Archive for March, 2009

in performance: the clumsy lovers

the clumsy lovers

vancouver's the clumsy lovers: jason homey, tyler thompson, trevor rogers, chris jonat and rebecca smith.

Early into The Clumsy Lovers’ return performance last night at The Dame, vocalist/guitarist Trevor Rogers remarked how the band was on its guard. After all, he suggested, how might the banjo and fiddle accents that drive the bulk of its music be received in the heart of bluegrass country? The catch, of course, is that The Clumsy Lovers, hail from that little known string music metropolis of Vancouver, British Columbia.

It was a fun, good-hearted ice-breaker of a remark – especially given how the Monday night crowd at The Dame numbered something like 15. What was curious, though, was how Rogers and company didn’t bat an eye (or an ear, for that matter) when they later covered Uncle Pen, a near 60 year old signature tune of the great Bill Monroe.

Canadians kicking up the strings is one thing. Go messing with the Father of Bluegrass in the Bluegrass State and even a docile crowd of a dozen can seem like an angry mob.

Luckily, there was no need for bloodshed. The Clumsy Lovers have long been adept at incorporating a variety of string sounds into friendly folk-pop environments. Taking on Uncle Pen, much like addressing the equally feisty Old Plank Road late into the sadly brief 50 minute performance, reflected considerable respect for the songs’ homey heritage. But the pairing of fiddler Rebecca Smith and drummer Tyler Thompson – both new members since the band last played at the old, now-demolished West Main Dame location – gave the tunes a crisp, contemporary dusting.

There were similar echoes of country and bluegrass even in such seemingly poppish originals as Is This My Life and Walk in the Light of Your Fire, which, along with the covers, make up the bulk of The Clumsy Lovers’ new Make Yourself Known album.

But the band’s primary strengths continue to be Celtic fusion instrumental medleys that bring up banjoist Jason Homey and bassist Chris Jonat in the mix to move the music along at a crisp, rockish clip.

That the medleys often revealed a surprise finale – such as, in one instance, a verse of The Beatles’ Octopus’ Garden sung with cheerleading reverence by Rogers – simply cemented the merry continental shift that occurs when industrious Canadians tighten up the bows in Bluegrass country.

critic's pick 65

pj harvey

pj harvey & john parish: a woman a man walked by

Though they have only cut one officially billed collaborative album before (1996’s Dance Hall at Louse Point), the alliance between alt-pop priestess Polly Jean Harvey and writer, guitarist and sound sculpturer John Parish extends back nearly two decades. Together, they co-produced two of Harvey’s finest works – 1995’s post-punk breakthrough To Bring You My Love and 2007’s devastatingly understated White Chalk.

Their double-billing on the new and wondrous A Woman a Man Walked By indicates Harvey wrote lyrics while the album’s soundscapes – which morph and move like a lava stream – are Parish’s creations. As a result we hear music that enhances and agitates Harvey’s willful storylines and singing. That makes A Woman a Man Walked By another masterful Harvey creepfest, in a way. While it’s not as pointedly frightening as White Chalk, it is every bit as ghostly.

The tunes that approximate White Chalk‘s eery quiet offer the biggest thrills. On Leaving California, Harvey sings with a hushed, almost child-like falsetto. You could almost call the performance vulnerable (an adjective one is hard pressed to apply to many Harvey songs) were it not for the singing of barroom piano behind her. As the tune melts into a wash of psychedelic color, the haunting vocals simply evaporate into the ether.

Harvey’s vocal quivers are equally reserved on April. Somewhere between upturned fancy and cautious confessional, the song’s demo-like atmosphere of keyboards and march-like drums underscore a walking-on-eggshells demeanor that Harvey sings of (“all that careful stepping, ‘rounding of my soul”) in a past tense, as if disaster had already hit.

Of course, there are points during A Woman a Man Walked By that sets all this repressed tension loose in the sorts of cathartic, caustic ways fans have come to expect from Harvey’s more brutal electric recordings.

The album’s title tune dishes the dirt on “passion long gone” with a narrative as primal as it is pensive. Parish’s instrumental coda, The Crow Knows Where All the Children Go, takes the song out for a neo-Latin spin that fades into friendly fire of piano and fuzzy, fussy guitar.

Even more immediate is Pig Will Not. Here, Harvey goes wild by repeating the defiant, personalized variation of the title (“I will not”) like a mantra before barking like a hound during the tune’s unsettled refrain. Parish then sprinkles fairy dust and the tune fades to plaintive piano. But the preceding thunder is still there, muted enough to sound like it has been locked in a closet.

Maybe it’s the fact that the hollowed ghost stories of White Chalk are only 16 months old. But the most disturbing and evocative moments on A Woman a Man Walked By are the ones that boast a similarly wicked reserve. Two of them, in fact, close the album.

Passionless, Pointless is a savagely beautiful break-up song that, despite its drifting cool of woodwind-like keyboards and Harvey’s whispery moan, throws down the gloves (“let the dirt fall, let heads roll”) so it can point fingers (“you wanted less than I wanted”). The finale Cracks in the Canvas is less a companion piece than a post mortem.

Not the cheeriest album for spring, to be sure. But the sentiments of A Woman a Man Walked By are as dramatic and real as those on any past Harvey album. It’s just that now the musical terrain has become more varied, treacherous and fascinating.

Groupon Comes to Chattanooga. go to site groupon portland

Entertainment Close-up November 5, 2010 Groupon, a shopping website that offers a daily deal on local goods, services and cultural events, has launched in Chattanooga.

“Chattanooga’s diverse collection of museums, cultural institutions, outdoor attractions and unique dining destinations make it an excellent match for the Groupon model,” said Rob Solomon, president and chief operating officer of Groupon. “We look forward to offering residents unbeatable deals on the best that Chattanooga has to offer, while driving new streams of customers to top local merchants.” “Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way,” said Solomon. “We offer the consumer a great deal they can’t get anywhere else and deliver the sales directly to the merchant.” During its first week in Chattanooga, Groupon’s featured deals included a sports cafe, pilates classes and a massage studio. Upcoming deals include a zipline tour and manicure-pedicure package, the Company noted. Chattanooga joins Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville as Tennessee’s fourth Groupon city. web site groupon portland

More company information: ((Comments on this story may be sent to

in performance: buckcherry


buckcherry: xavier muriel, keith nelson, josh todd, jimmy ashhurst, stevie d.

Just a few minutes into Buckcherry’s show opening Tired of You last night at Rupp Arena, an elusive but obvious revelation came to light – that this, despite any other stylistic tags you felt compelled to employ, was a rock ‘n’ roll outfit at work.

OK, so maybe that is not the most insightful estimation of what the West Coast band was capable of. But you had to deal with everything that came before – specifically three bands spaced over 3 ½ hours that dragged thundering, foreboding and ultimate stagnant tunes through a variety of pop makeovers – to fully appreciate the loose charm of a Buckcherry performance.

Of course, the modest Rupp crowd of 4,800 probably wouldn’t have known that just by looking at the band. Josh Todd, the generously tattooed frontman, along with mates decked in black, possessed that same detached, metal-savvy appearance as the bands that opened the evening. But as Tired of You bled into Next to You, the evening’s plentiful angst faded away. By the time Ridin’ upended the metal fatigue completely, the mood was all bluesy, boozy barroom rock.

Sure, some of the tunes – such as Onset and Too Drunk, not to mention the latter song’s near plagiaristic appropriation of a title and sentiment expressed decades ago by punk forefathers The Dead Kennedys- possessed the sort of cheap sex talk that seemed generically adolescent. But the makeup of Talk to Me, with guitarists Keith Nelson and Stevie D. at the helm, compensated with references to dirty soul grooves of the mid ‘70s.

Todd set the tempo, though. He was as energetic as any of the evening’s other vocalists. But instead of the drone-like howls of Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows or the over-the-top combustibility of Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Todd just let go. (The Virginia metal band Burning Halo rounded out a bill that began at 6:30)

Little of his performance dwelled upon choreographed aggression. Like the rest of Buckcheery, he simply locked into a groove built around vintage arena rock, soul and, at times, funk. With all that on his side, Todd simply let the music roar at a pace that was vital, organic and, above all, fun.

in performance: drive-by truckers

drive-by truckers

drive-by truckers: brad morgan, john neff, patterson hood, mike cooley and shona trucker.

It seemed only fitting that Patterson Hood was the first of the Drive-By Truckers to bound onstage last night at The Dame. Beaming unbreakable smiles to the sold out audience, the singer, guitarist and overall Drive-By driving force had been sidelined in recent weeks with pneumonia, causing a month-long postponement of the band’s first Lexington show in nearly four years.

And, true to form, Hood’s very obvious love of performance fueled much of the two hour concert, whether it was in through crusty honky tonk reveries (The Company I Keep), electric country laments (Dead, Drunk and Naked) or guitar hook-happy mood pieces (the Steve Earle-meets-The Troggs Southern Rock Opera rocker Ronnie and Neil). But as the concert commenced, Hood was into showing off the colors – both in musical texture and lyrical temperament – that now percolate around the Truckers’ best music.

The show opening Goode’s Field Road, for instance, was a dark rural tale of unavoidable (and unplanned) farewell from the band’s ultra fine 2008 album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. Against the tune’s bleak storyline sat the Truckers’ secret weapon, pedal steel guitarist John Neff, who added coats of plaintive country longing to much of the two hour show.

But then Hood and Neff constituted only two of the band’s distinctive voices. While Hood dressed his Neil Young-esque songs with Rick Danko-like vocal drama, co-guitarist Mike Cooley offered Keith Richards-level soul and mischief during 3 Dimes Down and Guitar Man Upstairs.

Cooley’s country spirit seemed more guarded than Patterson’s rootsy vibe in songs like When the Pin Hits the Shell (“I ain’t no cowboy. I ain’t going where I don’t belong”) while bass guitarist Shona Tucker all but channeled Neko Case’s sense of crisp country adventure during I’m Sorry Huston. She also let the band bookend her vocal lead on Home Field Advantage with blasts of guitar/drums psychedelia that borrowed favorably from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.

While it was continually a blast to watch so many rock inspirations receive the Truckers’ Southern fried makeover (a personal favorite was the Clash-like riffs that opened and closed The Righteous Path), the show purposely included a few unseemly but still vital tour stops. The set, in fact, finished with Hood’s You and Your Crystal Meth and Cooley’s Buttholeville. Such testimonies might have seemed disparaging on the surface. But both tunes simply made the Truckers’ new Southern vision all the more complete and compelling.

buckcherry in the big house


buckcherry comes to rupp arena: xavier muriel, keith nelson, josh todd, jimmy ashhurst, stevie d. photo by james minchin.

When it blasted out of Los Angeles over 13 years ago, Buckcherry exemplified – glorified, might be a better term – everything that was ripe and outrageous about rock ‘n’ roll.

In an era set in stylistic ice by the mainstream acceptance of post-grunge music, tattooed frontman Josh Todd and his guitar buddy Keith Nelson sought a shock to the system. They cranked up the volume and vocal howls, penned celebratory and almost purposely adolescent rock anthems like Lit Up and Check Your Head and watched rock music, in all its unrefined glory, become fun again.

And then, in a puff of predictable rock ‘n’ roll smoke, everything crashed. Buckcherry’s second album was shrugged off by fans and critics alike, three band members quit and, in 2002, Todd bolted – effectively nailing shut an impossibly brief career.

Of course, in what also could also pass for a scripted sequel to the adventure, Todd and Nelson found common ground again. They formed a new Buckcherry band and released a platinum-selling comeback album in 2006 called 15. And what was once the quintessential rock club band is now playing arenas and selling truckloads of an even newer album called Black Butterfly.

“With 15, it was like nobody was even looking at us,” Todd said in a phone interview last week. “No one was wondering what Buckcherry was doing. So we had to really dig deep and write the record of our career. So that’s what we did.

“We have always believed in ourselves and always, to be honest, put on lot of pressure on ourselves. We just knew we had to write and make a really good record in order to get back in the game. Now, with Black Butterfly, it’s like, ‘We’ve made a comeback. We had a successful record.  Now everybody’s looking at us.’ So that’s a whole new box of pressure. But once we get down to writing, we cast all that aside. We just wanted to make a great rock ‘n’ roll record from beginning to end. That’s always been our goal. Nothing’s changed.”

The Buckcherry story began in 1995 when Todd was introduced to Nelson not through a fellow musician, but a tattoo artist.

“Keith worked across the street from the guy’s studio,” Todd said. “He came over one day while I was getting tattooed.

“We were kind of leery about each other at first. We didn’t know if we would quite like each other. Then we started writing songs together and figured out we had this really cool chemistry, which developed into a great friendship. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, since then. But we’ve stayed together all these years. It’s like a marriage, really. I see Keith more than I see my wife because we’re out on the road so much.”

And, like more than few marriages, there was a separation. While Buckcherry’s 2001 sophomore album Time Bomb actually charted higher than its 1999 self-titled record, it sold far less. Critics hated it. By the time writing sessions for a third album commenced, everyone except Todd and Nelson had quit the band. Exhausted and disheartened with Buckcherry’s tailspin, Todd walked away in 2002.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, actually. I just knew, at that point in time, I was tired. Keith was tired. We just had to go our separate ways. We never really wanted Buckcherry to go out the way that it did at the time, but we couldn’t really control it. We had to step back. In retrospect, that was the best thing that could have happened.”

After his 2004 solo album You Made Me stalled, Todd reconnected with Nelson. First came short-lived sessions with Guns N’ Roses alumni rockers Slash, Duff McKagen and Matt Sorum in a band that would later become Velvet Revolver. But by 2005, Todd and Nelson had their sights set on a new Buckcherry brigade. The first three players they auditioned – guitarist Stevie D., bassist Jimmy Ashhurst and drummer Xavier Muriel – were quickly accepted into the lineup and the race was on to 15.

Alternately looser, harder and louder than its two previous albums – like latter day Aerosmith crossed with vintage Motorhead –  15 turned Buckcherry into the hit it only hinted at in the ‘90s. Singles from the album – Everything, Next 2 You and Broken Glass – were welcomed by rock radio. Another, the unexpectedly reflective and repentant Sorry, became a Top 10 hit.

Having performed more than 300 concerts to cement the album’s success, 15 hit platinum. Black Butterfly climbed to No. 8 upon its release last September setting the stage for a co-headlining tour with fellow Southern California rock troupe Avenged Sevenfold that brings Buckcherry to Rupp Arena on Friday.

Who would have conceived it? The band that seemed custom designed for busting up a club is now playing the big house.

“We got everything we wanted – a platinum record, a catalog of music, arena rock shows and a great, great career. And then we get to go onstage and see everyone react to our music. I mean, this is what you dream about.”

Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold and Papa Roach perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $39. 75. Call: (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

lights up in creation’s dark

the drive-by truckers perform tonight at the dame.

the drive-by truckers perform thursday night at the dame. pictured from left: brad morgan, patterson hood, shona tucker, mike cooley and john neff.

Three tunes into Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, a typically literate and lyrically stark album of rural rock meditations by Drive-By Truckers, sits a song called The Righteous Path.

Amidst layers of sweaty guitar tradeoffs and a rugged, unrelenting Neil Young groove, Patterson Hood, Truckers co-singer (one of three), co-guitarist (one of three) and co-founder (one of two) sings of a family man who knows plenty about the everyday evils of the world, whether they surface in the bills mounting in the mailbox or the very character and quality of the neighborhood that is crumbling around him.

“The brakes are thin and the curves are fast,” Hood sings. “We’re trying to hold steady on the righteous path.”

One might be hard pressed to call the song reflective of Hood’s life, given the presently healthy state of the Truckers. Already this year, the band has continued a lengthy tour promoting Creation’s Dark, served as a backup ensemble for Potato Hole, a soon-to-be-released comeback album by veteran R&B keyboardist Booker T. Jones and begun writing and recording sessions for what will be the Trucker’s next record. Hood even recruited the band members for his second solo outing, which is due out this summer.

 “These have definitely been salad days for the band,” Hood said. “We’re in really great form so it’s a blast writing songs to play. Everyone is being very creative. It’s lot of fun to see how far we can push things right now.”

But there have also been times in the band’s 12 year existence when cruising along the righteous path wasn’t always so easy. Compare, for example, Hood’s frame of mind when he cut his first solo album (Killers and Stars, recorded in 2001 but not formally released until 2004) to when he was working on the upcoming Murdering Oscar (and other love songs).

The former is a dimly lit selection of downbeat acoustic songs that Hood recorded at his Athens home. The latter is a full electric affair that enlists several of Hood’s Georgia pals, all of the current Truckers lineup and even some help from father David Hood, bassist for the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, longtime studio session musician and a one-time member of Traffic.

Killers and Stars wasn’t even supposed to be an album,” the younger Hood said. “It was more of an exorcism as I was in really bad shape at the time. I was going through a very painful divorce and the band was going through a terrible time. We were all really burned out from touring non-stop. Everyone was broke as hell. Everyone’s personal relationships were at odds and it all spilled over into our inner-workings.

“I was kind of at the end of my rope, so I buried myself in my dining room with a recorder and pounded out those songs in a few days to let off steam and, honestly, to keep from doing something really terrible and stupid.”

But, yes, a connection to the righteous eventually emerged. The Killers and Stars songs, which were written in tandem with tunes that wound up on the 2003 Truckers album Decoration Day, initially found their way to fans through bootleg recordings. That’s when Hood decided to give the record an official release.

“It was still being passed around, so I figured I might as well put it out. I was getting married again, so I used the advance I received for the record to finance our honeymoon. We came home expecting our daughter Ava so it’s a really happy ending to a horrible story.”

What else has kept Hood and his fellow Truckers – co-founder/guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooley, drummer Brad Morgan, bassist/vocalist Shonna Tucker, guitarist/pedal steel guitarist John Neff and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez – on the righteous path? Well the Booker T. album is a start. Titled Potato Head, it was cut in September and also features guitar blasts from Neil Young. This won’t be the first time the Truckers gave their crunchy Southern support to a recording by a soul music giant. The band also backed singer Betty LaVette on her 2007 album Scene of the Crime.

“They were both extraordinary experiences, albeit polar opposite ones,” Hood said. “I couldn’t be prouder of either of those albums and really hope we can continue to do those kinds of things. It makes us a better band and expands our horizons in ways that nothing else could.

“It also kind of connects me to what my dad always did. He has been a session player for nearly 45 years. I never thought I would experience anything like that.”

No bigger horizon was broadened, perhaps, that the tag that has dogged Drive-By Truckers since its inception. C’mon. You know the one we’re talking about.

The Truckers are unquestionably a Southern band. It immensely electric music is most certainly rock. But don’t chalk it up as a Southern rock band. Sure, the band has always loved to let its three-man guitar team rip, especially on 2001’s Southern Rock Opera album. But every Truckers record, from the 1998 debut Gangstabilly to last year’s Creation’s Dark unfolds with the kind literary detail and honest human drama that keeps the band light years removed from conventional Southern rock.

“It used to drive me crazy,” Hood said of the Southern rock shadow. “But honestly I think the last album kind of recast us and hopefully broke that stereotype once and for all – at least to anyone who actually listened to it. I can’t do anything about the folks who don’t listen to us.”

Drive-By Truckers perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at The Dame, 367 East Main. Tickets are $20. Tickets purchased for the band’s originally scheduled Feb. 24 show will be honored. Don Chambers and Goat will open. Call (859) 231-7263.

critic's pick 64

branford maersalis:

branford marsalis: metamorphosen

Branford Marsalis may be the most unassuming jazz celebrity of our age. On his splendid new Metamorphosen album, he all but disappears into a band fabric that owes allegiance to the building blocks of bebop. But over its 10 years together – a feat unto itself, especially for a working jazz unit – the quartet emphasizes a voice all its own. And, to be sure, it is a group voice as strong as it is flexible.

Marsalis’ presence may be out front on the album, but he doesn’t dominate the music any more than his solos intrude with grandstanding bravado.

On The Blossom of Parting, his soprano sax lead is almost a like ballet, turning gracefully around colors supplied by the tune’s composer, quartet pianist Joey Calderazzo. Later, on the album-closing Samo – one of three pieces contributed by drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts – Marsalis picks up the pace on soprano and dances about the tune’s group groove even as the musical pace and vigor pick up steam.

Marsalis takes a noticeable back seat here as a writer. His lone composition is Jabberwocky, a tune offering a typically alert and unrelenting sense of swing as well as a tasty sampler of round-robin solos by the band. But there is a surprise. It’s not until Marsalis’ rich solo rises in temperament and tone at the halfway point that you realize he is playing alto sax for the first time on record in ages.

The nod to tradition comes in a suitably playful update of Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-a-Ning and the jolly, broken stroll of bassist Eric Revis’ animated companion piece, Sphere. But you sense a more solemn view of jazz history in the taut, Mingus-like phrasing on Revis’ solo bass interlude And Then, He Was Gone as well as in the list of recently departed jazz giants Marsalis dedicates the album to. Among them: Max Roach, Alvin Batiste, Frank Morgan, Oscar Peterson, David “Fathead” Newman, Joe Zawinul, Andrew Hill and others.

Such inspirations may have helped shape Metamorphosen. But Marsalis’ group voice sounds so naturally developed on the album that his most open and direct influences are those that come from the quartet’s own ranks.

jeff "tain" watts:

jeff "tain" watts: watts

The roles reverse on a stunning new Watts album called, simply, Watts. Here, Marsalis seems to equally relish the role of support sax man for the drummer he has played alongside since the early bands of his celebrated younger sibling, Wynton Marsalis.

Curiously, Watts and Metamorphosen lead off with the same tune, a bouncing bit of rhythmic mischief titled The Return of the Jitney Man. On Metamorphosen, Marsalis plays off Calderazzo’s piano rolls. On Watts, he spars with trumpet ace Terence Blanchard on a version full of cunning and muscle that the drummer more than matches throughout the album.

Omnipresent bass star Christian McBride rounds out Watts‘ all-star quartet and all but steals the show with two sly, soul savvy introductions to the funky Dancin’ 4 Chicken.

A demented So What variation called  The Devil’s Ring Tone and the Lou Donaldson-esque strut of Brekky with Drecky round out Marsalis’ working holiday on the rhythmically treacherous but immensely engaging avenues of Watts.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms

breakfast at sulimay's

joe, ann and bill

joe, ann and bill of "breakfast at sulimay's" with unsuspecting victim caleb followill of kings of leon

Friends have been telling me about Breakfast at Sulimay’s for weeks. But it wasn’t until I was provided a link from another website over the weekend that the program fell into my laptop. If you have 5 minutes to kill, it’s worth a click.

Sulimay’s is a diner “in the heart of Fishtown,” meaning Philadelphia. There, three seniors by the names of Bill (the cheeriest), Ann (the one with the dirtiest mouth) and Joe (seemingly the most introspective; that’s probably why he looks perpetually worried) gather to give capsule reviews of music that is at least one generation removed from the hits they grew up with.

Not surprisingly, they tend to dislike everything. Ann seemed smitten with Bruce Springsteen’s The Wrestler (“for an old man, he’s got a good voice”), but Bill was less than enthused with Kings of Leon’s Crawl (“they didn’t drink enough Jack Daniel’s”).

So far, our makeshift critics have dished dirt on new tunes by Beirut, Sepultura, Animal Collective, Young Jeezy, Beck and Dr. Dog, among others.

The Sulimay’s setting is about as down home and low-fi as you could ask for with waitresses regularly strolling back and forth in front of the camera. And in the last few episodes, two boxes of Girl Scout cookies sat in front of our critics. Perhaps that was their stipend.

Don’t view Bill, Ann and Joe as narrow-minded. Don’t dismiss them as cranks. And for God’s sake, don’t take them seriously. But do pull up a stool, have a cup of coffee and enjoy, at least once, the good hearted generational pop culture clash that is Breakfast at Sulimay’s.


The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) May 6, 1998 | Merri Lou Dobler Staff writer Written words from our children are gifts to treasure. And so, as this Mother’s Day weekend approaches, I share with you a brief essay my 10-year-old daughter wrote when she joined me at the newspaper for Take Our Daughters to Work Day. website taco salad recipe

May it help you remember with great fondness the Mother’s Day gifts you have received through the years.

My Parents and Food By Tulli Dobler My parents think they know everything, but they really don’t. They go to the store to get some food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and an after-school snack. But whatever they get, I often don’t like. I usually end up telling my mom what to buy for me at the store. If I didn’t tell her, she might choose sushi (for dinner), goat cheese (for lunch) and Fig Newtons (I hate Fig Newtons) for an after-school snack. They will ask me, “What’s wrong with this food?” Sure, I like nutritious food, but some sugar and sweets every now and then can’t hurt. For dinner, a nutritious pile of spaghetti, tacos or a slice of pizza sounds good to me. For lunch, a turkey sandwich with lettuce and a side of Jell-O, and crackers with cheese appeals to me. And for an after-school snack, chocolate chip cookies with milk and strawberries satisfies my friends and me. What really makes me mad is that my parents never learn! I tell them over and over again to buy foods I like, and they come back with tofu and tomato juice. They say that the foods I want are too expensive (like Ho-Ho’s, Twinkies and Nutty Bars). So I go to the store to see what is less expensive. I write it down and give it to my parents. But then they don’t read the list! Here’s a taco salad recipe that has cheese – but not goat cheese – and steers clear of tofu, sushi and fig bars. Taco Salad From “The New York City Marathon Cookbook,” by Nancy Clark (Rutledge Hill Press, 1994). 1/2 to 1 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef or turkey 1 packet taco seasoning 1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained 6 ounces fat-free or low-fat tortilla chips 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese 4 cups shredded lettuce 1 cup sliced fresh tomatoes Optional garnish: salsa, low-fat sour cream, guacamole In a skillet, brown the beef or turkey over medium-high heat. Drain the fat. Add the taco seasoning and beans and heat through. In a 2-quart casserole dish, layer in order the tortilla chips, meat mixture, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Top with a dollop of salsa, low-fat sour cream or guacamole if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings. Nutrition information per serving (using extra-lean ground beef): 425 calories, 13 grams fat (28 percent fat calories), 48 grams carbohydrate, 30 grams protein. go to web site taco salad recipe

Merri Lou Dobler Staff writer

current listening 03/21

xtc: "the big express" (1984)

xtc: "the big express" (1984)

XTC: The Big Express (1984): I devoured this album when it came out – gulp! – 25 years ago. But in contrast to most early ‘80s pop, The Big Express – with all its proud melodic strength, bell-ringing guitar blasts and doomsday lyrics – sounds like it could have been cut yesterday. In fact, the jagged, polyphonic funk of the finale Train Running Low on Soul Coal still sounds ahead of its time.

king crimson

king crimson: "starless and bible black" (1974)

King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black (1974): Robert Fripp and company continue to release such a wealth of vintage live recordings via their website ( that one tends of lose sight of the studio works that underscored Crimson’s innovative strengths in the first place. Starless and Bible Black has it all: wondrous pop deviation, expert instrumentation and keen improvisatory insight.

the chieftains: "the chieftains 8" (1978)

the chieftains: "the chietains 8"

The Chieftains: The Chieftains 8 (1978): You could make a case for naming any of a dozen albums as The Chieftains’ best. While 8 probably isn’t No. 1, it’s close. It offered major leaps for Paddy Moloney as a writer, arranger and overall Irish folk mood maker. The beautiful Sea Image, in particular, made its way some years later into the wondrous James Farnsworth film The Grey Fox. Enchanting stuff.

jorma kaukonen

jorma kaukonen: "river of time" (2009)

Jorma Kaukonen: River of Time (2009): Anyone else find it amazing that one of the most blazingly evil sounding electric guitarists of the late psychedelic ‘60s would enjoy a second life today through acoustic folk, blues and country roots music? Maybe that’s because those elements were always there even in Kauokonen’s oldest, darkest music. But they thrive in such an unencumbered acoustic setting as River of Time.

charles wright and the watts 103rd street rhythm band: "express yourself" (1993)

charles wright and the watts 103rd street rhythm band: "express yourself" (1993)

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (1993): A little bit of  James Brown, a whole lot of Sly Stone and a touch of Tower of Power make up the expert R&B sides, all cut between 1967 and 1972, on this sublime anthology. This is something of a rite-of-spring album for me. When the weather warms up, nothing beats a Sunday drive with the Watts Band’s sunny soul turned up full blast.

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the fabulous fellinis

chico fellini: chris dennison, emily hagihara, duane lundy, brandon judd.

chico fellini: chris dennison, emily hagihara, duane lundy, brandon judd. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

On a makeshift stage area at Shangri-La Studio, Chico Fellini is ripping through a taut pop and rock tune titled Despite the Mix Up. There’s no audience at hand, save for a few friends, photographers and studio hands. And the performance time, by rock ‘n’ roll standards, is unearthly early – about 6 p.m.

Yet within three minutes, the tune has offered a primer on the Lexington band’s new album, a glimpse of its pop preferences and even, despite the largely unpopulated room, a healthy view of its performance smarts.

Despite the Mix Up, as it turns out, is something of a calling card for the band. As the lead-off song to a self-titled debut album that Chico Fellini recorded within these very walls over the past 16-or-so months, the music is ripe with a guitar/drum stutter and melodic drive that modestly suggests ‘80s post-punk pop. But there are also fat bursts of bass that beef up the fun and vocals, as well as ensuing harmonies, that present its pop confidence with a nervously operatic and unapologetically melodramatic flair.

Lyrical. Loose. Anthemic. Confident. Restless. These are the seemingly contradictory virtues of a band that has established a local presence through a surprisingly limited number of performances. But with a commanding new album and a tour that will initially take its members to Chicago before a massive local celebration this weekend at The Dame, Chico Fellini is sending out an assertive invitation on its music to audiences at home and, hopefully, way, way beyond.

“The thing this band tends to do really, really well is evoke a release of a particular emotional element,” said Chico Fellini guitarist Duane Lundy, who operates Shangri-La. He also served as producer for the Chico Fellini album. “I’m not concerned with any sort of pristine quality in how we play live. All I want to do is bring as much emotional and entertainment content as we can to what we do.

“But it’s not some sort of carny element or some obvious kind of rock thing. I want people to come to the shows and base their night around this, where they’re not just stopping in to watch a couple of songs.”

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Meeting Chico

Chico Fellini isn’t a band whose four members came together at once. Lundy heard singer Christopher Dennison singing in the Lexington band King Friday and started searching for a project they could collaborate on.

“I actually grew up listening to gospel music,” Dennison said. “That taught me a lot about harmony. That taught me how to listen. But I’ve always had a love for all kinds of music, from opera to Broadway to rock.”

Once drummer Brandon Judd, who was part of the team that constructed, opened and established the original location of The Dame on West Main, joined, the band began to perform sparingly in local clubs as a trio.

One of the initial suggestions for a name was The Fellinis, which Lundy saw as a Ramones-like moniker where members would adopt stage names that ended with Fellini. The idea was jettisoned when it was discovered a jazz band called The Fellinis was already established in New York.

“My name as a potential Fellini was going to be Chico,” Lundy said. “So that stuck.”

One of the band’s initial trio shows caught the attention of Emily Hagihara. An established presence on the local scene through her own recordings (including 2007’s Marbles, which Lundy produced) and collaborative projects (most notably, recordings and remixes with Lexington’s Sexual Disaster Quartet), Hagihara was also finishing studies on a music performance degree at the University of Kentucky when the offer came to join Chico Fellini.

“I saw a show of theirs at The Dame,” Hagihara recalled. “I was immediately taken with Uli (which became the closing song on the band’s new album). It had this really sleek guitar line. But what really struck me were the vocals.

“It took me a little while to decide whether it was something I wanted to do because I was still involved with several other projects. But I liked the band so much that I gave it a try. We ended up hitting it off.”

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On record

Recording was a priority for the quartet version of Chico Fellini.

“The original intent was to record, be very direct about it and get the album done in three or four months,” Lundy said. “But I didn’t think that was possible.

“It was a long time in the making,” Hagihara said of the Chico Fellini album. “But I think that was really healthy. We went into it really headstrong and then took a break. We came back with fresh ears and a more definitive idea of where we wanted to go and how we wanted it to sound.

Dennison’s summation of the recordings sessions: “A lot of fun. A lot of humor. A lot of hard work.”

Lundy said doubling as producer and band member presented numerous challenges, especially when it came to mixing the album. But the other Chico Fellini members said his dual role was vital to the album’s (and, for that matter, the band’s) overall sound.

“Through a lot of the writing of the songs, Duane would have his producer thing going on in the back of his head,” said drummer Judd. “There was always this idea while we were writing of, ‘How is this going to translate on tape?’ Like, when Emily brings in songs, I’m automatically thinking, ‘What is the studio side of this going to sound like?’

“But I didn’t have to worry about that or about how I was going translate drums in the songs. It has helped me out tons just to be able to write with a producer in the band.”

“The hardest thing was trying to decide what kind of a wrapping the songs would get,” Lundy said. “We would wave a pretty critical wand over anything that was too literal. So that’s what we tried not to do.

“There can be a certain level of cheese under something that’s really special. The trick is to avoid that layer and make sure what is delivered is not going to be fluff or trite.”

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The next step

Chico Fellini has had opportunities – sometimes significant ones – to play outside Lexington. It has performed at Austin, Tx.’s massive and prestigious South By Southwest and will play next week, for the second time, at the Mercury Lounge in New York.

But local gigs have been far from plentiful. A disastrous 2008 that saw the close and eventually relocation The Dame, along with a crippling economy, haven’t helped.

“Part of the problem, as in any college town, is that Lexington is a kind of jumping off point,” Judd said. “People go to college, they form a band and maybe make an album. Then, just after the album comes out, they get that magazine gig in New York, they leave and the band breaks up. I’ve seen that happen a couple of times.”

“It just hard to be in a band where you play once every four months in your hometown,” Lundy added. “Those are the only opportunities we’ve been given. That’s not to say venues haven’t been nurturing for us. But it feels like we’re re-starting everything every single time we play.”

Helping keep the band visible locally this year will be monthly performances at The Green Lantern on West 3rd St. Beyond that, what lies ahead for Chico Fellini the band may well be determined by Chico Fellini the album.

“We definitely have more confidence now under our belts,” said Hagihara. “Getting past the first album and all the time we put into it… we’re just more driven now.”

“The band instantaneously got better as soon as the masters (the album’s master recordings) came back,” Lundy said. “When the mastering process was done, it was like a release. That portion of that chapter was behind us. It was time to rediscover the songs.”

Remaining consistent before, during and after the recording process has been Chico Fellini’s sense of band spirit. You hear it readily in the simpatico of its more immediate songs, like Despite the Mix Up and No Strata. But as the four members converse outside the Shangri-La studio a day before hitting the road for a show at Chicago’s Double Door, what is communicated isn’t so much a formal band spirit as a simple but very obvious friendship.

“Honestly, I’m so grateful for the people in this band,” Dennison said. “We’re all great friends. I love just hanging out with them.”

“We all enjoy being around each other,” Hagihara said. “Even outside of rehearsal. Any night of the week we’re having dinner or just hanging out. Coming to rehearsal is something I look forward to every week.”

“Writing, performing, recording – all those other things are secondary to the fact that I just want to spend time with these people. I can’t see any long term relationship for a band without the origin being anything other than that.”

Chico Fellini perfoms at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Dame, 367 East Main with Jupiter One and Oblio. Cover charge is $6. Call: (859) 231-7263.

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