Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned; New Ep Review

I like the way the Hobos do things! Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned New EP A March Though Charles Mingus' Garbage Pile is an invigorating big band splash of energy that is muscular and celebratory. The remnants of folk styling are weighted and lifted with bursts of brass, choral harmonies, and pulsating time. All six tracks transform their influences into an original layered and uplifting direction. Live this new material is awesome, and it translates on this EP! OCM Breakdown "Everything is, Pt. III": The clack and claps of percussion leave room for Alex Muro’s vocals to intertwine with a chorus and singing saw. “Carrot On a String”: Brass led polka beat with Alex Muro’s strained passionate vocals and a mighty band upsurge with the commanding chorus. “A March Through Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile”: Great infusion of folk and jazz like a stomping New Orleans style funeral procession with standout solo trumpet and full chorus getaway. The Table & The Cup”: Heavy brass emphasis broke up with the folky charm of Tim Koch's vocals and acoustic plucking. Goin Nowhere”: Revamped and re-released the track with a faster pace, jazz breakouts of the sax, and trumpet with claps. I Am the Past”: Includes the listener into the hobo’s circle of jokes and talk. The fun really begins with guitar plucking and uplifting harmonies.
Enjoy the Video "I Am The Past"

Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned Live at the Linda from Tom Muro on Vimeo.


Hop Along Queen Ansleis; New Song

OK, Hop Along, Queen Ansleis Fans Are you ready to spend the best five minutes and 45 seconds eva!! It's a Demo called "La Strada" from her upcoming full-length that was recorded over the winter with Tim Koch from Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned. She wisely is sharing it on her MySpace page. What is amazing is that "La Strada" contains all the best elements of Freshman Year, like the choruses, singing whispers, and the passionate off-the-rafters vocals. What is new is the edgy hard instrumentation mixed in with awesome vocal affectations; Weird in the best possible way. I'm salivating!! She is in the process of coordinating a full US DIY tour with P.S. Eliot, which looks amazing!! So check out her MySpace site.


Drink Up Buttercup Acoustic Daytrotter Session

It is nice when a group can create different versions of their songs, both live and recorded. Drink Up Buttercup traded in the keyboard for piano, garbage can percussion for a more lightweight kick drum, and some tambourine for this very special Daytrotter Session. The session highlights the virtuoso James Harvey's softer vocals while Farzad Houshiarnejad and Ben Money's harmonies are beautifully nestled in the background. This Campfire Metal is more like a marshmallow Roast. Soft, Syrupy, and ready for consumption, get your tasty free download at Daytrotter.


Sgt. Dunbar 6th street SXSW

Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned know how to take it to the street. I chose this video because I liked the comments from the crowd about the singing saw and mouth harp. Enjoy! Thanks, neogondawanna for filming


Viking Moses; The Quiet Restraint of The Parts That Show

Viking Moses AKA (Brendon Massei) new sophomore album release, The Parts That Showed, is an Americana gem presented in a minimalist style. Recorded like chapters in a book, a silent pause gives the listener a moment to recover and turn the page as the saga unfolds.  Massei's uniquely original voice moans, hums, and speaks throughout. The overall somber tone is translated by gilded guitar riffs of electric and nylon string, unadorned piano, rickety rack quality percussion, occasional bass notes, and the haunting use of the singing saw. 

This collection delves into a harsh reality of a part-time teenage prostitute and portrays the story of sexual exploitation and the life consequences it permeates. The songs are presented from three perspectives the protagonist girl/woman, her obsessed admirer, and Massei, the storyteller, each creating a diversity of mood and tone. 

Although there are lighter moments with Reggie, like beats in “Jones Boys” and “Sole Command of The Day,” always present is the dark underlying subtext, juxtaposing the innocence of childhood with the burden of grownup hardships and lurid predatory fixations. “One Arm Round the Sinner” is the gestalt of the whole. As Massei sings / when I was a small girl / and things began to swell / I put my body right to work /, and the people paid me well /. She claims / dirty towns you own me /and love is a sore upon the tongue /.  With its stirring beat and Massei’s urgent vocals, scaffold in intensity to capture the core of lost innocence in “Little Bows,” she reminisces and longs for the reclamation of her fractured identity. I miss my little bed / where my mother come and bless my cornered head / remembering her painted name on the sign hanging on the door, / ain’t it mine / AIN'T IT MINE /. 

Violence, coercion, and abuse have a price. Her emotional disconnect is skillfully portrayed in the passion of Massei’s voice in “On and On In Sunsets.” She conceals her pain in laughter / masks her shame in laughter / frightened teary laughter /. The obsessed admirers’ passages are the most disturbing dichotomy of obsessive love and aggression. Especially unsettling in “Old Buck Knife.” / I took out my old buck knife / and pressed it beneath her eye / and I turned to see that she understands / that I’m not to be taken lightly/ As he is engaging in this loathsome sex act, he tells her she has beautiful eyes. She, in turn, runs back to the truck and says, “are you gonna come or aint you”? Wow, all in a day's work. Brutal. His longings are unveiled in “Life Empty Eyes” with a striking seductive assemblage of voices singing / dance or collapse / while I hold you in my arms / loving arms after /. And with“ Under the Soda Sky,” the nylon guitar instrumental and a clash shuffle kick beat starts and ends this surrealistic love serenade. / The sticky dark and lovely soda sky / dripping like the night you came to town / pressing skin we let our lips slip down / dripping like the night you came to town /. 

One of the most poignant moments is the cover song “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton. Moses’ emotionally raw delivery gives the song potency and context. The demo-like approach to instrumentation blending the electric guitar, piano, and knocking percussion, is the backdrop for the man’s unrequited love and gives the song an impromptu authentic feel. The dirty town permeates the broken home as Massei brings the story to a head with a murder ballad, “Ma Moses” The nylon string, continuous beat clank, singing saw, and Massei song speak the saga. The protagonist claims her anger and decides to put a gun to his head. / You’ll take your paper somewhere else / and keep your damn hand off my young / you never know how good it felt / la la la..... “Tattle Tell” comes on like a whisper as she flees into the night through a maze of backyard junk, leaving behind her chained-up dog Princess. She claims / Oh Hell there’s no shame in what we’ve done / The story concludes with track thirteen with the instrumental “Pa Moses” and a recycled melody hangs thickly in the air as Massei moans. This collection can be compared to two standout records that featured parts of a better whole. Will Oldham’s (Bonny Price Billy) I See a Darkness and The Sunset Tree by the Mountain Goats, This recording has those qualities. 

The Parts that Showed totally captured and moved me. It will forever be a highlight in my collection of favorites, and there aren’t many. Viking Moses can powerfully move his voice but has chosen a quiet restraint to fulfill a vision with a magnificent outcome.

The Parts That Showed was recorded by Paul Oldham, featuring the talent of Spencer Kingman on piano, voice (of Spenking), John McCauley III electric guitar, voice (of Deer Tick), Cody Brant bass, and Jacob Soto drums (of Flaspar), and Evelyn Weston on singing saw.

Jones Boys Video


Viking Moses Diverse 09 Tour

Viking Moses

Viking Moses and friends have put together a diverse month-and-a-half-long tour that is DIY all the way. Filling a slot in NY took longer than expected, so at the very last moment, Todd P offered Monster Island Basement a space on River Street in Williamsburg. The tour consists of PictishTrail (Scotland), co-owner of Fence Records and Rozi Plain (United Kingdom), Golden Ghost, and Viking Moses (US). Joining the long trek is an awesome duo DARYL from Pulse Films (UK) is filming a documentary about Viking Moses AKA Brendon Massei.
Whenever I venture into the night to an alternative space, I take my chances. Starting time means later, and the unexpected is always a part of the equation. The building was isolated, and a beautiful girl appeared out of nowhere and knocked on the metal door. She gave up a little too soon. As she disappeared into the night, the band's van pulled up, and a few moments later, the doors magically opened. Just walking down the steep steps, I'm thinking of a dank basement, only to be surprised by a nice, almost finished loft-like space.
I have always felt privileged to be present at shows with a small audience, and this was one of them. During all four short sets, each solo act was joined by the other in one form or another.

Pictish Trail (Johnny Lynch) dreamy tenor is an outstanding instrument. Playing his acoustic-electric guitar, he mixed in extra detailing with a Micro-Korg Kaossilator, and alternated between two mics, one with an echo effect. The expanded sound filled the room, mixing folk, pop, and electronica. Finger-picking her Epiphone was Rozi Plain. I like her skills and calluses. She embellishes her unadorned voice with quirky detailing. “Sting Sing” sounded like an offbeat folk scat. Her straightforward homey approach to music is a charming delight, creating frills in all the right places.
Golden Ghost

Golden Ghost (Laura Goetz) played the electric guitar, striking chords and notes between passages in song. Her voice rose above the loud, muffled acoustics creating an edgy flair. While her voice is beautiful, it often breaks out and beckons for full tilt rockin' band. I see that happening. A highlight was the song “The Woman Who Ate Small Metal Objects” with Brendon Massie's muscular vocals. Viking Moses is original. I’ve never heard a voice so strong. It can rise seemingly out of nowhere and resonate thickly in the air. He plays the electric guitar as soulfully as he sings, with bold chords and strong riffs that follow. For the set, Laura Goetz backed him on the keyboard and vocals. A really cool cover song that started with the beat of Johnny Lynch’s drum machine. The intensity rose when all three repeated the word seven in a full-throttle chant. Starting a tour with jet lag is a drag; a few yawns in-between songs were the only signs that they were all exhausted. I got a taste of the possibilities and know how pumped they are to get their touring groove on. The night was a low-key event but a joyful time to hear diverse music in the company of lovely people and our courteous hardworking host Todd P and his assistant Patty. Pulse Films EPK Viking Moses Check Myspace for tour Dates / don't miss out!
Viking Moses Live in Portland @ the Artistry


Sgt. Dunbar Packed Full Of Sound

Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned miraculously packed all eight members and an army of instruments onto the small stage Saturday night at Pete's Candy Store. The band twisted and contorted their bodies to accommodate the trombone's large expanse or the tuba's scale. Even in cramped quarters, their musical competence was not compromised. The sound of full-bodied percussion and brass burst with energy. Sgt. Dunbar delightfully gave it their all as the crowd chanted for it not to end! Dunbar has solidified their roster to a solid eight talented multi-instrumentalists. They are adept at switching instruments; a banjo is abandoned for a sax or a trombone to an accordion within seconds. This band's rough and tumble and charming quality has not been lost but upgraded to a tightly woven ensemble with every member contributing to a robust sound. 

The mix is a folk/jazz infusion with pulsating inventive percussion, big bold brass instruments that escalate with guitar, ukulele, banjo, violin, accordion, and an awesome full band of voices swell in-between. Percussion is a strong suit, whether they are playing the bass guitar with drumsticks, mouth harp, hand-held bass drum, and saw. The web and flow of acceleration between more subtle takes build the big stirring dialogue. They played an energetic nine-song set of old, new, and reclaimed songs. Starting with a new song to be released, “The Table and the Cup,” with a continuous pounding drum and a four / four-time accent of the full orchestra. Highlighting the influx of weathered jazz was another new one, “A March Through Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile.” Alex Muro singing solo flanked by a chorus of passionate hobos and mashed with the one-two punch of brass orchestra strut and crashing cymbals. It is an awesome new direction. “The Weight” was revised with an accelerated tempo going from upbeat to mock speed and a full band chant / sometimes everything seems perfect / sometimes everything just sucks /. Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned have come a long way.

From the ambitious band, I reviewed a year ago with so much promise to a band with vision and purpose that is ready for prime time. Filling Pete’s is easy, but I see them in larger yet intimate venues like the Mercury or Bowery after tonight. As many NY Bloggers are reviewing the likes of David Byrne, I was happy to be there witnessing a new generation of great musicians. Get ready for March 13th the release date of Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned’s new EP Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile. It is also the date of their tour send-off as they make their way from Albany to SXSW. Check their tour dates on MySpace, and don’t miss out

Scientific Maps opened. They are sometimes a twosome or foursome. Tonight it was Aaron Smith and Donna Baird. She is also a member of Sgt Dunbar. Together on stage, they are adorable. Aaron’s witty comments to the audience and affectionate interaction with Donna added to the delight of sharing time with such an affable duo. Tuning his guitar, he says, “Donna play that trumpet part when you know this happens.” Laughter followed as Donna played it straight as if she were just waking up and didn’t realize she was performing. Something about her is zany in the best possible way. The tunes Aaron writes are easy to love, kind of quirky pop with memorable melodies and offbeat lyrics. Their voices are great together.
Aaron, on guitar, sings and captures attention, and Donna adds a charming response with trumpet and vocal. The band's recorded material is upbeat, with drums, a keyboard, and experimental surprises. I’m ready to spend some time with their music; tonight was a nice introduction. 

Scientific Maps nice site Get ready for March 13th, the release date of Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned’s new EP Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile. It is also the date of their tour send-off as they make their way from Albany to SXSW. Check their tour dates on MySpace, and don’t miss out. Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned Flickr Set Scientific Maps Flickr Set


Honne Wells with Juan Comas; Sound with Benefits

Wednesday night at The Stone Honne Wells stepped out of hiatus and onto the stage accompanied by musician/artist Juan Comas to bring Wells’ latest project to fruition. They played an array of string instruments tuned to specificity. The results were a dynamic assemblage of sound that was deceptive to the viewer’s eye but surprising to the ear. Put assumptions aside, the banjo, guitar, and zither sounded like high and low-pitched bell-like percussion sounds. The zithers hummed and swelled in a loop-like circular reverberation. The repetitive flutter plucking of the banjo had an unfamiliar quality, and the guitars played with a glass slide and strum beat asymmetrical patterns of percussion. The kick drum was true to form. This compelling mix was contrasted by the guttural low styling of Wells's voice. His vocals are low and vibrate into depths of gospelesque blues of hard times and tough luck. The unexpected results of playing live tuned the audience into the process. We were welcome receptors. All 4 songs clock in at about 10 minutes or longer. The first was the combination of two zithers, one fretted and one fretless, coordinating a long building dialogue between them. Honne repeated, / don’t feel like I’m alone anymore / never feeling home in this world /. Switching it up with two guitars, they created a high-pitched bell-like clank, and the kick drumbeat escalated to reflect Honne’s powerfull ramblings. Honne Wells's striking physical presence his neck stretched, chin upward, and stoic manner, captured the conceptual attitude. Honne introduced the next song “(Don't Follow Me Down To) The Bottoms” saying, “this song is written by Edgefield C. Johnston, a good friend of mine”. Repeating a graveling intense verse / You Can’t Ride with Me /. With banjo in hand, he plucked its strange tuning accompanied by Juan on the zither.  

He thanked Shannon Fields for curating and The Stone “for supporting artists and culture in this fair city”. Then he said, “I’m going to sing a song about murder”. “If you live in America you have obviously murdered someone to some degree”. The song began, and loudly he sang, “I have something that I must confess ess ess ess…. I just killed a man. Sometimes it is necessary to leave the bar venue behind with its loud, rude patrons there to socialize. The music takes a back seat. Just saw Honne Wells on Friday night Solo in just that situation and was determined to see him properly at The Stone. I’ve heard raves about this venue, and now I know why. Tonight it was music with benefits. The Stone provided the benefits of hearing music with no distractions and gave to the audience with no other agenda but to listen.

Solo Set at Southpaw
There are no refreshments or merchandise at The Stone. Only music. All ages are welcome. The Stone is booked purely on a curatorial basis. We do not accept demos of any kind. Each month a different musician is responsible for curating the programs, with 100% of the nightly revenue going directly to the musicians. Now that’s refreshing! The stone is a project of hips road, a not-for-profit organization Collector catalog from the Yell-O-Faith Experimental Recording Archive What The Lead Told Or Said 2005 -2007 The Analog Stone City Sessions 2006 Mother Pie Album 2007 -2008 Flickr Set The Stone Flickr Set Southpaw


Kidrockers Don't Kid Down; Jeffrey Lewis / Drink up Buttercup

Kidrockers is a great way to spend a Sunday at The Living Room. My tiny kids days are long behind me but seeing Drink Up Buttercup and Jeffrey Lewis solo with a roomful of mostly three, four, five to nine-year-olds was something I was not going to miss. Jeffrey Lewis and Drink Up Buttercup are both affiliated with Rough Trade Records. Their shared sensibilities but uniquely different music genres created an inspired lineup. Kidrockers is the perfect vehicle to expose the young to emerging and established music on the independent scene. Seeing music live true to form without filters is a Kidrocker philosophy. Their Non-commercialized approach to presenting music raw and full of energy or simply acoustic is the groundwork for a lifetime of appreciation.

The founders of Kidrockers Morton Lorge and Beth Lorge are fine hosts and curate fabulous afternoons of diversity in the music with Time Out Kids and their sponsor partners. Kidrockers don’t KID DOWN. So as an adult member of the audience much of the music and general banter is aimed at the adults without ever losing sight of the children's experience. The awesome MC team Seth Herzog and Craig Baldo took a few liberties with adult material. Their jokes were effortlessly delivered with clever and quick responses. They told the children “now watch your parents there is a two-drink minimum today”. In the middle of each performance set, they work the room with a mic in hand for a Q and A, much like a contemporary version of Kids Say The Darnedest Things. Waiting for the unexpected question is part of the fun. It was especially interesting hearing the non-questions, along with poignant ones. One boy raised his hand and recited abcdefg and Seth’s response was I think that’s a Feist song.

Drink Up Buttercup brings out the kid in me. I assumed they would play an acoustic set, but I was so wrong! Not at Kidrockers! The sound was loud but not nearly at the intensity of a typical Drink Up show. They do protect the little ears. The carnival-like atmosphere was toned down. They started with "Sozy and Dozy" a hard rocking zany children’s rhyme in a two-step rock polka. A treat was a great new song that repeated the word, honey. The kids politely took it all in not knowing exactly what to do, but when asked to join the group on stage, they eagerly marched up. The bombardment of little feet forged toward the stage, leaving only the timid behind. The Ramshackle miniature orchestra of percussionists accompanied Drink up for “Gods and Gentlemen." Drink up thought for their next song, the kids would follow them to the center of the venue for a stomp and clap sing-along. Watching the faces of the band turning toward their abandoned instruments to sing to their little comrades of music who stayed firmly on the stage was a riot. When the set was finally over, our MCs referred to it as the best trash can related Jam ever! 

Seeing Jeffrey Lewis has been a goal of mine. I think that I chose the best possible venue to see him perform. Nothing was toned down he was totally himself, yet his interaction and inspired off-the-cuff reaction to the kids were genuine and charming. The songs he chose to sing were sophisticated nursery tales with broad visions of a better world. He delivers his inspired lyrics through an idealistic lens of hopefulness but with the ironic witticism of a seasoned adult. The music celebrates his commitment to social justice, global warming, and a broad scope of issues using irony and humor. The banter was highbrow to adults' pleasure and charmingly sweet with the kids.  He played a great song that he had never performed live called “I’ve Been Everywhere.” He invited three enthusiastic audience members to hold the lyrics up, and he described them as avant-garde teleprompters. The questions for Jeffrey were great. “Have you been everywhere”? “When did you get your guitar”? “Do you write the songs yourself”? My favorite was, “how do you get your ideas”? His answers were sincere and thoughtful. I just loved him. If you have kids, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with them. If you don't, borrow a kid, or bring a nephew or niece, then check the Kidrockers calendar or subscribe to their newsletter for scheduled events at various venues. Their plans to take Kidrockers on the road are emerging. So LA, get ready. Gothamist interview with Beth Lorge Maryanne Ventrice Flickr set (Official Kidrocker Photographer!) Her Site!



Max Vernon; Bait and Hook

Max Vernon has a vocal instrument that is deep and resonating, its clear tonality has reach and depth of maturity. With a signature voice, he delivers piano-driven melodies with a broad lyrical palette of intelligence. At twenty years old, he composes music that can move in many ways, like the Woody Guthrie of Pop to make a bold comparison.

Max Vernon’s lyrics leave an indelible impression. Using dynamic melodies in a pop format, he subliminally infiltrates the listener with smart content. His bait and hook got to me immediately. He employs words that move, words that drive the discussion, and words that can be subtly subversive and delivered with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Topically he is current, but his intellectual curiosity captures the subtleties and irony in the topics/controversies of the day. But wait! All this is delivered in the most beautiful manner.

He plays the piano with such ease and fluidity, melding Jazz, blues, Do Wop, and cabaret, and adds tou
ches of frivolity with classical escapades that are diced into song construction.
Getting recognition from his delightful cover parody of Katy Perry's " I Kissed A Girl" is a strange way to find Max Vernon’s music. But it has been the vehicle for attention even though it was sort of a goof that he decided to record and make a video. Attention has come his way. As I am writing this, a release party for The Guilt by Association Volume 2 featuring danceable cover songs is at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. His cover is in good company.
e he doesn’t have an official release, he has chosen to share recordings and demos on The One Sixty One. On YouTube, he shares stripped-down footage of piano and vocals in various homey settings and the practice studios at NYU.

His most ambitious recording is "A Good God Is Hard To Find." He infuses white-collar crime, in god we trust, and proposition eight all into the same conversation tying these thoughts into a round of ecstasy-embedded harmonies. How is that possible? But he does it.

Along similar lines is “Dear Democracy.” The heavy piano bass chords set the tone while he spews an operatic diatribe of political criticism ending each unnerving injustice with light sardonic classical notes, singing / I already know that I’m going to hell / so I’m having a party / a party.

"When Your Body Breaks" is an orchestrated production with female vocal backup Caitlin Pasko AKA (Lacrymosa), cello, violin, church organ, and flute. Giving a boost of encouragement for the depressed whose memories are tainted with grey. / Oh you deserve better than that / and you’re gonna have it / your body’s breaking / you’re left with just your mind / you’re gonna be fine / but it’ll take time….It will take time…

The Song "Pastels" is like a poetic cinematic score. Singing about two people trying to find meaning in these troubled times / don’t criticize us /. It pulls the heartstrings in the chorus / but I’ll be with you / you know / and when you fall down / just hit the ground running / and I’ll be running with you / running with you. He concludes by interchanging, running with you with take me with you. Ahhh...... I'm such a romantic sap.

On September 08, he was about to headline Ars Nova Uncharted Series. He wrote to me saying he found my Blog through some degree of separation after looking up the history of the series, he found both Novice Theory and Langhorne Slim, which led him to me indirectly. I am so glad he reached out to me so I could discover his music and fall in love with it.

He closed his letter to me with, "If you get a chance, please give my songs a listen. Hopefully, you'll dig it."
Dig, I did!

He continues his studies at NYU
Gallatin School of Individualized Study graduating in May. The future looks bright, and I look forward to it all.

Photo Credit: Nico Apo
Visual Art by Max Vernon "The Queen" 2008