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Listening to Deja Vu All Over Again (Heard)

Someone Else's Deja Vu. Son, Ambulance.
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Joe Knapp, the force behind Son, Ambulance, is often overshadowed by fellow Saddle Creek bands Bright Eyes and Cursive.

Despite the horrible cover, Son, Ambulance's latest CD is an ambitious and satisfying full-length that should win over fans of those labelmates. Knapp kicks off with the tropicala-lite Girl from Ipanema, er, New York City before diving into the most impressive song -- Lizard of Lizeth. Over 6:18, Knapp runs the map from Paul Simon-like soft rock to a very Pink Floydish conclusion.

The rest of Deja Vu careens from soft folk to uniquely-arranged ballads. It's a project that rewards repeated listens.

But you have to admit. That is one awful album cover.


What Are We Waiting For?

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

The term supergroup has lost some of its lustre in recent years. It was once only used for bands with iconic rock god status -- such as Eric Clapton. No longer. The word gets tossed around like adoption papers in the Jolie household.

But the Yayhoos are a "supergroup" of sorts that deserves your attention -- if you haven't heard of them already. You won't recognize the names of the actual artists, but let me roll of the bands they've been associated with -- Georgia Satellites, Joan Jett, Steve Earle, Bottle Rockets, Billy Joe Shaver.

Their first CD Fear Not the Obvious kicked off with this raucous song. It's one of the great album lead-off tracks. Enjoy this song, but think of buying the album. It closes with a killer cover of Abba's Dancing Queen.

Tuesday Treasure 2/10


A Treasure Trove of Garage Rock Bands (Seen)

Garage Hangover Web site

Oh, The Scholars, where are you? You released the wonderful single I Need Your Lovin when I was less than a year old. You put the single out on the Ruby Ray label, which based out of Cornwell Heights/Bensalem, an area just north of my boyhood home in Northeast Philadelphia.

It's a great piece of long-forgotten garage rock.

And it's not the only one. Punk rock lays claim to the "DIY" ethos. But it was really those garage rock bands in the '60s who took matters into their own hands -- learning a few chords here and there. Luck was often the main factor in a song becoming a local hit and one disappearing.

Some of those that disappeared can be found on Garage Hangover, a well-curated Web site by Chas Kit (aka Chris Bishop), a lifelong garage rock fan. It's a great site already, but has the potential to be even better. Bishop is looking for sponsors or grants. If you know of any, give him the lede.

The Web site breaks down garage rock acts by state. Bishop burns the original 45s into MP3s that can be heard as you read about the band's background.

That's how I found The Scholars -- a group made up, like some of my fellow Philly kids, of guys who went to Temple (me) and Drexel (those smarter than me). Bishop has the 45, but little info on the band, except for the name Bernie Winski. Most of the guys were from Port Richmond. Do you know these guys? If so, let me and Bishop know.

You can hear I Need Your Lovin and two other songs on Garage Hangover. Here's how Bishop describes I Need Your Loving ...

Opening with a pounding snare, I Need Your Lovin is intense garage. The sound is dense, with background vocals by the Perenials and heavy swirling organ. A sax solo is followed by some great surf-type runs on the guitar. A remastering from the original tape, if it exists, might really bring out all the elements.


Weekly Wikipedia Link -- Stephen Zetterberg

In one of the crafty types of moves that would help earn him the nickname "Tricky Dick" a few years later, Richard M. Nixon pulled a fast one on the California voters, and a Democratic activist named Stephen Zetterberg.

Nixon, a Republican, entered himself in the California Democratic primary to compete against Zetterberg. This process of "cross-filing" was allowed by California law back then. Nixon did all he could to confuse Democratic voters, sending out campaign mailed addressed to "Fellow Democrats."

Zetterberg offered to debate, but Nixon refused. When Nixon won the primary, he then had what he wanted -- a general election in which he had no opponent.

Zetterberg went on to have a long, fulfilling life, until he passed away this past week. Read more about Zetterberg in our Weekly Wikipedia link. And for a little "What if Nixon played the election fair," browse this discussion one one of Google's What If groups.


From Metal to Melancholy (Heard)

Bring Me your Love. City and Colour.
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You'd never know it from listening to this gorgeous, mostly acoustic solo effort that Dallas Good, the man behind City and Colour, is the lead singer of the well-known Canadian hardcore metal band Alexisonfire.

But you'll get no metal here. City and Colour (Dallas Green, get it?) is more Iron and Wine than Agnostic Front. Green's heartachingly introspective lyrics are set to beautiful melodies rendered mostly acoustic guitar, with the occasional lap steel thrown in. The sweet music often belies the pain in the songs. Give a listen to the tunes over on the Currently Spinning Playlist and you'll see what I mean.


Oxford American's Music Issue (Read and Heard)

Oxford American Southern Issue #10.
Order, contribute and read sample articles at Oxford American.com

It's taken me a while since first opening up this magazine to actually writing about it. The reason why? Each year, I slowly take my time to devour this issue -- reading the great articles and discovering all the great music. I don't like to just fly through it.

This year, Oxford American celebrates 10 years with a double CD. The concept of "southern music" is broad. It's wide enough to include the Roches last year, and to include Neko Case this year. But that's what great about this issue and the music include. It defies simple categorization. Blues. R&B. Soul. Country. Rock. Both new and old

There were two particular articles that stood out for me. The highlight was Kevin Brockmeier's moving piece on Elton and Betty White, one of Arkansas' most unique couples, let alone musicians. (That's Katie Callen's photo of Betty and Elton on the right). Not only did they record hours of their short raunchy sex-filled, yet still quite innocent, music, they ran for governor against a guy named Bill Clinton. Betty was 30-plus years Elton's senior. How they came to find each other, and their devoted love, is an interesting and heartbreaking tale.

Despite his over-the-top infatuation, Jack Pendarvis's article on the aforementioned Case provides some interesting insight into this indie/alt-country diva. She can identify flowers, notices little things like spider webs, and reads Russian. Oh, and she's a bookstore nerd. As if being one of indie-rock's hotties with a powerhouse voice wasn't enough. Wow, now I'm infatuated.

Few music articles end up with the writer and several musicians touring the home of William Faulkner -- unless of course, it's Oxford American.

So find yourself a copy on the newstand if you can, or order it online. By then it may be a back issue. But the writing and music inside is timeless. In the meantime, listen to the three songs I've included over on the Currently Spinning Playlist.


A Rat's Tale -- The Literary Kind (Read)

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife. Sam Savage.
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Buy it from Coffee House Press.
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I was utterly surprised by how quickly I was taken in by this small book. Savage's tale of a rat who learns how to read, falls in love with late-night nudie movies, and seeks to communicate with humans is a touching story. Funny. Sad. Thoughtful.

And don't be confused by the title. Savage's debut novel is not kiddie fare.

Firmin is the runt of the litter, born in the basement of a Boston book store. Pushed aside by his bigger brothers and sisters and forgotten by his boozy mother, he turns to eating books to survive. At some point, he goes beyond eating the paper and glue and learns to read. His family moves on, but Firmin remains behind to live out his life traveling back and forth between Pembroke Books and the Rialto movie theatre, where he gets to see his "Loveys."

The 67-year-old Savage is a former professor of philosophy at Yale, and it's clear that he's using Firmin to get us to think about our own human foibles. It's also his love letter to literature. Firmin is a book that defies categorization. But I recommend it highly to anyone who loves reading.

Here's an interesting article on Savage from the UK, where his book has developed quite a following.


My Old Friend the Blues

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone without an Eagles' parade down Broad Street. For the last few weeks, I've been nursing my annual January/February dismay, disappointment and depression. And no song captures depression as well as Steve Earle's My Old Friend the Blues.

Tuesday Treasure 2/3


A Guilty Pleasure (Heard)

Get Guilty. A.C. Newman
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There are few guarantees in life. One of them is that any record with A.C. Newman on it is going to be filled with great guitar-heavy pop hooks and memorable, if not well understood, lyrics.

On his last two albums, however, the New Pornographers' Challengers and his newly released solo album Get Guilty, Newman has toned down the frenetic pace.

The result with Get Guilty is that its songs take on a more dramatic, sweeping feel and slowly ingratiate themselves into your brain. A perfect example -- the album lead-off There May Be Ten or Twelve -- with its flowing stripped down sound and obtuse words. The songs aren't as much of a sugar rush, but they're still memorable. Check out the three songs on the Currently Spinning playlist on the right and you'll see what I mean.

This being a solo effort, there's no Neko Case. But that's OK -- Newman gets great background vocals from Nicole Atkins and Kori Gardner

Yes, I still prefer the hundred-miles-a-minute Newman that made Slow Wonder such a classic. But, there is not a more consistently pleasing indie/power pop songwriter out there. Get Guilty is the first great album of 2009.