Friends And Lovers And Sisters And Mercy

I started this blog because I found a New York music scene that isn’t being written about a whole lot. I had been meaning to start a blog for a while, but couldn’t find the right niche to separate myself. Then I heard Amanda Neill from Barefoot & Bankside sing for the first time. Also, I began this for self-promotion. It’s something I’ll be putting in query letters to agents as I shop my first novel. My hope is that this blog will gain a decent following and the writing quality be exceptional to a sufficient degree so as to show off. In that regard, I’m ostensibly here to piggy back on very talented hard working people for my own gain. Truth be known, truth be told—as the Barefoot & Bankside song goes (and whoever else said it. Jesus, maybe? And who knows who He stole it from.).

I started writing because I thought I could be a beacon. I thought I might put a signal out there to all my lonely kin, and cull them in, so that I might be less alone. When I started I didn’t know that was why. I thought I was being a badass like Happy Harry Hard-on, Christian Slater’s character in Pump Up The Volume. That movie lit me up. That soundtrack may have been the ignition switch to launch me ever away from that trailer park. I mean, every piece of music played in the film was a revelation. Beastie Boys, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and Was (Not Was). It was the first time I heard that slow cover of The Pixies “Wave of Mutilation.” And the very first time I heard the voice of Leonard Cohen. In my younger, dumber days I fancied myself a spiritual student of L. Cohen, and self-professedly his most apt pupil.

I started this blog because I needed to. Desperately, even. I’m not a joiner. That girl, the one whose heart I loved best, the one who up and died, she joined in on everything. I only ever wanted to go to bars and shows and drink and joke and be debauched. She wanted community. She sought to help and support others, and she embraced the help and support of others. Then she died, like people do. I was set adrift, which is a natural state for me. To be aimless, to wander, brings me a measure of comfort. I wasn’t paying attention then. I thought her desire for a herd was weakness. I wasn’t foolish for thinking her inclination toward communion was needy of her. I was foolish for thinking that I am above that neediness. I am not.

Last week Mary-Elaine Jenkins pulled me aside to thank me for the post about her. After my interview with Amanda Neill (post forthcoming), Amanda and I went back to her place. We hung out. She eagerly showed me her song journal, and some ridiculous costumes her husband wanted the Roots Café employees to wear on Halloween. She asked what started me writing. I played that first song I ever heard of Leonard Cohen. She’s (slowly) reading my novel. Intrepid photog, Andreea who is invaluable in her contribution to The Road Southern, has told me both drunkenly and sober how thankful she is to be a part of this blog. I have since almost the beginning of this endeavor considered her its other half. And it is a favorite thing of ours when we get together to discuss the goings on of these BK Country artists’ lives. But, who put me on this thanksgiving jaunt was Miss Trisha Ivy.


I’m not sure how Trisha became a touchstone for me and this blog. Maybe because we share the loss of a loved one whose life was cut short. Maybe because I’ve looked at life as through the window of a moving car and for this brief moment there she is looking through her own car’s window. She’s hard to gauge. She’s told me she doesn’t mean to be, but one still wonders. I believe we are friends. We are friends. I know it because I went to see her at Friends And Lovers. Twice. I thought she was playing one cold, rainy Wednesday night, and I busted my ass to get to her set on time. She wasn’t even playing that night but the next Wednesday. I wrote it down wrong. That following Wednesday was just as cold and rainy, and I busted more ass to get through it. Her gig was part of the CMJ showcase. I wasn’t even going for the blog. I just wanted to be in the audience. One amongst others. I was joining in for support. I realize I’ve been doing this for all of them. The last Mary-Elaine show was just to be there. The same with B&B, and subsequent Alex Mallet sets, or Dylan Sneed.

I hung out with Trisha after that Friends And Lovers set. I believe this was the first time she and I did so, and with drinks. You know, like people do. I went outside with her while she smoked her clove. I was not dressed for the cold. Amanda and I have talked about how cool Trisha is, how intimidating her persona can be. She was wearing a black jacket, long dark dress, and boots. Her big blond tendrils licked in the wind as if she were under water. She was looking something lovely and dark. Though I’m older than she, I felt like a high school freshman allowed to hang out with a bad girl senior. She will say that she is not that cool—when she comes into Roots Café in frumpy, comfy clothes and hair pulled back. But she doesn’t know that’s cool, too. We talked about how Amanda shits artistic gold, and Mike Beck’s (her guitar player) love life. Trisha is exceedingly animated when she tells stories. She seemed the most at ease that I’ve seen her. She told me that night that I should loosen up. The gist was that I’m no longer an outsider to the Roots Family & Co. I believe she actually said that I’m “in.” Then in reference to the blog she said quite kindly and clearly, “We’re paying attention.” And I am made less alone.

I can’t imagine what these pickin’ and a’singin’ folk think if they chance to notice me among their audience, sitting still, looking down at my notebook, or stern face (I have a resting hostile face though I am an absolute sweetheart) lit up by my phone, which I also use to take notes, but I’m listening.

HEY!:

Follow us on Twitter @TheRoadSouthern

Like us on the Facebooks!

Instagram, too, y’all!

Contact us at theroadsouthern@gmail.com

No Rotten Apples Here

Last weekend TRS got to check out the Rotten Apple Roots & Bluegrass Halloween show at Union Hall.

Union HallI like Union Hall. Upstairs feels like a fancy college study hall. There are book lined wooden shelves. There is leather furniture on which to lounge as people come and go, and talk about comedic political news shows–in this muttering retreat. There are two bocce ball courts whose whimsy-seeming, deliberate presence feels a bit pretentious, more so than the books or the furniture, but I only say this out of spite because I’ve never had an opportunity to play due to its popularity. I love bocce ball. The academic atmosphere is a good cover for the music/entertainment venue Union Hall holds downstairs. It allows any of the myriad style shows, from comedy to techno-bluegrass, to appear as an independent study in culture, appreciation, and relevance to society at large. The irony runs high and sublime. I may not win any friends there saying it isUnion Hall 2 steeped in the brand of hipster that exults in the scholastic, the esoteric education that fills the pages of The Believer, and exactitude in knowledge of bands that will in time be as forgotten as any, or as played out as the rest. The establishment has an aim and it hits it mark. I like Union Hall. And if my back-handed compliment seems needlessly acerbic it is because the irony runs high, if not sublime, in me, as well. I used a T.S. Elliot phrase in this paragraph, I’ve had a subscription to both The Believer and McSweeney’s, and I write to you from my niche Brooklyn country music blog. So, let us go then, you and I, on this soft Halloween night, downstairs to hear the rockabillies, the fiddlers, southern gothic rockers, and banjo pickers while upstairs the people come and go, talking of comedic political news shows.

2 Cent Band 2First up was Seth Kessel and the 2 Cent Band, and boy was I pleased to at last hear some rockabilly! I have been hoping for this style of music since starting the blog, and was a feared that I’d have to make a special trek out to find it. Thankfully, it came to where I was already going to be at! I couldn’t tell if Mr. Kessel had come dressed up as a swinging rockabilly star, or if he was just himself. He and his band did a stellar cover of Elvis Presley’s “One Night With You.” On a side note I must give kudos to Alex Mallett (standing in on bass) whose costume consisting of a mix of sport clothing and business suit with loud, garish colors was dubbed “Clash Action Suit.”

Rotten Montge 2Second on stage was the Melody Allegra Band. It was Halloween, but it felt like my birthday, y’all! (I apologize for being blatantly corny, and dumb, and ugly, but most of you guys are dumb and ugly! [Sorry, that was uncalled for.]) A few days prior to this show I was openly wishing I could catch some fiddle playing in a show we covered. Melody Allegra Berger brought that fiddle! And she fiddled the shit out of that fiddle! To mine and the audience’s immense pleasure she closed with a cover of MJ’s “Thriller.”

B&B 3In the tertiary (Trying to get in more of that intellectual hoodoo I imbued in that first paragraph up there.) spot came a thundering Barefoot & Bankside with their usual earth quaking energy. A mummified Trisha Ivy joined them in a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s sexually charged “I Put A Spell On You.”

Up top, them's Dancegrass

Up top, them’s Dancegrass

Closing out the night was one of the most curious, and fascinating bands I’ve seen since that cracked motherfucker Matt Frye. Dancegrass was a banjo led bluegrass outfit with a modern as all hell twist. They plucked, and strummed over electronic beats. It mixed unsurprisingly very well! You can put a banjo over just about anything. Front man for Dancegrass is Alex Borsody and he put this show together, and got me and intrepid photog, Andreea, on the guest list—like bonafide journalists! So, congratulations to him and all the musicians for a great and successful show! Rotten Apple Roots & Bluegrass Halloween will be back next year, and, please, check out our calendar to see these BK Country folks out and about in the city.

HEY!:

Follow us on Twitter @TheRoadSouthern

Like us on the Facebooks!

Instagram, too, y’all!

Contact us at theroadsouthern@gmail.com

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!

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

HEY!:

Follow us on Twitter @TheRoadSouthern

Like us on the Facebooks!

Instagram, too, y’all!

Contact us at theroadsouthern@gmail.com

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.

The Alex Mallett Band and YOU

Tonight Help Crowd Fund The Alex Mallett Band’s New LP Eyes Wide Open!

7:30 @ Hometown BBQ in Red Hook

Eyes Wide Open

This man, this Alex Mallett man, is amazing at the instrument that produces my favorite sound, the banjo! I’ve seen him get whole Brooklyn crowds jumping up down to his pickin’ and a strummin’. He is a constant in the BK Country and Roots Family music communities, often playing with every other band in a line-up as well as his own sets. The man, the Alex Mallett man, is tireless. When I first started seeking out the be all of BK Country his name was dropped by everyone I spoke to as the man I need to see play. I have since seen his shows and they are stellar. Help this man, this Alex Mallett man and his band, The Alex Mallett Band. The deets are these. You can even have a listen to their first album right here! Hell, you can even check out a video below! I know I’ve just been clever (very) and cute (always), but, really, I’ve seen this band a few times, and I’ve heard songs from Eyes Wide Open. It deserves to be made and put out into the world.

This video was recorded at Jalopy, and is where, by all accounts, the hub of BK Country is said to be. Just FYI.

Roots Family Pictorialathonarama!

A Night of Song and Feast and Miller High Lifes

Pics by badass rad assassin Andreea Radulescu

Join us, won't you?

Join us, won’t you?

Roots Family Reunion is a night of celebration for the tight knit community of South Slope (and beyond) musicians, artists and proprietors. These photos are from the 4th annual iteration, and The Road Southern was damn happy bear witness to it!

God and Country!

God and Country!

Even God made an appearance to show support! But, then got way too drunk, way too early. I mean, He was ok. He didn’t do anything terrible, per se. It was just weird, I guess. A little too rowdy for the room, maybe.

 

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger‘s beard products looked so fine that despite having shaved that morning, I forced out a beard on the spot. Hurt like a son of a bitch, but thanks to them, I have the finest beard in Brooklyn. Go get your beard did!

 

That Moon

Moon Shine

That Moon in full shine.

 

 

Flirt Vendor

They have write ups in New York Mag, and Time Out New York and everything, y’all!

Flirt Boutique. I was hoping this was a kissing booth.

the Cornell BrosThe Cornell Bros.

Write your parents. They're worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Write your parents. They’re worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Ryan LammA little Ryan Hamm of the Barnyard Brothers, and Justin Kilburn surprising the hell out of me on steel guitar. (pictured right)

Gypsy George

Ladies and gents, Gypsy George!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Frye and Chris MurphyMatt Frye, whose music tickles my soul, and Chris Q Murphy who may become my Virgil through BK Country.

B&BBarefoot & Bankside. Jamey Hamm is the man who puts Roots Family Reunion together. Thank ‘im when you see ‘im.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

And Miss Trisha Ivy. I swear, I never would have thought a voice could be caught on camera.

Lightning Unbottled

Roots Family

The Road Southern's Intrepid Photographer

The Road Southern’s Intrepid Photographer

In an attempt to prime you for tonight’s Roots Family Reunion show, permit me to tell you about the last time I saw Barefoot & Bankside. It stormed and it thundered. These Brooklyn streets were rivers. I was pinned under a storefront awning waiting on an unceasing downpour, and so was everybody else. I braved the waters and met up with Andreea, official Road Southern photographer. She had forgotten her camera. We ate ramen noodles. That part’s a little lackluster, I know. Also, the rain let up and it was an easy walk to Union Hall, but the storm that had just passed was as nothing compared to the storm to come.

Sorry, just trying to set a tone.

We got to Union Hall a little late. We missed the first couple of bands. We did get there in time for Chris Q Murphy. He’s a song writer from Brooklyn. He’s definitely a student of Americana. At times he sounded country, at other times like those old bar bands in New Orleans I used to go see, a straight up rock and roll vibe as it was when electric guitar was just moving away from its R&B genesis. A supreme lyricist, his storytelling is complex and deep, yet easily accessible and understood.

B&B had been on hiatus performance-wise. Jamey Hamm had a newborn to see to. However, he and Amanda Neill had acquired an official backing band and sequestered themselves to a rehearsal space over the past few months. It paid off in spades.

Jamey normally did triple duty at a B&B show: lead singer, guitarist, and percussions. A veritable one-man band, this guy. He was impressive and great at simultaneous performance duties, and I am a huge fan of talented one-man bands such as Quintron, Owen Pallet, and Possessed By Paul James. Now he’s delegated those duties to exceedingly capable musicians. All of this has led to the blowing away of myself and the audience by Jamey’s full attention on vocals, and hollerin’, and stompin’. No one in the band was worried about timing, or remembering notes to songs they just learned. It was all muscle memory, which allowed them to open up, pour out their hearts and souls, and leave it all on the stage. Hearing Jamey’s vocals push up to and past what I’ve grown used to from Amanda was amazing, AND it caused Amanda to go even harder, which I thought could not be possible. B&B is a band busted out of its cocoon. It is no longer in its infancy and has become a thunderous force of nature.

Trisha Ivy followed. I was a bit anxious to see how this would go. B&B’s set was high energy and had everyone up and moving and cheering. At the first couple of songs the crowd had dissipated. This is not due to her actual performance. Those first songs were slower ones, the amped crowd was using the down pace as a moment to break. Trisha, a consummate performer, remedied this. She picked up the pace, she let loose her own voice. That there exists a monster in Trisha’s voice has always been hinted at in her shows despite how in control of it she can be. I was happy it was out that night, as I was happy Jamey’s own monster voice was out, and Amanda’s.

Roots Family 1In my notes that night I wrote down the best thing I’d written in a while, maybe ever. And near perfect, I think I’ve only touched it once or twice, so that its original form is 98% intact. Full of gratitude, wonder, and bourbon I wrote, “Tonight I am misty eyed at the quality of music put forth to me, and that by it I am filled with the ever elusive holiest of grails that is the present moment. I came to join and am enjoined by these talent filled, hope filled friends and strangers who connect me to my old world, and to this both fierce and gracious new one.” BK Country, y’all.

The Way Is Forward

B&B

Amanda & Jamey American Gothic Style

Jamey Hamm had a little baby girl. Amanda Neill bought Roots Café from him so that he could be a stay at home dad. This was back in February. There was little BK Country for me at that time, yet I still hatched the idea to begin a blog revolving around the southern/country scene of Brooklyn and NYC at large. I swear it’s that photo of Trisha Ivy that got me saying “BK Country.” Maybe something Jamey said or wrote…? “BK Country.” That sounds like a thing, doesn’t it? Feels like a thing, anyway. Thing enough for me to start this. Somewhere in that BK Country lull, I heard a song. It gave me the title of this blog, and once the blog had a name, lull or not, it was time to begin.

Right?

Right?

The first show I went to with notebook in hand was Trisha’s performance at Hometown BBQ. This was also my first trek into Red Hook. Geographically speaking, it’s close by, but no trains go there. Busses barely go there. However, my bicycle got me there in a flash. It’s odd when a city has remote areas within itself. This makes bicycle travel feel freeing. There were people I wanted to invite to the show, but they would not be able to make the journey without more planning. Not me. One pant leg hiked up to keep it out of the gears and with the wind in my hair, I got there faster than cars, even. Once inside Hometown, I said, hi, to Amanda and her husband, and took a spot at the bar. The interior of Hometown BBQ is that of a road house. Big open floors with old-wood tables. A couple of giant ‘Merican flags. They smoke their own meats in house. A ball field is next door, and a softball team was in line with me. There were families. There were fat old men and women. There was beer and whiskey. It felt like I was back home. Later, I would be surprised the owner, Billy Durney, is Brooklyn born and raised. A big fella, his attire struck me as “Walter” from The Big Lebowski. He traveled around the south, all of it. He said he liked what he saw, and liked what he ate.

Trisha IvyTrisha played. She had a guitarist, Mike Beck, that picked and strummed as country as any, but I found out he, too, is a Yankee, and a jazz trained one at that. Amanda got up on stage with her. They make a unique pair, Trisha and Amanda. Amanda who retains a Sunday modesty in her dress; very humble, but not at all shy. Trisha, with a measure of flare, asserts herself before her audience. Amanda, a raw and reactive nerve in regards to that voice of hers. Trisha exudes more control as she reigns in and unleashes accordingly. Jamey has this quality, as well. This is not to say Amanda is wild or impulsive. She simply gets lost in a song, and Trisha and Jamey are wise to let her.

There was a ton of food afterwards, and plenty more drinks. I got to meet everybody. Amanda’s husband, Christian, advised me to seek out The Lone Bellow who live in Brooklyn. Riding home on my bike drunk was its own liberation. Until I got to 4th Ave, it seemed like I was the only soul in Brooklyn. The air was chill, and at night even the Gowanus canal can appear charming. I thought about the idea of making The Lone Bellow a mission. I thought about Trisha helping to clean the restaurant after we ate, and Amanda’s new ownership of Roots Café. I thought of all the hours I’ve put into day jobs here. Work, toil, is not meaningless in this city. At least, not for those of us who came here with the wholly daunting and nigh-unreachable goal of becoming who we know we can be. A father. A successful business owner. A BK Country star. A real writer.

The song that brought me this blog’s name is not a country song, and not from the south. In fact, if someone had described it to me, I probably wouldn’t listen. It’s not necessarily my thing. But its post-industrial rhythms, its art-pop ambition, and its encouraging lyrics that never dip into platitudes give me a sense of trudging forward, maintaining vision, and keeping balance. It’s become my anthem.