Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Bastard Fairies “Memento Mori” -- From the Archives #2

By Phillip Smith

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which translates as ‘Remember you are mortal’.  This CD by the Bastard Fairies helps us do just that.   Lead singer Yellow Thunder Woman, with her  lovely and delicate voice begins the first track, “The Greatest Love Song“ with these words:  ‘All I need is a catheter and lobotomy..’.  Beautiful, yet disturbing, this is not the usual opening of love songs, and I have to give kudos to anyone who can work that line into one.

Guitarist Robin Davey has managed to create a variety of musical backgrounds for Memento Mori.  “A Venomous Tale” has hints of a reggae beat, while “Whatever” sounds like an old western cantina song, with it’s instrumentation of piano, and banjo.        

The second track, a very clever and sweet song, “Apple Pie“, just asks us all to get along.  An almost perfect segue takes us to another melancholy song, “Habitual Inmate“. 
Memento Mori reinforces its namesake with,  “We’re all going to Hell”.  If you’ve ever done anything that would send your soul to hell, it’s probably listed in this song.  I am well aware of a beer frame in bowling, but never have I ever heard of a beer break in the middle of a song as this song has.

A couple of the weaker selections include “Moribund”  and “Everyone has a Secret”.  .  One of the most annoying things about Memento Mori was the overuse of the ‘I’m singing from the bottom of a well, and using a megaphone’ effect.  On some tracks that might work well, but it is really overkill when done on every song. 

The title track, “Memento Mori”, reminding us to eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may be dead, is my second favorite song of this collection.  It’s very melodic, and Yellow Thunder Woman lets us hear her voice the way it should be, unfiltered.  

All in all, The Bastard Fairies have produced a nice collection of songs, well written, yet still a little rough around the edges. 

* originally published for in 2007

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Goon Moon “Licker’s Last Leg” -- From the Archives #1

By Phillip Smith

Jeordi White (aka Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson)  and Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) have collaborated once again to produce their first full length CD together as Goon Moon.  Licker’s Last Leg uses a variety of musical styles to walk the listener through the album.  Apple Pie, the first cut, almost scared me away from the CD with what I can only equate as the musical equivalence of running fingernails down a chalk board.  Eventually the annoyance stopped and the song unfolded, nicely I might add.  Although there is a lot of Goth rock influences in Apple Pie,  the rest of the CD seems to be a mix of classic rock peppered with a dab of industrial.   Tip Toe could easily have been mistaken for a Devo song, with its mechanical beat and quirky lyrics.    My Machine is another nice track,  it‘s a little faster than some of the other songs, and uses several tempos and synthesized vocals at times,  emitting an Eighties Techno/Metal flavor.  My favorite track though is An Autumn That Came Too Soon.  It has a simple beat but it is very hypnotizing, with its tranquil repetitiveness and smooth-as-silk vocals.  Individually these are all nice songs, but they don’t all necessarily all gel together as well as I would have expected.  What I considered the strangest and most experimental track, The Golden Ball, stretches to almost 10 minutes in length, and is composed of eight mini songs.  The last and least track, Built in a Bottle, could have been left off entirely and I would not have minded.  It was too slow and whispery to follow the eleven songs it followed. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Otis Taylor - “My World is Gone”

by Phillip Smith

After a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert, Taylor and friend, Mato Nanji, were backstage discussing the history of the Native American.  Within that discussion, Mato, member of the Nakota Nation, uttered the statement, “My World is Gone”.  At that point they both realized what they needed to write about: the trials and tribulations of the Native American as it tries to retain the remaining bits of its culture.  That is what this album is all about.  Running the usual gambit of topics, My World is Gone touches on drinking, racism, lost love, and murder.  Just over half of the tracks, feature special guest, Mato Nanji, front man for the band Indigenous and member of 3 Skulls and the Truth, on lead guitar.  Mato is quickly becoming one my favorite guitarists to listen to.    

Otis has an interesting way of taking the blues and serving it up in his own very unique style, oftentimes transporting the listener into a trance-like state, with steady background beats and rhythms.  From the first and title track, “My World is Gone”, one of the collaborations with Mato, I am totally on-board with the musical journey which awaits.  In this one, Anne Harris adds a nice little folky presence with an ever-so-soft fiddle accompaniment.  In “Lost My Horse”, Tayor and Mato sing about alcoholism and the dire consequences that were the direct result.  In this song, a man whose father was a runaway slave and whose mother was a Navajo woman, loses his horse, his most important possession, due to drinking.  Soon after, he realizes it is only a matter of time before he loses his mind.  The history lesson continues in “Sand Creek Massacre Mourning”, recounting the despicable atrocities of the 1864 attack by Colonel John Chivington along with 700 of his troops on a village of friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped in southeastern Colorado Territory. The song has a certain military cadence to it; the kind one would hear preceding an execution.  Taylor’s banjo picking combined with and Ron Miles cornet playing, gives this a little The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly touch.  

I love the infectiousness of “Huckleberry Blues”, as Taylor keeps a constant rhythm on banjo behind some really nice jazzy cornet playing by Ron Miles. Taylors strong and soulful vocals remind a bit of Isaac Hayes.  Other favorites include “Gangster and Iztatoz Chauffeur”, and “Green Apples”.  Both heavily doused in the washtub of trance blues,    have such an instant likeability.

I liked this album from the first listen, and the pleasure I get from it increases with each subsequent listen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Photos from NewBo Arts Fest, Cedar Rapids, IA - Sep 1 , 2013

Photos by Phillip Smith