Monday, September 24, 2012

A Return of a DMB giant: Steve Lillywhite

Aside from the myriad of things that I love about my wife and all that which drew me to her (Renee "the inspirerer" Ramsey), we still, after 12 years together, equally share an unhealthy love for Dave Matthews Band ("Dave" or "DMB" for short, you guys). Sappy, I know...its a character flaw. We shared many concerts between MA and CT venues. Quick side note: you konw when you listen to live shows and you hear people yelling "I love you Dave" and "whoooo whoooo, we love you Dave".......yeah, that's her....likely on some bootleg cd somewhere. But the best part about our fandom, is her reaction when I get to tell her of a new album release The convo goes something like, ME: "hey, guess what....a new Dave Matthew Band album comes out tommorow." HER: REALLY !!! (doing her impression of a kid on Christmas morning). This brief, but joyful, exchange is invariably followed by a discussion of our dream to both go out to the Red Rocks (Colorado) and see Dave for a weekend [sooo, if anyone wants to baby sit some October, email me].

We are lifers. Own all the studio albums, about 30 live albums (some released by DMB and others from the mid-90s that weren't (shhh), and far too many versions of his many songs. Somethings don't change.

Dave certainly has changed (sort of....see below), which you have to image is due to the reunion of DMB and the producer that put DMB on the charts and map (at least in part), Steve Lillywhite. Lillywhite is best known for DMB's first three of fourt chart topping albums, "Under the Table and Dreaming" and "Everyday" (I think he did "Remember Two Things" too, but don't beleive "Crash"....what-evs, I am sure you could look it up if you gave a two craps....I only give one crap, so I'm going from memory). Lillywhite may be also infamously known for one of the darkest albums that lead to his split from working with the bank for over 10 years (btw, the album was finally released as "Busted Stuff" and apply named. Prior to that most die-hard could find a bootleg copy that was known as "The Lillywhite Sessions").

This album, even for a long time fan (maybe especially for a long time least this one) was weird to listen to at first. Could not figure out why. To be perfectly clear, this was litterally on the first listen. It wasn't that the music was bad or too different or that they regressed into something out of my taste; it wasn't any of that. By the 3rd listen (my magic number), I figured it out. Oddly it was that this album reminded me of the old DMB. The syles, the jamminess to many songs (or envisioned potential for jams), the playfulness of some songs, Daves lyrics...

....songs like "Gaucho" (studio and live are awesome). Great lead-ins, almost a sticato of all instruments: percussion, guatars, violin and...yes Trumpet. Trumpet? Yes, Trumpet. This maybe be the first studio album with trimpet(s) featured on almost all of the tracks (there may have been a few on Grux). It reall gives these songs a jazzier and livly feel and it also pairs well with the high pitches of the violin. They been touring with Rashawn Ross (Trumpet) for years, so it was only a matter of time before he landed fully (and rightfully) on an album.....

Guacho goes right into Sweet. A perfect DMB song, in line with past songs like "Oh (Some Devil ,solo album) ", "Baby Blue (GrooGrux), "Christmas Song (Remember Two Things)". A nice, fairly light traditional DMB track. Simple, violin, sax, gental Dave vocals....and a Yuke! Yeah, I think so...either that or its Boyd Tinsley playing his violin as a guitar which he is known to do, but the sounds is usually more single note driven and not chord based...curious though.

Plenty of awesome tracks on this album and certainly no need to review/explain them all. Old fan or new fan, I think this album will please you, if not for its familiar sound to older works, then for the great production value and talented musician that comprise DMB.

Join me next time. No tease this time, just a demand.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rhys' "Good Winter"

My original intention for this blog was to to talk about my love of music, my family, and my family's love of music. My path has veered, so here is my correction. This one was tough one to write. A heavier subject only aided by music and having the happy ending we all wanted.

To be clear from the get-go, this is NOT about how a song "saved" me or my family or anyone in my family. This is about how words and music can help change a perspectve, lift a spirit, give you a needed boost if not for a few days, a few hours.

In February of 2011 my wife and I were lucky enough to be blessed with a baby boy. Despite troubles that started early in the preganncy, he is great, healthy and one of three people that make everything I do worth it, tenfold.

Rewinding some: October 2010 was a rough month. I think I purchased Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago" in early 2009, so I had already embraced most of the tracks and developed an unhealthy love for Mr. Vernon's voice. At that time, I just enjoyed the music and wasn't really focused on lyrics and meaning (which I think is really the way music should be consumed). That month we learned far too much about far too many things that no one but a medicial professional should feel compelled to know and researched many topics looking for answers we did not want. Guessing, agonizing, confused, helpless. One of the few moments in my life I have experienced despair and surreality.

It was on one of those research nights that I was playing this album. Many tracks talked to me. I know this is common; music hits different people, at different times, at different stages of life. While many tracks resonated with me, like "Blindsided" (which I was), "For Emma" and "Wisconsin" (probably the best bonus track I have ever heard on any album, ever (I will take that challenge)), none hit me the way "Re: Stacks" did.

Catchy, certainly. Overplayed, possibly. Near perfect, yes.

The music itself was cathartic. Sounds lame, but it was slightly healing.....actually..... looking back, no, it really wasn't, but it made me feel better and matched what I was feeling at that time. Setting aside any other purported song meaning, to me it seemed to be, in part, about putting so much love and energy into something, investmenting emotionally and physcially, and suffering a great crushing blow despite everything. For us, that crushing blow was the very real probability (not possibility) that our baby boy would not make it full term, and if he did, he likely would not survive long thereafter. While this certainly lyrically emotional song gives you (gave me) that calm, sad yet serene feeling, it also gives you (gave me) a point of strenght. While we (my wife and I) were faced with tough questions and put in unthinkable situations, we pushed through (we had to).

The other part of the song seems to be about the other side of the emotional investment (i.e. what the Stacks of chips are being waged on). It was the last verse of the song that stuck with me the most on this point. It didn't give me the answers or even attempt to try, but it gave me a bump; that things are going to happen in life, things that range from fucking awesome to puke-your-brains-out shit bad. It let me take a deep (deep as hell) breath, and say that regardless of what happens, I will protect him, them, my family, and keep them safe from as much as I possibly can.

Here is that final verse. Its bold and hits hard:

"This is not the song of a new man
or a crispy realization.
Its the song of the unlocking and lift away
your love will be safe with me."

Well, I put it out there. Feeling a bit more on track, despite the depth of this post. Promising, for now, that other posts won't be as hard to write or read.........join me next time where I promise to keep my promise from my last "join me next time" statement.