Duplex Dreams (10/05/2001)
Duplex Planet Presents Ernie: Songs of Ernest Noyes Brookings (Gadfly 2001) - This will surely go down as one of the oddball collections of the year, as producer and Duplex Planet author David Greenberger presents this fifth collection of the works of the late poet Ernest Noyes Brookings who, at the age of 80, began writing his oddly observational poems (more than 400 of them!).
What you wind up with is a 15-track collection of alt.pop, with roots in the New York City avant garde. Thus, if you like experimental pop, with soaring melodies, you'll enjoy Dryer ("May"), Robyn Hitchcock & Bangalore ("Book"), and Terri Templeton, singer with the band, Over the Rhine ("Eyes").
My favorite tracks are the piano-based female vocal stylings of George Cartwright on "Baby" (bringing to mind Tori Amos), the acoustic-based duo vocals of Michael Eck on "Handle With Care," and West Coaster Dave Alvin on "November," in which Alvin does a drop-dead impersonation of John Prine. "Handle With Care" is flavored with a trumpet solo, and is great indie coffeehouse material.
As to the poems themselves, let's say they work better when set to music. With these musical backings, they come across as droll oversights, viewed through the prism of 80 years of life. Strange, and sometimes compelling.
Twangbangers Tour (High Tone Records) - The Twangbangers tour of the USA is now in full swing, with concert stops scheduled for Los Angeles, Portland, Dallas, Nashville, and a concluding show in Minneapolis. Out here in Fresno, we're not going to get the benefit of these roadhouse masters of the twang guitar. But you can enjoy their efforts on the 16-track promotional CD.
The album opens with Bill Kirchen (former guitar player for Commander Cody) on his comic, "Truckstop at the End of The World." Kirchen calls his style "dieselbilly," as it incorporates truck-driving songs, hard-core country, and flat-out rock 'n' roll.
Also appearing is Redd Volkaert, currently the lead guitarist for Merle Haggard's band, The Strangers. Listen for Volkaert's sweet guitar work on the country weeper, "Back to Back" (from his album, No Stranger to A Tele).
Also on the tour are Dallas Wayne (who has a penchant for drinking songs, such as "Bouncing Beer Cans Off the Jukebox") and Joe Goldmark, who blazes through an instrumental version of "Peace, Love and Understanding" (by Elvis Costello).
Yet the star of this guitar love fest is Bill Kirchen and his unbelievable live version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" (from his album, Hot Rod Lincoln . . . Live). Kirchen delivers an 8-minute guitar tour-de-force, as he mixes in licks from such diverse artists as Freddie King, Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash, and Deep Purple.
If you can't make the show, be sure to find the music. Especially the killer live version of "Hot Rod Lincoln," which will make your jaw drop.
Joan Huntsberry, Under the Jewelberry Tree (J-Tone Records) - Music for children is an interesting thing. Everybody wants to try it. Many fail, but the successes can be a lot of fun.
Enter Joan Huntsberry, a young lady with a nomadic past. Joan lived for four years in deep rural Texas, spent time in Carmarthan, Wales, completed her college education in Walla Walla, Washington, and moved to Boston, where she began teaching emotionally disturbed children and playing in coffeehouses around Boston.
Joan now lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she focuses on teaching music to children. Under the Jewelberry Tree focuses on Joan's original songs, such as "Snuggles and Cuddles," "Giggles," and "I Love You."
Simple messages, but delivered with conviction and a sweet voice. It's clear that Joan makes children's music because she likes communicating with children. Your little ones will enjoy Under the Jewelberry Tree.
Trespassers William, Anchor (Sonikwire Records) - Trespassers William is an Orange County combo built around guitar player Matt Brown and singer-songwriter Anna-Lynne Williams. Williams has a great, aching voice. Choose your own comparisons. Sarah McLachlan. Dolores O'Riordan (from the Cranberries). Margo Timmins (from the Cowboy Junkies).
Which is where Trespassers William is at. This is moody coffeehouse pop. The standout songs are "My Eyes Were Closed" and "Cabinet," both of which get full-voiced treatment by Anna-Lynne.
Trespassers William (the name comes from one of the Winnie the Pooh stories) is rounded out by Josh Gordon on bass. The combo has played at the L.A. Club Largo, a frequent hangout for such underground alt.pop favorites as Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Grant Lee Phillips, and Jon Brion.
And you have to give credit to Josh Brown and Anna-Lynne, who poured their life savings into Sonikwire Records. Says Williams, "After a while, it changes how you view money. You realize that every hour in the studio is coming out of your pocket. Or eating our lunch, and we're paying fifty dollars to be there. So after a while you're writing a four hundred dollar check every week, it didn't feel like anything anymore. My whole bank account was gone, but I kept writing checks and checks."
I hope there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for Trespassers William, as singer Anna-Lynne Williams has a great voice. This is moody, soft pop, with dark undertones. Adds the front woman, "I know we're happy people, but we like a lot of depressing things." Get your aches out with Anchor.
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- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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