Spaghetti del Alma

So, you guys digging The Road Southern’s renewal? I know, I know. We’re only, like, two posts in, but they’re good ones, no? I’ve decided in its new incarnation I’ll be doing some journal blogging (j’ogging?), because this site is my wall & I got all this spaghetti to throw at it. Spaghetti that’s inside me. Soul-sketti.

Wow, I had this idea of doing an epic stream of consciousness post, but it turns out I just wanted to justify the term soul-sketti. Shit, what else?

My after thoughts of the last installment, that being about Mary-Elaine Jenkins, are these. I didn’t recognize anybody at Rockwood save for MEJ & her mama. I thought I’d feel uncomfortable, but I  enjoyed it. Perhaps because most, maybe all, of the South Slope, Brooklyn singers & pickers I used to write about are gone. In my mind the community, as it were-as it was, had come to an end. This isn’t true, though. Roots Cafe‘s new operators are wonderful people: artists, photographers, & poets. The packed house at MEJ’s showed me the Americana scene is plenty strong & enduring. Good things.

It does not do to bemoan loss & vacancy in this city for too long. If I haven’t written before that this town is like a river, well, let me do so now. All that rushes out is replaced by all that rushes in.  All the good people I seen go are duly missed, but here come some good people around the bend. That’s comforting. Know what I mean?

Jeepers, I got a little deep there. What else?

I got a new bicycle!

Love, love, love,

J

cropped-cropped-test-header.jpg

One of the first pics I snapped when I moved here. These bikes & the one I’ve had for all ten years in Brooklyn are gone now. It’s cool tho, I got a new one. It’s better. Because rivers.

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Jalopy

Jalopy Store Front_edited

Jalopy Theatre. It’s also a bar. And a music school. I feel like a music school should have a bar.

Back in the first days of NYC I wasn’t aware of any country culture going on. I suppose if someone asked I’d have to have said, sure, there’s country/Americana/Appalachian music happening in NYC, because, well, everything is happening here. It wasn’t real to me. It was just a hypothesis that had an extremely high likelihood of being correct.

When I lived in Flatbush I’d have to change trains at Atlantic station. And one day while hustling from the B/Q line to the 4 train there they were. A moonshine-jug and shoestring band. They were busking below the platforms. All in overalls and beards. Actual jug being played. Actual washboard being raked across. Actual makeshift git-fiddle. Them boys in that outfit were singing songs from the blue hills. Their cardboard plaque requesting donations read that they were from Georgia. I listened for a minute, then dropped a couple bucks in their bucket. The damnedest thing, they were. I wish I had taken a picture.

Jalopy Bar 1I like what makes it up here to NYC from my sordid digs of home. The music. That one good thing. The racism left behind, the classism cast aside, that insipid conservatism slaked off to fester. (Conservatism. To conserve. To set in amber the status quo. Not even the present status quo, but revert to the old status quo. They are not conservationists, but reversionists. They want to go back. Back to what? Any time before now was pretty shitty for women, minorities, gays, children, and times aren’t really the greatest for them now. So, fuck the conservatives and the fundamentalists for their literally backwards aspirations. Fuck ‘em where they breathe. I thank you kindly for indulging this aside.).

Jalopy Bar 2So, yeah, Jalopy. If the moonshine-jug and shoe string band I caught busking in the subway was a sign, then Jalopy is the destination of my pilgrimage. I didn’t come to NYC looking for home, nor have I been so homesick as to wish something from the South would come to claim me. I’ve never been one to long for the days of yore. In fact, it has been my motto that “fuck the days of yore.” Go ahead and quote me on that. Jalopy with its dive-bar-chic barroom replete with an upright piano reminds me of secondhand music shops that are kept like junk stores in the south and my favorite bar, Freddy’s.

You can find it in Red Hook at the corner of Columbia and Hamilton. The music featured is primarily folk, bluegrass, and country. So, if you’re like me and embarrassed of the news that makes its way from your country home, and frustrated because you know those stubborn and curmudgeonly states are capable of so much more, so much better, then come to Jalopy and sit among the church pews of her theater and hear that new song from the old country.Jalopy Pews_edited

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Especially if you have shows coming up! We’d love to post your dates!

We Missed Y’all!

Believe it or not, this is NY City. There are worlds here.

Believe it or not, this is NY City. There are worlds here.

Brooklyn WinterThat winter, right? Am I right? It was cold and I hated it. Intrepid photog Andreea and I wanted very much to go to shows and be good bloggers for the people, but that shit was too cold and miserable. We are thawed now. A little sneezy, but we are warmed by the rays of the sun and these southern winds. We are heartened, god damn it, and we want to hear some new music and make new friends! And on June 21st we’ll be getting both. The Road Southern will sojourn on Governors Island for the second annual Porch Stomp! This is a daylong festival of bluegrass, old-time, traditional folk, roots, and country music including a number of workshops and masterclasses, shapenote singing, flatfooting and square dancing! Performances by over 40 new and returning acts from the greater NYC area. Some of them you’ve read about here in the sacred-as-all-get-out pages of The Road Southern.

We will be posting updates to this event as they are meted out to us by the event’s orchestrator Nick Horner who also runs Make Music New York. You can click that link for a look at what went on last year. I can sum up my expectations in two words. Hoot and holler!

Your fearless blogger.

Your fearless blogger.

But, you guys! This Spring, though! Riight!?

HEY!:

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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!:

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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!

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.

HEY!:

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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.

HEY!:

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