August 25, 2015

I wanna know if love is wild, I wanna know if love is real

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Forty years ago, Bruce Springsteen released Born To Run. It took me thirty more years or so to discover the album for myself, and I came to love it first through hearing stripped-down versions of the songs that I grew up saturated with as radio hits. When I think about my earliest experiences with songs that I first dismissed, I’m reminded of the wonderful Josh Ritter lyrics: “Radio waves are coming miles and miles, bringing only empty boats / whatever feeling they had when they sailed somehow slipped out between the notes.” Because Springsteen’s songs and videos were everywhere when I was a kid, singing about things I hadn’t felt yet, I dismissed them as someone else’s songs from someone else’s more bombastic narrative and not mine.

And then maybe ten years ago, I accidentally (yup) downloaded this kismet-laced acoustic version of “Born To Run” that for the first time in my life made me stop and really listen, really hear all of the beautiful dusty sadness in the song that I’d always missed. That cracked open his entire oeuvre for me; you can hear the heart of the song so much better when it’s stripped down to its aching ribs.

I don’t care what you think you think about Springsteen;
YOU MUST LISTEN:

Born to Run (best. live. version. ever.) – Bruce Springsteen
From Chimes of Freedom EP


Eight years ago as part of a series for WXPN in Philly, I posted one of my favorite (young, hungry) live recordings from Springsteen, the iconic Main Point show from 1975, along with Jon Landau’s equally epic piece of music writing about the show, Growing Young With Rock and Roll, which starts with the lines:

“It’s four in the morning and raining. I’m 27 today, feeling old, listening to my records, and remembering that things were diffferent a decade ago.”


Here is a re-up of that show, from right around the time that Born To Run was being recorded (including an early version of what would become “Thunder Road,” with one of the starkest, prettiest bridges I’ve heard in that song). It’s a show that my friend Bruce Warren of WXPN, who was there, calls “one of [Springsteen's] greatest shows ever,” and I concur.

It’s one of the truest I’ve heard, still.
“Tonight’s busting open and I’m alive.”

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
THE MAIN POINT, 2/5/75
Incident on 57th Street
Mountain of Love
Born To Run
Intro to E Street Shuffle
E Street Shuffle
“Wings For Wheels”
(Thunder Road, first performance)
I Want You (Dylan cover)
Spirit In The Night
She’s The One
Growin’ Up
Saint In The City
Jungleland
Kitty’s Back
New York City Serenade
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
A Love So Fine
For You
Back In The U.S.A. (Chuck Berry cover)

MAIN POINT ZIP


[top photo by the legendary everyman photo hero, Phil Ceccola]

Tagged with .
August 20, 2015

heart was achin’ / hands are shakin’

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Son of a bitch.

After the very first performance of Nathaniel Rateliff with the fiery soul-saving Night Sweats in 2013, I knew that I had just witnessed something electric and exceptional that struck a chord in me and everyone else in attendance that night at the Bluebird.

I immediately proclaimed them the best band in Denver, according to Heather Browne:

“My cheeks flushed all red, my friend Andrew and I just kept looking at each other with jaws dropped. As those horns wailed, the piercing songwriter troubadour (and chapel session alum) was reborn as a writhing, kicking soul singer with a seven-piece band behind him. As I surveyed the room, there was a similar look of pure joy on everyone’s faces, as Nathaniel yowled and yelled like a man possessed.”



Therefore, I was thrilled a few weeks ago when Jimmy Fallon, Questlove, and the rest of the Tonight Show-viewing world caught up with that assessment, following their explosive performance of the show-closing revival song “S.O.B.”

I can’t seem to embed it, but if you already watched it, watch it again.

I happened to be in NYC that night and got to watch it from a bar with the band, all of us singing along and clapping our hands with an assortment of friends and strangers – but even if I had been at home in my living room, I would’ve been singing along all the same. You can’t help it.

I’ve been listening to the debut album Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (due out tomorrow August 21, on the inimitable Stax Records imprint) pretty much non-stop this summer, as anyone who has come over to my place for a BBQ or a taken a mini-roadtrip with me can attest. After listening so much to all the demo versions of many of these songs since 2013, I was wondering how the full album would capture the raw joy and terrific energy of their live show. I think they did it, guys, through working with the wonderful producer Richard Swift (The Shins, Damien Jurado), and leaving a lot of space for fiery joy on the record. The album feels the way that first performance felt, and I think that’s why people responded to the Tonight Show appearance as they did. It is irresistible.

Howling At The Moon” is the track I can’t take off repeat these late summer days, because it just feels so damn good. The record also has the very best cover that I’ve seen in a long time. Perfect / badass / if it wasn’t Nathaniel, it’d be creepy. Buy the album tomorrow, and remember how great they’ve been all along:
Trying So Hard Not To Know (demo)
[from the Fuel/Friends Summer 2013 retro boogie mix]

Michael Hann at The Guardian nailed it in his terrific long piece on the band: “For now though, this is the stuff that’s reminding me how much joy music can offer. These are the shows at which I’m feeling unselfconscious and ready to cut loose. These are the shows played by people who sound like they’re making music because it’s bursting out of them. And sometimes that, rather than something that confronts the desperate heart of modern life, is what the soul craves.”

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Hey, PSSSST Denver! You have two very special chances to see Nathaniel Rateliff in small South Broadway venues, to celebrate the release of this terrific album!

Monday, August 24 – where so much of it began, The Hi-Dive. Doors @ 7pm, 21+
Wednesday, August 26 – the superb Syntax Physic Opera. Doors @ 8pm, 21+

Both shows will benefit Denver’s Youth On Record music center, and since these are pretty small venues, the tickets will sell out quickly. They go on-sale in a few hours here on Nathaniel’s website.

Saturday, August 29 – come dance with me and Nathaniel (it’s all in the hips) at the Belly Up in Aspen.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are in the middle of a massive tour all around the U.S. and Europe, from now until almost the end of 2015. Chances are good that they’ll be somewhere near you; chances are great that you will be flush-cheeked ecstatic if you go.

July 21, 2015

Eaux my goodness, Eaux Claires

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The inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in Wisconsin this past weekend was one of my favorite music festivals I have ever been to. I went because of the absolutely ridiculous lineup, hand-curated by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner (The National), and was floored by the community spirit, constant collaboration of musicians I love, and air of joy that permeated the festival.

Entering under a rainbow of gossamer delight by “Minneapolis yarnbomber” HOTTEA:
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The first set of the festival for me was the freewheeling warmth and elasticity of Hiss Golden Messenger, whose redolent album Lateness of Dancers (out on Merge Records) I’ve been listening to a lot all this spring and summer.

I was dancing too hard to get any good photo or video, but they were tremendously good live, all their songs taking on new color and sounding somehow even better than on the album– especially when they were joined by the No BS! Brass Band, who delightfully showed up on stage and in the crowd at all the most wonderful times during the festival.

It also made me so happy to see Justin Vernon standing sidestage for most of their set, singing along and thumping on his chest; that’s one of the best feelings to see something you’ve booked and worked to make happen finally set off rolling:

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With an entirely new backing band from the folks that we hosted at my house and in the chapel, Chris Porterfield’s Field Report was the next on my schedule to see.

After traversing the lush green forest path between stage areas (happily), I arrived to hear a completely reworked version of “I Am Not Waiting Anymore,” a deep deep favorite of mine. Even re-envisioned as a faster, more rollicking alt-countrified tune, it still gets deep in my gut every time–the word structure, the evocation. The songs they played off Marigolden, the new record, were also incredible in the live setting. Chris writes songs that are so real and honest, in the lyrical content, in the potency of delivery. They’re unflinching, and I like that.

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Okay, so — new to me, because I’ve been slow on the uptake lately: Sylvan Esso holy shit completely blew my hair back (not literally because it was ten thousand degrees + humid and my hair was a giant damp frizzball of drippy sweat, even moreso dancing under the tent for their set).

Amelia Meath of Mountain Man (and also one of the busier guest performers of the festival, singing also with Hiss Golden Messenger and Phil Cook) and Nick Sanborn of Megafaun make rich, haunting, shimmery confections of eminently danceable music together. AND AMELIA MOVES LIKE THIS, while wearing (not pictured) 4-inch platform shoes and singing like a complete badass:

I fell in love. I bought the full album immediately and am praying for enough hot summer lazy days left to listen to it on nonstop repeat.


(also check out the super cool Song Exploder podcast about the roots and guts and words of this song, which made me like them even more)



Friday night’s set from The National was what I was looking forward to the most from this weekend. I hadn’t seen them since that atom bomb of a performance at Red Rocks in 2013, and was feeling just about recovered enough to let them rip it all back open.

They delivered a set that was even more tightly furious and darkly melodic than I’d seen in a while from them. Matt seemed especially electrified, as he paced and screamed (and they performed both “Abel” and “Mr. November”?!), and then leapt into a crowd that I feared might actually consume him during “Terrible Love” (I confess to a hearty clasping of his arm when the eddy of the sweaty crowd shoved him into my orbit).

Also, because of the massive group of friends assembled as co-performers on the bill of the weekend, the set contained some pretty incredible guests.

YOU GUYS JUSTIN VERNON SANG ON “SLOW SHOW”:

(even though Matt had to publicly chastise him for wearing shorts; this is a classy band, man!)

Sufjan came out for several songs; here singing “Afraid of Everyone” with Matt:
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AND, as a kicker, there was a closing singalong to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” with both Sufjan Stevens and Justin Vernon.



After severe weather sirens going off at 2:30am in the UW-Eau Claire dorms that this California girl had zero idea how to deal with (google!), after surviving and not being washed away, Saturday morning crested crisp and full of the promise of another whole day of wonderful performances. The sound of Phil Cook wafting through the air made me stop my foraging for food and book it across the field immediately to begin dancing with a troupe of barely-clad college dudes (“vodka for breakfast, guys, amirite??” – my friend Michelle) for a wildly fun set that left me looking up all the music I could find from this talented gent. He also played with Hiss Golden Messenger, and is also in Megafaun. It’s all a big circle of goodness, and I definitely intend to troll around in his catalog.

The performance of this song at the festival was a beast:



After having the honor of LNZNDRF (“Lanzendorf”) playing at my college in the spring with a special chapel rehearsal that I am working to bring you a glimpse of, I was really excited to see this experimental band play again. With core members Ben Lanz (The National, Sufjan Stevens, Beirut) and the Devendorf brothers (Scott and Bryan, from The National), they were joined this weekend by Josh Kaufman (a musician who plays with Yellowbirds and Josh Ritter) and trumpeter Kyle Resnick of The National.

Together they created this otherworldy miasma of sounds that played off each other to build and dissipate under the little tent space where they played their surprise show. Watching their intuitive knowledge of each other as musicians is a joy, as they weave each performance together freshly – with no traditional setlist of songs, just a scaffolding of new sound creations, insistent and expansive.

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PHOX premiered a spirited and imaginative short film at the fest, ostensibly about their mad dash to get to the festival in time in a zigzag across Wisconsin, punctuated by genies and dastardly lumberjacks, but really maybe about Monica’s quest to find her voice and learning to not look inside a bottle (ahem). After a midnight screening on the lawn Friday, they repeated the showing immediately before their Saturday late afternoon set.

Perhaps augmented by the film but also just by the fact that this band is fucking magical (and I’ve crowed it since the first time I heard their dulcet earworm creations), they received one of the warmest and loudest home-state welcomes from the crowd of any band I saw all weekend. I was hoping they’d play “No Lion,” the cover from the chapel session we recorded, but instead and even better, the culmination of their spirited set was a new a capella creation that was jawdropping. My heart swells for these kids. Everything about them just keeps getting better.



Two other memorable punctuations of the weekend included a crowd singalong with Vermont songwriter Sam Amidon conducting us enthusiastically in traditional melodies (listen) complete with sheet music, and Field Report’s Chris Porterfield joining in as he walked by:

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…and a whimsical “Forever Love” matinee show with original compositions by Bryce and Aaron Dessner on a special woodland stage with elaborate set. This festival was crafted to be punctuated by little moments of delight and surprise. It made it feel so much fresher and more intimate, more honest (?) than a lot of other large festivals I’ve gone to. Even though it had 22,000 attendees, it felt closer in spirit to something like the Doe Bay Fest / Timber Music Fests of the Pacific Northwest that I’ve had the joy of being a part of. I think that’s really saying something about Justin and Aaron’s design for this happening.



I had some strong ruminations during Bon Iver’s closing set (pictured here with The Staves on backing vocals and S. Carey as one of two (!!) drummers):
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As introduction, there was an exceedingly genuine, heart-swelling speech given before Bon Iver’s set by festival narrator Michael Perry (a music writer from Eau Claire, and man who Justin later said was one of the most important friendships of his life). He said:

“If you hold yourselves still and silent now, you can feel that river, runnin’ behind you, running through the night, running through all time.

It’s good to have music near a river. There’s this idea of baptism, of absolution, no matter what you believe.

Better yet, it’s good to have music at a place where two rivers come together–a confluence. For what are we but a confluence? A confluence that lives and breathes, a confluence of dream and song, a confluence of 22,000 beating hearts.

And so here we are, cradled by a river in a sanctuary of song: craving consecration, exaltation. On bended knee, seeking benediction.”

With that, Justin launched seamlessly into the first live performance of his song “Heavenly Father,” and closing vespers, so to speak, began. And it felt like benediction indeed.

I kept thinking all weekend that I was glad to be in a crowd where there were blatant hearts on actual sleeves everywhere. I saw so many Justin Vernon words permanently inscribed in flesh. More than just a gathering of the converted, a festival of the fanboys and fangirls, I was surprised that I was pretty deeply moved at (for instance) the lanky, athletic-looking dude standing behind me in the breakfast line with “and i told you to be patient and i told you to be fine and i told you to be balanced and i told you to be kind” in a block of text over his heart. We’ve heard that line a thousand times so as for it to become rote, but it wasn’t rote when it was written — it was true and that is truth, and it struck me as such. I found myself remembering the deep beauty in wholehearted loving, in full-faced believing.

As we sang along to the same words I sang back in 2009 in an afternoon set under San Francisco cypress trees, I thought about what might have been lost, what’s changed and what hasn’t. This weekend was one of fragmenting for me back into little pieces, so that I could examine and regrow some of the connective tissues and remember why it is we see and participate in live music, why we believe. In between the two new songs that Justin closed the Bon Iver set with, he tried to put into words what the festival and the weekend meant to him, as he visibly batted at tears in his eyes with a flick of his fingers. “I think what we give each other and what we can believe in each other, I think that’s how we can become …greater.” I love him for still shoving his heart out there, for still standing there bald-facedly being true and unflinching, believing in himself and music and us, all around him.

The first thing I loved about Justin Vernon the first time I heard him and saw him live was a purity, and this festival seemed to capture that pure spirit–that urgent reaching for a real connection. I can think of very few better things to strive for in this life and in the songs we sing and the music we embrace.

To quote my wonderful friend and accomplice at the fest, Michelle, I am going to be hungeauxver for weeks, I think. And I couldn’t be more deeply happy.

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The Chippewa river, running through all time, and cradling all 22,000 of us.

June 23, 2015

it’s just a shot away

Back on a good day in 2008, I sat under a hot tent in Golden Gate Park at the Outside Lands festival and talked with burgeoning talent Grace Potter; she was fiery and fascinating and we walked away having articulated that we totally could’ve been friends if we lived in the same place. In that interview she said things like, “Of course it is fun being a woman, and I’m glad to be a woman. But what I’m most fascinated by is a woman artist who can speak realistically, from her soul, and not be bullshitting.” Amen.

So, if we want to talk about speaking from her soul and owning her element in the extreme — ho-ly shit, I have rarely been so (oddly) proud of someone I barely met (but really was impressed with) than I was watching this recent concert video.

Grace’s complete elation rapture at the end of the song is a shining joy to see. Her voice even cracks a little with that raw ferocity reminiscent of that stunning scene with Merry Clayton in 20 Feet From Stardom. Yes.

THIS.

May 19, 2015

remember kissing on the cobblestones (this shouldn’t be hard work)

Villagers Blogotheque

I’ve been pinging around a couple European countries for these last few weeks that I’d never been to before, across five borders and three currencies and at least five languages, with plenty of time to think. Trains are good for thinking, aren’t they? I’d missed the steady mechanical whoosh and the panorama of a thousand possible lives rolling outside the window.

The night I got home, I discovered this song from Ireland’s Villagers. Play count says I listened 22 times.

Not only does every lyric, every hard sentiment of this song sound like something I’ve thought (or wish I had the poeticism and clarity to think) in the last week–the video might be in the running for one of my favorite Blogotheque Take-Away Shows (which is a competitive landscape). This video is the perfect vehicle, the way it starts so sweetly and a bit restrained, pausing in the doorway of the simple empty chapel, and then a raising voice as Conor O’Brien moves into the reverberating center.

When you feel that fullness, you just know. I recognize the fondness behind his eyes as he sings about these memories. There are so many things reverberating in me, too, when I listen to this perfect summation of a song, but I’m weary of laying myself bare, or trying to do it without giving away too much.

So I’ll just beg you to listen. Maybe 22 times, if it grabs you too.

Hot Scary Summer (Blogotheque version) – Villagers

oh Lord

So you thank me for my hard work
but you’ve had it up to there
’cause this shouldn’t be hard work
but I’ll fight to care if you’d care to fight

Thank you for your hard work
but I’ve had it up to here
’cause this shouldn’t be hard work
least not the kind that makes us half a person, half a monster
stuck together in this hot scary summer
oh Lord

Remember kissing on the cobblestones in the heat of the night
and all the pretty young homophobes looking out for a fight

We got good at pretending, then pretending got us good
we’ve always been up against it but now it’s sad to see
we’re up against each other
in this hot scary summer
oh Lord

Ohh I live inside you and you live in me
and I live inside you and you live in me

Nothing’s gonna change that dear
nothing’s gonna change that dear
not even being apart
we travelled right to the heart
of this hot scary summer

oh Lord

January 4, 2015

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #34: Gregory Alan Isakov

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Oh, where do I start with this one? Gregory Alan Isakov has grown over the last decade from a soft-spoken friend that I would see playing his winsome, warm songs at dozens of small shows, into one of Colorado’s genuine state treasures. I have a collection of little cardboard-sleeved, hand-stamped EPs and early recordings from Gregory (“all songs written by me and recorded to 8-track on a thursday morning in my room, Boulder, CO“) dating back to 2003.

Now’s he’s at Red Rocks with the symphony, having his most recent (magnificent and charming) music video debuted by NPR’s Bob Boilen, with Rolling Stone calling him the “Best Subtle Storm.” Perfect.

One thing I have always loved about Gregory and his music since the first time I heard it is the hint of sly joy that underlies everything he seems to sing. I almost feel like I can feel a shy, candescent smile just waiting at the corner of his lips.

He writes rambling songs that really stab at a certain heart of foolish beauty that exists all the time in the world around us, but that I am often too hurried to see, much less to give it the attention it deserves. He weaves words together into perceptive lyrics that I can’t get enough of, songs that skiffle and flicker as they grow slowly.

In this session, Gregory and his band performed three songs from their latest (2013) album The Weatherman, and one stunningly jaw-dropping cover of one of my favorite songs ever written. So, you know. That was alright.



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FUEL/FRIENDS CHAPEL SESSION #34:
GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV
January 9, 2014
Shove Chapel, Colorado Springs, CO

Suitcase Full Of Sparks
This song speaks directly to the always-gnawing wanderlust that sometimes hides under the ashes in me, but that is always ready to be stoked by this wide, wild world around us. It makes me want to do nothing more than head off onto a roadtrip — anywhere that promises campfires, or even better, an ocean. Gregory’s wanderings here are trying to find their way to someone, but I find the song works just as well for me if we think that the someone we are rambling everywhere trying to find is ourselves.



Saint Valentine
A song for mostly-misremembered Roman saints, and also for banjo-plucking dancing around in the pouring rain. Also notable in this song is the great delight I get from such an old-timey sounding folk song that contains the line “while the girls in the glass, they’re just throwing me shade.” Aw, poor Gregory.



The Universe

the Universe, she’s wounded
but she’s still got infinity ahead of her
she’s still got you and me
and everybody says that she’s beautiful…

JESUS. Here’s to that.



The Trapeze Swinger (Iron & Wine)
Welp. I sat in stunned silence when Gregory suggested this song as his cover. The original is one of my top five songs ever — this baffling, beautiful, confused, peaceful elegy that feels like it never started and will never end. I wrote about this song once five years ago; I might have been a little drunk when I wrote it, but I said (and I still believe):

I remember a book from when I was about ten years old, something like A Wrinkle In Time or one of those fascinating imaginative visions of other worlds and things unseen. My brain stretches hard to recall a passage about tapping into a current of singing that existed outside of normal time, these pulsing jetstreams of melody and poetry and all the human longing – timeless and universal. Always there. Not always heard.

When I listen to “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine, that’s the closest I can come to expressing its perfection. It sounds like waking from a dream on your front porch in the late afternoon in springtime — or maybe not waking at all, but being suspended. Somewhere where, for once, you can hear the currents. “Please remember me, happily, by the rosebush laughing, with bruises on my chin….” the song begins, all golden beauty and purplish contusions from the first lines.

Gregory does 100% justice to the original, in the noble hesitation, in the smiles around the edges of his voice, and with the gorgeous golden guitar solo in the middle. Man, oh man.

Who the hell can see forever?

DOWNLOAD THE ZIP: GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV CHAPEL SESSION

Gregory is out on tour in these early months of 2015 with Nathaniel Rateliff (a fellow chapel session alum), and that is going to be a pretty goddamn good pairing.

Also, just announced: Fuel/Friends is pleased to be presenting Gregory’s March 1 Colorado Springs show at Stargazers Theater! Ticket info here.

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[Audio recording and production by my beloved Bourgal brothers of Blank Tape Records, and photography/video by the fabulous Kevin Ihle, who nearly died a thousand deaths of joy photographing this session. Thanks to Blue Microphones for the terrific consideration in giving us some sweet mics to capture this magic.]

December 28, 2014

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #33: Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells)

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I have always said that Alex Dezen, of the beloved Brooklyn band The Damnwells, has a romantic voice.

I don’t mean that in the way we picture Valentine’s Day cards or the airbrushed bodices on paperback romance novellas. By “romantic” I am alluding to the artistic movement that wished to remove us all back to nature, to crack through the dust on our Mannerist hearts. I hear the febrile brushstrokes of light and lightning in a Turner landscape, or the kind of voice that can carry one off to war, or the high plains, or to sea.

Strong words: yep. But this is an exceptionally strong and expressive voice. One listen to these chapel sessions will introduce you, perhaps, to a voice that does the same for you. After so many years of being a fan of his songs, it was a genuine delight to have his voice fill and echo in that chapel space.

He gave us two of his newer solo songs, an old (gorgeous) gospel-tinged Damnwells tune, and a cover from one of my favorite soul artists of all time. If you want to hear more, Alex has put out a series of four intimate (Bedhead) EPs this past year, and all are worth delving deeply into. The fifth Damnwells LP is due in April 2015 on Rock Ridge Music.



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FUEL/FRIENDS CHAPEL SESSION #33:
ALEX DEZEN (of The Damnwells)
Shove Chapel, Colorado Springs, CO
November 22, 2013

None Of These Things

I’m not sure if this is a song about divorce, but it sure sounds like one to me. What a bittersweetly beautiful song, so simple and conflicted:

I don’t expect you to and
I don’t need you to and
I don’t wish you would
I just wish you could
I just want to sleep
While the sorrow’s cheap
But I think I hear your keys



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The cover art of Dezen’s four recent acoustic EPs show him sleeping peacefully under different bedspreads, face showing no discontent. But this song sounds like the complicated bad dreams that leave us tangled up in sheets, unsure how to find our way out.



Kung Fu Grip Kiss

God, I love this song.
I love the whole record it comes from, 2006′s Air Stereo. I tell you guys every now and then that this is a sleeper record you might have missed, but it is never too late. As fully-fleshed out as this song sounds even with just Alex’s voice and a guitar in a chapel, the album version has shimmering, resonant Memphis horns and backing vocals (that I add here every time I listen to this chapel version).

I was looking for Jesus, and I wound up with you.



These Arms Of Mine (Otis Redding)

I can’t think of a better song for a classically romantic voice to wail on than this one. This is the second time someone has said, “I was thinking of covering Otis Redding?” in my chapel, and the second time I have blissfully said “OKAY.”



ZIP: ALEX DEZEN CHAPEL SESSION



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[Audio recording and production by my beloved Bourgal brothers of Blank Tape Records, and photography/video by the fabulous Kevin Ihle. Thanks to Blue Microphones for the terrific consideration in giving us some sweet mics to capture this magic.]

December 24, 2014

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #32: Small Houses

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Even though we’re just about as firmly in the center of the dead-cold dark of winter as we can get these days, there will always be something inherently late-summery about the music of Small Houses (Jeremy Quentin) for me. I hear a redolence of ending or closing, the reels of the season playing back slowly-flickering in glowing (but fading) color. Jeremy writes beautiful songs, it’s as simple as that – I think he has the heart of a poet, and words matter to this guy. It works out with us because they matter to me, too, and he can string together a song unlike many people I know. Vulnerable, memorable, potent.

There is a cast of humans that a listener gets woven into as you know his songs: Karen, Jesse, Sarah. It’s a bit like piecing together the chatter on an old party-line phone call on a summer night, in a town you’ve never visited. It reminds me of Springsteen’s Mary, never sure how much she is a real person and how much she is a metaphor for something else, for a summation of things. (update: mystery cracked in this Paste Magazine feature on Jeremy and his songwriting, “The Best Of What’s Next“!).

Exactly Where You Wanted To Be was one of my favorites of 2013 (and I still listen to it often). Jeremy’s new album Still Talk; Second City is coming on February 10th, 2015 via The Cottage Recording Co and I can’t wait for you all to hear it. Three of these four songs in the chapel session are from the new album, which was recorded last year in an Atlanta cottage — and the first time Jeremy’s been off the road for a while. Recently another new album track “Staggers and Rise” premiered as well with a great, road-worn video to go with it.

He’s currently holed up in Denver for a long minute (you may have seen him onstage with Nathaniel Rateliff and Ark Life last weekend doing that insanely raucous cover of “Caravan”?). All my Colorado readers should please come see him with me on February 7 for the album release show at Ubisububi Room because that space is terrific and the show is going to be the best thing.

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FUEL/FRIENDS CHAPEL SESSION #32: SMALL HOUSES
August 11, 2013
Shove Chapel, Colorado Springs

I Saw Santa Fe

This song was blatantly my first request, because it is heart-stoppingly gorgeous, especially that pause and the bridge right at the two-minute mark that has wooed me since the first time I heard this song — it brings tears to my eyes every single time I hear it. I can’t even really articulate why, except for that it feels like a reflex, like your knee kicking when the doc whaps it with a rubbery mallet.

There’s something sad in this song that surpasses the cognitive parts of my brain. To watch him do this on that piano alone in the chapel space… man.



Old Habits

“Old Habits” was the first song that Jeremy recorded for the new record, at the cottage by the quarry in Atlanta where he would go on to record the whole album. He settled down for a first time in a while to make the new album, and said in the Paste piece: “Changing your standard of living often kind of opens you up to new things often. Get a house, live in it, love it, feel stability, and the next week, kind of find whatever you need to find to have the courage to just give up everything you have.” I hear that vulnerability in all these songs.



Sewn and Scio

This song always sounds like the soundtrack to a memory — watching an old Polaroid develop, the images rise and solidify. Like every road we were ever on was a summer road.



While I’m Away (Jeremy RR cover)

The closing song on the new record, this cover was written by Jeremy RR (Robert-Raymond). “Her hair’s the color of a dirt road, and one that bears her name / her eyes the color of a riverbed / though I miss them all the same.” Something so sweetly timeless rests inside this song, this song about leaving.



ZIP: SMALL HOUSES CHAPEL SESSION


It was such a joy having Jeremy in the chapel, and knowing this wonderful human. Go see him this winter when he comes to your town for the new album.

SMALL HOUSES 2015 TOUR DATES
Jan. 7 – Goldstein’s Mortuary and Delicatessen – Fresno, CA*
Jan. 8 – Pappy and Harriets – Pioneertown, CA*
Jan. 9 – The Mint – Los Angeles, CA*
Jan. 10 – The Partisan – Merced, CA*
Jan. 13 – House Concert – Berkeley, CA*
Jan. 14 – Hotel Utah – San Francisco, CA*
Jan. 15 – The Crepe Place – Santa Cruz, CA*
Jan. 16 – Yosemite Bug Resort and Hostel – Mariposa, CA*
Jan. 17 – Don Quixote’s International Music Hall – Felton, CA*
Jan. 21 – Volcanic Theatre – Bend, OR*
Jan. 22 – Axe and Fiddle – Cottage Grove, OR*
Jan. 23 – Sam Bond’s Garage – Eugene, OR*
Jan. 24 – Fluff and Gravy Headquarters – Portland, OR*
Jan. 25 through 31 – Al’s Den residency – Portland, OR
Feb. 5 – TBA – Olympia, WA
Feb. 6 – Skylark Lounge – Seattle, WA
Feb. 7 – Ubisububi Room (Album Release Show) – Denver, CO
Feb. 8 – O’Leaver’s – Omaha, NE
Feb. 9 – Total Drag – Sioux Falls, SD
Feb. 10 – Nicollet – Minneapolis, MN
Feb. 11 – High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI
Feb. 12 – House Concerts – Iowa City, IA
Feb. 13 – The Rozz-Tox – Rock Island, IL
Feb. 14 – Mike and Molly’s – Champaign, IL
Feb. 15 – Red Barn – Peoria, IL
Feb. 16 – Schuba’s – Chicago, IL
Feb. 18 – The Fix – Bay City, MI
Feb. 19 – Holy Oak – Toronto, ON
Feb. 21 – Dreamland – Buffalo, NY
Feb. 22 – The Bug Jar – Rochester, NY
Feb. 25 – TBA – Montreal, QC
Feb. 26 – Monkey House – Winooski, VT (Burlington)
Feb. 28 – Union Hall – New York City, NY
March 1 – Ortlieb’s Lounge (Album release) – Philadelphia, PA
March 5 – Jammin Java – Vienna, VA
March 6 – Pink Warehouse – Charlottesville, VA
March 7 – Blue Plate Special – Knoxville, TN (early show)
March 7 – The Music Room – Atlanta, GA (late show)
March 12 – Shack Up Inn – Clarksdale, MS
March 13 – The Beatnik – New Orleans, LA
March 17 through 22 – SXSW 2015 – Austin, TX
March 28 – Spacebar – Columbus, OH

* on tour with The Harmed Brothers

small houses 1

small houses 2



[Audio recording and production by my beloved Bourgal brothers of Blank Tape Records, and photography/video by the fabulous Kevin Ihle. Thanks to Blue Microphones for the terrific consideration in giving us some sweet mics to capture this magic.]

December 23, 2014

Carry me home, with a choir to greet us

MP3: Carry Me Home (with Choir! Choir! Choir!) – Hey Rosetta!

As if the original version of “Carry Me Home” from Hey Rosetta! wasn’t already one of the best new Christmas-song standards written in the last few years, Tim Baker has to go and sing it with a whole choir of folks. All my seasonal soft spots, stimulated.

I first posted the original in my 2012 Christmas mix, which is still up for the downloading (along with all past years’ mixes). No new Christmas mix this year (I know, I miss it too), but that handful of Chapel Session stocking stuffers starts tomorrow, with Small Houses!

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December 22, 2014

Damien Rice in a synagogue in San Francisco (October 7, 2014)

NEW.damienrice

It’s the time of year when I have some time to swim around in music because the college where I work is closed in between terms. Brace yourselves for a bunch of good stuff in the next two weeks while I am off work — in addition to plans for a “Holiday Bundle” of up to four new Chapel Sessions (!!!), I have some incredible live recordings that a magical show-recording elf who goes simply by the initial “B” sends to my mailbox with little notes of care from the San Francisco Bay Area.

In this week’s mail I received a stunning recording of Damien Rice playing in the Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco – a magnificent Classical Romanesque synagogue built in 1904 and covered in gorgeous frescoes. The setlist to this show is fucking incredible. Damien Rice has the ability to transport me back to a very specific time in my life, a very raw time (“Accidental Babies” has got to be one of the most brutally bittersweet songs I know) and this show just was just song after song after song of that exquisiteness.

From the first song, “Eskimo,” when he starts howling, I was overcome with chills all up and down my spine. This is a very powerful show; even though these songs are old, they are undiluted. I did the thing that I do when a song really flattens me, and that is: I let it. I lay right in the center of the wooden floor in my kitchen where the stereo is and let the song do its work. Sometimes I sing along.

Holy shit, this show.



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crowd choir on Volcano

DAMIEN RICE
LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO: Congregation Sherith Israel
October 7, 2014
Taped by B

Eskimo
Delicate
Elephant
Woman Like A Man
9 Crimes
The Greatest Bastard
The Professor & La Fille Danse
Grey Room
Rootless Tree
I Remember
Volcano –> When Doves Cry (Prince)

Encore:
The Blower’s Daughter
Cheers Darlin’
Accidental Babies
Cannonball

ZIP: DAMIEN RICE IN SAN FRANCISCO

The enclosed postcard: Thanks, B.
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I am seeing Damien on April 17 in Boulder. If this is at all what I have to look forward to…


[show photos borrowed from Irene Hsu, Stanford]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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