Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Cardinals Live in Austin (10/13/08)*

*This is a re-post. The original was posted on October 21, 2008. The setlist is now linked to mp3's from the show courtesy

i wanted to wait until/if the show i attended at the Paramount Theatre in Austin last week was put on, but i'm impatient. Believe it or not, this was my first Ryan Adams show ever. I know.... how can i claim to be such a fan... blah, blah, blah. But unless it's some local flavor of the week, pretty-face country crooner, or MTV star - we don't get a lot of shows down this way. At least not my kind of music. i did have a few chances in the last couple years to catch Ryan, but my school schedule never seemed to cooperate.

The show was great. The venue was classical, ornate, and very fitting for my views of Ryan's worth. i was up in the balcony, which wasn't very far from the stage, but it was much higher than the stage. i can't say that i was blown away by the show - and that may have been different had i been closer - but there's no denying the skill and artistry that Ryan and The Cardinals have. The stage was set in a simple but unique way - two neon blue 'roses' (above) hanging on each side, between them the Cardinology symbol with Brad's gong dangling amid the wishbone. Unlike most shows/bands, Ryan didn't front the drummer. Instead, each player had an equal linear spot on stage. Ryan--Brad--Chris--Neal--Jon.

We got a good taste of Cardinology at the show - 8 of 12 tracks - and from what i could surmise, it will be much better than Easy Tiger. ET bordered on adult contemporary with simple, rolling guitar licks and soft vocals. The new one, at least live, has much more energy in it. Sinking Ships, Natural Ghost, and Magick stood out to me.

Ryan reached back all the way to Heartbreaker for 3 tracks, but spent most of his time between songs from the 2 newest albums. They played a handful of the best tracks from Cold Roses, but the highlight for me was Desire - the only tune taken from the post-Gold/pre-JCN era. Of course, each tune was somewhat rearranged from the the album cuts. Goodnight Rose had a jazzy breakdown capped off with an a capella ending and Ryan widened his vocal range and style in most of the songs.

Ryan was uncharacteristically quiet between songs, save for a rambling about his OCD and need to wear a jacket whenever he doesn't hold a guitar. In the first set, the band bantered about Neal's new guitar - named Sparrowmyth by Ryan (a semi-play on Aerosmith) - that morphed into a comedic exchange about Joe Perry's interest transition from blow to barbecue sauce.

  1. Cobwebs
  2. Come Pick Me Up
  3. Everybody Knows
  4. Wonderwall
  5. Magick
  6. Let It Ride
  7. Desire
  8. Fix It
  9. Natural Ghost
  10. Goodnight Rose
  11. The Sun Also Sets*
  12. Dear John
  13. Crossed-Out Name
  14. Stars Go Blue
  15. Sink Ships
  16. Stop (Ryan on Keys)
--Set Break--
  1. Off Broadway
  2. Cold Roses
  3. Shakedown
  4. Bartering Lines
  5. Neal Casal - Freeway to the Canyon
  6. Peaceful Valley
  7. Two
  8. Easy Plateau
  9. Go Easy
No Encore.

Entire Show (ZIP)

*The band changed their linuep a bit - Neal played the keyboard and Jon left the pedal for the electric guitar while Ryan, pausing to put on his jacket, took the mic empty handed.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conor Oberst/Felice Brothers Live @ Stubbs BBQ...

Found some down time while here in NYC - awaiting a late reservation at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill - to put together a few words/pictures regarding the raucous concert i attended last weekend in Austin. One that featured 2 bands, each of whom has an '08 release in the Top 5 of my soon to come year-end list.

The show was everything i expected from both bands - unrivaled energy, expert showmanship, and of course great music. From what i could gather, many show goers were there to see the artist formerly known as Bright Eyes and had no clue who The Felice Brothers were. As if to exploit this fact, the Felices opened their set with a new low-key, slow ballad keeping the stage lights dim. Just when they had this fresh audience lulled into submission, The Felice Brothers stomped into Whiskey In My Whiskey, bringing the house down with only their second song. Although it made for a somewhat less accessible set, the band filled the half of the show with new material, foreshadowing (hopefully) an early 2009 release.

i didn't jot down a complete setlist (much less remember much of anything after Conor began) as Makers Mark gradually climbed its way up my priority list throughout the night. But i can tell you it was a riot. There was a veritable mosh pit/hoedown for much of the concert. Conor and his Mystic Valley Band know how to engage a crowd as well as keep things interesting. Many of the Felices made cameos in Conor's set - as well as a surprise appearance from Ben Kweller. All were present for a wild encore of I Don't Wanna Die (In A Hospital).

Both bands were more than impressive, and they each solidified/earned the spots they should receive on many Best of 2008 lists.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pictures in the City...

Conor Oberst ~ NYC - Gone, Gone
buy Conor Oberst (2008)
One of twelve reasons you should buy his album.

Shippin' up to The Big Apple in the morning to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. i'll be there through the weekend, and may or may not get a post up. i have a NYC Mixtape planned - it has some songs that simply reference the city, but maybe i'll pick up a few others that capture the mood while i'm there.

New York is an amazing place anytime, but the holiday season brings out a different, festive feeling noticeable in every corner of the city. My first trip to New York was during Christmas, so maybe that's why it's memorable to me. i feel like i'm in another country when i'm there. Methods of travel, interaction with people, and simply living life are all completely different in a city of its magnitude. i've grown up around Houston, a very large city in its own right, but NY is a different type of big. Space is not only limited, it's maxed out. Apartments are tiny, bathrooms are cramped, even refrigerators are smaller. But somehow these shrunken elements come together to create a place larger than its own legend. A place rich in culture and diversity. A place teeming with activity 24/7. A place at once historic and completely modern.

Everywhere you look in NY, especially for someone from Texas, is something you've never seen before. That's why it's one of the coolest places on the planet to take pictures. i took this one on a trip there in '06 and up until a month ago, some form of it was used as the header picture for This Mornin'... Vinyl Mania was a record store just 4 doors down from my sister's apartment. She told me earlier this year that it went out of business and the sign was gone. i was really hoping to take a newer photo of the storefront with a better camera, but that may never happen now. NYC offers so many amazing things to snap photos of, i'll find something else to fill the void. Upon my last trip, i was armed with only my cell phone camera and although the picture quality was low, you could get some really interesting shots, especially in the dark. It was that trip, and many of those photo opportunities, that got me turned on to photography. Greasy streets and grungy gutters can sparkle with beauty when the streetlights hit them just right. Passing headlights can reveal the elegance behind layers of fliers and graffiti on a chained storefront. The borough skylines are speckled with facades you swear you've seen on TV before.

Here's a few of those pictures from last trip:

We don't have much planned except eating turkey, so i'm sure i'll have some free time to roam the city and people watch. Nowhere else would that sound so interesting.

On a related note, check out Neal Casal's photography page, especially the NY pictures. They show how something so simple can become ART if the conditions and treatment are right.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"i drink my share in this town, baby. i smoke my share too..."

Stoney LaRue - Goin' To Austin (live)

Great tune from Stoney LaRue and his amazing pipes, accompanied by former MMB/Selena band member Rodney Pyeatt with his blazing guitar picking. It's from a live show on Halloween in 2004, but also appears on Stoney's now out-of-print debut Downtown.


i'm headin' to Austin this afternoon to catch Conor Oberst & The Felice Brothers, Live @ Stubb's.
A review post with pictures shall follow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"it's only awful as the hell that you know..."

Band of Horses Islands on the Coast
buy Cease To Begin (2007)

Cosmic Seattle Rock.
i'm ready for the next one from these guys.

"now i know that seasons change, and so must i"

Slaid Cleaves – November Skies
buy Slaid Cleaves’ Holiday Sampler (2001)

As always, Slaid tells us a great story. One that captures that retrospective feeling you get in the winter.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ryan Adams: Demoltion

After unloading some bad news regarding Cardinology - and the extended discussion that followed - i'm glad to move on with my Ryan Adams Spotlight. This edition features what is probably the most underrated Ryan Adams album.

If you've been keeping up here, you know that Demolition was the result of numerous studio sessions that took place both before and after the recording of Gold. Lost Highway wasn't hip to the idea of releasing a 4-disc set, so some decision making was in order. You could say they took a wrecking ball to those collections and what came out of the rubble were the 13 tracks that make up his third solo album.

1. Nuclear ~ Pinkheart 2
2. Hallelujah ~ 48 Hours
3. You Will Always Be The Same
4. Desire ~ 48 Hours
5. Cry On Demand ~ Suicide Handbook
6. Starting To Hurt ~ Pinkheart 1
7. She Wants To Play Hearts ~ Suicide Handbook
8. Tennessee Sucks ~ Pinkheart 1
9. Dear Chicago ~ Suicide Handbook

10. Gimme A Sign ~ Pinkheart 1
11. Tomorrow
~ Pinkheart 2
12. Chin Up, Cheer Up ~ 48 Hours

13. Jesus (Don't Touch My Baby) ~ Pinkheart 2

For coming from so many different studios, engineers, and session players, the album really does have a cohesive feel. But that doesn't mean the songs are too similar... actually just the opposite. Demolition offers quite of variety of Ryan's sounds. It's one of Ryan's more low-key, mellow records without being too sappy or introspective. Most of the songs are a jaded look back at failed relationships (i know, what else is new?). But compared to much of his recent work on the subject, the songs from Demolition offer a fresh, unique outlook on love-gone. In an interview with Uncut Magazine, Ryan described many of the stories behind the tunes. Check out some snippets on

A majority of the tracks lack a definite chorus, helping to give the album its cohesiveness. Rather than a collection of singles - which is probably what Lost Highway thought they were getting - Demolition reads like a snapshot of the things Ryan was going through at this point in his life. He was living in Hollywood during the time he wrote most of these songs, and the women in his life at that time inspired a lot of them.

Nuclear, the album's single, leads off on somewhat of a weak note. The first verse could be thought to encapsulate Ryan's feelings on the processes that produced the album - "In a flash of pure destruction, no one wins," but it was written months prior and, according to Ryan, the song is about meeting someone for the first time. With wailing harmonicas, Hallelujah and Desire are highlights, carrying over a style present on Gold.

Along with Nuclear, Gimme a Sign and Starting To Hurt are the liveliest songs in the collection. Elecritc guitars, reverb, and spiteful lyrics show Ryan's transition into the sound that would characterize his next venture. Ryan learned of a woman jumping off a building and upon seeing said building, wrote Starting To Hurt. It's an interesting, slightly optimistic, interpretation of the events of that day.

You Will Always Be The Same, Cry On Demand, She Wants to Play Hearts, and Tomorrow exhibit Ryan's ever-present singer/songwriter style with sparse arrangements allowing his words to ring out. An expansion on Saturday Night, Tennessee Sucks is a bluesy little tune about "Tennessee really sucking," and he and his band finding the most accessible ways to deal with it.

Chin Up, Cheer Up is the least meshing song on the record, but interestingly, it's one of my favorites. A mildly bluegrass feel with up-tempo picking, the song is a rare occurance of a hopeful Ryan Adams writing lyrics to fit the music. Ryan says "it's about covering elephants in tin-foil for no good reason," but is evidence of him simply enjoying what he's doing.

Jesus... again shows Ryan's habit of finishing an album with a slow ballad. Another tune about learning his 'friend' is sick, Ryan says he kicked The Pinkhearts out of the studio to reflect. What resulted was a boring song filled with synthesizers and a drum machine. Young Winds would have worked much better.


The Japanese/UK releases of Demolition came with a bonus side of 4 songs. New York, New York and To Be Young were recorded live in Amsterdam, while the other 2 tracks are highlights from the aforesaid sessions. Each of these two tracks was also released on the singles for Nuclear - one with the CD and one with the 7 inch.

Song For Keith

Buy Demolition

Check out the rest of my Ryan Adams Spotlight

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Make It Stop....

i've been flipping back and forth from tonight's CMA Awards, and i swear it's the funniest thing on TV.... well, it would be if weren't dead serious. It's like a dogshow in that the only people that really care about it are the ones there on the stage. But the sad thing is, these idiots are put there by real people, who really like this music, really buy it... really sing along. They make it a lucrative business. Why else do you think Jessica Simpson and Hootie jumped on the bandwagon? The artists know exactly what they're doing. They've found a loophole in the system. Those few that write their own music simply cater to the ignorant 'middle America', writing simple songs that will undoubtedly get played played at every barbecue, high school party, and rural wedding across the country. It's shameless exploitation.

How can so many stupid fucking Americans actually buy this crap? What kind of shallow person has their musical desires fulfilled by each and every "i love America" spewed out from the prettiest faces money can buy and records labels can hand pick off a reality show.

"Oooh he said he's from the county.... SO AM I. I love this guy!"
"She drives a pickup. My grandpa has one of those. I'm gonna buy her record now."
"Look, he wears a baseball cap with the edges perfectly frayed like mine. He's cool. So am I"

Fuck Me.

It's no wonder most people laugh when at you when you say you like country music. What chance do we have to be taken seriously when this is the face of it.

Kid Rock is on now, singing a thoughtless regurgitation of one of the most overplayed songs in history. And everybody loves it - mindless people that listen (and enjoy) whatever the local radio station puts on the airwaves. i haven't had my radio on FM for about 5 years now, so i don't know the songs, much less most of the acts, on my TV tonight. Half of 'em can't even sing. They just hop around the stage under a spotlight, waving their arms around cause they don't possess the talent to play a guitar - while the real musicians are hidden behind them in the dark.

Some 'award show'. The same 5 people present and receive all the trophies. The same songs are nominated in categories like 'Best Single' and 'Best Song' - what's the fucking difference? It's just another chance for these chumps to selfishly show their perfectly made up faces to the world, and pat themselves on the back for creating musical genocide.

At least the chicks are hot. That's all this show has going for it.
That and George Strait.

If you're here, you most likely feel the same way, so i'm preachin' to the choir. But i just had to get this off my chest.


The Everybodyfields - Be Miner
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell - Please Break My Heart
The Felice Brothers - Whiskey In My Whiskey
Gillian Welch - Look At Miss Ohio
Hayes Carll - Long Way Home

Check out Setting The Woods On Fire for more REAL COUNTRY MUSIC

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Digs.....

My new music radar has been on sleep mode for a while. i had to sort through a multitude of Fall releases and begin making a year-end list as of late. But yesterday, i was jonesin' for some new aural pleasure. i had 4 band names in mind when i went to The Hype Machine for some research. What i heard was instantly gratifying. 2 are very folky, 1 is crazy ambient-punk, 1 is Eurofolk - all are uber-hipsters.

Horse Feathers
Portland, Oregon indie-folk outfit Horse Feathers released their sophomore album in September on the eclectic Kill Rock Stars label (The Decemberists, Deerhoof, Colin Meloy). Sporting traditionally bluegrass instruments, Horse Feathers are refreshingly anything but bluegrass. Justin Ringle leads with airy vocals a la Sam Beam, while Heather and Peter Broderick, Nathan Crockett, Catherine O'Dell, and Sam Cooper offer their talents on loads of unusual instruments. Their sound is perfect for a rainy Fall day like today. Peter and Nathan both play the violin, and in this setting, it is truly classical violin. Often ominous, but always tastefully done, this element gives the Horse Feathers a truly unique sound. (MySpace/Official Page)

Horse Feathers - Working Poor

Buy House With No Home

Frontier Ruckus
Together, Matt Millia and Anna Burch sound like a younger Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews - with more energy to boot. Add wandering banjos, horns, a harmonium, an ebow, and additional harmonies from the rest of the gang and you get... well, a ruckus on the frontier. This Michigan folk group released The Orion Songbook earlier this year as a follow-up to a their now out-of-print debut EP, I Am The Water You Are Pumping. Bonus points for effective employments of a musical saw. i just received a promo copy of the new album, so i may write another, more in-depth post on these guys. (MySpace/Official Page)

Frontier Ruckus - Rosemont
Buy The Orion Songbook

Bradford Cox and band don't fit the mold of my usual tastes here at This Mornin'... - too electronic and borderlining NOISE - but at the recommendation of a friend, i checked 'em out. What i've heard from their new release Microcastle isn't bad. It's tame enough to allow me to listen with inventive melodies often lacking in their genre. i don't see myself purchasing this one, but i might kick a few songs around a while and see what happens. (MySpace/Official Page)

Deerhunter - Never Stops
Buy Microcastle

Frightened Rabbit
Scottish indie-pop/folk band Frightened Rabbit put out their second full-length album this year. The Midnight Organ Fight is essentially Euro-pop and still very relatable for me. Climbing tempos stall to highlight emotive lyrics while engaging beats are accented with both acoustic and electric guitars. Frightened Rabbit has remained busy throughout their short existence. Five EP's surround their two releases and, most recently, the band put out a live album. (MySpace/Official Page)

Frightened Rabbit - Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
Buy The Midnight Organ Fight

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Verdict Is In.....

i’ve been putting off… not reviewing, but voicing my opinion of Cardinology. i was waiting for receipt of the vinyl, but during the wait, i acquired the mp3’s. Also in that time, i read way too many reviews to be completely objective. The best treatment i came across was this one suggesting that somewhere there's a Ryan Adams Album Review Generator, pumping out cookie-cutter anecdotes with the same words said in different ways. He goes on to statistically dissect a multitude of published reviews, citing many of these generic standpoints. Bravo.

Here are some scattered thoughts and lyrical samples, but i'm left with many questions. Maybe a discussion could help me sort this out.


Around here, the general consensus has been substandard, and that's been echoed plenty. But the most surprising thing is that the people that like it... really like it.

Rolling Stone gave it a 4 out of 5 and said "it's one of the best things he's ever done," and that he "defines a genre here."

I asked myself how they could actually think that, and I came up with this: the first thing people do when convincing themselves they like something is forget about lyrics. i will say this can be an important part of the listening process at times, but not when reviewing –and reviews are what Rolling Stone does. Maybe Ryan is suffering from the same ailment. He says "the stuff we do communally is 10 times greater than the stuff I come up with."

So sure - sonically - Cardinology is pleasing, even really good (thanks Tom Schick), but Ryan has lost his previously razor sharp edge. i've mentioned how Easy Tiger was pretty disappointing as well. But one mediocre record (plus an EP) isn't enough to get me worried. With the onset of this one, however, i'm beginning to think that maybe The Cardinals have worn out their welcome. They obviously have a large influence on Ryan, and that has worked great in the past (2005), but i feel like their general direction has been skewed. People say it’s the sound of a band working well together, finding their groove, confident in their sound, blah, blah. This is just a veiled way to say it’s predictable.

He’s just as self-deprecating as ever before - he actually says “if I fall will you pity me?” But with sobriety comes self-awareness. It's like Ryan is completely cognizant to the fact that he's a sad-bastard and has come to terms with it. We do find out Ryan isn’t habitless - “The trees outside are still. I take a sleeping pill… and feel a little less pain.” Thphhphphphh (fart noise with thumb up).

The first two tracks, minus the initial 3 second guitar riff, are just boring. "Fit It" has absolutely nothing new to offer - we know you've been left and hurt, Ryan. "Magick" begins well enough with a ferocity reminiscent of something like "Shallow" and as spiteful as "What Sin". But then they blow it under in the chorus with what sounds like a song heard at a junior high dance on Lifetime“let your body move, let your body sway, listen to the music play.”

"Let Us Down..." may have been a better fit on ET, but it's not bad. Unfortunately, "Crossed Out Name" sits on the top of the heap, beginning what you hope will be a rebound on Side B... not even close. "Natural Ghost" is basically easy listening. "Sink Ships" starts with an inviting acoustic lead, but wanders off-course.

And what kind of metaphors are these? “This position is not open now… the application forms got shredded, there was faulty wording in the documents.” Come on. Where's the guy that said "you ain't but a fire on my sad estate, burnin' my house to the ground" or "i felt the news through the floorboards. Like a long sufferin' moan. Like a wreck on the road. Like a joining of hands?"

Where’s the guy that said “the trains run like snakes through the Pentecostal pines?" Oh, that’s right… Jacksonville. But that was only 3 years ago. He’d been city-jaded for years by then. There's the ubiquitous, NYC reference in "Cobwebs" that becomes cliché mentioning 5th Ave… ooh, Ryan’s big time – what happened to Chelsea?

A breezy interlude recalling "Rosebud", "Evergreen" is a bit of a relief, but not enough to turn me around. For the first time, i've become completely disinterested in the middle of a Ryan Adams album.

As i said, i waited until i got the vinyl to do this. The collector’s package has completely new artwork by Leah Hayes, including a comic book/set of liner notes. In presenting the lyrics, she forms a frame-by-frame story with children's book-style drawings. This interestingly works well for this album. Although she's definitely talented, it couldn’t have been very hard to work the names of the songs into the page. Ryan broke the record for repeating the song titles on Cardinology (go ahead, count 'em). i’m just not so sure that’s a desirable feat.

Some more pathetic lines: “Keep the faith, keep moving to the music rolling in your mind.” & “Be your own best friend, have confidence and keep the faith.” Oh, and those aren’t from the same song.

i guess you can say that he’s maturing with this 'suicide hotline' advice, which is somewhat true, but his youthful defiance is what has defined much of Ryan up to ‘06. At some point he has to make another statement. It doesn’t have to be berating fans/critics, tapes and tapes of studio sessions, or speedballs for breakfast, but SOMETHING.

Bottom Line: The Cardinals let us down, but at least they let us down easy... whatever that means.

i know i've focused on the faults of the album, but there are pieces to enjoy. Just not enough. i don't have to express what i like about Ryan, i've done plenty of that, and hopefully i will get to again someday.

Crossed Out Name (live 9-30-2008 - Palace Theatre)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Max Stalling....

Max Stalling may be a one trick pony on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you'll find he's got a whole herd of talent.

A songwriter first and foremost, Max is one of the best composers to have been associated with the Texas Music scene (alongside Mike McClure and Slaid Cleaves - both of whom have been spotlighted here). Max didn't take up music seriously until after college (he's a fellow alumnus of Texas A&M). Just as his songs seem to have one foot in the past, Max himself would've been perfectly content sharing his music with only those around the campfire on the trail in the 1800's. But after his talent for songwriting became too obvious to cast aside, Max quit his job with Frito-Lay and took on music full-time, and got right down to business.

Finding the bar-scene in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area welcoming, it wasn't long before Max had an album's worth of recording material.

Comfort In The Curves (1997)

Max's debut remains one of his strongest efforts to date. He introduces himself with an ode to the road, roll-calling a myriad of Texas towns. Songs like Time's Hand In Your Pocket and Sparks demonstrate his uncanny ability to write from the worn perspective of old wrangler, while Look In My Past and Mockingbird show Max longing for anything except the here-and-now. Heavy on the steel guitar and rural references, Comfort In The Curves is unmistakably country, but retains a cordial sincerity sadly missing in most modern country music.

Bath Water Baby
"I didn’t even pick up a guitar until graduate school. I had no expectation of even being in the music business. I just liked to write songs."

Wide Afternoon (2000)

Max followed his debut with another solid effort. Runnin' Buddy can be considered his most popular tune, and Scars and Souvenirs seems like the inverse of Karen Poston/Slaid Cleaves's Lydia. On Wide Afternoon, he solidifies his reputation for a stellar relationship-song writer with tunes like Blue Eyes, Dime Box TX, and These Reminders. Check out a SMM post i wrote on Simple Girl.

Bass Run
These Reminders

Max has a certain knack for creating great driving music. Maybe this is because the majority of my roadtrips happen to take me across, through, and around Texas, so it seems Max is right there with me narrating the trip with vivid imagery of West Texas scenery and plaintive cowboy songs. i can't tell you what it is that makes a song fit the open road, but if it makes your destination arrive faster, it's done its job. Read my post on The Road.

One of the Ways (2002)

If you take one thing away from this artist spotlight, make it the purchase of this album. It was frustrating to narrow it down to only two songs to feature from One of the Ways, and honestly, i left out some of the best. It's 11 tracks of clever wordplay - all performed with the ease of a seasoned veteran and in a such a style that evokes a Sunday conversation along a fenceline with Max himself. The Pila Song is a compelling story of love-torn rancher that meets his fate at the hands of his own impulsiveness. Max can uniquely turn a simple conversation into a poetic, rhetorical exchange with the listener, evidenced in Probably Corsicana. This album will definitely make my Toolbox List, and when i feature it, you can get a taste of the remainder of gems on this release.

The Pila Song

Probably Corsicana

By none of today's standards is Max a prolific writer - 5 albums in 10 years - but admittedly, he didn't plan on making a career out of it. Shortly after the release of One of the Ways, Max's distributor went out of business, curbing the sale of the album as well as his desire to begin another project.
"On a personal front, there were a whole slew of things that hit me pretty hard…girl problems, the extended illness and passing away of my father, topped off by an audit by our friendly IRS sure kept me from focusing on songwriting. That was a tough stretch of years.”

Sell Out: Live at Dan's Silver Leaf (2005)

To assuage his fans, Stalling decided to record and release a live album amidst a five year musical recession. Sell Out captures the ardent, hospitable feeling of his shows. Tall, lanky, and bald, Max looks like the least likely guy to take the stage at showtime, but as soon as his does, your reservations wash away. The album only features two new tunes - one of which is an upbeat look back at yesteryear and the music that brought him through it.

6x9 Speakers
“I chalk [my loyal fan base] up to the strength of the songs and the strength of my band”

Topaz City (2007)

Produced by R.S. 'Bobby' Field, Topaz City takes on a different ambiance compared to his prior releases. His tight-knit backing band is far more prominent here than before, allowing Max to release more emotion into the songs. But like many of the most recent releases from Texas bands, i've found it difficult to get into this one. i blame this on the idea that my tastes have changed considerably since discovering a world of great music outside the confines of the Lone Star State.

Lank & Lonesome & Low & Loose At Both Ends
How Blue Can You Go

Max Stalling is one more notch on the wall of hidden talent that thrives down here in Texas. After finding so much great music through blogs from everywhere under the sun, i felt it was my civic duty to try to expose as many people as i could to the sounds that first made me appreciate the beauty of real music, from real people.

Click on the album covers for direct purchase links.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gravy On Top.....

Going through some of my 2007 pickups, i remembered a few of the best came with entire discs full of bonus material - none of which were advertised or marked as limited edition releases. This has taught me to always pre-order.

It seems the Bonus Disc was a treat reserved for '07 - 2008 has given me only one, The Kooks' Rak, which is really more of an extra album than it is a bonus disc. This year, the trend seems to be the option of vinyl, which may be even better. Nevertheless, today i will share with you some of the best from those '07 Bonus Discs:

Spoon - Mean Mad Margaret

It took me a couple months to even find the 'Get Nice!' Bonus Disc that came with Spoon's '07 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - it was unnoticeably hidden behind the plastic backing. A considerably lengthy extra disc, the addition includes alternate versions of some of the album tracks, a few righteously groovy bare-bones tunes, and one scorching punk ballad.

Spoon - 1975

Buy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Josh Ritter - Labelship Down

Josh Ritter's monumental Historical Conquests was augmented with a 4-track bonus disc. The all acoustic collection is highlighted with a short tropical tune and a heartfelt lament.

Josh Ritter - Naked As A Window

Buy The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.

Bright Eyes - Susan Miller Rag

Bright Eyes' Cassadaga included not only magic-eye packaging complete with decoder film, but an extra single printed on a mini-disc.

Buy Cassadaga.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

War Elephant Re-Release.....

i started This Mornin' I Am Born Again early this year after discovering the music blogosphere and the various 'Best Albums of 2007' posts that flooded it. My first posts consisted of my own lists of Top 10 Albums as well as Top 10 Songs. It seems only fitting to review your previous year's 'best of' list prior to making the next year's. Aside from improving the writing and aesthetic quality of the posts, i can't say i would make many adjustments. But a year's worth of additional listening is almost certain to change one's opinions of the music ingested.

One album from my '07 list that has remained very near my CD player at all times is my #3 pick, War Elephant. Deer Tick (John McCauley III and band) has recently been signed to Partisan Records and they are re-releasing his superb debut. By the time i first became aware of Deer Tick, the label that originally released the album, Feow Records, was already sold out of the original (on only) pressing. But i picked it up on iTunes and was immediately impressed.

The overall sound of War Elephant can be described as grunge-country with its topped out electric guitars and rough drum beats providing a backdrop for honest, earthy lyrics. John McCauley's growl is surprisingly welcoming in a modern John Prine sort-of way. He occasionally reaches for notes out of his range, but the authenticity in his emotion remains.

The songs that make up the disc are well written, especially for such a young musician (he was 20 at recording), but the most impressive part of the effort are the arrangements. The lead off track Ashamed, for example, begins with a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure; an upbeat drum enters making the listener believe the song is beginning anew - only to come to an abrupt end after another short verse. Following, Art Isn't Real uses a climbing melody mixed with flamenco-style picking and a conservative fiddle riff to create a deceptively hopeful song. John sings "there's gotta be some old recipe. I gotta get drunk, I gotta forget about some things."

Dirty Dishes
is an plodding look back at a failed relationship: "And you cried all night/ 'til you created a stream and it flows forever/ and it's made of dreams that didn't come true/ and I'm sorry there's nothing more /that I can do." John seems hopeless, noting that he killed all the flowers, until he finishes "things could be so much worse." Another look back at love-gone, Diamond Rings 2007, incidentally took the #7 spot on my 'best of' list. Baltimore Blues No. 1 exhibits an expertly picked acoustic intro, augmented with simple electric accompaniments.

On the surface, Townes and Dylan-esque qualities are evident, but somewhere deeper, you'll find a hint of Hank Williams influence, most obvious in the barn-stomping Spend The Night. To round out John's varied sound, the final track has a cabaret-ballad feel a la Frank Sinatra. The organic, meshing sound of the album on the whole is explained by one simple fact: John McCauley played every instrument on it.

Dirty Dishes

The reissue is available for pre-order now and will be shipped for receipt by November 11th.

Pre-order the Limited Edition Vinyl ~ $26.99
"very limited edition of 300 double LP pressings on 140G RED vinyl with expanded LP jacket printing on 20pt board stock. Fourth side laser etching and insert w/ full lyrics."

Pre-order the Basic Vinyl ~ $19.99

Pre-order the Re-issued CD ~ $11.99

Although i'm very excited for War Elephant to receive vinyl immortality, i was hoping the next Deer Tick news on the wire would be that of a follow-up album. We're not completely out of luck, however. Partisan Records says they plan on releasing another disc of "early original Deer Tick songs" in the near future.