Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thanksgiving music

There's no Thanksgiving songs, you say.
With assists last year from "Paste" magazine and WXPN, I found that's not necessarily so. I'll start your Turkey Day soundtrack off with something that didn't turn up on Spotify, "Thanksgiving Prayer" by Johnny Cash. Would love to know how the Man in Black ended up on an episode of, according to the YouTube poster, "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman."

When I was growing up, and without fail traveling to be with my paternal grandmother's side of the family every Thanksgiving, my mom had me convinced that the song that begins "Over the river, and through the woods/to grandmother's house we go" was about Thanksgiving. That was until I recently found "Over the River" by Danny Kaye & The Andrews Sisters, which has lyrics about Christmas. I refuse to believe "Over the River" is a Christmas song! And since I'm a holiday purist -- believing in breathing space for holidays, instead of the overlapping Hallo-Kwanz-ukkah-mas mess advertisers and stores have forced on us -- I can't bring myself to pollute my Thanksgiving playlist with a Christmas song. We'll all be bludgeoned to death by Christmas music soon enough.
Luckily, my wife knows I'm not insane (nor is my mom), and agrees that not only is "Over the River" a Thanksgiving song, but said there is a verse of "Over the River" that ends "Hooray for Thanksgiving Day." So who can tell me where a recording of that variation can be found?
I was also dismayed to find that The Beatles B-side "Thank You Girl" is not on Spotify. Come on, Macca! The world didn't end when The Beatles music was made available on iTunes. Gimme a break! The good news is the cover by The Smithereens is brilliant, and I will reward that band by sharing this interview I did with Pat DiNizio.
So fire up your Spotify and sing along with Arlo Guthrie (I get a kick out of his $14.27 reference from Roger Miller's "Dang Me" in the now-50-year-old "Alice's Restaurant"), through all the thank-you songs I could think of, to Dan Bern's modern-day-Desolation-Row "Thanksgiving Day Parade." Any suggestions you have for additions are encouraged!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Down the YouTube mashup rabbit hole

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're going to tell me that mashups are so 2006. I don't care.
Thought most of them were complete crap until one of my Facebook friends shared this haunting pairing of completely unrelated songs -- "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" by The Pixies. My seal of approval for a mashup, besides if it rhythmically fits, is given if it causes you to appreciate the original songs more.  

Then that cursed YouTube, always at the ready to suggest something related to what you've been searching lately, pointed to another Pixies mashup, "Where is My Mind?" coupled with The Beastie Boys' sadly overlooked War on Terror commentary "In a World Gone Mad."

There's several "Smells Like Teen Spirit" mashups, but the one that makes the most sense is this one with White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," Seven Nation Teen Spirit, if you will  
Then these next two were so good -- because of the polar opposite juxtaposition of overt '70s pop with '80s hard rock -- they brought actual tears to my eyes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Memorable and creative local band names from MGK's 2015 House Band Competition and beyond

Just like covering the Philadelphia Folk Festival, I think being a judge in the WMGK House Band Competition could become an annual thing for me.
A semi-final round Aug. 6 at Havana in New Hope featured mid-day jock Debbi Calton as emcee, and a slate of competing bands whose names are burned into my brain.

  • The band I thought was going to win was Moroccan Sheepherders because of all the wild stuff they had going on stage -- three-piece horn section, multiple singers, a guy on bongos, interesting set list ...

Other favorite local band names I have are Norristown's Jean Claude's Damn Van. And don't forget Crossroads Tavern semi-regular Two For Flinching.
Worcester Township bar The Keystone Lounge has a whole scene of crazy band names to keep an eye out for, among them: Funk Church and Native Maze (as opposed to Native maize). Another of those bands that you can sometimes catch at The Keystone, Mr. Fuzzy & The Barbarian, is scheduled to play the Music on Main Street Lunchtime Concerts series in Lansdale's Railroad Plaza at noon Sept. 9

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New adventures in hi-fi

A visit to my stepdaughter's townhouse greeted me with the surprise that she and her boyfriend had "inherited" a circa 1960 Voice of Music hi-fi record player, manufactured back in the days when people didn't consume their music on the go, unless it was on the car radio.
Some of its functionality has diminished. The other speaker isn't working. And I've either forgotten how to activate the platter drop, or it's not working either.
The young people -- who smartly knew to use a nickel as an anti-skip device -- were impressed how much I was able to improve the sound simply by tweaking the speaker balance, bass and treble. They were also wowed that it was possible to stack 10 records, or more, on the spindle for hours of hands-free party DJ entertainment (which sadly, I was unable to successfully demonstrate). I think the smell the vacuum tubes make when they heat up makes them nervous.
"They're not used to having to do that," my wife explained, reminding me how children of the '90s interface with their music.
Selections we listened to included some latter day vinyl by Phantogram and the first interesting (but not quite classic) album that Pink Floyd ever made, 1971's "Meddle."

And you're welcome for the Pandora's Box of rabbit hole links.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Between downpours on a stormy Monday, my wife and I are doing some landscape maintenance in front of the house, when down our street zooms these kids on their bikes. One randomly shouts out: "Does anybody here know who Black Sabbath is?"
This led to a very unexpected revisit to my junior high headbanger days. Turns out the two boys were middle school students, and shocked me that they knew who Metal Church was ... and that the late Ronnie James Dio once sang for Sabbath ... and that Ozzy Osbourne's recordings with them are the better ones.
I always got a kick out how Ozzy (Randy Rhoads, actually) quotes the truly scary guitar riff from the now 45-year-old song "Black Sabbath" in this song from his storied solo career.

"Do you know Metallica?," one asked. Well it's funny you should mention that, son ... I remember when they first came out (I ended up saying the same thing at the mention of The Red Hot Chili Peppers).
James Hetfield signs my Lollapalooza 1996 backstage pass in Charles Town, W. Va.
 The conversation leaped from Motley Crue and Iron Maiden to a newer group called The Skull, and Slipknot and Pantera, neither of which I've ever been able to get into. Heavy metal has become significantly angrier and much, much, much less fun than it was in the '80s. For example, how about this proto rap-metal nugget, sampling Sam Kinsion, Beastie Boys and Metallica's "Master of Puppets?"
"Do you like Guns 'N' Roses?"
Sorry, never liked them. However, I'd listen to Slash and Duff jam in Velvet Revolver (who will probably never record together again because Scott Weiland is turning into as big of an idiot as Axl Rose) till the cows come home. But thanks to browsing the playlists of Dee Snider's House of Hair radio show, I did find this worthy cover by the late Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot.

And with that, please crank up this playlist:

Friday, June 26, 2015

That 'Weasel' tune

There's an ice cream truck that roams through Telford playing the same tinkling music over and over. But today, the ice cream man changed the song to "Pop Goes the Weasel." Right away I thought of the second-ever Three Stooges short, "Punch Drunks," the only one of their Columbia Pictures shorts that Moe, Larry and Curly get writing credits. Note that Curly also uses his regular speaking voice.

And then I remembered this Weasel tune.

A blistering jab at Vanilla Ice -- sampling Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," The Who's "Eminence Front" (which oddly is being used to sell GMCs), and Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothing"(Presumably, unlike Ice, 3rd Bass got their samples cleared) -- in a bizarro turn of the tables, Vanilla Ice landed on his feet, even hosting a home improvement TV show on DIY. Meanwhile 3rd Bass has been relegated to the answer of a '90s trivia question.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Craft distilling the new in thing

Craft beer brewing? Old news.
You've perhaps heard about Lansdale getting an artisanal liquor distillery. Here's the latest on that development.
But the Mamedovs of Boardroom Spirits are not the only ones in on this party. Since April 2014, Chris Moyer, a 1988 Souderton Area High School grad, and a fraternity brother from his days at Bloomsburg University, have been harnessing the bounty of New York's Hudson Valley to make hand crafted vodka, applejack, gin, whiskey, and something called "Fine Shine," from ingredients harvested from their farm and apple orchard (The whiskey involves a New York craft porter beer). The Hudson Valley Distillers LLC tasting room is on Route 9 in Clermont, N.Y. HVD celebrates its one-year anniversary of being in business with an all-ages public party, featuring live music, on Saturday June 20.
In a phone interview, Moyer said that the biggest differences between mass produced liquors and craft spirits like the ones he and business partner Tom Yozzo are distilling are the absence of additives, but with distinctive flavors brought by naturally occurring yeast, the wood of the barrels (There's a lot of nuance to the barrels the liquor ages in) and the Hudson Valley's soil and weather.  
After he explained that Fine Shine is really just a clear, non-aged, but still alcoholic, applejack, I asked Moyer if there were any plans to try making rum or tequila. After all, a rye whiskey made with New York rye and barley (a crop The Empire State is not known for, he said) is in development.
Surprisingly, sugar cane for rum can be greenhouse cultivated, and an experiment to see if it'll work is a realistic future challenge. However, there will not be a Hudson Valley Distillers tequila because it's not the right climate for agave.  

Chris Moyer (left) and Tom Yozzo of Hudson Valley Distillers.

Detail of the still at Hudson Valley Distillers in New York.

The distillery and offices are in a 150-year-old barn building.

The Cocktail Grove at Hudson Valley Distillers in New York.

Their website tells you when they're open for tours, how to get there, even some cocktail ideas. They're on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but how about exporting to the folks back home in Pennsylvania? While he didn't completely rule it out, Moyer did say: "We'd have to get a distributor. We're not in this to distribute nationally."
Hudson Valley Distillers has high marks on Trip Advisor, so who's up for a road trip? According to Moyer, HVD gets between 150-200 visitors each month,