Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lawrence Maxwell -- Not Your Outlaw

Astute listeners of last week's Adobe & Teardrops podcast will recall Lawrence Maxwell's energetic alt-country. For everyone else, this is the kind of music that made me want to start a blog. Maxwell, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy before turning his hands to a guitar, packs a lot of life into his debut EP Not Your Outlaw.

While Maxwell proves he can party with the best of them on the opener, "Stumbling Sailor," and the breezy title track, it's those slower songs where Maxwell excels. That's because it's where we get to see Maxwell as a keen observer -- lots of people can sling a guitar and sing pretty, but it's the storytelling that's the mark of a true songwriter. To that end, "Who's Gonna Be the One?" put a lot of my twenties into such succinct words that I had to stop and listen to the song over a couple of times.

When I started writing Adobe & Teardrops, this is the kind of music I would've used as medicine. Now it's a pin in a map -- reminding me of a time when these questions rang achingly familiar, and comforting in that I (think I) know the answer. I'm confident Maxwell find those answers for himself, too.

Lawrence Maxwell -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, March 25, 2019

HEY! LISTEN: Elijah Ocean -- "Bring Back That Bakersfield Sound"

Elijah Ocean's been aging backwards. I remember catching him at the Mercury Lounge a few years ago, charging through a sweaty psychedelia-infused set with a crackerjack band. Now, with Ocean's new single "Bring Back That Bakersfield Sound," we see Ocean on a much more sedate path. As you can see in the lyrics, Ocean expresses a longing for some simpler times and pleasures:

back when they used to show C&W on TV
those nudie suits and cowboy boots would sparkle brilliantly
but all the rhinestone glamour wouldn’t mean a thing to me
without that single coil hum and lonesome harmony

so bring back that Bakersfield sound
things just ain’t the same without those Buckaroos around
I’ve been to Music City and it’s a hell of a town
but bring back that Bakersfield sound

the Outlaws did a number on the Nashville status quo
when they rode into town, took the stage and stole the show
these days I’m afraid to just flip on the radio
and we’re overdue to shake ‘em up again on music row

so bring back that Bakersfield sound
things just ain’t the same without those Buckaroos around
I’ve been to Music City and it’s a hell of a town
but bring back that Bakersfield sound
yes bring back that Bakersfield sound

Elijah Ocean -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, March 22, 2019

PREMIERE: Pete Mancini -- "My Hometown"

We're in a historical moment that is asking us to pull the curtain back and think critical about the inner workings of our communities. On "My Hometown," Pete Mancini unleashes his gentle sadness on his place of birth. Mancini writes:

"I was writing yet another song about where I grew up, but quickly realized it was about something bigger. My hometown (Bellerose, New York) is located on the border of Queens and Nassau, stuck between the progressive and diverse counties of NYC and the more conservative parts of Long Island. It's an interesting dynamic. I believe what happens in one town happens in every town, both the good and bad. We tend to romantically view our society as an idyllic Norman Rockwell painting in retrospect but there is some darkness lurking under the surface; drugs, crime, racism. To me, this song is about not wanting to accept or surrender to the status quo that is life in America these days."

I've been listening to a lot of The Refreshments (Roger Clyne's first band) lately, and "My Hometown" shares a lot with their views on Arizona: this is music that'll put some spring in your step -- if you don't listen too close. No matter what, you'll be singing along with the chorus. Unlike The Refreshments, whose music always seethed with frustration, "My Hometown" feels more like a call to conscience. Rather than pointing figures, Mancini is asking us to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess because it's the right thing to do.

Adobe & Teardrops: Episode 55

Glasses-induced vertigo, spoonerisms, emergency turtle surgery, and threatening to join the army. Where else could you find all this AND great music?!

  1. Jamie Lynn Vessels - “The Jester” (Single)
  2. Lucero - “Hello My Name Is Lizzie” (Single)
  3. Ryan McMahon -- “In Line For a Smile” (In Line For a Smile) 
  4. The Way Down Wanderers - “She’s Alright” (Illusions)
  5. The Empty Page -- “When the Cloud Explodes” (Single)
  6. The Northern Lights - “Easy”(The Northern Lights)
  7. Two Eyes -- “Great Escape” (Single)
  8. Hiss Golden Messenger - “Watching The Wires” (Singles)
  9. Girls on Grass -- “Friday Night” (Dirty Power)
  10. The Hold Steady - “The Last Time That She Talked To Me” (Single)
INTERVIEW: Writer and Director of Dominant Chord, Jeremy LeRoux
  • “Talkin’ Tequila” (Jeremy LeRoux)
  • “Secrets and Lies” (Jeremy LeRoux)
  • “American Heartbreaker” (Jimmie Allen)
  • “Warrior” (Jimmie Allen)

Rachel wrote a comic! Check it out here! Send us music via SubmitHub. Send us money via Ko-fi or Patreon. Contact Von via linktr.ee/vonreviews and say hi to Rachel on Twitter @adobeteardrops

Friday, March 15, 2019

Adobe & Teardrops: Episode 54

We pay our respects (or not) to Luke Perry and Keith Flint (of The Prodigy.) Beetlejuice on the Great White Way. Getting lost in America.
This is a pretty light episode but we do bring up some heavy topics. Since we brought Keith Flint up at the beginning of the episode, we wanted to remind you that the National Suicide Provention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8355
For resources pertaining to sexual violence, Rachel recommends RAINN, AVP (especially for queer-competent services), and the book Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski.
  1. The BellRays - “Never Let A Woman” (Punk Funk Rock Soul, Vol. 2)
  2. Joseph Jr -- “Believe In Yourself” (ft. Chris Abreu) (Singles)
  3. Silver Lake 66 - “Blue Earth County” (Ragged Heart)
  4. Lawrence Maxwell “Unfinished Business” (Not Your Outlaw)
  5. Justin Rutledge - “Good Man” (Passages)
  6. The Rev -- “Whiskey Rebellion” (SH)
  7. Emily Wolfe - “Holy Roller” (Emily Wolfe)
  8. Robert Ellis -- “Nobody Smokes Anymore” (Texas Piano Man)
  9. Masked Intruder - “Stay With Me Tonight” (III)
  10. Emily Scott Robinson -- “The Dress” (Traveling Mercies)

Rachel wrote a comic! Check it out here! Send us music via SubmitHub. Send us money via Ko-fi or Patreon. Contact Von via linktr.ee/vonreviews and say hi to Rachel on Twitter @adobeteardrops

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Dave Ernst -- Hickory Switch

Honestly, most of the time you just need a distorted guitar and a song in G. Dave Ernst knows this -- and he uses it well.  In a moment where Americana seems to celebrate who has the best acid trip (no shame in that -- it's just A Very Particular Aesthetic), Ernst reminds us that Miller Hi Life is more than able to do the job.

Hickory Switch, as the title implies, leans heavily on the Lousiville, KY band's Southern experiences. It's an album that is rough-and-tumble. Ernst's lyrics pour out of his mouth, desperate to deliver hard truths, even if it means breaking a few songwriting rules here and there. These are stories of people who don't have any luxuries, and it makes sense that the songs feel a bit unvarnished. The album culminates in its title track, a four-minute Southern rocker about struggling with self-vilification that is impressive in its scope and clarity.

Dave Ernst -- Official, Facebook

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Emily Scott Robinson -- Traveling Mercies

CW: This post discusses sexual violence

Don't come into this album expecting to leave unscathed. Traveling Mercies is just one of those albums that demonstrates that a single person -- in this case, Emily Scott Robinson -- can, indeed have deep insight into all corners of humanity. The album covers a range of Robinson's experience as she's toured the country in her RV, taking the leap to pursue songwriting full-time.

There's one song that everyone's been focusing on -- and I'll get to that one. But ahead of "The Dress," we have a few other searing songs that equally plumb the depths. "Delta Line" feels like an old-time Appalachian ballad that confronts the intergenerational trauma passed through the women in a family. But there are some lighter moments as well -- "Better With Time" fondly recalls the evolution of a romantic partnership. "White Hot Country Mess" is a boot-stomper that celebrates the high and wryly observes the inherent sexism a women traveling alone endures. "Shoshone Rose" is my favorite kind of revenge tale. "Borrowed Rooms and Old Wood Folds" is the best song about the alienation of constant touring I've heard in actual years.

Honestly, any of these songs would be enough to win my affections, but having six flawless songs in a row shows me that Robinson has a rare gift, one that will become even more powerful with time.

So let's talk about "The Dress." Unfortunately, it's a song all too many people connect to -- myself included. Robinson describes the aftermath of her surviving sexual assault. She uses the dress she wore that night as the central image of the song, contemplating whether to keep that article of clothing, how it was involved (if it all) with what happened, and what to do with it now -- essentially, externalizing her own experiences in this article of clothing.

I remember this vividly. I remember stuffing the shirt into the back of my closet so I wouldn't have to look at it anymore. I remember the way she was intrigued by it, what that meant for my gender presentation as a whole and what it implied about my preferences in the bedroom. I remember wondering if it would be evil to donate an article of clothing with such a terrible past associated with it -- or if it would serve someone better than it did me. (I think I did end up giving it away rather than tossing it. I did, however, sleep much better once I finally got rid of my mattress.) 

I also remember wondering if, and how, what happened to me would reverberate for the rest of my life. I can promise that you will not go forward until you seek help. For starters, I recommend Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are. The book is meant for people with vaginas but other than the chapter on anatomy, it's universal.

Robinson describes her own healing experience at great length but I want to skip ahead a bit to the end:

There comes a time when I no longer wish my rape away, and that’s how I know it’s safe to tell my story. Now I am no longer a social worker— I am a songwriter. I start writing “The Dress,” but nothing about this song comes easy. For four years, I scribble verses in a fever and then scratch them out the next day. I never know if I am getting it right, but I know I need to try. Writing and recording the song turns my stomach into knots and makes me sweat, but I do it anyways.

When I start performing “The Dress” for audiences, something beautiful happens. People come up to me after my shows to thank me. They have tears in their eyes. I hold their hands in mine and they tell me their stories. This makes every ounce of pain worth it. We belong to a family of survivors we never would’ve chosen to join, but here we are. We are not permanently broken and we are not alone.

If given the chance now, I would never erase what happened to me. I am proud of the woman I had to become after my rape. In clawing my way back from the dark, I had to reach deep into my own well. Now I know what I am made of. We can’t keep terrible things from happening to us in this life, but we get to choose how to use them. My story has pain and trauma and darkness, but it doesn’t end there. It keeps on going. I get to write my own ending, and it is full of healing and hope.

Emily Scott Robinson -- Home, Facebook