Greg Humphreys is one of those amazing surefire musicians I want to grab people and make listen to – just sit them down in an easy chair, pack a little something in their pipe, strap on headphones and just wait for the grin I know is coming once Humphreys’ music hits their synapses. Since the mid-80s, he’s knocked out quality rock ‘n’ soul with his bands Dillon Fence and HOBEX (two catalogs y’all need to go way more than knee deep into), proving one of the shaggiest Southern white boys to ever belt ‘em out in a voice that’d make young Al Green and Bill Withers smile, with the sterling songcraft to match his pipes.
This was taken just after Big Light’s first set at this year’s High Sierra Music Festival. Drummer Bradly Bifulco was feeling ginned up by all the rock ‘n’ roll they’d spilled in the Vaudeville Tent and had just the attitude we like to see in a middle finger salute. Archbishop Runde stands at his side to add further glare to the mood.
This was the second formal band photo I have taken for Big Light. I brought lighting and all the bells and whistles I thought I needed to The Independent this past August. For this shot, it turns out I didn’t need any of it, besides my camera, of course. The photo was taken on top of the venue. It was a great way to start the evening and the grand reopening of The Independent after the room’s remodel.
Lingering essences haunt the third installment in our new annual December tradition. It is those that remain behind when one shuffles off that continue to “live” with us. It is to be hoped that we truly get to lay our weary head down with the final curtain falls. Or perhaps that’s just when the adventure of existence gets truly interesting. Who’s to say?
If you experience playback problems, pop over to the 8tracks mix page and it should play fine.
One of the Impound’s absolute favorite discoveries in the past few years is Nicki Bluhm and her fab band The Gramblers. We have crushes on both the lovely, oh-so-easy to like Ms. Bluhm and her slide-wise lead guitarist Deren Ney, a love that stems from the abiding rightness and goodness of the rock ‘n’ countrified soul they play. Nicki’s debut, Toby’s Song (review), was an attention grabbing salvo but fine as it is, the forthcoming follow-up Driftwood (out February 1 on Reapandsow) cements Bluhm’s place as one of the best women in rock today. Driftwood is seriously addictive and has such a well-crafted, easy glide and end-to-end craftsmanship that it’s hard to imagine someone not diggin’ it. Seriously, we might really question your taste if this one doesn’t float your boat. Nicki has released this preview video and two cuts from Driftwood, “Carousel” and “Before You Loved Me” are streaming at her website, where the album can be pre-ordered.
Holiday music really isn’t my thing. The vast majority of it makes me physically cringe or wanna punch an elf or some shit. Like I need to hear Taylor Swift or Sugarland grin their way through the thousandth version of “Frosty The Snowman” or Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” While I had some grand times with my mom as a kid, most of my memories of Christmastime are closer to Mrs. Hurdicure’s happiest memory in The Kids In The Hall’s glorious, prescient Brain Candy. Still, tis’ the season and all that, and there are a handful of tunes that skirt the usual holiday jingle awfulness. Some of them are downright cheerless, some a little off-color, but each jingles my sleigh bells and hopefully yours, too.
If you experience playback problems, pop over to the 8tracks mix page and it should play fine.
Leroy Justice The Band Twilight
[mp3 asins=B000TDYJLE title="The Song"]
The song is originally off Northern Lights-Southern Cross but I recently got this other version from Bradley in my band [Editor's Note: an early demo take appears on the 2001 remastered CD edition]. It’s this real broken down version with piano and this really breathy, close-mic’d vocal by Robbie Robertson, and it feels like the day or night right after he wrote it. It’s just so crushing and good. I keep going back to it to learn how to play it I love it so much.
And then the album version is this trippy, spacey, calypso version with this weird synth in it. It’s just SO different to this haunting, late night song that I love. Hearing these two takes reminds me of Leroy Justice’s process, where songs begin with me late at night with guitar quietly coming up with something. Then, I know when I take it to the band it will become something else.
The lyric – “Don’t leave me alone in the twilight/ ‘Cause twilight is the loneliest time of day” – also fits right into that late night headspace. A lot of it starts for me in my bedroom or somewhere else, alone with low light and singing quietly, and it builds from there. (Jason Gallagher of Leroy Justice)
Broken Down Version
There are easier roads The Black Crowes might have taken in their 20 years together. Few acts with one of the biggest selling debut albums in history would have traveled such jagged, highly individualistic pathways or stuck so aggressively to a creative code of conduct that’s never allowed them to create “product” or fully capitulate to the whims and fancies of label suits. “Trust me, man, I’m sure some of the people in this band wish we’d taken some of those easier roads,” offers Chris Robinson. “I’m like Captain Ahab chasing the White Whale [laughs].
Croweology encapsulates some of the byways and back roads this band has traveled with the lot given an acoustic-minded makeover. Given their massive catalog – further stretched by one of the largest cover selections since Garcia used to teach his mates a new song at almost every soundcheck – the 20 cuts selected for Croweology carry significance. There’s nothing casual about the choices made for the last recorded chapter for the time being. In ruminating over this career-spanning assortment one is once again reminded of how unique, gutsy and melodic the Crowes are, and how even after two decades, try as they might, no other band sounds quite like them. Their hungry reach into the roots of rock ‘n’ roll and insistence on the genre being a vibrant, pulsating, living entity comes through in the new arrangements and heartfelt performances, which are finding live footing on the Fall/Winter “Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys Tour,” where the band has been playing acoustic sets regularly before plugging in for the electric mayhem they’ve long delivered.
We turn now to the second disc of Croweology and the thoughts of The Black Crowes’ architects Chris and Rich Robinson on what they have wrought.
She Talks To Angels
To me, the song is just great. Musically, I never get bored of playing it, and I think Chris’ melody and lyrics are just amazing. For this record, it was just a no-brainer for all of us. Luther is great on this one. He’s got his ears open all the time and he’s listening to what everyone is doing and he adds what needs to be added. (Rich)
The Morning Song jam has always changed, so when we got to the studio and worked on the arrangement, when we got to the middle part we kinda just stopped and I started singing it different and explained this is where we needed to go. What you hear is the first time we did it. It just fell into place and we hit it. We’re in a place where we’re asking, “What are we shooting for?” We were talking the other day about producers who feel like what they’re doing is more important than the song or the artist, guys like Mutt Lange. Fuckin’ Def Leppard and Shania Twain, it all sounds the same – it’s just shit. We’re lucky to be in this place [today]. What are we shooting for? To be accepted at a radio format or to be pretty and clean and youthful in a video format? No, we’re shooting for something that hits you right in your soul.
Downtown Money Waster
The way it was written was with a dobro, and then we brought on Eric Bobo on Amorica to do it. It turned into something cool and kept growing. That’s one of the things I feel we reached on this record – growth. It’s one of the songs that’s really evolved into something different. (Rich)
Another one of my favorites. If you think about the psychedelic parts of what we do you usually think about the big, monstrous, electric stripe of that. But then you have a song like Good Friday, which is probably one of the trippiest songs we’ve recorded with this version. You can take the smallest things and they can make the biggest musical statement. I think this is a very subtle, nicely tripping piece of psychedelia. (Chris)
It’s always great for me to play; it never gets old. We changed the middle section into something new, merging the Brothers of a Feather version and the Crowes version. (Rich)
Welcome To The Good Times
Someone made a comment recently about “how can you say what you say about By Your Side?” Well, I made it so I can say what I want. How’s that for an answer? When I make a criticism about myself, if you like it, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. And there are great songs on By Your Side and I think Welcome To The Good Times is as good a song as any Rich and I have written. The other thing is we played it at the Town Hall. We took the two acoustic nights at the Town Hall during the Warpaint Tour as a blueprint for what we can do. Welcome To The Good Times just rings with that certain cynical optimism we have. (Chris)
Girl From A Pawnshop
That’s a song we’re all really into. (Rich)
That was one I didn’t think would work acoustic, and of course, Amy [longtime tour manager and right hand gal] in her infinite wisdom said, “Yes it will. Now do it.” So, we did it. We wrote that song in probably 1988 or 1989, so it’s probably 21-22 years old, but at least for me, it’s as fresh as the day we wrote it. It’s still a soulful song, and a song written from a 21 or 22-year-old’s perspective. So, there’s a lot more shading in life, where you have no idea what will happen and you don’t know how much will be left up to fate and how much will be a roll of the dice. (Chris)
We’ve always done covers for 20 years, starting with Hard To Handle, and we felt it would not be fully representative if we didn’t include one, and She has been with us for a long time. (Rich)
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye
I like mid-tempo stuff [laughs]. One of the main changes from Shake Your Moneymaker to Southern Harmony was the introduction of the mid-tempo heavy rock song like Black Moon Creeping. Heavy metal music doesn’t really do that. That’s definitely something that made people take notice because they hadn’t heard anybody doing mid-tempo hard rock in a long time. I think Bad Luck Blue Eyes is one of the best songs Rich and I have written, another slice of early 90s living where we listened to that first Little Feat record, Songs From Big Pink, The Grease Band and stuff. All those songs wrote themselves in that era. I think [Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye] has grown up well. (Chris)
The Black Crowes play the final six shows of the current tour before an indefinite hiatus at San Francisco’s The Fillmore starting this Sunday, December 12.
Some videos to coincide with the Disc Two selections.