Coming Soon!

Been off the grid for a bit. Will be coming at you with the newness soon!

Things to look forward to: You’re gonna see our coverage of the Rotten Apple Roots & Bluegrass Halloween show at Union Hall, and it’s gonna make you feel soooo dumb for not being there! And if you were there, you’re gonna feel so rad!

Also, a new musician to TRS, the lady blues singer, Mary-Elaine Jenkins and her smoky voice.

This lady sings the blues, y'all!

This lady sings the blues, y’all!

AND some highlights of a candid conversation I had with Ms. Trisha Ivy, that she is unawares I’m reporting on!

Bridge Building

BridgesDylan Sneed organized an event called Bridges all by his damn self. That man will cull much magic into Brooklyn. You’ll see. Neither of us at TRS new exactly what it was going to be. Nor did most anyone else. Dylan’s description to me was that it would be akin to, let’s say, VH1’s Storytellers, or whatever. And I mean “whatever.” Because Dylan didn’t fully know. The first subject of the Bridges series was Chris Q. Murphy who I happened to run into at Roots Café. I asked him. He gave me the same “Storytellers” description, and a shrug of the shoulders. Intriguing.

Bridges 2My first encounters with Mr. Murphy were he playing along with other acts. I was introduced to him personally at Roots Café, and learned he is a music teacher in Brooklyn. It was also at Roots Café’s monthly evening of music that I finally heard Chris Q. Murphy. I attended because I was actually interested in someone else performing that night. I can’t remember who. I remember Chris and his guitar and his songs.

Chris Q. is a balladeer. He tells stories, and finely so. In this country/Americana scene in Brooklyn his music was the first I could connect with legitimately, technically. I don’t play no instrument, and cannot carry a tune in a bucket, so a large part of my witness to these talented musicians is that of wonder. But narrative I get. Narrative I’ve worked with, and work with for this here blog. So, hearing a complex narrative not only made plain and concise, but also set to music is its own brand of wonder for me. Also, strangely, it’s not something I normally go for in my listening life. In the thousands of songs I’ve amassed in my digital library, only a handful would be considered narrative or ballads (Ballad in its strictest definition, not 80s power ballad type stuff.). Perhaps because my life is centered around finding and working within a structured narrative that I go to more abstract or impressionistic lyrics when I go to unwind and have respite in a song. But when a story is good it’s good. Chris’s songs find significant literary achievement. He’s also fucking awesome on guitar.

Bridges 3So, I was eager to attend Bridges. It was held in an office space, which also contained a small record shop in the back—for some reason. Really, to get to Permanent Records vinyl record shop one must go into the office building, get to the second floor, and walk past a series of desks around to the back for the small makeshift record store. It’s literally playing hide-and-seek with you. A bit of this office space was cleared out and reset with café style table and seating arrangements. Music was first and foremost, but in between songs Chris engaged with the audience. He discussed the merits of a listener knowing whether or not the subjects in his stories were fictitious or lifted from real life. He passed out little notebooks and pencils and asked the audience to compare and contrast two songs that share themes but mete them out in different tempos and points of view. It wasn’t a class. Dylan and Chris had turned the concert into a conversation. Chris, a funny man, did well to make it breezy and natural. There was no PBS pretention of doling out lessons in appreciation. By the end he had everyone singing along.

It would seem that Bridges made its destination and was a success. TRS looks forward to more of such shows. Cheers to Dylan, and cheers to Chris, y’all!

Banjos & Guitars at Pianos

The other night intrepid photog and I caught Alex Mallett and Dylan Sneed playing solo sets at Pianos on the LES. What was heard was awesome! What was had was fun!

I very much enjoy Alex backed by his band, but this night I was entreated to just the man and his banjo, and sometimes guitar. I’ve noted on this blog before that the banjo makes my favorite noise in this world. Better than the bird’s song it is. Better than the laughter of a child it is. Better, even, than a whispered “I need you” from a fine-ass lover who lays bare naked, biting her lip, and ready to go. Yes, better, even, than that.

When it comes to the ol’ banjo, I like it best when it’s up front and in charge of the show. I enjoy to a lesser extent when it is relegated to the background and its purpose is to harmonize and provide a little rattle. And when that ol’ banjo is front and center, I like it two ways. The first, when it’s a slow dripping pluck like Dock Boggs. Secondly, damn it, I like when that tinny li’l sumbitch is banged on. Alex Mallett is a banger. I may have been sitting but I couldn’t stop my foot from stomping in time.

Sammi, Alex’s newly wedded wife, sang a couple of numbers with her man. It was a sweet noise, I can swear to you that. It was a sweet sight, and Andreea’s photos will prove it.

Pianos 1 low res

Dylan Sneed seems to have won over everyone in the Roots Family scene. I met him as a barista at Roots Café. He’s a funny man. Supremely easy going. There is a profundity to the breeziness of his conversation, and the soft handed acceptance of all ideas put forth to him. The more I come to know him, the more of the Buddha I see in him.

Pianos 2 low res

His songs are uncomplicated. This is a feat that usually comes from the studious, and the obsessive. When I think of Dylan’s sweet, James Taylor-esque tunes, I think of the main character in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Blue Beard.” The main character, Rabo Karabekian, is an artist who in his early career could paint photo realistic scenes masterfully. The artist didn’t find fame and fortune until he started doing more abstract expressionist pieces. At a gallery a man approached him. The man was unnerved and asked why Karabekian bothered with such “easy” pieces, and that his five year old child could paint this abstract stuff. Karabekian agreed, and said but the child could not paint this, and drew to a wonderfully detailed degree a real life scene. He then referred back to his new work on display, which was just a couple of colored lines on blank canvas, and said he paints this simple way because he has options.

Dylan has options, y’all.

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Notes From The Underground Bluegrass Scene

Pianos

Deceptively huge venue inside.

This past Monday TRS went to Pianos on the Lower East Side to hear Alex Mallett and Dylan Sneed do their singer/songwriter thing. There will be a post on that later after intrepid photog, Andreea, sends me her pics of the event that as usual capture the inner rock star of her subjects, and lends this blog far more integrity than it has earned.

This story begins after the show. Dylan and Andreea, sleepy-bear photog, called it a night. Alex wanted to go to this bluegrass jam session. I was game. He, his wife Sammie, and I walked the small LES streets where rock and roll youngsters bustled and smoked cigarettes. Little hipster fashionistas sipped insanely priced drinks in the gastropubs. They’re probably all good people, just dressed like dumb kids.

This area is also old stomping grounds for me. I was living in Bushwick still, but worked at a Starbucks on Delancey & Allen. Yeah, Starbucks. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the worst job I’ve had in this city. That honor goes to Buffalo Wild Wings at Atlantic Center where patrons would jump managers over fifty cent wings taking fifteen minutes too long, where customers would brandish pistols causing a riot—where one night detectives showed up to ask me if I recalled a particular person dining the night before. I did. Just before sitting at my table he had beat a man to death with a baseball bat and immediately went to B-dubs for a meal with the dead man’s credit card. My reaction to the news was indignant because that murderous mother fucker didn’t even tip with the stolen credit card.

Be ye warned: If you come to NYC with less than a professional transplant and/or trust fund, you will be humiliated. You will be humbled. You will be broken way, way down before you are able to build yourself up. So, past the age of 30 I was mopping a bathroom in a Manhattan Starbucks when I finally snapped. Well, I had just finished cleaning the bathroom. This nice guy, I mean it, he was totally nice and respectful, came to me and asked to use the restroom, and that he would be quick and clean and apologized for the trouble. I wasn’t even in a bad mood that day. Up until that moment I was fine. I’M a nice guy, I’M friendly and respectful, but for no reason, I told him, no. I told him to go to a bar around the corner that is friendly to most interlopers in need of bladder emptying. He apologized again and stressed that it was an emergency. This actually infuriated me, and despite the fact that I believed him. He had been in the joint all night pounding shitty, watery Starbucks coffee while studying. I flat out said, no. Meanly. I squared up. He, baffled and feeding off my energy, became equally pissed. It became a shouting match. I don’t remember what all was said, but I remember seeing his eyes flash in hate and his body language indicating he was about to shove me or throw a punch. I remember thinking, yes, hell yes! I remember thinking it is important that I either beat this man’s ass, or get my ass beaten by him. That is a badass line, but it is a profoundly stupid and shameful way to behave. He wound up leaving in a huff. I assume a strong need to urinate and good reasoning that this was dumb and I am an asshole led him out the door.

Sometimes they get my name right.

Sometimes they get my name right.

A friendly regular came up to me and asked if I was alright, as what he had just witnessed was out of character for me. He said, nicely, that in NYC it’s a law that if you’re open and have a public restroom you can’t refuse anyone its service. Which I knew. His tone had told me that basic human curtesy should have been the rule. Which I knew. I felt terrible. I kept hoping I’d see Mr. Full-bladder in the days that followed so I could apologize, get him some shitty, watery coffee on the house. I never saw him again.

jamboreeAlex Mallett and his wife led me to Rockwood Music Hall. We were all here a few weeks back for the Songs of the South show with Trisha Ivy, B&B, and Dylan Sneed. The probably-good-people-that-are-dressed-like-dumb-kids peopled the main floor. The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” welcomed us over the sound system. I’ve actually been having a Cure renaissance in my listening life, and was singing along upon entry. We went downstairs, below street level. Robert Smith could not reach, and just before I could lament not having closure with the favorable song, the doors to Stage 3 swung open and we were swallowed whole by the lively sounds of mandolins, violins, guitars, and banjos. It was a packed room, and everyone had a stringed instrument in their hand. On stage and off everyone in the room was playing along to old bluegrass standards. The scene was old, young, all colors, all creeds gathered up in a room. No one was left out. Everyone got a chance to pick a song, lead a song, and/or solo. Alex told me this isn’t even an nth of the country/bluegrass scene in NYC. There aren’t just scenes here, there are worlds. Comfort is not the reward of those early hard and humiliating days. Discovery is.

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Cracked Out

matt 3I have been hoping to see a Matt “Cracked” Frye show since I first saw his short set at Roots Family Reunion. TRS finally caught up to him at Goodbye Blue Monday. GBM is an old stomping ground of mine from my early, miserable days in Brooklyn. I lived a few stops down on the J train from the eclectic venue near the Halsey Station, the east side of Bushwick. Back then all of B-wick was hood. I laid in a tiny room I was renting terrified that I would never find a job. Sometimes I think I heard gun shots. If I left my building after midnight there’d be drug dealers posted on the street corners, and prostitutes displaying themselves along Broadway. One time a thick, busty lady of the night was trickin’ out in the rain in a next-to-nothing tube top and skirt. To would-be johns she called out, “I’m already wet, baby, let’s have a good time!” She politely refused my umbrella.

In winter, at our nation’s brokest time I was standing in job lines next to Harvard grads, and ex-Wall Street employees. We were all waiting in the freezing cold, the snow and slush for some janitorial type job. All of us turned down for some congenial 20-something. Disappointed and crestfallen, I’d return home to that little more than a closet of a bedroom and despair over the possibility of having to return to my home in Georgia and move back in with my mama. Survival in this economically bullying city seemed an impossibility. There were many nights of distress.

Five-six years later, I’m back in Bushwick enjoying the hell out of a Matt Frye show. A good quality beer in my hand, at the joint that used to be my haven for free entertainment and $3 PBR on tap. I arrived a little late because GBM is now out of the way of my new digs where I’ve yet to hear a gunshot in the night. Andreea, intrepid photographer, was already snapping away at Matt. Mr. Frye stuck out like a sore thumb at the Roots Family Reunion show, but there amid GBM’s antique junk, bad art, and random curios he looked more in his element.

I have described his music before, here. So, give that a look over and/or give a listen to the music posted here.


Matt is from North Carolina. Charlotte. I was surprised to learn he started out in electronic music down there, which knowing how the majority of southern folks are, I’m sure it was in some way a “fuck you” to his surroundings, to his culture. My culture. Our culture. Then he moved to NYC, and out came the Americana, the Appalachian folkie with the Woody Guthrie “trick” in his voice. Back home, my home, his home, shoddy lip-serviced tradition and commonality are shoveled upon one in heaps. It is no wonder we slide into our punk states of mind. A lot of who I am is because looking at my trailer park neighbors then, I only had one image of myself in mind for the future. Anyone but them.

Matt Frye 2aThat’s why books and Leonard Cohen instead of football and Garth Brooks. That’s why rap music and dressing gangsta—until that became socially acceptable to the rednecks who wanted nothing to do with black people as individuals, but would steal and appropriate, as ever, their culture. After that that’s why I wore chokers, and long hair. Because, wild aimless expression over agreement, over broken polite-society. I wonder what that proto-Jody would think of me now as I have succeeded in making it out of that town and into NYC only to seek out southern/country culture. I would tell him whether he realizes it or not, (he didn’t) he was seeded by those things he swore himself against. He could let those seeds germinate and take root in that place of lip-serviced tradition and broken polite-society, and become just another. He didn’t. Or, he could hold them close instead, buck the trends and traditions, give himself to the wind and see what new things can come of old seeds in other worlds. He can cull from the old a new purpose, new point of view, unhindered by tradition, un-buffered by commonality.

Matt Frye 1

Of course, Matt “Cracked” Frye chose that old folkie sound. Maybe he heard it as a babe, or a young man, but knew that it was America’s original “fuck you” music. They were bucking against government, and social norms/injustice well before rap, rock and roll, and even country western music. Of course, he imbued it with a modern urban punk sensibility. Of course he stuck out like a sore thumb before that crowd that came to Roots Family Reunion to hear that traditional old-timey music with their friends from church. He’s an intelligent, kind and funny man, but he’s also one cracked motherfucker. What the hell else was he gonna do?

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Matt “Cracked” Frye Live As All Hell!

@ Goodbye Blue Monday

Wednesday, Sept 24th

8 O’clock At Night

Matt Frye 2

Cracked as hell!

The Road Southern will be there in the flesh to snap pics, and think of clever shit to say!

Woody Guthrie will be there in spirit! And, Jesus, maybe–doubtful though. (See! Clever shit like that! [And this!{Meta!}])

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Viva Revival! (or something. hard to title this one.)

untitled

The proposal has been made that TRS go to church. Specifically Trinity Grace Church, where a lot of the Roots Family attend and have met one another. I am having trouble with this idea. The trouble mostly being that I’m overthinking it. We should get that out of the way upfront. You see, when I left my home in Georgia I had made an unofficial vow to never set foot in a church again. “Vow” is used lightly. I’m an atheist. I don’t go to church because I have no need to. I’m not actively refusing entry into any temple. It’s more in the vain that I don’t drive, so I don’t go walking into any car lots.

I have no ill will here. I’m not afraid of anyone being weird or everyone trying to save me, or witness to me. Honestly, I’m mostly afraid of being bored. That’s the thing with non-crazy, non-cultish Christian gatherings. The regular ones, the “normal” ones bore me to tears. Or have. It’s been forever since I’ve sat through any sermon.

Of course, I’d be in church every day of the week if Nick Cave were leading the choir!

I’ve been racking my brain to remember the last time I was in a church. It was probably the girl who is gone now. She was Catholic. After much cajoling, she finally got me to attend service with her family. The chanting, the habitual responses, the ritualistic standing and kneeling—I remember thinking “this is how Baptists think satanic church goes.” I also remember being unimpressed. My only idea of Catholic church at the time was from TV and movies, which made it seem so romantic, and holy-as-all-hell. In reality it was, well, more realistic; meaning, not very dramatic at all. The preacher droned on like any other preacher. Every “normal” service I’ve been to seemed so rote. Every day you work, come home, fix supper, and watch TV. Every Sunday you go to church, sit there, stand there, go home, fix lunch, and watch TV.

So, I’m about to embark on hipster church. I don’t mean to use the term “hipster” snidely. I mean to separate it from cool-kid church, because I hope that it is something different from cool-kid church, which to me was when they let the youth do rap songs, and heavy metal songs. Hipster church, and perhaps I’ll find a new name for it, is more millennial in my mind. For example, they might fucking cuss, because what would a god care? Or in regards to homosexuals, they drop the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” deal and simply don’t feel any sin has been committed, because what would a god care about anybody’s genitals? That’s weird, right? War, famine, women and children the world over shit upon, and the only things a god makes itself clear on is shellfish and where penises go. Anyway, I shouldn’t be writing about this while half-lit.

I reckon I’ll see y’all at church!

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All Work and All Play

It is not just out of laziness that I keep this post short, but the intrepid photographer, Andreea, kicks so much ass that I want her pics to run this entry. Enjoy!

montage 1

B&B Pre 1

Amanda was seriously fretting that her outfit was too revealing. Bless her heart!

The Road Southern caught another Barefoot & Bankside and Trisha Ivy set at Rockwood Music Hall, and it should be a surprise to no one that both sets were phenomenal. They let us hang around with them before the show. I got to hear Trisha Ivy, Mike Beck, and Amanda Neill practice a song in the green room. In that small room I found myself in a moment I had been hoping for since starting this blog. I got to witness a bit of the “work” that makes a show. Listening to their first play through, I thought it immensely pleasurable to watch them correct each other on notes that my lay ears thought were executed perfectly, then they corrected, and I thought, oh, Jesus, damn!

montage 2

To test out how good the sound quality is on my voice recorder I recorded Amanda Neill and Jamey Hamm rehearsing their cover of Shovel & Rope’s “The Devil is All Around.” The quality is on the low to mid side of decent. The recording doesn’t come close to the actual performance of the song, of course. I really love the feeling I got witnessing them ironing out any kinks before the show. Amanda and Jamey were about two feet apart facing each other. Both were keeping a close eye on the other. Myself and others were in the room, but Amanda and Jamey were in the song. Something about how quickly they correct themselves toward the end was where the bit o’ magic was for me. And, of course, I like the smart ass comments by band mates.

montage 4

What did give me a surprise was opener Dylan Sneed. I’d seen him play at Roots Café where it was just himself a couple times. He’s a great song writer, and exemplary on guitar. At Rockwood he had a full band backing him. They blew me and everyone else away. I knew he could sing and play, but it was something else to see him rock!

montage 3

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Eat, Drink, and Be Married

A gang of Perfect Strangers

A gang of Perfect Strangers

Alex Mallett LThe other night I was at J’eatjets’s bar. I was minding my own. Then I spied a drunken band of merry-makers clad in the same t-shirt that bore the image of either Balki Bartokomous’s cousin Larry or Alex Mallett. I believe I saw Gypsy George in the shuffling gang, and know that I saw Justin Kilburn (of That Moon) because he stopped and saluted me. It turns out they were Alex Mallet’s bachelor party. I thought to myself, huh, I guess things go on in these musicians’ lives without me. Imagine that. It got me thinking that since The Trisha Chronicle I’ve not been commenting on BK Country as diligently as I should.

Firstly, let us congratulate Alex and Sammie on their upcoming wedding!

Alex & Sammie sittin' in a tree, hopefully not interrupted by Chris Murphy

Alex & Sammie sittin’ in a tree, hopefully not interrupted by Chris Murphy

Alex04A few weeks back, myself and intrepid photographer, Andreea, attended the Alex Mallett Band show at Hometown BBQ that was put on to support his crowdfunding effort for his new CD “Eyes Wide Open.” I’m happy to report he made his goal, and the album will be let out into the world. Alex is a swell guy, and he and his band are excellent musicians. This is a fine and fair thing that has come to be in a world notorious for how un-fine and unfair it can be.

JD Patch 2That night, TRS met Hometown’s GM, Mitch Rosen, and on his advice the intrepid photographer and I returned the next night for JD Patch. JD’s show can only be described as a big ol’ time! I heard the old honkytonk sound I missed from younger days when at the juke joint of ill-repute in my hometown, a place called Mudcats that no longer exists except in story. JD’s music is quite a bit more ribald than these other musicians and bands that I have followed on this blog. He sings about drinkin’, weed smokin’, and skirt chasin’. I think I heard references to hard-ons. He even covered degenerate redneck David Allen Coe. I met JD Patch after his show. He told me he grew up an army brat. He also said he came to his good ol’ boy sound by way of being a hip-hop producer. I know, I, too, was like, “the hell you say!” He was flipping through stacks of records one day and came across some country. The twang just lit him up. I would have guessed he’d been rocking country his whole life.

Alex and kid at Hometown

I’ve seen a few shows at Hometown BBQ now, and expect to see more. It has a most excellent country vibe by design. I’m not an advocate of slapping one’s own mama, but the food is such that, well, you might just slap yo’ mama on account of it’s so goddamn good! The joint doesn’t just get listed in top-tens of the city, but in the whole country, too. I’m also pleased by how diverse the patrons are. Everybody sits down to Hometown’s share tables. I like what good food does. I like what good music does. And whatever hard-edged concerns I have leftover, well, I like  what good booze does.

The Intrepid Photog marveling at Google Cardboard

The Intrepid Photog marveling at Google Cardboard at Hometown BBQ

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From Here, Where?

I’ve been trying to write something, anything but this for the past week. The Trisha interview threw me for a loop, and sent me reeling. She did so inadvertently, of course. She said “started back at zero.” She said she was cynical and biting to the point that she hurt people. She said that after her brother’s death, humor became the default operating system for all her social interactions, and that she stayed away from any other emotions.

It was the starting back at zero comment. I hadn’t heard that exact phrasing before, not outside of my own head. Then she listed a shared symptom, humor as both sword and shield to fend off and defend from real emotions, and people, and how people can grow into you, and how people can suddenly go. Then she said how she was sad for ten-plus years, and didn’t even really know it.

I came to Brooklyn at zero.

There was a girl, and she was the one I loved the most. Many years I loved her. Many years she loved me. Then a freak bout of lung cancer claimed her. I left my home in Georgia, because the heart I loved best had left me. My world was made beaconless. It is a profound feeling to become untethered. Value-wise there is suddenly no difference between the raindrops on your face and a parking lot; between the others dying in the hospital and these very live ones going about their day before you. No difference between your best friends and shuffling strangers. So, what do you do? Shuffle on now that you’re the stranger, for the way is forward, is it not?

Funny thing that. Forward is omni-directional. Any which way I face from here is forward.

I used humor in my early days to stave off bullying in my trailer park. Then to win friends. Then to make her laugh. I was an atheist heathen then, and she a faithful Christian. The God-loving, life-loving girl would laugh at my darkest jokes. I don’t know how we got along so well being so fundamentally different. She could get me out of my head. It’s been hell not having someone who can do that.

In NY the humor has been to beguile workmates and others into believing there is a friendship, but what have I ever revealed of myself? Not a thing. Trust me, make people laugh consistently and they won’t want you to do anything else. It’s nice. Yet, an interesting thing has occurred. I do not joke or act funny around these southern souls I’ve met and am coming to know. The notion of keeping up an act suddenly becomes exhausting to me around them. So, I smile and nod my head struggling to fathom what else is there to say other than a joke. “How’s it going?” That sounds like something regular people say, right?

I made jokes about meeting Amanda (of Barefoot & Bankside) in an earlier post. I joked about not knowing if I liked her or not due to her unending saccharine hyperbole. The truth is I glimpsed a spark inside Amanda that I came to recognize because of that girl. I know Amanda will read this. She’ll probably give me a big hug, which is a less irksome thing to me nowadays. In a dark little room in a basement, I think Amanda was the first person I told about her. Believe it or not, Amanda was actually quiet. In a good way.

That spark is in Jamey Hamm, and Trisha Ivy, too. It is in Amanda’s husband, Christian (he read my novel, he said he liked it). It is there in Andreea, the intrepid photographer. It’s just about damn near everywhere if you can find the right eyes to see it. Their music, their stories, their photographs have become my right eyes through which I can glimpse a world still full of kindness, and joviality. It’s still somehow a decent place to live despite her absence. The road southern is not the way back. It is not the road home. It only leads forward from here.