A Little Banjo Love

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Over the last two years, I’ve noticed a new trend in some popular rock music… the banjo. Long relegated to bluegrass and country music, the banjo is appearing in many indie rock band lineups these days. Whether it be a feature in one song or an album with several songs showcasing the banjo, these bands are working to make the instrument cool.

Two of my favorite bands these days, The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, feature the banjo prominently in several songs. Most notably, Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons which made the radio rounds in 2010. I had the pleasure of seeing the Avett Brothers live back in November at Orlando Calling and was struck by how well they incorporated the unassuming banjo into their music. It fit seamlessly into their sound and totally rounded it out.  The Avett Brothers album I and Love and You showcases the banjo prominently and I highly recommend it.

A little tour around the internet and I found some other great indie bands who have some banjo love going on. Modest Mouse and Sufjan Stevens to just name two more.  What’s the moral of the story… I love it when bands incorporate different instruments into their repertoire!  It keeps things interesting.  What bands that you enjoy feature interesting instruments?

Moon Tunes – The Best Rock and Roll Moon songs

The Best Rock ‘n Roll Moon Songs
Our list of “Moon” Songs that rock

In honor of the extremely rare full lunar eclipse yesterday, I decided to throw together a list of the RARA’s Farm’s Best Rock ‘n Roll moon songs.  The rules? Pretty simple stuff – it needs to rock, the word “moon” needs to be in each song title, and I have to like it.

Continue reading Moon Tunes – The Best Rock and Roll Moon songs

Songs to be “Thank”ful for

In honor of this year’s Thanksgiving, I started a list of great Thanksgiving songs.  I got to my top two and the creative juices stopped; Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” and Poi Dog Pondering’s “Thanksgiving” are both decent, but other than those two, only Adam Sandler’s horrible “Thanksgiving” came to mind. So, I shifted my focus to the Best Songs with “Thank” in the title. They’re not all beautiful, and typically have nothing to do with gratitude, in fact most of them are more on the bitter side…

So, before the tryptophan kicks in, here’s our cornucopia: the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen:

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Bonus Track – “Thank You For The Music,” ABBA – I know, this is not Rock and Roll, but I have a soft spot for this one.  It was released by the Swedish pop icons in 1977, and ultimately released as a single in 1983.  To many, it is viewed as their swan song.  It’s a fun and addictive singalong.

12. “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel,” Talking Heads – This tune kicks off the band’s second album, 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food. This short ditty highlights Chris Frantz’s fine drumming.

11. “Thanks A Lot,” Third Eye Blind” – This song was kind of lost in the shuffle on Third Eye Blind’s hugely successful 1997 debut release, but it is another of the many solid tunes on the album.

10. “Thank You,” Dido – In my opinion, this is not a rock song, but I included it because my wife just loves Dido, and it’s a nice song, and it’s Thanksgiving…

9. “Thank You,” The Redwalls – This little known indie outfit from outside Chicago has a great sound. This song is Beatlesesque and deserved more notoriety. If you’ve never heard them before, make sure you check this one out.

8. “Thank You Girl,” The Beatles – This tune is almost fifty years old already!  It was initially released as the B-side to “From Me To You” as a personal message to their female followers. It’s a nice tribute to their fans.

7. “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs,” Fall Out Boy – The record company wanted shorter song titles from the band, and this was their response.  “Thanks For the Memories” was a Top 10 hit in 2007 and is a fun tune about an old relationship with benefits from these Illinois rockers.

6. “Thanks A Lot,” Johnny Cash – This one from 1959 is a bitter tribute to a relationship gone bad. Not one of is hits, but it features his powerful deep distinctive voice.

5. “The Thanks I Get,” Coconut Records – Coconut Records, is the hip brainchild of multi-talented Jason Schwartzman who basically sings, writes and plays all the instruments.  “The Thanks I Get” is off of the 2007 debut effort, Nighttiming. It’s a fun pop tune about yet another relationship gone bad.

4. “Thank You For Being A Friend,” Andrew Gold – OK, I’ll admit, I succumbed to a a bit of peer pressure on this one. To me, the song is okay, but nothing special, but all of the relatives liked it, and sadly,he recently passed away, so I gave it a special holiday bump in the ratings.   The song was one of the bigger hits on this list, reaching #25 in 1978.

3. “Thank You,” Sly and the Family Stone – This funk tune was reprotedly recorded during some of Sly Stone’s deepest periods of drug use.  It’s got a great funky beat, powered by the fantastic bass of Larry Graham.  It’s a timeless masterpiece from the early 70’s. I love the official title “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”

2. “I Thank You,” Sam And Dave (also covered wonderfully by ZZTop) – The Sam and Dave version was a gospel influenced song written by Isaac Hayes that peaked in the Top Ten in 1968.  Ten Years later, ZZ Top released it on their 1979 album Deguello.  For both artists, it became their second Top 40 hit.

1. “Thank You,” Led Zeppelin – This 1969 Plant/Page classic was actually the first song where the lyrics were penned by Robert Plant.  The lyrics were a tribute to Plant’s relationship with his wife, Maureen.  It wraps up the fantastic first side of Led Zeppelin II, and features beautiful keyboards from John Paul Jones.  To secure it’s spot atop our list, it is truly a song about Thanks.

Thanks for reading – Mike G.

Matt Butcher Carves Out a Following at Orlando Calling

After listening to three O.A.R. songs, I turned to my friend in boredom and said, “Hey you want to check out that Matt Butcher guy at the Art House Stage?” She quickly agreed and we headed from a large stage area with thousands of people and beer tubs to a tiny tent that could hold maybe 75 people. The Art House Stage was for up-and-coming artists. The baristas and red velvet couch created the appropriate atmosphere for the performance that was about to ensue.

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Matt Butcher and Justin Beckler took the stage in colorful western attire and immediately connected with the audience with a confident yet humble presence. Butcher asked the crowd to move in closer so he could see our beautiful faces. However, the real treat was when Butcher and Beckler began to play their soulful rock. Butcher’s voice and style reminded me of other folk like rock artists such as Band of Horses, Gavin Degraw, and the Avett Brothers. They both played guitar with the occasional mandolin thrown in for good measure. Their seven song set was a pure delight. I only know the name of one of the songs because it was a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil”. I wish I could tell you the names of the others…because they were really good! Butcher admitted that he is a poor self-promoter and decided not to play any of the new songs off of his latest album, Ghostwriter. However, I took a risk and decided to purchase Ghostwriter anyway since it was available for immediate purchase.

I highly recommend the album (available on iTunes). My favorite song on the album is called “Rome, Rain or Hail.” I turned my stereo up as the sweet melody filled my car with a playful beat and interjections of a harmonica. Take a chance on Matt Butcher. Walk away from the unoriginal, have a seat on a red velvet couch and take it all in.

Mango

Bobby Long Concert in the ‘Burgh

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So, after some prodding from the editor, I finally have a show to write about for RARA’s.  I recently moved back to the Pittsburgh area, so am in the process of developing a social life and finding fun places to go for live music.  Going into this show, I didn’t have any intention of writing an article about it, as I knew very little about Bobby Long. A friend of mine asked me to go to the show with her as she had stumbled across his music while wandering around the internet one night, and I agreed, because I love discovering new people and I adore British singers for some reason.

I was optimistic… the location of the concert was absolutely my speed, a small bar in the South Side of Pittsburgh called Club Cafe. It only holds about 100 people max, and was set up with small tables and some bar stools. We sat in the second row, and I love having the chance to be up close and personal with musicians.

After the opening act, Bobby Long got on stage. Just him, his guitar and harmonica. The best description of his music that I can come up with is a cross between rock, blues and folk. It’s not a hard rock sound by any stretch, but his faster songs will have you tapping your foot to the beat. His lyrics are heartfelt and seem to hint at experiences beyond what a normal 24 year old should have. He told stories in between songs that were funny and gave some insight into his personality. His guitar playing is impressive both live an on cd.

Two of his songs really stuck with me, one titled “Who Have You Been Loving” and “Penance Fire Blues” (video of it live from a different show. The second is the most he rocked out during the evening and is just a great song overall.

At the end of the night, after playing for about an 90 minutes straight, he was done for the evening, and went to a small table to sell shirts, posters and CDs. After that show, I knew I wanted a CD, so after a brief wait in line, I bought my copy and Bobby signed my CD and posed for a picture.

This young musician is just starting out, and I personally think that this is someone a lot of people will be talking about in the next one to two years. So I’ll hold on to my picture and autographed CD (that also has my name spelled correctly on it!) so that I can say that I saw him before he hit it big.

Kari

Wednesday Evening Random Thoughts

So – Orlando Calling has come and gone.  We asked for press access to the inaugural event so that we could dazzle you with our amazing coverage, but the Festival organizers ignored us.  Truthfully, I can’t really blame them, we’re still a small player on a huge stage.  You can help us for next year – follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. Then tell your friends to do the same thing.  And finally – post on our Facebook page, share your pictures, provide your thoughts, and offer tips on new music, beer tasting and your favorite Modern Family episodes.  OK – got it?

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As for the first iteration of Orlando Calling, we’ve talked to a bunch of people who were there, and all of the reports have been positive.  Personally, Day 1 was much more appealing with The Killers, Gogol Bordello, Pete Yorn and The Pixies among the many bands spread across their five stages.  Day 2 had a totally different vibe with Bob Seger, Kid Rock, The Doobie Brothers and Blake Shelton headlining.  Truthfully a little schizophrenic.  Next year, they need to decide what they want to be when they grow up and have the entire weekend gel better as far as the line-up is concerned.  Seriously, what would a Bob Seger fan think when they saw the antics of Gogol Bordello???

Although we weren’t there, a few of our website members (oh yeah – you can register there, too) did attend, and we’ll be sharing some reviews shortly.

We’ve reviewed a bunch of great new music lately to tide you over.  Here are quick links to the last handful, if you want to check them out:

They were all good – honestly (we are not just schmoozing for more free music, although we are certainly open to that).  My favorite was Grouplove’s effort – and fortunately, they’ll be hitting the Sunshine State shortly for a few shows in early December.

We also had a great interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard.  The band has a great story, a unique sound and their talented front man is a helluvanice guy.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit from The Last Royals, who we interviewed a few months back.  Here’s a recording studio that is truly a “head” of its time: Crystal Vases

 

Checking Out The Perms – Sofia Nights

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The Perms recently released fifth album Sofia Nights spotlights their melodic pop rock blend of music.  The Winnipeg, Manitoba trio has been around for a decade plus and continues to turn out likeable rock music.

The album kicks off with High School High,” a catchy ditty reflecting on those halcyon high school days gone by.  The song has a nice hook “It’s my life and I’ll do what I like, because I’m just another kid and I’m wound up like a string too tight.”  On this tune, and throughout, the threesome’s sound reminds me a bit of The Kooks and maybe even Simple Plan, without the edge.

“It’s You I’m Thinking Of” and “Live For the Day” are two other fun and catchy alternative rock tunes with hit potential, featuring the vocals of brothers  Shane (bass) and Chad Smith(guitar).  The latter has been stuck in my head for days and grows on me with each listen.  They are good representations of the album – generally happy, melodic tunes.

I’d describe the band as power-pop.  It’s good stuff, but I don’t see a breakthrough single on the album.  I liked most of the tunes and was also drawn to the songs where the instrumentation was stripped down a bit, such as the slower “Make It Through” and “Manheim,” which showcase the fine drumming of John Huver and features some of the strongest vocals of the album.

It’s worth a listen.  Check out the album now on iTunes.

Rock On! – Cretin

Social Distortion Shares Some Nursery Rhymes at HOB

Mike Ness and Social Distortion delivered a powerful set at House of Blues in Orlando last night in front of an electric and packed House. Ness has long epitomized the consummate bad-ass rock and roll front man and he still carries that torch.

Social D is touring in support of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, their first studio album in the past seven years. Still they only included two songs from the latest album: “Machine Gun Blues” and “Bakersfield.” Instead of shamelessly pushing the new tunes, they reached deep into their catalog, featuring classics from the past three decades, and throwing in a few nice surprises along the way. Perfect for the fervid fans in attendance.

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The band exploded onto the stage with a powerful version of “1945” and immediately ratcheted it up a notch when they moved into crowd favorite, 1983’s “Daddy’s Little Monster,” which pushed the considerably-sized mosh pit into a fever pitch. Then it was directly into their current hit “Machine Gun Blues” and a great singalong version of “Bad Luck” before Ness finally caught his breath.

Ness was energetic and engaged the crowd all night.  His signature vocals may have been even a bit more raspy at this point in his career, but still sounded strong considering his three decades of heavy touring.

Longtime sidekick Jonny Wickershamm was back on guitar.  He and Ness traded off the lead throughout the evening while bassist Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr kept the hard driving rhythm guiding the set all night. The only issue all night was that the sound mix was a little muddy – especially earlier in the show.

Other setlist highlights included “Story of My Life,” “So Far Away” and another fun singalong, this time to “Six More Miles” – an old Hank Williams cover.  The band closed the core sixty minute set with “Nickels and Dimes.”

For the encore, they took the pitch up a notch and started with “Dear Lover” and “Don’t Drag Me Down” before closing it out with powerful versions of fan favorites “Prison Bound” and their fantastic cover of “Ring of Fire.”

Eighty minutes of energy and passion with a set-list clearly designed with the fans in mind; a great night with the greatest hard rocking punkabilly band ever.

Setlist

  • 1945
  • Mommy’s Little Monster
  • Machine Gun Blues
  • Bad Luck
  • So Far Away
  • King of Fools
  • Story Of My Life
  • Bakersfield
  • Sweet & Lowdown
  • Reach for the Sky
  • Six More Miles (Hank Williams cover)
  • Nickels and Dimes

Encore:

  • Dear Lover
  • Don’t Drag Me Down
  • Prison Bound
  • Ring of Fire
Chuck Ragan warmed the crowd up with an impressive set of his trademark folksy rock.  He and fiddle player Jon Gaunt and bassist Joe Ginsberg filled the forty minute set with an interesting and unique blend of contemporary rock.

Checkout our video snippets of the show on our YouTube channel: Social D in Orlando 

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