Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Blue Hearts

Aggressive, loud and unrelenting – Bob Mould takes aim at the malaise of 2020 in the way only he can, showing the many Husker Du and Sugar aping bands just how it’s done.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

Why “welcome back”? Because Mould experienced deja vu writing Blue Hearts in the fall of 2019. “Where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that I’ve been in before,” he says. “And that was the fall of 1983.” “where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that i’ve been in before,” he says. “and that was the fall of 1983.” back then, Mould was a self-described “22-year-old closeted gay man” touring with the legendary Hüsker Dü and seeing an epidemic consume his community. leaders, including the one in the white house, were content to let aids kill a generation. it’s been a long time since a power pop album has felt this present and pertinent, and who else but mould could bring that sound back to the forefront? “this is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

In the winter of 2019, Bob Mould bucked the era’s despair with his most melodic, upbeat album in ages, “Sunshine Rock”.

Cut to spring of 2020, and he has this to say: “We’re really in deep shit now.”

That sentiment informs the new full-length album, Blue Hearts (Merge Records, September 25th), the raging-but-catchy yin to Sunshine Rock’s yang.

To be sure, we were in some shit back in 2018, when Mould recorded Sunshine Rock with longtime colleagues Jon Wurster (drums), Jason Narducy (bass), and Beau Sorenson (engineer). Back then, he had a song called “American Crisis” that didn’t fit the album.

“That song is the seed for what we’re talking about now,” Mould says from his home in San Francisco during the COVID-19 lockdown. “At the time, it just seemed too heavy. Today it seems fucking quaint.”

“American Crisis” is the third song in a walloping first half of an album that spits plainspoken fire at the people who fomented this crisis. “This is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

“We have a charismatic, telegenic, say-anything leader being propped up by evangelicals,” he says. “These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.”

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Recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago with Sorenson engineering and Mould producing, Blue Hearts nods to Mould’s past while remaining firmly planted in the issues of the day. Acoustic opener “Heart on My Sleeve” catalogues the ravages of climate change. “Next Generation” worries for who comes next. “American Crisis” references “Evangelical ISIS” and features this dagger of a line: “Pro-life, pro-life until you make it in someone else’s wife.”

“There are songs that have no room,” Mould says, laughing. “The other songs, there’s room. There is room for imagination on the second half of the record.”

That’s where the songs turn personal in a different way. Tracks like “When You Left,” “Siberian Butterfly,” and “Everyth!ng to You” are grounded in personal relationships. “Racing to the End” captures the economic disparity of Mould’s neighborhood, and “Leather Dreams”… well, maybe Jon Wurster put it best.

“Jon turns to Jason and asks, ‘Is this the dirtiest song you’ve ever played on?’” Mould recalls with a chuckle. “I clearly did not put the edit tool to that one. Those are all pretty true bits. What kind of person could possibly have a life like that?” He laughs again. “Says the author.”

“Leather Dreams,” “Password to My Soul,” and “The Ocean” were composed during a writing binge before a January 2020 Solo Electric tour, when Mould stayed up for three straight days. “Songs just kept coming out,” he says. “‘Leather Dreams’ and ‘The Ocean’ both appeared within hours. I barely remember writing them.”

That feels right for an explosive, hook-laden album like Blue Hearts. Only there’s nothing forgettable about it.

All songs written by Bob Mould

Bob Mould: Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
Jason Narducy: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jon Wurster: Drums, Percussion

Prague TV Orchestra: Strings on “American Crisis”

Released September 25th, 2020

Produced by Bob Mould
Engineered by Beau Sorenson

The band was based in San Francisco throughout their history from 1980-1993. They were comprised of two outstanding songwriters – Kevin Hunter and Kurt Herr (the later quitting the band after 1985’s Between Two Words to be replace by Jeffery Trott for all subsequent albums), the native Swede Anders Rundblad on bass, and Argentinean Federico Gil-Sola on drums (left after their first album to be replaced by Brian McLeod for all subsequent albums). BGO is a three-for-one release on 2 CDs from this Bay Area alt-rock band originally released on Columbia between 1983 and 1985 including In a Chamber, recently reissued in an expanded edition by Supermegabot.

The sound of the band on “…In a Chamber” is chorus-guitar driven new wave/post-punk Bono has said that “…In a Chamber” was his favourite album of 1984.  The guitars are bright and blend together beautifully, and there is a lot of nice interplay between the two guitarists. In the album’s opening track “I’ll Do You,” Kurt Herr’s chordal riffs in the middle of the song are colourful and dreamlike, and really just sound amazing. Other songs like “Never”, “Chamber of Hellos”, and “Slow Down” are also very strong in this area. When it comes to the rhythm section, all I can say is very, very tight. Federico Gil-Sola but his tight, fast beats (which were even faster live) serve well the band’s dance inducing songs, and give them a lot of their energy. Anders Rundblad’s bass playing is very tight as well and serves as a rock solid guide for the rest of the band. His tone is very round and warm, which blends into the sound nicely. The bass lines, like the drums, are more simple, but nonetheless good. What is most striking about Wire Train though, is how excellent their song-writing is.

1985’s “Between Two Words” is a slightly more produced record, having a more mainstream power-pop sound, and less post-punk. However, the transition isn’t a huge one and the band still retain their tight rhythms and bright guitar driven sound. The song-writing has not lessened in excellence either, with several stand out tracks like “Last Perfect Thing” “Skills of Summer” “Love, Love” and “I Will.” Lyrically, both albums shine, but this one in particular is filled with thought provoking poetic lines from Kevin Hunter.

Not many pop bands in ’84 ’85 had a sound as raw and guitar driven as Wire Train

Mention the San Francisco rock scene of the 1960s and most people think of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin’s Big Brother & the Holding Company. But, for anyone who either took part in that scene or paid it any heed, a fourth name holds equal sway: Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Quicksilver Messenger Service never achieved the same level of fame as the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, the definitive San Francisco bands, but their late-decade run is equally distinctive. The most lauded of the band’s three ’60s LPs is 1968’s ‘Happy Trails,’ which draws from heavy guitar jamming (25-minute opener “Who Do You Love Suite”), symphonic-scale psychedelia (“Calvary”) and atmospheric blues (“Mona”).

Like the Dead and the Airplane—and nearly a year before Janis joined her band Quicksilver devised a sound in late 1965 that established the new San Francisco esthetic. Anchored on guitar-driven jams, the San Francisco sound refracted blues, folk, and jazz through the trippy lens of psychedelia.

The abstraction, duration, and explorative nature of the music offered a kaleidoscopic soundtrack to a new culture—one which Quicksilver represented more purely than any band on the scene save The Dead. Quicksilver made instrumental work their raison d’etre. For them, playing was the thing, making them more a live band than a studio-driven one. If that focus gave them spontaneity and rarity, it also helps explain why they ended up the least commercially successful of the top San Francisco bands. They sold far fewer records, and had a much lower media profile than their peers, let alone that of the biggest Bay Area bands. Quicksilver never had a great singer, though they did manage to hire a divisive one, Dino Valenti. To make matters more challenging, they changed their line-up with the speed of their name-sake, losing key members, while gaining new ones who strongly affected their direction.

While all the band members boasted admirable chops, the most prized player had to be guitarist John Cipollina. He got a shivering, quavering sound out of his instrument that was wholly his own. To achieve it, he employed an eccentric arrangement of amplifiers and equipped his Gibson SG with special effects, allowing him to achieve a tremolo as singular as a human timbre. On the low end, he hammered his strings hard while, on the high, he could make them shudder or sting. Better, Cipollina found a powerful foil in Quicksilver’s other axe man, Gary Duncan. Their one-two punch paved the way for all the double lead guitar acts that came in their wake.

‘Quicksilver’

Despite Quicksilver’s instrumental concentration, they also crafted some important studio recordings, including FM staples like their bold cover of Hamilton Camp’s “Pride of Man,” Nicky Hopkins’ piano masterpiece “Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder” and Dino Valenti’s political anthem, “What About Me” later covered, to perfection, by Richie Havens. To boot, they scored a pop hit with their stoner-anthem “Fresh Air” and finessed four of their albums into The American Billboard’s Top 30. Though Quicksilver hasn’t had the staying power in the public consciousness that they deserved, they had a strong impact on more progressive rock listeners of the day. And they were hugely respected within the San Francisco underground they helped found.
The group’s genesis began towards the end of 1965 with a casual conversation between Cipollina and Valenti (ne Chet Powers). The latter already had a career as a singer/songwriter on the Greenwich Village folk scene. An early song he wrote, “Get Together” was later recorded by everyone from The Kingston Trio and the Dave Clark Five to San Francisco acts like the Airplane and The Youngbloods, whose 1967 version became a classic.
Unfortunately, one day after Valenti and Cipollina talked about playing together, the singer was busted for marijuana possession, resulting in a two-year jail term. In the meantime, Cipollina started a band with bassist/singer David Freiberg (who previously played in a group with David Crosby and Paul Kantner), and guitarist Skip Spence (who would soon switch to drums and ditch the proto-Quicksilver configuration to join Kantner in the just forming Airplane). As a result, Cipollina and Freiberg hooked up with drummer Greg Elmore and guitarist Gary Duncan, who’d played together in a local group named The Brogues. Rounding out the first incarnation of Quicksilver was Jim Murray as third guitarist and singer.In their five-man incarnation Quicksilver became a regular draw at San Francisco’s hippest new venue, the Avalon Ballroom during 1966. Yet, by the next June, Murray quit, an unfortunate move considering the band had just played the history-making Monterey Pop Festival. (Luckily, Murray’s fleeting time with the group is captured for posterity in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about the storied festival). Monterey energized the major labels to sign nearly anyone in the Bay Area with a guitar, but RCA beat everyone to the punch by inking the Airplane in the year before. By ’67, Warner Brothers signed The Dead and Big Brother made a rotten, though brief, pact with Mainstream Records. Inspired by the excitement at Monterey, Columbia Records swept in to give Janis’ band a far better deal, resulting in her stardom.

That left Quicksilver as the last major SF band to sign a contract, theirs with Capitol Records in 1968. That May, their self-titled debut appeared, by which time the Airplane had already released three albums, including their Top Five smash, ‘Surrealistic Pillow’. Quicksilver’s debut turned out to be a less commercial affair, though they did make some musical concessions. Taking their cue from main vocalist, Freiberg, they leaned towards folk-rock, most effectively in “Pride of Man,” an apocalyptic warning that culminated in an apt shiver on Cipollina’s guitar. Cipollina put his vibrato to even more poignant use in “Light Your Windows,” stitching fine pings around its graceful melody. Though Valenti was incarcerated at the time, he appeared by proxy in a cover of his sashaying piece “Dino’s Song.”

Another notable track, “Gold and Silver” borrowed its composition from Dave Brubeck, without credit. The song’s main riff translated Brubeck’s piano part in “Take 5” to electric guitars. Still, the purest representation of Quicksilver’s axe work came in “The Fool,” a twelve-minute instrumental epic. The guitars at the start imitated the quaver of a sitar, leading to a melody that showed-off Freiberg’s classical background via his august viola work. As the song progressed, the guitarists supported each other and sparred, culminating in a Cipollina solo so pure.

‘Happy Trails’

If “The Fool” captured Quicksilver instrumental focus, the band took that all the way on ‘Happy Trails’,” their second release. This time, jamming ruled, but with a purpose. Though the album cover promised a spontaneous document, “recorded live at the Fillmore East and West,” much of it was actually scripted and overhauled in the studio. That bait-and-switch approach mirrored a similar move by Big Brother on ‘Cheap Thrills’, which likewise claimed, erroneously, to be cut entirely in concert. Regardless, ‘Happy Trails’ nailed the verve of a live Quicksilver show, especially in the 25-minute take on Bo Diddley’s’ “Who Do You Love.” Divided into six parts, this side-long track featured showcases for each guitarist in separate sections, providing the ultimate game of compare and contrast. Duncan demonstrated his approach in a section titled “When You Love,” with a long, jazz-influenced lead as methodical as it was melodic.

For over five minutes, he wove a series of blues licks, jazz lilts, psychedelic filigrees and hard rocking riffs into a fluid story. Meanwhile, the “How You Love” section demonstrated the wilder style of Cipollina. Drawing on the highest end of his tremolo, his guitar sounded like a flock of mad birds cackling in air. Bassist Freiberg’s got his own, jaunty solo stint in “Which Do You Love,” while the “Where You Love” section operated as an abstract center piece, suggesting Quicksilver’s answer to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” Together, “Love” represented as potent an acid-rock document as The Dead’s “Dark Star,” though it never received parallel awe.

For another run at Bo Diddley, the band opened side two with a spacey cover of “Mona,” before moving into two instrumentals blended into a fifteen-minute suite. The first, “Maiden of the Cancer Moon” bounced Duncan’s trenchant fingerings off Cipollina’s cackling cries, while “Calvary” drew on everything from classical music to proto-metal to boleros, cementing a psychedelic classic. While ‘Happy Trails’ sold well, going gold.

‘Shady Grove’

Exhausted by the pressures of impending success, Duncan abruptly quit and, instead of hiring another guitarist to replace him, Quicksilver brought in celebrated piano wiz Nicky Hopkins, fresh from a stint in the Jeff Beck Group. The result radically altered the band’s direction, evidenced by their highly uneven third album, ‘Shady Grove’, which came out in 1969. It drew on more country music and psychedelic-pop, often unconvincingly. Freiberg struggled to sing the oddly conceived songs, leaving the album’s highlights in Cipollina’s all-too-brief guitar parts and Hopkins’ commanding piano. In places, it seemed like Quicksilver had become Hopkins‘ backing band, especially the title track, which was driven by his rippling keyboard, or the nine-minute showcase, “Edward.” A mix of classical, boogie-woogie, and psychedelia, “Edward” stands as one of most exciting, piano-led instrumentals in rock history.

‘Just For Love’

If the jarring shift in style threw some fans, they had to endure another big one in 1970. A newly sprung Valenti was finally free to join the band as frontman, changing their essential dynamic. The wayward Duncan also returned to the fold. Together, the moves definitely had some positive results. They restored the band’s double guitar draw and added a strong songwriter in Valenti, who wrote under the pseudonym Jessie Oris Farrow. At the same time, Valenti proved an eccentric, sometimes irritating, front-man, over-singing in many sections, an effect worsened by the heavy echo they threw around his voice. By all accounts, the sessions for the band’s next two albums, ‘Just for Love’ and ‘What About Me’, couldn’t have been less disciplined, with no firm producer in sight. The albums, both drawn from the same sessions, were released within six months of each other during the latter half of 1970.

But, despite their flaws, they make one very good album together. Stand outs from ‘Just for Love’ included the instrumentals, “Wolf Run,” which featured Valenti’s haunting flute, and “Cobra,” which boasted a fiery run from Cipollina. The album also featured “Fresh Air,” known for its invitation to “take another hit,” a druggy encouragement Quicksilver fans hardly needed.

Besides the killer melody, ”Air” introduced roiling Latin music to the band. Better, it featured stoked solos from both guitarists—a stuttering one from Duncan, and a high-flying one from Cipollina—with an extended piano break from Hopkins as a bridge between. The ‘What About Me’ album boasted its own striking instrumentals—Cipollina’s “Local Color,” which showcased his slide-guitar work for the first time, and Hopkins’ “Spindrifter,” as lovely a piano instrumental as rock has produced. Despite such draws, the band was already in the process of falling apart again. Hopkins left during the sessions, replaced by Marc Naftalin of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on half the cuts, and Cipollina split soon after recording was completed to form his own group, Copperhead.

‘Quicksilver’

Given so much tumult, it’s remarkable how well the band rebounded for their next album, simply titled ‘Quicksilver’, in 1971. Their hardest rocking record to date, it boasted consistently catchy songs, mostly penned by Valenti. The frontman even managed to keep his undisciplined singing in check. Better, Duncan proved capable of handling all the guitar parts himself, offering sterling double leads on the folk-rock marvel “Hope,” and the country-blues-rocker “I Found Love.” Despite its many strengths, ‘Quicksilver’ was the band’s first release to miss the Top 30. The disappointment helped inspire another change for their follow-up album, ‘Comin’ Thru’, in ’72. It introduced a charging horn section, a la Blood, Sweat and Tears or the Electric Flag. An under-rated, and highly energetic, effort, ‘Comin’ Thru’ still failed to click with critics or fans, leading to an extended hiatus for the band.

‘Solid Silver’

It took a full three years for Quicksilver to return, but this time with an added draw. ‘Solid Silver’, released in 1975, reunited every one of the core members, including Cipollina, Duncan, Elmore, Freiberg, and Valenti. It even featured guest work from Hopkins. Ten years into their career, the reconstituted band sounded more in synch than they had since the start. Nearly all the members contributed to the singing and the writing. More, they added a soul element, amplified by the backup vocals of Kathi McDonald. Nearly all the songs were upbeat, from the R&B rocker “Gypsy Lights,” penned by Duncan, to Valenti’s county-tinged “Cowboy on The Run,” which sounded like a lost Gram Parsons song. A blues-rock barn-burner, “Worryin’ Shoes,” found both guitarists playing so swiftly, it suggested the Allman Brothers on speed. Sadly, the neo-psych-rock sound wasn’t a big commercial draw amid the soft-rock world of 1975, so the album tanked, taking the reunion with it.

‘Not Quite The End Live at the Winterland Ballroom – December 1, 1973’

If that failure brought the active era of Quicksilver to an end, Duncan took it upon himself to keep the name alive for decades after. He issued many albums under their banner, though they were, essentially, solo works. More encouragingly, he oversaw the release of scores of great live recordings from the vintage period. No fewer than twenty-two are currently available on streaming. Of those, three stand out most. The first, ‘Live at the Fillmore June 7th, 1968′ (cut one year after Monterey) captured the band in their ‘Happy Trails’ prime. It’s a pure live document of what ‘Happy Trails’ had earlier simulated. Cut two years later, the ‘Live at Winterland Ballroom 1970’ album captured the band’s rapport with Hopkins. It’s amazing how well his piano integrated with the two guitars. More, the set boasted a nearly half hour version of “Who Do You Love” that features guitar pyrotechnics from Cipollina right before he left the band for the first time. Even more exciting is “Live at Winterland December 1, 1973,” cut on a special night. Though Cipollina had left the group three years earlier, his band, Copperhead, were the opening act for that show, so he agreed to play with the mother act as well. Freiberg, who had left in ’71, came back for the ride too. By adding a Latin percussionist and a surging organ, Quicksilver ended up sounding a bit like their fellow SF band Santana. The feverish new arrangements put a fire behind the two guitarists, who avoided their most trippy forays to center on hardcore blues-rock. It’s an air-guitar player’s dream come true.

Over the years, documents like these have gained greater meaning for a sad reason: Most of the band’s key members have died. The losses began with Cipollina, in 1989 at just 45, followed by Hopkins and Valenti, both felled in 1994, and Duncan, just this past June. With their passing went a sound as fast, and uncontainable, as Quicksilver itself, leaving a legacy that richly deserves a fresh hit of attention.

John Cippolina was a founding member and the lead guitarist of this prominent San Francisco band Quicksilver Messenger Service. After leaving Quicksilver he formed the band Copperhead and then later played with numerous other bands, and is considered one of the fathers of the San Francisco psychedelic rock sound. He had a unique guitar sound all his own, mixing solid state and valve amplifiers as early as 1965. His one of a kind massive amplifier stack was loaned, along with one of his customized Gibson SG guitars, and effects pedals, for display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 1995.

John Cippolina passed away on 29th of May 1989 the age of 45 after a career in music that spanned twenty five years. Quicksilver Messenger Service fans and countless friends paid tribute to him the following month in San Francisco at an all-star concert at the Fillmore Auditorium which featured Nicky Hopkins, David Freiberg, John’s brother Mario, and a host of others.

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In the winter of 2019, Bob Mould bucked the era’s despair with his most melodic, upbeat album in ages, Sunshine Rock. Cut to spring of 2020, and he has this to say: “We’re really in deep shit now.”

That sentiment informs the new full-length album, Blue Hearts, the raging-but-catchy yin to Sunshine Rock’s yang. Recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago with Sorenson engineering and Mould producing, Blue Hearts nods to Mould’s past while remaining firmly planted in the issues of the day. Acoustic opener Heart on My Sleeve catalogues the ravages of climate change. Next Generation worries for who comes next. American Crisis references “Evangelical ISIS” and features this dagger of a line: “Pro-life, pro-life until you make it in someone else’s wife.”

Leather Dreams, Password to My Soul, and The Ocean were composed during a writing binge before a January 2020 Solo Electric tour, when Mould stayed up for three straight days. That feels right for an explosive, hook-laden album like Blue Hearts. Only there’s nothing forgettable about it.

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Releases September 25th, 2020

Produced by Bob Mould
Recorded at Electrical Audio, Chicago IL
Additional Recording at Granary Music, San Francisco CA
The Band:
Bob Mould: Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
Jason Narducy: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jon Wurster: Drums, Percussion

 

I’ve been giving my keyboard an extra thoughtful beating, now over 400 pages of and double spaced plus 8 hours ++ of audio versions posted up and available now. Master of maraca science. Writer at The New Cool School. Absurdist. Intoxicationist. Beatnik. Last of the bit time jingle janglers.

As the long term percussionist of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Joel Gion has helped pioneer the current Psychedelic Rock movement. Now as a songwriter, he steps up to the mic to deliver his own tunes

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Based in San Francisco, and active in the mid-to-late 1960s. The band gained interest after one of the Nuggets Vol 12, compilations in the 1980s, Their music was strongly influenced by Yardbirds and Rolling Stones. The Other Half were at their peak when the music scene was at its height in San Francisco and the Flower Power movement in full swing in Haight Ashbury. Their style changed from an earlier vocal based garage band, to the loudest big stage band sound of the time, taken in that direction by former Sons of Adam guitarist Randy Holden. Their sound has been compared to The Yardbirds, and contained elements of blues, hard rock, and Eastern melodic influences

‘Famous’ for their now legendary garage punk killer 45 ‘Mr. Pharmacist’,  later covered by The Fall, this album came a couple of years later in ’68 and shows the move towards psychedelia. Recorded ‘live’ in the studio to sound like a gig, the album showcases some tasty guitarwork from Randy Holden, soon to join heavy duty rockers Blue Cheer.
Also interesting on this mainly self-written album is their lone cover, namely ‘Feathered Fish’, written by Love kingpin Arthur Lee but rather bizarrely credited to Country Joe McDonald!

A collection of their recordings, titled Mr. Pharmacist was issued in 1982. This included their entire 1968 album and several tracks from singles.Two songs, “Bad Day” and “Oz Lee Eaves Drops” appear in the 1968 pilot episode of The Mod Squad.

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Joe Lewis Walker album

Blues favorite Joe Louis Walker releases the single “Old Time Used to Be” featuring Keb’ Mo, with John Sebastian on harmonica, ahead of his upcoming guest-filled album “Blues Comin’ On,” to be released June 5th on Cleopatra Blues.

Joe Louis Walker’s new Cleopatra Blues album “Blues Comin” On features Keb’ Mo’, John Sebastian, Jorma Kaukonen, Mitch Ryker, Lee Oskar, Albert Lee, Waddy Wachtel, Eric Gales and more special guests.

Blues Comin’ On features guest performances by fellow blues icons Keb’ Mo’, Eric Gales, and Albert Lee, plus Detroit hit singer Mitch Ryder, John Sebastian, formerly of The Lovin’ Spoonful, harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar, known for his work with War, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna fame, punk rock vocalist Charlie Harper, legendary session guitar player Waddy Wachtel, and many more. The album explodes with the passionate playing and soulful melodies that have made Joe Louis Walker a favorite among true blues aficionados including The Rolling Stones.

Originally from San Francisco, Joe, a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Blues Music Award-winner, celebrates a career that exceeds a half century. His musical legacy as a prolific torchbearer for the blues is proven by his 26 albums. A true powerhouse guitar virtuoso, unique singer, and prolific songwriter, he has toured extensively throughout his career, performed at the world’s most renowned music festivals, and earned a legion of dedicated fans.

Joe says, “From the opening track to the final note, the guests and fellow musicians on this album made this one of the best musical journeys I’ve ever had, and I hope it is the same for you.”

“Blues Comin” Released on: 22nd April on the Cleopatra Blues label,

The mix dates for my upcoming solo record were among the many, too many cancellations of this unimaginable spring we’re sharing. But I wanted to go ahead and release one of the songs in progress—just case it could help to raise some funds for meals, shelter and support for some of my most vulnerable neighbors. This song is a mash of abstractions. But one verse was written back in 2016 to thank a friend who checked in on me when I was stuck alone at home, staying up all night watching Lifeboat and freaking out about the Brexit leave vote. I was afraid that it was a terrible sign that the old agreements and already inadequate standards about how we take care of each other each were up for grabs. It really helped to talk about it.

If, understandably, you’d rather see support stay closer to home, or you’re in a better position to help a friend, neighbor, yourself…it would all mean so much. Or maybe you’d just enjoy spacing out on some animation loops I made this weekend using a kid’s stop-motion program, subconsciously inspired by early Sesame Street and created while lying on the living room floor with all the blankets and pillows out.

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It’s been a long four years. But I’m thinking of everyone and dreaming of better signs and seeing you soon.

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Two veterans of those only-slightly-demeaning Best Albums of the year You May Have Missed lists, Field Medic and Great Grandpa vocalist Al Menne teamed up this month for a Run for Cover–released single that feels like a victory lap in the wake of their pair of Generally Best Albums released in 2019. The underproduced track is reduced to Kevin Patrick’s ramshackle guitar and distinct vocals, occasionally harmonizing with those of Menne.

“talkin johnny & june (your arms around me)” by Field Medic featuring Al from Great Grandpa out now via Run For Cover Records

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Deerhoof is a weapon loaded with the future.” – Agustín Fernández Mallo, Spanish physicist and writer

Normal is never coming back. Whether by a collective dismantling or sheer collapse, our old illusions are being hollowed out. Over the past couple of years, Deerhoof has been asking themselves if there was any music they could create that expressed how the rapidly changing future might actually feel. The finished product, Future Teenage Cave Artists, finds Deerhoof in a revolutionary mood, but also haunted by memories of a lost world and every failed attempt to save it. People already cut loose from the system, already surviving with new ways of life—these hopeful heroes are Deerhoof’s inspiration. These are the Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Faithful listeners will recognize a certain alienated but transformational figure who shows up in Deerhoof songs going back to their earliest days. Take the narrator of “The Perfect Me” from 2007’s Friend Opportunity: an orphaned but eager soul attempting to entice other wounded wanderers who might lack a home, a clan, a family, a history. But on Future Teenage Cave Artists our protagonist is threatened by terror lurking around every corner. Add to that the fact that our “cast-off queen,” our “maniac,” our “terrible daughter” are watching themselves get orphaned in real time by an older generation in power that would rather see life on Earth destroyed than give up archaic systems of capital.

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Like a lot of the inimitable music they have released over the last quarter-century, the Deerhoof of Future Teenage Cave Artists, Satomi Matsuzaki on bass and vocals, Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich on guitars, and Greg Saunier on drums, vocals and piano) stitches together fragments of R&B and classic rock and transforms them into a new language of revolution, forgoing verse-chorus structures for dream logic and blind intuition. But what makes this album different is its intimacy—the blues riffs and slide guitars are joined by soft, rickety pianos and whispered three-part harmonies.

In this sense, FTCA inverts the formula of Deerhoof’s last album, Mountain Moves, which invited a wide community of collaborators to band together in an open celebration of solidarity. The new one, on the other hand, is borne of self-isolation and deprivation. It’s the sound of a sparkling, manic musical intelligence being disconnected from a nourishing public and devouring itself inside its own cocoon: a desperate lunge at metamorphosis.

At times FTCA indeed sounds as if the band has retreated to the caves, recording with unreliable electricity and insecure food supplies. Guitar pedals malfunction mid-take, reverbs chop off mid-tail, drum fills collapse mid-phrase. Some musical moments, as gorgeous and touching as anything Deerhoof has ever written, stop short for no apparent reason, giving way to queasy smudges of sound. Many of the instruments and voices were recorded with nothing more than the built-in mic of a laptop. Harsh splices make no effort to hide the seams. Hard panning leaves many of these imperfections weirdly naked in the mix.

In this way FTCA joins a storied lineage of pop records that expose the insular and reclusive nature of recording itself. Like Let It Be, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, or Sister Lovers, this record is its own “making-of.” Absence is a central character in the drama. For every heartwarming melody or pile-up of parade drums or shard of loopy guitar noise, there is musical acknowledgement of the toll that a constant threat of cataclysm takes on mental health. This is a sonic and lyric funeral for a way of life that is never coming back—an afterparty, back when the doomsday clock hit midnight. There are raucous toasts to the departed in high style, as sassy and spasmodic as anything they’ve done—see Side A; there are moments of profound sadness, maximally small, descending into madness, shrieking with loss—see Side B. All funerals remind us that life goes on, somehow.

In that time after the end times, it’s not only the food systems, energy systems, and political systems that will have to be rebuilt. Myths, stories, and rituals we use to make sense of the world are up for revision, too. Might not agile networks of mutual aid be our best example of civilization, and our makeshift DIY basement shows be the real high art? One answer might be found in the two-and-a-half decades that this improbable combination of personalities and backgrounds we call Deerhoof has spent on stage, cultivating quick-wittedness and improvisation. This is a record about resilience and the persistence of hope in a future beyond any reasonable justification for it. Like so many young people today, Deerhoof seems to be already living in that future.

Future Teenage Cave Artists