October 7, 2014

if it gets too lonely, i will follow you ’round in this tune

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I’ve been head over heels for Noah Gundersen for a few years now, ever since being completely spun around and knocked to the ground by him live at a few summer festivals, and then really getting into all his recordings, old and new. His songs are a piercing blend of harmony (with his sister, no less) and wide-openness to a world that’s not always easy to be wide open in.

Noah says of this song (and I 100% agree):

Lay Low is one of those songs that has a habit of finding its way into my subconscious and staying there. While driving around on tour, loading up the van after shows, during the rare quiet moments in a green room, the lyrics and the melody would rise up and start repeating over and over in my head.

There is a loneliness throughout it. An admittance of frailty. An acceptance of our small and mortal lives, where we really don’t know what it all means. But through it all, a small yet resounding spark of hope and love. I’m honored to call Michael and Cary Ann friends. I hope this cover does their beautiful composition justice.

Lay Low (Shovels & Rope) – Noah Gundersen


Here is the acoustic version at Pickathon from the original artists, the terrific duo of Shovels & Rope. It was part of my Autumn 2012 mix, and I still often put this version of it on repeat.

Lay Low (live at Pickathon) – Shovels & Rope



I am pretty excited to be welcoming Noah Gundersen to the Ivywild School next weekend, on Saturday October 18, as part of his fall tour in support of the magnificent Ledges. If you’re in Colorado, please come! If not, here are your other tour date options. This kid is the real deal.

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TOUR DETAILS HERE

[top portrait by Ben Blood]

January 30, 2014

just a perfect day / drank sangria in the park

I have been waiting since the end of October to see and hear this again; Phosphorescent played a gorgeously stripped-down set in their eTown taping with Laura Marling, and I placed myself front and center and pretty much wept on and off throughout.

The setting was the converted church on Spruce Street in Boulder that eTown has taken over, and the timing was that it was the day after Lou Reed died. This was their last song.

Perfect Day (Lou Reed) – Phosphorescent w/ eTown band

An interesting story that I learned on this evening: eTown host Nick Forster was running into local planning regulations that hindered eTown from buying the church for their radio show, so he became ordained. The first couple he married was Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson in a Boulder backyard in May of 2008.

I keep reading this wonderful farewell that Laurie penned to Lou in Rolling Stone. I printed it out, because I love love love the way she describes their life together, and the difficult and wonderful work of ever trying to pair with anyone.

“Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other.

…Like many couples, we each constructed ways to be – strategies, and sometimes compromises, that would enable us to be part of a pair. Sometimes we lost a bit more than we were able to give, or gave up way too much, or felt abandoned. Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together.”


Read the whole thing here. Cracks the most heartbreak-jaded heart.

What a night, what a show.

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[photo by the wonderful Ty Hyten, for Listen Up Denver]

November 11, 2013

Typhoon recorded a song in my bathroom…

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Last year when Typhoon was staying at my house in Colorado Springs, they taped two mics to the top of my Dyson vacuum cleaner and set up a tiny recording studio in my downstairs half-bath. I was at work but they sent me photo proof, and my humble bathroom has felt blessed by the divine ever since.




You & I can finally hear the results of that afternoon — most excellently a part of an entire album of Portland bands covering the Beach Boys’ 1967 album Smiley Smile. It also features the delicious Fuel/Friends house show alums Radiation City (who I don’t think recorded anything at my house but WHO KNOWS), as well as other Portland talents.

The whole Portland Smiles album is for sale at Tender Loving Empire, along with a beer koozie that if they send to me I promise to use in that bathroom. For them.

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October 9, 2013

covering themselves: Joe Pug & Vandaveer (premiere!)

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In addition to looking goddamn beautiful whilst standing in pastoral settings, my friends Joe Pug and Vandaveer also make some fine music — and when they switch songs it gets even more delightful.

For their Fall 2013 tour together that JUST STARTED, they have each picked a song of the others’ to record for a split single. I am pleased to be able to premiere these songs for you all, to entice you further into their winsome grandeur.

STREAM (since Yahoo broke my embedded player)

DOWNLOAD
Waking Hour (Vandaveer) – Joe Pug

Call It What You Will (Joe Pug) – Vandaveer



The original Vandaveer song that Joe picked is from their wonderful 2011 record Dig Down Deep, one of my favorites of 2011. The Joe song turned lush by Vandaveer comes from his original debut EP, 2008′s Nation of Heat.

I’ve had the privilege of having both of these artists in my chapel sessions and house shows, and I just came across an old interview I did with Joe Pug what feels like 1,000 years ago. It remains one of my favorite interviews I’ve done, because Joe’s brain is amazing.

See: We promised too much and we gave it too soon: The Joe Pug Interview (7/10/09).


Then go out to one of these shows, and hug them all for me:

JOE PUG FALL TOUR 2013

Oct 8 Albuquerque, NM–Low Spirits *
Oct 9 Phoenix, AZ–The Rhythm Room *
Oct 10 San Diego, CA–The Soda Bar *
Oct 11 Los Angeles, CA–The Satellite *
Oct 12 San Francisco, CA–Cafe DuNord *
Oct 13 Felton, CA–Don Quixote’s *
Oct 14 Sacramento, CA–Harlow’s *
Oct 16 Eugene, OR–Sam Bond’s Garage *
Oct 17 Portland, OR–The Doug Fir *
Oct 18 Vancouver, BC–Electric Owl *
Oct 19 Seattle, WA–The Crocodile *
Oct 20 Bellingham, WA–The Green Frog *
Oct 21 Moscow, ID–Mikey’s *
Oct 22 Boise, ID–Neurolux *
Oct 23 Salt Lake City, UT–The State Room *
Oct 25 Denver, CO–The Larimer Lounge *
Oct 26 Kansas City, MO–The Record Bar *
Nov 5 Milwaukee, WI–Linneman’s
Nov 6 Iowa City, IA–Gabe’s #
Nov 7 Minneapolis, MN–7th Street Entry #
Nov 8 Chicago, IL–Lincoln Hall #
Nov 9 Indianapolis, IN–Do317 Lounge #
Nov 10 Akron, OH–Musica #
Nov 11 Newport, KY–Southgate House #
Nov 12 Columbus, OH–Rumba Cafe #
Nov 13 Nashville, TN–The Stone Fox #
Nov 14 Louisville, KY–Zanzabar #
Nov 15 Champaign, IL #
Nov 16 St. Louis, MO–The Firebird #
Nov 18 Fayetteville, AR–George’s Majestic #
Nov 20 Tulsa, OK–The Vanguard #
Nov 21 Norman, OK–Opolis #
Nov 22 Houston, TX–Fitzgerald’s #
Nov 23 Austin, TX–The Parish #

* With Vandaveer
# With Sera Cahoone


[top photo taken by Todd Roeth — I believe in the orchard outside my house! Second photo I bet by Sarah Law, though I have no confirmation of this. I have damn talented friends all around.]

January 16, 2013

living is a gamble baby / loving’s much the same

Tonight in Portland I had the super-pleasure of seeing Drew Grow and Janet Weiss perform raucous, airtight covers under their new band name Slang. Both taking a night away from their other music (Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives are finishing mixing a new album, and Janet is busy kicking ass with Quasi and Wild Flag), Slang just radiated joy and fun – two things that I so love in my music, and often miss.

This song has long been a favorite of mine, and was one of the covers they performed tonight. I bought it on a little $5 CD single, backed with “Handle With Care” (Traveling Wilburys). So good.

Blues Run The Game (Jackson C. Frank) – Slang

September 30, 2012

i’d swim the seas for to ease your pain

Townes Van Zandt’s song “If I Needed You” is one of the most quietly sad laments I know of, an asking for help, even while not quite asking. In a session posted on World Cafe on Friday, the Mumford kids take a shot at this song and wring out all the latent desperation that underlies the words. On the last verse, when Marcus cranks it up to a wail, it no longer becomes a polite request, but more of an exhortation yelled into the unresponsive silence of an empty room.

If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt) – Mumford & Sons



[my Mumford pics from Telluride 2011]

September 18, 2012

i’m the air you cannot breathe

On Saturday night, Seattle’s Pickwick tore through Denver on a short tour, and the energy in the Hi-Dive was palpable. Their music leans towards the toe-tapping, hip-shaking soul variety, but when they burned their way into this Damien Jurado cover and then “The Ostrich” by Lou Reed’s The Primitives as their penultimate song, they showed that they can also rage like a proper punk band. Holy mackerel, being in the front row for this just about killed me (in the best possible way).

This band keeps surprising me, and from the looks of the packed club on Saturday night, they keep surprising and converting increasingly large circles of fans. I predict good things coming with their debut full-length that they’ve almost finished. Watch out.

September 2, 2012

let’s take a walk on the bridge / right over this mess

I’m sitting by my window watching a late summer storm brew and foment. The thunder is rolling in the distance as tree branches thrash around in the wind; all the humidity and grey heaviness of this afternoon is finally ready to break. The line I just sang to myself in the quiet kitchen, without thinking, was “a big old hurricane / she’s blowing our way…” This song keeps following me around (because Patty Griffin pens some of the best songs around, anywhere) to keep reminding me of stubborn lessons.

The version that always gets me is The Local Strangers‘ take on it, and the way that the hurricane of Aubrey Zoli absolutely owns this song, invoking that gospel certainty as she raises her arms and sings the truth. I watched Matt and Aubrey slay this song at silvery sunset on the beach at Doe Bay Fest a few Sundays ago, and it was one of the purest and most stunning moments of the fest for me. For as many times as I hear them perform this song (they often end their shows with it), I always get chills — every time.

We keep waving and waving our arms in the air, but we’re all tired out.

Forgiveness (Patty Griffin) – The Local Strangers
(from the above Redwood Sessions video)

[Brandon Milner captured that moment on the beach. I was probably too busy crying or something]

August 23, 2012

really, i’m not ready

When Seattle folk songwriter Noah Gundersen decided to cover Vic Chesnutt’s “Flirted With You All My Life” very late one night at this year’s Doe Bay Fest, it felt surreal. A bunch of us had gathered for a secret show after midnight on the field, lit by a few torches stuck in the grass. Noah sat next to Daniel Blue (Motopony), John Roderick (The Long Winters), and Bobby Bare Jr., and each songwriter took turns singing songs out into the darkness. Daniel stood up and sang one completely a cappella, his vibrato piercing the night like an unearthly arrow.

The Perseid meteor shower was showing off in earnest overhead, and I was sitting with a musician whose work I deeply appreciate, our heads craned back to see the flashes and streaks of dying stars above. We were there on an island accessible only by boat. The ocean stretched black and blending with the sky around us.


I was ambushed, then, as he sang.

Flirted with you all my life
even kissed you once or twice
even though I thought it was nice
I know, I’m not ready

When you touched a friend of mine
I thought I would lose my mind
though I found out with time
indeed, I was not ready

oh death, oh death, oh death
really, I’m not ready

when my mom was cancer-sick
she fought but then succumbed to it
but you made her beg for it
lord Jesus, I’m not ready

oh death, oh death, oh death
really, I’m not ready

It’s hard to write about the incongruous force I felt in that moment of wanting to stave off death like the song says, without sounding maudlin. But saturated as we were in late-summer-night happiness, feeling so damn young and so damn alive — this song was like a small plea out to the gaping universe. What is it about August that fools us sometimes into thinking that we’re untouchable? If ever there was a setting for believing in lies, it was this one.

The rueful smile on Noah’s face in this video as he sang, well it just hits me in the center. We know what’s waiting; while we flirt with each other and open-mouth kiss this life, we know. All of us wished, I think, that maybe the nastiness of death would just forget about us all there on that speck of land in the sea for another day, another summer. Another year.

I’m not ready.



You can listen to Noah Gundersen’s EP here; he blew all of us away during his regular sets at the fest as well, when not covering amazing songs on a firelit field. A solid (“highly-touted“) talent, with clever sharp phrasing and a commanding voice that makes you stop what you are doing and listen:



I haven’t been able to string together a review of the weekend yet; I think it will come out in trickles. Megan from the Music vs Misery blog and Adam from the Songs For The Day blog also came as part of our group this year, and their reviews are much more cogent and compelling than I am capable of assembling right now. I also agree with everything they wrote, so let’s just pretend they’re mine. Easy.


[the photo of the starry night above us that night was taken by Natalie Kardos, and the video was captured by Eratosthenes Fackenthall, by a scintillating stroke of kismet.]

June 18, 2012

there is only one thing

The 2004 Stars record Set Yourself On Fire splashed with a plunk into my tumult that year like a shimmery, potent anchor of harmonies belying the deeper layers of truth in their music. It remains a hard-and-fast favorite of mine, one that I still put on with regularity (often on long flights, for some reason) and should be part of every music lover’s collection.

In 2007 a remix/cover album of those songs came out called Do You Trust Your Friends?, where the fabulously talented musical community that Stars surrounds themselves with took shots at their own version of those songs, with sharp and illuminated results (I really like Jason Collett‘s contribution, and Apostle of Hustle’s caffeinated take).



This morning, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) tweeted this demo version of the title track that he recorded for the album, and which never appeared. It sounds like a terrific lost Postal Service track, and makes me so happy for interstellar collaborations.

Set Yourself on Fire (Stars) – Ben Gibbard



I’ll also now be listening to Stars all day. Stop by my office if you wanna join me.

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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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