Thursday, May 31, 2007

Maria Maldaur

Naughty, Bawdy and Blue
Stony Plain Records

How many of you remember "Midnight At The Oasis"? Here's Dr. Blues's review of her latest.

The title says it all. This disk is loaded with innuendo, coded sex and just plain steaming lust. Maria D'Amato Muldaur is a master of the entendre and you know what I mean. Backed by a stellar 20s style jazz band, Muldaur recreates the era of Storyville, the Harlem renaissance, speakeasies, ragtime and hot women blues. This release is the final in a trilogy exploring classic women blues from the 20s to the 40s. Maria recapitulates the flavor, attitude and sounds of Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, et al. Even from her earliest days performing, Victoria Spivey knew Maria Muldaur had the real stuff and now, some 40 years later, Muldaur continues to pour out the jam. James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band honks and staggers and jags with the old time jizz time. They were there for some of the original recordings of these songs and they continue to sound as if they have just stepped out of New Orleans' Preservation Hall. They add the right touch to help Maria recreate the sophisticated, urban blues style of the day and the aura of those mighty women who were free, proud and bawdy! Altogether, the honors and tributes are bestowed with unique brilliance and down to the red light district fun. Maria covers the canon with the depth and heat and her band is the right there.

Using The Great Beyond planetary scale, Dr. Blues says this one causes a great impact as it crashes into Mercury.


While one format already has, and the other seems to be heading in that direction, VHS OR BETA are not in danger of being tossed in the same scrap heap as the 8-track, the 78 rpm vinyl disc, and the pet rock. In fact, this Louisville, Kentucky outfit is on the verge of releasing its latest opus, Bring On The Comets. The band will also embark on a summer tour to promote the disc, which will be available for public consumption on August 28, 2007.

VHS OR BETA plans to do select Midwest dates in July before embarking on a full-fledged tour following the release of Bring On The Comets. Craig Pfunder (guitar/vocals), Mark Palgy (bass) and Mark Guidry (drums) will be joined by new guitarist Mike Mcgill. Drummer Mark Guidry will also be using a full live drum kit as well his usual electronic equipment.

Bring On The Comets was recorded with up-and-coming producer Brandon Mason (Secret Machines, David Bowie) in Asheville, NC, and Nashville, TN. It will be released on the Astralwerks label.v

Magnolia Electric Co.

Talk about a band with ambition. Magnolia Electric Co. is not only touring Europe and the United States, but will release a box set of new and previously released material.

The first leg of the tour, which begins in mid-June, will see the band trek across Europe with stops in Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway and the United Kingdom. They then return for dates in North America between late August and early October.

All these dates are in support of a brand new box set entitled
Sojourner. To be releases on August 7th, it will feature four CD's, and a DVD using thirteen musicians, five locations, four recording engineers, three filmmakers, two designers, and one songwriter. The CDs are:
  • Nashville Moon was recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago, IL. It features the band's most frequent line-up.
  • Black Ram was recorded by David Lowery at this Sound of Music studios in Richmond, VA. This one features an entirely different set of musicians.
  • Sun Sessions was recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, TN.
  • Shohola features Jason Molina's solo work using only a microphone and a guitar.
The DVD is a film called The Road Becomes What You Leave which was produced by Todd Chandler and Tim Sutton. It follows the band as they tour across the prairie provinces of Canada. The movie demonstrates the loneliness and isolation a band can experience even when traveling in a pack.

For a complete listing of everyone involved in this project as well as the music featured on each CD, log on the Secretly Canadian website at

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Number Twelve Looks Like You

If you haven't been to your local Hot Topic recently, here is a reason to mosey on down. For $1.99, you can pick up a copy of an exclusive EP from The Number Twelve Looks Like You. It features two unreleased demo tracks plus one from their forthcoming Eyeball Records release, Mongrel.

There are those who say this band might have formed in 2001, but, hell, the band members can't even agree on how they met. what we do know is that Mongrel hits stores on June 19th. In the meantime, grab that EP for a taste.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yep Roc Records & The Golden Dogs

Yep Roc Records has been keeping rather busy lately. Kaleidoscopic country rockers The Gourds will jettison their latest entitled Noble Creatures on July 10th. The band features the songwriting skills of Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith.

Nick Lowe and John Doe (X) will drop new discs in June, while Los Straitjackets continue to tour in support of Rock En Espanol, Vol. 1.

But the band that has me most intrigued is from the Great White North; Toronto to be exact. The Golden Dogs (pictured above) have been honing their chops for almost ten years. The band was first conceptualized in 1998 by future husband and wife , Dave Azzolino and Jessica Grassia. after years of shuffling band members, the Golden Dogs have finally settled and reaping the rewards. The band recently inked a U.S. deal with Yep Roc, where they will release Big Eye Little Eye on August 21st. If this matches their live shows, look out.

For more information about the Golden Dogs, click HERE.

Monday, May 21, 2007


The Sugarcubes, Sigur Ros, and, of course, Bjork, would be three of the names you might think of when discussing the music of Iceland. Now, you can add the name of Amiina, four ladies making music who owe their very livelihood to a farmer who gave them a tow up the steep mountains of Iceland.

The story goes that Slrn, Mara, Edda, and Hildur decided to make music back in 2004. They packed their instruments and all the food their car could carry. Unfortunately, they did such a great job of packing that they weighed down the car to the point that it could not trek up the hills. A farmer came by and gave the girls a lift and thus began the history of Amiina.

On June 18th, Ever Records will release the band's debut album, Kurr. You can hear more by going to the bands website.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Essay by Tara Betts

In September 2006, I felt honored to join the ranks of writers that have been challenged in an attempt to be banned. At a panel with a fellow writer and hometown girl Kalisha Buckhanon in Brooklyn’s Brownstone Books, we found ourselves talking to a teacher from the area who had mentioned that many students at her school were reading Kalisha’s novel Upstate. She also told us that some adults in the district attempted to ban the novel.

This conversation led to other banned and censored books. One of them could have been The Spoken Word Revolution, a collection featuring 50 poets, including myself. The collection had been considered as a potential “banned book” on the West Coast in Sequim, WA only four months before this conversation. On the other side of the country in May 2006, Tim Richards spotted The Spoken Word Revolution among his son’s homework. His son had been the only student to check the book out of the school’s library. Fortunately, the Sequim School District’s Materials Committee reviewed the book and they decided to keep the book on its shelves. The book, circulating in the local North Olympic Peninsula public library as well, was challenged again in July 2006 by Richards, but other local citizens chose to speak up in favor of keeping the book available.

Richards deemed the writing in Spoken Word Revolution as a use of “vulgar language” with “obscene imagery” in a Peninsula Daily News article. Richards argued that “the lives of these artists are known for their violence, antisocial behavior and demeaning treatment of women.” Apparently, he was unaware of how many women are represented in the book and how many of them are involved in helping people across the country and from other parts of the world. He continued with his suggestion that there should be “a broader examination of obscenity standards in our library.”

As a writer who has seen the transformative power of making words accessible to people in the academic arena, I found this laughable. This unkempt blanket of a generalization that assumes familiarity with the work of writers in the book can easily be discerned as an attempt to protect his children from the political terrain that he opposes.

This choice of people to speak up and demand information and multiple venues of expression is an imperative, whether it be spoken word or otherwise. One reason is no one can nor should limit the parameters of education and creativity. Everyone has a choice of what they might want to listen to, read or watch, especially if they can afford it. Poetry is still one of the most affordable art forms in the world. If you have pen, paper and an eager mind, then it’s open. If an aspiring poet broadens his or her scope by reading, listening to music, observing the world and building their vocabulary, even better. Poetry can be a lifetime apprenticeship without studio time, television spots or a publicity team, and it still impacts people’s lives. Many poets in The Spoken Word Revolution receive letters from young writers, people who have been homeless, formerly incarcerated people, people who grew up in similar situations and those who relate to the unfolding of the human condition revealed in such poems. Like many poets before them, some of them publish and some of them work in schools, colleges, universities, homeless shelters, churches, prisons, museums, libraries, factories and in many more places that poets might not even be assumed to appear. So, it must be asked whether or not parents like Richards have been exposed to such people or are understanding of lifestyles unlike their own. One may even ask this parent how they might react to a lifestyle that their own children may adopt.

Although most banned books in the United States are by prose writers, notable poems and poets like Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass have been banned. Other poets who have been challenged and banned for work in other genres have held Maya Angelou, Luis Rodriguez, Alice Walker and Gertrude Stein within their ranks. Most of this work, however, has not been their poetry. So, on this rare occasion, a poetry book in America was being attacked.

Poets must continue to speak and defend other poets. Why? Censorship is an attempt to wield power and silence the voices of others. In fact, the Privacy Act and the Patriot Act embody legislation that has censored music and monitored “potentially dangerous” reading habits. Book burning and even the murder and torture of poets all over the world has been an attempt to erase particular voices and differing points of view. Frederico Garcia Lorca, Anna Akmatova and often-exiled Pablo Neruda were such examples of international political casualties.

Such policy leads many creative people who create their livelihood to wonder if they can weather the barrage of challenged speech. Some live in fear their messages will be unheard, obliterated into obscurity by an oversimplified sense of politics that says poems need to be for people who will invite you to colleges or put you on television until you say something that challenges powerful people. These dilemmas are concerns that should not only perplex poets. What if you lost the ability to say whatever you wanted tomorrow? Trying to picture such a scenario seems unfathomable to some, but censorship always sets a precedent for a situation like this.

Controversy for artists of all kinds seems to be the spark that expands into flames of a growing fan base, especially since some artists believe “all press is good press.” There is always the threat that language recognizes the outcasts, reveals secrets and affirms whatever is discarded by mainstream culture that tend to homogenize everyone like strip malls. The counter-threat of omitting and silencing such voices is destroying what makes creative spirits unique and destroying perspectives that could inevitably alter our views of history, literature and how each person influences the world in their own way. Sometimes people create influence with a poem.

When we look at the irrevocable damage of verbal abuse, racial epithets, hate crimes and homophobia, can we talk about censoring “vulgar language” and “religious viewpoints?” Can we really say what’s inappropriate for a certain age group when writers can describe real relationships and commercials can sell sexual fantasies on prime time television? Who will be the poets and the emcees to reverse these spells? Who will try to speak a blueprint that affirms the lives of many that are not privileged? Many poets who make their words available in books, in performance, through sound and video are looking for new ways to conjure and that may be what some parents and those who purport to speak with authority are trying to censor. For these reasons, a saying noted by Zora Neale Hurston still holds true—Speak, so you can speak again.

For more information about Tara Betts or to sample her poetry, click here.

Please be sure to check out the follow-up to Spoken Word Revolution, aptly entitled, Spoken Word Revolution Redux. Click here to learn more.

A New Direction

After doing this for more than a year, I decided that it was time to put together another blog. I started "Psychobabble," dedicated to slam poetry. It featured interviews, news, reviews, and other items. Unfortunately, it became too much to handle. "Psychobabble" has been silenced, but the material covered will be moved to this blog.

I have decided to expand the scope of "The Great Beyond." This blog will now attempt to cover material beyond the world of music. On this blog, you will find poetry, art, etc., and, of course, music. To that effect, I am proud to feature an essay written by poet Tara Betts.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Peter, Bjorn & John

Peter, Bjorn & John are quite busy these days. The band recently completed a 19 city in 19 day tour, and are currently preparing for a guest appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. PB&J are currently supporting their Almost Gold Records release, Writer's Block. The disc was recently released as a 180 gram double LP, gate fold, which features the full studio album plus two sides of previously unreleased sketches from the making of the album. The band is also featured on Yahoo's Who's Next.