Archive for November, 2008

in performance: yes

yes 2008: alan white, chris squire, benoit david, steve howe and oliver wakeman.

yes 2008: alan white, chris squire, benoit david, steve howe and oliver wakeman.

What hath Journey wrought? When the veteran pop band found itself without a lead singer this year, it simply hired a vocalist that copied, with unnerving detail, the high scratchy whine of its most noted (but long since departed) frontman, Steve Perry.

This fall, Yes, the prog band celebrating its 40th anniversary, is following suit. With longtime vocalist Jon Anderson still recuperating from a serious respiratory ailment that derailed a summer tour, the remaining veteran members – bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White – enlisted the singer of a Montreal based Yes tribute band and hit the road. Sounds pretty dreadful, right?

Well, last night at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre vocalist Benoit David more than vindicated himself in the role of what Squire has termed as “understudy” for Anderson.

During the show opening Siberian Khatru, David easily seized the cosmic falsetto Anderson has provided Yes over the decades. Admittedly, David’s performance was more an act of imitation than interpretation, whether it was through the huskier lightness of Onward (a forgotten delicacy from 1978’s Tormato album resurrected for this tour) or the celestial stair step notes his singing escalated upon during Starship Trooper. But this was no karaoke act. If anything, David revealed a tone more muscular (and certainly more youthful) than the artist he was emulating. But considering Anderson helped compose as well as sing the majority of the concert’s repertoire, it is best to still view David as a serviceable stand-in.

Yes’ other understudy last night was keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, who had the none-too-modest task of replicating the keyboard orchestrations of his father, Rick Wakeman. The younger Wakeman handled his duties effortlessly with zero flash, whether it was with the bass synths that exploded like sirens during Close to the Edge or the church organ colors provided to light up I’ve Seen All Good People.

The mainstay Yes men played with their usual strengths and quirks. Squire is still a good natured ham with a tendency to overplay while White was an exact, propulsive and tireless beatkeeper. Howe, for my money, stole the show, switching from mandola to pedal steel to a multitude of electric guitars. Also, hearing him take a crack at the chiming guitar passages of Astral Traveler – a 1970 tune recorded when founding Yes guitarist Peter Banks was still in the ranks – was great, unexpected fun.

Speaking of program surprises, Howe, Squire and White took advantage of Anderson’s absence to play a pair of extended tunes from 1980’s Drama (Yes’ only Anderson-less album). Of the two, the 12 minute Machine Messiah resonated strongest with David sounding just as ease aping Drama singer Trevor Horn as he was Anderson. Howe, in turn, colored in the contours with some the evening’s crankiest guitar runs.

Of course, if you view Yes today as just a prog rock fossil, then none of this matters. Nothing the band’s realigned lineup did last night was designed to attract new converts. But for the die-hards, Yes presented a portrait of its past framed firmly in the affirmative.

Yes will return to the region on Dec. 9 to play the Louisville Palace.

the third last waltz

tula and friends pay tribute again to the band's "the last waltz" on saturday.

tula and friends pay tribute again to the band's "the last waltz" on saturday.

Thanksgiving weekend again brings Ray Smith and the rest of Tula to The Dame, 367 East Main, for another local adaptation of The Last Waltz. Smith first staged the celebration in 2006 on the 30th anniversary of the final concert (dubbed “The Last Waltz”) by the original lineup of The Band. Smith has again gathered a massive assemblage of local and regional artists to play The Last Waltz tunes as they were performed at the original 1976 concert, from Up on Cripple Creek to I Shall Be Released.

The players, writers and singers for Saturday’s third Last Waltz will include Otto Helmuth, Willie Eames, Fred Sexton, Eric Smith, Robbie Cosenza, Clack Mountain String Band, Gabe Hensley, Matt Patterson, Mike Tevis, Andy Mason, Chris Sullivan, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman and Maurice Manning.

Tula’s tribute to The Band’s The Last Waltz begins at 8 p.m. Saturday. Cover charge is $8. Call (859) 231-7263.

turkey, titans and tull

jethro tull 1977: john evan, martin barre, david palmer, john glasscock, ian anderson and barriemore barlow.

jethro tull 1977: john evan, martin barre, david palmer, john glascock, ian anderson and barriemore barlow.

Thanksgiving afternoon.

An annual Turkey Day tradition is underway: watching the Detroit Lions get carved up as a holiday feast for whatever NFL team that gets invited to dinner. This year’s guest is the 10-1 Tennessee Titans. At halftime, the Lions were down 35-10.

That almost prompted some channel surfing until the halftime show had teen-pop star Jesse McCartney merrily leading a squadron of smiling youths through the pseudo-reggae grooves of his hit Leavin’.

Maybe it was the occasion (it certainly wasn’t the music), but I found myself trying to recall if I ever had to cover a concert on Thanksgiving. There have been numerous instances of being called upon on Thanksgiving Eve. Two years ago, for example, there was a homecoming performance in Louisville by My Morning Jacket. As recently as last year, B.B. King played the Singletary Center just before Turkey Day. But only one time comes to mind of being on duty Thanksgiving night.

The year was 1977. I was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. Rupp had been open a little over a year. The Thanksgiving headliner: Jethro Tull.

Having recovered a copy of the very primitive review I wrote of the show for the Kentucky Kernel, this fact presented itself:

+ Ticket prices were $7 and $8.

Among college-aged crowds at the time, Tull was already a relic, although I still held considerable respect for the band. Still do, as Tull continues to tour. But with the debut albums by Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, The Sex Pistols and former Lexingtonian Richard Hell all hitting stores in the months leading up to the show, a new rock generation was storming the castle Tull and others had occupied over the previous decade.

The Kernel’s photographer summed up the attitude best at intermission, having snapped Tull’s flute-playing frontman Ian Anderson leaping about the Rupp stage. “He looks like my father,” she said in a voice that oozed indifference.

Not that any of this mattered to Anderson and company. The show drew over 12,000 fans – a respectable number any night of the year

After scouring of reviews of Tull’s U.S. tour last summer, this fact presented itself.

+ Tickets prices were $64.50 and $84.50.

An update: deep into the 4th quarter, the Titans continue to beat the ever-loving turkey stuffing out of the hapless Lions. The score is now 47-10.

Meanwhile, Tull is spending this Thanksgiving in India. It performs tonight in Kolkata, in case you’re in the neighborhood.

critic’s pick 47

genesis: 1970-1975

genesis: 1970-1975

It seems only fitting that the rock ‘n’ roll book of Genesis ends at the beginning.

After two mammoth 2007 box sets chronicling the band’s evolution from a prog rock beacon into the stadium-filling pop outfit that made Phil Collins a star, we have the roots of when Genesis was, during a five year run, something extraordinary.

1970-1975 isn’t about the Collins-era Genesis, although Collins the drummer is certainly a key player on these recordings. Instead, it rewinds the band back to when a young Peter Gabriel was the focal and vocal point.

A wildly charismatic singer who then wore fox heads, bulbous masks, sunflower headdresses and often frightening layers of theatrical makeup onstage, Gabriel came to define Genesis’ formative years. But despite a faceless debut pop album (From Genesis to Revelation), Genesis – on record, anyway – was a band of equals with keyboardist Tony Banks, guitarists Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett, bassist Mike Rutherford and, eventually, Collins, adding key colors to a rapidly evolving musical ambience.

The new box set collects everything from 1970’s Trespass (the only album here to feature Phillips) to 1974’s surreal urban opera The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Aside from the intense clarity of the 5.1 remastering – which provides an almost punkish charge to Get ‘Em Out By Friday from 1972’s Foxtrot and new dimension to Kaye’s parachuting keyboard runs on Riding the Scree near the end of The Lamb1970-1975 lets us view the thrillseeking Gabriel era of Genesis as an almost complete whole.

The story begins with the wintry warmth of Looking for Someone, the twilight hued, post-psychedelic leadoff track from Trespass. The followup albums, 1971’s Nursery Cryme (which introduced Collins and Hackett), Foxtrot and the 1973 breakthrough Selling England by the Pound elongated song structures dramatically. Foxtrot‘s 23 minute Supper’s Ready, for example, isn’t some indulgent jam-fest, but an artful, almost operatic song cycle.

Gabriel was often a madcap host for Genesis’ music, playing town crier in the hysterical The Return of the Giant Hogweed (from Nursery Cryme) and the hapless day laborer in 1973’s I Know What I Like, the closest thing the Gabriel-era roster scored to a hit single.

In other instances there is beautiful but fanciful drama in the way Gabriel finds balance between despondency and elegance against Banks’ myriad keyboard orchestrations on The Musical Box, Watcher of the Skies and The Foundation of Salmacis.

The music was all exquisitely British until Gabriel went underground for The Lamb, Genesis’ epic but almost indecipherable New York street opera. Banks and Gabriel steal the show here, from the beautiful meditative menace conjured on Carpet Crawlers (the song Collins sang at the close of every show on Genesis’ Gabriel-less reunion tour last year) to the echoing, pre-punk urgency of Back in NYC. After The Lamb, Gabriel bolted, changing his life, politics and career – not to mention, Genesis’ music – forever.

There is a ton of bonus DVD and audio material on 1970-1975, including montages of Gabriel’s early stage costumes, concert performances taped for European television (including a fascinating reading of Supper’s Ready) and glimpses into The Lamb‘s way, way, way off Broadway stage show.

And there you have it – the remastered beginning of a once audacious band. The later hits were certainly huge, but nothing was ever so glorious as the genesis of Genesis.

in performance: the refugees (updated)

the refugees: deborah holland, wendy waldman and cindy bullens

the refugees: deborah holland, wendy waldman and cindy bullens

Todd Snider’s loss was The Refugees’ big, big gain at last night’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

Both acts were onstage at the Kentucky Theatre as the program began. But soon into The Refugees’ opening tune, Snider quietly snuck offstage and never returned. The explanation: an undisclosed illness. That meant The Refugees were the sole performance guests. And did the trio of veteran female songsmiths – Wendy Waldman, Cindy Bullens and Deborah Holland – ever make the most of the opportunity.

Maybe it was having a healthy promotional forum for a just-released indie debut album, Unbound (from which seven songs were performed), that put in the trio in such high spirits. Maybe it was a genuine tightness of group spirit exhibited in both the Roches-style harmonies as well as an animated and familial stage presence that fueled the fun. Or it could have been a knack for songwriting that stemmed, in Waldman’s case, back three decades to a string of sterling albums for Warner Brothers and song cameos on records by some of the label’s then-premier artists (like her extraordinary Mad Mad Me on Maria Muldaur’s self-titled 1973 debut album).

Then again, it could have been the simple surprise element of becoming, totally on a lark, WoodSongs’ only guest last night. Whatever the reason, the performance was a blast.

The Refugees’ makeup is predominantly folkish. Bullens (a one-time Elton John singer with numerous ‘70s and ‘80s albums to her credit) switched from guitar to faux rock star posing on mandolin while Holland (of the underrated late ‘80s progressive trio Animal Logic with Stewart Copeland and Stanley Clarke) juggled guitar duties with support work on electric bass. Mostly though, the music revolved around the singing. That, in turn, was rooted in effortless group harmonies with shades of pop and, at times, bluegrass. But the mood of the music remained warm, informal and inviting.

The Unbound material covered considerable ground. Recently penned group originals, such as the album’s Americana-rich title tune, sounded like Mary Chapin Carpenter in an atypically chipper mood. But there were also solo compositions written far earlier in the singers’ respective careers that were reworked for back porch harmonizing.

Of the latter, Holland’s Animal Logic gem (There’s a) Spy in the House of Love was especially striking as it took on a plaintive but regal country air. Similarly appealing was Waldman’s Save the Best for Last. Initially a monster pop-soul hit for Vanessa Williams in 1991, The Refugees wrapped the first half of the tune in a cappella chill before setting it afloat with whispery acoustics.

Bullens’ newer Jellico Highway was comparatively darker and vastly more restless in design as it traced a tale of escape and heartbreak across the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Great songs, greater harmonies and a thoroughly unassuming stage presence – the trio had it all. Add in a WoodSongs lineup change that worked heavily in its favor last night and it was no wonder that The Refugees seemed so at home in Lexington.

+ + + + +

Tuesday, 5:17 p.m.: Several emails and phone messages arrived today asking the same thing about last night’s WoodSongs taping. All came from vocal Todd Snider fans. All asked the same question.

In short, what was the deal with Snider’s disappearing act?

The Nashville songsmith, who is a veteran of numerous Lexington concerts, including a 2002 WoodSongs appearance, bolted from the stage last night as the program began, leaving the show’s other guest, The Refugees, to fill the hour.

WoodSongs host Michael Johnathon mentioned after the taping that Snider was ill and opted not to perform. He elaborated today:

“Todd wasn’t feeling well when he came to Lexington. He still wasn’t feeling well when he came to WoodSongs. He began feeling worse as the show went on and was not able to perform. We were very happy, however, that The Refugees were able to help out and put on such a spectacular hour.”


free bruce (for a day)

An early christmas present has arrived from The Boss.

For one day, you can download the title tune from the forthcoming Bruce Springsteen album, Working on a Dream. It will be available from both iTunes and Springsteen’s website,, starting at noon EST today. Grab it quick, because iTunes will start charging for the song tomorrow.

The full Working on a Dream album is due for release on Jan. 27, less than a week before Springsteen and the E Street Band play the halftime show at Super Bowl XLIII.

A COUNTRY FEEL INSIDE THE CITY; Neighborhood of the week; Sand Point.(Real Estate)

The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA) October 18, 2009 Byline: Blythe Lawrence; Special to The Seattle Times In the 154 years since surveyors bestowed the name “Mud Lake” on it, marketers have come up with far better slogans to recommend the Sand Point neighborhood.

“Country living within city limits” is the one Sue Rockwell remembers best. “Country living … ” was used several years ago to highlight how the area can seem removed from fast-paced Seattle, even though when traffic is favorable, the city center is only a few minutes away.

“You still have that sense of you’re not in the thick of downtown, yet you’ve got everything you need,” Rockwell said.

The neighborhood hugs Sand Point Way Northeast, which begins just off Northeast 125th Street in Lake City and parallels the shores of Lake Washington before being bisected by Northeast 65th Street. Sand Point’s neighbors include Lake City to the north, View Ridge to the west and Windermere and Laurelhurst to the south.

Housing in Sand Point ranges from the apartments and condominiums that line Sand Point Way to upper-end developments where prices start in the $800,000s.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 15 of this year, there were seven home sales in the Sand Point neighborhood, according to statistics compiled by Windermere Real Estate. The median sales price was $610,000 and ranged from $295,000 to $875,000.

The area’s biggest attraction — literally — is Warren G. Magnuson Park, named for the former U.S. senator who acquired the land for Seattle after the Sand Point Naval Air Station shut down in 1970.

A chunk of the land was given to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Much of the rest became Sand Point Park, which was renamed for Magnuson in 1977. (He died in 1989 and had served 43 years in Congress). After Magnolia’s Discovery Park, Magnuson, which covers 350 acres, is Seattle’s second-largest park (after Discovery Park in Magnolia). go to web site windermere real estate

Compared to some of the area’s other popular parks, Magnuson Park can feel refreshingly devoid of the multitude of joggers, skaters and cyclists that flock to such places as Green Lake, said Rockwell.

“It’s a great place to play,” added Joie Gowan, a Windermere Real Estate agent who has lived in the area for most of her life.

In addition to Magnuson, Matthews Beach provides a panoramic view of Lake Washington, and playfields in the View Ridge neighborhood provide recreational opportunities.

It’s not a bad place to live if you happen to work at Seattle Children’s hospital or the University of Washington, either, since both are easily accessible from the Sand Point neighborhood. go to site windermere real estate

As a UW student during the 1980s, Rockwell housesat in the neighborhood. She liked it so much that she and her husband bought their first house in the same area. When they first moved in, Rockwell considered her neighbors people whose homes were within eyesight of her own. But the community’s neighborly spirit — the way you meet people walking your dog in the park, for example, she said — has changed her mind about that.

“Now I consider friends that live five to six blocks away in the neighborhood my neighbors,” Rockwell said.

Although the area is highly sought after and home sales can be few and far between, Gowan believes “there’s real affordability” in Sand Point.

“People are always trying to move over here,” she said. “They like it and they try to stay here.” Sand Point Distance to downtown Seattle: About 7 miles Schools: Sand Point is served by the Seattle School District.

Recreation: Warren G. Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E. The park named after the longtime U.S. senator sits on a mile-long stretch of Lake Washington shoreline. At 350 acres, it is Seattle’s second-largest park. This former Navy facility features boat launch, beaches, biking, community center, dog off-leash areas, picnic areas, playground, sports fields, tennis courts, walking trails, wading pool, and windsurfing.

Historic fact: Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis at Sand Point on Sept. 13, 1927.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf CAPTION(S):

Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times: It’s easy to get away from it all in the Sand Point neighborhood. Here a man and his dog enjoy a stop in Magnuson Park on Lake Washington. (0410107163) The Seattle Times: Sand Point (G5T1LFCEM) Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times: Sand Point has a mix of condos (these are along Sand Point Way Northeast), apartments and single-family homes. (0410107169) Windermere Real Estate : This 1955 colonial in Sand Point recently sold for $722,500. It has five bedrooms and 2.25 baths. (0410083135) Windermere Real Estate : This updated rambler in Sand Point recently sold for $826,000. It has three bedrooms, 1.75 baths. (0410083127) Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times: A Sand Point landmark is the colorful display of boats on the roof of Seattle Raft & Kayak, just off Sand Point Way Northeast. (0410107172) Many homes in Sand Point have that distinctive midcentury look. (0410107170) Not far from the homes and busy streets of the Sand Point neighborhood is wide-open Kite Hill, also known as Sand Point Head. (0410107171)

todd snider talks peace

todd snider sings "peace queer" tonight at woodsongs.

todd snider sings "peace queer" tonight at woodsongs.

It was seemingly business as usual when Todd Snider last visited Lexington.

A popular local draw for years, the East Nashville songsmith was in town for an evening set at the Christ the King Oktoberfest. Though limited to a mere 50 minutes of stage time, Snider opted for the familiar. His performance was full of folkish, nervous tic reveries like Alright Guy, Can’t Complain, Beer Run and a curiously brief Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern, a tune that usually comes with a motion picture-length narrative as a prologue.

It was like any other Snider show – whimsical, fully unfrilly and ripe with an amiable, boozy charm.

That afternoon, a package arrived. It remained unopened until my arrival home after Okotberfest had shut down for the night. Its contents: a new Snider EP disc called Peace Queer, a record still three weeks away from release. As Snider had chosen not to introduce any of the new songs at Oktoberfest, Peace Queer was immediately sent to the stereo.

What was expected was more of the same revelry the songwriter had conjured onstage earlier that evening. What came out of the speakers was arguably the most sobering and topically minded music Snider has ever recorded. It was rootsy and unassuming in tone, save for the brief electric boogiefest that erupted during Stuck on the Corner. But it was also politically turbulent in terms of temperament.

If Peace Queer was any indication, it seemed life for the Alright Guy had become troubled on an almost global scale.

“I usually go to a bar before my gigs,” Snider said by phone last week. “Or if I’m home, I’ll go sit in a bar and listen to people talk. And these days, people are almost always talking about war. You’re not supposed to talk politics and religion in a bar. But today, believe me, they are. Me, I want to talk about the Cubs. But what I’ve been hearing really informed these songs.”

Peace Queer‘s political tone is ushered in with a disarming Bo Diddley groove on Mission Accomplished (Because You Gotta Have Faith) and the sort of confessional storytelling charm that has long fueled Snider’s best songs. But the antagonist of Mission Accomplished is to pretty easy to spot within the shuffle.

“Working for a man who could not stop lying; drove us all off a cliff and called it flying,” Snider sings. “That ain’t flying. Most men flying seem to understand that a man hasn’t technically flown until he lands.”

The eight song, 26 minute Peace Queer then veers into a sailor’s wartime lament set to an easy country blues melody (The Ballad of Cape Henry), two versions of a more homeward battle with a schoolyard bully (the spoken Is This Thing Working? and the sung Is This Thing On?) and the disc’s cool, comfortable title tune (Ponce of the Flaming Peace Queer) which, in a major shift for Snider, is an instrumental.

But Peace Queer is also disturbing in a way that even Snider couldn’t have predicted. On Dividing the Estate (A Heart Attack), gluttony is redefined, whether intentionally or not, for the new age of the corporate bailout.

“The Bible says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven. It astonishes me there are so many wealthy Christians in our country. I’m not judging them. They can live by and break whatever rules they want for all I care. But I grew up a Catholic kid, so I speak Catholic. So what I wanted to do with this song was paint a picture of a person, maybe even a system, that started off humble and just got fatter and fatter until it eventually popped.

“I mean, if I go out on the road and become the guy that eats everything on the deli tray, drinks every beer and tries to hit on every girl that passes by, I’ll just get fatter, louder and dumber until, eventually, I’ll just fall down.”

Peace Queer‘s ace in the hole is a reworking of the Vietnam War protest anthem Fortunate Son that John Fogerty wrote and recorded with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Snider slows the tune into a dark, whispery meditation colored by ghostly, reverb-drenched singing by Patty Griffin, who also harmonizes on Cape Henry.

“My intention was to make the song sound hopeless and exhausted.

“My friend Doug Lancio, who plays guitar for Patty and sometimes produces her music, lives down the street. I was over at his house recording the song and Patty stopped by. She heard what we were doing and said, ‘Can I sing on that?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? Of course, you can.’ I really look up to Patty. She’s a lot like Dylan. She just keeps finding new ways for her music to change and still stay interesting.”

On Monday, Snider returns to Lexington for a taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, a program he seems to have special affinity for. The songwriter’s 2002 performance of Long Year on the show was so to his liking that he included it on a concert album the following year called Near Truths and Hotel Rooms.

But unlike Okotberfest, the Peace Queer songs will be front and center for the WoodSongs return.

“It sounds silly, but I really don’t get to control where these songs go,” Snider said. “In that sense, I guess I’m more of an editor than a writer. I really teetered on whether I would even let these songs out of the house. They were planned for the next album (the just completed The Excitement Plan, due out in 2009), but they didn’t really fit in.

“It was like they were screwing the movie up. So I thought I’d put them out on their own little EP. I wanted them to be their own little thing.”

Todd Snider performs at 7 p.m. tonight at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Also performing will be The Refugees. Tickets: $10. Call (859) 252-8888

in performance: bonnie “prince” billy

bonnie "prince" billy (will oldham)

bonnie "prince" billy (will oldham)

At one point during last night’s Tsuga Art & Music benefit at Old Tarr Distillery, the sound was malfunctioning so severely that headliner Bonnie “Prince” Billy – aka, Louisville indie folk/pop stylist Will Oldham – threw himself on the stage floor and sang into a microphone mounted in front of a guitar amplifier. Why? Because it was one of the only mics that worked.

Don’t get me wrong here. Old Tarr was nicely converted last night into a half gallery/half performance space. Coupled with a worthwhile environmental cause (the insect molestation of Kentucky hemlock trees) and the obviously sunny vibe of a sizable audience, there were numerous makings for an appealing evening. But the sound system simply crashed and/or was manned by people unfamiliar at bringing music to life in a venue that usually exists as a warehouse.

For the first half hour, Oldham and the old-timey Louisville country roots ensemble The Picket Line (a purposely scrappy sounding pre-bluegrass string band augmented by electric guitar) were left onstage wondering, as was the audience, if a show could be salvaged. Initially, the ensemble tried a few unplugged tunes. As such, the show-opening You Remind Me of Something was good rustic fun if you were within five feet of the stage. Beyond that, it was like watching TV with the sound down.

The ever-animated Oldham tried valiantly to compensate – a big deal, considering he doesn’t really have the vocal depth or range to provide any purist authority to this kind of music in the first place. Eventually, sound seemed to come through in pockets. Some mics worked, most didn’t. That caused Oldham to point his vocal mic to amps or to any featured instrumentalist in order to get some semblance of balanced sound. That’s how bad things got.

There were a few whimsical moments. The Picket Line offered a pensive take on Randy Newman’s even more caustic take on My Old Kentucky Home while Oldham indulged in a theme-friendly reading of the Stanley Brothers’ Hemlocks and Primroses. But, again, as a singer, Oldham did not summon much more than a vaudevillian feel for the vintage music with or without the sound problems. At his best, he recalled a young Rick Danko with the high, broken desperation that enveloped I’ll Be Glad, Easy Does It and a curiously sad desconstruction of the Sam Cooke soul classic A Change is Gonna Come. Oldham and The Picket Line deserve bonus points for pulling even those highlights from what was, aurally, a doomed performance.

In the end, Oldham thanked the crowd for “enduring” the evening.  And that the patrons did with honors. There was no visible audience dissent over the technical wreckage other than the occasional shouts of “turn it up.”

Up? This show never left the ground.

up a tree

It’s a benefit fit for a Prince, or at least fit enough for one to journey here from Louisville.

Tonight, roughly 25 visual artists from the region will gather at Old Tarr Distillary on Manchester St. along with music notables headlined by famed indie songsmith and Louisville native Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

The collective name for this gathering is Tsuga Art & Music, tsuga being the botanical name for hemlock trees. Therein sits the impetus for the evening: to raise awareness of endangered Eastern Kentucky hemlock tress invested by Asian insect predators. All proceeds from the event will go to Kentucky’s Hemlocks, an alliance of government groups, non-profit organizations and citizens working to save the trees.

The free part of the Tsuga show will spotlight paintings, sculptures, stained glass, wood block prints and more from Central Kentucky artists. The music begins at 8 with Englishman (a pop-folk project led by The Scourge of the Sea’s Andrew English) and the roots jazz and blues musings of local faves The Swells. Then comes Billy.

Over the past 15 years, Billy –  or, as Kentuckians familiar with his music know him, plain ol’ Will Oldham – has embraced an indie aesthetic for crafting roots-driven folk with flashes of punkish intuition and loads of Appalachian inspiration. Recordings from the ‘90s, when Oldham performed in various guises of his Palace Music persona, also reflected a healthy dose of pop-savvy melodic strength.

But in the role of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Oldham has clearly outgrown the Palace. Johnny Cash covered the title tune to the 1999 Billy-billed album I See a Darkness for 2000’s American III: Solitary Man. And in an odd but immensely enjoyable turn, Oldham teamed with the California Guitar Trio for a reggae-funk update of the Lynyrd Skynyrd arena rock warhorse tune Free Bird. It’s featured on the trio’s 2008 Echoes album,

Oldham sticks closer to his country/folk comfort zone on the newest Billy record, Lie Down in the Light, which hit stores late last spring. Still, tunes like For Every Field There’s a Mole, which blurs stylistic contours with bright, boppish electric piano, best reflects Oldham’s mischievous pop spirit.

The ever prolific Oldham already has a new album titled Beware! ready for release in March. A press release states the new record is “Stronger. Stinkier. It blooms in low light and cold but thrives in the sun.” Hmm.

The Louisville renegade string band The Picket Line will back Oldham at tonight’s Tsuga fest.

The Tsuga Art & Music benefit at Old Tarr Distillery on Manchester St. begins with a free group art show at 5 p.m. today. Music featuring Bonnie “Prince” Billy, The Swells and Englishman starts at 8 p.m. with a $15 admission charge Call (877) 367-5658.

Gardening: Your guide to a pest-free garde; Slugs, cats, greenfly, foxes… here’s how to get rid of them all.(Features)

Daily Post (Liverpool, England) March 26, 2005 SLUGS, cats, greenfly and foxes are the scourge of the British gardener, according to a new survey. More than 1,000 people were interviewed on all aspects of gardening, to celebrate the launch of UKTV Style Gardens, the country’s first dedicated gardening channel which launched this week.

Some 56% of people interviewed claim to be plagued by slugs, while 48% found cats a nuisance, 47% had problems with greenfly and 21% were bothered by foxes.

But solutions are at hand. Here are a few tips on how to get rid of these perennial problems to ensure your plants remain healthy SLUGSIn wet weather go out on night patrols in the garden with a torch, picking off the culprits and disposing of them. Slugs do most of their feeding at night after it has rained. site how to get rid of razor bumps

Protect vulnerable leafy plants such as hostas by putting sharp grit and broken eggshells around the base of the plant as it is emerging Grow more plants that slugs dislike, such as achillea, aquilegia, aster, geum, verbascum, Dicentra spectabilis, geranium, digitalis, euphorbia, nepeta, ornamental grasses and sedges Try to keep your garden tidy. Slugs like to hide beneath plant debris, old flower pots and other covers Place traps of half-grapefruit skins or large cabbage leaves in the garden and collect them up regularly. Other traps such as slug pubs – containers partially filled with beer or milk – can be buried in the soil with just their rim protruding CATS To ward off cats which mess on seedbeds and spray on plants, invest in a battery-operated device which emits ultrasonic, high-pitched frequencies when it picks up movement with an infra-red detector. The sound is not audible to humans A wide variety of chemical controls are available, including pepper powder and essential oils, aimed at deterring the cat without harming it Place transparent plastic bottles filled with water in beds to scare them off, or use old CDs suspended from fishing line so that they glint in the light and deter unwanted visitors GREENFLY Encourage natural predators into your garden such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, which can reduce greenfly numbers substantially If you only have a small infestation, wipe them off with your fingers or a damp cloth, or it may be possible to use a strong blast of water to remove them from the stems of tough plants If your plants are smothered, use a chemical which specifically attacks aphid and poses little, if any, threat to beneficial insects. Systemic insecticides are generally best as they are absorbed by the plants and the aphids are poisoned when they feed. This means it doesn’t matter if you miss a hidden few under curled leaves because they will still be affected FOXES Deny them an easy food source. Keep your rubbish in bins with lids on until the day of collection. Do not put out large amounts of bird food. Use special bird feeders rather than putting food on the floor. Do not use bone meal fertilisers in the garden. how to get rid of razor bumps

Deny them territory. Repellents such as Renardine, Get Off My Garden and others can be obtained from good garden centres or DIY/hardware stores. You will need to be persistent in removing a fox’s droppings and using chemical repellents to succeed It is possible to fence a fox out of your garden but the fence would need to be at least two metres high with an overhang at the top, and buried at least 30cm in the ground to stop foxes digging under it

night of the spankers

asylum street spankers. back row: charlie king, christina marrs, morgan patrick thompson, famous jake. front row: wammo, mark henne, nevada newman. photo by todd williams

asylum street spankers. back row: charlie king, christina marrs, morgan patrick thompson, famous jake. front row: wammo, mark henne, nevada newman. photo by todd williams

With local performances that date back to the summer of 1996, has Lexington been able to succinctly sum up the music and performance strategies of the Asylum Street Spankers?

No? Then, let’s give it a try right here. Take an acoustic troupe of Austin, Tx. musicians with a taste for blues, ragtime, gospel, vintage country and more. Toss in songs that encompass everything from children’s tunes to bits of very, very, very adult humor (sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll only begin to encompass the latter). Now, unleash all that onstage with a vaudevillian air that is anything but nostalgic. You now have at least a suggestion of why a Spankers performance is unlike anything you have ever witnessed – unless, of course, you’re part of the devout fanbase that has followed the band’s shows in Lexington over the past 12 years.

“It’s truly a remarkable thing that this band has been together for so long,” said the Spankers co-founder, co-vocalist and washboard ace that goes by the name of Wammo. Just Wammo.

“Before this, I never had a band last more than eight months. Well, except my first band back when I was 16. They rehearsed for a year, played one gig and broke up. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing.”

As it was a regular at the long-defunct Lynagh’s Music Club and the more recently demolished Dame location on West Main, Lexington has gotten to know a lot about the Spankers’ music over the years, from Christina Marrs’ musical saw interludes to Wammo’s affectionate mix of Appalachian murder ballads and gangster rap (on Hick Hop, a tune as mischievous as its name) to such curious social sing-a-long tunes as Winning the War on Drugs and Beer to covers of the blues chestnut Got My Mojo Workin’ , Harry Nilsson’s Think About Your Troubles and The B-52s’ Dance This Mess Around.

Not coincidentally, most of those moments are captured on a new double-disc concert album with a title that borrows from the performance tradition and vernacular the Spankers long ago embraced: What? And Give Up Show Biz?

The record was cut last January when the band, with the help of two alumni members (clarinetist Stanley Smith and violinist/emcee Korey Simeone), performed a two week engagement at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre.

“That was a blast,” Wammo said of the residency. “First of all, you don’t have to load your gear everyday. The gear stays there. Then, of course, we had New York City to play around in for two weeks. It was big, big fun.”

As Show Biz was designed to chronicle an entire performance by the Spankers at that time, it boasts stories and between-song narratives that may prove insightful, entertaining and maybe even frightening for novice and die-hard fans alike.

One such instance is titled The Bus Story, a seven-minute tale that details how Wammo and the rest of the Spankers encountered near-death experiences while separately enroute to the same gig. Clocking in at just over a minute is Gig From Hell, a radio theatre style scrapbook of nightmare performance moments that includes roaches scattering from stage monitors, band members climbing fire escapes with their gear to get to the stage and audiences that chatter incessantly on cell phones during quiet songs.

“Ah, yes,” Wammo said. “The gigs from hell. We’ve played our share of them, I tell you. Every moment of that story is true.”

Of course, the one thing that is continually new about the Spankers whenever the band plays Lexington is its lineup. Augmenting the core group of Wammo, guitarist Nevada Newman and mandolinist Charlie King will be three new players: bassist Morgan Patrick Thompson, drummer Mark Henne and violinist Jakob Breitbach, who goes by the stage name of Famous Jake.

The big difference this time, though, is who won’t be with the Spankers – namely, Marrs. No, the only original Spanker other than Wammo hasn’t split from the ranks. But as she is soon expecting her third child, Marrs has bowed out of the Spankers’ final tour of 2008.

So to compensate for her temporary absence, Wammo and the remaining Spankers will be resurrecting some of the band’s earliest material. Which brings to mind another highlight from Show Biz – something called Medley of Burned Out Songs, a mausoleum of tunes Wammo and Marrs simply got sick of playing.

“Yeah, we’re going to be doing some of those songs, too, along with some of the really old ones like Funny Cigarette (from the band’s 1996 studio debut album, Spanks for the Memories). We’re also going to be singing some of Christina’s songs. Working them up has been a lot of fun.”

Wammo said sessions will begin in December on the next Spankers record, which will be devoted to blues material. “But it will be a Spankers version of a blues album, not the typical white boy blues stuff.”

“When you get down to it, we’re very permissive. Christina and I have to be the bosses. But all that means is that we try to keep everything in line as far as rehearsals go. We don’t really tell anyone in the band what they can or cannot do. That can be tough in a way, because when you’re putting a band together, you’re essentially constructing a family. But you haven’t really grown up with these people, so you don’t know what their idiosyncrasies are. You have to get use to their weirdnesses, their smells, all the human aspects that come along with working and traveling with somebody.

“Most of the time, though, the Spankers are all chiefs and no Indians.”

Asylum Street Spankers perform at 10 p.m. tonight at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Cover charge is $15. For reservations, call (859) 259-2754


US Fed News Service, Including US State News April 19, 2007 The South Carolina Department of Public Safety issued the following news release:

South Carolina Highway Patrol L/Cpl. Donnie L. Gilbert, 33, was injured early Thursday morning following a traffic stop on Interstate-85 in Greenville County.

Gilbert, who joined the patrol in 1999, was injured after stopping a vehicle on the interstate. Gilbert stopped the vehicle after the driver made an improper lane change that forced a third vehicle to take evasive action to prevent a collision. web site greenville memorial hospital

The trooper was treated and released from Greenville Memorial Hospital.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has charged the driver with failure to stop for a blue light. Additional charges may be made.Contact: Sid Gaulden, 803/896-8409.

Sid Gaulden, 803/896-8409.

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