When Justin Townes Earle came to Columbus in the past, he’d always play the Rumba Cafe, even though he outgrew the venue pretty quickly. It made for an intimate show, but it was crowded, and if you got close to the stage you were one of the lucky ones.
Now that the Rumba’s Todd Dugan is booking occasional shows at the Bluestone, Columbus has a chance to see Earle with a bit more elbow room, good sight lines and some stained-glass ambience. After seeing Lucero in the space last month, I was also impressed by the quality of the live sound, something Rumba has become known for. …Think a smaller, classier Newport with better sound.
Tristen opens tonight’s show ($17, 18+, 9pm). Dugan’s next big Bluestone show will be Watershed‘s CD release show on June 8.
After the debacle of actually getting down to Nelsonville from Columbus (accident blocking both lanes on 33-E, some very unprofessional actions of Speedway employees…) I finally arrived about an hour after planned but the night was just starting.
Here’s my photo wrap-up of Friday’s events.
If 2009 was the year of Larry Jon Wilson, 2010 was the year of Bill Fox and the Gibson Bros. I think I listened to Bill Fox’s two reissued albums — Shelter from the Smoke and Transit Byzantium — more than anything else. (Shelter got a deluxe vinyl reissue, and Scat promises a similar treatment for Transit in 2011.) Go get ’em. And working on a story about the Gibson Bros. reunion show back in July occupied my brainspace and held my interest for months. I don’t know if CDR has any copies of the Build a Raft reissue left, but if they do, it’s required listening for any Columbus music fan or anyone with a passing interest in twisted, noisy country/blues/rock.
But in terms of new stuff, here’s what I liked this year, starting with national releases and ending with Cowtown LPs.
1. Strand of Oaks – Pope Killdragon
I didn’t immediately hit repeat when I heard this album, but once I came back to it, I never stopped. Who knew a record with songs about John Belushi (from the perspective of Dan Akroyd), a 12-foot man and JFK could be so engrossing. Devastating, too. If you think Tim Showalter is just another pretty-voiced folkie, the layers of synth and Sabbath-like riffs on “Giant’s Despair” prove otherwise. The best way to get Killdragon digitally or on vinyl is through Strand of Oaks’ Kickstarter page.
But apparently Jessica Lea Mayfield will still perform at Rumba Cafe.
JTE is entering rehab after charges “of battery, public intoxication and forcibly resisting arrest. The club’s owner and daughter claim he smashed up his dressing room and hit the daughter.” Official explanation:
Justin Townes Earle has decided to suspend the remaining dates on his tour and enter a rehabilitation facility. Earle is strongly committed to confronting his on-going struggle with addiction and thanks his family, friends and fans for their continued support through this difficult time.
In regards to the misdemeanor charges recently filed in Indianapolis, Earle released the following statement earlier this week: “Unfortunately, reports surfacing online about the incident in Indianapolis are not accurate. I have been advised by counsel that I should not comment on a pending criminal matter, but suffice to say that I am looking forward to having my day in court. I would also like to say that I oppose violence against women in any form.”
(Separate Columbus list further down. Though, if the lists were combined, some of the local releases would unseat a few here…)
1. Larry Jon Wilson – Larry Jon Wilson
I won’t lie. Talking to Larry Jon and producer Jerry DeCicca (Black Swans) about this album, learning about its origins, and visiting Wilson’s back catalog gave me a heightened appreciation for this masterpiece. So context helps, but even if you know nothing about the back story, this is a stark, beautiful album from start to finish from one of the forgotten country outlaws. Wilson’s Georgia baritone is the sweetest thing I heard this year. For Townes Van Zandt fans, this is required listening.
2. The Love Language – The Love Language
It’s a rock n’ roll cliché and a PR flack’s dream: Guy breaks up with girl, drinks heavily, pisses off all his friends, eventually sobers up and retreats to his parents’ house to record an album on a four-track. But man does this cliché jangle with some of the best in-the-red pop songs I’ve heard in a while. Stuart McLamb’s Chapel Hill band signed to Merge in October and is slated to have a new release in August, and after seeing the full band (now a 7-piece) put on a terrific show at the Wexner Center in the fall, McLamb’s next outing could be even better with a little help from his friends.
3. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Every aspect of Andrew Bird just keeps getting better—his voice; his gorgeous, multi-layered violin arrangements; his whistling. It makes for a backdrop so compelling that he can sing about proto-Sanskrit Minoans, porto-centric Lisboans, Greek Cypriots and Hobis-hots and have you nodding your head in agreement instead of scratching it in confusion.
4. Kurt Vile – Constant Hitmaker; God is Saying This to You…; Childish Prodigy I’m grouping these together so I can squeeze more in, but all three LPs probably deserve a separate spot for different reasons. God finds Vile filtering his psychedelia through John Fahey and Neil Young; Childish kicks the volume up a notch and tones the lo-fi down; and Hitmaker, the best of the three, plays both sides with casual brilliance. “Freeway” is one of my favorite songs of 2009.
5. The Antlers – Hospice
Hospice is one of only a few albums this year that completely transports me whenever I give it my full attention. (Brian Harnetty’s Silent City is another.) A concept album about a hospice worker and a young patient, the songs swell like Sigur Ros then retreat into gingerly tapped piano, lightly strummed guitar or shimmery synth. It’s in those quiet portions that Silberman employs his alabaster falsetto — more hushed than Jeff Buckley but less wispy than Antony Hegarty. Back in March, the Antlers played a show at Cafe Bourbon St. in front of me and maybe three other people. I’m thinking there’ll be a few more in attendance next time.