Daily Music
Johnnie Taylor, Soul Man
If you have ghosts, Roky Erickson once posited, then you have everything.

I’m borrowing that lyric as the title for this bloggerly endeavor because we’ll be talking a lot about the ghosts of music’s past here – particularly the obscurities and curiosities that never got their due the first time around – along with an ephemeral frosting of everything else.

So let’s heat it and eat it, shall we?

Concord Music Group’s reactivation of Stax Records hits jamming speed Thursday night when Isaac Hayes, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, and Booker T & the MGs roll into town for the “Stax 50” SXSW showcase at Antone’s. It’s a shame Johnnie Taylor won’t be there with them.

Taylor died of a heart attack at Dallas’ Methodist Charlton Hospital in 2000 at age 62. Although he was born in Crawfordsville, Ark., Taylor lived in the Dallas area for many years and was a DJ on Soul 73 KKDA-AM. In Texas, that’s more than enough to claim an artist as our own.

11:55AM Fri. Mar. 9, 2007, Greg Beets Read More | Comment »

Stadium Arcadium
You could see Anthony Kiedis standing some 20 feet below the wide, flat, uncluttered stage, watching, waiting, less for his entrance cue than out of a sincere curiosity in what his three bandmates were gonna come up with last night.

Flea, in a purple Lakers jersey, stage right, prowled 'round his space, mostly looking back at drummer Chad Smith, who was rattling his drums awake. John Frusciante stood at the lip of the stage, tap-dancing gingerly across a sidewalk-long pedal board. Everything working, he needled his guitar a bit before turning back toward the drum riser where waited Flea, with his bass cocked toward the cavernous AT&T Center ceiling. Championship Spurs banners stood their ground. San Antonio screamed.

1:18PM Wed. Mar. 7, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

SXSW Metallurgy
For the past two years during South by Southwest, I’ve made it a point to stumble into Room 710, the void where the Relapse Records showcase goes to die, to catch Cephalic Carnage’s piss and grunt routine. It wasn’t the grindcore innovators’ neck-breaker Anomalies that intrigued me at the time but the prospect of finding suit-and-ties huddled in a corner together, fumbling with their BlackBerrys, and deciding whether or not to lift their devil horns in salute. I was seeking confrontation, a turf war, the battle between “us” and “them” that unites all metalheads beneath proud flags of Iron Maiden and Metallica.

Thankfully, such was not the case. Both times the venue was practically empty, save for some hardcore fans who formed a small pit, giving me a much-needed opportunity to get primitive. This is exactly why SXSW is a blessing in disguise for metal fans. The music conference continues to attract some of the most renowned acts in the genre (see forthcoming interviews with Boris and Mastodon) and spotlight-deserving local talent (see next week’s Into the Void for more), allowing for rare and occasionally intimate performances while the rest of the industry chases the next Tapes 'n Tapes and the dudes who normally pick fights at shows are stuck at home.

That said, here’s a quick look at how this year’s festival will paint things black.

1:03PM Wed. Mar. 7, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth – Now at SXSW!
The general view is that South by Southwest remains a kid's game in search of the Next Big Thing. It's just as likely, however, that there are some oldsters participating, hoping to use the event as a springboard to jump-start their career or get in front of some tastemakers who will take the buzz home with them.

Nearly every genre is represented: Sixties stars like Sam the Sham, Terry Reid, Chip "Wild Thing" Taylor, and Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las; punk godfathers the Stooges; folk and country queens like Pam Tillis, Eliza Gilkyson, and Paula Cole; Seventies punk remnants the Buzzcocks, plus the Hoodoo Gurus, the Saints, and Beasts of Bourbon, all from Down Under; Eighties band leaders gone solo like Peter Case (Plimsouls), John Doe (X), Hugh Cornwell (Stranglers), and Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar). And in the maelstrom of more than 1,000 acts with names like When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, they may be overlooked by the younger set.

Gone are the days where you'd get up early, hit a couple of day parties, and then stay out past closing time, seeing 15 or more bands in a day. Now it's eat a good meal or two, see a new band your friend from out of town recommended, stop by the Yard Dog for a beer, and make sure you get to a venue early enough to get a seat. A couple of rare appearances worth seeing, seating permitted: Jandek, Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey (a tease of the dB's reunion), and Public Enemy.

12:17PM Wed. Mar. 7, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

Catastrophe and the Cure
People love to worry – live to worry. It’s innate.

Last year, Feb. 26, they worried that Sigur Rós at Bass Concert Hall would be too … staid. Too controlled. Neutralized, compromised. That UT’s grand-sound cathedral, last bastion of symphonic and classical coagulation, would somehow suck the life out of Iceland’s snowcapped instrumental amalgam. Melt their glacial grandeur. If a show's seated, it must be a snoozer - waking hell for the somnambulant. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth. In that environment – no smoking, no drinking, no talking, nothing but sitting and paying attention, listening – experiencing Jon Thor Birgisson lead his crew through unexplored galaxies of guitar was like witnessing Roger Waters tear down the wall.

Explosions in the Sky last night, at UT’s Hogg Auditorium, was no less a natural wonder.

1:29PM Mon. Mar. 5, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

The Shins' James Mercer: Fond of Y-O-U
My rave review of the new Shins album, Wincing the Night Away, was less an absolute belief in its perfection than a prediction. A prediction that no matter how long the Shins make albums, Wincing will remain one of the band’s crowning glories. Their Rubber Soul, let’s say – their first masterpiece. Only time will tell, of course, so let’s check back in 10 or so years.

Since I obviously had definite impressions of Wincing, how could I turn down one of four interview slots with its creative force, band leader James Mercer? Spending 30 minutes on the phone with Mercer was then an exercise in confirming or debunking my own theories. No artist ever really wants to reveal the secrets behind their work – the illusion is half the fun – but almost all are interested to hear individual readings on the output. Mercer was no different and very genially so. Even so, I’m still kicking myself over forgetting to ask him about all the animal references on the album. Make that wincing.

See you animals at the Backyard next Wednesday, March 7.

3:26PM Thu. Mar. 1, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

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Prine: Then and Now
Saturday night offers too many choices in Geezerville, with Richard Thompson and Eliza Gilkyson in the Union Ballroom, Kenny Loggins (I kid!) at the One World Theatre, Daniel Johnston as Danny & the Nightmares at the Parish, and John Prine holding down his second sold-out night at the Paramount. Personally, I'll be at the Michael Franti & Spearhead throw-down at Stubb's, but only because I've already seen Prine and Thompson countless times over the years, and Franti will bring something fresh to my folk-weary ears.

If you're a Prine fan, though, there's excitement on the horizon, in the form of a couple of upcoming releases. Shout! Factory will be releasing the DVD Live on Soundstage 1980 on March 27. It's relatively brief, at almost exactly one hour, but offers a entertaining glimpse of where Prine was musically around the time of Bruised Orange and Pink Cadillac. There's a touch more rockabilly than one might expect from Prine, as the latter album was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, but that means a special appearance by Mr. "Red Hot" Billy Lee Riley and an enthusiastic run through "Ubangi Stomp." Of note are a couple of acoustic tracks recorded in the back yard of his boyhood home in Maywood, Ill., including a version of "Paradise" that's the definition of "getting back to one's roots." Not essential but interesting if only to prove that "alternative country" existed long before the term was coined. Prine's band combines folk and rock with pedal steel and fiddle in several obvious ways.

Not due until April 24 is Standard Songs for Average People (Oh Boy), a collection of duets with Mac Wiseman. Prine had never met the bluegrass legend - Wiseman worked with Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe in the Forties - until songwriter and producer Cowboy Jack Clement got them together. After their first meeting, they decided to make a list of songs they'd like to record - with no restrictions as to age or genre. When they compared lists, they had seven songs in common, which they saw as a sign that they should record together. The rough-hewn results are filled with spunk and compassion. They draw on old songs – some well-known, others obscure – from Bob Wills, Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson, Bing Crosby, and others for a set that feels timeless and filled with love.

11:43AM Thu. Mar. 1, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

R.I.P. 'Arthur'
What started in 2002 as a magazine skewed toward underground and experimental music and politics printed in the spirit of the Sixties free press, free love rags had finally found its stride. What used to be a black-and-white publication had slowly added color over the years, and its last issue featured lengthy articles on Joanna Newsom and the history of pornography by comic artist Alan Moore. Thurston Moore and Byron Coley had a regular column, "Bull Tongue"; T-Model Ford had his own advice column; and Editor Jay Babcock's politically charged back-and-forth with Godsmack singer Sully Erna sparked immediate controversy last year. This was not Spin or Blender's flashy, tastemaking colleague. More like its anarchist brother.

Alas, Arthur Magazine is no more. At least according to Babcock. "It's been a good run on Arthur, or at least as good as I could do given the pretty difficult circumstances," he said in an e-mail. "Time to move on now; can't sit here feeling betrayed forever. That's it for me in magazines, though."

The difficult circumstances involve a financial breakdown between the Los Angeles-based Babcock and publisher/co-founder Laris Kreslins, who owns the paper's Maryland-based Lime Publishing company. Kreslins, in a posting on the magazine's Web site last Friday, said Arthur is just on "indefinite hiatus."

In addition to featuring decent writers and dissenting voices, interviews with everyone from Brian Eno to Brother JT, and fleshy pieces about the 1967 exorcism of the Pentagon or psychedelic witch doctors in Peru, Arthur was a free publication. Even if this is the end, they've still left an admirable chunk of visionary muckraking and alternative journalism. I remember the feeling during their day party at Church of the Friendly Ghost in 2005. Yes, it was during SXSW and everyone was drunk by 2pm, but whatever frequency they were working on, it certainly sounded good.

2:06PM Tue. Feb. 27, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

The Many Heads of Aaron Turner
As the founder of Hydra Head Records and the frontman and guitarist of Isis, Aaron Turner has become one of the most important figures in modern metal. Before clearing eyes and ears Wednesday at Emo's with Torche and Intronaut, Turner graces Into the Void.

Into the Void: Hydra Head Records has released or is getting ready to release a slew of killer albums: Clouds, Jesu, Zozobra, and Big Business. What’s your role like these days with the label?
Aaron Turner: Basically, I get to do what I want to do now, which is essentially A&R, for lack of a better term, and art direction, which entails overseeing all of the graphic output. I also do a good portion of the layouts and artwork myself.

ITV: How are you finding out about some of these new bands? Do you see them while on tour, or do they come to you?
AT: It really depends. Some bands have been recommended to us by people we know and trust. Some bands comprise members of bands that we have worked with in the past. Once in a rare while, we’ve chosen to work with a band based on a demo submission. Here and there along the travels of Isis, I’ve discovered a band that’s either opened for us or passed off a CD.

12:35PM Mon. Feb. 26, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

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