It was a nasty shock to look up Chris Whitley on the heels of playing his “Assassin Song” on the most recent A Touching Display and find out that he had just died. Messenger Records, who released many of Whitley’s albums, has an excellent overview of his life and career up at their site.
Whitley passed away on November 20th of lung cancer; I have only ever heard one of his albums, I’ve never so much as seen him live, but it was hard not to feel a loss that was more surprising the more I thought about it. Maybe it was because his presence, his voice was so central to his music as I’ve heard it; maybe it’s that three generations of women in my immediate family smoke and I’ve always hated the thought of lung cancer; maybe it was reading on his website that he was planning to get married; maybe it’s just that Hotel Vast Horizon was there for me through a long, difficult winter.
There’s a train of thought that genius is a weighty word that shouldn’t be used lightly as it’s something that only comes along once in a while like a Smile or an Aerial. There’s an implied distance between normal jobbing / hobbying musicians and the genius who creates this work. Some of the requirements for this position are personality quirks which make it impossible for them to ever hold down a real job, incredibly long lay offs between actually releasing music with tenuous excuses and a bevy of press officers to make you aware of this info.
I subscribe to the theory that there is genius in every single song that I love and funnily enough these moments don’t normally arrive incredibly coincidentally with every big name release that turns up. They come on CDRs, during live shows that 30 people attend, on B-sides and with acts that are never going to make the front cover of Mojo and Q. I don’t reserve the word for use on returning ‘icons’ who bless us with an album after years of scratching their arses in domesticity. In fact I’m annoyed at how little the word is bandied about these days and I can’t understand why. If we believe what the canon says then there have only about ten of these geniuses (not genii as you might think) since the bloody sixties.
How about we start spreading the joy around a little bit?
If a song can lift you out of a stinking mood or make you see the blue behind the clouds for even a moment (sometimes it’s especially for that single moment) then surely that’s genius. Does it need to have been a decade in the making? Take the latest target of my ire, Kate “I’m Back” Bush, and her twelve year album gap. Didn’t take a genius to figure out that whether it sucked ass (it did) or not it was still going to be proclaimed a work of genius did it? I’m not saying once you reach a particular age or fame plateau type thing you no longer need coverage or that good music should be ignored because of who makes it but did it need all those yards of coverage and adulation. It wouldn’t have been such a big problem if the LP hadn’t been a record of second hand ideas (albeit her own) and second hand passion. Is the world so small that this is all the genius these magazines/websites/TV shows could find that week?
Now just for a second just imagine all the great unsung acts and artists out there producing magnificent work that could’ve used the space used up for the fawning over the record. How many times does the same stuff need to be said? I feel sometimes like I’m drowning in the same hundred band names, the same opening ‘quoting something unrelated’ paragraphs and the same old rehashed sentiments. Isn’t it time that we all decided to turn the search for moments of genius away from the major acts that we get fed? There are infinite moments of a less loudly pronounced magic out there beyond the eternal loop of popular culture spin doctoring. There’s too much chipping in of opinion and not enough A&R work.
Do I sound like an elitist fuck? If I do I apologise, I’m just frustrated. I’ve hit a time in my life when I’m more bored by and more excited by music than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m revaluating why I’m looking to hear certain LPs above others, why I’m finding time to see if Brain Wilson’s Christmas LP has more to say to me than Sunroof!
Flyleaf is touring until the fourth day of Christmas on the Fall Brawl Tour. You’ll want to leave after their set, though, because then Staind, Taproot, and POD play. Of course, Flyleaf is kind of like those guys, only better, so if you’re a fan, you might want to stay. Oh, so now I’ve alienated you. Don’t feel bad, it’s not you, it’s me.
11/8/05 Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre (no POD)
11/9/05 Spokane, WA @ Convention Center (no POD)
11/11/05 San Jose, CA @ San Jose Civic Auditorium
11/12/05 San Bernardino, CA @ NOS Events Center
11/13/05 Bakersfield, CA @ RaboBank Theatre
11/15/05 San Diego, CA @ SOMA
11/17/05 Tucson, AZ @ AVA Amphitheatre
11/18/05 Mesa, AZ @ Mesa Amphitheatre
11/21/05 Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium
11/22/05 Amarillo, TX @ Amarillo Civic Center
11/23/05 Grand Prairie, TX @ Nokia Theatre
11/25/05 San Antonio, TX @ Sunset Station Lonestar Pavilion
11/26/05 Corpus Christi, TX @ Concrete Street Amphitheatre
11/27/05 Houston, TX @ Verizon Wireless Theatre
12/6/05 Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
12/7/05 North Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues
12/9/05 Baltimore, MD @ UMBC Fieldhouse
12/10/05 Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata
12/11/05 Poughkeepsie, NY @ Mid Hudson Civic Center
12/13/05 Scranton, PA @ Cultural Center
12/16/05 New York, NY @ Roseland Ballroom
12/17/05 Elmira, NY @ First Arena
Since we know that y’all love country music and its coverage at Stylus, it seemed fitting to give a brief nod to the happenings at the 39th Annual Country Music Association Awards, which aired last night. For me - not the biggest country fan but with a steady eye on the general state of the genre - the biggest surprise of the night was Lee Ann Womack’s two wins for both Single and Album of the Year (”I May Hate Myself in the Morning” from There’s More Where That Came From).
Womack’s victories aren’t necessarily surprising because of her style - a delicately precise retro-traditionalism - but because neither the album nor the single faired especially well this year, sales-wise; Brad Paisley’s irritating Good Ol’ Boy persona seemed like a safer bet for sure, having scored a top 5 hit with the tedious, irresistable “Alcohol” and having already won an Entertainer of the Year Award. At any rate, the Womack album (and single) definitely deserve the attention; it’s one of the prettiest, most subtly affecting albums I’ve heard all year in any genre.
Still, Keith Urban, a well-tanned Australian with an open shirt and longish hair won the Entertainer of the Year Award, a bit of a WTF given the fact that the category hasn’t been altogether kind to the crossover bunch in the past several years *and* that Urban wasn’t quite as well-established Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and Brad Paisley, who all wear cowboy hats and only untuck their shirts when they “get wild.” Go figure.
I’m getting tired of writing this post, but thankfully, there’s plenty of good information and commentary on the event elsewhere.
The New York Guitar Festival has announced its schedule for its sixth season. Running from January 14 through February 8, 2006, the festival will feature 60 guitarists. Artists include: Daniel Lanois, Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Taj Mahal, Sonny Landreth, Rory Block, Laura Cantrell, and Michelle Shocked, along with a bunch of people I either don’t know or I’m not really into. but you might like some of them, too.
Two songs into this Lou Reed disc, I was skeptical. During “Paranoia Key of E” and “Turn to Me,” Reed looks mechanical, as if he’s just putting in time at the ol’ 9-to-5. But he changes everything around with the next track, “Modern Dance,” and from that point on he’s engaged, enjoying himself, and (most important for us) entertaining.
The DVD captures a show from Reed’s tour for Ecstasy. The tracklist centers around that album, and arguably includes only one of his hits, the closer “Perfect Day.” If you don’t know that album, though, you shouldn’t be turned away because Reed and his three bandmates will win you over.
Right in the center of the video, “Romeo Had Juliet” marks one of the recording’s peaks. Reed focuses the intensity he’s been building and delivers a performance that will make fans of New York stick around for “Dirty Blvd.” and “Dime Store Mystery” and convert those who don’t know the album.
The show really sails away on the extended “Tatters,” during which Reed gives up lead-guitar duties to Mike Rathke, who tears up the stage, much to the other musician’s delight. This song also shows the careful camera work and artistic framing that went into the visuals. It could have shown up as a hackneyed image, but the growing smoke coming from Reed’s cigarette and surrounding his face works as a memorable depiction of a tight band’s performance (perhaps it’s the image’s very familiarity which gives it its strength).
The band closes, of course, with “Perfect Day,” which might a crowd-pleasing way to go out, but it’s certainly not the disc’s finest moment. This performance is a concession — the show isn’t about a greatest hits presentation (as far as Reed had hits) and it has no nod to the VU (unless you count the Cale-collaboration “Smalltown”). It is, however, a great capsule of a particular period in the career of one of those artists.
Today at 5pm EST, MTV will be featuring Stellastarr* as part of their ‘Brand Spankin New Music’ Week
11/19 Creamfields Festival Mexico City
11/29 Metro in London, UK **SOLD OUT
11/30 Caberet Voltaire Edinburgh, UK
12/1 Late Room Manchester, UK
12/2 Club NME Night at Koko London, UK
*The Sounds will be supporting for all of the UK dates.
The group will be doing more UK shows as well as a US tour in early 2006.
This past Friday, DMBQ’s tour van rolled over in an accident on I-95. Mana “China” Nishiura did not survive the crash, and the group’s tour manager Michelle Cable (also of Panache Magazine ) was severely injured and is now conscious after undergoing surgery for a head injury. The other band members have been hospitalized and are expected to fully recover.
If you would like to send your thoughts or make a charitable donation toward Cable and DMBQ’s recovery, please email email@example.com.
If I get further updates on the recuperation process, I’ll post them to The Turntable.
The Shirts for a Cure Project (SFAC) has just added 25 bands, bringing the total to 75 groups (largely from the punk community) contributing to this arm of the fight against breast cancer. SFAC sells limited edition t-shirts from various bands to raise money for the Syrentha Savio Endowment. The SSE provides funding for treatment for underprivileged women who cannot afford the growing expense of fighting breast cancer.
10/26/05 Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock
10/28/05 Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
10/29/05 Atlantic City, NJ @ House of Blues
10/30/05 Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
11/1/05 Sayerville, NJ @ Ritacco Center
11/2/05 New York, NY @ Nokia
11/4/05 Boston, MA @ Avalon
11/5/05 Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino
11/6/05 Albany, NY @ Northern Lights
11/9/05 Detroit, MI @ Royal Oak
11/10/05 Toronto, ON @ Kool Haus
11/12/05 Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
11/13/05 Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
11/16/05 Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
11/17/05 Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
11/18/05 Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
11/20/05 Minneapolis, MN @ The Quest
11/22/05 Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall
11/23/05 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom