27 December 2010

WATCH: A small tribute to Brad Dourif

Whether you know it or not, you've seen Brad Dourif in a movie - if not many of them. His resume includes memorable roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Lord of the Rings, Child's Play, Blue Velvet and more including the cable series "Deadwood." The Oscar-nominated actor (for his role as Billy Bibbit in Cuckoo's) and Huntington native is one of West Virginia's most underrated talents. He is the best tribute I can give to Dourif, who is always a pleasure to watch on screen.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:
Child's Play:
Blue Velvet:
Wise Blood:

20 December 2010

DOWNLOAD: Chum - Dead to the World

About a year ago, I posted the 1994 EPs from this Huntington's Chum. Dead to the World is the 1996 full-length album from one of West Virginia's best and most successful (by getting signed standards) heavy bands. After releasing the EPs, Chum went on tour and found themselves on stage at CBGG's in New York City, where they were discovered and signed by Century Media Records. This is the excellent album the band produced for for the label. Despite the quality of Dead to the World, the success - and Chum's career - was short-lived after it was dropped by Century Media, but not before receiving plenty of critical praise and comparisons to King's X, Helmet and Quicksand. One critic wrote of Dead to the World:
"The amalgamation of harmonic bliss and chaotic guitar riffs sets this band ahead of the pack with a triumphant bit of genuinely open and sure-fire songwriting. No sooner than the first track "Stepping On Cracks" begins do we feel the intensity that Chum are willing to reveal to us through their music - and it only gets heavier."
The members of Chum including band leader John Lancaster went on to play in other bands and solo projects, but nothing quite lived up to the legendary status Chum established for itself in and around Huntington. In 2004, the band's principal line-up lead by Lancaster reunited in for sporadic performances, but nothing permanent.

Artist: Chum
Album: Dead to the World
Year: 1996
For Fans Of: King's X, Helmet, Quicksand

17 December 2010

WATCH: Hatebreed live in Huntington, 2003

I will admit, not since I was 19 have I really been a fan of Hatebreed, but they have continued write some of the most straight forward, heavy, angry, metallic hardcore, and it has brought them deserved success. Despite the band's success they always made time to come through Huntington, and play DIY venues much smaller than places they could be playing. I have always respected that loyalty to their fans. Though they like to look quite tough (and they probably are), Jamey Jasta and his band are stand up guys whose hearts are in the right place when it comes to hardcore. Hatebreed puts everything they have into every show, and though their albums haven't made it into my playlist since I was a teenager, their shows in Huntington were always a fun time to run in circles and jump on top of people. Here are some videos of one of Hatebreed's many shows in Huntington - this particular one in 2003 at the YWCA - a consistent venue for the band.

16 December 2010

WATCH: Louis Jordan - Salt Pork, West Virginia

Last night I was at a bar in Austin, flipping through the jukebox when a particular song title caught my eye. It was "Salt Pork, West Virginia" by Louis Jordan. As my knowledge of jazz doesn't venture far beyond Miles, Coltrane and Monk, I was not familiar with Louis Jordan, the song or Salt Pork, West Virginia.

Very quickly: Louis Jordan, born in Arkansas, was a pioneering jazz and blues musician popular from the '30s through early '50s. "Salt Pork, West Virginia," was recorded around 1951 just before the decline of Jordan's popularity. The song is about the narrator first avoiding the town of Salt Pork because that's where his baby lives, but quickly changing his mind. As it turns out, there is no Salt Pork, West Virginia, but in the last line of the song, Jordan calling out the names of cities like a train conductor hoots "Bluefield!" which was a hotbed for African-American jazz musicians at the time. Nevertheless, it was a fun discovery of a good song that reflects the state's role in black music throughout the first half of the century.

15 December 2010

DOWNLOAD: The Red Carpet Bombers - The Red Carpet Bombers

This is a continuation of contributions from a reader. The contributions include a number of rare, out-of-print or unreleased material from bands from around the state from the early '90s to '00s. I will be posting those records over the next couple weeks. Unfortunately, I don't know much about some of the bands so I won't have anything to say, so I have to rely on short write-ups by the contributor. The help with adding new material to the blog is always welcome and much appreciated. So thank you and keep them coming. Enjoy. If you would like to contribute, just contact me at srrblog@gmail.com.

"Featuring Kevin Allison (Bacon Hat, Milk of Napalm) and Brian Myers (Chum, The Gasoline Angels) amongst its ranks, this short-lived Huntington band released this lone album and appeared on the Loud & Local Stage at X-Fest 2004 before disappearing from the scene completely." For more on the back, click here.

Artist: The Red Carpet Bombers

Album: The Red Carpet Bombers

Year of release: 2004

For fans of: Backyard Babies, Danko Jones, Turbonegro

DOWNLOAD: The Red Carpet Bombers - The Red Carpet Bombers

14 December 2010

WATCH: Down Goes Frazier, live in Huntington, 2009

Here is a video of Huntington's Down Goes Frazier playing "Diarrhea of an Emotional Problem" at Marley's Dog House the band's home town some time in 2009.

10 December 2010

DOWNLOAD: Down Goes Frazier - Discography 2003 to 2004

A love for booze and punk music is what brought together this Huntington band, which features ex-members of Holden Caulfield, Out of Nowhere and The Shift. With a shared love for bands like Hot Water Music, Alkaline Trio and Avail, the quartet (now playing as a trio) formed in the early 2000s to make music that represented what they to listened to. What came of it was heavy, fast and aggressive post-hardcore punk rock that at times is melodically inclined.

Like band favorite Hot Water Music, Down Goes Frazier featured dual gravel-coated vocals from its guitarists, but the musical comparison is not so simple. Nick Adkins's technical guitar skills and songwriting ring of Silent Majority but his roaring vocals are more Planes Mistaken For Stars. Ryan McCullough's songwriting and vocals bring to mind Leatherface or American Steel's "Rogue's March".

On this download are Down Goes Frazier's first two demos - 2003's Self-Titled and 2004's "Blue Ribbon High Life." While the style doesn't change much between the separate recordings, the quality of songwriting matures as the band recognizes its intentions. The music is bittersweet, the lyrical content is the normal for a band of its genre - relationship difficulties, friends and family - but the words are as clever as the song titles, and easy to see along with.

Having toured minimally around the midwest, Down Goes Frazier never quite picked up the steam they could have with a lot of musical talent and arsenal of quality songs. In 2009, Ryan McCullough left the band to be a college professor, while the three other members have continued performing. They're a band that has not gotten enough attention outside the bar-venue scene of Huntington, so it is about time people here these recordings.

Artist: Down Goes Frazier
Album: Discography 2003 to 2004
Year: 2003 to 2004
For Fans Of: Hot Water Music, Planes Mistaken For Stars, Silent Majority

08 December 2010

WATCH: Karma To Burn - "20"

Having formed in the mid-90s, Karma to Burn went on a bit of a hiatus throughout the 2000s reuniting in 2009. The hard-working band from Morgantown right into touring heavily in the U.S. and Europe easily winning back old fans and picking up plenty of new ones along the way. In 2009, the revered instrumental stoner metal trio (recently joined on guitar by Dan Davies, son of The Kinks' Dave Davies) began work on its newest album Appalachian Incantation, which was produced by former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder. Now touring on the new album, Karma To Burn is playing all around the country with the Austin metal group The Sword.

Though the song below - a re-recording of "20" from 1999's Wild Wonderful Purgatory - is not from the new album, it is on the accompanying "Cat Got Our Tongue" bonus disc and one of the band's finest. Good to see one of West Virginia's best back at it and better than ever.

03 December 2010

WATCH: Clutch live at X-Fest in Huntington, 2002

In Huntington, the local radio station the X 106.3 has an affinity for bad to mediocre (and rarely good) heavy music - as do the residents of the region. Since the mid-90s Huntington has been one of a few cities in the country to host its own hard rockin' annual Clear Channel event. Huntington's first X-Fest featured Helmet playing at the Ritter Park Amphitheater. The festival has since moved to the riverfront park and has had its highs (Type O Negative, Rollins Band, Shadows Fall) but mostly lows (Nickelback, Disturbed, Buckcherry, Seether, and many more).

In 2002, the line-up included Hatebreed and Clutch, and below is a video of Clutch playing "Smoke Banshee" from Pure Rock Fury at the event. And if you look closely, you'll notice a potentially familiar then-21-year-old Herald-Dispatch photographer backstage waiting for a shot of the women in the crowd to expose themselves to the band. Oh, X-Fest.

01 December 2010

WATCH: Jedediah Purdy reads from A Tolerable Anarchy

Jedediah Purdy is a native of Calhoun County, West Virginia, where he was home schooled until attending high shool at Phillips Exter Academy, a prestigious boarding school near Boston. Now a professor of law at Duke University, Purdy has published four books - his first when he was only 25. He writes about how law interacts with and embodies ideas about freedom, social order, and the human relationship with the natural world, and how these ideas arise and change. His 2009 book, A Tolerable Anarchy: Rebels, Reactionaries, and the Making of American Freedom, "is a book of history that speaks plainly to our lives today, urging us to explore our understanding of our country and ourselves, and to make real our own ideals of freedom." According to the publisher:
Jedediah Purdy works from the stories of individuals: Frederick Douglass urging Americans to extend freedom to slaves; Ralph Waldo Emerson arguing for self-fulfillment as an essential part of liberty; reformers and presidents struggling to redefine citizenship in a fast-changing world. He asks crucial questions: Does capitalism perfect or destroy freedom? Does freedom mean following tradition, God’s word, or one’s own heart? Can a nation of individualists also be a community of citizens?
In the video below, Purdy reads excerpts from A Tolerable Anarchy, a book praised by critics, politicians and educators. Purdy is another lesser-known bright mind from The Mountain State who is likely to do great things in the future. I look forward to reading his work.

30 November 2010

DOWNLOAD: Glendale - Matchbox Martyr 7"

From the ashes of Morgantown's Lincoln came a handful of post-hardcore/emo groups - one being Glendale. The band featured Lincoln frontman Jay Demko joined by J. Marinelli on guitar, Darren Zentek (later of Washington D.C.'s Kerosene 454) on drums and Steven Kuhn on bass. Their only release was a two-song 7" released in 1994 on Virginia's Art Monk Construction, which also put the Lincoln material as well as Hoover, Darkest Hour, Karate and others. Stylistically, Glendale fits alongside the aforementioned bands or the likes of Drive Like Jehu, Slint or even Jawbox - progressive post-hardcore with intricately distorted guitars and dramatically frenzied vocals. If it spawned from early/mid-90s Morgantown/D.C. and its related to Lincoln, it is a safe bet. This short piece only leaves you longing for more, but luckily I will be posting some Samuel and Junction in the future.

29 November 2010

WATCH: RIP Leslie Nielsen, honorary West Virginian

In 2002 West Virginia state officials named "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" actor Leslie Nielsen an honorary West Virginian. "I really feel that when I come back here," said Nielsen, who died Nov. 28, at the age of 84.

According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Nielsen first came to West Virginia to golf and became involved with the education system through a friend, he said at the time. Nielsen grinned as the [honorary West Virginian] citation was read, and asked why he was being honored for enjoying the scenery of West Virginia. “To have the privilege to come here and spend time in this beautiful state... you’re going to give me a citation for that?” he said. “Well, I’m not going to give it back.”

In fact, I met Nielsen in 2004, when I was hired to take photos of his visit with the Charleston Alley Cats baseball team. He had a fart-noise toy that he used on everyone there, and it never got old watching the old man up to his tricks. He was a gentleman and it was a pleasure to chat with him. To celebrate Nielsen's life of making us laugh, here are some of his hits.

And my personal favorite, courtesy of George A. Romero and Stephen King:

26 November 2010

READ: Soft Rock Renegade turns one year old

One year ago today, I made the first post on this blog. Running a blog that archives music from West Virginia was something I always wanted to do, but I'm a little surprised I have kept it up for a year. It wouldn't have happened without the support and encouragement of those who read SRR, submit material and send me comments. It makes me realize I'm spending time on something people enjoy. Appropriately on the day after Thanksgiving, I say, Thanks.

To celebrate the one year anniversary the best I can from my bed at home, I am reposting the Top 5 most downloaded albums posted to the blog. (And apologies for the cheesy image at the top. Thank Google.) Please take some time and go back through the last year of posts and check out some of the material that is on here. There are so many good bands, albums available for download, videos and more. I hope to be doing this for another year.

Top 5 Most Downloaded Albums on Soft Rock Renegade:

23 November 2010

WATCH: Brian Wolfe with Sufjan Stevens on Jimmy Fallon

Sufjan Stevens just wrapped up a month-long North American tour with his band that featured a pair of drummers including Clarksburg native Brian Wolfe (who played in Rare Birds with Jay Demko). Sufjan Stevens, with Brian on drums, recently played Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Watch the video from the show below.

19 November 2010

READ: Jaimy Gordon - Lord of Misrule

Jaimy Gordon's novel Lord of Misrule won the prestigious 2010 National Book Award for fiction. The book, which I have not read yet, is set in the 1970s in the world of horse racing in West Virginia, and was praised by judges for being "vivid, memorable and linguistically rich." Baltimore native Gordon, 66, who has taught at Western Michigan University since 1981, worked as a groom and hot-walker at the Charles Town Race Track in West Virginia after graduating from college in the late 1960s.

"There are certain books whose richness makes it seem as though the writer had material to burn, and Lord of Misrule is one of them. Jaimy Gordon writes with a wonderfully profligate quality. As if a compelling story, an authentic sense of place, and a colorful cast of hustlers, losers, and memorable petty crooks weren't enough, Gordon adds a style at once deeply interior and vividly cinematic."--Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago.

Congratulations to Jaimy Gordon. I can't wait to read it.

18 November 2010

WATCH: American Minor live in Huntington, 2010

The Huntington Music and Arts Festival took place on October 2 and brought together more than a dozen artists from the region and state to perform at Ritter Park. The highlight of the event was the reunion of Huntington souther rockers American Minor, who had not played together since 2005. Below is a video of the band's opening song "Walk On" as well as an interview with guitarist Bud Carroll on Marshall University's student-produced late night show "Up Late" (that also features a former student of mine as the show's host's sidekick).

11 November 2010

WATCH: Weekend - Monongah, WV

I was reading about this band's new record on Pitchfork this morning: "This San Francisco noise-pop trio make one of the most promising indie rock records of the year." The band is Weekend, and Pitchfork gave the record - entitled Sports - an 8.2. The site has an affection for lo-fi pop shoegaze, and I had a presumption of what Weekend would sound like. (Admittedly, I've totally bought into the lo-fi shoegaze revival of the last couple years, so I was looking forward to hearing it.) I went to do my research when I soon noticed a track on the Bay Area band's new album had the home-state-centric title of "Monongah, WV." I have no explanation of the significance behind the title or if the band has any ties to small town outside of Fairmont, but it certainly encouraged my interest in Weekend. Nor can I quite understand the lyrics, which are chanted by breathy vocals, so that provides no hint. UPDATE BELOW. But below is a video of "Monongah, WV," so check it out - especially fans of My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division, as well as contemporaries such as The Fresh & Onlys and (Slumberland counterpart) Girls. (Note: "Monongah, WV" doesn't actually start until about 4:16 on the video as it is preceded by the ambient instrumental track "Monday Morning.")
I contacted the band today asking what the inspiration for the song was, and singer Shaun Durkan was kind enough to respond:
It's loosely about the coalmine collapse in 1907 in monongah, and the only survivor Peter Urban. Survivors guilt. Thanks for the interest.


08 November 2010

LISTEN: Arcane Rifles - Wicked Girl

Arcane Rifles is the newest band from Lexington-based Morgantown legend J Marinelli, who is on drums with Ben Allen on guitar/vocals and Phil Farmer on bass. Described by Marinelli has having a Stooges/Wipers/Joy Division vibe. I dig it.

DOWNLOAD: Jerry Andrick - 1944

Even in the 21st century, my father still plugs in his 8-track player when he works in the garage. Among his collection of '60s and '70s country crooners is a tape of recordings by his brother Jerry Andrick.

My Uncle Jerry has lead a wild life. Born and raised in Philippi, West Virginia, he had two children at an early age, and still managed a 4.0 gpa all through his time at WVU before earning a Master's in engineering. After living somewhat of a vagabond lifestyle, he and his family landed in Atlanta in the '70s. Throughout this time, Jerry was writing country songs including some for major label recording artists like Sami Jo Cole. His career as a songwriter never took off, but his album of originals was always a favorite of my father's.

Nowadays, Jerry helps his brother-in-law build music studios in Atlanta. With access to studio space and time, around 2007, my uncle sat down with an acoustic guitar and laid down some new songs of his as well as re-recording some of those that bellowed out of my father's 8-track player.

Jerry's tunes have the lyrical quirk of storyteller John Prine but sung with a baritone voice not quite as deep as Johnny Cash. A brilliant man who hated George W. Bush but doesn't trust any politicians, Jerry's newer songs reflect his personal politics touching on contemporary issues. The albums opening track "Mary and Rosalee" is about his friendship with a lesbian couple. On the bluntly-named "We're So Fucked," Jerry introduces the song by speaking "This is what I think about our current situation" then croons on about the Patriot Act, airport security, and Super Sizing.

Other tracks like "Prayer" and "I'm Takin' My Pony," which he wrote for Reba McEntire (though she's never heard it), show a softer side. But it is the song "West Virginia" that stands above all as my and my father's favorite. The song is a gentle anthem of affect for the state, its mountains and its people. Coming from the nephew and grandson of miners in Barbour County, it praises the brave laborers of our family while pointing a finger at the coal companies that have taken advantage of the hard-working people. "West Virginia, I love you. You'll always be safe here in my memory."

I do want to note that the first time Jerry played this record for me, we were sitting in his car while he smoked weed that was given to him by Ludacris. Yeah, he's lived that kind of life, and this record is a slight representation of that time. For those into humble, earnest singer-songwriters playing acoustic country-folk like Prine or Kris Kristofferson, give this a listen.

Artist: Jerry Andrick
Album: 1944
Year: 2007
For fans of: Johnny Cash, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson

05 November 2010

IN MEMORIAM: Samuel "Meuwl" Harshbarger

One year ago today we lost a great artist and dear friend, Samuel "Meuwl" Harshbarger. In January this blog paid tribute to Meuwl's life and career as one of West Virginia's finest hip-hop emcees and personalities. With help from Meuwl's friends and other artists from the state, we posted Meuwl's music, videos, photos, graffiti and some beautifully sincere words from Meuwl collaborator and close friends Justin "L-No" Leonard.

To again celebrate the genius who was Meuwl, on this day I wanted to re-post everything to give people another chance to download his music or just take an opportunity to remember what he contributed to all our lives.

RIP Meuwl.

25 October 2010

WATCH: Daniel Johnston - "True Love Will Find You In the End"

Daniel Johnston has quite the fan base in Austin, Texas, where the author of this blog lives. Johnston landed in Austin around 1985, and while working at a McDonald handed out home-recorded tapes of his "outsider" music. He wound up on Mtv's "The Cutting Edge," and quickly developed a cult following.

Though his incredible life was the subject of the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, many people are not familiar with Johnston's music (and art). He is heavily associated with Austin and its music scene, but what may is lesser known is Johnston was raised in West Virginia's northern panhandle. On the 1980 tape Songs of Pain, Johnston expresses his love for the Mountain State on the track "Wild West Virginia."

His music - "awkward" and "haphazard" but melodic and earnest - has been revered by legendary artists David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and Beck. His songs were also covered by the likes of The Flaming Lips, Tom Waits and T.V. On the Radio for a 2004 tribute album. The music of Daniel Johnston was also celebrated by Morgantown's J Marinelli in a tribute show.

The complex story of Daniel Johnston, which involves the circus, bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, Satan and more; is too much to tell here. That is why there is a documentary. Today, I just want to post this video for one of Johnston's finer songs "True Love Will Find You In the End," which demonstrates the sincere and subtle brilliance behind his songwriting.

20 October 2010

DOWNLOAD: Electric Lullaby - Kindred to the Snake

After I recently read a mention of Electric Lullaby on WVRockScene.com, I figured I'd post this album, which was submitted to the blog back in March.

"A Gumby’s staple, this band would eventually evolve into Cretin Hop and Heavy ME, but first got its start under this moniker and self-released this album, one of the first recorded documents of the then-burgeoning Huntington music scene."

Artist: Electric Lullaby
Album: Kindred to the Snake
Year: 1992
For fans of: The Afghan Whigs, Screaming Trees, Sunny Day Real Estate

* DOWNLOAD: Electric Lullaby - Kindred to the Snake

* Note: two of the tracks on this download are supposedly corrupt. Sorry.

18 October 2010

WATCH: Billy Cox with Hendrix, Band of Gypsys

Happy Birthday to Billy Cox (pictured on left) who was born in Wheeling in 1941. Cox is best known as the bassist for Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys. The extent to which Cox lived in Wheeling is beyond my knowledge. Possibly like Pirates great Bill Mazeroski, he could have just been born there but raised in neighboring Ohio or Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, Cox was born in West Virginia so we will claim him.

It was in the early 1960s in the Army that Cox and Hendrix met. Hendrix invited Cox to play with him in England as part of the Experience, but Cox delcined, later re-uniting with Jimi in 1969 for Band Of Gypsys. As a lifelong Hendrix fan, and believer that the Band of Gypsys live record was his most interesting work, I was elated to find out Cox had ties to the Mountain State. Below, watch Hendrix, Cox and the incredible Buddy Miles together as Band Of Gypsys. The band was Hendrix's final project before his death in March 1970.