Monday, January 17, 2005

Still working on the text for that neat-o song I mentioned on Thursday.

Here's a few goodies while you're waiting.



It was late at night when I got the call. Four in the morning, I rolled over and picked up the phone and heard a gruff country twang on the line.

"BOY! What's this ah hear about you puttin' up music all hither and thither!?"

It was the Red-Headed Stranger, an old buddy from my ponderosa days.

"Oh, hey R.H.S."

"Don't you 'Hey Arr Aitch Hess' me! Ah heard you been puttin' music up on tha' intarweb and spreadin' it round so all sorts of people can hear! That right?"

"Well, yeah, R.H.S.; but I put up music with the intention of attracting new listeners to lesser known artists and unheard tracks, not to promote piracy or-"

"Boy, save that hawgwash fer th' Justice o' th' Peace! Ah don't give a gawldarn WHY you doin' it! Ah just wanna know why ah ain't seen no COUNTRY up over thar!"

"Um... well, I _did_ put up some Hank a while back..."

"'A while back'! 'A while back'! Son, yer momma must be sick over you! Don't you know that th' intarweb is a downright lonesome prairie when it comes t' country music?!?
Y' gotta OBLIGATION to let people know about good COUNTRY MUSIC, not this HARCADE FAHR flim flam!"

"But R.H.S., you know that modern country isn't my specialty!"

"Then consarn it, ah'll write th' damn thang MYSELF! Whut's yer email, feller?"

And that's how ah... I mean, _I_... came to find myself with a new contributor to the Hut. We're happy to welcome the erratic stylings of the mysterious Red-Headed Stranger.

Bruce Robison - "Traveling Soldier"

For me, irony finally, truly expired in March 2003. Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines made an offhand onstage remark about George W. Bush, and the group was immediately expunged from conservative-friendly corporate radio chains. The result: their current single dropped from No. 2 on the country chart to nowhere in one week flat.

Funny thing is, that single happened to be their version of Bruce Robison's "Traveling Soldier," an intimate portrait of wartime loss. The soldier of the song reaches out to a stranger, desperate to make an interpersonal connection before he goes to face death in Vietnam. The song reminds us that each soldier is a human being, and each casualty devastates someone on the home front – even if it's just one girl, crying underneath the high school bleachers.

With the ban, the Bush administration's attitude toward the Iraq war dead found a little-noticed macrocosm. The absence of "Travelin' Soldier" from the airwaves presaged the way the Iraq casualties would be ignored by an administration eager to make us believe the war was bloodless. We would not be allowed to see their coffins, and Bush would not be attending any funerals. Their sacrifice was to be lauded in the abstract, but their humanity was to be denied. I waited in vain for the American listening public to slap its collective head and say, "'Travelin' Soldier' got banned! Wow, that's really ironic!" This did not happen, and it hit me: irony is dead. It got fragged.

This is not to say that "Travelin' Soldier"'s power is tied only to its cultural context; it would have been a stunner in any year, just as it was when Robison himself recorded it on his 1999 sophomore album Long Way Home From Anywhere. Over a wistful melody, Robison carefully draws a picture of the way war annihilates possibilities for those dragged into it, both those who do the fighting and those who wait behind. Given that the song is written in the third person, it's instructive to note how the point of view shifts in the Chicks' version to the girl in the lyric, while with Robison we think more of the soldier.

Incidentally, Robison's brother Charlie (also a talented singer-songwriter; think of Charlie as the party and Bruce as the long walk home afterward) is married to Dixie Chick Emily Robison. George Strait and Tim McGraw have also had hits with Bruce Robison songs, even though he isn't related to them.

(THE HUT SEZ: I loved this song when I first heard it and was always curious to try the original. Must say that I find the woman's perspective much more engaging, not to mention the more lush (and expensive) orchestration that the Dixie Chicks provide.

Is it just me or do you hear a bit of REO Speedwagon floating around in the melody?

Meeting the Neighbors


Jim explains what he's doing much better than I could:

"For reasons I don’t fully understand, I dropped out of the music scene around ’93 and so I have this 10 year hole in my knowledge about all things underground. Mostly during this time I bought music based on a tune I heard in a movie or on TV or I just picked up new albums from my old stalwarts (Dylan, Elvis Costello). About 2003, I got into iTunes and that got me interested in new music again. And so I had these boxes of Lps hanging around and an iPod that was only 25% full so I started digitizing. Along the way, I‘m writing about it and throwing up samples of mostly out-of-print and obscure stuff for discussion."

Recent offerings on Jim's site include music from King Face, Bread, Junior Kimbrough and The Bags.

The canary's still kicking... let's go down into the mine!

Vinyl Mine is part baring my record collection to the world (this can be embarrassing), part a “where are they now?” look at long-gone bands and part what am I listening to these days. I do an occasional “web jay” feature I call “Coffee and Cigarettes” in honor of that great Jim Jarmusch and Tom Waits in which I just go put together a mix of songs I have found on the ‘net.

I’m a 40-something living in Washington DC. I’m a amateur percussionist - that means I play nearly all the instruments in the percussion family including, of course, drum set. I used to play professionally (wedding bands, sleazy pick-up combos, polka even) and was also in some very obscure bands (Bikermutt, Fuktupmommy) that released vinyl and cassettes -- now I’m just a weekend jammer. I currently play in pit orchestras around town for beer, fellowship and, if I’m lucky, gas money.

In the ’80s, I published an obscure zine and contributed to a more prominent local zine (WDC Period) and to some others (Phfuddd!, Lowlife). Some of the high points of my ‘zine career (or low points) was doing an interview with Bret and Jimbo of Psycodrama, introducing the zine underground to the likes of Lisa “Suckdog” Carver and her madman lover Costes. I kind of credit myself with introducing Carver to Bill Callahan (Smog) who was then writing a zine up in suburban Maryland and joined them on tour if memory serves me right - he got serious about his music around that time. I also enjoyed meeting The Happy Flowers who had a faux-noise-goof band thing going on for several years - they were a blast.

My first post went up on February 15th, 2004 and then I took a three month break trying to figure out how to do the digitization right (mostly I just procrastinated). During this time I discovered MP3 blogs and it reminded me of the energy and love of music from the ’zine community.

What are the criteria you judge a song by to decide if it's post-worthy?
I’m not always looking for the killer cut although its nice if I find something that's really cool - most of the time the cut should complement the post. As I said, I also tend to look for stuff that is out of print or might still be around but not exactly getting a lot of attention. My current hosting service also limits the size of my files to be less than 5 Mb (sometimes I have to adjust the bit rate down to fit). Finally, if the tune is available on iTunes or elsewhere, I generally don’t post it but I may link to it if its free or less than a buck to download. I don’t participate in peer-to-peer networks so I have no idea if the song is available out there.
Do you have a favorite music critic?
Sure - Jay Hinman of Agony Shorthand, Christopher Stigliano of Black to Comm and Lindsay Hutton of Next Big Thing - thanks to Blogger, we can read them everyday where I used to have send several bucks in the mail to read their zines.
Gimme five desert island discs.
An interesting question -- it doesn’t necessarily mean you pick your top five discs. Because you are picking stuff you have to live with the rest of your life, I would tend to go for variety and volume (that means double-CD sets - I’ll assume “box sets” are outside the scope).

1: Bob Dylan - "Live 1975 - The Rolling Thunder Revue (Bootleg Series Vol. 5)": This is my favorite period of Bob’s output so it’s like getting some of the classics, some Blood on the Tracks and Desire on one set.

2: "Frank Sinatra and Count Basie at the Sands" (1966): I’d build a wild bachelor pad hut deep in the jungle stocked with all the booze, baby, you can drink. This would be on permanent play.

3: Velvet Underground - "VU": A lot of the purists scoff at this one but I can groove forever on it, fuck you very much. Downside is liner notes by Kurt Loder, but hey you‘re gonna need toilet paper. My only “single disc” disc.

4: The Clash - "London Calling": I need something for late at night railing at the world and kicking at the sand. Can’t think of a better record for it.<

5: Husker Du - "Zen Arcade": My only caveat is that I haven’t listened to this lately but it affected me so much in the ‘80s that it seems perfect.
That old chestnut dinner party is at your house and you can invite three musicians living or dead. Who are you inviting?
Screw the dinner party, I’d do a sequel to Field of Dreams invite the dead members of the Ramones to have an allnight jam (me on drums of course - sorry Marky).
Recommend three other musicblog sites.
These three blogs aren’t on my blogroll although I have started checking them regularly and I’ll eventually get around to putting them up.

1: The best worst music in the world is on Bubblegum Machine. Every week this guy puts up songs that are so godawful that it’s almost the aural equivalent to slowing down and gawk at an accident. I listen to it to see how long it will be before I press the stop button. I kind of imagine John Waters checks this site out often. I think it’s a goof but for all I know the guy may be totally serious about this stuff - there’s a song out there for everyone, I guess.

2: I like what young Kate does on Red Lotus Radio. I think the reason we fugly Americans don’t listen to more world music is that there’s very few outlets to introduce the good stuff to us and so what little we hear comes from TV or movies and is generally drivel. Much as I like putting on the India or Iranian TV station, the music can be quite cheesy, and I usuallyturn down the sound and put on some other tunes. This is where I think music blogs are at the best -- I look forward to more world music blogs and even though this is emanating from Missouri (I think), there are plenty popping up in other countries.

3: Troutfishing in South-Central Wisconsin is a combo personal blog - music blog by a very creative person (and great web designer) -- music is central to the site and he almost always has a cut or a mix up that I dig. He also makes some cool dada-ist political cartoons.
Do you really think that posting music effectively promotes sales of the album?
I personally don’t think it’s as significant as people want it to be - perhaps, I‘d say about a third of my buys are based on internet - but that includes those places where you can grab 30 second samples. It’s probably worth some study - some business school students could probably make a good term paper or project out the topic.
Can you think of a few bands that you enjoy listening to that might surprise your readers?
I doubt it. But I recently purchased some remastered Fleetwood Mac from their mega-star period, that‘s pretty sad ennit? I always liked Mick Fleetwood‘s drumming and it‘s crystal clear in these new versions. I also listen to an occasional classical CD preferring the younger artists - Midori and Evgeny Kissin are in my playlist.
Are you a proud member of the iPod Nation?
I wish it was louder. Did the lawyers make it so it would be hard to blow out your eardrums? That’s no fun. I’m asking for some in-ear phones for Xmas.
Make a ten song mixtape playlist on the theme of:
Halloween Songs to Scare and Amuse You As You Hand Out Candy to Yard Apes

01: "The Banana Boat Song" by Harry Bellefonte
02: "Invisible Hands" by Joseph Arthur
03: "Worry About You" by Ivy
04: "Spooky Girlfriend" by Elvis Costello
05: "Curse of the Crying Woman" by Divine Horsemen
06: "The Hunger" by The Distillers
07: "It’s Bad You Know" by R. L. Burnside
08: "Women in Black" by Pepe Deluxe
09: "There’s a Ghost in My House" by The Fall
10: "Mary of the Wild Moor" by Johnny Cash
Drop by Better Propaganda and pick out a track to hype.

Mogwai - “Hunted by a Freak”

A band that I hadn’t heard of until I checked out the Matador 15 year compilation but they‘ve been kicking around - they’re just not as cute as Interpol. On the Matador disc, they had some trance-electronica - a genre that I don’t mind going to sleep to or putting in the background but rarely go out of my way to track down a specific artist. Something about Mogwai piqued my interest, though. They seem to be using the genre rather than being used by it, if that makes sense. Here’s another cut that isn’t trance or electronica but more of a conventional rock orchestration that might be a deep album cut on a rock band outfit but it also could serve as a cool down cut after about a couple of hours of dancing.

As The Tofu Hut’s blogroll has decided, I’m an eclectic type so its no wonder I am falling in love with this group.


Moistworks has been temporarily shut down by the IFPI.

James was not contacted directly or asked to remove offending tracks; instead, the IFPI decided to go after his host company.

I think further discussion is warranted.

EDIT: Mystery and Misery says it pretty damn well. I would only add that while I DON'T really support sites that post whole albums or piles o' files, codes of ethics are VERY subjective when it comes to musicsharing. I try not to throw stones if I can help it.

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