19 May 2010

LOOK: Buswater and the art of Jamie Miller

Jamie Miller left her hometown of Charleston to live in the Morgantown area during her college years, but returned to the capital city soon after and continues to live, raise her family and work as an artist there. Miller says she remains in The Mountain State "because there is a special magic here." She continues, "There is a recovery of the spirit that hasn't been lost in people. Everything that I learned was rooted here. I saw amazing punk rock shows at the art space and throughout the state in the Eighties that founded some parts of who I am. I played in the creek, picked blackberries, grew up on flea markets and cornbread and beans. It wouldnt be the same in other places, I think that is why many come home."

Influenced by the underdogs, Marc Chagall, punk rock, coal hollows, cowboys, Philip Guston, broken hearts, mended hearts and anger, Miller is a painter and a jeweler. "Everything I paint is painted by hand," she says about her technique. "Literally fingers. I do not use brushes, some times the end of one for scraping." Miller's work often features bright colors, clever animals and caricatures and youthful imagery. Miller is also working on found object packages that she mails to people, as well as jewels, which she sells on her Etsy page.

As an artist, Miller is thriving in Charleston selling much of her paintings and jewelry at shows on a regular basis. "The art scene in Charleston has many crazy talented folks who are starting to have more outlets to show their work. It's coming along for sure." There is no better time for art in Charleston than its annual week-long FestivAll, which kicks off June 17. As part of the festival, Jamie and friend Todd Griffith host Buswater On the Boulevard, which includes work from 30 artists from all over the region including Miller's newest paintings.

When: June 19, 25, 26.
Where: 1520 Kanawha Blvd. SE, Charleston.

18 May 2010

WATCH: RIP Ian Curtis. 30 years ago today.

My first absolutely non-West Virginia related post, but it IS a music blog, so what the hell. Thirty years ago today brought the death of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, and I wanted to pay tribute. I don't have any inspired words to say about Curtis, whose personality was far from extraordinary - instead he was just a great wordsmith and vocalist who had epileptic seizures and bouts with depression and heartbreak, which lead to his suicide in 1980. But I love Joy Division, so I wanted to post some videos. RIP Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980).

17 May 2010

DOWNLOAD: Info Nympho - Eggs

This record came as a recommendation from J Marinelli, who said of Info Nympho, "I'm not sure if you've ever heard Info Nympho, but they were one of my favorite Morgantown (via Dayton via Brooklyn) bands circa 1999-2000, kind of a weird GBV/Devo/Electric Eels/noise/prog/Captain Beefheart hybrid. A great lost Morgantown band." Correct. A great lost Morgantown band.

This was the first Info Nympho album. It was recorded in 1998 in the town of Scott's Run, West Virginia. The musicians were Andrew Hurst, Michael Walls, Daniel Poling, and Jay Kuntz plays lead guitar on the song Yellow Sun Soldier. Mike introduced himself to Dan at the laundry mat at the top of Eighth Street in Morgantown, West Virginia. Mike introduced Dan to Andy and the three of them spent the next year and a half recording an album out at Trish's trailer and playing three shows in Morgantown. Info Nympho played shows with Bead Arithmetic, The Freshmen Killday, Rob The Bank, Moon, and Who Killed Teacher. Eggs was a tape release on Olive Records. Only 50 hand dubbed copies were produced, the first eight copies were on cream colored paper and not white. It was recorded on 4-track out at the trailer, dumped to DAT by Mark Poole, and transfered to CD by someone at Squirrel Sound. The DAT was never broken up into songs.
I took it upon myself to break up the songs. Enjoy.

Artist: Info Nympho.
Album: Eggs.
Year: 1998.
For fans of: Guided By Voices, Devo, Electric Eels.

13 May 2010

DOWNLOAD: Mr. Fancy Pants - So You Think You Can Pants

For more than a decade Sean Decker has been involved with a number musical ventures in the Wheeling area. His resume includes indie rock outfits Five Minute Conspiracy, Killed At Camp and Horns to the Matador as well as a solo split with Michael Iafrate. His most recent project is Mr. Fancy Pants, which recently released its first album So You Think You Can Pants.

Unequal parts Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket and Yo La Tengo, Mr. Fancy Pants is as quirky as it is raucous - a blend of mid-90s rock and sweetly melodic pop. Decker's Jeff Buckley-esque voice accessorized by some background crooning is spread out over elements of shoegaze, psychedelic jazz, and lo-fi garage rock driven by capable musicianship. Coining itself as "Wheeling's favorite band that it's never heard of," Decker and company haven taken a D.I.Y. approach to role as a band - So You Think You Can Pants was recorded by friend Dallas Campbell (The Minus Tide, Drown Culture) and the band has released the album online for $1. Decker's ability to take elements of so many musical influences and blend them into a final product that is truly avant garde is why he continues to re-emerge as the influential and innovative songwriter that he is. And Mr. Fancy Pants is just the latest representation of that innovativeness.

Artist: Mr. Fancy Pants.
Album: So You Think You Can Pants.
Year: 2010.
For fans of: Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket, Yo La Tengo.

11 May 2010

WATCH: M Iafrate live in Parkersburg, 2002

In March 2002, I booked a show at an all-ages coffeehouse venue in Parkersburg called Caffeine Kelli's. I believe the bill included FüD (Food), Better Off Dead (ex-The Warriors from Morgantown), The Pariah Prophecy and Mikey Iafrate. The show started off with a bang and less than 60 seconds into Better Off Dead's opening song - a cover of SS Decontrol's "Glue" - singer Ray Cheek let explode a bag of flour all over the stage. This didn't do much to please the co-owners of the venue who immediately ended the set and demanded the mess be cleaned. The rest of the show went more smoothly, and at some point Iafrate played this cover of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" from the Top Gun soundtrack. It was just one of those nights - a subtly great performance nonetheless.

07 May 2010

DOWNLOAD: M Iafrate / S Decker - Split

Skipping ahead five years from his 1998 releases, here is Michael Iafrate's split with friend and fellow member of Killed At Camp Sean Decker. This split represents the progression of Iafrate's songwriting that comes with age and experience. While Iafrate's genteel voice, organic guitar strumming and personal but clever lyrics remain, the songs of this split take a giant leap forward in structural and stylistic maturity from earlier material. On this split, it is apparent he started taking more influence from neo-tradition folk songwriters such as Will Oldham and Gillian Welch, which added a new element to Iafrate's tone.

On the other side of the record is Sean Decker's five tracks, which take on stylish instrumentation with vocals a little more theatrical than his counterpart - think Rufus Wainright or a less brooding Jeff Buckley. This is two of the state's most talented and imaginative singer-songwriters on one album.

Artist: M Iafrate / S Decker.
Album: Split.
Year: 2003.
For fans of: Will Oldham, Rufus Wainright, Jeff Buckley.

04 May 2010

DOWNLOAD: M Iafrate - Total Science!

Released just six months after The Struggling Efforts of My Boyish Tongue, Total Science! picks up where Wheeling's Michael (Mikey) Iafrate left off. Here are 10 more home-recorded tracks that are literate and reflective while always maintain pop sensibility. While songs like "Add Another Boy to the Hurt List" and "Come Free" represent the heart-minded nature of most singer-songwriters in their early 20s, "Making Fun of the Missile Crisis" hints at Iafrate's political undertones.

Artist: M Iafrate.
Album: Total Science!
Year: 1998.
For fans of: R.E.M., Elliott Smith, Nick Drake.

03 May 2010

DOWNLOAD: M Iafrate - The Struggling Efforts of My Boyish Tongue

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last month. It's a busy time of the year for the author of this blog. So to get us back on track is some of the early recordings of one of West Virginia's most important musical players Michael Iafrate.

Michael Iafrate, older brother of recently featured Andrew Iafrate, is probably best known for playing in Wheeling's sci-fi-rock-metal group The Minus Tide. But since the early '90s, Mikey, as he was known then, has been an singer-songwriter cranking out progressively impressive bittersweet but poppy acoustic tracks. Recorded while in college in Wheeling, The Struggling Efforts of My Boyish Tongue is a lo-fi collection of such earnest songs from a musician taking influence influence from R.E.M., Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Though, the quality of Iafrate's songwriting and sound production have all improved over the last decade, the tracks of My Boyish Tongue are mature - both conceptually and creatively - and after twelve years remain heartfelt and fun. And there is much more to come from Mr. Iafrate this week.

Artist: M Iafrate.
Album: The Struggling Efforts of My Boyish Tongue.
Year: 1998.
For fans of: R.E.M., Elliott Smith, Nick Drake.