The Soul of John Black: I Got a Good Thang

I seem to have idiosyncratic taste in music as it is difficult for most people to recommend music to me. But Rick Saunders (of Deep Blues notoriety) is apparently just as weird as I am because when he tells me, “You’re going to love this”, I can be confident that he’s right. Recently, Rick turned me on to the Soul of John Black, and when I say “turned me on”, I mean it in a couple of different ways.

The first album from the Soul of John Black – which is the project of John Bigham who played guitar in Fishbone for eight years and has worked with the likes of Miles Davis and Dr. Dre – The Good Girl Blues is a sultry, sexy collection of music calling to mind a sweaty night in a low-lit juke joint… and what happens after. Rick’s review of the album is pretty spot-on to what I would write about it, except I would have added the phrase “panty-moistening” in there somewhere.

Check out the four-alarm-fire of a track, “I Got Work” (which would have fit right in to my slow jams post), from The Good Girl Blues:


The new album from the Soul of John Black, Good Thang, has more of the same with some sunshiney soul added in. If The Good Girl Blues was about seducing that special someone, songs like “Good Thang” and “Li’l Mama’s in the Kitchen” are the happily every after of the story. Though it’s the jump beat of kiss-off song “Oh That Feeling” that sticks in my head the most.



If you’re way out west, you can check out the Soul of John Black live.

Aug 19 – Quixote’s True Blue – Denver, CO
Aug 20 – River Run at Keystone – Keystone, CO
Aug 21 – River Run at Keystone – Keystone, CO
Oct 08 – Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival – Joshua Tree, CA

Everyone else can settle for finding his albums on MOG, Spotify, Bandcamp, Amazon and the other usual suspects.

The Soul of John Black Official Website

The Soul of John Black @ Bandcamp

The Soul of John Black @ Facebook

You Won’t, Sycamore, 7/2/11

This past Saturday night I ventured out to Sycamore, in Brooklyn, which in the finest New York City multi-tasking tradition is a flower shop by day and a bar / live music venue by night. They have shows in the basement, which is tiny, but on the plus side, it is air-conditioned. (It is not, however, very well lit, as you will see.)

I was there to see You Won’t, and they were well worth the trip. You Won’t are Josh Arnoudse (guitar, vocals) and Raky Sastri (drums / keyboards) and they divide their time between Massachusetts and New York. Their sound alternates between delicate piano-supported indie pop and slow-stompy fuzzy-thrummy guitars and surging drums.

Their new record is called Skeptic Goodbye and you can listen to the entire thing at Bandcamp. (If there are any Drivin’n’Cryin’ fans lurking in the audience: click that link, you’ll be glad you did.) Here, as an example, is my favorite song from it, which is called “Dance Moves”, and is a relatively new addition to their live repertoire, and which they very graciously wedged into their set for me at literally the absolute last minute:

They are playing a bunch more shows in both Boston and Brooklyn in the next couple of months, so check out their calendar if you like what you hear. Also, please, y’all, get up front and dance for them. It is dancing music! There should be swaying! The “got your dance moves down” is the perfect lyrical cue to lazily spin your partner while taking a gulp of a beverage!

Meanwhile, to give you an idea of how dark it was, I took these pictures with the flash on:





Those guys in the photo are called Blacklisters. I don’t know much about them other than that they’re from Leeds, England, they’re hardcore, they just signed to Brew Records and they’re new song “Swords” was a great way to start my morning.



You can download that song, and a few others, for free from their Bandcamp site.


Blacklisters Official Website

Brew Records Official Website

The Dad Horse Experience: Dead Babies Singing in the Sky


“Like a dead dog on the highway…” sang an unmistakeably German voice. It was the kind of lisping German accent that my American ears associate with camp villains in bad movies. Then in came the banjo.


“Like a dead dog, I’m hanging around,” the German voice continued singing over the quaint banjo melody. “Won’t you stop and pick me up? Dig me a deep hole in the ground.”

I was, to put it kindly, perplexed. What in the world was this? In my head, my conditioned American thoughts, banjo and heavy German accents did not belong together. But I kept listening, fascinated, compelled to find out what this was all about. And as unprepared as I was for the initial track, I was yet again thrown off balance by what the second track brought.


Kingdom It Will Come / THE DAD HORSE EXPERIENCE by dadhorse


Oh yes, there was definitely something worth investigating here. By the end of the album, I was smitten.

Dead Dog on a Highway is the second long player from the Dad Horse Experience, which consists mostly of a man who goes by the name Dad Horse Ottn. He sings while accompanying himself on banjo, keeping the rhythm on bass pedals and throwing in some occasional kazoo1, playing what he has dubbed keller (German for “cellar”) gospel. Keller gospel draws from an amazing range of influences from the simple and perfect country of Hank Williams, the gathered folk of the Carter Family and the outsider gospel of Washington Phillips to punk to polka. And it’s all filtered through one possibly deranged, definitely unique man who apparently didn’t begin playing music until he was 40.

Dead Dog on a Highway is a wunderkammer of an album that contains more treasures and obscure delights than I have the time and space to limn here. You’ll certainly find entertainment here and things to make you smile. You might also find a moment or two of fright. And perhaps, if you’re paying enough attention, you’ll find a song, a moment, that speaks directly to you.

You can get a download of the absolutely-worth-the-price-of-your-email-address “Tella Me, Lord” here at the Dad Horse website.

Dead Dog on a Highway is available from CD Baby, Amazon (US), Amazon (DE), iTunes and Flight 13.


The Dad Horse Experience Official Website

Dad Horse plays for Jesco White


1Kazoo is making a serious comeback, people. The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Daniel Knox have also made liberal use of the humble instrument.

The Mad Caps: Goin’ Down



Sometimes I wish the internet had never been invented.1 If not for a certain internet search engine (and my insistence on checking it for verification), I could have been blissful in my ignorance, believing I had coined the term garage-a-billy to describe the sound of the Mad Caps. But no, the internet brought me swiftly to task for my ego folly.

But the internet also brought me the Mad Caps in the first place (thanks to a tip from a Twitter friend), so I can’t stay mad.

The Mad Caps are a two-man outfit from Las Vegas, Nevada – Ted Rader on guitar and vocals, Jon Real on drums – who churn out some rockabilly-esque twang with volume, distortion, dirt and swagger. Check out what I mean on “Rosie and the Wolfman”.



Rader’s hiccuping delivery on “Kitty Kitty” is like the spawn of a love union between Buddy Holly and Lux Interior.



And they get into a sexy groove that ends too soon on the short instrumental “Interkitchen”.



If you like it as dirty as a pair of sorority girl’s panties drug through a back alley, get over to Bandcamp and get the Mad Caps’ self-titled release now.


The Mad Caps @ Bandcamp

The Mad Caps @ Facebook


1This is patently false; my love for the internet is deep and carnal.

The Imperial Rooster: Decent People


Booze, drugs, deer people, suicide, internet pornography, fire, brimstone, L. Ron Hubbard and domestic violence… that’s right, it’s time for a new album from the Imperial Rooster.

On Decent People, the Imperial Rooster once again mixes the sublime with the absurd to create the perfect soundtrack to your damnation. Check out my favorite track, “The Vintage.”



The band recently played Frogfest 6 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they rocked another new song, “DWI Marijuana Blues”.



This Saturday, June 11, the Imperial Rooster will be playing the Thirsty Ear Festival alongside the Handsome Family, Calexico, the Cedric Burnside Project and others.

Decent People is available now via Bandcamp.


The Imperial Rooster @ Bandcamp

The Imperial Rooster @ Facebook

Feel Bad For You, May 2011

Feel Bad For You hosts a monthly mixtape comprised of submissions from music bloggers and Twitterers, and it’s always a good time. This month’s compilation has a theme, killer basslines, and you can enjoy it all below, by stream (maybe, barring technical difficulties) or by download.


Title: Waiting Room
Artist: Fugazi
Album: 13 Songs (1989)
Submitted By: Romeo Sid Vivicious
Comments: This one took no thought at all. The opening to this song is what comes to mind any time any one mentions a bass line. This album this one is off of was an icebreaker between me and my now best friend when we first met and to this day still makes my playlists 22 years later. God damn it now I feel fucking old…

Title: Chicken Strut
Artist: The Meters
Album: Struttin’ (1970)
Submitted By: Phil Norman – @philnorman –
Comments: I dig the current neo-funk-soul revival of bands like Sugarman 3, but I dig The Meters even more. Also, this song has chicken noises.

Title: Yes
Artist: Morphine
Album: Yes (1995)
Submitted by: April @ Now This Sound Is Brave
Comments: Since the general makeup of Morphine was drums, baritone sax and two-string slide bass, nearly every song they recorded was built around a killer bassline. But the bassline on “Yes” is the one that most frequently makes me rock out and say, “Damn.”

Title: Queen of Canton Street
Artist: Eleven Hundred Springs
Album: Welcome to Eleven Hundred Springs (1999)
Submitted By: @mikeorren
Comments: In my mind, the best country acts use bass to create an R&B rhythm behind the fiddle, slide and twang. This is one of my favorite examples, as well as some nice songwriting from Matt the Cat. (Hint: “Naomi” was one of Dallas’ best country bars, not a woman.)

Title: Comfortable In Your Arms
Artist: Tom Freund
Album: Copper Moon (2005)
Submitted By: toomuchcountry
Comments: Before pursuing his solo career, West Coaster Freund played in a couple of fantastic bands: first with then unknown Ben Harper and later with The Silos. His bass playing is as smooth as a tumbler of Kentucky bourbon. Be sure to check out the video of this song at

Title: Testarossa
Artist: Sir Mix-a-Lot
Album: Mack Daddy (1992)
Submitted By: Autopsy IV (
Comments: The 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb.

Title: Young Man Blues
Artist: The Who
Album: Live at Leeds (1970)
Submitted BY: Rockstar_Aimz
Comments: I recently heard the Foo Fighters cover of this song, and while their version is good, Nate Mendel is no John Entwistle. This song has so many killer parts, but it’s Entwistle’s driving base line that makes it kick so much ass. Although it’s not an original, this song represents The Who musically at their very best

Title: People, Let’s Stop The War
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Album: E Pluribus Funk (1971)
Submitted by: Truersound
Comments: What Homer Simpson calls “The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher”

Title: Mona
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Album: Happy Trails (1969)
Submitted By: Shooter Jennings

Title: The Real Me
Artist: The Who
Album: Quadrophenia (1973)
Submitted By: erschen
Comments: My introduction to this song was by the 80′s Metal Band W.A.S.P. Which got me to look into deeper cuts from The Who. Thanks, Blackie!! John Entwistle sure could play. What a rhythm section, Keith Moon & John Entwistle.

Title: The Escape
Artist: Radio Moscow
Album: Brain Cycles (2009)
Submitted By: @popa2unes
Comments: Comprised of singer/songwriter/guitarist Parker Griggs, drummer Corey Berry and bassist Zach Anderson –the rebirth of the Power Trio. Call it blues rock, call it psychedelic, call it hard-grooved stoner rock, it’s Cream on steroids

Title: Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
Artist: The Stranglers
Album: Black and White (1978)
Submitted By: The Second Single
Comments: With regards to killer basslines, when in doubt, pull out some late ’70s/early ’80s British punk.

Title: My Generation
Artist: The Who
Album: My Generation – Deluxe Version (2002)
Submitted By: Simon
Comments: No choice to make on the track, other than which version to submit.

Title: Potential Suicide
Artist: The Wipers
Album: Is This Real
Submitted By: verbow1
Comments: Another band I discovered thanks to one Mr. Kurt Cobain. Very heavy song – and pretty depressing – stay away from the handguns after listening to this one.

Title: Myage
Artist: Descendents
Album: Milo Goes To College (1981)
Submitted By: @marioegarcia (@imperialrooster)
Comments: If we’re talking killer basslines it’s hard not to submit something by Motorhead or the Minutemen (or Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five). I’ve been struggling with this selection for a little bit but decided to submit this Descendents song. It’s the song that made me fall in love with punk rock, a relationship that has alternately ruined my life and made my life worth living at various points. Let’s talk about that bassline. The Ventures after about six pots of coffee this is one of those lines that’s guaranteed to get my motor going in the morning, especially when Bill Stevenson’s Wipeout drums lock in time with the bass.

Title: The Hanging Garden
Artist: The Cure
Album: Pornography (1982)
Submitted by: Slowcoustic
Comments: Because I was every alternative outcast character of a mid 80′s John Hughes film, I listened to said ‘alternative’ music because it made me better than the rest of the Junior High/High School normals. Because of this early emo angst, I was introduced to The Cure. And it changed music for me forever. The bass lines on the album might not be killer, as they are fairly straight forward, but are also quite pronounced. The album is dark & echoing due to the heavy bass & percussion aspect, and it almost pushed me to eyeliner….almost.

Title: Your Mama Wants Ya Back
Artist: Betty Davis
Album: They Say I’m Different (Originally released in 1974; reissued with bonus tracks in 2007)
Submitted By: BoogieStudio22
Comments: This was a very tough choice. Whittled my library down to 32 songs with “killer bass lines”. Then down to five songs. In the end, went with this Betty Davis track, with nasty sounding vocals to complement the “killer bass line”. BTW, Betty Davis was married to Miles Davis in ’68, divorced in ’69.

Title: Six Pack
Artist: Black Flag
Album: The First Four Years
Submitted by: AnnieTUFF
Comments: After a lot of thinking about Killer Bass lines, and about technical skill vs just sounding badass. I had to choose this song. Because it doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with or what is going on with my life, when I hear the first couple of notes of this song I wanna get rowdy. And who doesn’t wanna get rowdy?

Title: Belle
Artist: Al Green
Album: The Belle Album (1977)
Submitted By: Adam Sheets
Comments: Great bass here courtesy of Reuben Fairfax Jr. and an excellent performance from the undisputed King of Memphis soul. This is perhaps Green’s most ambiguous number and those who aren’t paying close attention to the lyrics are likely to interpret this one far differently than the artist intended.

Rebirth of the Cool: Trick Bag

As I’ve copped to before, sometimes I discover great music through questionable sources. For example, my discovery trail to Earl King’s “Trick Bag” began in 1990 thanks to a cassette tape that featured one of the most ubiquitous songs of that era. But let’s start at the beginning…

Released in 1962, King’s original has a solid, loping, irresistible groove and an engaging story.



In 1964, Seattle band the Artesians took the song and added layers of noise and bombast with muscular organ and lots of hi-hat. I swear if you put your face close enough to the speaker when you listen to this version, you’ll feel your hair blown back. (Incidentally, if anyone has information on this band, please let me know. I’m having trouble turning up much on them.)



Now let’s leap to the ’90s. In 1990, Robert Palmer created a cultural phenomenon with his video for “Addicted to Love” – you know the one, with the heavily made-up, dead-eyed ladies in their little, black dresses. Despite the fact that everyone grew sick to death of that song, the album it came from, Riptide, was actually pretty good for its time and was loaded with some fairly non-conventional twists, including Palmer’s slightly disco-ish cover of “Trick Bag”.



Then in ’91, the guitar returned to save our souls, and in ’92, the Gories brought “Trick Bag” back to its roots, hitting somewhere between the sparse groove of the King original and the freak-out of the Artesians cover.


The Gories – Trick Bag

Jessica Lea Mayfield: My Self-Esteem Is Heating Up the Room

Discovered by Chuck Auerbach (father of that guy in the Black Keys) when she was about 16 years old, Kent, Ohio’s Jessica Lea Mayfield (now 21) has come a long way, championed by the likes of the Black Keys, the Avett Brothers and Justin Townes Earle, and with her new album, Tell Me, it sounds like she doesn’t plan to stop.

Tell Me, which will be released on February 8, is Mayfield’s second full-length album and her second album produced by Dan Auerbach. And by the sound of the sneak-peek song “Our Hearts Are Wrong”, it will be twice the album that 2008’s With Blasphemy So Heartfelt was – which was a beautiful album to begin with – expanding her sound in new ways. Download “Our Hearts Are Wrong” below and catch Mayfield as she tours with Jay Farrar and Justin Townes Earle, with a stop back home for the Kent Folk Festival on November 18.

Die, Sloopy, Die: Rocket from the Tombs

Die, Sloopy, Die is a tribute to great Ohio bands of the past and present. The name is an anti-tribute to our official state rock song “Hang On, Sloopy” by the McCoys because, while it is awesome that we were the first state to declare an official state rock song (and, so far, we are one of only two states to do so, Oklahoma having declared the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” their official state song), we chose one of the lamest songs it was possible for us to choose.

Rocket from the Tombs

Music lineage can be a tangle, especially when it comes to punk. (The family tree of British punk band London SS would take an entire gymnasium wall to itself.) Most music lovers probably know that if you follow the trail backward from the 2006 team-up of Nine Inch Nails and Peter Murphy for “Final Solution”, you’ll light on Murphy’s 1986 version of the song for his album Should the World Fail to Fall Apart before ending up on Pere Ubu’s 1976 release. But there’s another step back, to a Cleveland band who existed for a year. If you trace back from the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer”, you’ll stop on that same Cleveland band.

Having been only a year old at the time of their existence and having parents who continue to be a prime target for mainstream pop, I was unlikely to ever hear Rocket from the Tombs. In their short lifetime, beginning in 1974 and ending in 1975, RFTT never released an album, and they played only a handful of shows. Yet they ended up leaving an important mark on music.

Ain’t It Fun

The core line-up of Rocket from the Tombs included Dave Thomas, Peter Laughner, Craig Bell, Gene O’Connor and Johnny Madansky (with a “guest” appearance by a guy named Steve Bators at their last show). A powder keg with a short fuse, when RTFF imploded, Thomas and Laughner formed Pere Ubu, while O’Connor became Cheetah Chrome, Madansky became Johnny Blitz, and they joined Steve (now Stiv) Bators to become Frankenstein, which later became the Dead Boys.

Rocket From The Tombs 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

Rocket from the Tombs might have only existed as a name in a footnote… but then came the internet, and the knowledge of a continued and widespread interest in this proto-band propelled the release of The Day the Earth Met the… Rocket from the Tombs, 19 tracks comprised from radio and concert recordings from the band’s short life. And what an amazing racket it is. My view is skewed and insular, but it’s difficult to believe this sort of music existed in Cleveland in the early ’70s. The jagged urgency of these songs is still stunning and compelling. In fact, listened to back-to-back, the original “Sonic Reducer” makes the Dead Boys’ version sound polished and mundane in comparison.

Sonic Reducer

Rocket from the Tombs reformed in 2003, bringing Television’s Richard Lloyd along, to play the Disastodrome festival, which they followed up with their own tour and the band’s first recorded album, Rocket Redux. Since then, the band has been ebbing and flowing through each other’s orbits, writing new material, then straggling off again, but they did manage to release a single, “I Sell Soul/Romeo & Juliet”, this past spring (which was, according to Ubu Projex, recorded at the Red Roof Inn in Mentor, Room 146 – so, now you know where to stay if you find yourself in Mentor for some ungodly reason).