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

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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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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

Empty Stage_edited 2

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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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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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?

HEY!:

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