MONDAY MORNING PLAYBACK
In a downbeat week, addicting videos, the Dollys — and a tribute to FM deejays
A few of my favorite things from the week that was:
Patches and Gretchen, “Why Don’t You Break Down and Be a Fan of Patches and Gretchen?” (YouTube video) Warning: Gretchen Seichrist’s songs and DIY videos can be so addicting, you might find yourself up late at night, clipping along in your life, and then, as is the case with all great artists, you can go down the rabbit hole of her sneaky raw genius and not be heard from for hours. Her debut CD, “Music From Little Big Pink” (produced by Rich Mattson) isn’t for everyone. But for those with that undying scratchy-vinyl curiosity, a little bit o’ soul-patience, and an ear for all the vagaries of the human condition (“Ant Farm” is an uplifter for the uplifting-suspicious), these basement tapes are a mirror of the you that got left behind in the corporate flood, and the work of the most original locally bred songwriter since Bon Iver.
Nick Lowe (Saturday, The Dakota Jazz Bar and Restaurant). At the end of a long week in which the free-falling economy inspired more than a few versions of Robbie Fulks’ “Couples Must Fight,” not to mention a real-world spike in domestic violence, Lowe delivered his uneasy state of the unions. “All Men Are Liars” elicited nervous laughter from the men in the audience (and knowing scowls from their women); “The Beast in Me” soothed the savagery in all the young-old dudes; and a new one, “I Read a Lot,” championed the medicinal qualities of the written word as a way to mend a broken heart, followed perfectly and purposefully by Lowe/Rockpile’s break-up-to-spare-further-heart-damage classic “Cruel to Be Kind.”
But it was Sir Nick’s reading of the oft-covered “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding,” crooned slowly by the white-haired maverick who wrote it, that will stick with the planet long after the rest of us have gone to our great reward. There, on the corner of 10th and the Nicollet Mall, at a cataclysmic time when crash survivors are gearing up for Mad Maxhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Max nation and looking to emulate this guy, Lowe’s post-“Imagine” cry felt less like an anti-war anthem and more like a call to heal wounds big and small, and an invitation to do the “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” boogaloo.
Vince Vance and the Valiants, “Bomb Iran” (self-released 45). Not sure I want a president who unwittingly invokes titles of bad novelty singles from 1980 (reprised in 2003 as “Bomb Iraq”), but that might just be me. Gimme some truth:
Twin Cities deejays (all week, all over the radio dial). Chalk it up to one man’s vivid audio imagination, but as I drive the bombed-out and road-blocked streets of downtown and South Minneapolis and channel-surf the AM Armageddon updates, the FM deejays are killing me softly with their songs. Whether it’s Bill Deville (playing Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression”), Lolly Obeda (Ray Charles’ “Busted”), Brandt Williams (Michael Franti’s “Hey World”), Radio Rumpus Room (entire show), Mary Lucia (Mike Watt’s “Against The ’70s,” Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”), Mark Wheat (Bettye Lavette’s “Before The Money Comes,” Bruce Springsteen/Pete Seeger’s “Pay Me My Money Down”) or the KBEM cats dusting off ’30s and ’40s standards that ushered America through hard times and world wars, our fearless tune-spinners are rising to the challenge and doing what radio does best: bring us all together in strange times via the new world version of fireside chats. Thanks for the kindling, kids. More, please.
The Dollys, “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (Oct. 10, Lee’s Liquor Lounge). Great advice, especially when sung by three of the finest female singers in town — Kari Shaw, Joanna Jahn, and Andre Suchy — in homage to their heroine, Dolly Parton. I’m guessing most country music fans don’t have portfolios or stock options, just as most of us mortals don’t have the Dollys’ voices to rise up with these words, which never sounded so sweet as they did the other night, with a cold beer and a parched throat:
Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street
Can’t you hear a pitter pat
And that happy tune in your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street
I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade
But I’m not afraid
This rover crossed over
If I never have a cent
I’ll be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street
“Cosmic Slop” reunion (Oct. 8, Radio K). Just what the doctor feel good ordered: forgotten ’70s gems and heaps of crap from the past, sifted through and parried out to the rest of us via freaky friends Chuck Tomlinson and Joel Stitzel (the Reusse-Soucheray of the rockwaves) and their mutual admiration of odds and sods. Great stuff; miss you much; listen to the entire love fest here.
Rosanne Cash, “Why I’d Be a Better VP Than Sarah Palin” (Oct. 10, The Nation). Cash Is Queen ’08.
The Pretenders, “Boots of Chinese Plastic” (Oct. 6, “The Late Show With David Letterman”). As great a rock band as there is on the planet at the moment, playing a magnificent message for the mess age.
Robert Pollard (Oct. 7, Turf Club) Picking up our discussion about the need to get out of the house, out of ourselves, out of our self-imposed gilded cages because you never know what club land riches await, I’m here to add the extremely salient suggestion that one should not park in the parking lot behind the Turf Club or any other shady lots in St. Paul’s Midway, because you will get towed, and it will cost you nearly $300 to recover your car. But you also might meet a Good Samaritan along the way — a gentleman by the name of Neal — who by day works as a lawyer and Electric Fetus clerk and who by night gives you a ride to the impound lot from hell that makes you and your fellow towee, Jeaneen, believe in the kindness of strangers all over again.
Before all that, there was the presidential debate, which left a hangover that brought to mind the Lucinda Williams song that finds the singer puttering around her house, fighting the blues, and ultimately deciding, “maybe a little music might help.” This night, it did. This night, it helped. This night, a fiftysomething indie rock icon pulled out every stop and, along with guitarist Tommy Keene, gave the gathered reason to get up and fight another day.
Bruce Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band, “When the Saints Go Marching In” (YouTube video, somewhere in Italy). Oh Lord, I want to be in that number — with St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception. From India! Flippin’ sweet!