31 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: Horns to the Matador - We Own This Town, Johnny!

Having broken up in late 2000, members of the Wheeling rock outfit went on to play in the likes of The Minus Tide and Mr. Fancy Pants. In their short-lived existence, HTTM had (according to the band's bio) "perfected the big-guitar emo-rock sound that earlier Wheeling bands had reached toward, drawing on the work of modern indie-rock bands such as Elliott and Piebald and rock favorties such as Journey to create a sound that mixed the 'classic' sounds of 80s rock giants with the fresh modern rock heroes of the emo genre."

HTTM does in fact combine the exuberant emo energy of Elliott with the discordant side of early Piebald. The band also combined with the technical, stop-and-go preciseness of Don Caballero, which is present in The Minus Tide sci-fi metal style. While Sean Decker's reverb-heavy vocals reminiscent of a poppier My Morning Jacket is at the front of the band's sound, it is Nate Musser's creativity and skill on bass and Dave Klug's drumming that punch the band forward in each song. In fact, it was Musser's departure from the band to attend Berklee College of Music that attributed to HTTM breaking up, but not before recording this 7-song EP in 2000. And though the members went on to create great music with other projects, We Own This Town, Johnny! remains one of my favorite albums from a West Virginia band.

Artist: Horns to the Matador
Album: We Own this Town, Johnny!
Year: 2000
For Fans Of: Elliott, Piebald, Don Caballero

28 January 2011

LISTEN: Austin Lucas - Hollywood

Austin Lucas first came to my attention in early 2007 when he was featured on the track "Hold My Bed" from Chuck Ragan's Blueprint Sessions demo compilation. I sought out Austin's solo material via MySpace. It was there that I discovered at the time he was living in Prague, but originally from Bloomington, Indiana. He had previously been in grind punk bands Rune and Twentythird Chapter, but was now returning to his roots playing country/folk.

In an exhausting list of punk-turned-country singer-songwriters like Ragan, Tim Barry, Ben Nichols or Drag the River, Austin Lucas sets himself apart with a more traditional approach and a truly gifted voice. Influenced by his musical father Robert Lucas, Austin spent six years of his youth with the Indiana University Children's Choir and performing in operas and classical choral pieces. While the appeal of the likes of Ragan and Barry is the gritty punk rock undertone to their solo material, the conventional roots style of Lucas's songs may be a turn off. For me, the sincerity is the appeal. His songs are tender and reflective tales about situations and characters to which we can all relate, played with an simple but passionate honesty in his voice and his guitar playing backed by subtle instrumentation from a banjo, stand-up bass, or violin. When I saw Lucas play in Austin, Texas, in late 2007 in a bar with less than 12 people in attendance, I was simply blown away.

On this one track, "Hollywood," Austin Lucas introduces us to the horrors of combat through the experience of a "broad shouldered West Virginia boy" and how they compare to the movie industry's representation of war. The song comes from Lucas's 2007 album Putting the Hammer Down. Great track. Great musician. Check him out.

26 January 2011

WATCH: Converge at Krazy Fest 2001

Converge is an all right band, but they are not the reason I am posting this video. The reason this video of a performance from the 2001 Krazy Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, is on here is because of the confused young lad wearing a flipped-bill hat at the bottom left of the screen. Yeah, that's the then 20-year-old author of this blog along with my good friend Eric (with a shaved head nonetheless) watching one of his then-favorite bands.

I first attended Krazy Fest, hosted by Louisville-based Initial Records, in its second year in 1999 to see bands like Braid, Snapcase, Silent Majority, Elliot and Sick of It All. I returned the next two years to catch the likes of One King Down and Grade in 2000, and best of all Hot Water Music, Avail, Alkaline Trio, and Planes Mistaken For Stars in 2001. The festival was always a fun weekend with friends, many of which continued to attend until the event's final year in 2003.

After an eight-year hiatu, it was announced that Krazy Fest would be back this May. I'm sure many of my old hardcore/punk scene friends are quite excited, and I too think it has the potential to be a good time - hoping that it serves as a reunion of sorts for bands of the late '90s early '00s-era Louisville. So far on the bill are some bands I'd be excited to see: Samiam, By the Grace of God, Bouncing Souls, Chamberlain; and bands I'm not excited about: Bane, Anti-Flag. I only hope to see on the bill old Louisville or Initial bands like Elliot (maybe even Falling Forward), Slint, Rodan, Enkindel, Silent Majority or The National Acrobat. It is not likely I will, but one can hope. Nevertheless, I enjoy this random documentation of my embarrassing young.

25 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: The Dick Brothers - The Dick Brothers

In their own words: "The Dick Brothers is a collaboration betwixt two native West Virginian singer-songwriter brothers, Michael Iafrate (The Minus Tide, M Iafrate & The Priesthood) and Andrew Iafrate. Powerful artists in their own right, the Iafrates, under this charming moniker, have made numerous live appearances on conventional stages and at Christmas party sing-alongs. Before migrating to homes away from their Appalachian birthplace in the summer of 2006, The Dick Brothers teamed up for a whiskey-soaked recording session which resulted in a 10-track record. The self-titled album was recorded in three hours time to one track through one microphone in a basement in [the brothers' hometown of] Parkersburg, and is made up of four original instrumentals and six bluegrassy/ol’ timey cover songs penned by the likes of Hazel Dickens, The Stanley Brothers, and Gillian Welch. The result is a beautiful tribute to the brothers' home state, 'the nearest thing to heaven that they know.' "

Artist: The Dick Brothers
Album: The Dick Brothers
Year: 2006
For Fans Of: Bonnie Prince Billy, Magnolia Electric Co., M Ward

21 January 2011

LISTEN: Phil Ochs - The Hills of West Virginia

In light of the Jan. 5 opening of the Phil Ochs documentary There But For Fortune, I want to post his song "The Hills of West Virginia." Ochs was a protest singer who was born in El Paso, Texas, and died way too early at the age of 36. Influenced by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Buddy Holly, he was a topical singer and songwriter who unfortunately fell in the shadow of Bob Dylan. In his own right, Ochs was a one-of-a-kind talent - confrontational but witty, fierce but earnest - all with a voice that was unassuming but subtly haunting. "The Hills of West Virginia" comes from one of Ochs's best albums - 1965's I Ain't Marching Anymore.

20 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: Hasil Adkins - Peanut Butter Rock and Roll

There are a lot of Hasil Adkins albums out there. This one is the best. When the Wild Man from Madison, West Virginia, was rediscovered in the 1980s, he recorded a few contemporary records. The rockabilly one-man band's finest material remains the well-worn reel-to-reel material cut in his Boone County shack from 1956 to 1963. Peanut Butter Rock and Roll, released in 1990, features twenty tracks from "Haze's Golden Decade." It includes his renditions of Carl Perkins's "Blue Suede Shoes," Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" and plenty of originals of Hasil's usually-raucous, often-humorous but always-honest style that is all his own. It was his one-of-a-kind personality and ahead-of-its-time punk rock musicianship that makes him a legend - an influence on the likes of The Cramps, Reverend Horton Heat and King Khan. In fact, the cover of Peanut Butter is probably recognizable as it inspired the art for Social Distortion's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. Hasil is a true music great, and it's a shame the West Virginia Hall of Fame has yet to recognize that. But with this brilliant compilation of some of his best tracks, you will.

Artist: Hasil Adkins
Album: Peanut Butter Rock and Roll
Year: 1990
For Fans Of: The Cramps, Stray Cats, Reverend Horton Heat

19 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: American Minor - The Buffalo Creek EP

When American Minor released its 2002 demo, the band played a gritty brand of alt-country that blended the poignant, earthy rock of Uncle Tupelo with the wistful pop sensibilities of Ryan Adams.

When the band soon relocated from Huntington/Charleston to Champaign, Illinois, they were joined by guitarist Bud Carroll, whose hard blues-boogie style took American Minor in a new direction. Moving away from an alt-country overtone, the quintet grew their hair long, adorned themselves in plaid and boots, and took on a guitar-heavy Southern rock sound influenced by Lynard Skynard, the Black Crowes or Exile-era Rolling Stones.

Title track to 2004's four-song Buffalo Creek EP sums up the newfound style - macho riffs layered with a bluesy lead, hard-hitting drums and Rob McCutcheon's raunchy but soulful vocals. "Movin' On Up" shows the band's sexy side that hints of vintage Rod Stewart/Faces. The opener "Walk On" is a re-styled track from the band's original demo. The song combines the earnest elements of American Minor's initial sound with the energy and experienced musicianship (and production) of the band's better-known work - it is also, in my humble opinon, the group's finest accomplishment.

Artist: American Minor
Album: The Buffalo Creek EP
Year: 2004
For Fans Of: Lynard Skynard, Black Crowes, Faces

18 January 2011

LOOK: RIP Milton Rogovin

Documentary photographer Milton Rogovin died today at the age of 101. Rogovin documented the lives of poor and working class people all over the world. He traveled to West Virginia and Kentucky to photograph miners, returning to Appalachia each summer with his wife, Anne Rogovin, into the early 1970s. His work was important and beautiful. Learn all you can about the life and work wonderful photographer and incredible human being.

14 January 2011

WATCH: Butch Miles

In October 2010, the 2011 inductees for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame were announced - Kathy Mattea, Connie Smith, Billy Cox and Butch Miles, along with deceased inductees Diamond Teeth Mary, Jack Rollins and Tommy Thompson. Though I think all the inductees are deserving of the honor, the fact that four years into the existence of the Hall of Fame and Hasil Adkins has yet to be acknowledged for whatever reason is an utter shame.

Anyway, with that said I want to show my respect to drummer Butch Miles. Miles graduated from West Virginia State University before going on to play with the likes of Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. He has recorded over 100 albums, and has played on four Grammy-winning recordings. He is a native of Ironton, Ohio, which is just down the Ohio River from Huntington, and now lives in my current home of Austin, Texas, and is a professor of music at nearby Texas State University. An impressive and accomplished talent and a deserved inductee into the Hall of Fame. Here are some videos of Miles over the years.

13 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: Carrion - The Crime of Idle Hands

Yesterday I introduced Carrion, a metal trio from the Washington, D.C. area that I booked in West Virginia in the early 2000s. Carrion's first EP Baptized By Fire introduced the band's harsh, rousing style that fuses together elements of metal and punk in bands like The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi and Mastodon. To follow up 2002's Baptized By Fire, Carrion released a pair of seven-inches and then 2003's full-length album The Crime of Idle Hands. Here is a review from Aversion Online:
I had no clue what to expect from this, but I like it. I don't really know how to describe it other than the fact that it's very rhythmic, at times sludgy, at times hectic, at times a little quirky, and it would fit in fairly well with some of the bands onAt a Loss, or portions of Relapse's current roster (Mastodon, Burnt by the Sun, and such). It's not really as aggressive as those bands can be, nor does it sound like them in large part, but it's cut from similar cloth so to speak. The vocals are dry shouts, the percussion is fucking sweet and drops a lot of interesting patterns and aptly flashy fills, there's a certain controlled discordant noisiness happening, and the songs definitely pack some punch. Some of the tracks get into some math rock or post-hardcore influences, while a couple of technical Cynic styled alternate picking riffs pop up here and there - but way dirtier, played in the band's Black Flag-ish sort of swagger. "Worship" has some calm passages with throbbing basslines and lightly distorted guitars, taken further by the awesome instrumental "Window Out of Solitude", which uses even less distortion on the guitars and is more blatantly melodic without sacrificing creativity or slight complexity. "Gongs of Violence" has some traditional metal riffing and a standout gallop to the tempo, coming as a bit of a surprise. The recording's pretty damn good. The guitar tone has a shitload of texture, the vocals are well placed, I absolutely love the sound of the drums (resonant and 100% natural), the bass is dense, etc. I'd like to hear them up the bass just a smidge, and some of the clearer guitar parts could do without that extra jaggedness around the edges, but by and large everything is about where it needs to be. I really like the lyrics because they're vague but interestingly handled and certainly pointed: "As we identify these fragments of identity the quicker we unravel the fabric of reality a tapestry of flesh to mingle with our own to be enmeshed in what we have sown there is no turning back there is no reversal all that we can hope is to arrive where we stand..." This is a cool CD. It's a consistent listen, but there are a lot of different angles at work that give numerous tracks their own individual identities without separating from the larger umbrella that represents the band's direction.
Unfortunately Carrion moved on to new things soon after the release of Idle Hands, including guitarist/singer Nick Skrobisz's current project The Wayward. If you like the Carrion material, very limited quantities of hard copies are still available via Nick at mormonwarlord@yahoo.com.

Artist: Carrion
Album: The Crime of Idle Hands
Year: 2003
For Fans Of: The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Mastodon

11 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: Carrion - Baptized By Fire

During my tenure in the West Virginia music scene, I had the pleasure of booking some truly excellent bands. The band Carrion may not have been from West Virginia - they hailed from the Washington, D.C. area - they stand out as one of my favorite bands that I booked while living in the state. Carrion was short-lived and never received the exposure the band deserved, and they were always friendly guys. So I wanted to include them on this blog.

Nick Skrobisz (now of D.C./Baltimore's The Wayward) is the incredible guitar player and vocalist who lead this powerful trio that played a progressive blend of doom metal and post-punk. The grimy match-rock rhythms with sludgy undertones played with technical preciseness makes Carrion sound like the love child of The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi and Mastodon. The four -song EP Baptized By Fire, recorded in 2002, is a mere introduction to the quality of Carrion's musicianship and creativity, which reached its peak on its 2003 full-length album that I will post tomorrow.

Artist: Carrion
Album: Baptized By Fire
Year: 2002
For Fans Of: The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Mastodon

**Note: The digital transfer of this well-listened-to CD has a few scratched moments. Apologies. I hope to fix in the future, but the disc is in my parents' basement 1,400 miles away.

07 January 2011

WATCH: Zao live in Jacksonville, 2000

Yes, that is Zao drummer Jesse Smith with bleach blond hair. This video is of Zao performing the song "Savannah" at a show in Jacksonville, Florida in 2000. This is well into Daniel Weyandt's tenure as the band's vocalist, and gives you and idea of the difference in the band's style compared to the early records featuring vocalist Shawn Jonas that were previously posted on here. The actual music starts around 0:43, and at least gives you an idea of how good of a drummer Jesse was.

06 January 2011

READ: Jayne Anne Phillips

Here is just a quick introduction to Jayne Anne Phillips, an accomplished novelist and short story writer from West Virginia, who has been praised by the likes of Raymond Carver and Michiko Kakutani. She has published a number of books with Vintage Contemporaries, and is well worth checking out. Here is some more about her from her website:

Jayne Anne Phillips was born and raised in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Phillips graduated from West Virginia University, earning a B.A. in 1974, and later graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Her first book of stories, Black Tickets, published in 1979 when she was 26, won the prestigious Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, awarded by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Featured in Newsweek, Black Tickets was pronounced "stories unlike any in our literature . . . a crooked beauty" by Raymond Carver and established Phillips as an writer "in love with the American language." She was praised by Nadine Gordimer as "the best short story writer since Eudora Welty" and Black Tickets has since become a classic of the short story genre.

Machine Dreams, Phillips' first novel, published in 1984, elegantly and astutely observes one American family from the turn of the century through the Vietnam War. A New York Times best seller, Machine Dreams was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of twelve BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR.

Shelter, her 1994 novel, a haunting, suspenseful evocation of childhood rite-of-passage, was awarded an Academy Award in Literature by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly.

Jayne Anne Phillips' works have been translated and published in twelve foreign languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a Bunting Fellowship from the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Her work has appeared most recently in Harper's, Granta, Doubletake, and the Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. She has taught at Harvard University, Williams College, and Boston University, and is currently Professor of English and Director of a new MFA Program at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.

Her newest book Lark and Termite, was a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

05 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: ZAO - The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation

Before drummer Jesse Smith re-establish Zao from Parkersburg to Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and before the band sounded like Carcass with Daniel Weyandt on vocals, Zao was a standard hardcore band with metallic tendencies. The Splint Shards the Birth of Separation, released in 1997, was the bridge between the band's purer hardcore sound of All Else Failed and the more metal/grindcore style of more recent albums. It's also the last album to feature a Parkersburg-based line-up before all but Smith quit the group.

On The Splinter Shards, the then-Christian-influenced band's second full-length album, Zao moved from the vein of bands like Strife and Unbroken into more metal-tinged hardcore like Indecision or Shai Hulud. Despite the band's ministry-oriented lyrical content - screaming "Praise Jesus" at the end of one track - Zao appeals to any hardcore band due to the technical musicianship and Shawn Jonas's emotional vocals. Zao has gone on to do quite well for itself under the leadership of vocalist Weyandt, but in my opinion, the sound of the early records is more raw, powerful and interesting than anything the band did after The Splinter Shards.

Artist: ZAO
Album: The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation
Year: 1997
For Fans Of: Indecision, Strife, Shai Hulud

03 January 2011

DOWNLOAD: ZAO - All Else Failed

Happy 2011. To celebrate a new year, I will start things off with one of one of West Virginia's more successful bands.
Zao was founded in 1993 in Parkersburg, and was one of the first bands coined as metalcore. According to Wikipedia, the founding members claimed to have a relationship with God, so in turn were considered a Christian band, which changed as time passed. Zao has endured numerous roster changes over the years - at one point re-establishing the group in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. For many years, drummer Jesse Smith was the only founding member in the band, and even he eventually quit in 2004.
To date, Zao has released 10 full-length albums on labels such as Solid State/Tooth & Nail and Ferret. It was only the band's first two albums - All Else Failed (1995) and The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation (1997) that feature the original Parkersburg-based roster. Zao's debut All Else Failed was eventually re-recorded and re-released in 2003 by a newer line-up. The original album, though more traditional hardcore and less metal (and much better) than the band's later style is still a passionate and chaotic combination of genres and instrumentation that combines the emotion of Unbroken, the aggression of early Strife, and the tension of Creation is Crucifixion. This band has lived a long, successful life for a reason and here is where it started. (I will follow up with The Splinter Shards later this week.)

Artist: Zao
Album: All Else Failed
Year: 1995
For Fans Of: Strife, Unbroken, Creation is Crucifixion