Garage rock band? Country rock? If they ever were, they're not anymore. The Heartless Bastards, led by guitarist/singer Erika Wennerstrom, recently underwent a huge lineup change and relocated from Ohio to Texas. The result is a heavy record.
Did I say it was heavy yet?
The Mountain has a couple bright moments, mostly due to Wennerstrom's voice and her big chunks of guitar. The little touches, like slide guitar on the title track and fiddle on Had to Go, help. But mostly the album sludges along. All in all, it's not a very consistent album. But if you love Led Zeppelin or the big stoner rock of Black Mountain, you'll like this Mountain, too.
It's great to see the Ohio band Southeast Engine getting some critical attention. I stumbled upon (and blogged about) their 2007 album Wheel Within a Wheel last year. Their latest From the Forest to the Sea is a logical successor. Like Wheel, it runs through all styles of rock-- country, garage and Southern -- with lyrics full of Biblical references. From the Forest is a concept album about a man who said he "wouldn't do no evil, but evil is exactly what he's done."
Popmatters has called it the first "truly outstanding record of 2009."
Good stuff, particularly for those who like Okkervil River. Give a listen to Black Gold from Forest and Quit While You're Ahead from Wheel over on the Currently Spinning playlist.
It wasn't until I heard about Harry Kalas' passing this afternoon that I fully realized how much he was a part of my life. I didn't know him personally and I certainly wasn't part of a fan club. If anything, I think I took Harry the K and his silky baritone for granted.
When I lived in Philadelphia, he was always there. One of my fondest memories with my dad is when we used to listen to Phillies' games at night in the kitchen. As a kid, I'd memorized all the batting stances of the Fightins' lineup, but, in my head, I'd hear their introductions in Kalas' voice. ("And now up, Michael Jack Schmidt). As a teenager, I'd drive around the streets of Northeast Philly in my yellow Mustang with the window down and the baseball game on the radio.
I'm a huge fan of TC Boyle. Two of his books -- The Inner Circleand Tortilla Curtain -- are among my five favorites. And I've liked just about everything he's written. Until his latest, The Women. I don't think it's a bad book. Boyle's writing is solid, as usual and it certainly has some of Boyle's screwball moments. The Women is a fictional re-telling of Frank Lloyd Wright's love life through the eyes of the four women he loved, lost, left, etc. The book's narrator is a fictional Japanese architect student who serves as Wright's apprentice for several years, and the book is littered with footnotes, giving it a "historical feel." Wright, in real life, was certainly a character, one worthy of the Boyle treatment. But I found little compelling about the female characters and eventually the put the book down halfway through.
That all said, TC Boyle is a wonderful talent. Barbara Kingsolver once wrote that what "Boyle does, and does well, is lay on the line our national cult of hypocrisy." My nonexpert opinion is that he's one of the most gifted writers of the last few decades. So if you heed my blog post and avoid The Women, please take the time to pick up one of his numerous other books -- all of which I highly recommend.