Lyric Of The Week: Warren Zevon, “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner”
On 1978’s Excitable Boy, Warren Zevon crafted an album populated by werewolves, psychopaths, and mercenaries. It became his biggest hit, which is somehow fitting considering Zevon’s legacy as a no-BS chronicler of the darker corners of existence. He had a way of romanticizing these characters with his gorgeous piano-driven melodies even as his lyrics refused to sugar-coat their exploits.
Zevon described the creation of “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner” in the liner notes to his Anthology collection: “In 1974 I ran off to Spain and got a job in an Irish bar called the Dubliner, in Sitges, on the Costa Brava. The proprietor was a piratical ex-merc named David Lindell. He and I wrote this song at the bar one afternoon, over many jars.”
Anyone for Tennis? Wouldn’t that be nice? We asked Patrick Riley, one half of acclaimed, Todd Rundgren-loving married couple/indie pop band Tennis about songwriting, their new, Patrick Carney-produced album Young And Old, and their 2011 debut Cape Dory, which was recorded after a seven-month long sailing trip.
What’s it like being in a band named after a sport? Do people make a lot of jokes?
Maybe? It’s hard to know what other people think about it. We kinda hate band names to begin with… there’s no good way to name a band; on one side you are committing your band to an aesthetic, on another you are committing to sound. We tried to pick something that meant nothing to anyone although I bet there’s a few people that hate it.
The Bucket List: The Top Ten Artists To See At Jazz Fest
Perhaps one of the biggest question marks on the 2012 Jazz Fest line-up (if there even can be question marks with a roster this eclectic) is Givers, a psychedelic indie-pop quintet who broke out last year with their excellent debut album, the tropical-infused In Light. Their style seems a bit out of place next to, say, Bonnie Raitt or Bruce Springsteen—but don’t sleep on these colorful Louisiana craftsmen.
Tom Petty may have recently been looted of his prized electric guitar stash, but that shouldn’t stop he and The Heartbreakers from doling out the goods at Jazz Fest. It’s been nearly two years since the band’s last studio album, the bluesy Mojo, but the long-running outfit have approximately 400 years worth of discography to draw from, so a well-manicured setlist should be no issue. And good news; those missing guitars have been returned.
Video Premiere: Hurray For The Riff Raff, “Look Out Mama”
Check out the latest video from New Orleans Folk/Americana outfitHurray For the Riff Raff. The song hails from their new album Look Out Mama (out May 1), which was recorded in Nashville and produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes).
“‘Look Out Mama’ was my attempt at writing a happy song,” says vocalist Alynda Lee Segarra. “I wanted to write something that had a good groove and gave people the feeling of a homecoming. When we recorded it the group had only played it one time through, I kinda kept the song secret in my back pocket for a while. I think you can tell we had a good time with it and were still figuring some things out. I like recordings like that.”
“Who is the audience for this music?” Bruno Mars explained was the constant question asked by the media prior to his breakthrough. And his answer was always the same: “The universe.”
He was explaining in a master-class to a packed ballroom at this weekend’s ASCAP Expo the theme that was woven through all the classes, workshops and discussions here this year: That an artist must maintain a specific vision for his work – not look to the industry or others to provide it – and never give up on the realization of that vision in the world. It’s a challenge, and one met by stars like Mars and thousands of unknown songwriters and singers here, to maintain one’s musical vision despite all odds.
Listening to the lovely acoustic folk pop of singer/songwriter Votolato’s recent years, it’s difficult to imagine he started his career as a Fugazi-influenced punker. He continues that easy going trend with this Kickstarter financed effort that strips down his approach on most songs to a few acoustic guitars fronted by his earnest, boyish vocals. The introspective, poetic often conflicted lyrics –printed on the disc’s sleeve and well worth re-reading-and sparse melodies are sometimes reminiscent of Neil Young, especially when he uncorks his harmonica. But Votolato’s clear eyed honesty about what seems to be a crumbling long-term relationship as reflected in often nature inspired lyrics, is thought provoking, melancholy, remarkably personal and ultimately revealing of sober truths many have felt in the same situation.
As its title implies, this loose concept album uses Greek mythology as a lyrical backdrop for folksinger Williams to explore introspective and social issues. The concept never seems forced since the predominantly ballad melodies, Williams’ lovely voice, and Kevin Killen’s sympathetic production keep everything shimmering and mysterious. A few more upbeat tunes along the lines of the pop worthy “Summer Child” might have upped the energy, but for established Williams fans, her ninth studio set is another classy entry that gets better with repeated spins. Apollo, the God of Music, would be proud.
Chip Taylor & The New Ukrainians: F**K All The Perfect People
Mr. Wild Thing sounds awfully sedate on his first full band album ever with his Swedish comrades, the New Ukrainians. Recorded over three, what sounds like really lazy, days in Norway’s Athletic Sound studios, this overlong 70-minute set doesn’t exactly echo the face-slap of its belligerent title. Instead we get the affable Taylor gruffly talk-singing his way through a pleasant batch of snoozy country-folk originals that sound pretty much alike. The subdued band fades into the background, but it’s Taylor’s intimate story songs that create some sparks on these low key sessions. Of note is his performance of “The Baby,” a song he composed for the Hollies that became a minor hit for the group in ‘72.
Win The George Harrison: Living In The Material World DVD and Early Takes Vol. 1
They say that kids these days are in danger of forgetting about The Beatles, but not you, dear reader. To reward you for the fact that you already know who sings lead vocals on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” we’re giving away a copy of the Martin Scorsese-directed Living In The Material World DVD (in stores May 1, pre-order it here) and the rarities album Early Takes Vol. 1 on CD and vinyl to one lucky winner. Enter the contest here.