31 August 2011

WATCH: Freelancers web series

The first time I saw my good friend and fellow West Virginia expat Erica Lies perform comedy was as part of an improv troupe in New York City upon a visit in 2005 (I think). One skit called for the audience to recommend a place you'd go on Spring Break, and I shouted "coal mine," which the cast used for a performance that made me proud. Soon after I moved to Austin for grad school, and a year later Erica, a Morgantown native, followed for the same reason. Since then, my former roommate has been heavily involved in the improv community in Austin, as well as hard at work on a new web series over the past year.
The series "Freelancers" is about two freelancing friends living the post-college career dream of offering a creative life, flexible schedule, and never working for “the man.” But navigating life as a freelancer can be perilous at best for the most talented and tragically hilarious for the hopelessly hapless. Freelancers explores the latter as a work-place comedy about the self-employed. It follows ambitious would-be journalist Anna Feils (Erica Lies), a plucky twenty-something with Joan Didion aspirations but sub-TMZ skills. Her march toward success is alternately aided and upended by the self-aggrandizing Mark (Ted Meredith), a libertarian yoga instructor.
Written by Erica and Ted, the series is based on real-life experiences. "Freelancers" has produced six episodes, and has received positive words from local critics. "The web series totally gets it," said the Austinist, and Austin Eavesdropper wrote, "Something almost every twenty- (or thirty-) something can relate to." As a freelancer myself, I can only agree, and as awkward as it is to watch my friend on screen, the series is quite funny. All episodes are available on the series' YouTube channel, but you can check out the first three here.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

30 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Neutral Agreement - I Bet You Never Thought...

The first time I saw Neutral Agreement was at the Brickhouse in St. Albans around 2002. I had never heard the band before, but I knew they were described by many as Christian pop punk. For someone who is not religious and had grown past said genre of music at that point in my life, I'm sure I approached the show with a sense of cynicism. Over the next half an hour, I bore witness to one of the most energetic, passionate and sincere performance from a local band I had ever seen. The instruments were loud, they sang from their guts and they were tight but still with a sense of improvisation. While they made coordinated jumps, posed with their instruments and fell to their knees like I had seen many bands do, it seemed less contrived. At the end of the show the quartet stopped played, turn toward one another, raised a hand in the air and finished with a song of prayer. Had I not just been shocked by such a powerful performance, the cynic in me would have walked out. Yet I remained, excited to meet the guys in the band, who I saw and photographed a dozens times after. They are guys with whom I became good friends for years after this first performance.
Unfortunately for Neutral Agreement, who were from Hurricane, their live performance was so impressive, any recording couldn't quite do the band justice. I Bet You Never Thought... hints at the band's ability to write a heartfelt punk song with catchy hooks, but doesn't do well to represent the band's spirit and vigor. Following in the footsteps of youthfully sentimental acts Further Seems Forever, Juliana Theory or The Get Up Kids, Neutral Agreement play a brand of rock that is sweet and upbeat yet at times urgent and volatile. Matthew McDowell's untrained vocals ring of characteristics of many late '90s emo-punk bands - at times nasal or off-key but always earnest. While the band's instrumentation certainly matured over the following the year, dual Les Pauls provide an enjoyable crunch, especially on the album's highlight "Five Hours to Elwood."
Neutral Agreement eventually became a three-piece and took on a new style after McDowell moved onto real world obligations. Bassist Matthew Jenkins has continued to run Future Destination Records, which put out the band's albums as well as a number of nationally touring groups. I miss that guy. In fact, I miss all these guys and the sincerity with which they played that few bands from the region could ever touch.

Artist: Neutral Agreement
Album: I Bet You Never Thought...
Year: 2002
For fans of: Further Seems Forever, The Juliana Theory, Get Up Kids

29 August 2011

LOOK: Viva La Revolución de Appalachia T-shirt campaign

For nearly two years, I've spent a lot of time on this blog promoting other artists. Because of that, I am going to justify this shameless self-promotion.
In 2007, I was living in McDowell County, West Virginia, working on a documentary photo project. As I was deeply in touch with my Appalachian pride at the time, I wanted a way to show it off. So I designed the Viva La Revolución de Appalachia T-shirt. I did an edition of fifty shirts, which received a great response. Four years later, I've done five runs of the shirt, each in limited editions on different colors. While I donated the slim profits from the first couple editions to the Big Creek People in Action non-profit in McDowell, I have since used the income (of which there is not much) to support Appalachia awareness projects such as photography exhibitions, community discussions or even this blog.
My goal was to make something that people would wear to show off their pride of a region I love, as well as to encourage awareness or discourse of cultural, political, social or environmental issues in Appalachia. Where I understand it's not much, I am proud that it is anything.
With that said, I am currently accepting pre-orders on the newest edition of the shirt, which is red ink on a light blue garment. (Maybe my favorite yet.) The shirts are $20 each, and that includes shipping. If you are interested, please order today. As always, the edition is limited to about 50. And thanks to everybody who has supported this project over the last few years. Click here for ordering information. Viva La Revolución de Appalachia!

25 August 2011

WATCH: O Lendário Chucrobillyman live in Lexington, 2011

Klaus Koti is known as O Lendário Chucrobillyman, a one-man band from Brazil who wears his Hasil Adkins influence on his sleeve. Koti's The Chicken Album gives a nod to the West Virginia rockabilly madman who recorded an album by the name of Poultry in Motion. Koti's album features tracks such as "Chicken Flow" and "Chicken Strangle." Adkins had a multitude of similarly-named songs - "Chicken Walk," "Chicken Flop" and "Chicken Run" to name a few. Other songs on Koti's album are "Love Miner" and "Whiskey River," which seemingly are also nods to his Appalachian songwriting influence. The music of O Lendário Chucrobillyman lives up to the influence, which is why it received such high praise from fellow Adkins-influenced multi-instrumentalist J Marinelli, who after sharing the stage with Koti, called him the best one-man band he'd seen. Check out these videos of O Lendário Chucrobillyman's show in Lexington.

24 August 2011

READ: Tristan Egolf - Lord of the Barnyard

I was recently in Chicago visiting my old friend Aaron (formerly of The Warriors). Aaron, a native of the Charleston area and son of a retired coal miner, is currently an instructor of creative writing at Columbia College. During my visit, Aaron was nearing the end this book - Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt
. Lord of the Barnyard is a fictional biography/history of farm boy John Kaltenbrunner and the Appalachian-affected Middle America coal town of Baker from where he comes.

Salon wrote of Egolf's 1999 debut novel: "He practices a form of shotgun writing -- aim in the right direction and spray words on the page -- always searching for another country-fried turn of phrase that will one-up his last one. Egolf mixes fable, metaphor and pure anger to attack mob mentality, class warfare, the mindless media and the just-under-the-surface madness of the Midwest. His brilliantly warped, pedal-to-the-metal vision has the obsessive quirkiness of a Pynchon, the rough-and-tumble bad-assness of a Daniel Woodrell and more than a malignant touch of the Faulkner who created the Snopeses."
I'm nearly half-way through the book's 400 pages, and my anticipation builds with every new paragraph. In fact, I missed my bus stop yesterday because I was so entrenched in what was going to happen to Kaltenbrunner next. Though the author or the story have no significant relationship to West Virginia (one minor but memorable character is a Mountain State native), Lord of the Barnyard does ring of Appalachian characteristics familiar to anyone from the region. I highly recommend it. Thanks, Aaron.

23 August 2011

WATCH: Daniel Martin Moore - Flyrock Blues

I recently posted a video of Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore performing "Dear Companion", a song about a miner's letter to his wife. It is the title track from their collaborative album, which was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Also on the album is the soft-spoken track "Flyrock Blues," which is played by Moore alone. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album - probably because he mentions West Virginia. Nevertheless, here is Moore very elegantly playing the song in a shed.

22 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Transistor Indiana - songsforanactivelifestyle

After multiple requests, I'm finally posting this demo from yet another unfortunately short-lived Charleston-area indie rock/emo band. Transistor Indiana formed in the early 2000s around the same time as similarly-styled Apart From the Projector. In the same vein as No Knife, Burning Airlines or Trail of Dead, the Kanawha Valley quintet play a brand of rock that is aggressive, dramatic and some times sweet. A threesome of crispy guitars is fronted by Bud Carroll whose passionate vocals are backed by hollow screams. It is a sound that could have easily found the band on Jade Tree Records in the late '90s. Transistor Indiana recorded an album for North Carolina-based indie metal label Tribunal Records, but it was not released after the band broke up. What remains is this four-song teaser, while certainly representing the young musicians' ability to write quality songs, does not live up to the band's intense and provocative live performances. Carroll, along with bassist Bruno, went on to play in American Minor, but the demise of Transistor Indiana left many people in the region wanting more.
Artist: Transistor Indiana
Album: songsforanactivelifestyle
Year: Early 2000s
For fans of: No Knife, Trail of Dead, Burning Airlines

17 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: My 5 favorite albums with less than 30 downloads

This blog is nearly two years old, and in that time I've posted about 100 records that are available for free. Some of those records have been downloaded almost 400 times (Hasil Adkins's Peanut Butter Rock and Roll) while others have been only been received 12 hits. Some of those rarely accessed albums are ones I truly love, and it disappoints me that more people have not heard them, which was part of the goal of this blog.
I am giving some of these records a second chance. These five demos, full-lengths or discographies are my favorites that have been downloaded less than 30 times, which frankly needs to be a lot more. So here are some haikus to try to convince you to put these tunes in your digital collection.

Redneck boys from Boone
In vein of At the Drive In
Christian sure can shred

Big guitars play emo
Think Journey as indie rock
Broke up way too soon

As thick as gravy
Lighthearted death metal punk
Changed my fucking life

Iafrate bros
Listen to Hazel Dickens
Play great folk music

Nineties hardcore lives
Hard style like Biohazard
Ethan Mania

16 August 2011

WATCH: Elvis Presley live in Charleston, 1976

On the anniversary of the King's death, what could be better than some lo-fi footage of Elvis performing in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1976.

15 August 2011

WATCH: M Iafrate & the Priesthood - Song of Songs live in Morgantown, 2010

"Song of Songs" by M Iafrate is one of my top five favorite songs by a West Virginia artist. In fact, of the tens of thousands of songs I have in my iTunes, it is a top play. The track was first an acoustic number part of M Iafrate's impressive 2003 split with Sean Decker. A flawless full-band electronic version was later recorded for M Iafrate & the Priesthood's 2005 album O Happy Marriage. Here is the band performing the excellent song last year at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown where they opened for Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. The performance also features Iafrate's brother Andrew Iafrate on acoustic guitar. A former member of The Minus Tide, Killed at Camp and others, M Iafrate is still making great music, which you can hear on his bandcamp page. And much thanks to Iafrate for sporting the Viva La Revolución de Appalachia t-shirt on stage.

12 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Sam Black Church - Superchrist

Today is actually the first time I've ever listened to Superchrist, Sam Black Church's final release on Taang! Though it was released in 1995, around the time I got into the band, my CD collection never grew past Let In Life and Boston LP. On Superchrist, SBC make its most drastic move away from sounding like Bad Brains and more into the vein of Clutch or other more alternative metal bands, which a lot of Boston bands were doing at the time (i.e. 454 Big Block, Tree). It's not my favorite material by the band, but it's still SBC and it's still listentable, especially for fans of bands like Clutch, Helmet or Rollins Band.
Artist: Sam Black Church
Album: Superchirst
Year: 1995
For fans of: Clutch, Helmet, Rollins Band

11 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Sam Black Church - Boston EP

If you've listened to Let In Life, you've heard half the songs on this EP - "Infernal Machine" and "Big Barbecue." The self-titled EP came out on Taang! in 1994, just before Let In Life, but I honestly believe it is better production than the full-length. The highlight of the album is Sam Black Church's cover of "Disco Inferno," which they seamlessly move into at the end of "Big Barbecue." As corny as it could be, somehow it works. And understanding the time and place of the scene of which they were a part, I respect this band for never taking themselves too seriously.
Artist: Sam Black Church
Album: Boston EP
Year: 1994
For fans of: Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Clutch
DOWNLOAD: Sam Black Church - Boston EP*
*File was removed by Mediafire

10 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Sam Black Church - Unincorporated

Unincorporated was the first 7" from Sam Black Church. Originally released in 1989, it was re-released with some additional tracks in 1999 by Wonderdrug Records. The original four-song 7" featured demo versions of "Big Barbecue" and "Captatin of the World" which both appear on later albums as they're the band's most standout tracks. The difference between Unincorporated and later recordings is on this album, Sam Black Church sound particularly by Bad Brains, but replace the reggae undertone with a heavy metal overtone. It is Jet's vocals, on these recordings especially, that echo H.R.'s hyper, fast-talking style on I Against I until Jet lets out a guttural roar to remind you of SBC's unique formula. The early pressings of this 7" are a gem among the hardcore-metal scene in the northeast, and there is a reason, it is brilliant. In no way to slight any of SBC's later material, in which they further discovered their own style, but this is my favorite material. It combines the finer elements of punk-hardcore bands like Bad Brains, Cro-Mags and Gang Green and throws in some speed metal. And not to forget their Appalachian roots in Greenbrier County - hence the album cover - which makes it all that much better.
Artist: Sam Black Church
Album: Unincorporated
Year: 1989/1999
For fans of: Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Motörhead

09 August 2011

WATCH: Sam Black Church live in Boston, 1997

Sam Black Church is one of those bands that I never got to see before the broke up that I really wish I could have. Though they are from Boston, they break from the mold of angry Beantown bands like Wrecking Crew, Blood For Blood and other bands with which they shared the stage. On stage, Jet is like a cheerleader - always with a smile on his face, he never quits moving and firing up the audience by clapping, waving and leaping. (His stage mannerisms are an obvious influence on Holden Caulfield's Dana White, who introduced me to the band in the mid-'90s.) And like one of my favorite bands Guided By Voices, the band's songs seem to come to life on stage compared to the soft-spoken versions on record. I believe these guys were in the Charleston-Huntington area in the around 1996 with Tree, and I regret not being there.
Anyway, here are a couple videos from the SBC's 10th Anniversary show in Boston. Opening for the band were Gang Green, Blood for Blood, Karma to Burn and others, which shows the respect that the scene had for these guys. In 2007, when SBC reunited for a 20th Anniversary performance, it was Madball who opened.

08 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Sam Black Church - Let In Life

Sam Black Church was a moderately successful band from Boston in the mid to late-'90s. Playing an original blend of metal, hardcore, thrash and even elements of jazz, the band's multifarious style allowed them to share bills with a diversity of acts such as Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Motörhead, Clutch and Helmet. The band put out three records on Boston's Taang! Records (Gang Green, Mighty Might Bosstones, Lemonheads) and a pair of other releases. But Sam Black Church was probably best known for their wild, energetic live shows - vocalist Jet's aerial acrobats and epic leaps into the crowd from atop stage speakers earned the band a reputation.
So why am I writing about a band from Boston on this blog? Because the group's core members Jet, guitarist Ben and drummer J.R. were all from Greenbrier County, West Virginia, before moving to Boston for college and forming the band, which is named after a small town in their home county. They were soon playing shows with Slapshot and Wrecking Crew before recording their first demo. Let In Life, SBC's first full-length, was releaed on Taang! in 1993, and though not the best recording quality, does well to represent the band's unique brand of dynamic metalcore that is quite underrated and also unknown to many West Virginia music fans nowadays.
Artist: Sam Black Church
Album: Let In Life
Year: 1993
For fans of: Bad Brains, Helmet, Motörhead

04 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - Bear It All

Now that the demos have been posted, here it is again (with my own updated artwork) - one of the best records produced by a West Virginia band - Bear It All. Here are some of Brian Pauley's notes on the recording process:
"Bear It All was recorded in 1996. It was recorded on an 8-track ADAT. Digital recordings on SVHS tapes. Sort of done the same way as the 4-tracks. Seven tracks of drums running through a mixing board and then bounced down to one track. However, only the drums were recorded first. Andy and Billy would play bass and guitar through a scratch track. Meaning they were playing along with me, I could hear them, but it wasn't being recorded. We'd bounce the drums down to 1 track and have 7 tracks to add everything else. I think this is when we started doubling up the guitar track to make it thicker. So basically you hear two guitar tracks playing the same thing. A trick Scott learned at the Recording Workshop and something he started making every band do. And since it was digital, if anyone screwed up the guitar, bass or vocals, the fixes could be punched in and you never notice."
Whatever the process, this record is heavy, crunchy, poppy, rowdy, but above all fun. And like some of the greatest indie-punk-rock bands of the mid-90s, the era of music is recognizable but the songs are still enjoyable 15 years later. I love this fucking record, and why I am posting it for the second time.

Artist: Dirt Bear
Album: Bear It All
Year: 1996
For fans of: The Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, The Flaming Lips

03 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - Beart With Us

Bear With Us is the last of the Dirt Bear demos that preceded the release of the Bear It All full-length. Released in 1995, Brian Pauley said of the album, "Personally, Bear With Us is my favorite, next to Bear It All. Bear With Us has 'The Centrifugal Force' and 'Dynamo,' which were my favorite songs to play up to that point." It's all quality in my opinion. Thanks again, Brian.

Artist: Dirt Bear
Album: Bear With Us
Year: 1995
For fans of: Meat Puppets, The Flaming Lips, Flipper

02 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - We Hate It

Here is We Hate It, the second of the Dirt Bear demo tapes. The fourteen tracks were also recorded in 1994 following We Love It. Like all of the Dirt Bear releases, and much of the music coming out of Charleston in the '90s, it was recorded by Scott Robinson and put out by the guys' own Cave Records. According to drummer Brian Pauley (pictured above on the album cover I made):
"All three of [the] demos were recorded on an analog 4-track recorder by Scott Robinson. Drums were mic'd up thru the mixing board and then fed into one track. The guitar amp was mic'd up and became a separate track, and then the bass was done the same way on a third track. Scott then bounced those three tracks down to one track, thus opening up three more tracks. So ultimately, we had seven tracks to work with. Once the music was bounced to one, that allowed each vocal to have a separate track and then an open track for any other extra thing we wanted to add. Be it guitar solo or whatever. And the thing with the 4-track recordings was that the music was done live. If one of us screwed up, we had to completely start the song over. The fact that it was analog and the fact that we were just learning how to operate the damn 4-track... it just sucked."
We Hate It, though not quite as excellent as We Love It, picks up where the first demo left off. It is sleazy and fiery - like Killdozer playing pop punk. (Listen to Killdozer if you don't.) Again, thanks to Brian Jarrett for the photograph for the cover. Sorry, Pauley.

Artist: Dirt Bear
Album: We Hate It
Year: 1994
For fans of: The Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, Killdozer

01 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - We Love It

Dirt Bear remains one of my favorite ever bands from West Virginia. Despite the fact that I never got to see the raucous punk trio from Charleston play live, I wore out my cassette copy of their final album Bear It All, which I posted a while back.

I recently recent a great gift from Drummer Brian Pauley who sent me fairly clean, digital files of all the Dirt Bear demos. I can't explain how happy this makes me as I never owned these tapes, and now I can make them available on here over the next few days - starting with We Love It from 1994.

Those who are familiar with Dirt Bear will appreciate this as much as I do. Those who may not be, think instrumental abrasiveness of The Jesus Lizard with the pop sensibilities of The Flaming Lips meets the rebelliousness of Butthole Surfers. Throw in some comparisons to Dinosaur Jr., Meat Puppets or Sonic Youth for fun. It is just great '90s indie punk noise-rock. And I can't quit listening to it. Thanks again, Brian. And thanks to Nitro music scene archivist Brian Jarrett for the photo for the cover I made, as we don't have any art of the old demos.

Artist: Dirt Bear
Album: We Love It
Year: 1994
For fans of: The Jesus Lizard, The Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers

DOWNLOAD: Dirt Bear - We Love It