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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Ivy, Beck & Neill and The Alex Mallett Band To Release Live Albums–This Freakin’ Saturday!

As I’ve written before Andreea and I have been privy to the process of Ivy, Beck & Neill’s putting together a live concert recording. Early in the year Trisha Ivy idly asked me if I thought a live recording was possible. To which I said, “Probably, or maybe not. I don’t know, but, yeah, sure, I guess.” Because I’m dumb, folks! I don’t know how such a thing works and anyways she wasn’t asking for my wisdom, nor cared. She was just thinking out loud. A couple months later, she, Mike Beck, and Amanda Neill recorded a live album at Rockwood Music Hall—that’s in New York City, y’all! And now we’re super pleased to announce:

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Alex6In conjunction The Alex Mallett Band will be releasing their own album, and you know TRS loves those guys! If you’re in Brooklyn, come out to Red Hook, and get rocked in the face by these country/americana singers and pickers.Eyes Wide Open

The album release show is this Saturday at Jalopy Theatre! Doors open at 7:30. Get advanced tickets as every performer is beloved, and as such their show is likely to sell out.

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

The Kentucky Girl

Hit play on this song. Turn it up. All the way.

I have said that my first living experience in Brooklyn was a lonely little room on the east side of Bushwick among the prostitutes and the drug dealers. It was just me making a solitary go at existing in NYC. When I left my home in Georgia, I was broken, emptied, and too numb to be desperate. That girl that I loved best had recently died. That’s how I came to Brooklyn.

Alex6The hard, early times were, indeed, hard. But the numbness helped to mediate how shitty being a newcomer to NY can be. It’s like trying to bully a kid who already couldn’t give a fuck. People here resent the grind. Yet, it was the grind that got me through those early years. The grind is a river. You have to not fight it. You have let go of the bank, get in the flow. I lost a lot of weight in those days. It’s a lot of exercise to be in this city with no car, daily hustling to find work, to keep work. There were times when I couldn’t afford to put any money on my MTA card. I had to eat less. I had to choose wisely what I did eat. Trying not to subsist on just Ramen noodles, I went through a lot of beans and rice.

B&B Pre 1When I finally found a decent job at a fancy-ish patisserie in Cobble Hill, where I first met Amanda Neill, I didn’t feel fit, or “in shape.” I felt wind sheared. I’m not a particularly prideful person, but I know I earned my place in NYC. With the comfort of the new decent job, and the constant worry about money, rent, and food abating, the loneliness set in. Not that I didn’t have friends. It was that I didn’t have her, I didn’t have that. I finally began to grieve. Depression set in. I felt that I had drifted too far out from people. I felt like I was perceiving every friendly soul as though there was a partition of glass between us. I didn’t know how to connect anymore.

Mary Elaine Jenkins

This is the talented Mary Elaine Jenkins. NOT the Kentucky girl.

Enter the Kentucky girl for her part in the story. A tall, young girl who came to work at the patisserie with me and Amanda. She was nice, smart, with an appropriate amount of weirdness, but naïve. I happened to overhear her giving life advice to another young employee. I listened in to be amused by some homespun platitudes and/or Facebook inspirational quotes. The girl from Kentucky told her friend matter-of-factly, “Get out, and go do.” She said just leave the apartment, and pick a direction. The Kentucky girl said, “this is New York City.”

You're My FriendA couple years from then, the comfort and ease of the solitary life had outlasted its usefulness. I had heard Amanda sing, and had been following that voice, and encouraging others to join me. Intrepid photog Andreea was one. She heard what I heard in Amanda’s voice, and in time she and I heard the songs of other voices singing from their southern souls. With the words of the Kentucky girl ringing in my head, and knowing of no way to be a part of this Brooklyn Country community, I started The Road Southern as my way back to the world. That first post was one year ago today.

The Road Southern's Intrepid Photo

The Road Southern’s Intrepid Photo

It has awarded me the friendship of Andreea whose encouragement and contributions to the blog are immeasurable, and I am indebted to her. Through the blog and Amanda, I have made many new friends, I have eaten insanely good food, and heard music the likes of which brings me back to when I was a teenager; ecstatic, giddy, and touched to the core by the newness and the wonder.

This happened because I went out and I did. I left my apartment and picked a heading. And a year later, I am happy. I’m not just surviving or getting by. I’m living in this city. I walk out of my apartment now, and I have many places to go. I owe Andreea. I owe Amanda. I owe every brilliant, talented artist in these pages. That debt is what keeps me on that road, and smiling.

We even shot a music video for some folks!

We even shot a music video for some folks! Click to watch AND listen!

There’s even a girl now. She’s from Memphis. I met her on that first night I heard Amanda sing. Amanda and the Memphis girl were sitting on a stoop after the very first Barefoot & Bankside show. Amanda said to me, “Jody, you have to meet the most wonderful and amazing person ever in the world!” I nodded to the Memphis girl, she nodded back. I moved on. Amanda says that shit about everybody.

But, goddamn it if she don’t turn out to be right every time.

My deepest thanks to all of you Road Southern readers.

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

Sometimes A Great Notion

IB&N Black & WhiteA couple of months back I got a text from Trisha Ivy. She was asking me if I thought a live album recording by March 7th at Rockwood Music Hall was doable, if it could be sold out and whatnot. I said, of course. Not because I in anyway know the logistics and plausibility of such things, but because I knew it would happen—because she had decided it was going to happen.

Ivy was a solo act when I first encountered her, and remained so for a bit less than a year since this blog o’ mine started. I’ve gotten to know the sometimes cool, sometimes chill, oft times nine pound hammer of a lady. I’ve learned enough of her to know that what she wills becomes. I’m reminded of the adage “He who knocks will be let in.” But Trisha she don’t always knock, she’s running on her own little clock.

In recent-ish days she’s joined up with Amanda Neill (of B&B) and music virtuoso Mike Beck to form Ivy Beck and Neill. When I first glimpsed what Trisha can will was back in December. She wanted the new band to play in Nashville at the storied Basement venue on a whim, and so it was.IB&N @ Basement

"It's a metaphor."

“It’s a metaphor.”

So, yeah, somewhere in January she idly texted me if a sold out show/live album recording was a feasible feat, but she was really just idly thinking aloud. And what was I gonna say, no? Between then and March 7th I got to see something come from nothing. Not nothing-nothing, they had some songs, they’re all of them consummate performers. I got to see a notion, an inkling of an idea germinate. I was privy to witness or hear accounts of creating songs to fill out the set list as they wanted only Ivy Beck and Neill collaborations for the record. I was at a couple of band meetings where I watched them bicker and fuss over songs. Ivy asked me where to get a five-foot chain to be used as an instrument. Amanda work shopped lyrics for a song of hers, then smartly did away with my input. But still, I found a giddy feeling to be even marginally associated with the band and their endeavor. They were testing out new songs at Strong Place in Cobble Hill. A fight broke out. The band instantly jumped into an impromptu song now called Strong Place Brawl. It’s become a show closing favorite.

IBN & CrowdOn March 7th after hearing how unready, excited, and tired everyone felt, they played a sold-out show at Rockwood Music Hall, and recorded a live album–and crushed it. They did so, because they were always going to.

My being around from start to finish on the project let me feel something for a show that I hadn’t been able to before. These southern/country/Americana folk have always impressed me, and as some of them have become friends I have felt honored. But at Rockwood that night I was proud. They’re all good, hardworking people with day jobs, and personal lives all a flux as any of us. And they barrel forward.

For my part in that journey, and as this blogger who set out on this music scene having no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, it’s been an inspiration. So, I, too, now forward barrel. And to all of you music makers and artists, maybe bypass the knocking on doors.

HEY!:

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IVY. BECK. NEILL. DESK (THAT IS TINY).

Last week The Road Southern was honored, thrilled and prouder’n all hell to shoot Ivy, Beck, and Neill’s Tiny Desk Contest entry! Well, intrepid photog Andreea shot the video expertly. I just held the stick that had a magical pointy-looky machine on top, but I did it like a goddamn demon warrior hell bent on saving the whole friggin’ world from its ugly self is all!

Behold, y’all!

And stay tuned (can you say that on the internet? Stay bookmarked?), because TRS has a kickass interview with that “Cracked” Mother Fucker Matt Frye a’coming!

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The Amanda Interview

Tonight in Nashville, Trisha Ivy, Mike Beck, and Miss Amanda Neill will be playing their first show outside of NYC together. I’m confident the unsuspecting folks at The Basement will find themselves blown away.

This interview took place in October. It is this late because I can be lazy, and I hate transcribing interviews. I hate it like I hate hell, and like I hate all Montegues (A li’l nod to Billy Shakes, y’all!).

Before the interview I met up with Amanda at Roots Cafe. We were going to do the interview in her backyard, but construction work made that impossible. We stuffed her bag with some snacks and beers and headed off to Greenwood Cemetery, where neither of us had been. We drank PBR from thermoses. We sat amongst the rotting dead. We talked about faith and good fortune.

I knew it would be God-heavy. I worried it may be a disconnect for me. However, there arose a more important thread in our conversation. Harmony. The young woman as only ever aspired to be a voice that lifts other voices, and is lifted by the voices of others. I knew her when she first came to Brooklyn, a bundle of wild energy. I am happy she has found Jamey Hamm, and Trisha Ivy, and Mike Beck. I know it’s funny to say, but I’m glad she found people who know what to do with her.

Y’all get to know Amanda Simpson Neill! AN Cemetery 3

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!:

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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!

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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