Tag Archives: jason isbell

#FridayFinds: Beastie Boys Flashbacks and Nuovo Neapolitan Music

photos courtesy: ourstage.com, bostoniano.info, nbc.com, legacyrecordings.com
photos courtesy: ourstage.com, bostoniano.info, nbc.com, legacyrecordings.com

The last few weeks have I’ve been terrible about putting up new stories here, and I feel terrible about it. I talk a lot about keeping positive, pressing on, and pressing through, and yet I still have trouble committing to a few hours a week to share some of my favorite music with you.

It’s a fresh new season and I’m ready to turn over a new leaf. And it all starts with this new segment I’m calling #FridayFinds, a space where I can share some of the excellent odds and ends I’ve discovered over the last few days that didn’t fit elsewhere in the week’s entries.

And so, without anymore overture… #FridayFinds

1. Rediscovering An Old Favorite Album

I had not been under the swoon of adolescence long when I bought the Beastie Boys’ record Hello Nasty at the local Borders Books and Music. The entire duration of the trip home from the store I must have turned the CD cover over and over in my hands, marveling at the artwork– the sight of the three MCs literally “packed like sardines in a tin” on the cover and the outer space themes and motifs that carried o’er the rest of the carefully folded, biodegradable cover. I felt much like a young father bringing a young babe home from the hospital, my heart all aflutter with feelings of excitement and pride coupled with nervousness and anxiousness as I brought it inside, up to my room, and laid it down on the bed of my Aiwa 3-CD stereo.

It wasn’t my first introduction to their stuff, having heard whiffs of their work on local rock radio, but it was definitely my first formal introduction to the larger, more complex arc of their oeuvre. And I ate it up. The sheer amount of material on the record was impressive to my formative mind that had until then not seen so many tracks on cassette or CD (21—nay, 22 tracks!). And all those samples, intros, and outros so meticulously sampled and spliced to create a masterful cacophony of cool. It was with me throughout middle school, high school, and on through college.

And then, at some point, it disappeared from my library. Never to be seen again. Even though it was still available to me on my computer, it was a crushing blow.

Then this week I happened to see it again as I was browsing the stacks at the local Newbury Comics. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular that day, but then that’s when the best things happen– when you least expect it.

And it’s still just as good as I remembered it. I’d even wager it’s gotten better with the time that’s passed since I last listened. One thing’s for sure: I definitely get a lot more of the references now. And for all their playful and gonzo antics lyrically and otherwise throughout the album there’re some particularly deep and poignant moments as well. It’s the album of a band confidently hitting their stride.

2. Making Musical Connections in Rather Unlikely Places

I’ve never thought of asking the tellers at the bank for music recommendations, but I might start doing so after a trip to my local branch the other day. I’d gone to make a deposit, not to mention take a much needed break from work with a midday stroll around the neighborhood. Over time the guys at the bank have gotten to know me, and although I really shouldn’t be surprised by this since it’s probably part of their job to be personable and friendly, considering the number of people they must see day in and day and the fact that I come by so infrequently, it’s worth mentioning that they’re really good at it. Really, really good.

For example they know that I not only play guitar but also that I play guitar every so often at a restaurant nearby. Whereas on other occasions I might have made my deposit and left, this time around I stayed and chatted with the 3 tellers behind the counter about music and culture. Which brought us to sharing stories of time spent abroad; which brought us to sharing our favorite folk music; which led us to the shores of Italy and the Neapolitan music tradition, and which led one of the tellers, Victor, to recommend this nouveau Neapolitan music band out of Boston called Newpoli. You don’t have to understand the music, Victor said, to know that the stories in the song are crafted from only the most delicate but deliberate language. When the protagonist is in love, feels betrayed, or even makes a simple observation on the transient nature of life– you know it’s the real deal.

Amazing how in just thirty minutes we were able to travel halfway around the world, and all it required was a quick walk down the street from my office. Music is powerful stuff.

3. Finding New Ways To Discover Music

It was just a simple little NPR Music Spring Survey, nothing major or earth shattering. Little did I know that one simple question would alter the way I listened to music. Forever. Or, at least, for a few weeks.

When I got to the question about where I usually go to find out about new music, I noted that I was familiar with every source it mentioned. With one exception: Stitcher. It’s an online, made-for-mobile emporium of radio shows and podcasts that lets you make playlists of thoses shows. No sooner had I started exploring than I fell in love. In addition to the shows I knew I loved– All Songs Considered, Alt. Latino, and WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, i found some awesome new ones too from their impressive library including the New York Times Popcast, KQED’s Noise Pop Podcast, and non-music centered gems like WTF with Marc Maron and Go Fork Yourself With Andrew Zimmern. If you’ve been on the fence about downloading podcasts before like I was, this is definitely a great way to get familiar with the medium in a way that keeps things organized and leaves your iTunes uncluttered.

And check out Marc Maron’s recent interview with Jason Isbell. It paints a colorful version of modern southern rock history.

4. Centering Idea of the Week: Keep Your Promises

Never have I been more appreciative of Elvis impersonators. Well, I suppose not all of them, just this guy, a high school teacher in Oklahoma by the name of Frank Cooper. He’s as charismatic a teacher as ever I’ve seen, and he does a really, really good Elvis impression, not from time to time, but for every day of Elvis’s birthday month. To do this you’d have to be wildly courageous, and he’d have to decide a long time ago that if he was going to do this, he was going to have to commit to it. And he does.

And his motto: Keep Your Promises. It’s a wonderful window into how he’s able to carry out this philosophy. If you say you’re going to do something- do it. Make it so. Make it happen. Deliver. And I think being humble is part of that too. Because you’re going to have your share of troubles. You’re going to make mistakes, get of track, even loose sight of the goal from time to time. But carry on and follow through.

5. Song of the Week: Bill Withers – Lovely Day

I’ve had it with this cold weather. I want weather that, like this song, makes me want to do nothing more than take a leisurely walk in a vibrant, green garden or lay around all day in the sun like a contented little puppy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this song’ll keep you feeling fresh and clean all week long, which isn’t to say it’s any substitute for a good ol’ fashioned shower. Practice good hygiene y’all.

And have a great weekend!


Monday Mixtape – 5 Songs for January


Behold the power of positive thinking. It’s the best way I know to start of a new year, or, at the very least, a new week. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions since writing about my music resolutions for 2014, and I’ve thought of a few others as well (I can relate to quite a few of the ones on this list), but one that transcends music and all other experiences is to stay optimistic. When I really think about it, keeping a positive outlook can be as big a help as coffee for starting and sustaining me through the tougher days.

And it just so happens that the same 5 songs below that have been rattling around in my head lately all seem to tread on similar themes like persevering when things are tough keeping that positive outlook. Maybe it can come from within as in the case of the spurned lover in the killer blues track from Tedeschi Trucks Band, but often we need the help of others to support us or help us to keep our heads up, as in the selections by folk Americana prodigies Jason Isbell and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Sometimes you gotta get real spiritual about finding the strength a la the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and sometimes… sometimes you just gotta embrace the dips and pitfalls to get the perspective in the first place (enter the wonderfully retro, dancy-schmancy pop sounds of Haim).

The holidays having come and gone, there’s no getting around the fact that winter has definitely set in, and many people consider today to be the most depressing day of the year. With all this negativity around, it’s good to know that, if all else fails, music is there to restore your faith, or, at the very least, help keep you on the right track during the winter doldrums.

*artwork by blondi227