Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Apology: Part 1

I love being surprised when good artists announce a new record release for the immediate future, rather than going through the whole process of announcing records 6 months or more in advance. We've been hearing about a new Arcade Fire for over a year, and now that it's out I haven't even listened to it yet. The new EP from Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward I found out about earlier today and I've listened to it about 3 times through already.

What I gather from the internets is that Parker & 50 Peso decided to release their new material in a series of EPs rather than wait to assemble a full LP, and thus, The Apology: Part 1 is the first installment in that process. For the time being at least, you can stream the entire EP at, although I expect that won't be the case forever. My first impressions are that the band has assembled a very solid and well-produced 5-song set.

The lead-off track, "Guitars" sets the tone for the entire EP, as the crunchy guitars lay a solid common groundwork for all of the songs. I don't wish to pigeonhole this band per se, but if forced to give it a label, I might say the sound on this record was a bit like a project from Robert Earl Keen and the E Street Band. "River Song" and "Megaphone" stand out immediately as favorites of mine, although there is not a weak song on the record. The album also draws upon a past strength of 50 Peso Reward, which is the diversity of drum sounds and rhythms - something that puts them head and shoulders above many other Texas acts.

In short, the 5 songs are a much appreciated addition to an already outstanding catalog for RP & 50PR, and the anticipation for the second installment can begin now as far as I'm concerned. More importantly, this release is needed to keep the band at the forefront of the Texas music scene, a scene which at times settles for clich├ęd and dull music, two characterizations that in no way describe Parker & 50 Peso. Rather, this is a band that deserves far more attention than many of the acts that dominate the airwaves, so please give them a listen and spread the word.

West Texas folks can catch Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward two times in September:

Friday, Sept. 24 - The Blue Light - Lubbock, TX
Saturday, Sept. 25 - The Golden Light - Amarillo, TX

Having just moved to Odessa, I am aware that the band has played Dos Amigos before, although I don't know how well they do at the venue. Hopefully we can expect to see them here in the near future.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory of Loss

This album should be nothing new to anyone that reads Windfarm, and while I've mentioned it a number of times, I am just now getting around to reviewing the record, four months after it came out. Denver based Nathaniel Rateliff released In Memory of Loss on Rounder Records at the beginning of May, and has received a good deal of acclaim nationally for it, so you likely don't need my opinion to sway you one way or the other.

I find it hard to describe the record without going way overboard with wordy descriptions, but it projects a somber tone throughout, buoyed by well placed lyrical phrasing and nearly impeccable harmonies. A couple of months ago, H. and I drove through the Kiowa National Grasslands in northeastern New Mexico while listening to this album, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to listen to the record again without it conjuring those stark and vast landscapes in my mind. In Memory is a soundtrack to loneliness that for some reason perfectly fit with that landscape. The lyrics are such that they seemingly could have been written a hundred years ago in that very place and setting, and you wouldn't question their authenticity.

As I've mentioned before, some of Rateliff's best material didn't even make it on to this record, apparently because they are slated for a follow-up release in some form, supposedly in the relatively near future. If you have not done so, I highly recommend you check out "Shroud" and "Pounds and Pounds" from the band's Daytrotter sessions (here and here). Those sessions are free, but I can't recommend strongly enough that you pick up a copy of this amazing full length record.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Catching up

Windfarm got quoted by the Guardian UK Web site. In their discussion of Dylan LeBlanc, they quoted a line from Derek's SXSW review of LeBlanc.

This interview with Justin Townes Earle has a lot of the new music from his upcoming album Harlem River Blues. Very different stuff from the last albums. I really like the title track.

New free track from Thrift Store Cowboys, off of their upcoming LP release Light Fighter.

Monahans recently posted the 6th track in their 2010 Recordings series. The songs are free. Check them out.

Yes, it's old news, but Arcade Fire went number 1 on Billboard a few weeks ago. Let that soak in a bit. I love it that indie bands (are you still indie when you hit #1?) continue to rewrite the way the music business works.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shamelessly liking radio country - The Band Perry

Started hearing this song "If I Die Young" from The Band Perry a good bit on the radio a few weeks ago, thinking it was going to blow up, because I have to say I thought it was pretty good and refreshing for country radio. Turns out that didn't really happen, at least as far as I can tell, because I haven't heard it at all the past few weeks.

Admittedly, it is awkward when you start your band name with the words "The Band," unless of course we're actually talking about The Band. If you want to mention them to a friend, you'd have to say, "Hey, have you heard that band The Band Perry?" Kind of awkward huh?

Well, at least one of the brothers has badass hair. Yeah, you know the one I'm talking about.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don Williams Lubbock concert - 10/5/10

Lubbock, TX has hit the lottery, it appears, as Don Williams has chosen it for one of his "after retirement" concert dates. As you may or may not know, Williams played a farewell tour approximately 4 years ago accompanied by the announcement that he was retiring from public life. H. and I were lucky enough to catch him in Denver on that tour, but fortunately for us all, he is putting together a short tour in recognition of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Williams may be playing Lubbock because of his West Texas roots, specifically that of being born in Floydada. The dates he has picked are limited and mostly regionally confined to the American South. Williams is often forgotten as one of the great country music artists of yesteryear, but his catalog is truly amazing. DO NOT MISS the chance to see him live. Williams is a true icon in his genre.

Williams will be playing October 5th at the Citibank Auditorium in Lubbock (Details here). For details on his other (mostly) October tour dates, check out his Web site.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Munly & The Lupercalians release date

After a tip from a good friend and some recent searching, finally some news about the release date of the latest record from Denver band Munly and the Lupercalians. Scheduled for release on Sept. 21, 2010, and entitled Petr & The Wulf, the record is the first in a series of albums detailing the fictional town of Lupercalia. Update: Now available on iTunes.

As I've found, the band is not often the first to make announcements about themselves. Rather, I almost always stumble upon updates accidentally. At one point the album was reported to be a double album, although the recent announcement suggests this record will be a single with continuation of the story in future releases.

While Munly's label Alternative Tentacles does not yet have the album for sale in the store, it is posted for presale here and at various other places on the web. It appears that the release will be available on CD and LP, as well as mp3 download.

Below is an abbreviated description of the album pulled from this press release:
The first installment in a multi-album set describing The Kinnery of Lupercalia, Petr & The Wulf is the correct telling of a story about which most have been woefully misinformed. This truth is courtesy of Munly (known as both a solo artist and as the co-frontman of Slim Cessna's Auto Club) and his extremely talented backing band, The Lupercalians (which includes Daniel Granbois of Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Tarantella). [...]

The record begins with Petr, "the last of the Northrops," who tells how he will bring his people back to greatness by rescuing Grandfater from the Bedlam. The Three Wise Hunters let all know that they can be hired to rid the land of whatever menace is present. The Wulf tells of his love for the Northrops despite their continued refusal of his offerings.

Munly writes, "Hopefully you will accept the current Lupercalians offering with open heart and understanding mind."
Having caught the Lupercalians performance to a packed house at this year's UMS, I am very excited about this record. Not to mention the fact that it has been 6 years since the brilliant album from Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, with very few updates about new material during that span. The wait should soon be over.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best news yet - KRIL 1410 AM

Getting settled in Odessa, and what should we find? Perhaps one of the best country music stations of all time. And even better, it is on AM radio. 1410 KRIL plays tons of great classic country and mixes in modern stuff as well. Sure you'll hear Kenny Chesney from time to time but you're much more likely to hear the Hag or one of the Georges. As an added show of quality, the DJs actually talk about the music and have great stories about some of the songs, instead of what most country stations have, which is contests for Vegas trips or promos for foam parties.

Surprisingly, the station even has an internet stream, which you can find here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

don't know where I'm going...

Perhaps in U.S. cultural terms, I may be headed to the exact opposite of Boulder, CO. I'm packed up and headed to Odessa, TX. Clearly not heading there for live music but rather following a job and moving back closer to family. As much as I loved living near Denver, I think this move is going to be for good.

So what does Odessa offer as far as music/culture? Great question, I'm glad you asked.

It's not all that uncommon for people to have no idea where or what Odessa is. Friday Night Lights ring a bell? Yes, that's the one. Indie icons Explosions in the Sky hail from nearby Midland. Also, Guy Clark and Roy Orbison came from Monahans and Wink, respectively, Hoyle Nix established western swing in Big Spring and all around West Texas, and of course there's Larry Gatlin, Odessa's own hometown boy. "All in the gold, in California..."

It's not hard to criticize the much lesser presence of live music in the area, but in my new home, it's all going to be about finding the diamonds in the rough. Oddly enough, I have had two great musical experiences in my life in Odessa.

The first time, on the same night that my ex was getting married (My advice - never go, even when you're invited), I took the trip to Odessa to see Modest Mouse play at Dos Amigos. The show was literally played in the middle of a rodeo arena in the back of the venue. This was around the time of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and it was an awesome show, not to mention much better than going to a wedding you don't want to be at.

The second time, a small group of us made the trek down from Lubbock to see Anathallo and the Colour Revolt play a tiny little honky tonk called Earls II. Pretty crazy place to see two indie bands, but it's one of those places where, when the right person promotes the show, the indie kids just show up. Promoters in this area come and go, but most of the time, someone gets up the energy/courage to start hosting shows again and the shows do fairly well, because the kids want to see live music so badly. Hoping I can play a very small part in making good shows happen from time to time.

But wait, there's more. As it turns out Odessa is a bit less than 3 hours from Marfa, the tiny town in deep West Texas that has turned into a substantial artist community. Unbelievably, this little town has hosted shows by Bon Iver, Jeff Tweedy, The Secret Machines, Yo La Tengo, Califone, Yeasayer. The list goes on and on. This place truly is an oasis when it comes to music offerings in the middle of the desert. In addition, Railroad Blues in nearby Alpine has a solid regular music calendar as well.

My musical landscape is changing, not ending. The blog will probably also change a bit. Expect general interest material about the West Texas region in general. This may include, but is not limited to Midland/Odessa, San Angelo, Lubbock, Marfa, Alpine, and Terlingua. I won't make any broad and bold statements about what will come of Windfarm in the next few years, but I hope to promote arts and culture in West Texas as much as time will allow.

Any West Texans who run across this blog, please feel free to pass along West Texas music events to me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I sure know where I've been

The time has come. My days in Colorado have come to an end. My four years in Boulder have exposed me to some of the amazing offerings of the Denver music scene, and I expect I will miss it more than I can really comprehend now. Here I take a moment to reflect on Denver music and my experiences with it.

The live show I was most excited about before moving here that did not let me down:
This honor far and away goes to Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The band continues to develop and I simply can't say enough about how amazing their live show is. Munly puts on an amazing show as well, but plays very rarely. Don't turn down the opportunity to see either of these bands.

Best Colorado act that emerged while I was here:
Nathaniel Rateliff has been around the Denver scene for some time, but only this past May has he really hit full stride. I still haven't gotten around to reviewing his album, but it is awesome.

Best act that emerged while I was here:
The Avett Brothers. I tagged along with a friend to check these guys out at the Boulder Theater 3 1/2 years ago or so and I've not been the same since. Have caught them a number of times in various venues and they remain one of my favorite national acts. They went from playing the Boulder Theater to a 3/4 full crowd to selling out two nights in a row in quite a short time. Hearing them open with "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa" the very first time is still one of my favorite music memories.

Best venue:
Hi-Dive in Denver. No contest. These folks bring in the bands that are going to blow up way before most anyone has ever heard of them. Sometimes they book bands that blow up between the time the show is listed and when the show happens. Fleet Foxes, Cold War Kids, The Morning Benders. The list goes on and on.

Best Boulder venue:
The Fox Theatre. A fantastic mid-size venue that brings in great indie bands on a regular basis. The Boulder music scene supports bluegrass and jam bands and electronic music most strongly, but I've seen plenty of great shows here. Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Lucero, DeVotchKa, Dawes. After it's recent merger with the Boulder Theater, hopefully both will keep going strong.

Best music store:
This is such a toss-up, because I really love them all. Twist and Shout is an enormous indie record store in Denver, but you can be rest-assured that you will spend half your paycheck there. It is not unlike Waterloo in Austin, but I think it has more square footage overall.
Albums on the Hill is a strong standby for Boulderites. They've rearranged a good bit recently and are bringing in lots of new and new used vinyl. Finally, at the beginning of the year, Bart's CD Cellar closed down - quite a sad time for the vinyl collector, as they brought in lots of new merchandise regularly. However, the original owner, Bart, has opened Bart's Music Shack on the far west end of Pearl St. It's a small store, but they focus on quality over quantity, so I highly recommend stopping by when you have the chance. Unfortunately it's more a of a destination place now, compared to the convenient location of the other store, but take the extra time and go visit them.

Best site in Boulder with historical significance that no one really knows about:
The apartment balcony where Townes Van Zandt fell/jumped off of while in college at CU. I realized during my last year here that this balcony was just a few short blocks from where I had worked for the past 4 years. I often went out of my way to walk by, trying to imagine the exact circumstances and how the fall might have actually happened. So many college kids have lived in the apartments since, likely not knowing and not caring of the significance of their residence. Well I think it's pretty cool.

What I'm going to miss a lot
Picking up my copy of the Denver alt-weekly Westword every Thursday. Between this magazine and the Denver Post Reverb blog, the city covers and promotes its music scene very well. Needless to say there is no alt-weekly where I'm going, and the coverage of the music scene by the newspapers is minimal.

The festival you will hear mentioned alongside SXSW more and more:
The Underground Music Showcase (The UMS). Now in its 10th year, this festival is turning into a fantastic event that does very well to utilize the South Broadway area of Denver. I wouldn't be surprised to see it go city-wide in the next 5 years, in order to bring in some of the larger venues in town. Currently the festival is run by the Denver Post folks, and with the right management, it could begin to employ a full-time staff, similar to SXSW. You should check out this festival soon. It is a steal for the money considering the amount of great music it offers.

Denver has got an amazing thing going with its music scene, and I will miss it a great deal.

One place of no musical significance, but still an important first for me - below is where I got hit by a car on my bike toward the end of my time in Boulder. The car was coming out of the alley, and I was on the sidewalk because the street was a dead end, coming from the right in front of the bluish/grayish garage, and we basically met in the middle, 'neath that old Georgia pine. Luckily neither of us was going to fast, so no long term damage.