(September Podcast 128kbps mp3 file 17MB)
2006 ISSUE #87
Guide To The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Trail
John F. Blair, Publisher
224 Page Softcover Book
With 2 CD Set
TRACK = "SUZANNA GAL" BY DAD BLACKARD'S MOONSHINERS
The "Crooked Road" is a long stretch of
highway in southwestern Virginia, a routed that is dotted with
small towns that hold the heart of traditional Virginian (and
American) music. This book by music historian and documentarian
Joe Wilson is a beautifully thorough exploration of the historical
and modern day musicians of this area and the culture which gave
Wilson begins his book with a basic history of traditional
American music, showing how instruments like the banjo and guitar
came into popularity, and how this particular area of Virginia
became the musical nervous center in the United States.
From there, he takes us on an exhaustive tour of
places to visit on the Crooked Road, covering 10 separate counties.
This part of the book reads like an extended travel itinerary,
listing festivals, places to hear music, places to buy music and
instruments, places to stay, and places to eat along the way.
The amount of information is staggering, and you could literally
spend the better part of a year making your way through the stops
listed in the book. I even doubt you would have time to see and
experience it all if you tried.
The book also includes a two CD set of music from
the Crooked Road, both old and contemporary. Wilson continues
playing the part of tour guide, providing a narrational introduction
to each song, and giving us valuable context for the upcoming track.
The music is a terrific mix of artists and styles, some of which
are culled from private collections and are hard-to-find outside
of this collection.
This is not only a valuable reference for those
interested in Virginia's musical heritage, it is also a great
resource for traditional music fans who happen to like to travel
and experience the people and places firsthand.
MISH MASH Mandate: Living History
John F. Blair Publishing Website
Monk w/ John Coltrane
- Riverside Records/Concord Music Group
- 2 CD Set
Die hard fans of Monk and Coltrane will be overjoyed
by this set, while casual fans may be left scratching their
heads. A completist's dream, The Complete Riverside Recordings
lives up to its namesake, providing false starts and outtakes
along with takes that made it to official release. If you're
not unusually curious about what really goes on in the studio,
then you'll probably find most of this to be overkill. But,
if you like hearing artists in the throes of creativity, then
you'll love the down and dirty construction work going on
between these giants of jazz.
The 1957 collaboration of Monk and Coltrane
on Riverside was short-lived, but it left behind a classic
handful of tunes which features the established legend of
Monk passing the torch on to the then-growing legend of Coltrane.
It's a mere moment in the history of jazz, but an important
one. So, it is somewhat fitting that we get to see the entire
picture of their work together, warts and all. For example,
the central song of focus on disc one is Crepuscule With Nellie,
a new song being tried out during one of their first recording
sessions. We get five takes of the song, including one which
is described as a "breakdown," where Monk literally
passes out from exhaustion after the tape stops. They wheel
Monk out of the studio, and then the rest of the band proceeds
to lay down an improvised blues number so the session wouldn't
go to waste, which is also included in this set. You can't
get much more complete than that.
Like I said, this isn't for the casual fan looking
for a set of polished jazz tunes. This is for the fan that
can't get enough. You know who you are.
MISH MASH Mandate: Urge Overkill
Concord Music Group
HEY BANDS! OPEN YOUR ONLINE T-SHIRT
SHOP FOR FREE!
10 song CD
TRACK = ONE MORE TIME
If it weren't for the fact that they're so darn good at it, AutoVaughn
could easily be dismissed as just another modern rock band that's
enamored with 80s new wave splashed with guitar rock. Yes, they're
riding that bandwagon, but the tunes are built on solid, catchy
pop that grabs you and just won't let go. So, all has been forgiven.
Lead singer Darren Potuck delivers his vocals with smart and European
intentions, enunciating each word clearly and avoiding histrionics
and volume for a matter-of-fact tone that is purely no nonsense.
It fits the band's overall sound like a glove, which is the perfect
mix of big guitars and driving rhythms.
Even though there's no real new ground broken here, there's a darkness
and moodiness which keeps the album on edge throughout, helping
to keep it interesting from beginning to end on successive listens
without wearing thin. This combination of catchy pop and anxiety
shine through on the song "One More Time", a great little
song which should be making the rounds on college radio by the time
you ready this.
MISH MASH Mandate: Ride The Wave
The Exploding Madonna
7 song CD
TRACK = JOE NAMATH'S LABORATORY
I'm not sure where to begin with this one, but suffice it to say
that The Exploding Madonna is all about noise. Not just random noise,
but a controlled noise which is highly structured in its attack.
It's a cacophonous mix of guitars, synthesizers, and distorted vocals,
burying the listener in a complex and overwhelming wall of absolute
The irony comes in the fact that the songs have their central basis
in pop rock, albeit this foundation is buried under layer upon layer
of massive sound, which in turn gives the overall appearance of
progressive rock. This works in spite of the obvious musical contradictions,
as some sort of hybrid musical monster. Now if you'll excuse me,
I'm going to go take an aspirin.
MISH MASH Mandate: Monster Mash
The Exploding Madonna Website
12 song CD
TRACK = GONER'S BLUES
Joy's music is anything but joyful, plodding along with a somewhat
depressing and lonely movement. The songs bite with a country-fried
sneer, wafting up through the air like the heat from a rural asphalt
road in summertime. Song titles like Love Is Lonesome
and Death And Doubt leave little wiggle room in this
Even though the production is modern and well done, the band's
basic and bare approach reminds me of older country and blues songs
from the early 20th Century, almost as if they were recorded on
somebody's back porch. It's a hollow and haunting sound, which only
embellishes the overall feeling of loneliness.
At the same time, there is a strange sense of optimism which peeks
through now and then, almost buoying us up from sinking too low.
MISH MASH Mandate: Optimist's Club
7 song CD
TRACK = TEXAS
This one is chalking up to be one of my favorite releases of
the year. When I first put on The Strange, I found myself wondering
why this power trio reminded me of Led Zeppelin. Then it occurred
to me: lead singer Brent McKay sounds a lot like Robert Plant.
Not the screaming, swaggering Robert Plant, but the quiet, bluesy
and mysterious Robert Plant. Think Led Zeppelin III. The music
has a hint of that, also, but it doesn't overdo it---it's a nice
dynamic mix of acoustic and electric guitars and piano which owes
more to Radiohead than Physical Graffiti.
The great thing about this disc is the smoldering slow burn which
never lets up throughout the album. It's an anxious feeling that
rides in and out of each song like a wave, focusing all your attention
on McKay and his incredible vocals. By far, the best example of
this can be found in the song Texas, where all the elements work flawlessly
MISH MASH Mandate: The Song Remains The Same
The Strange Website
The North Buncombe Years
10 song CD
Steel String Theory takes traditional acoustic bluegrass
and dresses it up with just a touch of bluesy rock attitude. This
blend gives the songs a unique swagger, one that you usually don't
find in this type of music. Add some electric guitars, bass and
drums, and this could easily be a pretty water-tight rock album.
Yet, the fact that this is a merely duo with a mandolin and acoustic
guitar (and a few additional guest musicians) just shows how far
good songwriting can go.
The songs themselves are all original, yet they still have the
aura of being classic, as if they were dusted off after half a century
of neglect. It's a genuine, backwoods sound whose only indication
of its newness comes from the aforementioned influence from rock.
MISH MASH Mandate: Stringing Along
Steel String Theory Website
10 song CD
Over the past few years, Marlon Saunders and Jazzhole have done
their best to keep the sound of acid jazz alive, releasing strong
albums that are overflowing with the most soulful jazz you've ever
heard. It's laid back and sexy, never sacrificing the ever present
The band gives a nod to the sounds of yesteryear, borrowing and
reviving the funky soul of the 60s and 70s, all the while adding
a modern twist of attitude and rhythm---even covering and updating
Boz Scaggs' Lowdown. It's not so much retro as it is respectful,
building upon the past with skillful intention.
MISH MASH Mandate: Smoothest Soul
Beautiful Baby Elephant
Micheal J. Media
10 song CD
Peal is the kind of band that makes the college girls go crazy;
heartfelt roots rock with songs about the trials and tribulations
of love and relationships. So it's no surprise that the liner notes
show photos of the girls in their audience, waiting patiently for
the show, where they surely hang onto each and every word.
They know their job, and they do it well. The songwriting is
tight and direct with no nonsense, light and airy with just the
right amount of angst. Thankfully it doesn't come across as too
calculated, as the band knows how to make the tunes dance and
bounce along with a fresh sounding resolve. It sounds like they're
having fun, and it shows.
MISH MASH Mandate: An Affair Of The Heart
© 2006 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved