will phalenSo yes, instead of listening to U2’s new free download, we’ve been listening to these fine CD’s (Shelled out cold hard cash for the tangible thing!) played on a really excellent, high-end, stereo system… all highly recommended…

1. Sun Kil Moon – “Benji” – extraordinary…made me cry and laugh… powerful art and a nylon string guitar – I think it’s probably one of the greatest records I’ve ever heard. Really!

2. Mavis Staples – “One True Vine” – produced by Jeff Tweedy… beautiful, soulful… hushed, just great!

3. Chrissie Hynde – “Stockholm” – thanks to Terry Flamm for the recommendation! Neil Young sits in on a song with his great Les Paul guitar!

4. Jim James – “Regions of Light and Sound of God” – so good, weird, and cool, love the saxophone!

5. Jenny Lewis – “The Voyager” – Ryan Adams and Beck contribute… the record builds and the title track is my favorite song of the moment!

6.  Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – “100 Days, 100 Nights” – killer soul, great voice, great band!

7. Will Phalen – “The Dirt, the Air and the Grass”  – beautifully realized. Will does it all, love that Rickenbacker guitar… he’s a really cool guy too… and excellent band! Ringing guitars and haunting lyrics.

8. Nate Currin – “You and I Are Ghosts”  – A great singer-songwriter, writes extraordinary songs, excellent production… I close my eyes and am reminded of the best of Ryan Adams… but Nate has his own voice… on a national tour in a motorhome… we were on a bill with him at Uncommon Ground.  He just knocked us out…a cool guy too.

9. Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal” – Noisy, funny, raucous. You just know these guys love Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, and Television and Dylan too.  Two voices, classic garage band vibe.  But these guys are super-smart and articulate… funny, did I say funny? Love it.

10. The Handsome Family – “Singing Bones” – It was “True Detective” that compelled us to buy this one.  The title song of the great HBO series is “Far from Any Road.”  Beautiful and haunting. Brett Sparks owns the low tones. Gothic Country? Rennie Sparks writes beautiful lyrics… love this record! Dark. In a good way.

11. The Beatles – “Please Please Me,” – OK it was “Tune In” that made me purchase a copy of the Beatles first record.  Recorded in about 16 hours. The Beatles are raw and exuberant. There are some great originals but it’s the cover songs that really knocked me out this time.  I think I overlooked this one for years, thinking it was their later work that was the best. This is the Beatles as a really tight, joyous, raucous r&r band. All the elements of their later success are here. Fresh!

12. Fairport Convention – “Liege & Lief” and “What We Did On Our Holidays” – lots of people who have come out to see our band whitewolfsonicprincess have compared us to Fairport Convention. Which is just the greatest compliment! I went back to these early records. They are just amazing. Sandy Denny’s voice is one of the great instruments, and Richard Thompson is an extraordinary guitarist.  We do some originals using non-standard tunings, with some Celtic, Gypsy type vibe, and I think it’s these tunes that conjure up the Fairport Convention mojo.  So glad I traveled back to discover and enjoy these early discs… totally inspiring!



open door 09.07.14Last night we trekked out to Oak Park for the Songwriters NOT from the Great American Songbook show.  Hannah Frank did a set of Bob Dylan songs and we did a set of Rolling Stones songs.  Turns out the Open Door Repertory is gem of a home for theater and music.  Acoustically perfect. A first-class setting – hardwood stage, oriental carpet – a great theater space for audience and performers alike.  A handful of folks got an earful of great songs.  We did our best with a pretty ambitious set of Stones songs.  It was challenging to take on “As Tears Go By” and “Wild Horses.” They are such beautiful, and delicate, numbers. We did our best to fill that space with our vintage, over-caffienated energy. It was one of those is the cup “half-full,” or “half-empty” experiences? I’ll go with “half-full!” – Jammer

photo by Linda Solotaire

UnknownWorking on Rolling Stones songs for our upcoming show at the Open Door Rep on 09.06.14. We are on a bill with the Hannah Frank Group. They will open with a set of Dylan songs, then it’s us doing the Stones. We know a few already: Paint it Black, Sister Morphine, Dead Flowers, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Shine a Light.  We are trying some others on for size, working them out on acoustic guitar in the kitchen: As Tears Go By, Wild Horses, Under My Thumb, Jumping Jack Flash, Beast of Burden.  Can’t wait to try these out with the band at the next rehearsal.

These are all such great guitar songs. There’s an effortless logic to the riffs and chord changes. The Stones totally absorbed American music: Blues, Country, R&R. Their catalog of songs is impressive and overwhelming.  We want to pick songs we think we can make our own. As Tim Obrien, our bass player said, we don’t so much “cover” songs, as “interpret” them. These songs are so good, they can stand up to interpretation. It’s only r&r, but of course, we love it! – Jammer

photo by Dominic Tarle


rollingstone-7475Lately some friends of mine have played that game of naming records that “changed their lives.” It’s been kicking around in my head. Yesterday, taking shelter from the bitter cold, I decided to fill the CD carousel with my choices.  This carousel only holds 5 CDs, so here are the 5.  I put them on shuffle and listened to the tracks in a randomized order.  All the songs stood toe to toe with each other.  All of these records still resonate with me very, very deeply.  They help make me who I am today. Yes, really.

1. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band — Lennon’s first post-Beatles record. Stripped down, elemental, brutally real. Powerful, razor-sharp, with great production by Phil Spector.  The wall of sound meets r&r minimalism – bass, drums, guitar, piano and Lennon’s amazing, heartfelt, cutting voice.  Still brings chills.

2. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited— A blast of exuberance. Funny, over the top, genre busting. No one ever recorded songs like these before. Dylan fronts an incredible band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. A shock. A blast. Mind-bending. Dylan never sounded more engaged, more intense, more alive and funny.

3. Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night — Shakey’s “dark night of the soul.” A death-haunted record. A great shaggy band of misfits pushed to the ragged edge. Raw, bleak, darkly funny. Neil opens a vein.  Spooky and cool.  L.A. Dark shades. Bleary nights. The record is filled with flaws, quirks – perfect.

4. The Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed — The Stones at their darkest. Decadent blues, desiccated country. Perfectly realized rock and roll.  Jagger and Richards at the peak of their amazing collaboration.  Perfectly recorded. Produced by Jimmy Miller.  The Stones made other great records, but this one is complete. Flawless. Thrilling.

5. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows this is Nowhere — Neil emerges into the light with the first, and greatest, Crazy Horse lineup. Danny Whitten on vocals and guitar is the secret weapon.  Long guitar jams. Overpowering sound. Produced by David Briggs & Neil Young. Blistering. Raggedy. Elegiac. When the “Horse” kicks it up, there is nothing better.

— Jammer

Picture 5Recently finished reading  David Byrne’s book, “How Music Works.” An inspiring, informative and thoroughly enjoyable read. I learned something on just about every page. Loved Byrne’s description of how CBGB’s became a “scene,” and was reminded of my own rock and roll education. Growing up I “inherited” and embraced The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan, but I “discovered” and embraced The Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and the Patti Smith Group.  Not a bad musical foundation! “Hey ho, let’s go!” – Jammer

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde: 1966-127-001-018 Manhattan, New York, USA 1966My mom was the one who turned me onto Bob Dylan. Many years ago. I was just a wee lad. She was the first one to bring a Dylan album home. I was the one who became the life-long Dylan fan.

When I say “Dylan fan,” I primarily mean this Dylan, the mad, visionary, stream of consciousness, poetry-wielding Dylan; the spindly guy with the mercury mouth, spitting out strange, beautiful, extraordinary, lyrical rivers of words at a dizzying rate. The young rock and roller who over-stuffed his songs with lyrics and imagery so vivid and thought-provoking, no one else came close. A snappily-attired little dude in suits, black shades, fuzzy hair, with a stilted and cryptic manner. The Dylan of “Highway 61”“Blonde on Blonde,” , Bringing it All Back Home, and the legendary “Judas” 1966 world tour.

The nearly out of control, walking on a razor’s edge Dylan. The one who looked like he was lost in an amphetamine-fueled dream, running at a jittery, hyper-speed because he was onto something new and strangely uncommon, and he had to get it down on paper, recorded to tape, before it burst into flame, or evaporated.

It is this Dylan, this voice, that I turn to when I hit bottom. It’s this Dylan that inspires me, and makes me laugh. He reminds me that a song can be art, and art can be everything. Alive. No rules, no boundaries. Listen to “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Desolation Row,” “Positively 4th Street,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Low Lands,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues,” “Tombstone Blues,” “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry,” etc. – thrilling, dazzling.

Like I said, this Dylan makes me laugh; his razor-sharp wit, his sarcasm, his toxic, acid-tongued delivery. His brilliance, his perfect biting sneer. Funny as hell. And his voice is just an extraordinary thing. It’s not beautiful. It’s expressive, powerful, cutting, leaves jagged edges. There are other Dylans I love: The Basement Noise Dylan, The Rolling Thunder Gypsy-Pirate Dylan, The Old Testament Prophet Dylan. But it’s this Dylan that always cuts to the quick. Gets to the essential. Every time. A fucking mad, visionary kick. Head-opening. Soul-deepening. I can listen today, and it’s all there. It is alive, right now. It’s worth it, every time. – Jammer

“Jesus Died for somebody’s sins, but not mine…”  Visionary poetry married to punky-garage rock. Rock and roll embodied by a flinty, knife-sharp, Black Raven-like girl, declaiming a deeply subversive and ecstatic vision. The collaboration between Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye; the perfect r&r template. The Poet and The Guitar Slinger. All fever-dream, stream-of-consciousness, and spit. Sam Shepard (Tooth of Crime) and Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde) in their boots of Spanish leather, and their mirrored shades, looking over Patti’s shoulder with cracked, sideways, grins. Cowboy Mouth! – Jammer