered in a somewhat different arrangement from the album version that the Doors had already recorded and released, is refreshing because of the high energy of the hard-charging solos. Morrison is heard faintly, cheering Krieger on as Densmore slams away at his tubs with finesse.
“Back Door Man” live in this early version is pulsing, vital. The vocal is solid, even a bit restrained. Again, the cleanup on the audio is impressive, remembering that this version was not recorded by Wally Heider and his famous truck, but just a home reel-to-reel tape. Good stuff.
And then there is the over 14 minute version of “The End.”
“Fall down now, strange Gods are coming,” sings Morrison. What? There are lyrics here I have never heard. Like, a lot of of them. I’ll let you discover these improvisations for yourself, but I will say that 50 years later, the Doors, incredibly, have some surprises left. It’s a bit shocking, actually.
A note on the packaging: pretty cool, with a worthy booklet that includes different band photos and some clarifying notes from Doors engineer Bruce Botnick. Historic, I’d say… after all, he was there.
My rating? 4 out of 5 stars. If this package had been trimmed down to the stereo and live CDs, and the price cut accordingly, it would get that last star. But if you’re a true Doors fan (after all, nearly 17 million likes on FaceBook) then suck it up and spend the cash.
We still have some 50th anniversary packaging to come, because the Doors have announced that their second album “Strange Days” will also be getting a 50 year celebration later this year.
Start saving up.
by: Kidman J. Williams
Artist: The Damn Truth
Album: Devilish Folk
Label: Fineline Records/Warner
I was 17 years old, my mind was altered to such a degree that I should have been put into a mental hospital after I decided it was a good idea to climb the balconies to the third floor apartment where the party was popping off; young, dumb, and ready to take on anyone.
There were about 40 pubescent wall-bangers packed into a 2 bedroom apartment, chock full of raging hormones that make teens even more disabled than they already are.
There was case after case of Mickey’s bigmouths, a collection of bottles piling up on the table and counters, and of course a fight at the door while the women were subsequently picking out the alpha male of their choice for the night, and The Damn Truth should have been the soundtrack for this level of irresponsibility.
The Damn Truth is the kind of band that you can not only party to, but you can sit at home and just take it all in with your best pair of headphones. They are the queens and kings of the subtle nuances in the music, seemingly taking lessons from Pink Floyd.
With Lee-La Baum on vocals and guitar, Tom Shemer (lead guitar), Dave Traina (drums), and PY Letellier (bass) they are the winning combination to a lock that we didn’t even know needed to be open.
The Damn Truth are Canada’s answer to the wildly predictable iTunes institution of cookie-cutter hit making.
The Damn Truth’s newest effort ‘Devilish Folk,’ released on Fineline Records/Warner Canada, is the kind of album that you can listen to all the way through, and there aren’t that many of those in the music industry anymore.
This is their sophomore effort to the critically acclaimed debut, ‘Dear in the Headlights.’
It is hard to pick out a highlight for this album when the whole album is one big highlight. The Damn Truth understand the formula to make you move, without actually sticking to any one formula.
On track 3, Plastic Flowers, they catch your attention immediately. Most of the rock songs you hear now hit you counting sheep 4 by 4 with their doldrum downbeat over and over until you fall asleep. This song hits you with a surprising 3 count and then Baum bombs you with her powerhouse vocal style that you feel down into your genitals.
The sixth track, “Heart is Cold” is the not so obvious single. It is a far cry from your predictable pop hit formula, but fully understands the vocal hook and ALWAYS important guitar hook from Shemer with an intensely groovy rhythm from Traina and Letellier.
This track slaps you with Baum’s grit and teeth-bearing style almost reminiscent of Janis Joplin, but I almost don’t want to make that comparison because it does a disservice to her and the band.
I would love to give you a rundown on all the tracks, but I have to keep this short. The sixth track on ‘Devilish Folk’ is “Alex.”
The song kind of switches gears with an angelic clean opening influenced by good ole delta blues. The song hits you with a very “star-crossed lovers” situation; bittersweet, loving, and forlorn.
Alex still gives the power of Baum’s vocals and lets it shine, but you can feel the sadness and grief while she bellows out the pain.
This Canadian foursome gives me hope that true music is not dead; that you don’t need a synth with pre-programmed drums and a basic cute face to sell records. The Damn Truth’s music has all the grit and dirty rhythms that made rock music great while still keeping a pop sensibility.
The Damn Truth express themselves with honesty in a world of devilish folks.