The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall was on Soundcheck, WNYC's daily talk show about music hosted by John Schaefer.  While driving, the most thrilling and obviously live music was on air. Not the usual slick coordinated sound but a full, multi-instrumental folk feast. I perked up and suddenly remembered that the Wailing Wall was doing this gig on the radio.

The Wailing Wall is the project of songwriter, player, and singer Jesse Rifkin and the collective of musicians who he records and tours with. On any given occasion, new people will join him on the roster for a live show. In fact, the band assembled for this radio gig were musicians who only played the material the night before. He loves hearing a different lineup of musicians presenting his songs. From his point of view, it keeps the material alive and vital and brings curious fans back to live and always-changing shows. 

The interview was very curious. NPR isn’t exactly mainstream, but it seemed kind of odd that the DIY collective philosophy of Jesse Rifkin was foreign to John Schaefer. Jesse was steady in his convictions and eager to explain his music philosophy about community, sharing music for free, and his rotating live music concept.

I  applaud Soundcheck for giving The Wailing Wall the opportunity. Hearing the music and the interview helped me get off my miserable self-doubting and lack of posting ass and get back to writing about awesome music. Thanks, Jesse, for revitalizing my spirits and doing things your way! Will be downloading it tomorrow and look forward to The Wailing Wall live experience!

JDub Records will release his debut LP, Hospital Blossom, for free on June 9th.

Soundcheck show HERE


Photo Credit: Joseph Van Meter Lawton


Shilpa Ray, Drink Up Buttercup; Piano's review

I specifically went out tonight to see the first night of Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers residency at Piano’s. Drink Up Buttercup opening was added incentive for a late Wednesday night out.

Drink Up Buttercup never disappoints. In Late April, they opened a two-night stint for Dr. Dog in front of an 800-capacity crowd. Tonight they came with the five remaining copies of their beautifully packaged 7" release on Kanine Records.

DUB live set had new intensity. Their movements on stage were faster and harder to capture on film without proper speed adjustments. They were quite adventurous, transitioning from one song into another, adding some edgy, unexpected noise, featuring a new rollicking rock song, and morphing song standards. Most bands profess a style and do variations on it. Not DUB. They change styles and genres within songs, making variety part of the mix. Last night only exemplified that which sets them apart.

Listen @ Muxtape
DUB Flickr Set

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers
There are not too many female-fronted bands that I feel strongly about. Feeling privileged to have seen Tina Turner with Ike, Janis Joplin, Patty Smith, and Tracy Nelson reminded me of how much I miss hearing female vocalists with deep powerful effects.

Shilpa Ray has the WOW FACTOR. Her raw, gritty sincerity can be felt. It isn’t just about wow she can belt, it is the authenticity of lyrics mixed with sincerity of delivery. I love her foal-mouth lyrics and how she unabashedly owns them.

Shilpa Ray was center stage directly behind her Harmonium and flanked on either side by the solid tight band of four male Happy Hookers. The band can deliver a punch, and their thriving presence was heightened by Shilpa’s vocal acuity. And it was loud, hard, and strong.

Watching Shilpa play the Harmonium and sing was fascinating to witness. Leaning forward, she undulated above and below the instrument. At times she laid her head below that, affording her pacing and build-up between wails into the mic. The drumming was powerful and masculine. The small Casio, guitar, and bass created orchestrated pop of magnitude and awesome noise. The only subtlety was the occasional vocal harmonies and shaker.

Shilpa Ray can Rant!

It was an unusual night for my first introduction. Upfront with all the other Photographers / Bloggers, I took shots (Photos) while listening to the music. We were many, lining the entire width of the stage. In a larger venue, our numbers wouldn’t look so imposing, but at Piano’s, it felt wrong. After the first song, she went into a rant, starting with “Fuck all you Bloggers.” At that, I immediately put my camera down. She said, “I’m drunk and probably will forget all the words, I don’t give a shit what you think.” To that effect. 
I felt pangs of guilt and self-doubt, thinking, who am I anyway. And she was right. I stopped to live for the moment and to feel the music along with the enthusiastic fans. The uninhibited rants of truth continued for the rest of the set, but the music is what penetrated and sustained a lasting impression. Catch them for their last residency show at Piano's on May 27th!

I purchased eight songs self-released EP, A Fish Hook An Open Eye, and listened for the late ride home. Still listening! Review soon

Apologies to Wild Yaks. They opened, and I heard great things about their set.
Shilpa Ray Flickr Set


Viva The Lisps

Three more dates are left to see Futurity the Musical by the four-piece vaudevillian art/rock folk group The Lisps and the assembled cast. In January, they concluded a two-night stint at the now-defunct Zipper Factory. Futurity has found a new temporary home at Joe's Pub of which there are three dates left. OCM 1/12/ 09 review snippet: César Alvarez’s inventive play spars between the asymmetrical romantic notions of a writer and the symmetrical logistic concepts of a mathematician. Inventively he explores the juxtaposition of the envisioned possibilities of the all-powerful machine with the inevitable tides of war. Their altruistic visions are crushed along with the hopes of a promising future. Alvarez creates a black comedy with much room for contemplation. Full review Lisps defy boundaries. 

Recently they posted an informative blog entry to their fans.

What you may not know about us is that we are not JUST a band that performs live and records albums, although we love doing both those things. We are each other’s family and community, and we consider ourselves life-long artistic collaborators. We are not just musicians, but actors, poets, publishers, composers, writers, painters and inventors, and we are committed to developing and creating projects together that are both band-related and in support of our individual artistic interests.

I think this applies to creative people who don’t consider anything they do as a side project but as a continuum of the whole. Creativity holds no boundaries, and The Lisps exemplify this spirit in their music and the lives they have chosen to live. Viva The Lisps and Futurity!
Saturday May 16 @ 9:30 Friday May 22 @ 8:00 Sunday May 24 @ 7:30


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