Monday, June 28, 2010

Dennis Harte on Roundtable

A few years ago, right around this time I found a copy of a bizarre and great kids-play-rock LP by a duo known simply as Donnie and Joe. Their long-player debut, "Dreamin' Wild," totally bowled me over when I brought it home from an antique store in Eastern Washington. Hazy, heartfelt crooning that seemed to project out of this really lonely but familiar place - backed by slightly off kilter instrumentation - it became a quick favorite with me, and as the word spread, with many others too. They had such a peculiarly singular sound that I was truly surprised to find something that I thought matched it in the *wow* department, but also that the 45 in question just sounded uncannily like it could be those same two kids casting off a 7" ... albeit from across the country and culturally as far from Spokane Valley farm-land as you could get. I know very little about Dennis Harte or the Roundtable label out of New York City, but he and his brother cut at least 3 7"s, one of which I'm missing (unfortunately). The best cut of the bunch is this utterly powerful slab of teener summer sneer that just buzzes and hisses it's way across the thick Manhattan haze, an intense wall of sound backing the pleas of Dennis as he extrapolates his heart-ache. I've listened to this song 50 times since picking up the 7" and still can't get over how much this sounds like Donnie and Joe... total goosebumps! I'm not as in love with the flip but it's worth checking out nonetheless.

Summer's Over

Treat Me Like a Man

Let's Get Out of the City

I Don't Need Anymore

Anyways, the other 45 I have to share is nowhere near as epic or mind-melting as "Summer's Over" - but it's worth posting up as it has kind of a quirky lo-fi dork-rock charm of it's own. Sounds to me like it's an older brother singing on these songs... there's some great wah and a mildly psychedelic edge on the flip, too, which may be the stronger song of the two. If anybody has further info on the Roundtable label or the Harte boys - please let me know. Would love to hear more from these guys!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Al Huskey in Tennessee

Here is an absolutely exquisite home-made country LP from Illinois. I have been dumpster diving through stuff like this for years and can honestly think of but a handful that I like this much. It's tough to say why so many private country records are weak, but it may have something to do with the singles oriented format for the genre. It also just seems to be a grouping where you get a lot of cover material filling out a record with one or two songs aimed as a hit, making LPs full of original material just plain rare. Al Huskey’s “In Tennessee” is one of these, and somehow he wrote 12 songs that capture a depth of moods and expression that are personal, beautiful, and just wonderfully quirky - soulful, occasionally bizarre. In the best tradition of self-released music the LP presents a cross-section of genuine talent and slightly unconventional production. The whole thing glows, foremost with Al’s unmistakably original voice, as he moves from tales of blind men making it to heaven, to debunking the color lines, to bemoaning lost loves and discussing the peculiar otherworldly nature of an echoing voice. It’s a 70s record, but the production is warm, earthy, almost hit’s a “rock” stride on a few trax, and ultimately it's all about the songs - several of these I would love to hear dusted off for cover. “Whipping Boy” for example has that perfect moment of soaring honky-tonk denouement every country-hit yearns for - the point where the minor-key verse changes gears into a massive open chorus - and the narrator gets to finally stand on stage and deliver judgment for the abuses he has suffered. For me the highlights are the moody almost country-rock flavored late night tumblers… “I Won’t Cry” and “Echoes” both just completely wreck me. Al is still active in music today, and can be reached via his MySpace page. This is a pretty easy LP to find if you’re looking for the vinyl, and is usually pretty cheap. Really a great record, and recommended even if you’re not usually keen on this kind of thing. Talk soon, JDF

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Suzanne on Birchmount

I was alerted to this groovy Quebecois femme-pop LP recently by an old Paul Major radio broadcast that was circulating amongst some friends. The set closed out with two magical tracks from this obscure LP released on the Birchmount label with about half the songs penned by Greg Hambleton of A Passing Fancy. These two songs have been on constant rotation the past few weeks, and I hope will captivate your imagination as well. "Shendah" is a love song written to a horse, and is just totally heartbreaking - in only the way that it could be! "Island" is a ballad of teenage alienation couched in gushy organ fills and a subtle marching drum-beat. You could make a killer 7" out of these two! Check 'em out... and I'll see you next week.




Thursday, June 10, 2010

Austin Sirch - Self-Titled

This is a little bit of a shameless plug for a friend, but I don't want anyone to be confused - I'm a big fan of the guy's work. Austin and I go back years and years of kicking around in green grass pastures, the mis-adventures of mouse-infested cabin life, the ever-present hourglass passed in puffs of smoke, and the nite-time as John Lennon would speak of it in that song with lots of saxophone and sunglasses. Austin's music is a joyous cacophony of strings laid bare to effervescent harmonies and shimmering lush psychedelic pop atmosphere. There's an effortlessness to his whole jag, a push back to summer dawns bathed in the Beatles and strong dope. I'm biased I suppose, as I associate the songs with really fond memories, but rarely does one find such a warm repose, an envelope sonically arranged for you to crawl inside and find the things you love about home-made music all over again. The distinction for me is that he's a writer, and the songs stand out as fully crafted paths through a forest of days lost to the grind of getting older and heartaches that seem heavier as the years go on. Really personal beautiful stuff that is super close to my heart. This is a CD EP from 4 or 5 years ago. If you like it, let him know. With that I bid you warm summer feelings, breathe deeply - eat something you enjoy. Warmly, JDF

I. Wishing Bell
II. No(is)e
III. When the Ships Come In
IV. Something Else
V. The Missile Blues
VI. Sophie's Song

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dog Ear on Planet Chant

Easily one of my favorite 45s from the spring... gorgeous home-made cosmic country that sounds like Bobby's Blues Band + a slide guitar and desert sand under their feet. Absolutely killer mellow vibe that I would die to have an LP of. Called around on this and got absolutely nowhere... I was hunching that it was from Texas... 1973, on Planet Chant Productions. Enjoy!

Just Children

The Man Who Left Her