Category: Music

Kill your radio. Seek out good music.

Off-topic: Lone Star shines bright in vacuum of Dallas airspace

With the exception of KERA 90.1 and KNON 89.3, Dallas radio has been a cold, empty place, completely devoid of decent music since the George Gimarc days of KDGE 94.5. Now a bright shining star has made an appearance: KZPS “Lone Star” 92.5 has changed its format from Classic Rock to Americana/Root Rock. In just a short trip running errands today I heard Ryan Adams, Black Crowes (they play a lot of Crowes), and Slobberbone. Todd Snider gets a ton of play as well as does Son Volt, particularly tracks off of their recent release, The Search. What’s even more amazing to me is that this is a Clear Channel station. If you like alt-country or Americana, give them a listen.

Music acquisitions

Trying to get caught up on non-biz-related blogging, here are my latest CD acquisitions…

Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, Wilco. Love it. If you are a fan of the newer Wilco stuff (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, etc.) you have to get this. There are even a couple of tracks from the Mermaid albums.

Live at Stubb’s, Matisyahu. Matisyahu is a reggae artist who happens to be a hacidic jew. Heard his single on a Paste compilation (Heights, I think) and liked it a lot. How can you go wrong with reggae?

Heavy Ornamentals, The Gourds. My favorite Gourds album in a while but may still not be as good as Cow, Fish, Fowl, or Pig. This one somehow seems a little less “out there” than previous Gourds albums–I can’t put my finger on it.

dither, moe. I seem to be on a “jam band” kick lately. This is my first moe. album. (Yes, there’s a period there–not sure why). It’s a little less funky and maybe even less jam-y than I hat expected/wanted. A couple of the tracks could actually get airplay on mainstream radio.

Pizza Deliverance, Drive By Truckers. I like this album a lot. It is a remaster of some old stuff by DBT. It’s much more than their later “70’s stadium rock” releases.

One Step Closer, The String Cheese Incident. First taste of these guys. I like it and I’ll keep buying their albums but I don’t play this one over and over. Maybe my problem is that I tend to compare all of these jam band albums to Phish which leaves me feeling a little disappointed.

There will be a Light, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama. I’m not a fan of gospel by any stretch of the imagination but I love Ben Harper and this is a great album. Ben’s got a new one coming out March 21.

Okemah and the Melody of Riot, Son Volt. Son Volt is back and I couldn’t be happier. I do like Jay’s solo stuff but the straight rock-and-roll sound of Son Volt is my preference. Go for the “dual disc” option to get music on one side and a documentary on the other.

Get Behind Me Satan, The White Stripes. If you liked the previous White Stripes albums you’ll like this one because it is very much the same. But hey, it works.

Not-so-recent music acquisitions

I’ve really fallen down on the blog lately. I usually try to update my Music category with recent purchases but I’ve been too busy. So here are some a acquired a while back. At least I’ll be able to comment on the “staying power” of each release.

Blood of the Ram, The Gourds. This could be my favorite Gourds album yet. Too many favorite tracks to mention. Still too difficult to categorize. Medium-high on the staying power meter.

Buttermilk & Rifles, Kev Russell’s Junker. Russell is the front man for the Gourds. This is a side-project of his and includes folks from the Gourds as well as others. It’s at least as obscure as any Gourds release and equally entertaining. Again, medium-high on repeat listens.

Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu, Matthew Sweet. Back in the 90’s I was a hardcore Matthew Sweet fan. Then at some point (maybe Son of Altered Beast) I dropped him. When he reappeared on the Jayhawks’ Rainy Day Music release I started wondering what he’s been up to so I bought this album. It was originally only released to his Japanese fan club. It is outstanding. I’m so glad I got it. The guitarist from Girlfriend (one of the greatest pop albums ever) is back on this album but only a couple of tracks remind me strongly of Girlfriend. Medium staying power.

Welcome Interstate Managers, Fountains of Wayne. I got hooked on Fountains of Wayne back in the 90’s when I saw them open for someone who’s name I no longer recall. Like Matthew Sweet, Fountains of Wayne is pure pop but I can’t get enough of them. With their intelligent (sometimes corny) lyrics I tend to lump them into the Weazer/Ben Folds bucket. I had to send Bright Future in Sales to all of the folks in Business Development at Navigator because I thought they might find it motivational. High repeat plays. I went for a week straight listening to nothing but this album.

The Dirty South, Drive-By Truckers. This is my most favorite recent addition. My friend, Dave, had been recommending these guys to me for a while and I just never got around to pulling the trigger. I’d call it a hard-driving “southern rock” album. If I had a pick-up truck I’d throw a keg in the back and drive to the nearest lake with this album playing full blast. If that doesn’t sound appealing you might want to skip this one. Off-the-chart on repeat listens. Co-workers are getting a bit tired of this as I “always” have it in the changer. “Oh yeah, these are the Lynyrd Skynyrd guys…” 

Broke Down, Slaid Cleaves. This is a follow-up purchase to Wish Bones. As I mentioned this is another Dave recommendation confirmed by hearing Meredith Miller’s cover. I like the album–I’m just not crazy about it. I just can’t get into Slaid for some reason. Out of this batch, this is definitely the one with the least number of re-plays. 

Latest music acquisitions

Drag It Up, Old 97’s. Solid Old 97’s. I thought they had broken up and that I’d never see another album so I was happy to get this one. My favorite line on the whole album is from Bloomington, which is, “The existence of God was confirmed / by the way she unfolded herself alongside / and I tried to harden up my heart / but she wouldn’t let me.”

OCMS, Old Crow Medecine Show. The surprise hit of this particular Amazon order. I had heard Wagonwheel on Prairie Home Companion and thought it was great so I ordered the album. It was better than expected. It’s essentially bluegrass but just calling it bluegrass doesn’t do it justice. Many (most?) of the songs on the album are traditional songs that they’ve re-arranged and even added their own lyrics to. Wagonwheel, a Bob Dylan tune they’ve augmented, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I recently went to Amazon with the intention of buying everything else they’ve ever done but couldn’t find anything other than OCMS.

Revolution Starts Now, Steve Earle. If it is possible, this album is even more political than Jerusalem. Home To Houston is a cool song about a contractor driving trucks in Iraq. Rich Man’s War is about how countries tend to send their poor to fight. Warrior is a poem (about war) spoken over crunchy guitar riffs. Condi, Condi is a calypso love song to a certain cabinet member. And F The CC is aimed at not only the FCC but the CIA and FBI. So it’s not hard to tell what’s been on Steve’s mind of late. I like the album but I don’t think it’s my favorite Steve Earle.

Wish Bones, Slaid Cleaves. My buddy, Dave, to whom I can never offer a music recommendation for which he isn’t already on top of has been trying to get me to listen to Slaid and go to his shows for a long time. So I broke down and threw it in the cart. I’m glad I did. He’s got a good voice and is a good storyteller. Instrumentally, there’s nothing unique or noteworthy (that I’ve picked up on) but I still like it. His best known single, Broke Down, is from a previous album. I’ve actually never heard him sing it but Meredith Louise Miller covered it at a private benefit concert a few weeks ago and I really liked it. It made me want to get Slaid’s version.

Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo, Various Artists. I like my Alejandro CD’s but they aren’t albums I can just leave in the player and listen to all of the time. There’s no doubt he’s a great writer but the music itself doesn’t grip me for some reason. This tribute album was put together to help him with medical costs as he undergoes treatment of Hepatitis C. I figured if I liked his writing maybe it’d be cool to have a bunch of covers by some of my favorite artists. And the line up is stellar. Some of my favorites are on here: Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Jayhawks, and Son Volt–they got back together to cut this track and then decided to do another album. This was a good way to hear other artists, get exposure to older Alejandro material I’ve never heard, and help a good cause.

New Roman Times, Camper Van Beethoven. Prior to this album, the only thing I really knew about Camper Van was their big hit Matchstick Men from the 80’s/90’s and that members of the band started Cracker. When I saw they came out with their first album in twenty years I decided to give it a shot. At first I was a little worried. The opening sounds like one of those big 20 piece rock bands like Yes or something. Then, I checked out the liner notes and noticed that the album tells a story–the notes help you figure out what’s supposed to be happening with each song in case you can’t figure it out for yourself. Being a new Camper Van listener I have nothing to compare it to. Other than the instrumentals, which I’m just not a fan of in general, I like the album. The story gives it an interesting twist that makes you want to listen to and appreciate the album as a unit rather than pick apart each song which is a tendency I worry about in the age of 50 cent/track song downloads.

The Long Tail

The October issue of Wired has an
oustanding article called, “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson (it isn’t
available online yet). It is about the economics of “misses” rather
than “hits”. It talks about how much money there is to be made in niche
markets and cites Amazon and Netflix is prime examples. “The average
Blockbuster carries fewer than 3,000 DVDs. Yet a fifth of Netflix
rentals are outside its top 3,000 titles.” Rhapsody, an online
subscription music service is also given as an example. Every title in
Rhapsody’s top 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, and 400,000 gets downloaded
at least once a month. The article argues that because these retailers
are not constrained by physical space, they can offer unlimited
selection. This means their offering can be tailored to the likes and
dislikes of every consumer and we get to explore our true tastes rather
than having them fed to us by marketing machines.

People are going deep into the catalog,
down the long, long list of available titles, far past what’s available
at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the
more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the
beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they
thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of
alternatives, and a hit-driven culture)…For too long we’ve been
suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to
brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop.

As online collections become more vast, and delivery becomes less of a
problem, I’m reminded of a Stephen Wright joke which goes something
like, I have a large sea shell collection which I keep scattered on the beaches all over the world.
At some point, my CD collection is really composed of slices of the
World’s CD collection. I’ll pay to access it as much as I want. My
iRiver becomes an edge-of-network server, cacheing what I listen to
most frequently for easy access.

On board with iRiver

I haven’t had a chance to update the blog recently–I’ve been too busy
with my latest diversion: ripping my CD collection. I’m trying to get
it copied to my newly-purchased iRiver H140.
I’d been putting off getting an MP3 player for a long time. (I actually
bought an Iomega HipZip a few years ago but I took it back because it
lacked the capacity I needed). But, when my colleage showed up with a
Gateway MP3 jukebox, it really got my gears turning. So, I did some
research. I originally thought I’d get an iPod but after looking
around, the iRiver seemed like a better deal. Upgradeable firmware,
replaceable battery, an FM tuner, and better sound quality were all
reasons I chose to go with the iRiver.

One of the reasons I’d been putting off the purchase was that nothing
had the capacity to hold my entire collection. I figured, if I had to
do a bunch of swapping due to limited space, there wasn’t much point–I
already do that with CDs. At 40GB that won’t be a problem (at least for
a while). I’m nearly done copying more than 400 albums to the device
and it is not quite at 50%.

This weekend I added an audio input to my car. I wanted decent
quality–no FM broadcaster or cassette interface for me. So I went for
an interface from Blitzsafe which I purchased from
I had Ultimate Electronics do the installation. Now, I can take my
entire collection on the road. The Blitzsafe interface plugs in to my
CD changer input. I can hit the CD button once for my MP3 player and
again for my in-dash CD player. It works great. No more agonizing over
the 10 or 20 CDs to take on the next road trip.

For the home system I’m set up as well. The iRiver has an optical out
on it. I’m out of optical inputs on my receiver so I had to buy an
optical-to-digital-coax converter. Other than that, no problem. So, my
300 CD changer has become obsolete and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve only had one minor problem with the iRiver which is that when I
play it on my home system it periodically cuts out. It doesn’t seem to
be a problem with the file–I can back up and play the same spot
without problems. Maybe it is a problem with the optical out or my
converter. I’ll have to do some research. Other than that, I highly
recommend it.