Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Honky tonkin' at the Mint

over the weekend, I saw two impressive acts playing around the corner at the Mint here in Los Angeles. First up was Elizabeth Cook, straight from Nashville. A sassy blonde whose dress was almost as long as her guitar, Cook played both sides of the Nashville fence – Music Row and East Nashville. The titular tune from her new album, "It Takes Balls to Be A Woman" is a feisty feminist-style anthem that Gretchen Wilson would have all over CMT (I actually did see Cook’s video on GAC). But she also does more alt.country stuff and certainly doesn’t fix into the typical Nashvegas stereotype. She broke out some clog dancing while her guitarist Tim Carroll (definitely check him out as well) did a number. She closed with a version of "Soap, Soup and Salvation" by Lone Justice, not even knowing that Lone Justice guitarist Ryan Hedgecock was in the crowd.
Following her was a local guy David Selby, whose set of old school, but rocking honky tonk scored a high grade too – even if he didn’t clog. If a musician can be judged by his backing band, Selby then is easy to recommend. His guitarist/producer is Ed Tree (Spencer Davis Group) while is bassist Taras Prodaniuk has played with Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam. But Selby would have won me over even without his savvy veteran crew.

On a sadder note, I learned that Nancy Tannenbaum, who was known as Nancy Rideout when she played guitar in Moonshine Willy, was killed May 13 in a motorcycle accident in New York City. She apparently swerved her motorcycle to avoid hitting someone who strangely ran out onto the West Side Highway and she had a fatal crash. While Moonshine Willy wasn’t a particular favorite of mine, they were part of the early Bloodshot Record crew that captured my attention back in the ‘90s. She is the second member of the Bloodshot family to pass away this year. In February, Split Lip Rayfield’s Kirk Rundstrom succumbed to a long bout of cancer. Belated wishes of condolences go out to both families.

Michael B

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Second Best English Pop Tune From Sweden

Here's one more thing to cross off my list. While “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John has been getting a lot of buzz in the last couple months (yes, I know, they’re old news by now), I have wanting to toot my horn for another catchy pop tune from Sweden – Tobias Froberg’s When The Night Turns Cold. It could be called happy Nick Drake, with doesn’t quite nail it. There’s a great bongo beat to it but it’s not kitschy. You won’t get sick of it as fast as those whistle solos that permeate “Young Folks.” “When The Night” balances its melancholy with some ‘60s folk-rock and ‘00s bedroom pop.
The song was used somewhere in a Panasonic ad but hold that against it. There’s a lot of cool music coming out of Scandinavia (Norway's Ane Brun whose A Temporary Dive features a duet with Ron Sexsmith is another fave). But more on her and others at another time. For now, you can check out Mr. Forberg on Youtube.com here:

Friday, May 11, 2007

A few minutes on the Minutemen

I’ll fess up. I never got into the Minutemen when they were playing clubs and making records. And I’ll fess up. I never caught up with during the fIREHOSE years, and the subsequent years. It’s not that I even gave their music a good listen during all this time. But I noticed that their documentary We Jam Econo was on Sundance, IFC, one of those indie movie cable networks. I tivo’d it so I don’t really remember. But that’s besides the point. I watched the film and it was really mind-opening. I have always lumped the Minutemen in with the Southern California ‘80s punk scene. Black Flag, Descendents, and the whole SST scene. But I was surprised their sound, which is something like a cross of Wire post-punk with something much more American and earthy (they were Creedence fans). There was something arty yet primitive, skilled yet amateur about them. I got why they attracted such a loyal following and became such a mythic cult band. There was a great dynamic between D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley both on stage and off. Not that I’m rushing out to buy Double Nickels on a Dime, 3-Way Tie (for Last) of What Makes A Man Start Fire? But it did spur me to jump belatedly on their bandwagon and sing (okay, type) their praises. Check them out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

There, I Said It - Hail, Hail Tommy Womack!!

I have recovered from the NFL Draft and I'll be merciful and not bore you with any amateur analysis.
I'll get back to the music.
I had been meaning to write and praise Tommy Womack’s new album There I Said It. and since I didn’t get an assignment for it, let me just praise it now. Womack is one of those “other side of Nashville” cats, like Todd Snider or Tim Carroll. Rockin’ witty singer/songwriter who don’t write for Alan Jackson or Shania Twain.
Womack was in the bands Government Cheese and the Bis-quits. They probably don’t ring many bells. He wrote a rock n roll memoir the Cheese Chronicles. It didn’t make the best seller list. He made some dandy solo albums, with sharp, ragged tunes about the Replacements, Cheetah Chrome, getting drunk and women.
Then he disappeared for a while. He had a little breakdown. He got a 9-5 job but couldn’t shake rock n roll.
Earlier this year, he released There, I Said It. It’s another terrific album made all the most powerful by his open grappling with his “troubles.” The album title comes from the tune “I’m Never Gonna Be A Rock Star”, which pretty summarizes his warts-and-all admission about his career. His slice of life tunes range from the bluesy “Too Much Month At The End of the Xanax” to the rather hopeful “Nice Day”, which talks about the joys that his son brings him. Other songs like “Alpha Male & The Canine Mystery Blood” and “A Cockroach After The Bomb” are funny/sad looks at the life he has and the life that he had.
On “25 Years Ago” he draws poignant but unflinching portraits of Nashville’s musical fringe, folks who had 15 seconds of fame or none at all.
Womack hopefully won’t be one of these folks in the future. He’s too talented a guy.
And that’s not just a fellow fortysomething with Womack.
There, I said it.
His website is tommywomack.com and you can find him on youtube at

Michael B