A Love So Vast and Shattered

leo3A thousand years ago I was a kid in a trailer park hoping to hear a voice. I had thought it’d be Jesus. He was who all the other park kids were hearing. But no Jesus ever came knocking on my heart.

I watched the Christian Slater movie Pump Up the Volume, a film about having a voice. My young self ate it up. Slater as Happy Harry Hard On broadcasted a pirate radio signal out from his basement bedroom, and played all the music our parents were afraid to let us listen to, telling us we are all fine, we’re ok. Talk hard, he said. There I heard a voice. To open every broadcast HHH played “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen.

Back then, a thousand years ago, in my Podunk hometown I had to go searching desperately for Leonard Cohen. They didn’t carry his CDs at Walmart or Kmart. They had the soundtrack to the popular flick, but Cohen was not on it. Just a Cowboy Junkies cover of his song. However awesome the official movie soundtrack was, it wasn’t giving me the voice I was longing to hear. It wasn’t until I could drive and have access to Atlanta that I finally possessed Cohen’s album “Various Positions.” Probably the first thing I sought out and bought in Atlanta’s ultra-hip Little Five Points neighborhood from a record store that I’ll love forever, though I can’t remember its name. The CD doesn’t contain “Everybody Knows.” I bought it for “If It Be Your Will,” also on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, and the one to ensnare my baby bear heart.

I skipped school just to listen to the record over and over. That’s not an exaggeration. I did that.

I started writing then.

I met a girl, introduced her to his music. It helped more than I could to make her mine. We would lie down in bed and just listen to his records as we acquired them. We laid and listened through our young love, through our not as young love; through the parting where we remained friends, and through the rekindling where we finally learned who we are and what the words meant. We listened in her health, and in her sickness. I laid and listened while I mourned. “Suzanne” was our song, but “Take This Longing” was always my song to her.

I’m not much for pilgrimages, but on my way to meet a friend in Manhattan I passed in front of Chelsea Hotel.  I knew I’m where I’m meant to be. I wished she were here.

I have studied Leonard Cohen. I listened to his records so much that I don’t listen to them anymore. They’re all in my head. I poured over his poetry. I went hungrily to his ancient website The Leonard Cohen Files, which still exists to my surprise. I read both of his novels, and a few biographies on the man. I’ve heard a few things from his very first band, a Canadian country outfit called The Buckskin Boys. I read of his time as a monk on Mount Baldy, this Jewish man who loved Catholic imagery so.

I didn’t tear up for Bowie, or Prince. They’ve held my enormous respect and interest, but L. Cohen has my baby bear heart. His passing is the only “celebrity” death to garner real tears from me. Well, maybe Gene Wilder’s death, but only in tandem with Gilda.

Anyway, I loved the man, or the myth of the man we all delighted in. I’m glad he was at peace with death. It’s nice to think that death was kind enough to have made an introduction, to have sat and drank tea with L. Cohen before carrying him up to the tower of song.

Sincerely, J. Callahan

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Ruby Rae @ Hank’s Saloon

img_20161013_214826I hadn’t been to Hank’s Saloon in years.  It is a hole in the wall dive in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood. Or maybe they’re calling that area something different now, I don’t know. It’s a block or two over from America’s worst Target store at Atlantic Center. Maybe you know it as where Barclays arena is, but if you ask me about the area, it will forever be where that fucking Target is. What am I posting about, again? Just start the song, and get back to me below it.

 

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Garbage and Beauty. (The beauty is on top, the garbage is in the trash can under it.)

Oh, yeah, Ruby Rae whose refreshingly straight forward rock’n’roll performance has put me in this “fuck ’em” state of mind. A friend hit me up, said she’s going to see ’em at Hank’s, and that it’s near a particular Target. I said I know the joint. Hank’s hasn’t changed. Its Christmas-lights-lit ceiling reveals just enough of the found junk that adorns the walls to bring us to that exquisite place where beauty and garbage meet.

Front-woman Abby Hannan, I’ve heard it told, hails from Massachusetts, but I could swear by her rockabilly leanings that she rose up from the Okefenokee itself. Or, hell, maybe even cut her teeth playing just outside the French Quarter before or after Mardi Gras when them frat fucks or Daytona rednecks are gone away. Point being, she brought a rowdy and boisterous raucous to the tiny venue. Ruby Rae’s hard slamming fits and voodoo energy put a spell on the tiny and cramped stage, and opened it up. They made the scene feel expansive. Not like a bare and open plain, but the intimacy of a meeting in the woods where the wild is confined only by the outlying wilds. Such is the dark magic of good rock’n’roll in the tiny pockets of New York City.

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B&B’s Lastest Song of Their Lastest Show Ever!

As you know, Barefoot & Bankside had their last show ever, what with Jamey “Brother” Hamm leaving for Alabama and all. I recorded their closing song with my phone and futzed with it in some editing software as a learning project, and decided to show off my rudimentary skillz. So, please enjoy the very last performance of fan favorite “Make Me Stay” by Barefoot & Bankside.

Y’all have a good’n!

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So Long, Jamey Hamm

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It seems an apt tune as I reboot this little blog o’ mine. And, so, my apologies to the two or three of you that read this. Since the last time I wrote in these pages, Brooklyn has lost some good folks. It began with Matt “Cracked” Frye who’s down North Carolina way now. Then ol’ Alex Mallett wandered west to Kansas City. Trisha Ivy went on back to Tennessee. Now it’s Jamey “Brother” Hamm’s turn. He, his wife, and their brood have pulled up stakes, and as of this writing they are currently ‘Bama bound. Everybody’s going home, it feels like.

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Jamey “Brother” Hamm

While these folks were making their exits, I was working a lot at the shitty day job, keeping up with a nice gal, and trying to write a book. The blog fell to the side. There wasn’t any time for checking out bands, then writing, then editing, then putting together a multimedia post. Then the nice gal fell by the side. We hired new help at the day job, and I’m working less. So, now I’m in danger of having too much time on my hands. In the interim, I was sad to watch these musicians go. And, yeah, sad about the nice gal, too. It felt like the life I had built myself through TRS was dissipating. I suppose in actuality it was. I accept it, though. Not just because I have to, but because I understand it. The people of your life, they are a river. It’s like when ol’ Vonnegut wrote those three little words that sum up the whole of our personal experience in this world. You remember. He wrote, “So it goes.”

 

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Celebratin’ Brother Hamm

I’ll miss the music of those fine singers and players. And the conversation. But Jamey’s going home is a big one. His band Barefoot & Bankside got this blog started. On May 29th, a Sunday, he had himself a farewell show at Littlefield in Gowanus. It was, like most solidifying moments, bittersweet. Brother Hamm had been here for almost a decade, and in that time had made a substantial mark on the Brooklyn Americana music scene. Literally everyone I’ve written about in these pages can be traced back to having met Jamey “Brother” Hamm at his coffee shop, Roots Café, in South Slope, which he made a nexus of southern/Americana culture in Brooklyn.

 

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His farewell show was itself a musical history of Brother Hamm’s Brooklyn tenure. Beginning with a gospel duo he had started upon first moving here, he went on to fill the stage a la Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” with many of the performers he’d worked with through the years. It was, in short, a kickass night. A good way to see him off, as he’d picked the most appropriate way to see us off. I’ll miss him. I’ll miss all of them. So it goes.

Amanda of Barefoot & Bankside, and soon to be Amanda of just Amanda (She’s playing Threes Brewing June 22nd in a solo capacity.), now owns Roots Café with her husband. It’s where I do most of my writing, and I get to watch her welcome new folks to the neighborhood, to Brooklyn, to NYC. She makes them feel welcome. That’s a thing that doesn’t really happen to most of those fresh off the bus.

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Possessed By Paul James

And wouldn’t you know it, as I was wondering if I should restart this blog, a friend let me know that Possessed By Paul James is in town. I found this musical entity when I first started this blog and fell in love with his album “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely.” He’s out of Texas. And he don’t get much out of the Texas area, but for one night he was in Brooklyn. And I went to go to see him. And once again I was happy to see and hear an artist representing the absolute best of the South. I found myself back on that road home, that road that is home. It’s like when ol’ Robert Frost said those three little words that sum up the whole of human life. He said, “It goes on.”

Y’all have a good’n!

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Bursting The Banks

Christ, I think it was almost two years ago! Two years since I first heard Amanda Neill let loose that voice on a hot as all hell night in July. Two years since it thundered but did not rain. That makes this blog o’ mine almost a year old. Christ.

Anyway.

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CD release party at Threes Brewing

Barefoot & Bankside has released a live record. When I first heard them they were doing an open mic at Bar 4. It’s gone now, long gone. B&B, however, has been marching on. They’re getting better, louder, and, Jeebus help us, wilder. I am glad. Having seen Jamey “Brother” Hamm and Amanda stomp and holler in humble beginnings at open mics and then a couple months ago record a live album to a sold-out crowd at Rockwood Music Hall has been a pleasure. It tells me I’m right for hitching my wagon to these folk. You’d be doing yourself a favor, too, for giving them a listen. If’n it’s a review you want, you can go here. But, really, just listen.

I have two codes to download the album. Whoever the first two are to hit me up at theroadsouthern@gmail.com, will get to have ’em as I’m not picky at all about who the two of you might be.

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