Urban Folk

the zine on the acoustic scene
Ben Godwin

the Fools Urban Barnyard

Rav Shmuel

our tenth issue is full of features... all free for you and me!

UF X - the tenth issue of the number one fanzine
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “Oi, is this issue gonna be any better than the last?” And you’re probably wondering, “Well, how could it not be?” And now you’re thinking you’re being a little hard on the poor struggling fanzine writers, photographers, editors and publishers who strive, month after month, just to make you read their papers. And you’re feeling somewhat bad about your earlier tone, and you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help them out. “Is there anything I can do to help out this fanzine?” you’re probably muttering aloud right now. We can hear you. The answer is yes. Contribute to Urban Folk. We want your reviews, we want your features, we want your photographs or art of the acoustic music scene. We want your ads. We want your classifieds. We want you, in all the possible, needy ways you can imagine – and some you can’t. It takes the Village to make a scene. Help out.





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My Dinner with the Fools
Dan Costello
“Even Fools know in spite of your trying You can’t grow a tree by screaming at seeds. So go with the flow, quit all that crying Take it so slow, cuz that’s how trees grow, so slow.” - the Fools, “Even Fools Know” The beautiful musical duo The Fools arrive at my house just past eight o’clock. I’m cooking asparagus risotto, which is the last element of what aims to be a balanced and complete meal. You can’t leave risotto sitting to cook; it gets lonely and uninspired. Mike has not yet arrived. My roommate Alex is out buying candles. I’ve been psyching myself up for this event for weeks. And now that it’s finally happening, there’s a dual layer of anticipation and stress as we embark on our dinner. When Alex arrives home from his quick bodega run, he offers the Fools a tour while I finish at the stove. This is the living room, these are the messy bedrooms, this is the neat musician’s bedroom, this is the bong, etc. The whole tour takes thirty seconds. Mike arrives, parks a seat on the couch and gets started on some french bread and smoked gouda munchies I’ve set out. We’re having dinner because I’m writing about The Fools for Urban Folk, and I didn’t want to have a plain old Q&A style interview with them. This band is too chill. Jen Tobin, who sings and plays guitar, has a nervous offstage energy when it comes to being the center of attention, a rattle that sits just below a calm demeanor. Uchenna Bright, who plays bass, is the smart, level-headed, girl next door. As a musical unit The Fools offer nothing superfluous. Just ease, pure emotion and – aside from the fast, percussive flutter of the six string – a complete lack of aerobics. Their performances appear effortless. When Jen sings, it’s the most relaxing feeling. Like the wind picked up just slightly, and tossed a melody into your ear. Not everyone’s ear, just yours. Uchenna’s bass lines alternate between twisting around the melody and providing a powerful root foundation. Their music is personal, it’s familiar. It’s quaint, and it’s anything but formal. A sit-down, tape-recorded conversation, to be edited down to its most factual core, was simply not going to work for them. Or me. Just the presence of a recording device would impede the vibe. So I invited them over for a dinner party, and also invited one of the most talented and smart people I know, Mike Campbell. He goes by the musical moniker A Fermata, and also plays drums in Creaky Boards and the various

photos by Herb Scher
bands I am in. I thought he’d make a good addition and ask some interesting questions. Uchenna brought two bottles of red wine. So did Alex. Coupled with my supplies, all the bases have been exceedingly covered. Jen brought Coors Light, and asks if I mind that she drinks beer instead of wine. I encourage her to drink whatever she likes. Nothing’s being written down, but everything is on the record. I ask, is there anything that’s off limits? Ah, the first reminder that I will be documenting some portion of the evening. Uchenna tells me she’ll let me know if we get there.

Jen and Uchenna have known each other for ten years, since they met playing soccer as students at Rutgers. They have a synergy on and off stage which is rare and intriguing. They’re in constant consultation. Uchenna seems to be the wiser, apt to play devil’s advocate or to share a larger world view. Jen appears more addled at times, somewhat brooding, perhaps struggling for complete clarity, second guessing her impulse, or at least just trying to make sure she didn’t upset anyone. She’s also one of those people who feels very strongly, it’s clear in her songs and in conversation that she has a genius’s intensity. She is fascinated by things. When I first posed the idea of an interview, Jen told me, if I was writing an article on her band for a music magazine, that I was making a dream come true. That sort of gratitude pervades her spirit. I get the impression she is not easily impressed but is easily moved. I’ve known these two for about six months, and every time I see or talk to them they are the sweetest, most caring people I know. It’s no wonder they came together. Everything about the two of them seems to line up, to fit perfectly. Aside from the

wine/beer thing... Mike picks the first bottle to open, a Chilean Carménère. Uchenna reaches for the wine key and Jen opens a Coors Light. We all toast. Dinner’s ready, and after a brief conversation where it’s understood that everyone smokes, we spark up a pre-dinner joint. There are no rules tonight, no schedules. Low Key. Chill. Alex, having toasted, migrates to his bedroom to play Warcraft. I ask Jen and Uchenna if they brought over any music, as in preparation I asked them to provide our soundtrack. Stuff they like. Yes, we brought music, but it’s probably all the stuff you avoided in high school. The Fools listen to mainstream music, stuff like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Jen considers Clapton a big influence. Uchenna favors classic R&B. I meet them somewhere in the middle, and put on an iPod mix of Paleface, Clapton, Nirvana Unplugged, Morrison Hotel and Nina Simone. Plenty stoned, we congregate in the kitchen to serve ourselves buffet style. We all sit at the table with heaping plates of lemon herb chicken, asparagus risotto, and baby spinach salad. Bread, Wine, Candles. Another toast. Let’s eat. Jen and Uchenna have been having trouble making their new album, seven songs called “Lost and Found”. Having worked with one engineer for a while, they just started with some people associated with Bowery Poetry Club. They are working once per week in a cold basement, which Jen says makes it hard to sing and hence, to record. Mike concurs, there’s nothing worse than recording when your voice feels sub par. I ask Jen if she’s a perfectionist. She is. And also, she’s excited and impatient to have something completed. They’ve had four or five sessions and she’s disheartened that there aren’t any finished tracks yet. Uchenna asks what do you expect after four or five sessions? I don’t know, Jen says as she takes a breath, I guess I thought there’d be something to listen to. Uchenna tells her that she thinks the vocals sound great, and reminds her that you can’t rush things like albums. Jen remembers her song “Even The Fools,” which

describes the same notion. She says she writes her songs to sing to herself. And while recalling the four short lines of the song, she embodies the calm patience advocated in the lyric. I refer back to a conversation I had with Uchenna a week earlier, about using found sounds (i.e. pots and pans, passing trains, etc.), Jen doesn’t seem convinced it’s a good idea. “Do I Move You?” comes on. Uchenna asks, is this Nina Simone? I nod. Uchenna smiles, and professes love for Nina. Sometimes it takes a symphony, Jen says. Sometimes it doesn’t. Whatever serves the song. I mention that I like the brevity and simplicity of their music. Two nights later, Mikey will insist that I write about their wisdom, both of them, and then their ability to be just chilling. He considers it a profound and unexpected duality. Our dinner was very talkative. Suddenly, very concerned, Jen asks about Alex, as he’s not at the table. Oh, he’s playing his computer, he’s OK. She asks Is he going to eat? Yes, but he’s a die-hard Warcraft player and can’t put down the controls just yet. But he’ll eat, I promise. I open wine bottle three. Jen finishes eating first. I’m still wolfing down bread and butter. I get more risotto. I can’t stop! Mike gives the meal four stars, and when we retire back to the couch, we get started right away on joint two. My roommate Greg comes home, ready to meet everyone and hang out. After those introductions, Mikey suggests we pass the guitar around. I start, with a rousing (if very forced) version of “I’m Sorry.” Sometimes when the moment hits, out of some self-assigned pressure, you pick the wrong song to start a jam. I finish, lost in my head, and hand the guitar to Jen. Do you want Uchenna to play too? I pull the bass and the near-broken amp from my pile of musical toys, jiggling the cord so it sits in the jack, and secure the connection. Uchenna owns a beautiful red Fender bass, but this one is Greg’s – one of those heavy metal, jagged shaped ones, like the hybrid of a Flying V and a swastika. Uchenna is polite and smiles, but I can see her dismay at its strange shape. Jen and Uchenna play a soothing version of “The Well,” which perfectly diffuses the tension of my rushed, hokey first song. Jen comments that the guitar (my partner Rachel’s Martin) is the nicest she’s ever played. Jen passes the guitar to the left and Greg pretends for a minute he knows how to play, then passes it over to Mike who charms all of us with his wonderful song “Glass Cockroach.” Jen’s in love with the imagery and tells him so. She also likes my song “Lady Which Way,” which I play by request. After that I ask for her version of “Only the Fools,” a song she never plays anymore and I have covered at Sidewalk having only heard recorded. We discuss the lyr-

ics. It’s all about love. Uchenna mentions that even their sad songs are hopeful. I like the lyric “you should get back on that staircase honey” and it’s imagery of ascension. Jen comments that when she was a kid, if she got in trouble her punishment was to sit on the stairs. She turned a negative memory into a positive lyric when she changed the original “sit back on that staircase” to the more persevering “get back on that staircase.” I comment on the beauty of their language and its effect on me. Jen says she listens to her songs all the time. I write them to make myself feel better, she says. We open wine bottle four and I serve dessert. – brownies and vanilla ice cream. A perfect combination, a melding of light and dark, crumbly and creamy. The brownies are a little overdone, which I attribute to the small print on the Duncan Hines box and my inability to read it. No one seems to mind. Jen chastises me for cutting around the burnt edges in the pan. That’s my favorite part, she says. I play some of the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack, including the song “Fool For Love.” The Fools LOVE songs with the world “fool” in them. They celebrate those songs like ecstatic children celebrate new puppies on Christmas morning. At this point, with all the serving done, and all the food consumed, I become much calmer. We discuss Rachel, abroad in New Zealand. I play them a brand new song. Mikey decides that the words inside and outside his head no longer make enough sense and decides to head home. Alex does some dishes. I’m reclining in a chair, intensely writing the first few lines of the article in my

head. Then I start my fact listing. They are in their late twenties. Uchenna works on a website called GoodToBeGreen.com, which connects property owners with eco-friendly suppliers and professionals. Jen didn’t want me to forget the website. I know one of them’s from Seattle, one’s from Ohio; will I remember which is which in the morning? At some point around 12AM I turn to the couch and Jen and Uchenna are deciding how to politely leave. They think I’m sleeping. Maybe I was. I muster enough energy to sit up, trying in vain to reclaim my hosting skills. But this has been such a low key evening and we’re all wiped out – from the wine, from the smoke, from the food. And now, just like at a Fools show, you could hear a pin drop to the floor. I feel great about the evening. Like their music, the meal felt familiar and easy. I like that they are unusually beautiful people, artists, and performers. That they find hope in the darkest images. That the best is yet to come, and you have to throw the lies away in order to see it. And I start to feel impatient. Like Jen, I can’t wait for their album to be done. But tonight is over. These two have the long train ride to Harlem ahead. We drink the last of bottle four. Hugs go around; we have a thank-you-no-thank-you moment. They hope I have enough to write about. I assure them I do, and not to worry. The door closes, I turn the deadbolt, heap ice cream onto one more brownie, find my slippers, and sit down to write. Ah, fuck it. I’ll write tomorrow. I’m turning on some more Nina Simone and smoking a cigarette out the window. myspace.com/thefools_lostandfound

Urban Barnyard
fit for man and beast
Justin Remer photos by Herb Scher
Urban Barnyard was originally a trio consisting of AntiFolk scene staples Phoebe Kreutz, Dashan Coram, and Dibson Hoffweiler, aka Dibs. The idea was to do all songs about animals in the city (like the name implies.) The approach is a mixture of silliness and sweetness, with stories often pulled from recent news story headlines, like the early effort “A Tiger in Harlem,” based on the incident where a man was busted for having a menagerie in his apartment. Another early crowd favorite is called “Horseys in the City.” Soon, the trio recruited Daoud Tyler-Ameen to play some drums and Casey Holford to play bass (However, at this point, the multi-talented musicians are just as likely to swap instruments with each new song they play). The quintet recorded the lo-fi album Nay, Whoa, Let’s Go!, which includes songs about, among other things, the Natural History Museum’s fake whale going on vacation and Casey Jones’s envy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dashan departed from Urban Barnyard in 2005, before the recording of the group’s second release, the genrehopping polished pop EP That’s The Idea, which includes a surf-rock song about sewer rats surfing on human refuse and a Christmas song from the point of view of the rams in the manger. Sitting with the four current members of Urban Barnyard is to witness a group of talented friends goofing off. The conversation naturally hops from the singing oeuvre of Cookie Monster to Elliott Smith. An impromptu group singalong, where everyone garbles their words in mock-Eddie Vedder style, immediately shifts to a discussion of song structure. It’s sort of a shame I had to break the fun up by asking questions. Urban Folk: It seems like a lot of people on the scene – and a lot of people in this group – form bands that last a short time, sometimes a gig or two. Why does Urban Barnyard stick around? Casey Holford: Probably because it’s so much fun. Phoebe Kreutz: Yeah, I think there’s something sort of magic-y about the concept – Casey: Not magical; magic-y. Phoebe: Gah-dammit, Chach! Casey: [chuckles] Sorry. Phoebe: Anyhow, it’s just such a silly thing to do that… you can just do it. It’s less pressure, I think. And then because you can do whatever you want, you end up wanting to do it more. Plus we’re always hanging out with each other anyway, we might as well be practicing. UF: How did the group start? I get the impression the genesis is mostly to do with you two [Phoebe and Dibs] and not so much with you two [Daoud and Casey]. Daoud Tyler-Ameen: Yeah, you guys should tell him about starting the band, because I don’t even know how you got the idea. Casey: I do! But I’m not telling. [Phoebe laughs.] Dibson Hoffweiler: Phoebe and I were hanging out in Central Park, and we saw horses… in the city. Casey: But in the park. Dibs: It was the city! City park. Phoebe Kreutz: That’s right, and we actually had a conversation: “Where do they keep the horses?” Dibs: Yeah, that song is very much what we said, us hanging out in the park. But I think it was between the park visit and actually writing the song that you came to Dashan and me and you said, “I have this great idea for a band.” Then we wrote the song “Horseys in the City.” Phoebe: I remember that we wrote the song and then we performed the song at Sidewalk at some point, and then afterwards I said – or maybe even on stage I said – “Hey, we should make this a permanent band.” Casey: I like the “on stage” version. Phoebe: It’s more dramatic. Casey: Yeah. Phoebe: For when they’re making the movie of Urban Barnyard. UF: So how did the rest of the band come in? Casey: I was the last person to join. Phoebe, Dibs, and Dashan recruited Daoud and then they recruited me. Daoud: I started hanging around Sidewalk in June 2002, and I met Dashan, Dibs, and Phoebe briefly in the summer of ’03. And then that winter, there was the DibsAnd-Dashan-Have-Been-Friends-For-A-Year Show, and I came down for that and played. Casey: That’s so sweet. Dibs: It was our anniversary show. Daoud: There must have been like 10 acts. Dibs: There were half-hour acts starting at 7:30, and Urban Barnyard played at 1am. Casey: Holy crap. Daoud: That was the first night of the cardboard-box bass drum. I had to be at school, but I heard about that show,

and I was like “I’m cashing in on this friendship, come hell or high water.” Dibs: And it worked! Daoud: Yeah. I didn’t want to bring all my stuff, so I stuffed a cardboard box with newspaper, folded over an edge, and screwed the bass pedal onto it. I wrote “Urban Barnyard!” on the front. But I spaced it out wrong, so it read “Urban Barny” dash “ard.” Exclamation point. Casey: Actually, the way I joined the band is kinda boring. I think Dashan just walked up to me and was like, “I want you to play bass in Urban Barnyard,” and I was like, “…Oh… okay.” Daoud: Dashan actually did send one email though where he wrote, “I don’t think that bastard Casey’s gonna join the band.” [Everyone laughs] Casey: That’s awesome. That was definitely the beginning of Dashan’s and my friendship. We weren’t really friends before then. UF: Why isn’t Dashan in the band anymore? Phoebe: Um… at some point, we just started being more poppy and less experimental. And I think it was just sort of a natural thing. Dashan didn’t really want to be in a pop band, and I think rather than fight that – I mean, he still liked us – he just said, “I’m not gonna do it anymore.” But, it was an amicable split. Casey: Yeah, totally amicable. UF: You four are working on a new album, right? Daoud: Yeah, we gotta get back to that. Phoebe: We did all the instrumentals for the most part. Casey: A lot of it’s done. Phoebe: It’ll be good to have the new one because it’ll be more representative of what we do now. Although the That’s The Idea EP is pretty close. UF: How was Nay, Whoa, Let’s Go! recorded? Casey: At Dashan’s house, at his studio. Dibs: When he was up in Harlem. Daoud: In an afternoon. And they’re all first takes. Dibs: What? Daoud: And it sounds like it. Dibs: I know it SOUNDS like it, but... Daoud: Well, maybe we did one retake or something, but I think the main idea was to just record as much as we could with me, since it was August and I had to go back to school in like a week. So we did my drums and my vocals, and you guys filled in other stuff later. UF: I heard Nay, Whoa, Let’s Go after hearing your more recent EP That’s The Idea, and I thought it was like night and day, with the newer disc being much more polished. Is that just a

result of you guys doing this for a longer time, or because you started to care more or…? Dibs: I wouldn’t say we care more or less, just different. Daoud: Well, we probably wouldn’t make a record like the first one anymore. Dibs: I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if we made something as crazy and noisy and as hastily put-together as that again. Daoud: I guess the track that we have on the Anticomp Folkilation – that’s sort of like that. Dibs: Right. It’s like these people asked us to record a song, and then we basically didn’t do it. [Everyone laughs] So what do we do? We have a show, so let’s record a song live that we don’t have recorded yet and give that to them. UF: What’s the deal with one of the other tracks that’s on the Anticomp listed as being by a group called “The Real Urban Barnyard”? [Everyone laughs] Phoebe: That’s Dashan’s band. UF: What distinguishes the R.U.B. from the O.G. U.B.? Phoebe: I haven’t heard the R.U.B. yet. Dibs: You haven’t? It’s amazing! I was talking to Dashan the other day, and we came up with an idea for a Real Urban Barnyard song. Casey: Whoa, are you conspiring—? Daoud: Are you joining the Real Urban Barnyard? Dibs: I might join the Real Urban Barnyard, I don’t know. Phoebe: Wow. Dibs: I don’t know how you guys’ll feel about that. Casey: You might implode if you join the Real Urban Barnyard. UF: So why just songs about animals? Daoud: People have said, “You guys play so well together, have you ever thought about just playing… some songs?” Dibs: [chuckles] Why would we do songs?

Daoud: Working in that narrow frame – songs about animals – has allowed it to continue. Phoebe: Yeah, it seems if you could walk into a room and you can write a song about anything you want, then I don’t even know how you’d start. Collaboration is so hard, and I think having a concept we can all focus on makes the collaboration process easy. Casey: Yeah, I wouldn’t like to think about what would happen if we tried to write about, like… Dibs: Feelings? Daoud: People breaking up with us? Casey: Yeah. Phoebe: But the songs kind of end up being about those things anyway. That’s sort of the magic-y part. UF: Do the words come first, or do you fuck around with the tune and then see what words stick? Daoud: It comes both ways. Casey: And, on prior occasions, Dibs and Daoud have brought fully-written songs and said “Here’s an Urban Barnyard song.” Daoud: The stories are everywhere to be found. Dibs and Phoebe are the most watchful eyes in that department. They’re the ones who will email the rest of us stuff they found on the AP wire about, like, a whale that swam all the way up the Thames or… Casey: Yeah, we actually do research, which you wouldn’t expect. The cricket song started because of a news story Dibs found. Dibs: Yeah, we were playing in Toronto, so I was looking up Toronto news, and I found an article about a cricket being the world’s most virile sex machine. It can have sex more than any other creature on— Casey: Yeah, it can have sex like 60 times an hour— Dibs: Four times a minute, something ridiculous like that.

Casey: And when I got that, I wrote back saying, “Can we write a funky, like…” Dibs: James Brown tribute. Casey: Yeah. About a sexy cricket. So then we got together knowing how we wanted the song to sound. We messed around in, like, the funk idiom, and then we listened to some Motown, and we kind of combined the two. And, meanwhile, Phoebe generally writes most of the lyrics. Phoebe: I’m not holding any instruments, so it’s easy for me to keep the pad and pen. [Everyone laughs] Casey: But also it comes really naturally to you to write the stuff. You’re the voice that most people are familiar with when they listen to the lyrics of our songs. Phoebe: I think the way the band writes songs now is allinclusive. Everyone’s just jamming around, and you just pick up on some little thing and think, “Oh that could be a cool moment in a song.” Consistently, I think we’ve written a lot of songs that we like just by farting around. UF: How do you go back and write your own songs then? Casey: We don’t. Phoebe: I don’t write any of my own songs anymore. Dibs: Actually, have we all kind of stopped? Daoud: Oh, that’s no good. I thought I was the only one. Casey: But I’m used to my personal songwriting coming in waves. Before I knew you guys, there was a period where I didn’t write a song for 1 1/2 to 2 years. And I’ve learned to be fine with that. Daoud: It’s the sort of difficulty we just never face. Our songs are written in a sitting, in a practice, or they’re not written at all. Casey: Daoud, do you have long underwear on? Daoud: Yeah. Dibs: And the great thing with the band is you can just add ideas – part of a guitar line, or a few lyrics – and in the end you’ll have a song anyway. And they’re songs that none of us could write on our own usually. Phoebe: Yeah, a lot of times I would want to write a certain type of song, and I just don’t have the skill set to play a guitar like that or something. Dibs: It allows us to be lazier & better at the same time. UF: Cool. Any other thoughts? [Everyone shrugs] Phoebe: I think that’s it. I don’t think I have anything left to say. Casey: Yeah, but how about anything right to say? Phoebe: Chach, Gah-dammit! urbanbarnyard.com

After the Electric Moon
travelogue 2006 (part 2 of 2)
Chris Maher
In late-Spring, after my return from the April Fools’ Tour, I hibernated. Bears hibernate in the Winter; I hibernate at various points throughout the year. My excuse in the Spring: Hay fever. Spring pollens hit me hard. At their worst, I’m forced to lock myself inside, shut tight the windows, and dope myself with antihistamines. This year, my normal Spring hibernation was compounded by exhaustion. I stayed in for weeks, read books, wrote emails and before long, crossed the month of May off my list of things to do. By June, I realized that I had been wasting my time, sitting on my ass and, motivated by a fear of dissipating time, I recommenced work on my first album, Epigram on the Death of a Feeling. Simultaneously, I worked with Huggabroomstik on their follow-up to 2005’s Sloppy Kisses and Serious Guitars. For a few weeks in June, Emandee’s owner Mark Ospovat had to see me almost every day. At the end of those weeks, seventeen new Huggabroomstik songs were in the can and my record was nearing the mixing stage. With Epigram so close to completion, I decided to travel West and spend late-July through early-September in Seattle, mixing the album away from the humid bustle of a New York Summer. Mark didn’t have time to transfer the session files before my departure so he agreed to send the files to me as soon as they were ready. By July 12th, I had started basking in the gorgeous Seattle weather. My first weekend out West, I drove North to What the Heck! Fest in Anacortes, Washington and saw many great performances, including a wonderful set by a very pregnant Kimya Dawson. I went swimming in lakes, drank wine, enjoyed the company of some great friends and slept in my old Honda Civic. Back in Seattle, I spent my days drinking coffee, waiting patiently for Mark to send me the Epigram files. Then I received the call that changed the rest of my year: The main Emandee hard drive had crashed and the bulk of the work we had done had been erased. To my dismay, the only complete album back-up was from back in December 2005. This dashed my hopes for a Fall release and rendered my trip to Seattle somewhat pointless. Still reeling from the data loss, in early August, I played a radio show called ‘Phoning It In’, on WMBR 88.1 FM in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The gist: An artist calls up the show’s host, Nadav, and plays a short set through

photos by Dibson T. Hoffweiler
the telephone. My appearance was hampered slightly by my use of a cel and my decision to play newer, lessperfected material. Still, the response was positive and Nadav invited me to play again sometime when I had access to a landline. Several weeks later, I threw my guitar in my trunk and drove down to Rochester, Washington for the 2nd Annual K Records Sleepover. The intimate two-and-a-halfday concert was held on an organic, community-supported farm called Helsing Junction. This was my second year in attendance and my second year playing an impromptu set at the event. Upon finding out that songwriter Beau Johnson and I would both be there, Danny Kelly, scheduled to play a full set, asked Beau and me to join him for an ad-hoc incarnation of The People’s History of the United States - a band Danny had first assembled in New York a few years prior. Unfortunately, we never found the time to put a set together, so Danny graciously gave us both a chance to play some songs during his allotted time. We were playing before the idiosyncratic Scout Niblett and I felt that the two songs I chose to play, “Heather” and “Wires & Sheets,” sounded a bit out of place. I received some reassurance, however, when K head-honcho Calvin Johnson came up to me, lightly punched my arm and said in his trademark baritone: “Sounded good up there.” On the 18th and 19th of August, I played back-to-back shows in Portland, Oregon and Seattle. In Portland, I played a small venue called the Red & Black Café with a college friend, David Knowles, who performs as ‘...ship.’ The following day, I performed at a house-show held at my place of residence, The Delaware. The event was called ‘Baskerhoot’ (a play on the Bumbershoot Festival, happening several days later) and boasted a full day of music, BBQ-ing and booze. I played a wildly enjoyable but modestly drunken solo set and joined my housemate’s band, Throw Me the Statue, on bass. It was our last hurrah as Delaware residents: Our lease was up on September 1st. After moving out, I spent two weeks couch surfing, ditched my car at an airport parking lot and flew East to spend early-Autumn in New York City. During the April Fools’ jaunt, I laid the groundwork for an October tour through Germany and France, should I decide to return. My friend and fellow NYC songwriter, Phoebe Kreutz, had similar plans to tour the United Kingdom and at some point, we decided to join forces for a

two-week October tour through England and Germany. Knowing that I would be in Europe, I arranged to meet Jack Lewis and the Cutoffs (a band I sometimes play in with Simon Beins and Raphi Gottesman) for a two-week tour of France and England, immediately after my dates with Phoebe. In preparation for the tour, I started attending the AntiHoot on a regular basis and two days before my flight to London, played a show at Sidewalk Café that featured a group of friends singing some songs with me under the name the Census Singers. The show – featuring Simon Beins on trumpet – was shambolic but fun. 48 hours after the Sidewalk show, I was disembarking a Virgin-Atlantic 747 at LondonHeathrow, hoping that the notoriously strict UK Customs Officials wouldn’t turn me back to the United States for my lack of a work permit. I made it through with no trouble and took a train from Heathrow to Paddington, switched to the Tube and met up with Phoebe Kreutz. The next day, our ‘Fall Into Europe Tour’ began in earnest. Phoebe and I were traveling by rail and mid-afternoon; we took a train to Brighton for the first show of the tour. We were playing The Hope, an upstairs venue just a short walk from the train station. Upon our arrival, we noticed that the club was peppered with posters advertising a Schwervon/Toby Goodshank/Lisa Li-Lund show that was taking place a few days later. Our tour and their tour were occurring simultaneously but, unfortunately, wouldn’t coincide. A guy named Dillon recorded our sets for his local radio program and although the show was poorly attended, we considered it a good warm up for the weeks to follow. The following morning, we said goodbye to our hosts, Mertle and Larry, and boarded a train bound for Oxford. We arrived in time for a late-lunch at a quaint spot called The Vault, an Organic eatery featuring home-cooked meals served cafeteria style. The restaurant was located in the basement of a centuries-old Church and we ravaged our meals in the adjacent courtyard. It was Phoebe’s birthday and so we indulged in some desserts. As we walked through town, I became instantly smitten with Oxford. Our show was at another upstairs venue above a beer-soaked bar called the Port Mahon. The bill, booked by a quiet college-age fellow named Jamie and

his friend Cat, was shared with two other acts, one of which was a guy who plays under the name King! Phoebe and I agreed that he was an uncanny amalgam of Dibson Hoffweiler and Jack Lewis. The show was well attended and afterwards, we further celebrated Phoebe’s birthday with cake and Jell-O and crashed at Cat’s house. Early the next day, we hopped a train to Sheffield and another to Hull, then a cab to the club, a dank place called the Adelphi. Our cab driver spoke like a Beatle and through his radio, we heard Roy Orbison and Elvis songs. At the club, I spotted a NonHorse drawn in the bathroom, a Thomas Truax sticker on the door and graffiti on the outside wall that read “Who’s Got the Crack?” The show went well, despite Phoebe’s malfunctioning guitar pickup. Gregg Weiss, a former New York-based musician, was at the show, having had a night off from his own, concurrent tour, and shared his wine with me. On the 20th, we had a day off. After going to a guitar shop to get Phoebe’s pickup fixed, we decided to track down Schwervon, Toby and Lisa at their show in Coventry. Coventry was two trains away from Hull but we had little else to do. After a long day of travel, we reached the scheduled venue, The Tin Angel, only to find out that the show had been moved to a place called Taylor John’s House. After a short goose chase, we found the new spot and spent the rest of the night hanging out with the pleasantly surprised Major Matt, Nan, Toby, Lisa and Gregg Weiss, who also happened to be on the bill. Toby’s set included covers of Casey Holford’s “On the Map” and the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” which featured the Major on guitar, Nan on keyboards and me, unrehearsed, on drums. We all crashed at the same house and the next morning, after a fun slumber party, we said our goodbyes. Phoebe and I then headed off to York to play The Black Swan, an inn and bar that sometimes hosts shows. I was very excited to visit the city that gave my beloved hometown its name. Though York seemed geared towards tourists, I liked the place. We dropped our things off at the venue and walked around, eventually grabbing dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called El Piano. Afterwards, we both played ridiculously fun sets to a packed room that seemed to think we could do no wrong. After

the show, until closing time, we sat around drinking with some audience members. The following morning, we traveled back to London for a show at The Spice of Life, relatively new venue in London’s West End. Because it was the start of a holiday week, every train car was packed tight with travelers and we were forced to stand for the majority of our trip. Things didn’t get much better when we arrived in London: It was pouring rain and the show was poorly attended. I played my worst set of the tour, during which I sparred with a bunch of unruly teenage punks after suggesting that the most ‘punk rock’ thing they could do was embrace quietness. After the disappointment that was London, Phoebe and I were anxious to get to Germany. From Stansted Airport, we boarded a Ryan Air flight to Berlin. Stansted was completely overwhelming: Enormously large, crowded and chaotic – I imagined it was what old ship ports must have been like before air travel became the preferred method of crossing large bodies of water. We landed safely at the small Schonefeld Airport where we were greeted by our wonderful friends Sebastian “Sibsi” Hoffmann and our hostess, Charlotte Bartels. Our first show of the German leg of the tour was at Hotelbar, the same place where the April Fools’ Tour kicked off. Phoebe and Heiko “Le Horror Me” Gabriel both played great sets and though I was feeling exhausted and had to battle an inattentive crowd, my set went well, too. The next day, Phoebe, Sibsi and I took a hi-tech, hispeed commuter train to Hamburg where the three of us played at Hasenschaukel, another venue from the April Fools’ Tour. Shortly after arriving in Hamburg, as we made our way to the Reeperbahn, a small, mangy dog came barking at our heels and bit me in the shin. It felt like he broke the skin but when I got to the club and looked, I found no indication that he had. Just in case, I used a wet paper towel to wash off the potentially affected area. Tanju and Anja, the couple who run Hasenschaukel, treated us to a delicious meal that got us ready for a fun night of music. It was great to see Sibsi play a stellar set

of mostly new songs. The following afternoon, our trip back to Berlin was delayed when the Hamburg police were called to inspect a train window fractured by gunshots. We were lucky enough to sit near the affected window and got to watch the police reinforce it with an adhesive piece of clear plastic. When we finally reached Berlin, we rushed to join our New York friends, Ching Chong Song, for a show at Schokoladen. What a party! Melissa, the woman who set up the show, cooked us an amazing dinner and filled us up with wine. Unfortunately, when it was time for my set, my head was elsewhere and I played poorly. Phoebe and Ching Chong Song were both in top form and after more wine, I danced away my cares. The next afternoon, Charlotte brought me to a small, remaining section of the Berlin Wall, and Heiko to a breathtaking Soviet War Memorial hidden away in the enormous Treptower Park. The Memorial was unlike anything I’d ever seen, both in size and scope. That night Phoebe and I played our third and final Berlin show at an American-style restaurant called Hazelwood, also booked by Melissa. At the venue’s expense, we were able to invite four friends to come have dinner with us. Although the place was more of a restaurant than a venue, it was packed with an attentive audience who gave Phoebe and me a very warm reception. The next day, after a goodbye breakfast, Phoebe, Heiko and I took a series of connecting ‘slow-trains’ to Hannover with Josepha and Philipp of the duo Crazy for Jane. The five of us were playing together at a venue called Kulturpalast-Linden. Phoebe and I were booked on an overnight to Paris and so we had to play fast, early sets in order to make it. It was a quick getaway, and we were sad to say goodbye to our foreign friends, but we made the train with time to spare. Despite a crying baby in the neighboring sleeper compartment, the gentle rocking of the train lulled us quickly to sleep. On the morning of October 29th, as we sped towards Paris, Phoebe and I woke to a complementary breakfast of yogurt and croissants. We were near the end of our 2 weeks together, a little rugged and worn out. I was dirty as hell – so were my clothes. Later that day, I was scheduled to play my biggest show of the tour, opening for M. Ward at Le Point Éphémère. Phoebe had the night off. After our train pulled into Gare du Nord, Phoebe and I split up for the afternoon. She stowed her bag and guitar in a train station locker and went sight-seeing. I went looking for a laundromat, hoping to wash my clothes down. After a lengthy search, I found one near the venue. For the next several hours, while my clothes were spinning and sudsing, I plotted that night’s set and tried not to let my nerves get the best of me... to be continued... myspace.com/chrismaher

Ben Godwin
Down to Skin and Bone
Tom Drake
New York greeted Ben Godwin as it does many artists: in the middle of a rainstorm, the polite Englishman arrived, umbrella-less and soaked to play his first show at the now defunct C-Note. No one was there. He soddenly played to a few neighborhood patrons and the other performers. Within months, Ben would migrate the few blocks to the Sidewalk Café, playing the AntiHoot, hoping for a show. He had no idea of how his life and art would change as he entered the AntiFolk world. After spending his late teens and early twenties playing in Glasgow’s burgeoning alternative rock scene, Ben grew tired of the “rock band” world for many reasons, but mostly the consistency with which the songs got lost to the fashion, noise, and theatrics of rock shows. He finds solo performance to be the most honest way to present a song to people. “There’s more available dynamically to the singer. It’s easier to reach people with the ‘no frills, putting the song first’ approach.” He returned to his home of London and began focusing on life as a solo performer. He worked over the next several years, landing a day job as a studio engineer; improving the skills that would help him create the now bundled EPs, Shiny Shiny and Lighter than the Atom. In his four years in London, Ben only produced 12 songs he liked enough to record. After a year in New York, he’s already come up with the same. When first arriving in the City, he would write only about his own experience. “I was doing one of those writing exercises where I’d wake up and write about 1,500 words or so every day. I found that I kept writing the same shit every day. I just got tired of what was in my own head and started more, recording the images around me.” New York is the most inspiring – yet menacing – landscape he’s seen. “There’s urgency here. It’s like a sense of constantly escaping some impending doom,” he says, describing the daily life of the rush

photo by Herb Scher
hour train ride, rats coming too close to the third rail, and how it pushes the imagination. If you’re open to it, there are songs, he says, “landing on your face like a big fuckoff custard pie in the face.” Lach, the host and booker at the Sidewalk Café, has been an inspiration, too. “He has so many ideas on how songs work, how they happen. He lives for the music.” “In London, most of my musical interaction was with artists’ recordings. Here most of it is at shows. You would hear the word AntiFolk or about the Sidewalk Café because of the Moldy Peaches success, but there was no community like this.” He continues, “In London, there were always some people waiting for a big break. Here everyone is out doing it for themselves. There was some of this, like playing squat parties, but for the most part it wasn’t this sort of culture coming up through the cracks.” Godwin credits this sense of community as the main catalyst of his transformation as an artist. Something as simple as sharing a cab back to Brooklyn after an AntiHoot with Dan Costello resulted in the 13-track Halloween Baby, which Ben produced. Soon the Dan and Godwin had recorded innumerable demos at a friend’s loft, and filtered them down during the many long recording sessions at Seaside Studios in Brooklyn, where, only months later, Ben would record his own new record, produced by Dan. “People here aren’t waiting for the right inspiration, or the right gig. They’re taking what’s in their hands and making great art with it.” There are so many artists in the City that inspire him. He talks about them with the same smile a five year-old has looking at his birthday cake or a teenager has after getting laid, and he begins the AntiFolk name drop: Joie/ Dead Blonde Girlfriend, Brook Pridemore, the Bowmans, Eric Wolfson, The Creaky

Boards, Lach and, more intimately, Dan Costello. “Dan’s a real inspiration to work with. In London, I did studio work with whomever I could, but making this (Halloween Baby) was something personal.” He’s learned that when you work with people that really care about music, their contributions will go beyond whatever sound you had in your head. “You find out where your weaknesses are and you can open yourself up.” The songs Ben Godwin writes seem to be as much a part of his life as they are a product of it, and this is the difference between the bundled Shiny/Atom releases and the forthcoming Skin and Bone. All are apt examples of quality songwriting and musicianship, but Skin and Bone, as the title denotes, feels more open and settled in a way that’s honest. It sounds less polished and more like one of those artists finding his/her voice clichés – soaked in the dirt, gasoline, and restaurant grease on the sidewalks and subway platforms of his new home. The album opens with the glorious “Drinking Gasoline” and continues with “New World City,” which moves with the same urgency and impending doom he sees in the City each day. The album continues with rich, buttery tones, captured at Seaside on highlights like “Skin and Bone”, “Paper Thin Walls”, and “Outsize Shoes.” The album, over all, has a dramatic, upbeat musical feel that is well versed in American post-war blues/early rock and roll, jazz-influenced harmonies, pop melodies with an eye for the theatrical. His voice comes across strong, soulful, and present in each and every verse. His presence in song continues in his day job, working for the non-profit Lifebeat, a music industry charitable organization dedicated to AIDS awareness. As in any non-profit profession, Ben performs varied tasks, but focuses on the Hearts and Voices program, arranging musical performances for patients bound to residential facilities. “I get to watch miracles every day. These patients become, not just a person living with this illness, but a member of the audience community,” he says with a glimmer of awe, “I’ve seen people get out of their wheelchairs to dance.” He sees the power of song to be a living and active part of people’s lives, and health. Ben spent a few weeks this winter touring in the UK, and visiting friends and family. “The tour was such a blast. I saw people I hadn’t seen in ten years, who had never seen me without big rock poodle hair! I’m going back in the summer to do a bigger tour.” Looking forward, 2007 holds many exciting things for Ben. He’s seen the pre-

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view party for Skin and Bone (promoting the pre-release on antifolk.net and iTunes) on February 15th at the Winter AntiFolk Festival, with several guests joining him onstage. “I’m having too much fun. I’m just excited to see what happens next, not just with my own record, but with Dan’s, Eric’s, and Vin’s new records coming out.” It is these themes of awe and excitement that are most intriguing about Ben Godwin. It’s not that he’s one of those happy cheerleader types you want to beat to death with a whiffle-bat, or his songs are unnecessarily joyous like some Bible camp sing-along of “Kumbaya” with everybody on ecstasy; in fact, most of them contrast this. His pure wonderment with the nature of what a song is, can be, and what it can mean to people; can easily make one feel like maybe there’s something they’re missing out on. www.bengodwin.com

Our regularly scheduled programming has been pre-empted by a commentarial interlude from Dan Costello When I met Ben, I had no idea we’d embark on such a close friendship and collaboration. Early on, he simply asked me, “Why don’t you have a record?” and I said “I don’t know” and he said, “Well, let’s make you a record.” Without Ben, I probably wouldn’t have made an album, certainly wouldn’t have made Halloween Baby. I just didn’t know enough to do that myself. Producing his album (Skin and Bone) was a joy and a challenge. We are different writers but both striving for the same things through our songs. I think New York is having a wonderful affect on his songwriting, the grit and gristle of the concrete jungle is all over this album, as is the air of revelation. I’m glad to know him (we are both quirky mother fuckers!), and proud of our work on both albums. Go Godwin Go!!!!

Subway Stories
...goin’ underground...
XVII. So I drop off copies of Urban Folk when I’m riding the rails. I consider it a literacy-building act, and a way to eventually rid my apartment of the thousands of copies of the paper. Sometimes, I see results. I’m sitting on a downtown 6 train, heading to the East Village for some musical act or another. There are only four seats in my row, and I’m in one of them. There’s no one sitting next to me, so I drop a copy of the zine to my side, and then go back to whatever mildly pornographic science fiction mystery I’m reading. But I’m peripherally aware of the magazine by my side, and I spy, from the corner of my eye, someone touch it, then finger it. “May I see?” she eventually asks. Inwardly, I grin. Someone wants to look at my zine! Whoo hoooO! “It’s yours,” I reply, eyes remaining focused on my book. A few stops roll by as she reads the paper and I get that warm feeling of embarrassment and pride that comes over when my work’s being observed. She hasn’t dropped it yet. Normally, when I leave a copy on a seat, I have the distinct honor of some B-Boy picking it up, leafing through a couple of pages, realizing that Urban Folk has nothing to do with Urban Fiction or any other Urban marketing, then disdainfully toss it aside. Why did we name this fanzine with a specific word that translates to just everybody in New York City as “black?” But that’s besides the point. The girl to my left is reading what I wrote. Maybe she’ll marry me. My superhuman side-vision tells me she’s not alone on the seat beside me, but still… Eventually, I steel myself and glance slightly to the left. Yep, she’s reading an article I wrote. This is great... We reach Grand Central, and she gets herself ready to go, and she leaves the copy behind her. Damn… But I get a better look as she and her tall dark companion abandon the 6, and I realize, “Hey! That’s Julia Douglass. JULIA DOUGLASS!” OK, now maybe that name means nothing to you, but Julia Douglass is one of the best singer/songwriters I’ve seen on this scene in all my years. She’s a character stylist with a beautiful voice and a hilarious stage manner. Some of her songs include “My Boyfriend is a Genius,” and she did a haunting version of the alreadyhaunting “Ode to Billie Joe.” Her LP, Fetish for the Underdog, debuted in, like, ’98, and got great write-ups most everywhere, including AntiMatters, the only paper that matters. A paper that didn’t write about her, though, was New York Magazine, which did a feature on the AntiFolk scene back in 1994. It was written by Martin Kihn, Julia Douglass’ husband,

presumably the guy escorting her off the train. Of course she’d been interested. They both were. Maybe they were looking for her name. It wasn’t in that issue. But you should see Julia Douglass if she ever plays again. She does like a gig a year now, which is criminally negligent, but maybe if her crowd grows, she’ll up the ante. It ought to happen. Her last album came out in 2003, so the next one should be released any day now. They come around about as often as the downtown 6 train. (Jonathan Berger) http://juliadouglass.com/ XX. The train stopped at another station. People got on, people got off. About then she started bopping her head to an invisible beat. There was no audible music on the train but she was moving to a subtle groove in her seat. She started singing silently to herself as if she had headphones on. The train stopped and a woman sitting across from her exited through the double doors of the subway car. In her place a woman sat down with her two small kids. As she saw the woman with children she stopped singing. She got up from her seat and crossed the train to speak with the mother and play with the kids. They were laughing and talking and telling her about school and their teachers. At Union Square, she waved goodbye to the mother and kids like they were her own aunt, niece and nephew and stepped lightly off the train into the station. They were not her family, though. They were strangers to her and she was strangers to them just as we were all strangers to each other on the L train that day. It may be wrong for me to document these private moments we all shared together that day on the L train. But, too often it seems to be that random acts of kindness and beauty too are unnoticed and unmentioned. It felt good to see someone taking time to remember to sing, if only to themselves. Or to risk sharing a fragile compliment that might make a woman feel good about the sweater she wore that day. She

spoke with the children as people and did not patronize them for their youth or their size. For some, she was just another beautiful woman riding the train into Manhattan. Some may not have noticed her at all. For some she was just killing time between points A and B. For some she inspired soft smiles to crawl across tired faces, if just for a moment. For some it might matter that her name is Regina Spektor. For some it may not. (Satchel Jones) reginaspektor.com

Ish Marquez
On a Two-Way Street
Deenah Vollmer
“You shall call his name Ishmael because The Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him.” Genesis 16:11-12 Ish Marquez smiles like the devil. His shifts and spasms send the microphone back and forth. Head cocked up, he quickly turns to the side and returns to the microphone as if to eat it. He shakes on and off the stool, almost standing, never exactly sitting. He moves the guitar around like he doesn’t know where to keep it, but plays like it’s his only tool to ward off haunting spirits. He sings, howls, and cackles, projecting loudly in a nuanced wide range. His performances are tortured transcendence, and the audience feels it through every lyric, every beat and every cadence. His music is painful and sweet, spooky and ethereal, aggressive and possessed. Raised in the projects of the South Bronx, Ish Marquez incorporates the sounds of New York with Hispanic roots, tribal inspiration, 50s soul, 60s rock, and 70s punk. This is the story of a unique singer and a damaged soul, a performer who fled addiction and found redemption, not in his birthplace, or his adopted home of San Francisco, but across the Atlantic, in Berlin. Many in the German capital had heard of Ish, but few actually knew his music. The only official release from Marquez’ is a single song, “Gin in Not My Friend” on the 2001 Rough Trade Records compilation Antifolk Volume 1, compiled by Adam Green and Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches. “Gin is Not My Friend’ is a true story,” explained Ish, “It really happened. I don’t want people to know me by that. It’s just a moment that happened and I learned from it.” The song is eerie, beginning with aggressive acoustic strumming, and plateaus into the sustained notes of a horn with dogs barking in the background, followed by singing that sounds both self-mocking and desperate. “The song became a party anthem for us,” said Sebastian Hoffmann, 21, a student of American Culture and Sociology at the JFK Institute at the Free University of Berlin, “We became obsessed with it, playing it before going to parties and shows.” Intrigued by “Gin is Not My Friend,” Sebastian sought out more recordings and eventually corresponded with Ish Marquez over email, soon conspiring with friends to bring Ish over to Europe. “We never expected Ish would come. He didn’t seem real to us,” said Sebastian. In fact, Ish does not seem real to most people, even to his friends. He can be a gentleman or a maniac, he can fall in love at the drop of a hat, and swear off close friendships in a heartbeat. Anders Griffen, a Masters student at UCLA, was Ish’s drummer in the Lonesome Crew. Anders described his experience with the band as a roller coaster ride. Ish swore off his friendship with Anders. “My ego really messed everything up,” Ish said. Ish told Anders that he didn’t want Anders ever playing drums with anybody else. Hearing that Anders continued playing drums with others, Ish said, “You’re a terrible friend and this is the last you’ll ever hear from me.” Still, Anders can’t speak ill of his old friend. “Fundamentally, we’re really brothers,” Anders said, “Brothers with different mothers.” People try to explain Ish’s music with a train of disparate genres, but except in hindsight, no fusion of labels can communicate what he is – there is just no language for him. Ish says his music is “if punk and Motown smashed into one another face to face,” and there is a smashing, a climax – violence, debris, pain, redemption – but his music is not so much the impact, but what rises from the smoke. His songs are timeless, unclassifiable. He rides the slippery line between genres, between self-consciousness and ostentatious brilliance, and between sitting on the stool and falling off. In San Francisco, Ish spoke about how he’s been sober for some number of months. The numbers were always changing. He seemed to be doing well, but he also seemed very sad.

An early friend and fan of Ish Marquez, Jeffrey Lewis, remembered Ish’s early 90s band, Hallucination Station. “The band consisted of three Hispanic guys from the Bronx playing two acoustic guitars. The result was weird tribal-Incan-folk-punk with chanting and multipart vocals and interlocking patterns,” said Jeffrey, “And their performances were violent, trance-like, and spiritual, like a weird aggressive, acoustic, ancient Happening.” In 1999, Ish formed the Lonesome Crew with Anders on drums and Scott Fragalla on bass. “I learned to describe what I hear in Ish’s music,” Anders said, “I thought of it as a mixture. Middle Eastern gypsy meets Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan with elements of doo-wop and punk, but I can’t imagine anyone getting a sense of Ish’s music from any description.” Ish played a nylon-string guitar percussively, slapping and whacking the strings. Anders played jazzy drums. The nylon strings through the amplifier produced really weird distorted sounds, remembered Jeffrey Lewis. “It was a full-on rock show!” “On any given night Ish is capable of the impossible,” said Anders, “Ish is totally consumed with the music when it’s time to play. Sometimes he’d turn around during a show and look at me like he never saw me before.” As word spread about The Lonesome Crew, more people came out to see them play, but Ish’s alcoholism got worse, and there began to be more bad shows than good ones. “It was frustrating when people would say ‘this is the great Ish Marquez, what’s so great?’” Anders said. Jeffrey Lewis agreed, “It became the exception to see an Ish performance that really showed what was capable of.” Ish’s inability to maintain a consistent level of excellence contributed to his legendary status. “It’s almost like a tightrope act,” Jeffrey said, “He seems like he is always just about to fail,” He was getting banned from clubs, getting into fights, and playing lousy gigs. “When I think of New York now, I get scared,” Ish said. “I was getting into trouble in New York,” Ish remembered playing music and recording with Spencer Chakedis. “A lot of drinking, a lot of hanging out with Spencer. I was homeless, having trouble with my parents. Couldn’t find a place to live, couldn’t find a job. I was sleeping at Spencer’s. It was so dirty and grimy. There’s only so much you can take of that kind of insanity.”

On the other hand, Ish said, “The one thing keeping me alive was recording with Spencer. The music was literally keeping me alive. As soon as the guitar was off my lap I was just a mess, rolling into oblivion.” He moved to San Francisco in 2004, when drunkenness and homelessness led him to musical obscurity, away from AntiFolk, and away from his fans. In San Francisco, Ish was safe and could heal. “I have orange juice in the fridge,” he said, “and I can walk around my neighborhood at night.” And it was from San Francisco Ish booked a flight during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, to tour the foreign land. None of the folks in Germany knew what to expect from Ish Marquez. They had only heard the whispers and rumors, legends: His dueling alcoholism and sobriety, his absence from New York, and most of all his penetrating music, so possessed and unwieldy that Ish himself seems just a vessel some ancient tribal community uses to communicate through. Ish arrived in Germany in new white sneakers, a button down shirt, a silver chain necklace bearing the cross which was a gift from his mother, and a blue cap – a new outfit he wore so the customs patrol would think he was a “good boy.” The first show was the big one, had people talking about it for weeks, with songwriter Turner Cody and the cartoonish rock act, Dufus. Ish oscillated between confident and nervous, but mostly confident. In an email, Ish wrote: “I am going to blow Dufus and Turner out of the water with my set! I guarantee that those German kids will never see another performer like me again.” The day of the show arrived, the white-tiled room was packed. When Ish opened his mouth he held the complete attention of over a hundred listeners who were silenced by his howling and spellbound by his fiery show. Nobody talked, nobody looked around. His voice was crystal clear, vibrant, exhibiting its full range. “It was a moment in time when everything seemed right,” Ish said later. “I was in good spirits, good health. From the moment I knew I would come to Germany, I knew that show

would mean everything to me… and it did.” Ish played “Gin is Not My Friend” and the crowd responded as if to a familiar anthem, with screams and whoops and singing along. “It’s a humbling experience to watch a room full of people watch Ish sing,” said Turner Cody. “He sings to be heard. He sings as if he is reaching out into the audience to make a connection to everyone who is listening.” Dufus closed the night to a still full house at 3am. Dufus’ Seth Faergolzia thought the show was much better than any he’d ever seen. “I thought his voice was the best I had heard it in years,” Seth said, “He seemed clear-headed and driven with amazing willpower.” Except for a few alcohol-related blips, the month-long German tour went well for Ish, Turner, and the guys who brought them. Ish had a CD to sell at his shows. In fact, he had two. One was the Goin’ Thru compilation, made by Sebastian and Jan Junker. They compiled a decade’s worth of Ish’s music into a sixteen-track CD. Goin’ Thru was released as a special version in 150 copies for the German tour. It contains songs recorded by Marquez solo and with his bands the Drive By Proposals and the Lonesome Crew. “It’s me at my best,” Ish said. Jan visited New York in September 2005 and acquired most of Ish’s recordings from Spencer Chakedis, who played with Ish in the Drive-Bys and recorded many of his songs. Said Spencer, “Me and Ish make a great production team. One time I’m working on a mix and Ish said, ‘make the drums sound like you’re in the rain with George Foreman!’ or I’ll be putting reverb on his vocals he would scream ‘Put me in the mountains!’” Jan also collected Ish’s work from Adam Green, Turner Cody, and Jeffrey Lewis. Jan and Sebastian went through over 150 recorded songs. Jan spent many days and sleepless nights burning the CDs, designing the booklet, and selling them at shows. Jan and Sebastian plan to ship the compilation out to labels; the finished product will feature for the first time artwork, lyrics, comments, dates, and proper credits. “The songs on Goin’ Thru need and deserve to be heard,” Jan said, “Underneath the edginess lie classic, masterfully written songs; and it’s only a small selection.” The compilation also contains the spellbinding “Pukalani Slackers,” a fan-favorite recording embellished with satisfying horns and clapping, but suffering from a poorlymixed vocal track. Legend has it that while in Hawaii, Ish had too much to drink and started drowning in the ocean. Some locals, whom Ish calls slackers, saved him. “My songs are moments in time,” Ish said. “I try to recreate them every time I sing them.” What is communicated on this record, despite the inconsistent recording quality, is Marquez’s brilliant songwriting – simultaneously poppy, complex, weird,

catchy, and soulful. And a voice Turner Cody describes as “some sort of eerie prehistoric whale, Native American, and from a timeless dimension.” There’s also a new album. Ish Marquez’ latest selfrelease, Approaching Su God, is a collection of recently recorded songs, old and new, with guitar, voice, and occasional light percussion of tambourine or clapping – a folk record. The tracks are full, layers of acoustic guitar strumming Spanish rhythms. The production value is higher than anything he has recorded before. In fact, some of the tracks like “Approaching Su God” and “Homage to Casa” are so surprisingly slick that they could probably play on mainstream radio. Missing is the raw passion and offensive off-key howling, but the sincerity of 60s R&B soulfulness abounds. “This CD shows a saner, mature Ish, reflective and less edgy,” said Jan, “It’s really beautiful and serene.” Ish himself calls the record “dreamy.” “Multi-Color China Doll” is one of the catchier song on the record, with the simplest guitar parts – just rhythm and a sweet Asiatic guitar refrain. The song was previously recorded with the Lonesome Crew in 2001. He howls similar howls and even ends both versions by speaking the word “Finis.” The title song “Approaching Su God,” Ish told Spencer, is about “God and the Drive-By Proposals,” a band they shared. “We used to put on too much cologne before shows because we thought we were characters who would use too much cologne,” said Spencer. After the successful German tour, Ish Marquez returned back to San Francisco, renewed. “It’s good for my sinuses here,” he said. “I’m clean,” Ish said, “In fact, when I get out of the shower I always say, “Clean at last, clean at last, thank god almighty I’m clean at last. Do you know who said that? Martin Luther Clean, Jr.” Ish is optimistic, excited about the future, and ready to play more music. “I’m writing new songs, collecting unemployment, behaving myself, and doing what I have to do.” myspace.com/ishmarquez

Rav Shmuel
…a rabbi walks into a bar…
JJ Hayes
Maybe it’s a modern variant on some old folk tale where the hero must answer three questions correctly in order to gain admittance to some Fortress (get it?). Or some more modern story out of Hollywood – the Old Pro sees the light in the newcomer’s eyes, but wants to see if he’s got the right attitude. One day this Hasid shows up at the Sidewalk Café’s AntiHootenany. He sits… listens… cringes every time Lach says something slightly negative about one of the performers, which is not very often, but the Hasid now asserts that he was hypersensitive at the time. Next week he signs up to play. He gets a high number, like 68. He asks Lach what time he will be going on (something this reporter never had the balls to do). After 1:00am is the answer. He then asks if there’s any way he can go on earlier, since he has to get up for work in morning (how nuts is that?). As the Hasid tells it, the conversation went like this: “He goes, ‘what do you do?’ you know and I guess he looks at me like I guess he’s supposed to figure out what I do, and so I said, ‘I play music,’ and he’s like, ‘what kind of music?’ I said, ‘Rock and Roll.’ He said, ‘Are you good?’ And there was that moment of like, hesitation… I was like, ‘Yeah!’” So Lach gets him on stage a tiny bit earlier. The Hasid plays. He is terrified. He feels himself fumbling through a song called “Dumb World,” a hyperkinetic song with ragastyle delivery. “The audience,” he says, “loved it,” and Lach gives him a gig on the spot. Five or six years later Rav Shmuel is again at the Sidewalk Café wondering whether he should even tell this story since it might ruin Lach’s reputation. He is being interviewed by an Irish Catholic whose own songs are like smuggled perambulator parts that, when assembled, keep coming out like machine guns of judgment. A writer who sought out the peace activist and oft imprisoned Jesuit priest, Daniel Berrigan, to ask him, “Father, I’m looking for a witness to the Resurrection.” Berrigan replied with a smile, “Let me know when you find one.”

photos by Herb Scher
Despite the answer, the Jesuit evinced a profound feeling of honest peace, it was as if one was actually talking to the person himself, not one of the many layers that grow around our souls like an onion to protect us from the world and all its people, including you, gentle reader. Rav Shmuel doesn’t seem to have peeled the onion totally away just yet, but his music gets about as close as anyone’s to some core of common human happiness that we hope exists, and maybe will survive the coming disaster. Nor did the man lie when he said he played rock and roll. His recent on stage collaboration with the Bloodsugars was about as transcendent a rock and roll show as you will ever get, with some arrangements coming so out of left field that they had you thinking there is no way this is going to work, and, well, it worked. There is also Rav’s version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and his rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Those, and a number of his own songs that didn’t make it onto his new CD Protocols, make him a “must-be-seenlive” type of musician. But Protocols has songs on it that you don’t often hear him play live…so I guess he’s a “must-buy-his-new-CD” type of musician, as well. Rav has a reggae-inspired lightness that leaves you wondering why he isn’t touring with Jimmy Buffett, but he can write a song like “Fatherland” which, now that I think of it, may be the perfect response to Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly.” And you do not get much better for achingly beautiful lyrics with a hauntingly beautiful melody than this: “If I could be a blade of grass crushed once beneath your foot / If I could be a teardrop in your eye / If I could be a fire to warm your cold, cold winter nights / If I could do that once before I die…” That’s “I Feel Love” from Protocols and yeah, it’s a love song, and it’s probably a love song to a woman, but when you hear it, you can’t get over the very strong feeling that it’s a love song to G-d. That’s when it might be easy to get into Dante and Beatrice territory. The really mindbending thought, though, that one can have a relationship with the divine, could in some sense warm the cold,

cold winter nights of the Omnipotent and the Transcendent, is pretty cool, to say the least. At times Rav Shmuel likes to think of himself as a sort of ambassador from the Hasidic world in which he grew up and still obviously loves, despite the evident tensions that such a role causes back home. Young Shmuel Skaist got his exposure to mainstream music from the radio “on the down low.” Growing up in a religious family and community, such music apparently was frowned upon. But the real ambassadorial nature of his music is that it is totally non-ambassadorial. You might figure the guy is Jewish because of his “Protocols,” but even that’s not a given, as evidenced when the video for “Protocols” was posted on a website which seems pretty dedicated to the notion that there is a worldwide Zionist conspiracy. You could all but hear the neuronal synapses short-circuiting when the guy who posted the video found out who and what Rav is, and that this rabbi had actually thanked him for posting the video. As for Rav’s other songs, you couldn’t tell the faith or non-faith of the songwriter at all, but then when it is revealed, as it must eventually be revealed, that Rav Shmuel is a Jew, an orthodox Jew, an orthodox Hasidic Jew, an orthodox Hasidic Jewish Rabbi, one is struck by revelations, some of which will follow. Rav’s songs, which can be pointed exercises in irony (“It’s a beautiful country. I’m so happy that we stole it from the Indians”), but often are basic, funny, upbeat observations about the “Dumb World” and its people (ie, all of us), actually grew out of the somewhat insulated and very foreign seeming world of “enclaves.” The immediate inspiration for any number of these songs, which could apply to you or your neighbor, are probably those people you see walking across bridges and overpasses on Saturdays, looking like the Amish, with all their kids in tow, or walking in their long dark coats and strange head dress to and from synagogue on Friday night (do they even speak English?) or the guy in the “Rock the Casbah” video following the armadillo. One song, probably held back from Protocols for fear that members of his own community would find it scandalous, when in fact it does the most to humanize them in the eyes of the surrounding world to whom they are basically “other,” is “The Bodega Song.” In this song Rav describes the relationship between certain students and the dope dealing bodega across the street from their school. They occasionally walk in and then come out with, “a smile…and a coke.” When the store is closed down in a drug bust, the students do exactly what I know my fellow Catholic school students would have done in the same situation, and what I hope any group of selfrespecting public school students would have done. They break in and steal all the beer. But the school is a Yeshiva and the students are those kids with the funny looking ringlets of hair that hang around their ears. Holy Mother of All Cultural Wars, Batman; we all act alike!

Of course, it’s a two-way street. Rav is all smiles when he describes sitting for six months at the Sidewalk Café, terrified of Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend Blaney, only to end up as his good friend. They have a lot in common – and that sums it up. Joie Blaney and Rav Shmuel have a lot in common. And so do all of you. So there. When listening to the music of Rav Shmuel, in light of who Rav Shmuel is, it becomes clear that there is something deeper going on. Not, I repeat, not in the sense that his songs have any allegorical meaning or secret religious meaning. One is not in any great danger of falling into the “Dylan-ology” which that particular singer’s songs engender. These songs are pretty much what they are, which is not to say they are superficial. “Itinerant’s Plea” could be sung by a character in a Tony Hillerman novel, or a Trappist Monk, or any lost soul wandering the East Village. It reaches that deep. Still, you wonder how he does it. How is it you can walk into any random Rav Shmuel show, or throw on Protocols, after “wandering through the cities of the plague” where “they will crush you with wealth and power – every waking moment you could crack” (That’s Bob Dylan being quoted, but notice the reference to Camus, which is also a reference to Pete Hamill’s liner notes for Blood on the Tracks and… aaargh) and come out actually feeling good about life? And I mean joyful, laughing, deep good, not an “I blew off some steam and have to get back to work tomorrow” good. What’s up with that? This is why I’m here, sitting at Rav Shmuel’s home base, the Sidewalk Café, where he works undercover for the Learned Elders of Zion, where he feels comfortable, where he enjoys himself, where “What I was wanting to do was develop as a songwriter, and in order to do that I felt like I needed to hear. It wasn’t really so much about me playing, I can play anywhere. It was more about me kind of being exposed to artists and variety, and to people doing interesting and different things and not being kind of a part of a very neat package system…” And where all of that happened. But now he is one of those artists to whom other artists are exposed and the tape recorder is running and I’m trying to find out where that comes from. Just like I want to know what world

Toby Goodshank’s music comes from, or from what deep well Dan Penta’s images and melodies arise, or Diane Cluck’s eternal golden braid, or Barry Bliss’s fire-breathing tender intensity. But Socrates said, 2,500 years ago, that it is useless to ask singers about their music because they don’t really know themselves. So we have this conversation, the Rabbi and I, see. And I get some answers, see. And I ask some questions, see. And as I am running out of space and time my tentative conclusion is this. There is a three-thou-

sand year tradition. There is a way of life that grows out of that tradition. The way of life seems to involve dancing in the face of incredible pain, even thanksgiving and joy because of the pain. It is about itinerancy and ancient wisdom, and knowing someone is walking beside you. A man is born into that tradition and that way of life. He lives it and thinks it and breathes it. He accepts it. He is immersed in it. He plays guitar and he plays ukulele, and one day this Hasid shows up at the Sidewalk Café’s AntiHootenany… http://ravshmuel.com/

Exegesis Department
why I wrote "Protocols"
Rav Shmuel
“Protocols” Some people ask me if I’m Jewish Some people look at me and know Some people want to know if I believe in Jesus and have trouble when the answer is, “Well, no.” Some people think that that’s my right Some people think that I am damned Some people think that I’m a part of a conspiracy to take over the world and rule with an iron hand. [chorus] You see The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true And I am a member of standing Our goal is to milk all the money from you It’s world domination we’re planning Oh no! There I go - I’ve let the cat out of the bag Will you please keep my secret, I pray Cause I’m undercover as a singer-songwriter right here at the Sidewalk Café Some people ask if I’m Middle Eastern Some people stare at me with hate Some people want to know if I pick up every penny so they toss them at me and quickly drive away Some people think that that’s my right Some people think that I am damned Some people think that I should pack up all my bags and get the hell out of the promised land [chorus] Some people ask if I speak English Some people stare at me when I pray Some people want to know if I know the Kabbalah And have trouble when the answer is “Why don’t you ask Madonna?” Some people think that that’s my right Some people think that I am damned Some people think that I’m a real threat to world freedom and that I will turn their oil into sand [chorus]

I wrote the song “Protocols” because I’ve always found it kind of bizarre that people who don’t know me or anything about me can hate me enough to want me and all of my relatives dead. Growing up as an Orthodox Jew in the USA was a great experience for me - I’ve enjoyed freedoms that my ancestors couldn’t even dream of. But there was always the occasional drive by “Heil Hitler” and “Hitler should have finished the job” to remind me that Anti-Semitism still lurks in the shadows. Any reasonably intelligent Anti-Semite knows that the Jews want to take over the world. The proof (as if proof were necessary) is in the book called The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion that purports to be a record of the wicked plans and tactics the Jewish elders use to take over the world. The Protocols was actually written in Paris sometime between 1895 and 1899 by an agent of the Russian secret police, though Anti-Semites don’t think so. Here’s what Mr. Henry Ford, in an interview published in the New York WORLD, February 17th, 1921, had to say: “The only statement I care to make about The Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on. They are sixteen years old, and they have fitted the world situation up to this time. They fit it now.” And I thought, when I heard about The Protocols of The Elders of Zion, how utterly ridiculous - I can barely afford to support my family but these people think I am part of some big conspiracy to take over the world. One fine evening in Greenwich Village New York, hallowed ground to one of the most liberal, accepting cultures on planet Earth, some guy walks out of a bar, smiles at me, and raises his hand in a Nazi salute. “Heil Hitler,” he said. He paused as if expecting an answer. I didn’t know what to say but thought it was really funny that he wanted an answer so I laughed to myself all the way home and then wrote him an answer: My song “Protocols.” So listen up, you Nazi freak in the Village and all the other countless people who’ve cursed me and wanted me and my people dead because you think we’re more greedy, more hateful, and more scheming than you are. Here’s my answer to you: It’s true, it’s all true - every hateful word you’ve said about us for the past 2,000 years. All true. We’re dirty. True. Stingy, Money-hungry, Liars, Spreaders of Plagues, Murderers of Babies, Writers of some of the most awful TV sitcoms ever. True. All True. And we’re going to take over the world. We’re coming after your money. We’re coming after your children. We’re coming after your women (how many camels for your women?). We’re your worst nightmare but meanwhile we’re just hiding out, acting as ordinary folk, with day-jobs like everybody else.

But, as you know, all that is just a cover – really, every night we’re up till all hours plotting our next move. It’s true that we’ve failed to actually take over the world in the last 2,000 years, but we’re Jews, so it doesn’t matter if we’re successful or not. We have to carry on with our nefarious plots. You should see the piles of gold we all have stockpiled under our beds - and once a week we gather the family round the gold and hold hands and remind each other how much more gold we’re going to have once we take over Fort Knox – which is actually going to happen real soon. As soon as we finish digging the tunnel from Hymietown though – of course we would never actually get our hands dirty by digging ourselves. We’re having our slaves work on it even as we speak. And by the way, when we do take power, we plan to abolish any rolls that do not have a hole in the middle. Because we need to have circumcised bread - that is the deep mystical “protocolian” reason for the bagel. And when you eat a bagel there’s a special “jewish” ingredient that, over time, will cause you to give all your money to the nearest Jew. This effect could kick in any time now. So I’ll give you a tip: Why don’t you just send all your cash over to Fort Knox. It will be safe there… at least for a little while.

Paul’s Perspective
“The Ballad of Zach James” - a tribute
Paul Alexander
One of the greatest things about running an open mic, or frequenting one for that matter, is getting a chance to watch people come and grow. One of the hardest parts is watching good friends come and go. Like all difficult situations, losing a great songwriter is sometimes best lamented in song, as Leo recently reminded regulars at the Crowin’ at the Creek open mic in Long Island City… “The Ballad of Zach James” (the abridged version)
Now I met Zach back in 1998 We were diggin’ for diamonds in the songwriter’s mine His words would come and the melodies would flow And when he’s gonna’ stop, damned if we’ll ever know Like a cowpoke on the prairie just a ridin’ the range He keeps a writin’ them epics so weird and strange There was a place called Sun Music as I do recall And the day they shut it down there was this guitar on the wall A pint-sized 6 string red white and black They wuz throwin’ it away, but then up stepped Zach Said “I’ll take it off your hands, it’s a sorry old thing Let me take it home and see if I can make it sing” Ever since then, right up to today That’s the only box I’ve ever seen him play Chorus: Zach James is his name, though he’s no Harry James Though he’s no Rick James, he will live in fame Infamy, I can tell ya’, it’s a reputation game Bet y’ got it beat if your name is Zach James I seen him do some drinkin’, yeah I seen him pissed Yeah I seen him carry on and on and on like this Unveiling the real, so dangerous Once you’ve met him he’s a man you will surely miss

Tribute songs are truly my favorite open mic tunes to hear, which is why it was so great to hear Leo pay homage to the lost Zach James. No, Zach hasn’t passed on to the great unknown, he has merely moved there. Recently, Zach James, like so many other great New York Now everybody needs a chance to get their freak on acts before him (Amy Hills, Danny Kelly, Jerome, etc.), A cozy little joint where they can sing their song slipped not with fanfare and circumstance, but with siWell there’s a place I know where you can freely speak lent grace into oblivion, leaving us their music and leavIt’s a crazy little shack they call the “Cave n’ the Creek” ing us wishing life didn’t call them elsewhere. One day I But if you’re sober, call it “Creek at the Cave” Just like some say “home of the free, and land of the brave” know I too will go, and I’d love to think I could merit a People come from miles around to do their thing tribute song as appropriate and flattering as the one Leo Read some rants, do a dance, maybe whisper and sing penned for Zach. Mr. James may no longer be nearby, Got some good grub from down a’ tex-mex way but he’s not far from our thoughts. And every Tuesday night you can hear ‘em play Not to be outdone by Leo, or to let anyone forget yet Now Zach can tell ya’ ‘bout a ph’losopher named Anaximander another great artist who But he ain’t got a thing on Mr. Alexander moved on this past year, He opens up the open singin’ sweet and low Brian Speaker recently Ev’ry week wondrin’ if anyone will show penned “The Balled of But they come fired up like a house on fire Jerome.” I don’t have the Lou Rosa, Tom Drake, Thomas Patrick McGuire lyrics, but the sentiment Drew Torres here to tell us that this planet ain’t his home was much the same. A tribBerger rocks your word until your brain ain’t got a bone ute to Jerome, and a tribute Then Sukato sidles to the mic and gives that siren call to the idea that an open mic And someone screams “I’m the King” is a special thing, and while “Beat Your Head Against the Wall!” two years have brought a lot Then a man steps up all cryptic and lean of good friends and great With that half-size 6 string red n’ black machine music, there’s always the And we all get quiet as we hang on every word hope of finding something As we journey from the real to the totally absurd else even more tributeHearing all kinda images like no one ever heard worthy next Tuesday. In the wild mountain cry o’ some high flyin’ bird

historical antifolk compilations, part 0
Jonathan Berger
These days, making an album is as easy as one, two, three, pi… But back in the eighties, when AntiFolk monsters ruled the land, it was far more difficult a procedure to collect 12 songs from different people, put it on an album, and sell it. The technology was not as available as today. And even some of the technology that was available in those golden olden days was eschewed by the absolutely first AF compilation compiler, Billy Nova. Long an émigré from New York, Billy Nova took the time to explain his motivation in taking on the role of archivist. ForTunes 13 “There were literally dozens of worthy songwriters that were not recorded or represented on any kind of formal release,” Billy Nova said, “Most of them had done rudimentary home-based recordings.” He produced five hundred cassettes. “It was purely financial. Funds were extremely limited. In the spirit of DIY, it was possible to reproduce copies at home.” Originally, in a scheme to build up interest in the upcoming comp, Nova sent out a press release requesting submissions. “The only way to get pre-publicity was to get interest beyond the scene. I knew the interest would play out a lot broader if it was an open call.” Several publications bit; the Village Voice and the Aquarian both wrote about the albums long before it came out. Submissions flowed. “I was very much open to being inclusive; I figured there were lots of folks out there looking for an outlet.” After that initial promotion, though, things settled down, and Nova began sorting through music. “I probably got 20 or thirty tapes in – the rest were all from the scene.” Nova pored through the variety of tapes, skimming the scum from the bottom, the cream from the top. “It became really obvious that we wanted to – we were looking for an edge. I didn’t realize it at the time but what made it all come together was a certain sensibility: folk plus punk plus… some sort of soul.” Finally, he realized that inclusivity was over-rated. “This really got to be about these songwriters,” he said, referring to the AntiFolk. “They were better than anything else I received. It became this more narrow thing. It was a long circuit to get back to what the original idea was.” Many of the thirteen acts who made the final cut are writ in AntiFolk legend. The album begins with Lach singing “Crazy House,” one of those circus-as-metaphorfor-reality stories that ends with a curious switch. Lach is at his snotty best, representing a Lower East Side that threatened to swallow the rest of the City. Kirk Kelly starts side two with his AntiFolk anthem, “Go Man Go,” a rallying cry back in its day and subsequently the name of his debut LP on SST. Zane Campbell played “All the Dreams” with his protocowpunk band, the Hard Facts. His voice varied from smarmy Vegas cool to desperate hillbilly scream, all in the course of four minutes. Campbell’s cut was probably the most professionally produced track on the album. “It was a kick trying to gather in from all the edges and trying to knit a comforter, that hangs together when you put it together, trying to combine disparate sources that were understandable in a single read,” Nova said, recalling, “Mine was an 8-track recording from a studio. Lach’s too.” Nova’s track is perhaps the standout on the album. “Perseverance,” a tale that seems elliptical religious, features an almost beatific Ross Owens on harmonica. It is a beautiful song, much stronger that Owens’ own inclusion, “Heads Up.” Another weaker track was David Indian’s “Diane,” an epistolary which goes on and on without really saying anything. “Apples in the morning, tea in the night,” he and a highly pitched backing vocalist recite in the demichorus. Whatever.

Brenda Kahn’s “And I Talk,” produced by her then-paramour Roger Manning, sounds like an artist just learning her craft. She would go on to much stronger work on her first two albums, Goldfish Don’t Talk Back and the startling Epiphany in Brooklyn . Manning’s song, “Lefty Rhetoric Blues,” though, is one of the strongest from that AntiFolk standard-bearer. “The working title for it was the Uncooperative, based on the Speakeasy team, who called themselves the Cooperative.” Despite the different recording strategies and the divergent writers, the result comes together as a whole. Listening to ForTunes 13, it’s something of a shock to realize how long it took to be made. Nova, after collecting all the material, passed the recordings onto engineer and oldtime Lach musician Norman Englund. “He took upon a labor of love to finish it up. I paid him like 125 dollars for, like, 200 hours of work. He did all the wizardry that made it sound like it all came out from one scene.

“The day I left town – I got a ride to his place to pick up the final tape. Then left town.” Nova, relocation to the West, spent almost another year getting the tapes duplicated, the packaging created, and the album produced. “Part of the intent was that a good deal of individual labor would be put into each release. You could crack out fifteen of these in an hour. Slow going…” Nova muses. By the time of its release, the scene had changed and the album disappeared, a love child nobody wanted. The copies are gone, except for the lucky few who treasured them when. Nova, who’s been retired from music for fifteen years, still thinks about the old comp, though, and considers bringing it back, if only for archival purposes. “I’ve made the acquaintance of a guy at work who’s interested in digitizing them, and at least preserving them to the next step. Who knows what might happen after that? Lach might be interested…”

Adam Green
return of the prodigal
Bernard King
Adam Green returned to the Sidewalk for the first time in several years to close this winter’s Antifolk Festival with a solo show on February 18. There were also sets from his old scene contemporaries Turner Cody and Dan Penta. Turner was accompanied by Sam James (of the Wowz) and will tour Europe next month with Herman Dune and The Baby Skins. Adam’s performed with Turner many times since they started out here together and also recorded a cover of Turner’s “After Midnight.” Dan Penta (Whisper Doll) toured with Adam and the Moldy Peaches back when he was known as Cockroach, and he was accompanied by former Moldy Peaches drummer Brent Cole (Wooden Ghost). So it was something like the old days to see these friends on the same bill, and for those of us who watched Adam take the Sidewalk stage so many times in those years (1999-2002). Back then you never knew what he might be wearing, and he began this show with a head band given by a female fan. The room was full and by the end of the night the velvet rope had to be put up because there was no more standing room. The only seats were several rows of chairs in the front where the tables had been removed, and fans also sat on the floor around the stage. The most recent show of this size at Sidewalk was Kimya Dawson’s (Adam’s former Moldy Peaches partner) at her annual Off-the-Sauce Party on January 6 which featured Beau Johnson, Jeff Lewis, Prewar Yardsale, and Paleface (She’s currently on an East Coast tour that includes nights with Diane Cluck and Dufus). Adam promised he wasn’t going to do three hours like at his last Bowery Ballroom show, to which Lach responded “One more song!” The audience shot out a lot of requests. From his last three releases (Friends of Mine, Gemstones, Jacket Full of Danger) were “Friends of Mine” with which he opened the set, “Drugs,” “Bluebirds,” “Emily,” “Carolina,” “Gemstones,” “I Wanna Die” and “Novotel.” He also played some wonderful new songs he’d been recording during the week. There was a catchy “Tropical Island”; a ballad called “I Could Get Used to This”; “Grandma Shirley and Papa,” written for his grandparents; “Home Life” which he said sounded like it had an Ish Marquez chord progression, “a ‘Gin is Not My Friend’ kind of thing”; and “Drowning Head-First,” co-written with his girlfriend Loribeth who joined him for a first-time

photo by Herb Scher
duet (Ish Marquez had just performed his own “comeback show” the night before at Cake Shop with Dufus, on a visit from California). “Oh my God, I just remembered that I’m doing this! I used to play here every week,” he said about halfway through the set before singing songs from his first album, Garfield. On “Computer Show” he did a great imitation of the synthesized computer voice: “I... can’t... go... home... without... going... home... with... you.” It was nostalgic to hear the lines from songs he’d sung so many times in that room that had such an influence on everyone, such as “Can You See Me” (“Look, look, look at me doing this/Look at the way that I am”) and “Her Father and Her” (“I feel just like old gum/To ride your big fucking, fake fucking, lame fucking dead horse into town”). He ended with “Baby’s Gonna Die Tonight,” also from Garfield, which was a big audience request. He segued right into it from “I Wanna Die” before closing with “Heart and Soul.” There were plenty of stories and funny moments, the quality of Martin guitars and Shure microphones was called into question, and Adam apologized for his cowlick (we saw none). He sang well and the acoustic show allowed him to play with the textures of his voice. This was especially noticeable on the new songs, and ones that with the band he usually has to sing forcefully such as “Baby’s Gonna Die,” “Novotel” and “Gemstones.” It was a quintessential Adam Green show, as a return to the original Sidewalk experience and a casual set that mixed songs from all of his albums with new ones, and probably had something in it to satisfy everyone who came whether they were old friends or new fans.

Fredo’s Folk
Fredo Flintstoné
It’s dark, it’s cramped and the sound system sucks. There’s no use denying it, The Sidewalk Café is a “shithole.” What place in the East Village isn’t, though? It’s a tad sight better than the dark, narrow, chairless, foodless, rack liquor only room at The Cake Shop and the room is slightly larger than the miniscule space at Rockwood Music Hall. Besides, who wants to jackass over to Brooklyn all the time to catch a few sets at “shitholes” like Bar 4, The Living Room Lounge or Stain Bar, when Manhattan “shitholes” are just so convenient? The Sidewalk however does make for a cheap night out since there’s just a 2-drink minimum and no cover charge and they don’t try to rip off the customers with $8 beers and $12 mixed drinks. The food is also surprisingly good and decently priced. And the waitresses… those lovely, young, cheery lasses in their tight short skirts, who wind their slender, sultry bodies around the tiny tables, through the crowd that, on any given night, fill this “shithole” to hear some really fine tunes. Ah, yes, the waitresses… but I digress. The music’s the draw. AntiFolk they call it. Supposedly, it is a mix somewhere between the folk music of Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger and the punk music of the Ramones & the Sex Pistols. To my untrained ear, though, it sounds more like plain ole American folk with the occasional rock tune tossed in, with emphasis on trying to shock the listener by use of the words, “shit” and/or “hole” whenever possible. Sorry, but I have to side with Bill Cosby: once a performer resorts to using vulgarities it means he just can’t find, or doesn’t know, the words to complete the story. He got lost somewhere, but he doesn’t know how to neatly tie it all up, so he tosses in a cuss word to kill the thread, thereby killing us right along with it. There’s nothing worse then getting ass deep into a song, almost climbing into the same skin with the singer, only to have that magical moment snatched away because the composer doesn’t know how to continue to take you with him from point A to point B. It leaves me feeling robbed and half sorry I let him take me on this journey with him to begin with. One thing that has never left me feeling robbed, however, is a red head. A freckled red head is always a plus. What can I say? My daddy trained me well. A few months back I found myself taking an evening stroll down the street with my beloved Wilma, when I spot this freckled red head, guitar case in hand, standing outside some “shithole” talking to friends about her upcoming show that evening. I think to myself, “a freckled red head who gets up on a stage to sing, thereby allowing me to check her out and not have to worry about a punch to my head from my beloved Wilma… This, I must see!” So, I take my beloved Wilma tenderly by the elbow, tell her my throat is parched and my old feet throb from our little hike, and with that as my excuse, request her to follow me into the “shithole” for a cold beer and a rest, and to get me an eyeful (and an earful) of the cute, freckled red head. Daddy would be so proud. My beloved Wilma and I grab a table in the back of this rather small joint, surrounded by folks half our age, all eager for this woman, Erin Regan, to take the stage. It seems most have heard her play before and all are excited at the prospect of hearing her again. I raise an eyebrow when I overhear the young gent at the table next to us tell his drinking buddies that he believes Ms. Regan is originally from Virginia. A true “Southern Belle,”

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so genteel. When she’s happy, as Southern Belles are born to be, she’s full of sweetness and light. When she’s not happy, Heaven help those nearby, she’s full of piss and vinegar and biting, sarcastic remarks that gut the object of her angst. I again think to myself, “who’s luckier than me?” and then Ms. Regan takes the stage. People applaud and cheer her entrance. She sits herself on a chair and as she tunes her guitar, she says a few words of introduction. An angel speaks. She then offers the most coquettish of smiles to the crowd as she begins to gently strum her guitar. I’m already hooked. The first thing that comes into my head is Forrest Gump. Not Forrest himself, but his beloved Jenny. It’s that scene where Jenny, in her desperate quest to become the female Bob Dylan, bares it all for her art and takes the stage at some topless bar, hiding her nakedness behind her guitar, and attempts to sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” to the lecherous drunks in the audience. While Ms. Regan is certainly no Jenny (since Erin can sing and does original compositions), she, fully clothed, laid bare her soul. Fully exposed are her past misfortunes for all the audience to hear. When Ms. Regan ends her song, “Your Mom’s Car,” the first thing I want to do is smack my Mom for not owning one. I find I can no longer sip my beer for in it, I taste her tears.

After hearing her songs of love lost and heart broken, sung so perfectly with the sincerest of words, it takes everything within me not to go to her, stand beside her as she sits on her perch, lamenting her past loves. I want to press her head against my shoulder, gently run my hand over her hair and, in a soft, sympathetic voice, assure her to trust Uncle Fredo; it is all going to work out. Her heart will mend and she will find the love that is meant for her. But then, I recall my beloved Wilma’s right hook and that idea flies out the window. Instead, the first thing I do is sign up at MySpace so I can listen to Erin, my Erin, and a few other acts I enjoyed, at my leisure. MySpace also permits me to know when Ms. Regan’s next show will be. I am a most happy fellow. At last my wait is over and Ms. Regan announces her next show. I am excited, to say the least. I coerce my beloved Wilma join me to once again and we situate ourselves at the same table in eager anticipation of Erin’s set. Then the bad news comes. Erin will not be performing that evening. A Ms. Randi Russo will be on in her stead. At first, I am crestfallen. I was so up for Erin’s show. Then Ms. Russo takes the stage. A lovely, charming brunette (with a great rack to boot). I think to myself, “Well, Fredo, my boy, they say variety is the spice of life…” http://www.myspace.com/freddiebedrocks

Costello’s Web
online reviews
Dan Costello
I’m bored. Sometimes, with a wealth of available information just a few clicks away, it’s those few clicks that are the hardest. Will I find something that is going to let me down completely? A friend-of-a-friend wants me to cover them, but their music isn’t my Cup-O-Noodles. Ack, what’s happening to me? I am listing the woes of an online music columnist. Every time I click on something I suspect will wow me (and wow you), I am hopelessly disappointed. OK, must find things I like. I mean, I’d hate to be one more Urban Folk writer who enjoys dissing good music just to hear himself talk. Jon Berger. Yeah, I said it. Fight, FIGHT! Thomas Patrick Maguire – “Unemployment Dreams” Cheese On Bread – “Gucci Model” Luv-A-Lot recording artist Maguire has one of the humApparently this was featured on It’s Twisted Television blest demeanors I’ve ever seen. He’s not all that bois(ITTV). When we were recording a track with Brook terous at live shows, he’s certainly not a rocker by conPridemore this summer, Dan Fishback told me this video ventional observation. However, I’ve been listening to should never be seen by anyone. Thank god for this song for days. LOUDLY. And it fuckin’ rules. And if a YouTube. These best-selling AntiFolkers just got a little song says the same thing several times, it had better be more spaghetti on their pink tutus. fuckin’ good stuff. Which it is. Sounds Like? Stereopathic youtube.com/watch?v=GvL0Xzx4RQE Soul Manure, but well-produced by the guys who tracked out “All Apologies” on MTV Unplugged. Everyone who’s The Falsies – “Too Late” been a temp, who likes Nirvana or loves Beck needs to Take common pop riffs and add a dash of hipster and a hear this. Better yet, ALL the songs here are just as healthy glob of irony. The Josie and the Pussycats tight good as this one, and available for free download. Get rocker thing is right there, but I like the very well conhooked. myspace.com/thomaspatrickmaguire ceived and executed tambourines. Sometimes, when you’re on the fence about someone, a well conceived Chris Maher, “How To Lie” and executed tambourine part makes all the difference. The Bright Eyesish panoramically-aware-but-still-personmyspace.com/thefalsies ally-affected thing is apparent with Chris, but in truth Conor’s lyrics don’t even play on the same field as this M Lamar – “White Pussy” guy’s. I wish there was a video of “Passing Thru” live at So Leontyne Price and RuPaul had a baby with a big the Sidewalk Café, Chris brought nine or twelve people falsetto and a fearless sense of propriety. This track is on stage. Instantly likeable, he sings great song after messy, hard to listen to, hard not to listen to, and a com- great song. And there’s a live video from Germany on plete and total riot. Reginald does his thang, it’s the way his MySpace page, which Chris says is just “OK,” but I it’s gotta be... there’s also a YouTube vid called “Nigga think is honest and moving. Take any chance you can to Spectacle” that would make Gil Scott Heron proud. This see this guy perform live – He’s great! revolution is already being televised, bitches… myspace.com/chrismaher myspace.com/mlamar Winston Echo – “Tape Hiss” Michael Leviton – “The Beach Gets Cold” Sometime in the early 80s some lo-fi songwriting stuWhen you’re on the LES scene as much as I am, the dent or other left a time capsule in Winston Echo’s backsame names keep popping up. Michael falls into that yard. Upon digging it up as a bonnie wee bunny, he studcategory for me. I’ve discussed him with A Fermata, ied and studied and studied to recreate the no-budget Casey Holford, Andrew Hoepfner and others. I can’t tra-la-la songs. This one, short and sweet, is no match believe it took me this long to hear him. His video is an for his exchange rate song “Bureau De Change” on adventure through a mini-golf course. Sometimes he MySpace, but ”Tape Hiss” is great and free to downappears with ukulele. Sometimes he appears lost, or load. Also, Winston has a project called “Songs For next to quirky elements like a sign that says “Ball Cross- Everyone” where audience members write song ideas ing.” The girl harmonies line up well to a montage of on slips of paper and Winston reads them, making up wayward golf balls. And then there’s the lyrical observa- new songs on the spot. It’s a generous idea, though it’s tion of the Quebec license plate slogan “Je Me clear our dear Winston Echo is not short for topics to Souviens,” and the notion that the Quebecois must for- write about. winstonecho.com/songs/tapehiss.mp3 get sometimes. michaelleviton.com/songs myspace.com/iamwinstonecho

Record Reviews
Send to J. Berger - 1119 Longwood Avenue - Bronx, NY 10474 by the editorial collective (unless otherwise noted...)
Various Artists ANTICOMP FOLKILATION I received the brand-new, just released, spoonerized double-disc Crafty Records AntiFolk compilation like a child opening his first present on Kwanzaa’s seventh night. And just like that spoiled brat, I was bound to be both pleased and disappointed by what I got. “Thirty five acts,” I said, eyes aglow, “And no Hamell on Trial?” But that’s what’s missing; what about what’s there? There’s a huge amount of content, overseen by Crafty’s chief, Dan Treiber and his able assistants Brook Pridemore & Dan Costello. Some of it is selfreflexive. Disc Two opens with Eric Wolfson’s “Sleeping is a Sucker’s Game,” which is a pretty apt description of the open mic lifestyle. Another take on the world we all enjoy is Debe Dalton’s first released recording, “Ed’s Song,” the penultimate song on the same disc. Right after it is Urban Barnyard’s live track, “Alone in Johnny’s Kitchen,” about a mouse living with/next to Johnny Dydo, drummer for the Wowz and Huggabroomstik. That kind of collaborative spirit pervades the urban folk world, and there are numerous other examples of it on the albums. On Disc One, Jeff Lewis and Diane Cluck reanimate “The River,” from their collaborative album from some years back. Then there’s “Pooper Scooper” by the innocuously named RUB. Of course, it’s the latest identity of Dashan Coram (Huggabroomstik, Secret Salamander), former member of Urban Barnyard. RUB is the REAL Urban Barnyard, natch. Coram had put out his own AntiFolk compilation on Luv-A-Lot Records. Other former compilation organizers are also included on this release. Major Matt Mason’s “Tripping Yourself” starts the whole shebang. He and Joie (he of Dead Blonde Girlfriend) co-compiled Call It What You Want: This is Antifolk. Lach, the mastermind of Lach’s Antihoot, re-releases “Baby.” A Brief View of the Hudson return from their Art Stars Compilation with their track “She Will Never Speak.” The songs? They vary, as you’d expect on such a comprehensive collection. Just like the open mic, every song opens a world unto itself, some you like, some you love, some you impatiently wait to end. But the variety is part of the beauty of the urban folk world, and thus, of this collection. craftyrecords.net Ben Patton Because the Heart Already one of those songwriters who makes your ears perk up Ben Patton’s sophomore release does a great job of picking up where his first album and the two songs you’ve heard at your favorite open mic leave off. With tunes that linger like fondest memories, Ben’s slickly produced thirteen song serenade is well worth a listen. Initially, Patton’s songs, like his cover photo, make him appear young, but as he projects in his grabbing opening track “All Grown Up” and the line “look at your grown up look and attitude,” this album is anything but an immature attempt at poppy hooks and jazzy ear candy. Mr. Patton often wears his influences on his sleeve, as in the scat-filled, jazz-infused “Somebody’s in Love with You,” but the album reveals a well-refined songwriter who is grown up and in the prime of his creativity. After grabbing the listener from the opening horn hits and incessant piano line of track one, tunes like “Is It Just Me, or is Everybody Lonely?” and “I Love my B-A-BY” are welcome additions, as they strip the lush (though effective) arrangements to present Ben as I know him best: one talented singer. Part Elvis Costello, a little bit George Gershwin, with clear Beatle-esqe overtones, Ben Patton manages to still sound original. Because the Heart is undeniably a flashy presentation with great guitar, piano, trumpets, violins, programmed drums, and mandolin work by another talented Patton (in this case, a Will; any relation?). Nevertheless, even on grand songs like “I’m Stupid Over You,” nothing seems overdone or out of place. Though I really enjoyed his last release, Here’s the Good News Album, with its milder production, Patton has by no means faltered in this effort. His arrangements are multilayered but not to the point that they distract from Ben’s true gift – writing great, catchy songs. After all, as he repeats in “Timon of Athens,” his songs have a way of attaching themselves to your subconscious as they play themselves in your head, “Again and again and again and again…” While hooky tracks like “You Have No Idea,” with its well-placed slide

guitar lines, suggest that Patton has every idea of how to arrange and self-produce pop gems. “Everyone smiles when I enter,” Ben muses in “The Untold Story,” and it’s not bravado. Ben has the goods, and he readily displays them on this sophomore release. (Paul Alexander) http://www.benpatton.com/ Jamie Rae September Skies You know, iTunes describes Jamie Rae as Easy Listening. I don’t think I’ve ever known of anyone who identified themselves as Easy Listening. To each their own, though… The sounds on this EP are certainly easy on the ears – just as Jamie Rae is easy on the eyes. The elegant production by Mark Christensen complements the lush cover of the disc. I tend to list towards her rougher moments. There’s a percussive moment at the start of the chorus on the title track, where everything falls silent for her to sing, “Stop, rewind…” before everything builds back in. And the just slightly askew delivery of the title to “You Already Know,” just behind the beat? Intentional or not, it works. Best, though, is the last. “The Subway Song,” a tale of the 1-train serving as metaphor for life in this urban mecca, is damned cool. Underproduced, featuring acrobatic guitar work by Thorry Koren and expressive jazz vocals from

our star, Jamie Rae eschews all the excellent production of the rest of the release to present something spare, honest and true. It’s perhaps the odd song out on the album, and it pays off. As Ms. Rae sings somewhere on the middle of album, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (Jonathan Berger) jamieraemusic.com Jenn Lindsay Perfect Handful Uphill Both Ways Upon delivering Perfect Handful and Uphill Both Ways, Brooklyn-by-way-of San Diego singer-songwriter Jenn Lindsay tackles the unenviable question answered in recent years by artists such as Radiohead, Magnetic Fields and even (eek) Guns ‘N Roses: Are two albums really better than one? In Jenn Lindsay’s case, the answer is Yes and No. Perfect Handful, the more lost-love geared of the two discs (with Uphill Both Ways leaning slightly to the political side) opens with “Got My Baby,” and cheeky lyrics about a female lover that turns out to be the narrator’s guitar. Lindsay’s often finger picked guitar melodies angle over spare drum and bass arrangements reminiscent of the second Wilco album. Guest appearances by Dave O’Neal, Peter Dizozza and Major Matt Mason USA fill out the thin spots, of which there are a few, particularly on more up-tempo numbers like “Bones.” There’s no instant comparison to Lindsay’s singing: she has a strong voice with a breathiness that sometimes seems forced. Jenn seems to reach for a lot of the higher notes, most noticeably on the lilting double-harmony parts of “Good Thing.” These qualities combine and call to mind Nick Drake’s voice on Pink Moon. Lumped in with the full-band arrangements and decidedly New York lyrical subject matter, Perfect Handful is a little too busy, but generally good folky fun. Uphill Both Ways, as a companion piece, seems a little darker, slightly more world-weary – as though the narrator behind Perfect Handful is newly single and excited at the prospects of being alone, and this is that same girl a year later, well past the joys of self-discovery and getting lonely. “I sold my heart, it was too broke to start,” goes one couplet in “Brain,” over four-on-the-floor and skittish guitars reminiscent of Out of Range-era Ani Difranco. Many more guest appearances abound, most noticeably some well-placed Matt Singer harmonies on “In Brooklyn.” Later in the order comes “House in New Orleans,” an ode to the Katrina disaster of 2005, and, as one of several songs on these discs that reference other peoples’ songs (In this case, “House of the Rising Sun” and “Amazing Grace,” made famous by The Animals and churchgoers, respectively). Referential moments like this are the most memorable parts of both albums, which are good and bad; good because these parts soar, bad because Lindsay often fails to transcend her influences.

So the ultimate question: Does the body of work warrant two separate discs? No. There are plenty of real inspired songs collected on Perfect Handful and Uphill Both Ways; more solid, user-friendly, well crafted pop songs than forgettable ones. That said, the greatest double album of all time is still Double Nickels on the Dime, which today fits on a single compact disc (Note: Urban Folk likes London Calling and 1999, too). I can’t help but feel that the omission of a song or two (and especially the interludes/outros that drag Uphill Both Ways down) is the only thing saving this collection from being one great album. (Brook Pridemore) http://jennlindsay.com/home.html Jennifer Richman Flowers of Gold This disc has an extremely slick production polish, which might be as much of an attention-grabber for some as it is an immediate turn-off for me. Not that I prefer to listen to music that sounds like it was recorded on a consumer tape recorder covered in a blanket, but the sound is SO DAMN SLICK that you expect it could have come off of your aunt’s favorite soft-rock radio station, or that it could be used as telephone hold-music at your local car insurance office. Ah well, soft-rock radio stations exist, so someone must be listening to them... The one track which I can say I unashamedly enjoy off this disc is “Wounded Love,” if only because it goes for Roy Orbison simplicity, with just enough atmosphere to make it eligible for inclusion on a David Lynch movie soundtrack. The other songs really take some effort to praise. If someone was bending my fingers back, I would admit that the first few tracks are pretty good, from the Jewellike heartstring-tugging of the title track and high-pitched, sweetly sung choruses of “Beautiful Girl” to the trappedin-the-‘90s janglerock of “Better Days.” Frankly, all these tunes have decent hooks, and if they didn’t sound as though they were processed through a million Pro Tools plugins, I might give them a less knee-jerk response. The only truly heinous crime is the track “Sweet Surrender,” which bears all the trappings of ill-advised white-person R&B – even when Luther Vandross collaborated with schlockmeister Richard Marx, they didn’t go for arrangements as silly as this. The rest of the songs are OK if indistinguishable, although the last two songs, “Linda’s Song” and “Time To

Go,” rank with the early tracks as notably solid songs undone by their soft-rock sound. (Justin Remer) jenniferrichman.com LeBlanc This is Me Texas born Mandi LeBlanc masterminded this group’s first EP, which features 6 cuts of indie rock flavored with pop, funk and country tastes. The strongest track is “Met a Boy,” which is pretty much pure smart pop straight out of the late 70s new wave. There is nothing better on this CD, or many CDs I’ve heard lately, though the title track, with it’s sweet, breathy line, “This is me on a rampage / don’t fuck with me,” that’s damned good, too. Mandi’s voice is pretty damned strong, though it tends to move towards a Cameo-like nasal delivery that sounds less effective than her more natural-sounding voice, so wonderfully presented on “Subway Love.” The band is clearly very strong, trading styles song by song but maintaining a clear identity. A point of order, though: the website clearly maintains the façade of collaborative group (leblanctheband.com), but the CD, with the leader’s name blazing across the center, is This is Me. Sounds like a minor identity crisis, though there’s little evidence in the sound. Another issue: the standout song, “Met a Boy,” is pretty near perfect, with lots of hooks in all the right places, and is well worth the price of admission, though it’s available on MySpace. Hey, Mandi, how you gonna sell the cow if you give the milk away for free? www.leblanctheband.com The Lisps The Vain, The Modest, and The Dead The Lisps are led by two singers –- a male (Cesar Alvarez) and a female (Sammy Tunis) –- and, on the basis of the 5 songs on their debut EP, they appear to have a fondness for flipping through genres as it suits them. Admittedly, there are two main types of songs on the disc: synthesizer-and-electric-guitar-driven blip-pop and sentimental acoustic guitar songs. The juxtaposition keeps the 20 minutes of music full of surprises, as the rocking, brash opener “Pepper Spray” (“I never wanted to see the people you fuck”) gives way to the more opaque, gently delivered “The Winter That I Missed” (“Filthy lives of simple bliss/ Underground, the perfect kiss”). It’s hard not to be reminded of other male/female-led groups of late – The Moldy Peaches, Cheese on Bread, even The Raveonettes – but while The Lisps benefit from automatic endearment to the listener because of those associations, they manage to distinguish themselves as being less smartass-y than those groups. The genre switches they perform seem less for the sake of shits and giggles than as natural musical choices, and somehow all the styles manage to sit comfortably side-byside without seeming forced together.

There’s not a stinker on this disc, but the two highlights are probably the opener, “Pepper Spray,” because it’s catchy as a cold bug, and the closer, a live recording of “Chaos,” which has the rapidfire delivery and feelgood attitude of a children’s sing-along (or a Danielson Famile number, which might count as the same thing), with lyrics like “We cry a lot alike, but we cry about none of the same things.” I also recommend checking out their live video performance, “I’m Sorry,” which you can see on their MySpace page or on Youtube. (Justin Remer) www.thelisps.com Matt Diff The Acoustic Albums, Vol. I-III “Life is a dream... Death is waking from that dream.” Read from the first page of Life and Death, Love and War, the latest volume of acoustic recordings by New Jersey’s Matt Diff, this seems like a pretty grandiose introductory overview for a collection of folk songs. Truth be told, though, Matt’s embarked on a pretty grandiose project. Ten discs, one per year, of mostly solo recordings, all included under the umbrella title “The Acoustic Albums.” The idea being, according to Matt, to focus on content over packaging, and to show a songwriter’s natural progression and evolution over time. The catalog thus far includes Life and Death, Love and War (Volume III), and its predecessors, Lost in New York (Vol. II ) and Americana Nirvana (Vol. I). Each of the discs features a simple cover of black text over a white background. The stark presentation calls to mind cans of generic food in a 1980s grocery store: Not Spam, but rather, Potted Meat Food Product. Beyond the deceptively simple covers lies a wealth of prose to accompany the theme of each disc – namely, searching for the heart of America, New York City and the paradoxes of love and war, respectively. The inclusion of prose rather than, say, any information about recording sessions or accompanying musicians (of which there are a few), is intriguing, but not necessary to digest the music. Americana Nirvana, a stand-alone disc when I first heard it three years ago, is the simplest batch of songs here. This is the voice of a kid in the city who finds himself missing his country roots, which is most obvious on “Country View” and one more. “I’m leaving New York City, But I’ll come running back to you,” Diff sings on “FNYC,” and I can’t help but think of those early Dylan records, when that chubby kid from Duluth couldn’t help but be a

little overwhelmed by the big city. Diff’s simple strumming and low, easy voice, however, call to mind Matt Ward or early Leonard Cohen, making Volume I not entirely derivative. Lost in New York is pretty close in feel to Americana Nirvana, albeit a bit less green. Volume II’s prose begins with “The City is a woman... Far too beautiful and true to be a man,” and, indeed, plenty of the songs seem to be about a girl, or a series of girls, or a search for companionship and familiarity in a huge, cold, unfamiliar place. Through further contemplation on the generic element of the packaging, I got the impression that Lost In New York , if it IS about a girl; it’s about a girl with no face – someone who lies just beyond the horizon, just around the corner. On Volumes I and II, I couldn’t help but notice that the most compelling element to my ears was the harmonica, real spare but well-placed. I know that’s a statement akin to being invited to a friend’s house for a seven-course dinner and complementing your host on their choice of bread, but, largely, I felt a lot of the songs on the first two discs sort of ran together. Life and Death, Love and War takes a big step away from its predecessors, through plenty of evolution in songwriting and the inclusion of very nicely done cello parts on most of the songs. “Jesus Christ was born a sailor, for thirty years he waited patiently to stir a raging sea,” goes one couplet in “Angelina,” the album’s opener. One gets the sense that Diff’s just beginning to stir a sea of his own. As three albums, I didn’t feel like the entire collection was completely necessary – at least not in one sitting. As an experiment, however, and especially because Volume III is by far the strongest disc here, I feel as though “The Acoustic Albums” (thus far) are a success in their display of the evolution and progression of Diff’s songwriting. (Brook Pridemore) myspace.com/mattdiff Rav Shmuel Protocols Okay, I’m going to get the Matisyahu reference out of the way first thing. Like the reggae singer Matisyahu, your first impression of Rav Shmuel may be that he’s a novelty act – an orthodox Jew (in Rav Shmuel’s case, a rabbi) doing tunes for neo-hippies. But, as with Matisyahu, once you actually listen, any suspicions of goofy novelty dissipate. After all, anyone who’s put in time with a Jewish youth group knows that Jewish kids love Bob Marley reggae and noodly hippie music. Heck, I even bought a tape of

Debe Dalton Birthday Bash March 14, 2007 Sidewalk Café 94 Avenue A Free!

7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30

Phish’s Rift album because of that youth group – I even still like the title track. So, like an overgrown youth group kid, Rav Shmuel follows the lead of Sublime, Phish (minus the indulgent solos), and Barenaked Ladies, and delivers an album that will keep Jewish youth group kids bopping their heads and air-dancing for countless summers spent at BBYO camps to come. But Jewishness isn’t completely the point – even the uncircumcised Jack Johnson fan would probably enjoy giving this disc a spin. The best song on the disc is probably Rav Shmuel’s simple mid-tempo love song, “I Feel Love,” which features this lyrical gem: “Love is a cross between two kinds of pain/The kind you keep inside/and the kind you need again and again.” Of course, sometimes Jewishness is completely the point, as on the excellent, chuckle-inducing title track, “Protocols.” Here, Rav Shmuel sarcastically admits to being a member of the Elders of Zion, the secret Jewish society which runs the world, backed by a Top-40-ready sound that wouldn’t seem out of place on Liz Phair’s last couple of albums. Admittedly, though, I don’t listen to noodly hippie music much these days, and, despite some excellent production work by Andres Karu and Michael Ferrentino, at a certain point, the songs start to mush together into one big laid back air-dance. Some key exceptions are two songs in the home stretch of the album – “Itinerant Plea” and “I Am Oxygen,” whose moody atmosphere and lyrics of spiritual and emotional yearning really push this genre of music to the pinnacle of its potential. If you’re a fan of any of the artists mentioned above, don’t hesitate to check out this album. (Justin Remer) www.ravshmuel.com

Stolen Brown Evergreen Stolen Brown Evergreen 2006 What is with this guy? Sending out a package that includes a branch, some xeroxed handwritten notes, and a CD, all in a Hefty storage bag… is that a finger in there? No, it’s just the branch. Apparently, this is the vision of David Keesey, aka Stolen Brown Evergreen, who plays with Deborah T and Frantic Turtle. It’s his new album of wideranging sounds, from the Led Zep melody in “Someone Else” to the VelJonathan Berger vet Underground with crisper recordRebecca Perkins ing equipment on “Ridin’ It,” with many Frank Hoier other spots between. Elizabeth Devlin Keesey varies the sounds, adding Dan Costello the softly sad “Happiest Little Boy,” Debe Dalton wherein the narrator asks his parents to finally get back together, and the spoken word break “Deep Thoughts,” about life without smoking. His voice isn’t particularly strong, but his guitar work is expressive, and changes dramatically in the different scenes he creates. All but one track (“Blues,” featuring Stan on drums) is created, performed, recorded and mixed exclusively be Mr. Keesey, though he did leave his apartment long enough to get it recorded with Matt Roth at Olive Juice Music, which is distributing the album. “December Experiment #1” starts out as a hard rock sonic freakout, and begins the December Experiments, apparently some strange EP attached to the end of the album. All steps are taken, apparently, to show the variety of this emerging artist, including the visual aspects in his very curious packaging. (Jonathan Berger) myspace.com/stolenbrownevergreen The Undisputed Heavyweights Live from New York City What is it that makes the Heavyweights Undisputed? All independent musicians before their collaboration, there is something better in the full lounge combo. For this band, the sum is heavier than its parts. Singer Casey Shea and guitarists Jeff Jacobson & Wes Verhoeve are, like the tastiest of peanut butter cups, great together. But what makes them so damned undisputed? Certainly, their material is winning. “Money” rocks out ex-

ceedingly old school – old Rat Pack school, that is. “Roll Your Windows Down” is sweet, sincere, and stunning. But is that enough to lay claim to their name? If not, what is? Maybe it’s the humor in their performance. The faux egotism is an aspect of their show that I appreciate, a device I’ve employed myself (to lesser effect) for years. On the first cut of their recent Live from New York City, Spokesman Shea says, “We are 1,282 and 0 this very night,” referring to their championship streak. The self-proclaimed legend lives. Conceivably, it’s the aforementioned sincerity of their material, the approach to the soft-rock style they so masterfully purvey. The Undisputed Heavyweights don’t take their material lightly; they believe in what they’re doing. The lyrics of “Bitches Be Trippin’” may not be a spot-on representation of the group’s views of wimminfolk, but the blues they play, that’s as true as you can get. Perhaps it’s the complementary nature of the project, playing on the members’ strengths. Shea is a phenomenal showman, while Jacobsen is an incredible guitarist. Verhoeve looks real pretty in a tie (and I liked him enough to feature his guitar prominently on my last album). But probably the best thing about the Undisputed Heavy-

weights is the hype. There is a whirlwind of energy around the band; people come to their shows in droves, singing along with every sway of Shea’s hips. A growing audience seems to believe in the myth of Heavy Weight. Which is why it was the best and most obvious idea in the world for their first full release be taken exclusively from live performances. The audience is as vital to the band as the horn section, added especially for their October Joe’s Pub gig, from which most of the disc is culled. Without the audience, Shea’s forty five minute banter at the end of “Just for Laughs” would fall flat. Without the rampant enthusiasm of their fanatical crowd, the magic of the Heavyweights would be lost. Of course, the crowds are always there at Undisputed shows, so any show could capture this energy, but the album beautifully presents a group hitting their stride. You can watch 11 QuickTime videos on the CD as well, to see what all the fuss is about. The release is the first from Verhoeve’s Family Records, which is donated some proceeds from the album to National Breast Cancer Foundation, so you can feel good about buying it. As if you needed any more reason… (Jonathan Berger) betterthanelvis.com

12 dollars buys you a 7-word title, with a 35-word body, in the only zine on the scene!
Urban Folk wants YOU! Contribute, please. Contribute reviews, contribute features, contribute illustrations, contribute article ideas, contribute photographs, contribute firstborn sons, but contribute! Urban Folk wants you. SongWriteNow - Two Day Intensive Workshop April 14 and 15 from 10am-6pm. Led by Dan Costello and Ben Godwin. For more information or to register, visit www.songwritenow.com. Tuition is $250 and space is limited. You must register by April 1. Stop trying, get writing! Jonathan Berger March 14 @ Sidewalk - 7:30 Starting off the night, celebrating Debe Dalton’s birthday. Sidewalk Café (94 Avenue A), NYC. 3/14 7.30. Free show. Yes, FREE! DADDY TAPES BENEFIT MARCH 8! Kenny’s Castaways (157 Bleecker Street) is the 21st Annual Benefit for the American Heart Association. $5 to see Anne Husick, Lenny Kaye, David Foster, Stark and Bill Popp & the Tapes! Tuesdays @ the AntiMike Kirk Kelly hosts the best open mic on 12th Street, starting in March. 200 Avenue A. Stolen Brown Evergreen 2006 Buy the new album from Stolen Brown Evergreen. It’s available through David Keesey and is available at Olivejuicemusic.com. www.myspace.com/stolenbrownevergreen Creek & the Cave Tuesday, 3/20/07 Come celebrate Paul Alexander’s second anniversary at the Creek and the Cave Tuesday March 20th with an open mic and then some. www.myspace.com/youropenmic Urban Folk wants your money! Advertise in Urban Folk. It reaches more people than your big mouth when you’re talking during my set. Buy a full page for only $100! Who could ask for anything less? Classified? We got that too. RIGHT HERE! urbanfolkzine@gmail.com

Dear Sir, I wish to complain on the strongest possible terms about a pair of reviews published in the last issue of Urban Folk. The reviews I mean are the ones for Frank Hoier’s Love Is War and Elastic No-No Band’s The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far. Now, admittedly, the second disc I mention here is my own, and since I made it – and since I have several hundred copies of it taking up space in my home which I would like to relocate to the homes of interested listeners – of course, I am going to be a little biased. But my concern here is not simply some mixed reviews, but something which was obvious in both Frank’s and ENB’s CD reviews: to the reviewers, the CDs seemed beside the point. Frank Hoier – Love Is War The (anonymous!) reviewer of Frank’s CD takes a moment in the beginning to say that Frank is a superb example of a singer/songwriter who takes his inspiration from traditional folk and blues. Then this faceless reviewer even pays lip service to the job of music criticism by starting to talk about the first track on the CD. However, then this hack goes off on a tangent: “I wish Frank would challenge himself more. Frank does this stuff all the time. I wish he’d go beyond it.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) My response to the claim that Love Is War is full of stuff that Frank has done a lot is: “Duh.” Love Is War is Frank’s first CD. The implicit point of this first CD is to have recordings of songs Frank plays a lot that people seem to like. It’s essentially The Very Best of Frank Hoier So Far. Now, if Frank continued to play only these 9 songs at shows for the next 3 years, then I would agree with the wish that Frank would move on. But what about the CD? The reviewer takes more time talking about Frank Hoier, the Performer, or maybe more like Frank Hoier, the Concept, than telling us what the damn CD sounds like. I’ve heard it, and frankly (ha ha) I think it sounds awesome, and it’s hands-down one of my favorite CDs of 2006. And I’d say that even if Frank didn’t give me 5 dollars and a package of chewing gum to write this letter. The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far Now, the review of Elastic No-No Band’s CD has a lot of problems. Jon Berger, the reviewer, is a sarcastic guy. And the review is full of a lot of his snarky humor, a lot of which frankly doesn’t read right if you don’t know Jon. He takes a lot of potshots at my personal image as performer as well as me as person, seeming to misunderstand every one of these aspects so totally that he has to be joking. For example, he claims that “Elastic No-No Band” is a play on “Elephant’s Memory,” which I think is supposed to be a misdirection joke. You think he’s gonna say the truth, which is that the name is a play on Plastic Ono Band, but he misdirects it with that “Elephant” gibberish. Problem is... most folks don’t know who the fuck Plastic Ono Band are, and if they do, they don’t always think of it when they see our band name. So most folks don’t even know “Elephant’s Memory” is a bad joke. But that’s a minor thing, the main problem is that Jon Berger can’t stop acting superior to a thing, even when he is praising it (and even though I’ve gotten conflicting second and third opinions, I get the gist that mostly he liked the CD). He singles out a few of the songs that he thinks are good, and then he undercuts the praise by saying “The production remains demo-low” and “[the CD] still smacks of limited commitment.” Guess what, Jon? It says right in the fucking liner notes that this CD is a collection of homemade recordings and demos. And “demo-low” isn’t even accurate – for a collection of demos and home recordings, it sounds cleaner and nicer than most of the hodgepodge that is The Moldy Peaches’ first album, and everybody loves that album. I wanted to make a 12-song compilation of all killer and no filler, from the 60-plus existing recordings of Elastic No-No Band – including stuff that’s just me solo, and stuff with the full trio (the other two of whom Jon Berger doesn’t even mention, in his single-minded sarcastic character assassination of yours truly). So I’m sorry, Jon, if my commitment is “limited” to compiling and remixing existing recordings, but I think that’s really all you can expect from someone making a compilation. Elastic No-No Band is currently working on its first studio album. It is our first concerted effort to make “an album,” with a bit of a budget and a full band. Now, if this new CD sounds like The Very Best of, just like if Frank’s next CD is just a retread of Love Is War, then you can fucking bitch about it. Yours sincerely, Justin Remer (Mrs.) www.elasticnonoband.com

Live From New York City! Out Now!

The Undisputed Heavyweights

Coming Soon

the bootleg series volume 1

The Undisputed Heavyweights Live From New York City
Money \ Lartigue \ Bitches Be Trippin' \ Roll Your Windows Down \ Back To You \ Just For Laughs \ A Girl Like You

FR-002 (March 2007) Cross-Pollination : The Mixtape Includes the Heavyweights, Jay Mankind, Cloud Cult, Kevin Devine, My Brightest Diamond, and more!

((family records))
About The Bootleg Series The Undisputed Heavyweights - Live From New York City is the first volume of The Bootleg Series: a unique, limited edition collector's box set that will boast individually released volumes from several of New York City's most talented and buzz-worthy musical artists. Each release will be a live performance capturing the true essence and heart of each artist, providing their audience with a throwback performance reminiscent of the days when artists were not be considered fully developed without a spectacular live show. See to the side for upcoming volumes!!! Partial proceeds from each volume will be donated to a charity picked by the artists. Collect them all, support independent music and your community! About Family Records Family Records is an division of Liberated Matter, who has been promoting quality independent music since 2004. Liberated Matter is responsible for bringing to audiences the weekly Cross-Pollination concert series since May 2004, presenting top talent, including several top artists including Kevin Devine, Nicole Atkins, Jeffrey Lewis, Cloud Cult, Jaymay, The Upwelling, Langhorne Slim, and more. The driving force for both Family Records and Liberated Matter is community building between artists, audiences and all music lovers in general.

FR-003 (April 2007) Jeff Jacobson’s self-titled debut solo album featuring 10 song incl. Castles, Let You Down, Your California, and more.

FR-004 (May 2007) Wakey!Wakey! - Make A Fist Inside Your Pocket is the 2nd volume in the Bootleg Series and features a scorching full band performance!

Also from Liberated Matter
Cross-Pollination: A weekly concert series featuring some of New York’s best talent. Two artists each play an individual 40 minute set, followed by a 3-song collaborative set, leading to unexpected and often spectacular musical results. Every Tuesday at Pianos, (158 Ludlow St. by Stanton St.), 8-10pm, FREE!!! 130 weeks and running! For this week’s line-up check Cross-Pollination.com! Also: Music Placement, Concert Promotion, Event Management & more visit LiberatedMatter.com. For news on releases TheFamilyRecords.com and for more on The Undisputed Heavyweights visit BetterThanElvis.com & MySpace.com/TheUndisputedHeavyweights
(c) & (p) 2007 Liberated Matter. All rights reserved.
FR-005 (May 2007) Casey Shea - Alive & Well is the 3rd volume in the Bootleg Series and features a full band performance of all of his very best solo material.

((family records))

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