Albums of the Week

Jerry Joseph - By The Time Your Rocket Gets To Mars

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jerry_marscover

By The Time Your Rocket Gets To Mars (released April 15 on Cosmo Sex School/Voodoo Doughnut Recordings) is that rarest of rares, an album that puts the lie to all our shouting and disunity by finding the underlying ties that bind and wrapping them in melodies that slip past one’s defenses, fired-up yet tender rock with purpose and higher calling that suggests Van Morrison having a late night jam session with Crazy Horse and Joe Strummer. It’s a call to tenderize ourselves enough to feel what’s happening in the world and then do what we can to generate some positivity and basic kindness. This collection is timely to an almost painful degree, an outstretched hand and open heart to battle back all the fence building and the black tide of Trump’s ugly America eroding the earth beneath us.

This is the work of true professionals, musical lifers serving the material with judicious power and keenly placed touches steered by musician’s musician Dave Schools (Hard Working Americans, Widespread Panic). Captured at the cozy clubhouse of Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in Marin, CA, By The Time Your Rocket Gets To Mars hums with intent, a clarion cry to look up from the ground, stop replaying the past’s stories, and welcome in fresh horizons and truths unseen. The muscle pumping this journey out of the dark lands is the choice personnel producer Schools assembled for this set, which includes Joseph’s regular touring partners Steve Drizos (drums), Steven James Wright (bass) and Jeff Crosby (guitar) alongside guests keyboardists Jason Crosby & Mookie Siegel and guitarists Scott Law & Steve Kimock. The builds in these songs are exhilarating, simmering seductions that explode beautifully with effective timing, the hard and soft elements well balanced and playfully mingled. The sucker sounds great, too, but mixer Jim Scott (Ryan Bingham, Wilco, Neal Casal) has a long history of nailing just the right vibe. Some tracks like “Fog of War” and “Istanbul” were captured in heady one takes, and the whole album possesses a forward rush, varied elements locking in as the album travels through today’s gunfire and hard rain.

God is here, too, surveying the fires and shouting, crossing her fingers that love and the realization that all we really have is right now will ultimately win the battle for humanity’s soul. On his latest collection, Jerry Joseph reminds us of the many forms the divine can take and the myriad ways we can get lost and found in our seeking of a ground of reality beyond paychecks, wars, and countless disappointing tangents. Hope is hard won in the 21st century and By The Time Your Rocket Gets To Mars is a sharp plough for cutting fertile furrows where hope may grow from a mustard seed to a sprout and maybe even something tall and green one day.

Pick up the album here

Jerry Joseph Website

Albums of the Week

Nathan Moore - Goodbye America

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GoodbyeAmericaCover

Precarious times demand special songs to navigate an unstable landscape with a cloudy horizon. The multilayered experience of music allows truth and comfort to ease past the natural hardening that occurs with even slightly sensitive souls in such eras, the mixture of words, melody and sound finding where one is cracked and aching, open and exposed in true reality. It’s a help that hurts but like building muscle or learning new skills, the end result makes one appreciate and perhaps even crave substantive distress. Nathan Moore’s latest patriotic salvo Goodbye America is this sort of positive pressure, a balm that stings a little but might just get you back on your feet dancing in the bucket brigade as Rome blazes away.

Looking down Main Street (and Wall Street too), Moore begins by observing, “Nobody’s plotting the revolution/ Nobody’s dancing to the Great Heartbeat/ Except You and I.” He’s reaching out to his brothers and sisters (while reminding us we are ALL brothers and sisters), consciously bridging the widening gulf between human beings to remind us in the midst of friction filled upheaval and nasty shouting that not everything is scorched earth and clenched fists. Like spiritual ancestor Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, there’s a mad skip and wild grin threading through Moore’s examination of Modern Man’s survivalist mentality that notes “a hero is just a man in his underwear.” This song cycle is a battle cry to lay one’s self bare and embrace vulnerability, to accept our inherent fragility and impermanence instead of throwing up walls against our fears. Time and tide will have their way but we can choose how we spend our days instead of just going along for the ride.

Instead of choosing sides, Goodbye America says, “We’re all in this together. So what do we do now?” While Moore resists being programmatic, he uses his keen observational skills and prestidigitator’s dexterity to gently usher one through today’s weariness and rage towards bemusement over the nonsense and conflict and ultimately to a place where love is valued far above gold and power. In this way, it’s a most American and even Christian album without all the trappings of politics and religion, the better essence of these two powerful philosophical tracks distilled. That he does so with his most subtly pleasingly, judiciously fleshed-out musical settings thus far in his career is an added bonus. Moore’s sound is moving closer to Crowded House/Neil Finn and Rufus Wainwright territory than his folkie past. He’s a troubadour in the same vein as Tim Buckley, Fred Neil, and Richard Thompson, where the production adds interesting texture to barrelhouse bones.

Goodbye America is an invitation to step past our loathing and self-loathing to avoid a collective fate where “it only takes one to blow it all away.” Alone, disconnected, and terribly, terribly frightened is how too many people live in 2016. Those feelings aren’t false but there’s another way to see the world and Moore’s latest offering points us in that direction in an hour where we need all the positive navigation and potluck thinking we can get.

Mix Tape

Twang Thursday - Already Have The Key Edition

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A goodbye to dear, wonderfully eloquent Guy Clark and then into the essence of what this weekly burst of country and Americana is all about. Get out there and do some living, children.

Twang Thursday (Already Have The Key Edition) from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

If stream doesn’t work you can listen to this mix over HERE.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Mix Tape

Twang Thursday - Things Always Change Edition

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Try as we might to live within our happiest moments, change is inevitable. Here’s some richly drawn Americana to help y’all roll with them changes.

Twang Thursday (Things Always Change Edition) from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

If stream doesn’t work you can listen to this mix over HERE.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Mix Tape

Twang Thursday - Whiskey Certified Edition

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While rock is our driving force around the Impound, we veer into the gold & silver of country & Americana each Thursday because it’s good for the soul. And it’s the best drinking music known to man. Enjoy.

Twang Thursday (Whiskey Certified Edition) from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

If stream doesn’t work you can listen to this mix over HERE.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Mix Tape

Poundings - Welcome Back My Friends Edition

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A sampling of the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that blows DI’s skirt up in a big way. Mixes, just one of the good things one encounters by being a regular around these parts.

Track listing below.

Poundings (Welcome Back My Friends Edition) from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

If stream doesn’t work you can listen to this mix over HERE.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Ravings

Missing Prince

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”Sometimes it snows in April. Sometimes I feel so bad. Sometimes I wish that life was never-ending but all good things they say never last. And love isn’t love until it’s passed.”

Prince_DirtyMind

Sometimes a good shock to the system is the best way to meet someone, a chance encounter that twirls your wig so thoroughly that you see everything from fresh angles afterwards. The day I met Prince is etched in memory’s scrapbook alongside an image that will never fade – my fantastically out and proud high school mate Nigel stepping from his bedroom dressed in a perfect recreation of Prince’s ensemble from the Dirty Mind album cover. Not many and certainly not many high school freshmen could rock that look with confidence or flair but Nigel was certainly not everyone.

An ever-vibrant splash of color, Nigel was British and only recently dragged to California by his tech worker parents, and rather than shrink from the world as a stranger, marked instantly by his accent and apparent-to-everyone gayness (one was reminded of post-Gleemonex Scott Thompson in Brain Candy), he owned who he was. He was the first true super-freak in a long line of dearly cherished running partners that wore capes and went on adventures when everyone else put on a suit and punched the clock. And Nigel took Prince as his inspiration.

That afternoon when my pal wanted to show me his Halloween costume marked the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Prince and his music. As we smoked the joints I’d pilfered from my stoner uncle, Nigel played me Prince’s entire catalog to date. A year later, thanks to heavy rotation on MTV, the world would know Prince because of irresistible singles like “Little Red Corvette” and “1999” but on this sunny day, dancing lasciviously with my ghost pale, thigh-high wearing chum to Controversy’s “Jack U Off” and Dirty Mind’s “Head,” this young man raised hardcore Roman Catholic being tossed about by puberty found himself a kindred spirit and guiding light.

Prince_WhenDoves

”Everybody keeps tryin’ 2 break my heart/ Everybody except 4 me/ I just want a chance 2 play the part/ The part of someone truly free.”

Prince’s boldness and utter acceptance of variety and contradiction combined with his staggering talents and off-the-charts charisma opened my eyes to vistas I simply hadn’t imagined. That’s how the music meant for us, the music that finds us, especially in moments we really need to be found, seen and shown that how we feel, how we think isn’t nearly so alien or solitary as we imagine. Through his platform heel strutting apostle Nigel, Prince delivered just the motherfuckin’ word I needed. And I feel comfortable in conjecturing that this scene with myriad variations has played out over thousands and thousands of lives in the years since Prince first told us he feels for us and might even love us, his music and presence, his stride upon this earth and the quivers it issued, made many of my generation and beyond feel less alone, less afraid, sparking us to engage with what we felt and thought without filter, an example and a soundtrack for embracing ourselves and one another, hatred and ignorance the only real shadows in a widescreen, multihued conception of the universe and our place in it.

Prince’s sexual liberation theology was equal measures carnal and spiritual, God wholly present between warm, spread thighs, the Holy Ghost gliding in our breathy sighs as a lover traced their way to our core. If one truly imbibes Prince then even a single kiss can be permeated with depth and meaning. And sometimes it isn’t and straight ballin’ is the order of the day. The fiercely different poles of Prince’s thinking are both his struggle and the broader wrestling match of seeking higher calling and answering worldly appetites, flesh and spirit converging and clashing, neither ever truly dominant. Prince allowed us to eavesdrop on his internal conversation in ways that illuminated our own personal mind-body-soul chatter. A prophet is “a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God,” and Prince neatly fits this definition if one allows that God put the desire for both sex and spiritual fulfillment in us. At a base level, both are about connection and erasing borders, and Prince helped show one this commonality during the rise of New American Puritanism in the Reagan 80s – all the braver and bolder when glimpsed through history’s lens.

Prince_BlackSweat

”I don’t want 2 take my clothes off/ But I do/ I don’t want 2 turn nobody on/ Less it’s u/ I don’t want 2 dance/ But this is a groove.”

All this is heady shit and one can easily deep dive down the religion rabbit hole with Prince, but the way he shared his thoughts with us was so consistently groovy, so easy to like, that it makes little difference if one traveled hand in hand with his vision. As the man himself would say, “Just shut up and dance!” Wise words and if Prince’s music doesn’t move you then I wonder about your potential for fun ‘n’ joy. For sure, I’d never fuck you because I know you’d be sorry in the sack. Bypass all thinking and just let his sounds work ya and you will feel better, energy permeating your limbs and a new, nifty glow shining behind your eyes. The way music flowed through him was a total pleasure to behold, no pause between a thought and it’s deft, saucy execution, everything happening in stunning real time, the man a centering, captivating conduit for one great musical idea after another. Watch clips of him with other pros and even seasoned vets were often taken aback at his grace and prowess in virtually any setting.

Much of these thoughts are from an aerial view in the days since Prince’s died on April 21st. Stepping close to his death is more painful than I’d have imagined it could be. There’s an intimacy we allow certain artists we’d never permit with almost anyone else, access to us at our most vulnerable and exposed, their songs and presence sitting with us as tears stream down and twirling us in moments of triumph and delight. It’s a relationship where we need hide nothing, and in revealing ourselves so thoroughly we establish something beyond what the artists themselves could intend or develop on their own. I think this is why the death of someone like Prince sends out the grief ripples it has. We’ve lost a valued confidant and wise companion who had given us words and melodies that have sustained and enlivened our days.

Prince_AfroNotes

”Sometimes I wanna die and come back as one of your tears.”

Prince was closer to my heart than most of my blood relations, and if that strikes you as harsh or disproportionate then it’s safe to say that music and the blessed people who make it hold a different place in your life than mine. He was there for me when most of my family and many friends were not, and that counts for a lot just in practical terms of hours spent together and the way those minutes remain in my memory. Fan seems too small a word but I would never be presumptuous or delusional enough to say Prince was my friend. There’s more than mere admiration or enjoyment to the connection. This can be art’s power in our lives, the way a novel, film or album can reach across time and space and snap us to attention, the moment so present we can taste it, the contact lingering, an influence that seeps into our choices and POV in ways too complex to parse. Only a handful of artists will ever permeate my life the way Prince has and it’s going to take some serious time before a world without Prince makes sense to me. I know I’m not alone in these feelings, and it is Prince himself that helped show me my tribe, my community was so much larger and so much more delicious and exciting than 15-year-old Dennis could have conceived. Thank you for it all, your Purple Mounted Majesty. To say you will be missed is the grossest of understatements.

OMG this is really happening

The Bye Bye Blackbirds

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The Bye Bye Blackbirds

The Bye Bye Blackbirds

If the Impound were the Sultan of the Airwaves, Oakland-based The Bye Bye Blackbirds would be a yardstick we’d measure radio worthiness by. Their tunes flow with such snap and seemingly effortless ease (which is actually a hard, skillful trick to pull off) that they seem like something snatched from the Great Jukebox In The Sky, songs waiting to brighten and tickle our days, the shining result of old school craftsmanship, a great nose for melodically charged, harmony rich gold, and a healthy respect for the steps of the giants they stride in. Throw on the group’s latest effort, We Need The Rain (one of DI’s Favorite Albums of 2013) and one is quickly reminded of young, sharp, snappy Elvis Costello & The Attractions, prime Badfinger, and great 80s jangle The dB’s and Let’s Active. It’s the kind of record that sends one trawling through a band’s back catalogue, muttering, “Hey, good lookin’, where have you been all my life?”

Another gauge of a band’s merits is the company they keep and this coming Saturday, June 14th, The Bye Bye Blackbirds will open for rightly beloved indie rock cult faves The Rubinoos at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall (pick up tickets here). It’s about as perfect a bill as a power-pop enthusiast could want. We snagged BBB’s chief singer-songwriter Bradley Skaught to find out more about this emerging Impound fave.

Bradley Skraught

Bradley Skaught

One of the first things that hits one with The Bye Bye Blackbirds’ music is how bloody catchy it is. The modern era has really sullied the idea of pop elements mingled with rock ‘n’ roll but it seems like your band is dedicated to the more classic benchmarks of the 60s, 70s & 80s. What are your thoughts on pop and its role in what you do?

I guess it’s just where I come from in terms of influences. My first exposure to music was all about the immediacy of melody and songwriting, and I find that I just have never lost the taste for hearing a new great piece of songwriting. I also feel like there’s always a new twist to put on something. I realize I’m probably in the minority that way right now, but I’m still knocked out by how a guitar rock band can reflect all the individual and idiosyncratic elements of an artist – how it can be so familiar, but so different at the same time. I don’t lean on classic rock benchmarks because I think they’re the best or because I think it’s how everything should be done, it’s just the musical vocabulary I fell in love with and acquired, and I don’t think it’s played out as an artistic medium at all – maybe socially, maybe commercially, but not artistically.

Latest Album

Latest Album

Your band is part of what I regard as a long tradition of fantastic pop-rock artists in the Bay Area that goes back to Moby Grape and the SF Summer of Love scene. However, it seems in the past few decades it’s been harder for kindred spirits like Bart Davenport, Chris Von Sneidern, and yourselves to reach audiences. What are the challenges of getting your music heard in a climate where it would sound great on radio – seriously, “Butterfly Drinks” on the new album would Top 10 in a just world – but radio isn’t looking for new, non-industry groups?

I wouldn’t even know where to start. By comparison, Bart and CVS are superstars. It’s not that I don’t care or spend time trying to find ears (or wish that I could achieve some success in that way), but at this point I’m just befuddled by it. I just try to be good, you know? I just try to make something special and interesting and meaningful. There isn’t a scene. There isn’t an outlet or anything that has ever felt available to us as a means for finding an audience. I also have a particular gift for not meeting the right people, not making the right impressions. I might even have a gift for actively dissuading those people from being interested!

Tell us a bit about the other guys in The Bye Bye Blackbirds and how the band has evolved since your 2005 debut album.

The Bye Bye Blackbirds

The Bye Bye Blackbirds

I’m so blessed to have these guys to play with. Every version of the band so far has been full of skill and imagination. There’s a degree to which I steer things and I’ve been the only songwriter since 2010, but every member has really stamped their identity on the songs and I’m proud and honored by that. The current version is, by far, the most rocking version. Lenny Gill switched to guitar and brought his whole 70s classic rock-meets-90s-indie rock thing, and Aaron Rubin and Ian Lee are like Entwistle and Moon! They’re just explosive and nuanced and loud in a way that really takes everything new places. More than anything, there’s just a freedom and a level of improvisation that hasn’t been there before. I write detailed, structurally busy songs, so it’s a refreshing degree of craziness to have injected into things. And it’s really loud. It certainly wasn’t planned this way, but when the previous line-up started playing “Broad Daylight” by Free, I feel like maybe we planted the seeds for this version to come along and pick up some of that spirit. We also have KC Bowman on board most of the time as an auxiliary dude, and that just sort of blows the doors open to any kind of musical thing you need – harmony, arrangement stuff, recording. He’s a wizard.

1977 Debut LP

1977 Debut LP

On June 14th you open for The Rubinoos, a band legendary amongst record store staffs and those that love and support them but almost unknown to the greater world. What do you dig about this wonderful band? How does it feel to know you’ll share the stage with them?

Well, ultimately, I do love power pop. And these guys have been so amazing at it for so long! It’s also another part of the Bay Area rock ’n’ roll tradition – another group that made a mark here and added to the local dialogue. The pop thing here gets overlooked sometimes, but The Nerves were founded here, you know? There’s a deep melodic rock ’n’ roll vein that runs through the Bay Area. It’s exciting to feel like we get to share in that a little bit. I’m also just a huge Al Chan fan. This is a way for me to get to watch him play and sing without having to pay for a ticket.

The music business is an incredibly competitive one but my experience in the Bay Area has shown a bit more camaraderie than some other places. Musicians frequently show their support for music they dig by sharing bills, playing on sessions, and the like. Has this been your experience being part of this weird little microcosm?

It may just be that we desperately cling to each other because it marginally improves our chances of getting booked! There has been a certain amount of working together and sharing that has helped a lot, no doubt. I think we all recognize talent that is being ignored generally by local press and radio and whatever and there’s a bond there that’s valuable.

So, the band is four albums into their catalogue. What sort of record haven’t you made yet that you want to? What’s a few beloved albums that serve as north stars for you creatively?

2006 Debut Album

2006 Debut Album

I don’t really think that way, to tell you the truth. I find I just write the songs, bring them in to the band, put them together, and then the albums start to take shape. The times in the past where I’ve really pursued a particular idea about what I want to happen have resulted in awkward compromises – things that are neither themselves nor the things I envisioned. In those cases, I feel I let the songs down. Songs have a way of letting you know what they want to sound like – you try them out and you can feel when they’re working. There are usually points where I step back and see where things are going. “Oh, this is what the record is like! This is what this song is about!” – those sorts of experiences. I don’t really pursue any solid ideas of albums – there aren’t any albums that are something I’m after. I let the songs and the band dictate where they want to go and how they fit together. I have a lot of faith in the songs to do that.

Your music is so well sculpted and harmony rich in the studio. What’s fun and/or challenging about bringing it all together live?

Getting the detail and nuance of the songwriting while still being loud and energetic and rocking is a chore sometimes. You don’t want to be too studious or careful, but you don’t want to just pummel all the subtleties out of it either! Each version of the band has had a different sort of strength to it. This one is very much an ensemble and there’s a kind of heightened energy and electricity to it that’s fun and exciting – it’s big and it can get crazy. It’s not the vocal-focused version that maybe the past few have been – if there’s a challenge, it’s probably in really trying to find a place for the singing live sometimes.

Comparison is the most common way to describe a group’s sound in print journalism, but often the artists themselves have no connection with the comparisons cited. So, what are a few bands/singer-songwriters that do resonate strongly for you? Who’s company don’t you mind keeping, so to speak?

The Kinks

The Kinks

I’m mostly really honored by comparisons we get, even if it’s something I don’t really have any personal connection to. We get Big Star a lot and there really couldn’t be a greater compliment. As a band that cares about the combination of the classic and immediate with adventurousness, individuality and a truly artistic perspective, there aren’t many better. The Kinks, too, who, as I get older, just become more and more the band of that era that speaks to me. REM was a starting point for me as a writer and musician, so that’s another one I’m happy to hear. Anyone who wants to drop a smart, interesting songwriter with a kick-ass band full of cool guitar playing on me as a comparison is going to make me happy generally.