Hey, folks. Remember this silly blog? Yeah, me neither.
My lovely wife birthed a child a few months after my last entry back in 2010 and I’ve had my hands full with life and poor time management since then. Ridiculously long-winded essays on underappreciated music have taken a bit of a back seat, amongst many other things. I can tell you that I’ve had a post in draft-mode for about 3 years on my all-time favorite Philly band Stargazer Lily, who is still the band I’ve seen the most times, even after playing their “final” show way back in 2005. (Full disclaimer: they’ve played over a dozen shows since then). I lost a hefty chunk of work on it due to a computer problem once, which really bummed me out about getting it done. I’ll get around to finishing it sooner than later, I hope. I think I will. But enough about me!
In the meantime, I thought I’d offer up some updates about the artists I’ve already written about here, because it’s been several years since my initial wave of posts and they’ve all put out some worthy new material! Dig in:
Matt Duke’s third record, entitled One Day Die, came out in 2011. Another solid album in his canon, if not quite as stellar as his previous opus Kingdom Underground. Oddly, he didn’t heavily promote it on the road and never even really had any kind of a local “album release” show or party, which most artists tend to do. I found his label’s lack of interest in it troubling. He subsequently put out a digital EP of love songs that I didn’t love and then another full length LP cryptically called “singer/songwriter” that I also don’t love (that was also relatively under-promoted, but he also just had a baby prior to its release). The songs on the EP underwhelmed me and the new album has great songs, but I am a little befuddled by the direction he chose sonically. He is still, hands down, one of the best performers I have ever seen. I consider it one of my life’s greatest privileges that I get to see him play so often in such intimate settings. Both of those records were released with some crowd-funding support after he left his old label. Another bummer, but I’m glad he can do pretty much whatever he wants to do, though part of me feels like he needs national support because he certainly should be more well-known than he is. Somewhere in there I discovered his old, pre-solo band Seamus Browning, and they sort of reunited and played a slew of shows (for the first time in a while, at least to my knowledge!), a bunch of which I saw. They’re great, and some of those songs are amongst his best. A little heavier musically, too, which is a fabulous thing. I also somehow, quite strangely, became somewhat friendly with him and have spent some (not a lot) time with him outside of his concerts. He even bought me some micro-brew root beer! Again, it’s super weird, but awesome at the same time. We pretty much shoot the shit for a little bit every time I go to a show of his. Frankly, I’m just really glad he knows my name.
Gabe Dixon Band imploded not long after my entry about them and it broke my heart. I wasn’t sure if Gabe was even going to make any more music, but he ended up putting out a fine solo record called One Spark in 2011 – produced by the same dude who made Matt Duke’s last record! Incidentally, it’s full of references about the life of an artist struggling to find his way and purpose. This also breaks my heart, but he made some pretty good music to go with it. I still think he’s one of the most underrated songwriters in the history of the world. Oddly enough, he joined up with Ten Out of Tenn just after going solo, and I saw him play with them once and got to meet him briefly. He also came back around by himself after the record came out, and I got to talk with him some more at depth, which was simply fantastic. Super nice, though maybe the weakest handshake ever. Piano players, hmphf! He still hasn’t toured with a band since GDB parted ways, which makes me sad, but I’m psyched he’s still cranking songs out. He’s teased a new album release coming with a fan-funding campaign in the new year, and I can’t wait.
“My Favorite”, from Gabe’s first official solo record
Will Hoge is still the busiest man in rootsy rock n’ roll. Or is it country? He’s been busy, no matter what you think his music is. He let another (very country) band take one of his best songs to #1 on the country chart, got a grammy nom as its co-writer, a national commercial with Chevrolet with a different song, and is about to put out his 3rd album since appearing here in this blog (4th if you count another EP). He blogs less himself, but is always out there somewhere on Twitter and is funny as ever, even fabulously having a bit of a feud with Richard Marx, of all people. He’s still a bit of a road warrior, though perhaps has toned it down a little lately as his two young kids have rightly been pulling his attention towards them at home. Although, the last time I saw him he was here with yet another guitar player and a new drummer. The LP that came right after my blog, Number Seven – I didn’t like very much, but the EP was fantastic (Modern American Protest Music) and the next full-length was solid, even if the album cover artwork was beyond horrible. The lead single from his upcoming record is great and I am very much looking forward to his next move.
Will’s new single “Middle Of America”
Colin Smith’s band MRNORTH fan-funded a new record a few years ago, and while I like it, I admit I don’t listen to it much. I will work on that. Some strange happenings were taking place behind the scenes, because one of the stronger songs – the lead-off track “Close Of Day” – was included in the initial digital download for pledgers, but it was left off the physical CD (and the eventual official digital release) for some unknown, stupid reason. Who knows. You can hear it below if you wish! What I just learned just now is that they followed that with an ambitious-as-shit companion concert film on DVD also called Everything (same title as new studio album) along with an audio-only version of it as a digital live album with (curiously) a different title: This Isn’t Just Lightning, all in 2012, so… I kinda missed the boat on that one. I’ll add it to the list. They didn’t tour much, or at least never made it down here, and that bummed me out. Colin has since released another solo record, a first-in-a-series-of-three (or so he says) EPs called It Only Took A War, which has some good stuff on it, but I don’t own it yet. Supposedly only selling CD copies at shows and not through the mail or online, I have so far refused to buy it digitally because I keep thinking eventually I will get to see him play again. Well, it’s been almost two years since that came out. We shall see. Parts 2 & 3 were supposed to come out “later this year” back in 2013, so who knows. He plays shows semi-regularly in NYC but hasn’t played anywhere else in the States in some time. Come on down here, Colin. We miss ya.
“Close Of Day” by MRNORTH
Damon Castillo Band lost a member and a band, but also put out a great new fan-funded record called Mess Of Me last summer. The title track in particular is superb. That followed a small sporadic collection of single releases with a bit of a holiday theme. Including two traditional Christmas song remakes, they also put out original tunes covering Halloween (yep) and Valentine’s Day – both great songs. Then their drummer, JJ, left the band a couple years ago and I only noticed when they updated their website’s photo header with a new pic that didn’t include him. I gasped, loudly. That really, really bummed me out. He was such a great drummer; very musical, and he added fantastic backing vox to all their stuff. His absence looms large (to me) on Damon’s new release, a “solo” album that includes plenty of stellar input from the last remaining two members of the band (Kristian and Larry) and loads of programmed drums. But while I really miss JJ, the new album is fantastic and I’m just glad he’s still rocking it out over there on the left coast, including still playing shows semi-regularly (just not on the right coast). He also had a baby not that long ago! Mazel tov!
Damon’s first single from the new record,
“Hope You Figure It Out”
Crash Kings have been plenty busy as well… at least, eventually. The follow-up to their self-titled debut was in the can for some time before coming out long after struggling with their former record label for its release, but they were finally allowed to put it out in 2013 with some fan-funding help and get back on the road. I was thrilled to see them again and the new songs really came off well on stage, and I was glad to see so many people at the gig that are still aware of them after waiting so long for the new release. The new one is called Dark Of The Daylight and it’s great, if maybe too heavy with the clavinet and a little light on piano. They apparently got that message, though, because they’re about to fan-fund and release a new EP called Live Nudes that is simple, straight forward, piano/bass/drums/vocals, recorded live on the floor, and I couldn’t be happier. The lead single sounds phenomenal and I just wish it was a full record and not a little EP. Jason on drums recorded that 2nd record with the Beliveau brothers, but broke out before its release, which bummed me out. He’s one heck of a drummer. But, the new guy Tommy is filling the shoes (or not! Jason drummed barefoot!) quite nicely.
So, quitting drummers and fan-funding records and bumming me out… seems to be the themes of my haitus… hmmm. Interesting. Not sure what to make of that! Hope to see you again soon. Be well.