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Live Music Heaven

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So I’m looking down the barrel at one hell of a fun couple of weeks. While my luck didn’t grant me the privilege to head down to Orlando this weekend for the Nerdapalooza festivities, it has tossed me a few bones to compensate.

First up, this Saturday is the DC (actually Vienna, VA) stop on what I am referring to as the Monsters of WRock tour (if you get the joke, you get the prize, a nice new hearing aide!), featuring Draco and the Malfoys, The Remus Lupins, The Whomping Willows, and Justin Finch-Fletchley. Interestingly enough, the show is at the same place that Church and I saw the Lupins and the Willows last year. Exactly how so much unadulterated WRock is going to fit in such a tiny room, is going to be half the fun of going.

Saturday is only a warm up though, the following Wednesday, the real fun starts. First, I head out to the Birchmere to catch The Mickey Hart Band. For those who don’t know who Mickey Hart is, which I’m assuming is all of you, he was one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead. I’ve seen him half a dozen times, in various groups, and he has never failed to deliver an amazingly fun show. Not to mention, a night hanging out with random deadheads is always recommended.

The day after loosening up with Mickey, I hop on a plane and head out to Dallas to attend Portus for four days of WRock. Groups include, The Mudbloods, The Moaning Myrtles, Owl Post, Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls, Fred Lives, Ministry of Magic, The House of Black, The Remus Lupins (again), The Whomping Willows (also, again), and probably some folks I’m missing. The kids over at the ‘pedia have put together a handy schedule of WRock related events, which you can see here. Of course, an event this size inevitably leads to conflicts. I’m already looking at missing the second Myrtles set to catch the live AlleyCast recording. It also looks like I’m going to have to miss my chance to see the Wizard Rockumentary so that I can see Owl Post. Luckily, the girls should have DVDs to sell, so I’ll be able to catch it later.

I return from Portus on Monday. Tuesday will be reentry day, followed by a couple days of work. Then the following Sunday, the festivities are book-ended by another Mickey set, this time up in Baltimore.

I’ve got a new laptop that will be making the trek to Portus with me, and I’m really tempted to pick up a video camera for the festivities. Expect something from me. Though, if you don’t hear anything from me before the end of August, don’t worry. I’m either still recovering or have gone on tour.

Written by Matt

July 1st, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Posted in jamband,Wizard Rock

Random Links

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So I’m trying to clean out my bloglines account of all the various posts that I’ve saved for later. I did an initial hack and slash earlier today and got rid of most of it, but I saved a couple of posts that I really wanted to mention, so here they are,

First up, we have two articles from Jambase.com, one I’ve read, the other I look forward to reading.

Grace Potter’s Nocturnal Existence – This is the article I’ve read. A nice long form (3 pages) interview with Grace Potter and Scott Tournet of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Their new album, their first for Hollywood Records, comes out next week and the two discuss the pressures of signing with a major label while still trying to keep a sense of authenticity in their music. They also talk about handling the buzz that’s been building around the band and the tendency of the media to single Grace out, instead of approaching the group as a band.

Boredoms | 07.07.07 | Brooklyn – This is the article I haven’t read. A review of the show that the Boredoms did in a park in Brooklyn back on 7/7/07. The performance featured 77 drummers. If you’re not familiar with the Boredoms, there is little I can say to properly convey just how off the chart these folks have been. Some have referred to them as Japan’s answer to Sonic Youth, but honestly? They make Sonic Youth, even at their wildest, look down right pedestrian.

Next up, we dip back into the world of Wizard Rock with two videos from the Moaning Myrtles. In my last post I gushed about the obvious talent of Ginny and the Heartbreakers. Lauren and Nina are another WRock group that brings with them buckets of obvious talent. Their backgrounds in musical theater come through in both the arrangements they use for their songs and the power of their voices. When I first heard the band, I’ll admit, I was a little less then impressed. Their early tracks weren’t properly recorded and mixed, leading to the vocals and piano stepping all over each other. Subsequent listens though began to give up the pure talent of this duo. The performances in these videos are much better representations of what these girls are capable of. Another group to keep an eye on both in the WRock community and what they do outside of it.

Finally, a couple of links revolving around a woman who has popped up in my readings quite a bit lately. Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Dancing In The Streets, among a number of other books. You can find a fairly nice review of the book at Salon.com. The reason that I am mentioning her again though is because of an editorial she wrote for the International Herald Tribune back in June, which you can find here. The editorial concerns a law on the books in New York City which forbids dancing in bars/clubs that do not have a cabaret license. The law is an old one that was largely ignored until former Mayor (and current Republican presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani began using the law to limit what New Yorkers could do when they go out. To quote the editorial, did you know there are currently only 170 places in NYC where it is legal to get up and dance? Dance anywhere else in the city, and you’re breaking the law. I always thought Footloose was set in the mid-west.

The editorial itself is largely a retread of what is talked about in the book, but it is still an interesting piece to read, especially if you are unfamiliar with the book, which I can not recommend highly enough.

Finally, a video which seems to validate Barbara’s points, George Clinton taking over the crowd of Late Night with David Letterman. Yeah they look goofy, but when was the last time you had that much uninhibited fun in the span of less then four minutes?

I do wonder though if their studio (were they in the Ed Sullivan Theater by then?) had the proper licenses for that kind of dancing though?

Written by Matt

August 2nd, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Video fun

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So, after the last post I spent the next couple of days listening to Grace Potter’s debut album, Nothing But The Water. Great album!

I was just poking around Youtube on this hot lazy Sunday and came across a bunch of cool Grace Potter videos, so I thought I’d share.

First up, a pair of videos shot in my old haunt, The 8X10 in Baltimore.

First an original called Treat Me Right

Second, a cover of Junior Parker’s Mystery Train

Next an older clip. This is of the band doing Nothing But The Water Part 1 and 2 at the Boston Music Awards

Finally, a new song called Stop The Bus. This is from a show they did at Red Rocks out in CO.

Still wondering why I’ve been digging this girl?

Written by Matt

July 8th, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Posted in jamband

And here I am talking about music

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While I was reading over that last post before hitting the submit button I started listening to this show from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The second song is just starting…

I’m liking this a lot. Good bluesy/gospel/southern rock feel to it. They’re a four piece band with Grace singing and playing hammond and may be a little other stuff here and there. I’ve seen a picture of her with a guitar and I’m not hearing the Hammond right now. The girl has the pipes for this kind of music. A throaty voice with just a hint of gravel. The thing I read on them compared her to Bonnie Raitt and Janis. Bonnie I can deffinetely hear. I think the Janis comparison is over done these days. Its like saying a vocalist sounds like Aretha. No they don’t! No one sounds like Aretha. That’s why she’s Aretha. There’s a reason Janis is Janis.

The rest of the band is drums, bass, and guitar. (some decent slide work on the guitar right now) Stripped down sound that works. I wonder if she’s going to rip into the Hammond at some point. So far its just bubbled under her vocals with the solos being taken by the guitarist. Then again, we’re three songs in so we’ll see.

Fourth song is playing now and the bassist is starting it off alone. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been impressed with a bass solo? An instrument that I love holding things down or driving the beat. Take it away from the beat though and it leaves me cold.

Rest of the band is playing now. Track is about 1:30 AM Sunday morning. On its way to church, but with the memories of Saturday night still fresh. There’s kind of a Texas Country twinge to it that really works. To short though. I was digging that groove.

OK, a slow hammond intro to the next song. I’m going to take the chance to jump out here before this thing sucks me in any further.

Have a night.

Written by Matt

July 3rd, 2007 at 10:09 pm

Posted in jamband,Reviews

Feels Good To Watch a Big Man Dance Part I: An introduction

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I’ve had a couple of people ask me over the last couple of months to tell some stories about my time in the proto-jamband scene. Since it doesn’t look like I have anything else to talk about, I guess I might as well.

Before I get into that, a little introduction into nomenclature. You’ll notice the phrase “proto-jamband” above. Before I’ve refereed to this period as the early jamband scene or the jamband scene before it became the jamband scene, or similar titles. I’ve settled on the name proto-jamband scene because in many ways it was a different scene. For one, it was more nebulous then what it would become down the road. There is a sense of anarchy in any scene when it is first starting to form. Anyone can be anything. One day the guy you’re chatting with over email is just another fan. The next day, they’re a professional music writer or big time promoter or they’ve started their own band. It is a crazy time in any scene and it was a crazy time in our little scene to.

If I had to put a point on when the proto-jamband scene became the full blown jamband scene, I guess I’d probably give the date of Aug 9th, 2005, the day Jerry died. As with any such date, there are arguments to be made about its validity. Evidence can be given to show that the jamband scene already existed at that point. Other evidence can be given that it occurred later. I’ve chosen Jerry’s death because of it’s relationship to the scene and how it effected the scene over all.

One way to see this is to look at the history of the scene up until that point. There was kind of a tug of war relationship between The Dead and the proto-jamband scene. Yeah, a lot of us were deadheads. (I personally didn’t accept that title until June of ’97, having never actually seen the Dead play with Jerry. I didn’t “get it” until I saw The Other Ones first tour.) At the same time, many of us, at least in the circles that I hung around in, were a little reluctant to advertise the fact. There really wasn’t any denial going on, but we wanted to be our own thing. And a lot of people wanted to just write us off as a bunch of spoiled suburban kids trying to relive our parent’s youth.

You could compare our relationship to the Dead to the one a teenager has with their parents. We were trying to become something that was uniquely our own thing. Influenced by what they and the other 60s band’s were doing, but something different at the same time. No matter what any kid says, deep down, chances are they still love their parents. And we still recognized the fact that many of us enjoyed the Dead and we all understood the debt we owed to them, but we still felt the need to put distance between us and them, publicly if not personally.

After Jerry died and the Dead stopped touring, things loosened up a bit. As the shadow of the Dead dimmed just a little bit, it became easier for us to acknowledge publicly the debt that we owed them. Eventually, the post-Dead projects would even come to be incorporated into the idea of a jamband scene in some people’s eyes. There are various reasons for this, not least of which is the influence of deadheads who were looking for new bands to follow. Another reason though was that with Jerry’s death, we were finally allowed to step out front and be our own people. And not just a bunch of kids pretending to be something that we weren’t.

And that isn’t to say that we all were deadheads or would become deadheads down the road. Early “desert island top five albums of all time” threads on rec.music.phish or various email lists were just as likely to turn up entries for Nirvana, Pavement, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, or various other punk/post punk/indie bands as they were to turn up references to 60s groups. We were a diverse group of people and our record collections showed that.

Another way to see why I chose Jerry’s death is to look at what happened to the scene afterwards. Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met had been heads for a long time when Jerry died. The fact of the matter though is that there was a lot of crap on Dead tour as well. There were a lot of people who were just looking for an excuse to do a lot of drugs and live as selfish a life as possible. Because of the size and economics of Dead tour, most of these people rarely ventured away from the Dead scene before 95. The Dead provided them with the vehicle they needed to live their small little self centered lives and so they rarely ventured beyond those boundaries. When Jerry died though, and the Dead stopped touring, they needed a new place to hang out. Unfortunately, Phish became the band that a lot of these people latched onto. Later, especially when Phish took their first hiatus, these undesirables filtered into the larger scene. In the process they chased away a lot of good people, made life harder for everyone, and changed the scene forever.

I’ve met folks who think of these people as the typical jamband fan. It breaks my heart when I come across this. I really can’t speak for what the scene is like these days, but through out most of the 90s, it was everything but these people. For most of the 90s, the scene was devoted to people who saw music as more then just a sound track for a night out, but who loved it with all their hearts and saw amazing possibilities in it.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Dancing In The Streets talks about the collective joy that is possible when a large group of people come together to celebrate and toss off the preconceptions of normal existence. When I have talked about this book to people who were involved in the proto-jamband scene, they understand immediately what it is that she is talking about. We’ve been there.

In the following installments of this tale I’ll try to express what it was that transfixed us back then. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you a taste. I know I won’t be able to show you what it was really like. Unfortunately, only we can know that because we were the only ones who were there.

The following story is my story. It is the scene as I saw it. I’ll do what I can to introduce a little objectivity into things, but I can’t give you an unbiased history. For seven or eight years, this was my life. Acknowledging that it was time for me to leave the scene was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. As you’ll soon see, this scene created the person in front of you. If you’re interested in hearing the tale, grab a seat.

Written by Matt

May 22nd, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Posted in A history,jamband

Salmon

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Artist: Leftover Salmon
Track: Let’s Give A Party
Album: Live (pronounced ‘Liv’)

So I finally got around to finish watching Years In Your Ears a documentary about the Colorado band Leftover Salmon. It was pretty decent. Could have may be a little shorter and may be a little more focused, but over all it was pretty good.

Now, chances are you’re wondering who Leftover Salmon were/are (technically, the band is “on hiatus” but there hasn’t been any movement from the band, outside solo gigs, since the end of 04)

Salmon were a force of nature. The legend goes that the band formed one day in Colorado after members of the newgrass (progressive bluegrass for you city folk) outfit Left Hand String Band, led by the amazing songwriter and musician Drew Emmit and featuring the wiz kid banjo player Mark Vann, did a gig with a couple of the members of the cajun/zydeco/calypso group The Salmon Heads, lead by the force of nature known as Vince Herman. The gig apparently went so well, they did it again, and again, and again, until they finally said ‘fuck it’ and started Leftover Salmon.

The band’s answer to what their music sounded like was to coin the phrase, ‘poly ethnic cajun slamgrass.’ Which is actually surprisingly accurate. The thing to understand when discussing the band’s ‘sound’ is to realize that these were not a bunch of guys just throwing a bunch of styles into a melting pot. So many bands these days talk about ‘crossing genres’ and how they ‘can’t be pigeon holed’ which usually translates to them half assing there way through a bunch of different areas but never actually doing justice to any of the genres they touch. Salmon on the other hand were students of the styles of music they played. And so when they played a style of music, they did it for real and with love and heart. Those styles were mainly centered around bluegrass, newgrass, cajun, zydeco, calypso, with a smattering of rock here and there. Though other genres popped up now and then (a little reggae here, a little bossa nova there, may be even some polka now and then). Another way to look at it is to remember something an Art teacher once told me about how Picaso could get away with doing things like Cubism because he was already known to be an extremely talented artist. People paid attention to what he did because they knew he wasn’t covering up for his own lack of talent. Salmon were the same way. Yeah, the fused genres together and played with the acceptable way things were supposed to be done, but they could also play straight if they wanted to or needed to. And when they played straight, there tended to be a lot better then many of their peers*.

The styles that the band played in are only part of the equation though. To be a fan of Salmon was to see Salmon live. And to see Salmon live, was to walk away a convert. To describe a Salmon show, I’ll ask you to imagine the most wild new years party you’ve ever been to, then combine that with a full blown New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, now shove all of that, with out loosing any intensity or insanity, into a 3 to 4 hour show filled with all of your friends. Even the strangers are friends at a Salmon show. Don’t believe me? On more then one occasion the band would suddenly decide to hold a parade, and so they would get down off the stage, while still playing their instruments (gotta love string music), and parade around the club with the audience in tow. Then they would lead the parade right out the front door and down the street, may be around the block, before heading back into the club and finishing the show**. During the film one person tells a story of how an impromptu Mombo Line went from the club where the band was playing, down the street, into another bar, then back out onto the street and back to the club where the band was playing. All while singing and playing and doing the Mombo. Another story involves the band getting kicked out of their hotel on NYE for doing an impromptu show in the third floor elevator lobby after they’d already done a NYE show that night.

To say that Salmon shows were unpredictable would be stating the obvious. A lot of that had to do with Vince. Part improvisational stand up comedian, part vaudeville performer, anything and everything could come from Vince at any moment in time. One of the things that I used to use to woo new fans was some of the more outlandish ‘covers’ that Vince used to do. These included Stairway To Gilligan, which was the music of Stairway To Heaven with improvised lyrics about Gilligan’s Island. Another was Sweet Home Margaritaville, which was the music of Sweet Home Alabama, with improvised lyrics about Jimmy Buffet. Now, this is 95 or 96 were talking about. There wasn’t any mashups back then, and definitely no one doing it live on the spot. I remember the first time I saw Salmon, I spent the next week with a perma grin on my face muttering to myself, ‘they did a bluegrass version of Paint It Black.’

As an aside, probably my most memorable Salmon show was an outdoor gig they did in Charlottesville, VA. They played at this little outdoor amphitheater that the town has downtown. It was about 50 degrees out that day and there was a steady drizzle all day. I ended up dancing in the rain through out the entire show in a t-shirt. After the show someone pointed out that I was bleeding. And when I looked down, sure enough there was a huge red splotch from where my blood had mixed with the rain water that had completely soaked my shirt by this point. I also remember Vince almost getting arrested, during the show, for enticing kids to slide down a hill next to the stage (and tearing up the nice manicured grass in the process) and almost going for a slide himself. The cops showed up just as he was taking his guitar off so that he could run up to the top of the hill. He saw the cops and put his guitar back on. That was also the show where, during a drum and bass solo, Tye North, their bassist at the time, lifted up his bass over the drum kit and Mike Wooten, their drummer at the time, started hitting the bass strings with his drum sticks. I remember it was kind of funny and sounded pretty cool. Oh, and I wasn’t alone in dancing around in the rain. There was probably a good 75 to a hundred of us out there in the rain. Some were smart enough to bring rain gear (it was dry when I left DC that morning) others weren’t. Point of fact. Dancing in the rain with a whole mess of other people is a lot of fun.

This all probably doesn’t mean much to you though. Since most of you are probably part of the unfortunate majority who have never experienced the whirl wind of a Salmon show. And even at the peek of my writing abilities, I don’t think I could do them justice. Partly because I don’t know if I’ve ever been that good of a writer, partly because you wouldn’t believe me. You would likely come to the conclusion that I was exaggerating, either intentionally or not, or that I remembered it as more grandiose then it truly was. The thing is, there was never a reason to exaggerate when it came to describing Salmon, and I doubt it is possible to make Salmon any more grandiose then they all ready were.

I will acknowledge my limitations though, and bring this post to a close, with a ‘boy howdy!’ and a ‘FEEEESTIVAAAAL’

EDIT: As I was reminded by Church in the comments. You can get a taste of what Salmon were like by downloading a show or two from archive.org. You can find their listing here.

* To give you an idea of the talent in the band. Over the years that I followed the band I had the good fortune of befriending Bryant Vann, Mark’s father. At one point Bryant told me a story of how Mark was originally a self taught banjo player. After Mark had been picking for awhile though, Bryant decided that he probably should get Mark some professional lessons. So he hired a guy to teach Mark to play (Mark grew up in the DC area. Over the years a lot of folks have moved out of the Appalachian Mtn communities and into the DC area seeking work with the federal government. Until around the turn of the century, one of the two NPR stations in the area was predominantly a bluegrass station, including a three hour show during afternoon rush hour and a good 6+ hours on Sunday of bluegrass and country gospel. In other words, we’ve got some good pickers around here) The guy gave Mark his first lesson. When it was over the guy walked up to Bryant and admitted that while he would be happy to keep taking Bryant’s money, he felt compelled to mention that he was in fact learning more from Mark then Mark was from him.

Another story I heard from Bryant involves a well known bluegrass musician, whose name escapes me at the moment, walking across the field at the Merle Watson Bluegrass Festival (one of the premiere American roots music festivals in the world). It was in between acts on the main stage and the sound guys were playing a CD over the sound system. The musician remarked to a friend that he didn’t realize that Bela Fleck (considered by many to be one of the best banjo players alive) had a new album out. Turns out he didn’t, the sound guys were playing Salmon and what he was hearing as Bela was in fact Mark taking a break.

Sadly, Mark passed away in 2002. The band continued, at Mark’s request, for another two years before taking a break.

** While I never had the chance to be part of one of the Salmon parades, I did take part a parade during the encore of a Hypnotic Clambake show. It was at the 8X10 Club in Baltimore and involved walking out of the club and around the block, before coming back into the club. I can report that this is incredibly fun to do and should be done much more often then it is.

Written by Matt

February 19th, 2007 at 12:38 am

Posted in jamband

The Recipe – Jubilee

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Artist: The Recipe
Album: Jubilee
Genre: Jamband/Jamgrass

Jubilee is an album with a history, both public and private. The Recipe were the last group associated with the jamband scene that I followed before finally deciding that, for the sake of my own personal growth, I needed to make a total break with the scene. Even then, while it wasn’t difficult for me to leave the larger scene, I never fully walked away from the Recipe. Every couple of months or so I’d poke my head in at their web site and see what they were up to and see if there were any local shows. When I finally decided that perhaps I’d hit a point where I could start to think about returning to the jamband scene, The Recipe were the first group that I downloaded from archive.org.

When I left The Recipe scene, the band was just beginning work on this album. And I can’t help but notice that the album was only released after I had come back into the fold. I’ll stop myself before wondering if there’s any connection there, though it is an interesting synchronicity.

As I said, the group has been working on Jubilee for sometime. This is in fact their first studio album since the release of Geode back in 2000. And the band has been through a number of changes since then. First came the loss of original female vocalist, Kristin Wolverton, who was later replaced by Julie Edlow. Then they lost their fiddle player, Hannah Ross. After a period of dropping the fiddle for multi-instrumentalist Kris Kehr, the band eventually brought on Melissa McGinley as their new fiddle player and banjo player Ed ‘Uncle Eddie’ Mahonen. Somewhere in there Julie left, was replaced, came back, and then left again. Melissa took over Julie’s vocal duties after the last time she left before making her own departure. There’s also a couple of bass players in there (at least two that I can think of off the top of my head, Mike Vitale and Q) but the Recipe has always had a problem with keeping bass players.

I mention this sorted history because it does play a role in the album that we eventually received. Through out all of these changes the band stopped and started the process of recording this album. Scrapping tracks when players left and then rerecording them when their replacements showed up. More then once fans were told from the stage that the album was ‘almost here’ only to have someone decide to leave the group, pushing the album back yet again. The very fact that the album has been released at all is a minor accomplishment and likely a weight off the band’s shoulders. They have finally moved beyond the curse of Jubilee and can now focus on the future.

Reviewing the album for me is kind of hard. Many of these songs made their debut during my hey day with the group, and many hours were spent wondering what they would sound like on the album, especially the center piece of the album, the song cycle Davie’s Jubilee. Geode, their last studio album, was the band’s first attempt at making an album that was more of a studio album. Hannah Ross put together a string quartet for one or two songs and Joe Prichard, the band’s primary song writer, guitarist, and male vocalist, definitely seemed to be having fun tweaking the album to make it sound perfect. The expectation was that Jubilee would continue that progression and the songs that we were hearing live at the time, definitely seemed like likely fodder for such experimentation.

The album we got instead is a stripped down collection of songs. To these untrained ears, the extent of the studio trickery seems to be Joe harmonizing with himself on a couple of instrument overdubs. While there are a few places where this approach falls down, for the most part it was the right choice. The Recipe are a group from West Virginia, and sure their lead singer is a self avowed Beatles freak, but at their core, they are still a group that is steeped in the traditions of Appalachia.

People today think of Appalachia as a mono-cultural wasteland of bluegrass, moonshine, and hillbillies. What they fail to realize is that Appalachian culture is a synthesis of the various cultures of poor immigrants who moved into the mountains to work in the mines. It is a highly adaptive culture that isn’t easily over taken by modern trends. Instead it consumes those trends, mutating and changing them until they are something uniquely Appalachian.

The Recipe are carriers of this tradition. Taking a love of 60s pop, roots rock & roll, and the fertile local traditional music scene; and creating something that is uniquely their own. The Recipe sound combines the free wheeling, anything goes, feel of a back woods picking party, with songs that come to mean something and are taken to heart by their fan base. They are proof that a good time party band doesn’t need to be devoid of substance and meaning.

Jubilee is a testament to this ability. Full of songs that can easily move the listener to dance around the room. The album also contains the band’s most poignant work to date.

As I mentioned, the center piece of the album is the song cycle, Davie’s Jubilee. With words provided by Joe’s father Phil Prichard. The piece revolves around the death of a much loved local fiddle player in Vietnam, and what comes afterwards.

The cycle opens with the song Family Portrait. Here the unidentified narrator introduces us to Davie and tells us how much he was loved by the community of people who came to the Jubilee every year.

The cycle continues with Letters Home, where the narrator continues the story; telling us how Davie was a medic during Vietnam. We are told of his compassion for all life during the war and of his fears that he wouldn’t be able to make it back to his beloved mountains. It is also at this point that the piece first mentions Darlene, Davie’s ‘girl’, and his son Little Davie. The song ends with a somber military drum roll, signifying Davie’s death.

We are next brought forward several years with the song Playing In My Dreams. While here the song is song by Joe, the song was originally sung by the band’s female vocalist, underlining the fact that the story’s perspective has shifted to Darlene. Here she contemplates the similarities between Little Davie and his father, including a talent for playing the fiddle. She laments the fact that Davie never got a chance to see his boy grow up, sure that he would have been proud. The song’s title and chorus concern a fantasy of the two having the chance to play fiddle together.

Here the story takes a slight break for the traditional instrumental fiddle tune, Whiskey Before Breakfast.

We rejoin the story with the song Mountain Wedding Song. The story is picked up by a man who has fallen in love with Darlene. The song’s subject concerns the two falling in love, but also the question of how to explain this love to Little Davie.

Lyrically, the cycle is some of the best work in the band’s canon. And it is easy to see where Joe picked up his lyrical abilities. Musically though, the cycle is probably the band’s pinnacle at this point. Joe takes his father’s words and crafts around them a score that helps to bring out the nuances of the emotions which thread through out the greater piece. A traditional feel is used through out the piece to root it as a distinctly Appalachian story, but Joe uses other flourishes through out to the piece to really bring it home. From the hints of a military march at the end of Letters Home to signify Davie’s military funeral, to the fiddle heavy arrangement of Playing In My Dreams, to the wistful arrangement of Mountain Wedding Song. The entire piece points to a song writer who knows more about his craft then just coming up with a good hook. Thankfully, Melissa McGinley appears as a guest to play fiddle on this piece.

The focus on Davie’s Jubilee is not meant to diminish the quality of the other songs that are included on the album. It is interesting to listen to the album, since it gives the listener a glimpse into the refinement of the group as a whole over the last six years, and of Joe, in-particular, as a songwriter. Songs like Davie’s Jubilee (minus Playing In My Dreams, which came later) and Holy Dice debuted shortly after recording on Geode had completed, while songs like When The Snow Falls and Walk of Shame are much newer. There isn’t a marked difference in the quality of the songs, but there is a subtle shift towards tighter song writing.

Jubilee is easily the band’s most political album to date. The entire album is dedicated “to all persons and their families who have served their country in the military during times of war and peace. Politics aside, all we can and should say to those who have served is, Thank You.” More specifically, Shotgun Wedding, is an obvious comment on the current presidency and war. When The Snow Falls and The World Today are a more general commentaries on the state of the world today.

Even with the possibly negative subject matter of many of the songs on this album, the band retains a certain sense of optimism which only comes from being part of a larger tradition and realizing your place in it. Yes, things are bad now, but they have been bad in the past as well, and they will get better some day. The trick is to not get lost in all of it and retain your own sense of individuality.

While the album isn’t what I was expecting all those years ago, dancing away in strange clubs around the mid-atlantic region, it is a solid album. And the more I learn to put aside my expectations and approach the album on its own merits the better it gets. Full of good hooks, an optimistic vibe that doesn’t come from just ignoring the world around them, and a solid understanding of where they come from and the tradition that they are apart of, Jubilee is the band’s best album to date. Hopefully, now with the album finally out, the group can focus on delivering another album before 2012.

Oh, and just to cover my bases, for the fans who’ve been waiting for this release for the past 6 years. I apologies for any role my absence may have unintentionally played in delaying its release.

A quick glance around the web doesn’t turn up any links to samples of the songs on this album. The Recipe has given permission to archive.org through to archive their live performances for download. So, in lieu of being able to point you at the album directly, I’ll point you to a somewhat recent show (before Melissa left the band). You can find that show band, or through the Homegrown Music Network.

Written by Matt

December 29th, 2006 at 5:53 pm

Posted in jamband,Reviews