Sunday Rewind: Jonathan Edwards’ Self Titled

Unblemished sapphire skies overhead, the path down Berkeley’s Telegraph Ave, once a bastion of student activism, now hosts dual American Apparel storefronts, a burrito franchise owned by McDonalds, and that musky, sharp bouquet of urine roasting on the curbside.

Sure, students still march around campus clenching placards and waving signs, but they’re just baby bureaucrats vying for student assembly positions. Hoping to recapture that classic dissent vibe, I’m off to Amoeba Records. Just past a slew of dog problems and some merchants peddling Schwarzenegger mouse pads, is the best vinyl a buck can buy – only ninety cents with student discount!

With a mint copy of Gordon Lightfoot’s Old Dan’s Records already in hand, I’m struck by a mustachioed man with straight shoulder length hair, dressed entirely in black. Leaning against a decaying doorframe, he’s looking mighty stoned as he peers at me through the open passageway. Left hand slack at his side, his right hand is parallel to the rustic hardwood floorboards, thumb extended as he invites me to take a closer look. Light pours into the room from a tiny corroder to his left. On the right, the image is bounded by a thick maroon stripe inscribed with the name “Jonathan Edwards” in small capitals.

After breaking into the 60’s folk scene in Boston, troubadour Jonathan Edwards released this self-titled debut LP on Capricorn Records in ’71. The album begins with five pleasant – albeit derivative- tunes mirroring the early recordings of Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers. But its not until crossover blues-folk ditty “Shanty,” those two and a half magical minutes hugging the spindle, that we leap at the turntable for a repeat listen. Leading with peeling harmonica and suave, jazzy piano, we’re transported to that same mildewed bungalow of album cover notoriety. Blues harp bleeding and blaring, Edwards turns to pipes and pals in escaping the turbulence of Vietnam and the politics of Dick Nixon: “Well there ain’t nothin’ to do / and there’s always room for more / fill it, light it, shut up / and close the door / cuz we gonna lay around the shanty, mama / and put a good buzz on.” With no commitments or obligations, the luxury of boundless leisure “every night and day, if I can help it mama,” lets us kick back and smell the roses: “Pass it to me slow / We’ll take time out to smile a little / Before we let it go.”

Side two commences with “Sunshine (Go Away Today),” Edwards’ greatest commercial success with over a million plus in sales. If you’ll humor the folklore, “Sunshine” wasn’t even supposed to make it on the album, but got tapped to “fill the hole” after an engineer mistakenly recorded over the master of a different track during eleventh hour recording sessions.

A few too many days hangin’ round the shanty, eh? Maybe that’s how we got penicillin too. Quick, jittery guitar lines and a peppy vocal melody clash with dispirited lyrics, as Edwards bemoans in consternation:  Sunshine go away today / I don’t feel much like dancing / Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life.” Wary of draft board goons and that military industrial complex Ike warned us about, Edwards stretches out the last word of each line, reaching back for a time when he greeted each new sun with enthusiasm and excitement. Exposing America’s Might Makes Right ethos, Edwards childes: “He says in love and war all is fair / But he’s got cards he ain’t showing.”


In an explosion of exuberance and rebellion, Edwards hammers out freedom, asserting a bold independence: “But he can’t even run his own life / I’ll be damned if he’ll run minnnne / Sunnnn shinnnne!” But today’s Sunday, so lets take some sage wisdom to heart: “lay around the shanty, mama… and put a good buzz on.”



Dawes, Delta Spirit, Deer Tick Squeeze In Tight As Middle Brother

 They say they ain’t no supergroup, but self-proclaimed “exotic band” Middle Brother is brimming with indie rock’s finest road warriors: soulful Delta Spirit frontman Matt Vasquez, Dawes’ country-folk hustler Taylor Goldsmith and Deer Tick anchor John McCauley. This resplendent synergistic concoction is brought to us curtsey of Partisan Records, home anachronistic female trio Mountain Man and cross dressing miscreants Deer Tick. Drawing from Rock’s bottomless tide pool, Middle Brother’s eponymous LP fuses Mississippi blues, Dixie ballads and folksy Americana, cut with generous globs of quirk and kink.

On single “Me, Me, Me”, Middle Brother fires an opening salvo with carefree, spontaneous yelps and skittering piano lines. Chuck Berry-esque guitar riffs drag us through a lyrical morass, as McCauley conveys an urgent tale of manipulation and egocentrism. Bombarded with questions, he faces fierce competition in life and love: “If he puts lies in your head / if he interrupts a feelin’ / that he cannot comprehend / I guess it’s meeee me me me meeee.” This suave dude chasing after McCauley’s girl may be smooth around the edges, but he lacks an authentic and genuine core: he is hollow. The ensuing instrumental flurry, equal parts sock hop and raunchy carnival, sets up a proclamation of headstrong independence and boiling lust: “I do my very own things these days / I gotta desiahhhhh / I gotta desiahhhhh!’”

Vasquez struts to the mic in “Green Eyes”, backed by Goldsmith’s chiming Rickenbacker, as high standards meet slim pickings: “I’ve been lookin’ for sometime / in a room full of pennies, for my dime.” Dwarfed by chronic loneliness, Vasquez dishes out a densely rendered fantasy, rife with restrictive accent qualifications and the apparent contradiction of wholesome sexuality: “She’s a Southern girl without a drawl / she’s a good girl who wears black bras.” Shuffling tambourine and metronomic hand clapping on title track “Middle Brother” frame denial as second nature. In turn, ignorance is unadulterated bliss: “I know my days are numbered / but I’m bad at math.” Playful riffs shoot from behind the vocals to the pulse of rhythmic excitement. Taking us back to those trailblazing ‘56 Sun Records days, Middle Brother interjects us with Elvis’ throaty, erotically charged “Uh huh,” chased by a cathartic, exuberant “Woooo, wheee!” that would have Jerry Lee Lewis crying happy tears. As the track fades, we hear a faint “that’s a wrap,” followed by Vasquez’s signature schoolyard diction: “we did it motherfuh…” Just in time to keep that family friendly rating.

Country waltz “Theatre” matches Vasquez’s glottal grinding with a deconstructed piano. He delivers coarse, dirty vocals with brutal conviction, frustration, and resentment: “This life will tell you nothing / nothing but lies.” Ripping to shreds life’s unfulfilled promises with the rapture of gospel, raspy howls permeate the track. Covering Paul Westerberg’s “Portland”, tranquil, crisp, finger picking softens McCauley’s pitchy vocal, as his cool disregard is exposed as a poorly masked amalgam of nostalgia and anxiety: “Its too late to turn back, here we go / Portland, oh, no.”

Closing out the elpee with “Million Dollar Bill”, we are reduced to a two-dimensional slip of paper in pursuit of a girl that’s already slipped away. Goldsmith’s humble, pristine voice turns ambition on its head, as he fantasizes: “When it hits me that she’s gone / I think I’ll run for president / and get my face put on the million dollar bill.” But his drive for posterity is neither societal progress, nor world peace, nor any of that groovy jazz, but simply to remain with his erstwhile lover as a mere shadow: “So when these rich men that she wants / show her ways that they can take care of her / I’ll have found a way to be there with her still.” Vasquez finishes the album with soulful quivering that is at once bewildered and bursting with passion, as he wails in merciless yearning for his love’s return. Stuck in the middle with these three? Squeeze me in!


You and Me – Reel Karma

Somehow this hadn’t made the blog yet! Enjoy!


Dodos’ No Color Wipes Pallet Clean

The Dodos’ No Color has founding members Eric Long and Logan Krober trimming their instrumental crew to two, ditching that bloated vibraphone for the atmospheric, luscious backup vocals of alt-country songstress Neko Case. Concurrently immersed in cerebral contemplation and visceral intensity, The Dodos’ fourth LP recaptures the urgent physicality of 2008’s Visitor. And still baby faced on the steep side of 30? Ponce de Leon, call off the flotilla!


Released on Frenchkiss Records — home to Silver Lake psych folkies Local Natives and loquacious, verbose indie rockers The Hold SteadyNo Color’s opening track “Companions” kicks off with frontman Eric Long’s blushing romanticism. Delivered with scalding conviction: “Insipid wait and so we play /Companions.”

Propped by raw, caterwauling raillery on “Don’t Try And Hide It,” The Dodos admonish passive embrace of turnkey lives: “Don’t give your eyes to other’s vocations / They are there to keep you in your station.” Offering us exodus from a monochromatic, future: “Don’t try and hide it, don’t try and hide it, fight it!” Throughout the LP, No Color features percussionist Logan Krober’s signature drum rim tapping and “tambourine shoe” to match Long’s escalating vocal prowess.


Neutral Milk Medley

That’s right, it’s Medley Monday! I’m hoping to pick an awesome album once a week and mash some of the great cuts into one video. This week: Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. This band made it big in the indie circuit as part of Elephant Six, a 90s label that spanned from Seattle to Colorado to Athens, Georgia. Elephant Six was responsible for bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples In Stereo.

Here are three great cuts from “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.”



Jared and Riley’s “On Titus”

In the vain of songs like S.T.U.B. (SamTheUnsociableBear) and Black Jazzmaster comes On Titus, another classic instrumental from the collective brain of Jiley. Or Rired. Featuring Sam Shoe with dem bass fills.


Reel Karma – What I’ve Been Told

Thankyouthankyouthankyou Kristen for keeping the camera rollin’ on this one! Reel Karma’s “What I’ve Been Told” featuring Caroline Denton, Riley Ziesig, Jared Hauser, and Sam Shoe. Enjoy!