Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses. Junky Star.

In such broken times as these–times that recall the economic aftermath of the eighties when nothing trickled down and everything seemed to swirl down–popular song often reflects the frustrations and struggles of everyday life. Arcade Fire managed to top the Billboard charts with their paeans to moving ever forward in the face of alienation and dread via portraits of The Suburbs. And Cee-lo’s irreverent, late-summer Jackson 5 jam, with all of its ire about losing a girl due to a lack of funds, can easily be interpreted as a “Fuck You” to the current economy as much as to the woman-stealing bastard the song directly addresses. Between Arcade Fire’s abstract anthems and Cee-lo’s metaphorical mantra, however, what is missing from popular music’s musings on the state of the union is a more populist sentiment–that is, until the release of Junky Star, the latest from Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses.

Bingham’s Oscar-winning collaboration with T-Bone Burnett on “The Weary Kind” for the soundtrack to the film Crazy Heart, made clear his musical kinship to country singer-songwriters from Hank to Willie, Cash to Kristofferson, and the late, great Townes Van Zandt. With Junky Star, produced by Burnett, Bingham embraces the direct bombast of populist Americana that stretches from Woody Guthrie to his modern day torchbearers such as Bruce Springsteen. Though The Boss, and in particular his dark, sparse Nebraska, is an obvious touchstone, Junky Star, especially with single “Depression,” also echoes the more popular populism of John Mellencamp’s eighties hits. I’m talking big, rousing, heavy MTV rotation hits like “Pink Houses” and “Rain on the Scarecrow”. In the late-eighties Bingham’s “Depression” would’ve been a radio staple. In the late-aughts, well, it oughta be. Junky Star succeeds, and should achieve mainstream success, because it delivers music that can touch a wider audience without sacrificing any of the dust and grit from Bingham’s earlier efforts.

This is music for the people. Dig it.

Junky Star is out now on Lost Highway Records. Buy it here. Buy a digital copy here.

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses are currently on the road in support of the album. Catch ’em live if you can.

AUG 25. Los Angeles, CA. The Bootleg Theater
SEPT 01. Los Angeles, CA. The Grammy Museum
SEPT 03. Yosemite, CA. Strawberry Festival
SEPT 05. Denver, CO. Red Rocks Amphitheater
SEPT 06. Park City, UT. Snow Park Amphitheater
SEPT 07. Boise, ID. Botanical Gardens
SEPT 08. Reno, NV. Knitting Factory
SEPT 10. Laughlin, NV. Harrah’s Fiesta
SEPT 11. Las Vegas, NV. The Cannery Casino
SEPT 12. Bakersfield, CA. B Ryder’s
SEPT 13. Livermore, CA. Wente Vineyards
SEPT 14. Santa Cruz, CA. Rio Theater
SEPT 16. Chico, CA. El Rey Theatre
SEPT 17. Bend, OR. Les Schwab Amphitheater
SEPT 18. Troutdale, OR. Edgefield Manor
SEPT 19. Eugene, OR. Cuthbert Amphitheater
SEPT 20. Grants Pass, OR. Rogue Theater
SEPT 22. Saratoga, CA. Mountain Winery
SEPT 23. Santa Barbara, CA. Santa Barbara Bowl
SEPT 24. Los Angeles, CA. Greek Theater
OCT 07. Dallas, TX. House of Blues
OCT 08. Austin, TX. Austin City Limits Festival
OCT 12. Nashville, TN. Cannery Ballroom
OCT 14. New York, NY. Bowery Ballroom
OCT 15. Boston, MA. Royale
OCT 16. Philadelphia, PA. North Star Bar
OCT 17. Albany, NY. Linda Norris Auditorium
OCT 19. Pittsburgh, PA. Rex Theater
OCT 21. Cleveland, OH. Grog Shop
OCT 22. Cincinnati, OH. Southgate House
OCT 23. Chicago, IL. Subterranean
OCT 24. St Louis, MO. Old Rock House
OCT 26. Lawrence, KS. Granada Theater
OCT 27. Fayetteville, AR. George’s Majestic Lounge

Ryche and Roll! (reason #33 to roll with the ryche)

As mentioned previously, in the run up to the September celebration of Queensryche’s Empire, los grillos will be telling those who need to know but maybe haven’t heard–especially late-aughts hipters who have embraced late-eighties heavy metal–why it’s time to roll with the Ryche.

Reason #33: Operation Tattoo Crime!

Tattoos and rock and roll go hand in hand. And in the hipster set, what’s more hip than a new tattoo? So if you want to be hip as you embrace late-eighties metal, then Queensryche is the band for you. Queensryche’s logo, designed by drummer Scott Rockenfield’s brother and called the Tri-Ryche, reigns supreme as a magnificently tattoo-able logo. It’s instantly recognizable and easily modified or enhanced, making it possible for a ryche and roller to not only declare one’s love for and loyalty to one of the greatest metal bands of all time but also, like Sailor in Wild At Heart, represent one’s individuality and belief in personal freedom. And it makes a tramp-stamp of the highest order!

And, of course, if you’ve got the backspace, the balls, and the desire to go beyond the standard Tri-ryche staff head, there’s always the Operation: Mindcrime album artwork (see above photo). Now that’s some serious ryche and roll ink!

Check out some more ryche and roll inspired ink here.

And the lyrics to the title track for Operation: Mindcime, a song that sets up the crime to be committed by the brainwashed junkie at the heart of the album’s concept, work as a pretty nice metal-phor about getting a big, bad-ass back piece. Check it out…

The Sword. Warp Riders.

Load up the bongs and pack up the D&D–The Sword are going to take you on a sci-fi stoner odyssey across time and space! Rocking equal parts Manowar, Metallica, and Blue Oyster Cult, Austin’s favorite Stonehenge metal mystics weave a fantastical tale worthy of the epic battle of riffs against which it is cast. Every riff will slay Smaug. Every solo will pull the sword from the stone. Every song’s like a hit from a gravity bong that launches you into space and sets you soaring towards the end of the universe.

And is that a little Cheap Trick I here in “Lawless Lands”? Sounds like The Sword smoked a little glam metal from their seventies stash this time around.

Warp Riders is out now on Kemado Records. Buy it here.

Here’s the sci-fi fantasy adventure video for “Tres Brujas”–three witches you shall meet!

Radio is Dead, Long Live Radio


I feel like it is so old fashioned to listen to radio.  Ask me when I was nineteen if I thought there was anything good on the radio and I was like, ’fuck radio —  it all sucks.’ This was not necessarily true;  I did find a program or two here and there that did an o.k. job of turning me on to new music.  In general commercial radio has always been sort of difficult to love with their long commercial breaks and not necessarily interesting programming ideas.  However through the years I have found specific shows on community and university stations that prove to be excellent

The digital age has given unprecedented opportunities for individuals to find and experience music.  Be it mp3 blogs, social networks, large distribution networks like itunes or emusic, youtube videos, or the newer music subscription sites like Pandora and Mog you basically have unlimited possibilities for being your own dj, so why turn to radio?

Like other aspects of modern life, the act of finding one’s music begins to feel like a rather elaborate construction of a large fluffy coccoon from which to view or hear the world.  I would say by far the most rewarding musical experiences for me are unexpected, ad hoc, and without pretense.  The first time I ever shook a leg in a New Orleans Jazz Fest parade through the fairgrounds would count as one such moment. I used to love hearing one street busker who had a penchant for open tunings and soul music on my early morning commute in downtown San Francisco.  Once my wife and I were serenaded by two strangers in a Mexican doctor’s office (the doctor being one of the serenaders).  And, yes, there have been many a moment in my life where I had to pull the car over off of the road so I could listen to something I had never heard before.

I invite you to break out of the cocoon and put your ears in someone else’s hands and let go.   There are some radio shows that I still cannot make it through without changing the station but I will tune in whenever I know that dj is spinning.  It has been an excellent source of growth for me as a listener.  Lots of community stations have specialty programming and excellent web sites allowing you to tune in from anywhere.  I happen to be partial to some local djs in my area mainly because the station they work for has a dedication to programming eclecticism.

http://www.koop.org/?page=schedule

http://kalx.berkeley.edu/schedtab.htm

http://www.kexp.org/programming/programming.asp

http://www.wwoz.org/programs/schedule

http://wevl.org/schedule.php

http://www.eastvillageradio.com/schedule/daily.aspx

http://www.piratecatradio.com/shows

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music

Big Blood. Dead Songs.

Two of my favorite damaged, dark and intimate psych-folk records this year are Shawn David McMillen’s Dead Friends and The North Sea’s Bloodlines. Added to that list is Dead Songs by Big Blood. Not quite as damaged as McMillen’s deconstructed folk/blues mantras and not quite as dark as The North Sea’s deep drone, Big Blood’s penchant for fuzzed-out, garage rockers (“Lay Your Head on the Rails II”) balanced by more delicate acoustic lullabies (“New Eyes”) is just as immediate, intimate and affecting.

Big Blood is Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin, mainstays of the Portland/South Portland, Maine musical underground as members of the sonically cinematic Cerberus Shoal and the acoustic, communal, and campfire sing-along ready Fire on FireDead Songs is the band’s first “proper” full length (read: not a self-released cdr), and it’s available now from Time-Lag Records on cd and as a limited-edition, lovingly packaged lp (only 700! no time to sleep on this one).

Buy the album here. Learn more about the band and their music at their blog, dontrustheruin, here. And check out a couple of tracks from the album posted by the fine folks at Raven Sings The Blues, where I learned of its release, here.

And here’s a lovely video for album track “Dead Song” made by someone the band doesn’t know (according to their blog, where I found the video)…