I was coming of age when "Peaches" by The Stranglers hit and was hooked. Part garage- and punk-rock and later meandering into synth-pop, but always with a punch and irresistible hooks, the ratters delivered. And now 44 years later, an almost decade-long wait for a new album, The Stranglers are back and I'm still hooked. Next Friday (9/10) "DARK MATTERS" drops and judging from the three so far released teaser singles, we are in for a fabulous 18th album.
And no, it's not really a comeback, and more of putting the icing on top of an almost 50-year long career as one of the leading UK bands. It is also a celebration of their much-missed keyboarder Dave Greenfield, who succumbed to Covid19 a year ago.
“We had already recorded most of the album with him and during the lockdowns, our only wish was to complete it as a fitting tribute to his life and work. I consider this to be one of our finest recordings,” says the only remaining original member, JJ Burnel.
Eight of the eleven tracks carry Dave's signature keys sound and the band added an honest tribute to him with the first single of the album, ‘And If You Should See Dave…’
Even though melancholic in its lyrics
It would be nice to say hello
This is where your solo would go
If you should see Dave
the song has a warm, twangy feel to it and embraces the old friend who helped define the sounds of the band for 45 years. The video, a cruise by all the legendary rock venues of sun-drenched Los Angeles, has also some worthwhile details to discover, be it the disappearing rats or a hint to their fifth album "GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE MENINBLACK," with its instrumental "Waltzinblack" that prominently features Greenfield and served as the opener to The Stranglers' live shows.
Burnel and Baz Warne, the surviving members finished "DARK MATTERS" remotely during the lockdown with the help of their longtime producer Louie Nicastro. For an insight into the production of the new disc watch the behind-the-scene videos at the bottom of the blog.
"DARK MATTERS" are not only part of our universe, but quite often, especially with the intellect of The Stranglers transcend into other spheres. Without darkness, we could not see the light and vice versa. Not everything can be explained, some mysteries stay in the dark, like the origins of the Easter Island moai for instance that now adorn the cover of the new disc.
The second teaser single changes pace and some of the electronics with a fabulous Dave Greenfield, embedded into "If Something's Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)" hint at Kraftwerk or even to the Doors' Ray Manzarek. As to the lyrics, we all know that the variables are interchangeable, the Martians can be a metaphor for a rapidly changing environment, for a virus crippling the world, or simply for a fill-in of your own angst.
You wake me up one morning and the world has changed
It’s war and the Martians have arrived
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
Earthquakes may happen
And the heavens open
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love
Even though a two-year-old live version with Greenfield is available on YouTube, a studio version of "This Song" from the new album is the third teaser single. Nottingham Forest football legend Stuart Pearce, a long-time fan of the band, guest-stars as a Bond-like character, trying to escape some free-runners and ultimately realizing that he has to confront them head-on.
JJ calls "DARK MATTERS" in an interview with John Robb,
"the most grown-up album The Stranglers ever did with no need to subscribe to anyone's ideas what the band should be."
Next Friday we can verify that and I'm excited to do so. If "DARK MATTER" is ordered from the band's website, buyers will also receive a special bonus disc a Tribute to Dave Greenfield, containing 8 previously unreleased songs featuring him.
The Stranglers are also going forward with what they call their 47-stop "Final Full Tour" - originally scheduled for last year - starting in October in Belgium and finishing it up before Christmas in France, and then in early 2022 with a run-through the UK. Dave will be replaced by one of his disciples that "learned of the Keyboard man's fingertips."
As more and more blogs and podcasts hit the internet and an overview is almost impossible, I decided to merge all my music blogs into one all-encompassing, single outlet - here.
What used to be the MMM - Musig, Musik, Musique... blog also got a new name, as 95 percent of the me-inspiring music is in the Americana field, be it Rock'n'Roll, Country, Folk, Roots-Rock, Blues, Rock, and all its different amalgams, I decided to rename my blog site to "amu-ricana." And yes, there may be an occasional excursion into other fields of musical inspiration.
Over the next few weeks, I will incorporate and if necessary update old(er) blogs from other sites (Honky Tonk Daily, Country Music News) here. New blogs will be exclusively posted here. For the time being, I will not delete the old blog sites until I can put it all in this blog.
Be sure to subscribe, come visit often and rummage through my different offerings. Leave a comment, share the blogs if you can, and first of all get inspired with music you may not have known so far.
Thanks for being a reader A. Michael Uhlmann (amu)
Texas-based, Mississippi-bred singer-songwriter Jason Eady comes with a new album on August, 27th and so far teased us with three magnificent singles, "Back To Normal," "My Best Friend," and now "French Summer Sun." Recorded in Austin, with the help of producer Gordy Quist, the three singles all have a raw, organic feel.
All these singles from "TO THE PASSAGE OF TIME" have a common theme, as the title suggests a constant flow of time. Alpha and Omega, start and end - be it in the present, the past, or the future - time passes on, change is inevitable:
Every day is a brand-new beginning
Isn’t that what all the sages say?
So every night is a brand new ending
Tomorrow can’t be like yesterday
That's Eady's conclusion in "Back To Normal," the first single of "TO THE PASSAGE OF TIME." Even though the song resonates with the (disappearing) pandemic, the message has a broader appeal, as we will find ourselves always in new, unchartered waters:
“I wanted to write about how, when things get disrupted, you can never really return to the way they were before,” says Eady in his press release. “No matter how big or small that disruption is, you have to accept that change is a fundamental part of life, and just keep moving forward.”
Even though the single cover for "Back To Normal" suggests a world upside down, Eddy got a burst of creativity, while holed up in his Fort Worth home. Secluding himself, even more, he stayed in his bedroom with his guitar and wrote half of the album in just a couple of days.
"I went in thinking I was going to write just one song—but then the songs kept coming, and I didn’t want to break the spell," Eady recalls. "I’d go to sleep with the guitar by the bed, pick it back up when I woke up the next morning, and do it all again. I’d never really experienced anything like that before."
Now I wish that I had whispered
Even one word at a time
Now all I can do is wonder
And try to make it rhyme
Reminiscing about an old love gone awry, indulging in memories about a time long gone by, a missed opportunity, and putting the pain of that loss into rhyme, sums up "My Best Friend." The stripped-down version, simply with fiddle (Noah Jeffries) and steel guitar (Geoff Queen), make the yearning about the missed chance, even more hurtful. Producer Gordy Quist, known as a member of the Band Of Heathens, was able to convey an organic, raw feel to the whole recording process in Austin. Besides Jeffries and Queen, Eady was joined by Mark Williams on stand-up bass and cello, Brian Ferguson on drums, as well as Eady's wife Courtney Patton and Jamie Lin Wilson on background vocals.
“Everything you hear is exactly what happened when we hit record—there’s no studio trickery,” says Eady. “It’s got a real family-band feeling to it, where everyone in the room knew how to play in a way that completely fits with what I do.”
For the current single and its video, "French Summer Sun," Jason Eady asked fellow members of the Sequestered Songwriters Relief Fund, a loose organization that was founded to help musicians in need during the pandemic, to send in pictures of family and relatives who served in the US military. Again touching on time, actually spanning several generations, "French Summer Sun" with its twist in storytelling is not just another song about veterans, similarly to "My Best Friend" it raises the question of "what if" and playfully challenges the timeline and leads into an alternate reality. But to tell you more would spill the beans, listen for yourself and grab a hanky.
If the rest of "TO THE PASSAGE OF TIME" holds up to the first three singles we may well have a "Best Album Of The Year"-contender. As he is back on the road, bringing his stories to a venue near you, I can only recommend going and discover these new gems coming our way in August.
TO THE PASSAGE OF TIME:
01) Nothing On You
02) These Things
03) The Luxury of Dreaming
04) Back To Normal
06) French Summer Sun
08) Saturday Night
09) My Best Friend
10) To the Passage of Time
"French Summer Sun"
"My Best Friend"
"Back To Normal"
7/24: Buda, TX - The Chambers Theatre
8/1: Fort Worth, TX - The Post at River East #
8/6: Saint Jo, TX - Red River Station #
8/7: College Station, TX - Smitty K’s ^
8/14: Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
8/15: Cheyenne, WY - Terry Bison Ranch
8/17: Billings, MT - The Pub Station Taproom
8/18: Bozeman, MT - Live from the Divide
8/19: Stanley, ID - Mountain Village
8/20: Boise, ID - Neurolux
8/22: Republic, WA - Republic Brewing Company
8/26: Houston, TX - McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
8/27: Austin, TX - Saxon Pub
8/28: Fort Worth, TX - Tulips FTW
8/29: New Braunfels, TX - The Redbird Listening Room
9/3: Manitou Springs, CO - Lulu’s Downstairs
9/4: Greeley, CO - Moxi Theater
9/9: Tahlequah, OK - Diamondhead Resort
9/10: Kansas City, MO - Knucklehead’s Saloon #
9/15: Decatur, GA - Eddie’s Attic
9/17: Newport, KY - Southgate House
9/18: Eldorado, IL - Eldorado Town & Country Days +
11/27: Denton, TX - Andy’s Bar and Grill
Sources: Missing Piece, jasoneady.com, Originally published in my Honky Tonk Daily Blog.
The Cold Stares may be the first US band on tour after Covid and if you are lucky enough to be in Scandinavia you should not miss out to go see them. Destined to headline with their high voltage amalgam of Blues and Rock, this could well be your last chance to see the band playing in clubs. Recently signed to a Dutch label, they will be previewing their forthcoming August release "HEAVY SHOES."
Two years ago I received a request from drummer Brian Mullins of The Cold Stares to play the Spring Fling Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Seeing that it was a duo, I first contemplated putting them somewhere into the afternoon line-up. Damn, was I wrong! The sheer power of their then album "MOUNTAIN" blew me away. I immediately knew Brian and his bandmate, guitarist Chris Tapp deserved a coveted evening slot, normally reserved for full-sized bands. Rocking the house with their mixture of rock, (hill country) blues, southern Gothics, and some punk influences, they left the audience mesmerized. That summer they followed up with the “WAYS” album which garnered them even more critical and audience praise.
Like most bands, the last 14 months, saw them staring at blank walls instead of filled halls. Even though not being able to tour, they released a 4-song digital EP "BLACK SUNSET" and were signed by Mascot Records in the Netherlands, who will release their label debut "HEAVY SHOES" on August, 13th. They also worked together with Tres Hombres and Rootsy on their current European tour, which unfortunately got cut short due to another Covid lookdown in the UK and Germany. But in Scandinavia, Denmark and Sweden opened up and the Cold Stares are thrilled to be back on the road, as Brian messaged in a comment:
“We are super excited to be the first US band to tour Scandinavia after the pandemic. We are also stoked to be a part of the Mascot family.”
The message of "In The Night Time" from their forthcoming album salutes every true music fans yearning to go out and see live music again.
In the night time, there is a rhythm now In the night time, there is a rhythm now See the people walking down the street Hear the shuffling of their feet Turn on the music when the sun goes down Clock strikes midnight you can hear the sound
The future may make The Cold Stares despite their band name smile, not only is another European tour already in plans but they were also booked to the Aftershock Festival in October with headliners Metallica and Social Distortion and next year will see them on Joe Bonamassa's "Keeping The Blues Alive" sea-cruise. Maybe walking in "Heavy Shoes" may get a little lighter in the near future.
Last year I achieved nothing but living in a funk and surviving for another 366 days. A couple of times a year, I tried to balance my sheet, but most of my ambitions went nowhere. Even though the musical output of 2020 was amazing, the blurdays just passed me by. I couldn't find the words to review and share my other reality with the people around me. Goals to ameliorate were boxed up and put in storage.
So here I sit again, pondering. January 1st is my groundhog day. Not as if I can see my shadow, then it's gonna be a shitty year, but more like the movie, that's the way every year starts. Well, today - to check off at least one resolution for the year to come - I thought I'll introduce you to my musical groundhog day.
They called him "Hillbilly Shakespeare" with good reason, like the Bard Of Avon, Hank Williams had an immense appeal to the masses, and like the English poet rewrote literature, Williams as a proto-rocker changed the American songscape. He passed away, only 29 years old, in the back of a powder-blue Cadillac on the way to Canton, Ohio, where he was scheduled to play on New Year’s Day, 1953. Even though not formally educated and pandering often to his audience that he knows every pig-road in Alabama, he had a flair with words painting whole pictures with one- or two-liners. As he sings in his song "Long Gone Lonesome Blues:"
I went down to the river to watch the fish swim by
But I got to the river so lonesome I wanted to die, oh Lord
And then I jumped in the river, but the doggone river was dry
She's long gone, and now I'm lonesome blue
As the song goes on, the suicidal tendencies get a bit softened and almost turn comical when we learn that he hadn't seen the missing "she" for a day or two. But the idea stuck and another great songwriter, Don McLean borrowed it, when he put "drove the Chevy to the levy, But the levy was dry" into "American Pie," yes that song, the song about the day the music died. It happened too often in 2020 and the list of friends and acquaintances I lost is unbearable long.
"Living's mostly wasting time, And I'll waste my share of mine" from "To Live Is To Fly" almost seems like the credo of the last nine-plus months and segues us to another great, that passed away on New Year's Day, 44 years after his hero, Hank. I met Townes Van Zandt only one time, in late April of 1993 while hanging backstage at Nanci Griffith's video recording of "Other Voices, Other Rooms" at the Paramount. Earlier that day I had attended the TV-taping of Willie Nelson's Big 6-0 Birthday celebration, and me sharing to Townes that I just saw Nelson duetting with Bob Dylan on "Pancho And Lefty" was an easy conversation starter. We didn't waste much time that night.
There is a great solo session from 1995, that I originally wanted to post, but then I discovered a clip I haven't seen yet - Townes singing on of his road songs, "Snowing On Raton" and saw that Blaze Foley is singing backup, Leland Waddell pounding the drums, I "had" to change it. Snow seems so much more appropriate for this time of the year and the call of the road always tempting.
When the wind don't blow in Amarillo
And the moon along the Gunnison don't rise
Shall I cast my dreams upon your love, babe
And lie beneath the laughter of your eyes
It's snowin' on Raton
Come morning I'll be through them hills and gone
Mother thinks the road is long and lonely
Little brother thinks the road is straight and fine
Little darling thinks the road is soft and lovely
I'm thankful that old road is a friend of mine
Tommy Hancock, Godfather of West Texas music danced his way into heaven and joined Hank and Townes a year ago. The self-proclaimed patriarch (only due to his large family) was mostly known to a younger generation as the barefoot dancer and his book "Zen and the Art of Texas Two-Step" is a philosophical approach about spreading love on the dance floor. After a stint as a 16-year old in the military during WWII, Tommy had the most influential musical group in West Texas, the Roadside Playboys, the house band at the legendary and integrated Cotton Club in Lubbock, which in the Fifties also saw the rise of Rock'n'Roll. As an owner, he turned the venue into the first Cosmic Cowboy outlet, where Cowboy and Hippies mingled, even before the better known and adored Armadillo World Headquarters opened in August 1970.
Tommy X. and daughter Conni Hancock
A decade later, the Playboys then transformed into The Supernatural Family Band moved South to Austin, and first established themselves on Travis Heights. Even after their subsequent move out of town to the lake, the Swiss-style chalet house was known as the Hancock house. Charlene, Tommy's wife, and two of his daughters, Conni and Traci formed the "Texana Dames" while Tommy kept on releasing singles under his Tom X. alias. "Party Of One" - seems like a theme song for this last year - is from a collaboration with guitarist John X. Reed under the band moniker Los Dos Equis (as in the two Xs) "Austin Tea Party" from 2001, by then Tommy was already inducted into the Austin Chronicle Music Awards Hall of Fame. A year later The Supernatural Family Band got elected into the Country Music Association of Texas Hall of Fame.
Barely a week in Austin - after moving there from Switzerland - on Sunday, January 6th, 1991, I attended John Conquest's "Music City"- later called "3rd Coast Music"- magazine's annual poll celebration at Chicago House. Green behind my ears, the event promised not only fabulous music but much needed new contacts in my new hometown. Betty Elders and Jimmy LaFave were the big winners that night, each carrying home three awards. And then David Rodriguez, who won for Best Independent Tape, offered some songs from that winner, "MAN AGAINST BEAST" and had everybody mesmerized. Long story short, I sent that tape to a Swiss record label, Brambus and a year later, David had his first proper European release appropriately titled "LANDING 92." He featured his teenage-daughter Carrie on fiddle on the opening track "Constant War." His (often sardonic) wit and compassion not only shone through his songs but also in his political engagement to fight for the poor and the racially oppressed. It was David who introduced me to East Austin when it was cool, although segregated by the highway, but not a hipster part of town. Quite often I would take visitors from Europe to this other side, be it for breakfast or for dancing to a Mariachi band. David would have been 69 today, he passed in October of 2015.
Steve Ripley would have been 71 today. Originally I had "Baby Likes To Rock It" by The Tractors, where Steve was the frontman, in mind to be featured, but then I stumbled upon "Can't Get Nowhere" from their 2001 release "FAST GIRL" with some amazing guests; legendary guitarist James Burton, drummer DJ Fontana, who co-wrote the song with Steve and Fats Kaplin on fiddle and lap steel. Ripley was an integral part of the Oklahoma music scene and especially what is called the Tulsa Shuffle, think Leon Russell and J.J. Cale. Before forming The Tractors in the late '90s Ripley and all the other original members made their names as musicians playing with everyone from Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, and Leonard Cohen to Bob Dylan. Original drummer, Jamie Oldaker, who also used to play with Bob Seeger and Clapton, joined Steve when he passed in July of last year.
In the mid-'90s, (Texas) Vireo record label boss Mike Niland called me out of the blue to tell me about these two brothers out of the Bandera area, he's fixin' to record an album with. That's how I got my introduction to Charlie and Bruce Robison. Unfortunately, at that time it was hard for an independent label to squeeze their artists onto the radio and therefore charting. Only after both signed with Sony imprint Lucky Dog were they able to achieve bigger success, younger brother Bruce mostly as a songwriter with several #1-hits to his name and Charlie actually cracking the lower regions of the charts. By the time they were let go from the label Texas had its own Red Dirt-Texas music chart, and both brothers were immediately able to establish themselves as regional stars in Oklahoma and the Lone-Star state. On his first Dualtone release "GOOD TIMES" one can find the superbly x-rated, pictorial "New Year's Day."
I can't remember who lit the fire for Slaid Cleaves' writing in me, maybe it was Karen Posten, who co-wrote "Horseshoe Lounge" an ode to one of my favorite and truly missed watering holes in South Austin with Slaid. Or Danny Santos' buddy Steve Brooks who helped pen "One Good Year."
It's a bitter wind
in your face every day
It's the little sins
that wear your soul away
When you start giving in
where do the promises all go
Will your darkest hour
write a blank check on your soul
Time flies: It's been 20 years since "One Good Year," off Slaid Cleaves' second album for Philo ''BROKE DOWN," came into my world and has become my ritual, another New Year's groundhog. By now the song and I agree, giving in is not an option and we keep chasin' grace; it can only get better.
According to a story by OpenCulture.com, a daily inspiring newsletter, I highly recommend; 105 years ago, Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci denied in "Avanti!" the setting of dates, as they are "spiritual time-serving" and forcing life into repeating series of "mandatory collective rhythms."
"I want every morning to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my pauses myself when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to plunge into animality to draw from it new vigour."
So let's hope we won't get derailed this year and I will make the dawning of new musical rhythms my new day's resolutions. Avanti, popolo!