The semi-new 100b, plus The Blueskins

A while ago, I talked about some changes I wanted to make here. To paraphrase myself: I talked about how I pretty much suck at writing about new bands and how I’d ultimately decided not to do that anymore. But I’ve been doing this little blog, for whatever reasons, for longer than I’d care to admit. I do wonder from time to time if, honestly, the sensible thing to do is to just pull the plug, but I just love geeking out about music too much – I can’t bring myself to do it. This is really my only outlet for what is, perhaps, my very favorite thing in the world. Even if I’m just babbling to myself, it gives my scattered affection a little focus.

But not really – we’ve always wanted to write about anything we liked, but that makes it impossible to pin anything down. When I finally said to myself, it’s do or die time, I knew that deciding to ‘do’ had to include narrowing myself to something I would properly enjoy writing about.

You’ll notice, perhaps, that I’ve updated the 100b header just a touch, to reflect my new focus. I eventually realized that what I love doing most is researching music stuff that has come as a surprise to me. Yes, I know that’s oddly specific – for example, my post about Mike Nesmith was fascinating to research. I started out just wanting to know what songs he’d written and discovered a whole list of achievements I’d never have guessed. My Shel Silverstein post followed the same basic path. Which made me realize that what I really love doing most is discovering those little bits that history let fall by the wayside. Sure, there are some people out there who know about them, but most of us have no idea.

I once read an article where Jack White said that, generally, the stuff that’s popular is the best stuff, that there’s usually a reason that bands end up in the bargain bin. I used to agree, and I still do think he had a basic point – popular stuff is very often popular for a reason (even Katy Perry is catchy as hell while we’re loathing her very existence). But what he (and I) weren’t thinking about was all those treasures that haven’t just been forgotten but were never noticed in the first place? Mike Nesmith made amazing albums that a few people loved, but were mostly ignored just because he was a Monkee. Those albums really don’t belong in the bargain bin, but most people don’t even know to look for them. I love looking for them.

That doesn’t mean 100b will only write about old music – sometimes I’ll want to point out an album from the more recent past that was unfairly ignored. But it does mean I will not write about anything new – for music to be considered ‘ignored’, it’d have to be at least, say, five-ish years old. Anything newer and there’s still a chance it’ll break out on its own. But even without profiling brand new bands, I hope people will stop by and find some music they didn’t know about before, that I’m able to give a little new life to something that has remained in the shadows for too long.

On that note, I’d like to briefly mention a band called The Blueskins to kick things off. You probably remember their debut album Word Of Mouth from way back in 2004 – or at least the lead single, “Change Your Mind”, which was featured in a Lynx ad in the UK. That was a pretty great album, a frantic indie-blues-rock affair, and “Change Your Mind” was a fantastic single. It felt like it was tripping over itself to be heard. But then The Blueskins kind of just stalled – they always seemed to be working on a follow-up, but instead formally broke up in 2008. Bummer.

For whatever reason, Word Of Mouth kind of went nowhere, but it deserved better. The Blueskins were definitely a band with promise – Tamboosh and I even went to see them play back then and they rocked out, even if the crowd was pretty small. It’s a shame they weren’t appreciated then, but I do see that Ryan Spendlove (Blueskins lead vocalist) released a solo album, Fables, earlier this year. I haven’t been able to hear the whole thing yet, but it sounds like it’s got good potential. A little more laid back than his previous band’s efforts, but there’s still some Blueskins wildness in there.

Get Word of Mouth at Amazon and Fables at emusic. And I do hope you’ll stick around to rediscover some forgotten music with me.

6*: The Black Knights

The Black Knights

Who: The Black Knights

What: “Voodoo trash blues”, as described by the band themselves. To me, they sound exactly like an unholy union between The Black Keys and Queens Of The Stone Age.

Where: From Salford, England.

Why: Honestly, I can’t get the above description out of my head – that just really is what The Black Knights sound like to me. They’ve got the raw, minimalist edge of The Black Keys, with a touch of their bluesy-ness, combined with Queens Of The Stone Ages moaning (I mean that in a blues way, not in a Coldplay way), hard rock brand of sinister. I can’t help but feel like I’m not exactly the target audience for this band, but that’s only based on the vampire-horror image their artwork gives them. I’m glad I didn’t make any assumptions based on that, because, to be totally honest, these guys are better than I ever expected them to be.

When: The Black Knights’ debut album, Sickle Sell Saturday Night, is out now on Recreation Records, and available for a pittance via bandcamp.

The Black Knights – Bad Blood

*Ok, so clearly I can’t do even these little posts every day. I did try though, I swear. From now until I’ve finally caught up on these emails, I’ll just stick with numbering these posts.

Friday Favorite: Son Of Dave

Son Of Dave – Revolution Town

100bookshelf: Michael Gray, Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell

I’ve been meaning to post about this one for a long time, because Michael Gray’s Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is not just one of my favorite music books, it’s one of my favorite books in general.

Blind Willie McTell is by far my favorite of those old-time blues men, though I don’t know when and why that happened. Something about his voice and songs just captured my imagination and hasn’t let go. But, just like all the others, there’s very little known about McTell and the casual listener had no where to turn (other than questionable ‘facts’ scattered about the internets) for information.

Until Michael Gray, Bob Dylan scholar, decided to take on this enigmatic man, that is. Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes goes, exactly as the title says, ‘in search of’ Blind Willie. That means that this is not a biography exactly – it’s also the story of the author’s journey to find what is, essentially, a musical needle in a haystack. He meets some very interesting characters, uncovers some weird stories, travels through and to places tourists don’t usually go, and – along the way – finds out some amazing clues to who Blind Willie McTell really was.

Oddly for a music book, I don’t want to say too much and give anything away. But if you’re interested in the blues, or a side of American life we don’t normally see, or both, this book is one of the best you’ll ever find. Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is a beautiful portrait of a time and place – both past and present – as well as a fascinating glimpse into a most mysterious man.

Blind Willie McTell – Statesboro Blues

100boo: Halloween On The Brain

I know, I know, I’m early. Like most of you, I hate when the stores put out their Christmas decorations in September, so that’s why I didn’t post this video two weeks ago. I tried to at least start pre-celebrating in the same month as the actual holiday. Halloween is Bean’s absolute favorite time of the year, and I have this feeling she’s already seeing the world in a lovely hue of black and orange. Her enthusiasm is catching so I too have been trying to find things that’ll help make this year’s creepy celebrations even more frightful. While I was looking for scary songs I came across this video of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” and could not wait to post it!

On its own the song is just a funny bit of novelty blues, but, good lord, combined with this performance by Screamin’ Jay and his crazy, crazy eyes, the manic whoops and oh yeah, that skull he keeps waving about, it gets an intensely frightening new layer. And I haven’t even started on the last thirty seconds of the video where he starts speaking in tongues, or whatever that is. It’s probably supposed to be funny, but I’m pooping my pants, man! He’s an incredible entertainer and he plays the role of bizarro court jester / Voodoo priest like this is just the way he is when he falls out of bed in the morning, or a coffin, or hanging upside down in a damp, dark place. I almost don’t want to look directly at the man in fear of an actual spell on meehee – I LOVE it!

Poptastic Day: G. Love & Special Sauce, Yeah, It’s That Easy

G. Love & Special Sauce

I bought Yeah, It’s That Easy simply based on the name of the band and the cover of the CD. I was walking through Amsterdam Central Station in 1997 on my way to a party and ducked into a small branch of a CD chain store in the station. The cover artwork caught my eye. I remember thinking to myself, “With a name like that and a funky cover, this has to be good.” It was one of those risky buys that either tanks completely or succeeds wildly. This isn’t my normal CD purchasing method. I like to hear a few singles off an album or give it a listen before spending my hard-earned duckets on it. So, it was seriously out-of-character for me to plunk down the cash for Yeah, It’s That Easy.

And, brothers and sisers, I didn’t regret it. The album quickly became one of my favorites and still is. Giving it another listen before putting together this post, I realize just how much fun G. Love & Special Sauce can be. It’s a perfect blend of hip-hop, blues, and cheesy goodness. Have a listen. I’m sure you’ll agree.

G. Love & Special Sauce – I-76

Poptastic Day: Fun Lovin’ Criminals

Fun Lovin Criminals

There is no one particularly Poptastic thing about the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Their being alone simply captures the essence of the concept. Produce good songs? Check. Don’t seem yourself too seriously? Check. Have a goofy take on a Pope of Greenwhich Village vibe? Check. Not afraid to look a bit silly now and then? Check.

They’re like a Poptastic Frankenstein, stitched together from some of the best and most Poptastic aspects of different decades since the 1970s.

The Fun Lovin’ Criminals are the Ambassadors of Poptastic Plenipotentiary.

   Fun Lovin’ Criminals – King Of New York (Cooley High Remix)