HONKY TONK REPORT: JEREMY STEDING AND MIKE KELLY @ THE ARMADILLO PALACE

For the last two weeks I have been six feet under at work. I mean I have been there between nine and eleven hours a day and not able to take lunch, save eating at my desk, much less find time to post about the cool shit I have found. In the middle of all this I got a text from Jeremy Steding that he was playing a free show at the The Armadillo Palace with Mike Kelly. As far as shows go it was an early show so I wrapped up what I could and bailed out of work with the knowledge that I would be playing catch up the next day but that my need to decompress was more important than not adding a few more inches to the hole I was already buried in. I was not wrong.

The show was just Jeremy and Mike trading acoustic songs which was just the sort of thing I needed. Mind you I didn’t know I needed it until Jeremy texted me a couple of hours before the show. Now you may remember my posts (album review and live show) on Jeremy from a while back and he didn’t disappoint. The boy is a ham on stage and obviously loves what he is doing. He played a few songs off his upcoming album and they proved everything I have said about him in the past. He is an amazing songwriter and his talents are only growing. I highly recommend dropping by his site, if you haven’t already, and availing yourself of his first two albums, which he offers for free. And I am not just saying that because he wouldn’t let me buy my own beer at the show!

Mike Kelly is a new face here on 9B and one I hope I get to write a lot more about. He has lived all over the US and is now one of Texas’ own. His songwriting is different from Jeremy’s but the differences made the show that much better. Mike writes about everything and I mean everything. From barroom ditties about the joys of all girls becoming pretty at 1:30 to songs about nearly dying written during his recent recovery from open heart surgery to love songs that only those of us who could drink for living, if it paid, will really understand. This kid runs the gambit and does it with style. My internet connection at home is, on a scale of one to ten for uploading, classified as SUCK so the videos I have of him belting out his tunes will have to wait until I can get them uploaded but suffice it to say this kid is the real deal. I will be reviewing his latest release very soon but I will give you a little preview here…

In closing this show, in a honky tonk only Texas could create, was a just what this cowboy needed to get through a couple of week of hell at work. I can’t thank these boys enough for inviting me out and, shockingly, putting me on their tab. These guys love their fans as much as they love playing their music and in the country music scene that’s something you don’t see that much anymore. I did talk Jeremy into recording a 9B exclusive after the show. Mike was going to but time ran short and the venue was playing their canned music pretty loud so we agreed I’d get an exclusive from him next time he was in town. I hope you enjoy!



Jeremy Steding’s official site (Both his album are available for free here)
Mike Kelly’s official site

JOHN MELLENCAMP – ON THE RURAL ROUTE 7609

“If they wanted to call me Rumpelstiltskin, I would have done it to have the opportunity to make records. Johnny Cougar indeed.– John Mellencamp


Okay. Let’s get it out of our systems….get your John Cougar snickers…your “My Country” joke…your “Corporat…..ERR….Heartland rock joke….Get them all out of the way now. When you’re done we’ll talk about this release like adults.

Done? It’s okay, I get it. I’ll wait.
No, there is no need to apologize. Just get it out of your system and then give me a chance.

Okay? Ready?
Cool. I’ll start.

Somewhere between “John Cougar” and “My Country”, John Mellencamp became a punchline….

Oh, come On! What the fuck? I said get it out of your system and then give me a chance….
Okay? You ready? You sure? You really sure? Pinky promise? Okay….

Somewhere between “John Cougar” and “My Country”, John Mellencamp became a punchline. Hell, he became a punchline for me, too, and when I am honest, I don’t even know what the joke was. Truth is, Mellencamp was well played in my childhood home and I still like all of those songs. I don’t think I could name a single song between then and the infamous Chevy commercial, but that commercial managed to change my opinion of everything from “Rain On The Scarecrow” up to it. My opinion began to change back when Mellencamp’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom was released last year (review here). Seeing that his new box set, On The Rural Route 7609, was heavily populated with tracks from that album, I decided to look into it a little more.

On The Rural Route 7609 isn’t the typical ‘toss in the hits and a few b-sides, compiled money’ grab. Instead it’s a very well thought out and carefully assembled 4 disc release that seems more focused on theme and story than hit churning. Sometimes the collection lets you hear the birth and growth of a song, such as “Jenny At 16” and the demo for “Jack and Diane” that eventually became the “Jack And Diane” we all know. I was even amazed to find that when all the pizazz and pop polish was stripped away from the infamous “My Country”, it fits perfectly into what Mellencamp has been writing his whole life.

Look, I know the odds of anyone still reading this at this point are slim to none and I know I can’t change anyone’s opinion on what Mellencamp is all about, but I will ask you this: If you’re truly honest with yourself, do you know why you view Mellencamp as a joke? Was it ’cause someone else said he was? Was it for the clap track in “Jack and Diane”? Was it for the Chevy commercial? Regardless of the reason, check out his last album. Perhaps download this box set from AmazonMP3. Listen to them. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find that we might have treated Mr. Mellencamp unfairly over the years….

I am gonna close this piece with the same liner notes quote that Adam Sheets used in his fantastic review for No Depression, ’cause I feel it’s as poignant as he did: “If he has not been properly credited for that groundbreaking role, it is largely because he committed the unforgivable sin of actually having hits while making innovative music. Part of the No Depression mythology requires either a tragic early death or decades of unacknowledged masterpieces created during a life of grueling poverty. Writing and recording great songs that millions of people like and buy is not part of that sentimental picture- regardless of how comfortably the music itself sits within the genre’s parameters. As Neil Young pointed out, sometimes you are made to pay a price for having hit records.

John Mellencamp – Rain On The Scarecrow
John Mellencamp – To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)
John Mellencamp – Cherry Bomb (writing demo)

John Mellencamp’s Official Site, John Mellencamp on myspace, Buy On The Rural Route 7609

AMERICAN AQUARIUM – SMALL TOWN HYMNS


I’m sitting here in front of the laptop on the eve of getting to see American Aquarium live for the very first time (by the time you’re reading this I’ll already have seen them) and I’m preparing to do my third piece about an American Aquarium album. When they first started up they were easily described as Whiskeytown-meets-Lucero, and every obligatory Springsteen reference was earned in full. With their latest album, Small Town Hymns, I feel like the band is finally starting to try and break out of those limits. Some will point at the lyrical content of this album and say it’s safe, playing well within the tried and true confines of the alt.country genre, and honestly I cannot argue with that assessment. That said, what B.J.’s lyrics might lack in refinement is made up in the kind of authenticity that can occasionally find a small handful of his “songs” present in the bar during hometown shows, and I can appreciate that kind of thing.

In the past I’ve described American Aquarium as an “indie rock band with just enough twang & swagger to keep this particular blogger engaged”. This time around the tides have certainly changed, bringing us a largely Americana sound with enough indie elements to keep it from sounding stale or formulaic but that swagger, that ain’t going nowhere.

For me the real gem in this album isn’t in it’s lyrical content (liked or not) and it’s not in the indie main dish, which has been relegated to a mere side dish. No, where this album truly excels is in its overall feel. To me, the album has a quiet desperation to it with an underlying theme of people trying get out of their self-defined limits, beliefs, towns and habits, even though everyone, including themselves, know they’ll probably fail. Maybe it’s ’cause I grew up in a small town with the same mind frame or ’cause I’m drunk tonight, but there is something about that that I can embrace, befriend and label Essential Listening.

American Aquarium – Nothing To Lose
American Aquarium – Rattlesnake
American Aquarium – Water in the Well

American Aquarium’s Official Site, American Aquarium on myspace, Buy Small Town Hymns

GUEST POST: SAMANTHA CRAIN – YOU (UNDERSTOOD)

Hey everyone, Autopsy IV here. Sometimes someone sends you a review that puts things so well you just decide to scrap your own intentions of writing one and just run theirs. Such is the case today. Kyle Coroneos, a regular reader and frequent commentor sent my this review a couple of weeks ago and there is no better time to run it than on the album’s release date.

Enjoy!


They say you have your whole life to write your first long player. Well if that’s true, then you have your whole life to mess up and second guess yourself on your second one. The way you follow up an album that was a critic’s favorite is with solid songs, and if you can pull it off, a solid album. With Samantha Crain’s sophomore offering, You (Understood), she does both.

If you’re talking about Samantha Crain, you have to start by mentioning her voice. It is like a strange vegetable. You’re not sure what to make of it at first. You poke at it a little, maybe take a nibble. But with a little faith you take it in full fledged, and all of a sudden you could base a religion behind it. “Eat More Kale!” “Listen to Samantha Crain!” Because it’s good for you.

Talk of oversinging is debunked by seeing her live. It is straight from the soul. But In You (Understood) Samantha’s voice takes on an even more intriguing wrinkle: emotion. Somehow, without breaking her stride of rounding words and vowels to make an eloquent offering of intelligent lyrics, she added some squeaks, cracks, and fades at times to drive home the mood of the song. The result is making these songs stick to your bones in the form of memory.

You know those albums, right? The ones that no matter when or where you hear them, they take you back to that place where you first heard them, and the emotions you were feeling at that time. Well this album has a strange way of making this happen almost instantly. It grounds you sheerly in the moment, exaggerates your current emotional state, and makes you take stock.

The hits of this album (so to speak) are the first track “Lions,” and “Santa Fe.” But don’t look past the very simple and sweet “We Are The Same.” With this song, Samantha catches you looking the other way. Her lyrics are usually steeped in poetic turns and hyperbole. But this one is stark and straightforward, bitingly so. Melancholy, bordering on angry, almost immature if it wasn’t so damn well done.

No matter what Samantha Crain does, it is probably going to feel a little melancholy because of the mood of her voice, but she was not afraid to have a little fun on this album, and toy with some rock elements without diluting them with folk or country influences. Songs like “Up On The Table” and “Holdin’ That Wheel” don’t hold back and also show curiously masterful understanding of instrument tones and arrangement. “Up On The Table” forced me to ask myself, “Can a grown ass man who considers himself an enlightened music consumer really listen to the same song 5 times in a row? OK how about 6? Can I try for 7?”

This album is not going to break any land speed records or cure cancer. What it does do is keep Samantha pointed on a very solid, and exciting path. Think of Lucinda, or another female artist now with a household name who just kept on putting out great albums until the popular consciousness had no other choice but to say uncle and recognize their brilliance. Samantha Crain is not a sugar high. I told you, she’s like a vegetable, imparting long term vitality and fulfillment as opposed to the short lived spark. So take a heaping helping, and then pass the plate. Because it’s good for you.

Samantha Crain – Sante Fe
Samantha Crain – Up On The Table
Samantha Crain – Equinox

Samantha Crain’s Official Site, Samantha Crain on myspace, Buy You (Understood)

ON TOM WAITS AND THE LIVE RECORD


Sometime around midnight last night (I’m on German time for the moment so it was 3:00 Pacific and 6:00 Eastern for those keeping track), I was putting the finishing touches on a night-long Looney Toons marathon when I noticed an email in my inbox from a friend, the subject line reading only “New Waits.” The body of the email was equally brief and cryptic, offering only a link to Waits’ new, redesigned official site.

And there it was.

Tom Waits will be releasing a new album, Glitter and Doom Live, November 24. Just in time to be my favorite record of the year.

Once the initial euphoria of a new Waits record dissipated, I started to think about live records in general. Can you name ten really, really great live records? Live at the Apollo, Live Rust, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, Metallic K.O. and… and? One of the hundreds of available Pearl Jam Official Bootlegs? I’m not a Grateful Dead guy so please don’t mention Dick’s Picks to me. Ever. I’ll allow Rock of Ages. Maybe Live at the Harlem Square Club or Live-Evil would sneak in there but, historically, live records are a poor substitute for witnessing the real thing and/or sitting around your place listening to records. Sometimes they’re a contractual obligation, sometimes a stopgap between “real” releases, sometimes they’re just an exhaustive Lose Weight Exercise in self-congratulation. Tom Petty, in a recent interview regarding his own Live Anthology (which will be released the same day Waits’ record hits shevles), authored my favorite quote on the nature of live records, saying that most amount to little more than “the greatest hits played faster.” My point is this: whatever it is they are, live records are rarely satisfying and almost never worth more than a couple of spins. So why should I be excited about a Tom Waits live record?

Here’s why: have you ever seen a Tom Waits show?

If the answer is no, you’re probably not alone. Given Waits’ historically infrequent touring schedule and penchant for perplexing routing, if you haven’t seen him yet, there exists the very real possibility you will never see Tom Waits perform. Let that sit for a minute. Now, you can either attempt to ignore the cruel hand fate has dealt you, anticipate the man’s next move (good luck) and then chase him around the globe or you can by Glitter and Doom Live and at least approximate the experience of a Waits show. One will cost thousands of dollars and could, quite possibly, alter the space-time continuum irreparably, the other will cost you $20. Your call, hotshot.

If the answer is yes then it will likely take more than a glowing review from a fellow Waits fanatic to sway you one way or the other on this. I’ve been lucky enough to catch Waits twice in my life and I came away from both performances swearing that, anytime he came within a 500 mile radius of my location, I would be there. Until I get the opportunity to make good on that vow, I’ll settle for Glitter and Doom Live, a seventeen-song summation of the visceral, beautiful racket Waits made with this particular collection of musicians (Seth Ford-Young, Vincent Henry, Omar Torrez, Patrick Warren and two of Waits’ kin, Casey and Sullivan Waits) over the course of a few months last year.

And, man. Visceral and beautiful it is. These are not so much re-arrangements of Waits songs, they are complete and utter reconstructions – rhythmically, structurally, musically – of Waits compositions which are at once altogether foreign and eminently recognizable. Above all else, Waits understands spectacle – aural and visual spectacle. He is the preliminary Teller of Tall Tales, the World’s Premiere Carnival Barker, the Great Mythologizer (of all things, none the least of which being The Tom Waits), and above all else, one of the great living songwriters of the last half-century.

For a Waits devotee such as myself, the only question when considering Glitter and Doom Live is can this album come anywhere near experiencing a Tom Waits show?

If the free eight-song sampler offered from Waits’ new site is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. If you’ve never seen Waits, download the sampler and listen. This may be as close as you’ll get. If you have seen Waits, download the sampler and marvel at how quickly the primal, thunderous sound of Waits’ voices conjures a million different memories, all at once.

I’m curious to hear some feedback on this. Will Tom Waits release the best live record of the new millennium? Did I miss any great live records here?

Below you’ll find a couple of tracks from the free eight-song sampler. Have a listen while we debate whether or not Before the Flood belongs on my list.

Tom Waits – Lucinda
Tom Waits – Goin’ Out West (Take 2)

ROBERT EARL KEEN – THE ROSE HOTEL


The first time I ever heard anything referred to as Texas Country it was a song from Robert Earl Keen. That song, unlike many people’s first REK exposure (The Road Goes on Forever), was Corpus Christi Bay. My younger brother played it for me one evening and I was hooked. I speedily acquired REK’s catalog and branched out into other Texas Country artists like Cory Morrow, Pat Green, Jason Boland & The Stragglers just to name a few. I love the Texas Country scene and especially The Firehouse Saloon here in Houston. When I finally got into the music REK was too big a name to be playing the dives I tend to hang out in so I rarely see him play and yet he his music holds a special place in my heart. It may be that he was the first artist in a new genre that I heard but it is more likely that he is just an amazing singer/songwriter.

After a four year hiatus we finally have a new release from Robert Earl Keen. The Rose Hotel may be standard Robert Earl Keen but that doesn’t mean there is anything standard about the album. You see standard Robert Earl Keen is a cut above the rest even when it comes to Texas Country. I have been listening to this thing for two days now and haven’t found a single song I didn’t like. From the opening strokes of The Rose Hotel to the closing chords of Wireless in Heaven this is a solid album. Toss in some a Townes Van Zandt cover Flying Shoes and Billy Bob Thorton doing vocals on 10,000 Chinese Walk Into A Bar and you end up with something great. Fifteen albums into his career Robert Earl Keen proves once again that there is no mold that fits him and that suits us just fine.

If you aren’t already a Robert Earl Keen fan you should be. Give the 9b selections a listen and go get yourself REK’d…

Robert Earl Keen – The Rose Hotel
Robert Earl Keen – Throwin’ Rocks
Robert Earl Keen – The Man Behind The Drums

Robert Earl Keen’s Official Website, Robert Earl Keen on myspace, Buy The Rose Hotel

NINEBULLETS.NET FAVES, TRUCKSTOP COFFEE OFFICIALLY RELEASE "FOR DEAR LIFE":

As any regular reader here knows, there are certain bands I champion on ninebullets.net and long before I knew the guys in Truckstop Coffee personally they were one of them….and they still are.

Admittedly, I have not heard the whole album yet (it’s currently playing) but from what I’ve heard/seen of the new album at their live shows they’ve started to move away from the Lucero-esqe country sound of their previous album and towards a more twang tinged straight forward rock sound (ala say: Two Cow Garage).

Anyhow, they officially released their new album, For Dear Life, today. In an effort to get the album heard by as many folks as possible they’re offering an .mp3 download of the album on a pay what you want platform. Personally, I paid 10 for it and so far, it’s worth it.

Check it out. Buy it. Tell me what you think of it.

Truckstop Coffee – Ghost or an Angel (from the new album, For Dear Life)

In celebration of the album release Truckstop Coffee will be embarking on a small tour. Here are the dates:

EDIT: I forgot to mention for you Tampa/St. Pete folks. Truckstop will also be bringing the rock show to New World on Sept. 19th.

ROCK OF LOVE 3: I THINK I GOTS A TITTY LEAK EDITION

Ahhh. Another week, another hour long PSA of what a bad father can do to a daughter. Now I gotta be honest, for some reason my cable box decided not to record Rock of Love this week and by the time I noticed we’d missed the first 8 minutes or so. When we turned it on, Bret was in a hockey rink and the girls were just entering. Turns out that this week’s challenge is a slight variation of last season’s “save Brett’s baby, rollerderby challenge”. See, Brett needs a woman who’ll be able to take care of and be there for his kid and, seriously, is there any better way to find out who that would be than to let the harlots use a baby doll as a puck while the University of Illinois hockey team tries to smash it? Well, it’s probably safer than actually letting this mob of self-worth issues actually meet his children. Oh, did I mention that Lacey was the ROL Girl of Past special guest this season? No? That’s because, just like last season, outside of a 5 second “hey skanks” close-up she was not even mentioned. I am starting to think Bret doesn’t like Lacey very much but the producers keep dragging her back. On this episode she was looking like she came to set straight from a 3 day coke-fueled orgy. What? I’m sure it would have been a 6 day binger had it not been for the lessons she learned on Charm School.

So, the “ladies” get divided into 3 teams with the winning team getting the ever-coveted group date. And a baby-puck bashing the women went! Slippin’, slidin’, wigglin’, gigglin’ and a fallin’ they went. The entire time the girls had been on the ice Beverley had been strugglin’ to stay upright, but once her team hit the ice for the challenge we learn that this bitch has been puttin’ on a ruse and wins it for her team on the first baby. But there is no time to celebrate. Turns out one of the over-injected blondes on Beverley’s team took a header and is thinking she popped a titty.

WTF? I turned to my wife at the time and asked, “You can pop a titty?” like she’d know. Look, I’m no fake boob expert, but I’d say if you’re at risk of popping one of those balloons should you fall, then you got too much silicone or saline up in there.  But I gotta say, if this whole titty pop thing is possible then I bet those grapefruit halves shoved under Vikky Beckhams nipples are at risk of popping in a stiff breeze.

One of the other girls shares my wonderment and comments, “If Melissa busted her breast implant playing hockey, then she got ‘em done in Tijuana because $300 boob jobs pop for not reason, OK?” Amen and preach that shit, sister. Now, make sure you use the handrail when you’re on the stairs. Lord knows if it can happen to her then all you ROL girls are at risk.

After the challenge the losing girls return to their buses, while the winning team gets their date. The girls on the blue bus are welcomed on their bus by a foul smell that they immediately attribute to Brit-the-stalker. Upon further investigation of her bunk, they find two possible sources for the stench. First, this freak is stashing food in her bunk…but that’s the least of this bitch’s trespasses. She also took the socks that all the girls were wearing during the challenge and stashed them in her bunk.

I mean, as Farrah would say, “son of a biscuit eating bulldog! what-the-effing-french?”  This bitch is fudging crazy and every one of these girls will probably be dead within a year, I Know What You Did Last Summer-style.

Meanwhile, out on the date shit’s less creepy but no less crazy. Bret has taken the women to the only place they could all be comfortable together, the strip club. This goes over like apple pie and ice cream for everyone but Beverley, which surprises me ’cause with each passing episode I am becoming more and more convinced that she’s a closet lesbian nom-nomming on all the hags while Bret tries to get to know them. Nonetheless, they finally talk her up onto the stage with all the other girls where she stands like she’s one of the bouncers. This prompts Bret to pull her aside and ask why he ain’t seen half her ass yet. Bev explains she’s can’t be like that cause she’s got (3) fuck trophies back home. Bret labels her a buzzkill and we move on.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel the other girls are calling Brit-the-stalker out on her sock stealing ways. She claims not to have stolen them, rather, she asked the rink if she could have them and they told her yes, so there. Never an explanation as to why, but I know- ’cause that’s the kind of shit that Crazy does….DUH. Meanwhile, in another room busted-boobie Melissa is on her cell phone talking shit about Bret’s hair plugs to her boyfriend. As predictable as tossing gasoline on an open flame, the other girls run to Bret like this is the most important message delivered since Paul Revere made his historic ride.

And then we’re at elimination. Is it just me or did it seem like a rather rough cut to elimination? I mean, I had been drinking, but it just seemed rather sudden.

At elimination Bret offers the girls a chance to get anything that may be resting on their twin orbs off and Farrah calls out the leaky-tittied-one. She’s like, “leaky tit is a lying hoe” and leaky tits is like, “So are you” and Bret’s like, “Bitch, I got the best European hair extensions money can buy, now get the fuck out and clean up your leaky tit behind you.” This brings much cheering and jubilation from the other girls. Ah, but eliminations are not quite done. Oh no, one more needs to go. Seems Brit’s sock stealing was the final nail in her coffin and he eliminates her as well. Much reminiscent of when Megan got eliminated, Brit just stands there. Even as Bret and Big John walk out of the theater, she’s just standing there.

I’m telling you now, the entire cast better watch their backs for the next few months cause dat bitch is crazy.

Here is some music inspired by last weeks episode:

To Brit-Brit’s Sockgate: Richard Cheese – Been Caught Stealin’
Inspired by the “date”: Richard Cheese – Girls, Girls, Girls
Inspired by a Richard Cheese trifecta: Richard Cheese – Are You Gonna Be My Girl

Inspired by the elimination of leaky-tit: Extreme – Get The Funk Out

FAITH NO MORE – THE WORKS

I came to know Faith No More the same way that probably 95% of their fan base did…via a fish outta water flopping around in slow motion on MTV while Mike Patton kept asking “What is It?” Here we are nineteen years later…

Wait a minute. WTF?
Are you serious?
It’s been nineteen years since The Real Thing was released?
Jesus fuck, I’m getting old.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, nineteen (shakes head) years later, I still have no idea what “It” actually is, but I am guessing that It is also what was in the box in Pulp Fiction…just a little theory of mine. While their follow-up albums never really caught my attention in quite the same manner as The Real Thing, there always seemed to be enough songs on them that I liked that I always ended up buying the albums. Somewhere along the line I even picked up their pre-Patton debut, Introduce Yourself, but as a whole I always preferred the Patton fronted FNM over the Chuck Mosley fronted version. Well, last week (on my birthday, incidentally), the label released a 3 cd set containing every track you remember, some you forgot and a couple you probably never even heard. The collection features both singers and plenty of rock. Check it out.

Faith No More – Epic
Faith No More – We Care A Lot
Faith No More – Midlife Crisis

Faith No More’s Official Site, Buy The Works