Amazing how the late Sharon Jones seems to have sung a perfect song for almost any occasion. Over time, people have forgotten that Woody Guthrie wrote this as a protest song. Sharon restores it to its original purpose.
The Stubby's House Christmas collection has now been retired. I hope everyone who wanted it got it.
Here in the Carolinas, we're supposed to be getting our first snow of the season. When I lived up north, my tradition was buying a tree upon the first snow of the season. Sometimes that meant getting it a little too early, but, most years, it meant waiting longer than I wanted to. In the long run, that was a good thing, though. Built some anticipation. Here, though, I'd pretty much never have a tree at Christmas if I waited for snow (hmm, maybe I should go out tomorrow and see if anyone's just getting rid of their's).
I think I mentioned this song earlier this year. From Boston's Bleu and the album "Bing Bang Holidang", but I didn't play it, did I? "Snow Day".
Anyway, the trend isn't great. A few days ago, my town was smack in the middle of 6-12 inches projected, but that's been dropping steadily. Right now, it stands at 2-5 inches. But add in the fact that the change over from rain to snow time keeps getting pushed back (in the last couple of days, it's gone from 8 PM on the 6th to 10 AM on the 7th), and I'm not so sure we'll be getting any at all. Hope we do. I don't like the cold weather as much as I did when I was younger. But, if it's going to be cold, there might as well be snow. And it is definitely going to be cold this weekend. Single digits even. Yeah, I know.
Anyway, always liked this song. So, if you've got nowhere to be and nothing to do, enjoy a little "Snow". On the house (and on the car, on the lawn, on Mrs. Katz--not her real name--oooh, she doesn't much like snow).
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years lend themselves to reflection. Its a safe bet that, somewhere between November and January, you're going to think back on where you've been...whether that takes the form of regret or just taking inventory, it's going to happen. Can't really know where you are or where you're going until you think about where you've been.
It's not always organic. Sometimes something external pushes you into reflection.
I got an email Wednesday ostensibly about a Christmas song. This time of year, I get lots of emails like that. And its already been noted in other quarters that there have been more such emails this year than in years past. I'm all in favor of these emails. I'm obviously not going to catch everything so, if you want to be sure I hear your song, there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, I don't have time to respond to them all. But I do listen to all the songs (well, once in a while I forget). And even if you get no reply and nothing turns up on the blog, that doesn't mean I didn't like the song.
Anyway, I got an email Wednesday. The song in question was "Cat Christmas". OK, you know me and cats. Lets check it out.
Nice Indie Pop song about Christmas and cats, right? And its rare you hear an Indie Pop tune like that with such meticulous orchestration. So, yeah, I liked the song and figured on working it in somewhere. Then I do my thing. I have to know more about the artist, listen to some of their other stuff, check out their web site(s)... It's what I do. So here's the cat's tale. And, by the way, much of this was included in the email, but I just headed straight for the tune and didn't read that far.
Volary is the performance name of Samantha Lien. She was born in Australia and moved to San Francisco in 2001. As much as she loved music, it occurred to her that "Nobody else ever seemed to want to say quite the things that I did". You know the old saw about wanting things done right? Samantha learned the guitar and began writing and playing. She received recognition and praise from Billboard magazine and MTV. In 2009, she began working on her debut album.
The album, which would be called "Out of Shadows", was nearing completion when Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgeries and "aggressive" treatment followed. But she finished the album--released to critical praise and glowing reviews. In remission, she played the material out and won a local Battle of the Bands competition. Feeling hopeful about the future once again, Samantha began writing for a second album. Her lyrics and music were light and playful (I imagine "Cat Christmas" was written during this time).
In 2012, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and metastasized. She was still determined to finish a second album. And, now, her writing reflected her struggle and uncertainty. The cancer won the fight and Samantha died on November 1, 2013.
The album lay unfinished. Samantha's husband, Alex Kushner, could not let it stay that way. He contacted the producer of Samantha's first album, Laura Dean. They enlisted Minna Choi (and her Magik*Magik Orchestra). Together, and with help from lots of others--both in the studio and via Kickstarter--"The Light" was completed from what were mostly unfinished demos and bare sketches. It was released last month, which was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, on CD, collectors grade vinyl (180g), and digitally (all available on Bandcamp).
I can count on one hand (and still have plenty of fingers left over) the number of times on this site I've pleaded with you to check out a non-Christmas album. But "The Light" is brilliant and you really should. As fun as "Cat Christmas" may be (and it is), I want you to hear "OK Tonight". I want you to hear "Let It Rain". I want you to hear "Fate". I want you to hear "The Light". And I tell you what. I was expecting "Out of Shadows" to be less impressive (because songwriters do "grow," for lack of a better word). But, no, that one's brilliant, too. I want you to hear "That Girl". I want you to hear "One Good Reason". I want you to hear "Undone". I want you to hear it all. There are a multitude of sounds and influences coming together on these two albums. There is light and there is darkness. There is light and there is darkness simultaneously. The trick is maintaining a balance.
The word "Volary" is an obscure word with two distinct meanings. It can be a flight or a flock of birds or it can be the cage you keep them in. Think about that for a second. Volary can mean one of two things that are distinctly opposite. It can mean, in essence, freedom or captivity. I think the choice is yours. And I think that might have been at least part of Samantha's point.
When you do your holiday reflection this year, whenever that is, I want you to be truly thankful for whatever you have in your life. If the only good news in your life is that you woke up today, be truly thankful for that. If you have friends and family to share the holidays with, then you're on top of the food chain. Celebrate that. Celebrate yourself (if you don't celebrate yourself, why would anyone else). Celebrate the bad things in your life, too. Because you're here. You got through it or are getting through it, whatever "it" is, and those trials made you who you are right now. It's a cliche because it's true, but be aware that every day is a miracle. Don't let it slip through your fingers. Today is the only thing that any of us ever have. Fight for it.
Today, I am truly thankful for "The Light" from Samantha Lien (aka Volary) and for the email that led me there. It helped me to remember what's important and how much I have to be thankful for.
Thought about posting the Beatles, here, but this is much more Stubbys style. Organissimo might sound familiar to you, since we did feature some free Christmas music from the group back in December. "Taxman" (of which this is just a taste) is from an album of B3 organ Jazz jams of Beatles tunes that should be coming out very soon. Stay up to date on that project via Facebook or the group's website.
Every year, I sweat out tax day--always doing it last minute. I mean, I worry myself literally sick over it every year. I don't have a clue what they're talking about in the instructions. I'm a fairly intelligent guy but, when it comes to money, my eyes just glaze over. The real sad part of it is...I don't even have to file! My "income" last year wouldn't pay for the web domain for this site. I do it, though, because I don't want them tracking me down ten years from now and asking, "What about 2015? What happened there?" I'd have no clue how to go back and put it together that long after the fact.
But there is one good thing about putting myself through this routine every year. I get such a feeling of relief when its finally done. Suddenly, I feel free. That may only last for a day or two, but it's long enough that I've started getting the site on track for 2016. Our 2016 Free page has actually been up for a few days, now (such as it currently is). And, today, I got our 2016 LIST going.
Some highlights for the upcoming Christmas season include a lot of promised Country Christmas music. We're expecting releases from Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, hopefully Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, and Raul Malo and The Mavericks. The Oak Ridge Boys, too, are talking about another return to that well of egg nog. And, for something completely different, William Shatner is working on a Christmas album with Ben Folds. Having Ben's genius in play might actually move a Shatner album out of the novelty category. Well, probably not, but "Mr. Tambourine Man" is still a hoot and a half, so what the heck. Those are the early early early coming attractions. The "Probable" list is still a lot of holdovers. I doubt we'll ever get that Meatloaf Christmas record and, at this point, I don't much care anymore.
And, already released (in theory) is a new 7" vinyl single from The Toms, a performance name of well known and respected New Jersey writer/producer Tommy Marolda. About a decade ago, Marolda released a Beatlesque Christmas CD, "St. Nick's Lonely Christmas Band". While that album wasn't one of my favorite Christmas Beatles take-offs (c'mon, Fab Four, right?), the bonus track "Fake Christmas" was exceptional. And that vocal track is the 7" released at the end of March. First time on vinyl ever, limited to 500 hand-numbered copies. I've linked to Light In The Attic on our List, but it has listings across the Interwebs (whether any of those folks actually have the single in stock is another matter entirely). We'll give it a spin in a sec. But I just wanted to quickly let you know that hibernation is over and its time to start getting revved up because Christmas is coming! Again! Ain't it grand?
Hey, the Labor Day Weekend is upon us, signaling the end of summer and firing the opening salvo in the countdown to Christmas. Last trip to the beach, if you happen to be near one. Last backyard barbecue if you don't. So something light, today.
This is a video I stumbled upon earlier from Santa's Magical Workshop. I'd pay them a visit, but its in Red Cliffs, Australia, and I don't see that kind of travel in either my itinerary or my budget. The video just tickled me, is all.
Happy Labor Day, everybody.
Sunday is Mother's Day--don't you dare forget it. Being as its my first Mother's Day since Mom passed, I'm feeling a bit sentimental. There were plenty of opportunities, during the year, to celebrate Mom--birthday, anniversary, Christmas--but Mother's Day was always The Day, if you know what I'm saying.
As it happens, Belles & Whistles, a mother/daughter country duo, dropped a song in my in-box today that fit the theme. I enjoyed it so why wouldn't I pass it on to you? "Daughter of Mine" can be picked up via Amazon MP3 or iTunes.
Of course, that had me looking around a little bit and I have to admit Taylor Swift's simple "The Best Day" from "Fearless" put a little moisture in the eyes. Always liked Taylor. She's always struck me as absolutely genuine.
At the end of the day, though, I have never been able to let Mother's Day pass without a nod to the Intruders and the classic "I'll Always Love My Mama".
I'll say it again. Sunday is Mother's Day. Don't you dare forget it.
Today is Opening Day. I love Opening Day of the baseball season. There is no more hopeful day on the modern calendar. Every team is tied for first and all things are possible. Yes, even the Cubs could win the World Series (as revealed in Back To The Future II). Who knows? Your favorite team could even run out of players and pick you out of the stands to play for them. It could happen. Because all things are possible today.
I know that football has become the nation's sport of choice. Come to think of it, that may be where the whole country went off the tracks. Football is a game of violent collision played in cold and usually miserable weather on a strictly measured grid, and the goal is to demolish the opponent. No wonder we've become a nation of grumpy Gusses. But baseball.....baseball is a game of hope played on a field of green in the sunshine of spring and summer.
I love Opening Day.
A few years back, we ran through a whole bunch of baseball songs and those are still good suggestions (though some of the links may be out of date). This year, I just want to give you three of my personal favorites--a baseball Triple Play, if you will (and even if you won't). First up, David Frishberg's brilliant Jazz piece built upon the names of old time baseball players--"Van Lingle Mungo". Then Orchestra Luna's surreal take on "Heart" (originally from Damn Yankees). And, finally, "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", something of an eighties cult single, by Bruce Springstone (the actual vocalist is Tom Chalkley).
To paraphrase Ernie Banks (who passed away earlier this year)..."It's a beautiful day; let's play three."
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?