Friday, August 31, 2007

Dark Side of La Lune

For the record, the lunar eclipse was not the spectacular astronomical event I was hoping for. Determined to make the most of it, I stuffed my pockets with munchies, grabbed a blanket, sat back in a lawn chair, plugged in my iPod, and cranked up some Pink Floyd. Spoiled by Mel Gibson and Tintin (Prisoners of the Sun!), I was under the false impression that this eclipse would be over in a few minutes and I could quickly go back inside for some hot chocolate. The folly of my plan soon became apparent when by the end of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the Earth's shadow had barely started to cover the moon's surface yet the moon itself had moved completely out of view behind the neighbour's house. So I was forced to pack up the lawn chair and go stand across the street for the better part of an hour. It's a VERY slow process. Every 5 minutes I'd look up, squint, and think to myself "Mmmm, the shadow's covering a little more...". Let me tell you, standing in the park across the street at 3 in the morning with Roger Waters singing "the lunatic is on the grass" brings new unintended meaning to Brain Damage. I had a pair of mid-grade binoculars and the night was clear, so at the very least I had an good view (if it had been more impressive). By the time the moon had been almost completely covered, I had to admit there was a slightly reddish hue.

But judging from reaction to the lunar eclipse, I just happened to be in the wrong part of the world. I've seen some incredible pictures and I was wondering "What?!? Were we even witnessing the same event?"

Here are a bunch of Pink Floyd covers that were on the playlist that night:

Easy Star All-Stars - Brain Damage
From a whole reggae-themed cover album called Dub Side of the Moon.

Velvet Revolver - Money
Put up your hands if you predicted Velvet Revolver would still be intact after 5 years... yeah, I didn't think so either.

The Shins - Breathe (live in Amsterdam)
Ever since I heard the Shins had performed this cover live, I've been looking for a version that wasn't a truncated youTube clip. But there was seemingly nothing until a couple weeks ago I found this from an Amsterdam concert. The sound quality is stellar and sounds professionally recorded. In fact, I thought it was an elaborate hoax by a Pink Floyd tribute band (the ID tag was also mislabeled live in Los Angeles). As if to allay my fears, the song ends with a band member yelling "Hey Amsterdam! So, we're the Shins!". Their acoustic version of Breathe appears on the BBC compilation album The Saturday Sessions, which features several other covers too.

Open Door - Breathe
The Shins cover may be making the blog rounds lately, but this groovy electro-jazz cover from 2002 by the band Open Door is more daring... and funky.

Michael Armstrong - Speak to Me/Breathe
From the Rockabye Baby! series of classic rock lullaby albums... gee, why did it not surprise me to learn that this is released by the same people who put out the Pickin' On albums? Or that they're literally churning these out "one or two albums every three weeks". Even the brains behind the whole concept does not seem entirely convinced of the value of the albums. But that doesn't mean they're all out terrible. In fact, I've been listening to the Led Zeppelin one lately and you have to at least admire their atypical song choices. And who wouldn't want to brainwash their young 'uns with classic rock?

Foo Fighters featuring Brian May - Have a Cigar
Was anyone else blown away to learn Brian May finished his PhD this summer with a thesis entitled "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud"?!? Thank god he abandoned his astrophysics studies 30 years ago or else we would have never had the greatness that was Queen. The less we say about post-Mercury Queen the better... but otherwise have a cigar, Dr. May!

Sarah Slean - Us and Them
Whenever I post Pink Floyd covers, I'm compelled to grab one from the Pink Floyd Redux album, which features Canadian female artists covering Pink Floyd. There's only one scathing review on ("If I were to poop on a Floyd cd and try to play it, this would be the sound it makes.") and I think that's unfairly harsh. I saw Sarah Slean at the Calgary Folk Fest and this cover of an underrated Pink Floyd number is a departure from her cabaret influenced pop songs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Woman's Touch...

While I'm cleaning up my inbox, I thought I'd mention a recent cover album that was brought to my attention. Grammy award-winning songstress, Thelma Houston's first album in 17 years is an all-covers album called A Woman's Touch. Similar to something Tori Amos did a few years ago, Thelma recorded covers of songs all originally recorded by male artists. Unlike Tori Amo, however, these covers are in the vein of R&B, soul, 'n disco. Thelma is no stranger to covers. In fact, her 1977 #1 hit Don't Leave Me This Way was originally a hit for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

You can listen to some of the album on myspace or her website.

Here's a Stones cover (not from this album, mind you):
Thelma Houston - Jumpin' Jack Flash [originally by The Rolling Stones]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Not sure what compelled me to watch this particular lunar eclipse. Maybe because my sister called me with enticing words like "total", "rare", and "red". So while I'm waiting, I'd figure I'd bide my time with a moon-themed post, covers and otherwise.

The Dan Band - Total Eclipse of the Heart [originally by Bonnie Tyler]
Skanatra - Fly Me to the Moon [made famous by Frank Sinatra]
Sexy Sadie - Moonage Daydream [originally by David Bowie]
Rasputina - Bad Moon Rising [originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival]

Red Shag Carpet - Hands Up on the Moon
A little Edmonton content for ya.

The Ditty Bops - Moon Over the Freeway
Everyone would probably be nicer if they listened to the Ditty Bops. And hey, I just looked at their site and they've got a new 5-song EP out! Sold. Damn, money flies when you're impulsive.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Dancing on the Moon
I just can't get enough of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, which reminds me I have to put together that Calgary Folk Fest part 2 post someday. I hope the rumours are true and they start working on a new album soon!

Oops, I've got a couple more minutes before something noticeable should happen... This better be worth it!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Last Town Chorus is coming to town

An exciting thing arrived in my inbox last week... I was actually sent a cover song by a label rep, right when I was on the verge of swearing off unsolicited e-mails from bands/marketers. I realize my tagline is "...and whatever the hell I feel like", but 92% of the time whatever the hell I feel like is cover songs. I just don't have the time or inclination to sift through all the stuff that's sent my way. Uh, on the other hand, don't let that discourage you. I'm just saying there's no guarantees I'll pimp out my blog unless I'm in a particularly fanciful mood.

Anyway, as I was saying, a cover song arrived in my inbox last week. And not just any cover song, but a David Bowie cover song. And not just any Bowie cover song, but a fantastic Bowie cover song. And not just any fantastic Bowie cover (oh yes, I can do this forever), a fantastic Bowie cover performed by an artist embarking on a Canadian tour. And not just any Canadian tour, but one that swings through Edmonton, woohoo!

The song is Modern Love. The artist is the Last Town Chorus. Enjoy.

The Last Town Chorus - Modern Love [originally by David Bowie]

Similar to my recent experiences with Final Fantasy, The Last Town Chorus ostensibly refers to one artist: Megan Hickey. I'm told by the press release that her cover of Modern Love was featured on an episode of Grey's Anatomy and a promo for the film Diana: Last Days of a Princess, both of which fall outside the realm of my demographic, so it's a good thing I was sent this cover independently. Megan's weapon of choice is a lap-steel guitar from which she coaxes a haunting atmospheric soundscape to accompany her hypnotic vocals. She uses the natural crescendo of the original chorus to build a slow burn to an electric mid-section before gradually fading to a whisper. Lots to love here. I just requested her album Wire Waltz from the library... using EPL's brand-spankin' new facebook intregation! I know this doesn't apply to about 99% of you, but believe me it's pretty snazzy.

The Last Town Chorus will be performing a number of shows in Canada in the next few months, accompanying the likes of Camera Obscura and The Weakerthans.

Aug. 25 Le National (Montreal, QC) - w/ Camera Obscura
Aug. 26 The Phoenix (Toronto, ON) - w/ Camera Obscura
Oct. 6 The Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, BC) - w/ The Weakerthans
Oct. 7 Sugar Nightclub (Victoria, BC) - w/ The Weakerthans
Oct. 9 MacEwan Hall Ballroom (Calgary, AB) - w/ The Weakerthans
Oct. 10 Myer Horowitz Theatre (Edmonton, AB) - w/ The Weakerthans

I normally would, but I regrettably can't see her show in Edmonton... because at the time I'll be in China for a month!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BBC Covers!

Just read about this and I had to share the news:

According to Pitchfork,

BBC Radio 1 is turning 40 and to celebrate they've assembled 40 bands to do a cover song, each representing a year of the station's existence. Pure bliss! Check out this line-up:

01 Kaiser Chiefs: "Flowers in the Rain" [The Move; 1967]
02 The Fratellis: "All Along the Watchtower" [The Jimi Hendrix Experience; 1968]
03 Amy Winehouse: "Cupid" [Johnny Nash; 1969]
04 Robbie Williams: "Lola" [The Kinks; 1970]
05 The Streets: "Your Song" [Elton John; 1971]
06 Sugababes: "Betcha by Golly Wow" [The Stylistics; 1972]
07 The Feeling: "You're So Vain" [Carly Simon; 1973]
08 Foo Fighters: "Band on the Run" [Wings; 1974]
09 Kylie: "Love Is the Drug" [Roxy Music; 1975]
10 KT Tunstall: "Let's Stick Together" [Bryan Ferry; 1976]
11 Franz Ferdinand: "Sound and Vision" [David Bowie; 1977]
12 The Raconteurs: "Teenage Kicks" [The Undertones; 1978]
13 Mika: "Can't Stand Losing You" [The Police; 1979]
14 Kasabian: "Too Much Too Young" [The Specials; 1980]
15 Keane: "Under Pressure" [Queen & David Bowie; 1981]
16 McFly: "Town Called Malice" [The Jam; 1982]
17 James Morrison: "Come Back and Stay" [Paul Young; 1983]
18 The Gossip: "Careless Whisper" [George Michael; 1984]
19 The Pigeon Detectives: "The Power of Love" [Huey Lewis & the News; 1985]
20 Lily Allen: "Don't Get Me Wrong" [The Pretenders; 1986]
21 Stereophonics: "You Sexy Thing" [Hot Chocolate; 1987]
22 Mutya Buena: "Fast Car" [Tracy Chapman; 1988]
23 Editors: "Lullaby" [The Cure; 1989]
24 Razorlight: "Englishman in New York" [Sting; 1990]
25 Groove Armada: "Crazy for You" [Madonna; 1991]
26 Paolo Nutini: "It Must Be Love" [Madness; 1992]
27 The Kooks: "All That She Wants" [Ace of Base; 1993]
28 Mark Ronson: "You're All I Need to Get By" [Mary J. Blige; 1994]
29 Calvin Harris: "Stillness in Time" [Jamiroquai; 1995]
30 Klaxons: "No Diggity" [Blackstreet; 1996]
31 Just Jack: "Lovefool" [The Cardigans; 1997]
32 Natasha Bedingfield: "Ray of Light" [Madonna; 1998]
33 The Twang: "Drinking in L.A." [Bran Van 3000; 1999]
34 The Fray: "The Great Beyond" [R.E.M.; 2000]
35 Girls Aloud: "Teenage Dirtbag" [Wheatus; 2001]
36 Maxïmo Park: "Like I Love You" [Justin Timberlake; 2002]
37 The View: "Don't Look Back Into the Sun" [The Libertines; 2003]
38 Hard-Fi: "Toxic" [Britney Spears; 2004]
39 The Enemy: "Father & Son" [Yusuf & Ronan Keating; 2005]
40 Corinne Bailey Rae: "Steady, As She Goes" [The Raconteurs; 2006]

So many on there I'm looking forward to. Some will undoubtedly be trash, but I applaud the effort anyway. The Raconteurs seem to be the only band both covering and being covered... sweetness, and by Corinne Bailey Rae!

The songs are still in the process of being recorded so the tracklist is not set in stone. I heard a rumour this would be out in October.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Rodrigo y Gabriela Barrage

Good news for Rodrigo y Gabriela fans, at least American ones. Starting today, it's Rod y Gab week on MTV. A message from their FaceBook page:

"This week Rod y Gab are being featured as the artist of the week on the new MTV campaign the "52/52"

All through out the week you will be able to see live performances, videos, and clips of Rod y Gab during MTVs regularly scheduled programming. They will seriously be showing things every commerical break, so you will be able to catch Rod y Gab at any time during on any day this week!

This is such an amazing opportunity for Rod y Gab! This is going to expose them to a whole new audience!

Good for them. The more people that discover them, the better. The craziest news however was slipped in at the end of an update on their official site:
"RyG to appear along side the Killers and Marilyn Manson on Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack reissue. Danny Elfman asked Rod and Gab to record Mr Oogie Boogie for a special edition release of the soundtrack."

Now we know that last year in conjunction with the 3D re-release of Nightmare Before Christmas, they released a special edition soundtrack with covers by Panic! at the Disco (blech!), Marilyn Manson, Fall Out Boy, She Wants Revenge, and Fiona Apple. But this is the first I've heard of another (triple-dip?) soundtrack, though with covers by The Killers and Rodrigo y Gabriela, I'll bite. That's really cool if Danny Elfman himself chose them to do Oogie Boogie's Song. I can't find mention of this anywhere else, although I did learn here that 3D Nightmare Before Christmas will be back in theatres this Halloween, which is great since it played nowhere near me last year. It'd be awesome if this becomes the new Rocky Horror Picture Show or something, in terms of coming to theatres every year. It'd be even MORE awesome if a new Nightmare Before Christmas covers album is released every year, ha ha. Intriguing....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Calgary Folk Fest: Part I

Just so you know, this is going to be an extremely over-the-top long post, mainly for my own personal records than anyone else's reading pleasure. Brevity be damned. After an event such as the Calgary Folk fest, there's a window of opportunity to create a relevant posting... and that window has long since passed. Even the Edmonton Folk Fest has come and gone, but I guess one of the beauties of the personal blog is that there's no deadline or rules about that. So there.

It's been about a week 3 weeks (stupid procrastination...) since I hopped on a southbound bus to Calgary to partake in a full weekend of musical excess. I've been to Calgary several times before, but usually just passing through on my way to the mountains or visiting friends. This was the first time I had really come as a tourist and it dawned on me that I was completely unfamiliar with the Calgary's downtown.

Friday July 27th
I arrived in town about an hour before the festival gates opened and armed with a crumpled up google map, I oriented myself within the downtown core and checked myself into the hostel. Luckily the festival site and hostel were within semi-reasonable walking distance or if I wanted to save some time, I could always jump on the free C-Train. Even if I didn't know where I was headed, it was hard not to notice the disproportionate number of pedestrians and cyclists with knapsacks and festival/beach chairs heading north. And I followed, eventually crossing a foot bridge to Prince's Island Park, an idyllic festival site if ever there was one. The river was full of ducks and Canada geese, kids were joyfully feeding them, the dog walkers were out in force, and some people were even frolicking in the water. Ah, summer.

Last year I got a full weekend pass to the Edmonton Folk Fest for the first time, so I was well-acquainted with how this would work. Thursday and Friday only feature main stage performers in the evening while the weekend would present simultaneous performances at 6 side stages during the day before everyone settles in for the evening main stage shows. Once you exchange your ticket for a wristband, you grab a program and head to the main stage to stake out a spot. There are devoted hardcore "tarpies" that camp out the night before and make a mad rush to the front of the main stage to get prime spots. Since I was ambling along at my own pace, the stage area was already packed with thousands of people and tarps by the time I arrived. To help the people furthest from the stage, there are two giant screens to sides as well. On each side of the stage there were designated dance/standing areas, which is where I was headed. If you were staked out in the middle section, you were expected to sit and not block people's views. I was able to plop down my blanket near the right dance area with a bunch of other folkies blatantly ignoring the "dance only" signs. This dance area was decidedly less rowdy than the left side dance area since it was slightly further away from the performers. Actually, this was the ideal situation and I ended up heading there for the next couple days. I was able to read or just chill out during acts I wasn't particularly interested in, then jump up and move in close for the ones I wanted to see.

The weather was beautiful (though perhaps a little TOO hot) and remained so for the whole weekend. I've sat through rain-soaked folk fest performances before, so this was a welcome change. The first few acts on Friday were Jim Byrnes, The Crooked Jades, and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, though I have to admit I was only haphazardly listening and just biding my time until the Squirrel Nut Zippers were to take to the stage. In the meantime, I perused through the program to roughly plan my attack for the weekend and wandered through the festival to acquaint myself with all the necessary landmarks: food, bathrooms, merch tent, side stages. And then out came the Squirrel Nut Zippers and I was on my feet.

Man, it sure was a thrill though quite surreal to finally hear them live after so many years of listening to them on CDs. For a little bit of historical perspective, check out this recent article on the band's reunion. They're playing what should be an awesome show this week at the World Cafe in Philadelphia with The Old Ceremony and the Firecracker Jazz Band (another great band with a few SNZ members). If my sketchy short-term memory is correct, they kicked off their set with the blazing Bedlam Ballroom, the title track of their last album released in 1999. Other songs played include (in no particular order) Club Limbo, Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter, Danny Diamond, Good Enough for Granddad, Wash Jones, Put a Lid on It, Prince Nez, Low Down Man, La Grippe, and Bad Businessman, before ending on their hit Hell. It's a great feeling to recognize every song being played and the Squirrel Nut Zippers are one of the few bands that fall into that category for me (others being Ben Folds, The White Stripes, and Led Zeppelin). The main stage show was a nice treat, but probably not the ideal venue for them. I knew the real magic would come during the more intimate sessions on the side stages the next day...

While I was part of a handful (or less) that came specifically to see Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hawksley Workman who came up next is a regular on the festival circuit and has a devoted following, in particular a section of screaming teenage girls. You wouldn't expect to see screaming teenage girls at a folk festival, but I guess it's a healthier alternative to the pop pablum on the radio. The few times I've seen him perform live, it's hard to ignore his instant charisma on stage and theatrical sensibilities (he has a tendency to warble in spastic falsetto). One of his more interesting tics, at least from the perspective of a cover lover, is to segue mid-song into a classic rock cover. At last year's Edmonton Folk Fest, in the middle of Jealous of Your Cigarette he pulled into Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall pt. II (see my youtube video here). This time during the same song, his pianist Mr. Lonely started pounding the distinctive organ break of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again before the whole band ripped into it to delight of the audience's collective inner rock star. Traces of Supertramp's The Logical Song also cropped up in another tune.

Hawksley Workman - When These Mountains Were the Seashore

The night ended with Neko Case and, I have to admit, I just can't get into her solo music. Outside of her role in the New Pornographers, it's just not my thing so I ended up leaving early to get a good night's sleep. On a sidenote, The New Pornographers new album Challengers comes out tomorrow. Accompanying the release was a really cool Buy Early, Get Now campaign, where you could (and I did) pre-order the album a couple months ago and get a slew of bonus goodies. You could have listened to the whole album stream right away, which I didn't really take advantage of. Some B-sides were made available. But the ultimate fan gift (more and more bands should really be doing this) is 3 bonus discs of material: an disc of b-sides/demos, a disc of videos/multimedia, and a "Live from the Future" concert disc. Some assembly required... that is, you download it and burn it yourself, ha ha. And this whole package cost only slightly more than a regular CD. Sucks for me, their upcoming Canadian tour just does not jive with my schedule. Anyway, back to Folk fest:

Saturday July 28th
I awoke to another beautiful day and set off for the festival grounds. First up in the day's schedule at 10:30am was the session with the Squirrel Nut Zippers that I had been looking forward to. Concert organizers randomly throw artists together under a common "theme" that sometimes even the artists themselves are baffled by. But this is where some of the best moments of the festival are derived from because you never quite know what to expect. I arrived somewhat early and snagged a front row seat easily.

SNZ's Katharine Whalen preps for the Tin Pan Alley session

SNZ's Henry Westmoreland "tunes" his tuba.

A crowded stage for the Alley of Tins and Pans session.

The session was titled "Alley of Tins and Pans" with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mary Flower, Eleni Mandell, and the Polyjesters. I didn't know the other groups, but I was soon to become fans of all of them. Jason Valleau of The Polyjesters acted as emcee and introduced the session and participating artists. They would all be playing the music of Tin Pan Alley (very roughly speaking, late 19th and early 20th century jazz/blues/ragtime music originating in New York). Based on past sessions I've seen, they usually take one of two forms depending on the artists' inclinations. Each band will play one of their own song then pass the baton to the next group. Or a more freeform (and exciting) set where everyone collaborates on each other's songs in essentially a big jam session. And this is how the first session went with the groups taking turns choosing the tune, but everyone playing. The Polyjesters kicked it off with a fast-paced folk-jazz number called Cakewalk and that set the tone for the next hour and a bit: fast, fun, and improvisational. At any one time there were 10 - 16 musicians on stage, which was chaotic yet exhilirating as they traded off solos and jammed on each other songs. Often the group leading would shout out a chord and everyone would join in. It was awesome. The Polyjesters, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Mary Flower looked comfortable improvising on the spot. But even Eleni Mandell would dance on the spot or chime in with some harmonies on familiar songs. And sometimes, like the rest of us, she would just stand there admiring the incredible display of musicianship.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - You're Driving Me Crazy [originally by Walter Donaldson]
The Polyjesters - Be What It May

Eleni Mandell caught in a rainbow.

The Polyjesters' Jason Valleau makes his own trumpet sounds between SNZ's Je Widenhouse (left) and Jimbo Mathus.

SNZ's Stu Cole and Jimbo Mathus.

Jimbo tries to cool down Jason's frenetic bass-slappin' fingers.

I can't remember 90% of what was played but it was great. A particular highlight was when the Polyjesters started playing After You've Gone, which is a favourite of mine. SNZ Katharine Whalen performed a superb version (my personal fav) of this song on her solo Jazz Squad album. You could see her kind of perk up when they started playing it and she joined in the vocals.

Katharine Whalen's Jazz Squad - After You've Gone [originally recorded by Marion Harris]
The Polyjesters - After You've Gone [originally recorded by Marion Harris]

After the session, I lurked around and got some autographs from some of the Zippers: Je Widenhouse, Stu Cole, Chris Phillips, Katharine Whalen, and Will Dawson. I missed co-founding SNZ member Jimbo Mathus and hoped to catch him later. The band was also gathered for some official folk fest shots and I snapped what amount to stalker photos from the sidelines. And wearing one of my SNZ shirts, I wasn't exactly inconspicuous.

I went to see another session called Six String Nation where various artists including Hawksley Workman tried their hand playing a hand-crafted guitar with bits and pieces of Canadian history attached (i.e. wood from the Bluenose, a piece of Pierre Trudeau's canoe, a piece of Maurice Richard's Stanley Cup ring, etc...). I got there a bit late and had a seat at the back where I basically passed out in the shade for the entire session. The rest of the afternoon I spent wandering between sessions and poking my head into the merch tents. A caught a bit of Chirgilchin, a group of Tuvan throat singers. Tuvan throat singing is a remarkable feat where the singer can actually produce multiple pitches simultaneously. I was drawn to that session after having my interest piqued a couple years ago by a covers album by Albert Kuvezin & Yat-Kha. With covers of Zeppelin, Joy Division, and Santana among others, Yat-Kha is clearly not your average Tuvan throat band.

Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha - When the Levee Breaks [originally by Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe; reworked by Led Zeppelin]

I also saw Final Fantasy at a couple sessions. Final Fantasy is one of those artists I've heard of a lot, but never heard. So I have to say I was pretty astonished to find out that the "band" is in fact only one guy and a violin, Owen Pallett.

I'm sure this comparison has been made, but my first impression was that he's like a Canadian version of Andrew Bird. Using looping pedals, he conjured a string quartet out of nowhere and the audience was mesmerized, myself included. I was also surprised to learn he co-wrote the string arrangements for The Arcade Fire's first two albums. And here I thought Final Fantasy was just another random indie band making the hype rounds. I really should check out his album, He Poos Clouds, which I have to admit I've unconsciously avoided listening to because of its dubious title and vaguely disturbing cover art.

Jimbo drops by another session to take a peek.

The last session of the afternoon that I went to was Blues With a Feeling which featured the blues stylings of Chris Smither, Jim Byrnes, Mary Flower, Watermelon Slim, and Jimbo Mathus. During the hiatus from Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jimbo indulged in his blues influences, putting out a few blues albums with his Knockdown Society and playing with the North Mississippi Allstars. He was also invited to join Buddy Guy's band in the studio for two albums and on tour. SNZ's drummer Chris Phillips and bass player Stu Cole also joined Jimbo on stage. Like the Tin Pan Alley session earlier in the day, this blues session naturally lent itself to improvisation and group jamming with all the participating artists. Watermelon Slim proved to be a blues force to reckon with on slide guitar and harmonica. Much more on him later... After the show, I found Jimbo Mathus and got his autograph to finish off my Squirrel Nut Zippers CD. He told me that the Zippers would be playing a show that night at 11:30pm at the Westin hotel. Bonus!! This weekend was the first and likely last time I'll ever see them, so to find out about that extra show was a major boon.

Watermelon Slim is feeling the blues.

Watermelon Slim is a must-see show... as Jim Byrnes can attest.

The mainstage shows on Saturday were not anyone I particularly wanted to see. I actually left the festival site to track down some sort of photo place where I could unload my digital camera on a CD. It was practically full since my main camera was busted and I was forced to use an old camera with a 256MB card, which I definitely needed to empty before tackling the Squirrel Nut Zippers show later that night. Back at the festival, I did see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones who totally brought the crowd to their feet. That's the first time I've seen anyone play two saxophones simultaneously, harmonizing with himself. Bela Fleck's "drummer" was also a sight to see: an imposing dread-locked guy called Futureman who played some sort of home-made guitar thing, which produced all of the percussive sounds. While the band was technically impressive and the audience just ate it up, I was honestly rather unenthused with the whole bit since it seemed like endless solos for an hour or more. Then again, it could just be me because I've read people raving about the performance for days after. Great Big Sea ended the night. They were energetic, but becoming so commonplace at folk fests it's a bit of a joke. For the second night in a row, I left early during the headlining act... but this time I was headed to another show.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - Oh! Darling [originally by the Beatles]
Great Big Sea - It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) [originally by REM]

OK, this is getting ridiculously long, so I'll leave that night's show and Sunday for Part II.

Monday, August 13, 2007

TV Covers (Take 2)

Let's try that again shall we?

Basically what I was about to say was that I've been bogged down with work and stuff, so therefore I've been too busy and lazy to post much lately. A planned post about the Calgary Folk fest is still coming... several weeks after the fact. But in the meantime, enjoy some TV theme covers. Better yet, covers of television shows that have been the subject of dubious big screen adaptations recently or in the near future. And let us never prepare drafts in blogger again.

The Blanks - Underdog
Now really, who in the world would be inspired to make or see this movie??? Gee, I can't wait for a live action Snagglepuss, Top Cat, or Yogi Bear movie. Ooh, they could do Tom & Jerry with an actual cat and mouse. And Jason Lee can play a wacky neighbour...

The Blanks are the real-life acapella band of Ted (Sam Lloyd) on Scrubs. They've got a whole CD of television cover songs available at CD Baby. May there never be a Scrubs movie.

Cars Can Be Blue - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This cover is hilariously bad. Or possibly just plain bad. At the very least, it might bring a smile to your face. "Michelangelo is a party dude....... PARRRRRTAY!!!" I was almost tempted to see the animated remake of this based solely on fond childhood memories. Almost.

DJ Keoki - Speed Racer Theme (Porno mix)
I must admit I've never seen the original cartoon. In the hands of the Wachowski brothers, this film remake could be very, very interesting. Say what you want about the tail-end of the Matrix trilogy, their involvement definitely elevates this project from a write-off to a must-see.

Mute Math - Transformers theme
I was not a fan of this movie. I tried to check my brain at the door, but it was still insulting. Bah! Incidentally, Mute Math will be dropping by in Edmonton next month.

Tito Puente & His Latin Ensemble - The Simpsons Theme
Against all odds, the Simpsons Movie was actually quite funny and consistently throughout. As a fan who stopped watching practically 10 years ago only to sporadically tune in for a mediocre episode once a year, this came as both a surprise and relief. Woohoo!

Agent Orange - Get Smart
The Toasters - Get Smart
They've assembled quite an eclectic cast for this one, yet the director's resumé does little to inspire confidence. Steve Carell is most obvious choice of contemporary actors to fill Don Adams shoes, but that doesn't mean he's not the best choice. Just be thankful we didn't end up with someone like Matthew Broderick... or French Stewart. Anyway, I'll play "wait and see" with this one. And we can probably expect a cover of the theme song for next year's soundtrack, so we'll always have that to look forward to.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

TV Covers

This was going to be a post on TV covers. Seconds before posting, blogger wiped out the post... THEN AUTO-SAVED THE EMPTY POST. When will I learn? Too depressed to post right now.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Canadian Cover Content #5: Grab Bag

Before I regale you (i.e. bore you to death) with long-winded tales of last weekend, here are some covers by and of Canadian artists. Completely by accident today, I stumbled upon this interview on a NYC-based webzine called PsychoPEDIA talking about (of all things) Edmonton's music scene. Shocking, I know. It was Shout Out Out Out Out (Out?)'s Jason Troock discussing local veggie eateries, the Edmonton mentality, and lying on a rubber beach in the middle of winter. They're probably one of our biggest exports in years, but their name reminds me of that Demetri Martin joke: Bana... Bananana… damn!

In that note, here's a country cover of Canadian childhood icon, Raffi's ubiquitous Bananaphone!
Rhonda Vincent - Bananaphone [originally by Raffi]
This is from the unexpectedly delightful album Country Goes Raffi with various country singers performing Raffi classics. Country music generally causes me to involuntarily twitch, but this... this is okay. Ha, where else can you hear Keith Urban singing Apples and Bananas? Um, that one's not a particular highlight.

The Bad Plus - Tom Sawyer [originally by Rush]
Experimental jazz group The Bad Plus walk a precarious line between a sweet cover and utter chaos. It's not for everyone's tastes and their original compositions can try one's patience, but they have a penchant for cover songs, which is what brought them to my attention in the first place a couple years ago. I find they work better as a cover group since the familiarities of the tune provide an anchor when they veer off into avante-garde territory. In any event, I'm lovin' this Rush cover from their latest release Prog.

Serena Ryder - Good Morning Starshine [originally from the musical Hair (MacDermot/Rado/Ragni)]
I don't know much about Serena Ryder, but her name seems to be cropping up a lot lately and there are long waits at the library to get her CDs. Her second album If Your Memory Serves You Well is mostly a collection of covers of Canadian songwriters plus a few originals. Probably indicative of The Simpsons' massive cultural impact on our generation (as if it wasn't readily apparent in the past couple weeks), when I hear this song I picture a gooby-looking Mr. Burns singing it with Leonard Nimoy, Mulder, Scully, and all of Springfield with Chewbacca going ARRRARARHHRRH in the background. Am I crazy?

Tin Foil Phoenix - Man of Constant Sorrow [originally by Dick Burnett]
This cover by Winnipeg band Tin Foil Phoenix has been getting a fair bit of airplay on our modern rock station here. It's doesn't match the heights of Osaka Popstar's Man of Constant Sorrow, but it's pretty decent.

Great Big Sea - Run Runaway [originally by Slade]
I was walking past when Great Big Sea was playing in Edmonton at our Capital Ex festival and two days later they were the headlining act at the Calgary folk fest. I couldn't help but wonder how they feel playing probably the same 4 or 5 songs from their 1997 Play album every night 'cause that's what the audience expects. I guess this could be said about any band, but it struck me particularly while watching them. Gotta give them credit for playing with an infectious level of enthusiasm all the time.

Captain Tractor - Lord of the Dance [originally by Sydney Carter with excerpts of Slade's Run Runaway]
Super underrated Edmonton band that deserve to have been way bigger than they were. Consistently great songwriting, impressive musicianship, awesome live shows, and the best damn cover of London Calling ever. I'm not biased just because they're local; these guys were great. Technically, I guess they're still around but the shows are sporadic and the line-up's slightly changed (not bad, just different). Bought the Farm is a brilliant album.

That is all for now.