Monday, June 27, 2005

Little Miss Chocolate Syrup

Howdy, again. Did everyone have a chance to celebrate Pride weekend this past...umm...weekend? Hope so. It was a blast here in Chicago, despite the heat.

Does the image above look like I stole it from Spread the Good Word? Well, not intentional, but call it a tribute to one of the best damn sites out there. Good Reverend, we are listening, sir.

And, real quick, thanks to all the well wishers who commented on my last post. Shucks, ya'll too kind to irritable little ole me.

Speaking of irritable.

Bought the new Dirtbombs singles collection, If You Don't Already Have a Look, a couple of weeks ago. It's taken me some time to really get through, as it's two discs of good good goodness. If any of you are unfamiliar with the Dirtbombs, it's possible you may know mainman Mick Collins from the legendary (and future Hall o' Famers) Gories, Blacktop, or as one of the prime movers, shakers, and fakirs on Andre Williams' (yes, him again) Silky. Despite other projects, and an apparent reluctance to be pinned down, The Dirtbombs seem to be a regular thing for him, for the time being.

Now, it's what The Dirtbombs sound like that causes a bit of confusion. To these ears, they're the perfect "garage" band, whatever that is. Dirty guitars distorted to hell and back, tribalsloppy drumming, shitty=warts recording technique, maybe an organ thrown in, and a vocal snotty and soulful. Garage, to me, always had it's roots in as much soul/r&b, as it had in the blues and rawk. Now, to be fair, there's quite a few overproduced little bands nowadays that call themselves (or are called by popular, taste-making ragazines) garage, that seem to miss the point, whatever the point may be. Which begs the question, what's in a label? I don't know, frankly. I know that Mr. Collins, in the liner notes to the new collection, seems to quite despise the "garage" label. He doesn't go so far as to give us a clue as to what type of music he plays, though. Which goes back to the "what's in a label" question a couple of sentences ago. Is rock just rock? Then blues is just Blues (not Country Blues, Chicago Blues, Mississippi Blues, etc.), jazz is just Jazz (Chick Corea is the same as Charlie Parker), country is just Country (Garth Brooks makes the same sound as The Carter Family), etc. Maybe Collins, rightly, doesn't want to be associated with corporate marginalizing. I can understand that. I wouldn't want to be associated with whatever the White Stripes are doing these days. And Spin, either.

Pause for breath.

So. I don't know how to compartmentalize The Dirtbombs. And that's probably a good thing. As soon as someone comes up with a tagline, it's going to get co-opted and watered down. Its definitely Rock. Soul, too. Maybe some R&B. Punk? Sure. Blues? You betcha. I'm pretty sure it's not Jazz. No on the Rap front too. Country? Nah, not really. Boy band? Well, there's boys in the, I guess they're a Boy Band (plus ladies). A Boy Band that sounds like they were influenced by the Seeds, The Standells, Love, The Sonics, the Remains....bands that, erm....were Boy Bands (plus a lady or two), too! Alright!

Needless to say, I love The Dirtbombs! They're fab!(how was that for a fanzine sounding recommendation?).

Please enjoy the not-at-all-garage-sounding tones of America's greatest Boy Band(with the occasional female), The Dirtbombs!

The Dirtbombs: Little Miss Chocolate Syrup (mp3)

The Dirtbombs: Candyass (mp3)

And check out their cover of The Rolling Stones, with a built-in non-electronic "mash":

The Dirtbombs: No Expectations (mp3)

All of the above tunes can be found on The Dirtbombs double-disc release, "If You Don't Already Have a Look". It costs the same as a single disc by whoever's on the cover of Rolling Stone, but it has more songs. The songs are probably better too. Your local independent record store would be happy to sell it to you, and they'd probably be able to recommend similar artists, too. Artists they've actually listened to. Just sayin'.

If you disagree with any of the above, let me know. I can take it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Drink Up and Be Somebody



Nah, not really. It's my birthday today (not the site, but the actual person sitting in front of the monitor). Isn't that exciting? Yeah, I'm not real enthused either. But I do like cake. Cake is good.

To celebrate my rapidly increasing decline into fuddydom, a little state of the union, if you will, courtesy of one Mr. Merle Haggard. Hag to his friends, but I'll just call him Sir.

Haggard, of course, is a legend. Perhaps one of the most important artists Country & Western's produced, depending on how one judges such things. Most of his biographical info is well documented, and if you're a regular here, you're probably well versed in at least a portion of his sizable catalogue. He's one of the Mountain's top ten favorite of all time number one bestest most beloved artists. Like Neil Young, Tom Waits, and, to some extent, Bob Dylan, he's grown more interesting as he's gotten older, refusing to take an easy path to the grave that is artistic tedium (Mick'n'Keef, I'm talkin' to you). (and, in a rare stumble, there are some pretty embarrassing Urban Cowboy photos of Merle from his late 70's/early 80's "experimentation").

Anyway, there's a great box set of Merle's work called Down Every Road. It's a pretty good starting point. All the hits (of which there are many) are in it, and a whole lot more (yes, "Okie From Muskogee" is there too. sigh). But I've been starting to work on collecting the Capitol reissue series of his actual albums from the mid to late 60's. Like most "albums" coming out of Nashville, these are more collections of recently released singles, along with a few new studio tracks. In many cases, as one would expect, this creates a hodgepodge effect that justifiably sends fans running toward "greatest hits" collection instead. But with Haggard, these albums hold together remarkably well as albums. Thematic strength highlighting the the quality of the man's songwriting. And the man could write dammit.


The album I've been listening to the most these days is one of his 1967 records, I'm a Lonesome Fugitive (credited to Merle Haggard and the Strangers). It's got a great cover too, Hobo-style Merle hanging on between two boxcars.

In a rare moment of biography, my 33rd year as chronicled by Merle Haggard, with a special thank you to She Who is Most Beloved, the lovely Miss Mountain herself, without whom...

Merle Haggard: Skid Row (mp3)

Merle Haggard: Someone Told My Story (mp3)

Merle Haggard: Drink up and Be Somebody (mp3)

Once your pension fund is paid up, if you've got a couple bucks in yr pocket, please consider purchasing yr Merle from a local independent retailer. Independent spirit, or sumthin'.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tom Waits For Coffee at the Highway Cafe

Hello. How's it going? Everyone doin' ok? Miss me? Astounding how naked one feels without a comp-u-ter. How the hell did I survive most of my life without one?

Well, the Mountain is officially back. Call it relaunch number 63 or something. I have a shiny new toy to play with, with lots of fun new features (and an obscene amount of hard drive space...who the hell needs this much? Oh, yeah, music obsessives). The Mountain has one word of advice for y'all. Back up your damn files. Trust me on this.


I'm gonna try real hard to post more often. We make no guarantees here, but I'll do my best.

To celebrate my return, I'm gonna offer up a tune that combines two of the Mountain's favorite subjects: trucking music and a man named Tom.

Warning: Rant.

It seems popular nowadays to take Tom Waits to task for not being "real" enough, or something. I half-assed addressed the subject myself a couple of months ago. Does it really matter? With all the contrived one-hit-wonder imitators littering the blogosphere(I can't believe I just wrote that word) and radio charts (including here, at times), it seems a tad disingenuous to point to a man whose long career belies a lack of overt commercial success as a culprit of pseudo-persona. I can't remember a time, in interviews or print, in which Tom Waits ever pretended to be the person you hear in his various incarnations. He's an actor and a charlatan, sure enough, and a damn good one. Who cares? Elvis was an actor, Dylan was an actor, Joe Strummer was an actor, Mark E. Smith and Billy Childish work in persona, the Ramones built their whole conceit on pseudo-realness. Rap and Blues artists base their careers on playing characters. The list goes on. If we're going to celebrate dull derivative retreads like FranzBlocKillerArcadeSisters, what's the point of questioning the "realness" of someone whose career has at least been interesting, and long-lasting. Hey, I don't care much for Van Halen, but I'm not gonna spend an entire post telling you how contrived they are or aren't. It doesn't matter. You like them or you don't. "Keepin' it real"- What does that mean? Who, exactly, is "keepin' it real"? It's entertainment. Whoop de doo. There's no Tom Waits gun that's pointing at anyone's head. He's no sacred artist deserves a free pass. But, really, don't listen if you don't like it. But if one is going to rank on the man, come up with a better argument than that you don't know which version of Tom is the real one. The real one is sitting at home with his wife and kids, and is none of our damn business.

Man, I go away, and come back with a chip on my shoulder. Sorry.

End of Rant.

So, again, to mark the return of BigRockCandyMountain, I've got a little affected Tom Waits for ya. It's a truckin' song, written by the esteemed (and equally affected) Kinky Friedman. From the tribute album, Pearls in the Snow.

Tom Waits: Highway Cafe (mp3)

Please consider buying your fave music, real or not, at your local independent retailer. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

After these messages

She's dead. Right in the middle of a Hank Williams song, no less. She just up and died. Maybe she couldn't take the sadness and the high lonesome keen. Maybe she had just given her all, and the god of computers opted to bring her home to his bosom. Perhaps it was one too many Pabst Blue Ribbon beers what did her in. Sumsuch.
And so, we mark the passing of Diamond Sal, the official computer of Big Rock Candy Mountain.
In the interim, as the search begins for a new companion to spend my bleary-eyed time with, please pause for a moment of silence. Then look to your left at all the great links you can visit while the Mountain spends his hard cash on a shiny new bauble to play with.
We'll be back soon. Thanks.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Fringe Too

Polls are closed. The votes are tallied. We have the second installment in the world renowned Big Rock Candy Mountain Fringe Hall of Fame. As voted by you, Comrades of the Revolution. Or something. Never did get a consensus number 5 pick, so I made an "executive" decision, and I'll add the rest to the next poll, which should post sometime next week.

Anyway, here you go. Drum roll, or knee slaps, please.

Dean Martin. Yep, you read that correctly. Dino's my choice for a Legacy award. Now how the hell does Martin count as fringe anything? Well, first I'd highly recommend checking out Nick Tosches' seminal take on Dean, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. Man, Dean did not give a fuck. Plain and simple. While Frank was in it for the fame (and the broads), and Sammy was in it as an entertainer (and for the broads), Dean was in it for the dough. And because he was lazy. And, of course, for the broads. Martin was punk rock. To him, it all was just a game , and if it fell apart, well so the fuck what. There's always another racket. You can hear it in his laconic singing delivery, in his tossed off asides, his boozy persona, even in his storied acting "career" (which won praise from no less than Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift). It was Dean who set the template, for better or for worse, for the modern "ironic" lounge singers. Dean was also obsessed with westerns and country music. He performed the definitive version of one of the Mountain's top 5 songs (Little Ole Wine Drinker Me). For sheer attitude alone, Dean makes the Hall. But his body of recorded work justifies his inclusion also. More varied than Frank or Sammy, he made lonely-heart music for the fuck you crowd. Come on in, Dean, and have a drink.

Dean Martin: Houston (mp3)

Townes Van Zandt. The top vote getter in the poll. I was a little surprised by this, as I wasn't sure if y'all would count ole Townes as Fringe or not (I received several e-mails and comments from folks who definitely felt he was most definitely not fringe). He falls into the Nick Drake category, as far as I can tell. Too well known to be obscure, too obscure (Volkswagen be damned) to be well known. I think Townes counts as Fringe. If you asked 20 random folks on the street if they knew who Van Zandt was, you'd be lucky to get one or two positive responses. If you asked they same 20 people if they knew versions of "Pancho and Lefty", "Rex's Blues", "If I Needed You", or "To Live's To Fly", you'd increase your yes's by a considerable amount. Townes is worshipped obsessively, and deified, by a very definite group of people. But, it's a very small group, consisting of musicians, songwriters, and music obsessives. There's good reason his songs are more popular in cover versions rather than his originals. Van Zandt's voice is too thin, his arrangements too spare, for broad popular consumption. His writing is difficult in it's simplicity, too direct and too far away. All of that, of course, is why he's one of my favorites, and apparently yours, too. His influence on Steve Earle, and the whole "alt country" movement is immeasurable (like Dean with the lounge singers...for good or ill). Until there's a sitcom entitled "Everybody Loves Townes", Van Zandt counts as fringe. I wish he was too popular to include here.

Townes Van Zandt: Greensboro Woman (mp3)

Andre Williams. We use the word greasy quite a bit here at the Mountain. We like greasy. Organs are greasy. Wah Wah pedals are greasy. A horn section can be greasy. And Andre Williams is a very greasy man. Southern fried soul via Detroit scuzz. One of the true (largely) unheralded geniuses of Rhythm and Blues, Andre was already a dirty old man by the time he was twenty. Williams was not so much an innovator, as he was a chameleon. He took the lexicon of popular soul, funk, and r&b and boiled it down to its barest, nastiest bones. He's more recognized now for his forays into garage and country (see tune below), than he is as the young(ish) producer and songwriter from the 60's that forms the origin of his reputation. We've posted about Andre numerous times here before, and will most likely do so again. Andre likes truckin' music too.

Andre Williams and the Sadies: Hey Truckers (mp3)

The Pogues. Well. The Mountain would like to thanks the voters for recognizing one of its favorite bands. But if you've visited here with any kind of regularity, you already knew that. Why are the Pogues fringe? Doesn't everybody know who they are? Well, mostly, that would be true. It's the band who wrote the greatest Christmas song since White Christmas. Their lead singer has a bit of a reputation. The thing is, nobody had ever sounded like the Pogues before. Sure, they had their obvious influences, but who the hell thought an accordion and a fiddle could be punk rock? Shane Macgowan wasn't one of those adoringly ugly frontmen, no, he was just plain butt ugly. And even at the start, his voice sounded as if he was pushing broken glass and bourbon through his nose. But it worked, and for the space of 3, arguably 4, albums, it was the most magnificent, beautiful, sad and fucked up music coming out of the British Isles. And their imitators still thrive on stages and Vans tours to this day. I'm relatively certain that the RnR Hall o' Fame aint gonna be calling their name anytime soon (not with really important artist like KISS, Van Halen and Bryan Adams on deck). So for now, let them live on, on record players, good movie soundtracks, and Blog pages. Thanks boys (and Cait 'n' Kirsty).

Pogues: Rake at the Gates of Hell (mp3)

Lee Hazlewood. Nancy Sinatra fans, and fans of great producers came out for Lee in the poll. Another oddball, whose legacy can be felt on almost everyone's record collection, but whose name leaves most scratching their heads. The list of folks he's produced(most notably Nancy Sinatra and Duane Eddy) is bogglin' large. Check out this link for a list. And for further example, check out the above Dean Martin download, Houston. Lee produced that too. His style modeled the Spector Wall of Sound, only with space and real kitchen sinks (not really, but it sounded good). His own albums are nothing short of fringe genius, cowboy operas, weird country funk, Anne Margaret duets, Swedish song cycles, etc. and etc. Another fella with a, how do you say, distinctive voice, Hazlewood is a rock icon, and long deserving of his due.

Lee Hazlewood: You Look Like a Lady (mp3)

Hasil Adkins. And in the beginning, god created the one man band, named it Hasil Adkins, and, lo, it was good. I'm going to quote from the above link for a moment: "Imagine Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Johnny Cash, ScreaminÂ’ Jay Hawkins, George Jones, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Dolemite, Thomas Edison, Uncle Jesse, Grandpa Munster, Groucho Marx, Johnny B. Goode, Casanova, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Sitting Bull in one body and you start to get the idea." Howling infernal racket, AM static country, blue blues, gutter mountain trash. Still just a start. Anyone with a yen for trash, it starts here. The lid came off with Adkins. And no one managed to get it back on. Hasil died recently. For fans of a certain kind of music, it was the equivalent of Elvis, Lennon, and Kurt dying. Thanks for the rekkids Haze.

Hasil Adkins: Gone Gone Gone (mp3)

That wraps it up for this round. Guest post on Monday. Next round poll on Wednesday, filled with YOUR nominees, so if you haven't nominated anyone yet, get yr suggestions in. Shit, I'd be a fool, if i thought I knew every damn musician worthy of the Fringe Hall of Fame. Help me out.

If you've got some dough, get yr Fringe records from yr Fringe record store.