Archives For March 2012

The last few weeks have been super busy, as you may have noticed from the complete dearth of posts over the month of March. Between hosting house shows, setting up a dozen more for the coming months, starting a new job and doing another on the side, the juggling and switching of hats left Cause A Scene on the back burner for a while. An album that has been by my side guiding me along through the ebbs and flows of life, however, has been Deep Sea Diver‘s “History Speaks”. I am constantly moving on from one album to the next, but my favorite-Seattle-band-of-the-moment has grabbed a hold of me and refused to let go.

Fronting the band is a name you might not be familiar with but who has played alongside some of the biggest names in indie music: Jessica Dobson. Throughout the years she’s played with Conor Oberst, The Shins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beck (need I say more?) and you can catch just a little bit of their influences throughout the album, but Deep Sea Diver and this album are far from copycats. This is an album that stands completely on its own and separates itself from the crowd, mostly because of the sheer magnetism of Dobson’s voice that is an instrument all its own.

Just like my life has been lately, there is quite a bit going on throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks, but it’s Dobson’s voice that carries each track along and is able to cut through all the background noise like a knife through a perfectly-cooked filet. As another blog put it, Dobson is a “mega-talented, guitar shredding, key pounding badass chick.”

She is all those things and more and through touring with several hugely influential artists, you get a sense of true professionalism on this album. It doesn’t really feel like a debut at all. It feels like a masterpiece that has been incubating for years, only to reach its prime value now that it’s been released.

Whether it’s on ballads like “Tracks of the Green Line” and “The Watchmen” or hard-charging punch-to-the-gut songs like “Ships” or “You Go Running”, Dobson and her backing band consisting of her husband Peter Mansen and John Raines pull off a sound that feels completely effortless. Each song has somewhat of a menacing, almost haunting feel to it, but at the same time pulls of a surreal beauty that brings light and textures to each composition. For years, Dobson has been in the background of great bands, waiting her turn, keeping her dream alive, keeping it moving along (to paraphrase and recontextualize her song “Keep It Moving”), and with this release, I think it is safe to say that Dobson and Deep Sea Diver has stepped out from the shadows and is poised to be a breakthrough band in 2012.

“History Speaks” is available on the band’s Bandcamp page as a digital download for only $10. It will be the best Hamilton you spend for a while.

Hello faithful Cause A Scene readers! Thank you so much for your patience as the updates have been incredibly sparse the past couple weeks. I wish I could blame it on SxSW preparations and whatnot but sadly that was not the case this time around as I was unable to find the time to make it to Austin this week. 99% sure I will be there next year, with bells on no less.

The past couple weeks have consisted of two absolutely incredible house shows put on by Neulore and Dinner And A Suit the last weekend in February followed up by The Vespers and Anderson East this past Saturday, three mesmerizing performances from Mumford & Sons at Nashville’s hallowed Ryman Auditorium, and yet another showstopping concert from Philadelphia rockers, Dr. Dog to boot. Also have been going through the rigors of a two month job search that is culminating with a possible dream job in tow (Cue giant ear-to-ear smile and me doing backflips). More on all of those things to come. Finally, there are going to be a LOT of house shows to announce very shortly for the spring whose final details are being nailed down at the moment.

So thank you again for bearing with me as I try to find the time to metaphorically put pen to paper for Cause A Scene. There are a lot of posts coming, it’s just a matter of finding the time to produce them.

Lastly, be looking for  “Concert Calendar” and “House Shows” pages at the top of the blog very soon. Lots of exciting stuff!

It is always a bit intimidating to be asked to write on a favorite artist, to try to bring to light to brilliance of an artist who seems to escape definition, who balances on the edge of heartbreak and hope so precariously, who is able to pen songs that seem to sprout legs and create a life all their own. But when asked to write on the criminally underrated Doug Burr, I had to hide my gleeful enthusiasm to bring such an unique talent to light.

The more I listen to Doug Burr, the more everything else around his music seems to fade to black. His songs give the sense of being tethered to this world, of having something substantial tying you down to the world spinning madly around you, of somehow bringing peace in a moment where the storm is brewing right outside your window. Simply put, his music is such that it demands your attention. It requires you to switch the shuffle button to the off position and be completely immersed in the narratives that his songs bring to life so eloquently.

I have thought a lot about the dichotomy of hope and despair and of joy and sorrow lately, in many ways spurred on by Damien Jurado’s heartbreakingly gorgeous Maraqopa, and in most ways influenced by my own personal quest to more fully understand my relationship to the world. Burr’s music straddles that line as well, allowing just enough darkness to creep in before the light answers back, offering a glimmer of hope in the midst of the unknown. I can’t help but shake the feeling that Burr isn’t just concerned about telling the stories in his songs, but that he’s also asking the listener to start asking themselves the key questions that help make sense of their own stories. Just try listening to his Trembling Lips and Pale Fingertips 7″ (released today on vinyl and as a 4-song download card via Velvet Blue Music/Spune), and not be affected. Both of these songs have the capacity to chill you to your core, but provide just enough warmth to keep you coming back for more.

The first track, an alternate version of “A Black Wave is Comin’”, the lead track from his critically-acclaimed 2010 release O Ye Devastator, sounds like a song Burr would sing if he was told he only had one song left to sing again. It is immediate, and it feels like Burr himself is sitting in the same room with you from the first few notes of the piano. The “black wave” that is comin’ in the song nearly swallows the listener whole with just Burr’s voice and the piano to provide comfort. Throughout it all, his voice disguises the bleakness of the lyrics with a reassuring, even optimistic, tone. By the time the guitar enters in halfway through the song, you’re left with the feeling that come what way, it will all turn out all right in the end. The black wave may be coming, but we will not be overcome as somewhat alluded to in his last repeated refrain of “I can’t sing, but I hear a little hymn“. Everything about this version of the song feels intimate, like Burr is telling the listener, “come in close, I am about to bear my soul to you.” It is gorgeous, and it gets better with each repeated listen.

The B-side of the 7″, “Chief of Police in Chicago”, resonates in much the same way as the first, with the piano being much more prevalent in the alternate version than the original, and its sparseness pushes Burr’s voice and lyrics to the forefront. It tells the story of a police officer in Chicago, speaking apparently to the mother of a young murderer. The instrumentation on this version balances out the dark, bleak future that is pervasive throughout the lyrics (“Oh I have seen the thing you cannot see/And my team and I are just a little shaken/We’ve discovered  the gene“). The listener has to use his or her own imagination to figure out exactly what has left the team distraught about the future, but you get the sense that the chief of police is not shying away from combatting the impending darkness.

Everything about the “Trembling Lips and Pale Fingertips 7″” is worth listening to over and over again, and these new, stripped-down versions, for me, are full of wide-eyed wonder and hope despite their gloom. I highly recommend buying or downloading the 7″, and for anyone who is just hearing about Doug Burr for the first time, I would encourage you to buy the rest of Burr’s music immediately. The purchase will be worth every penny.

A Brand New Tradition

LarryKloess —  March 2, 2012 — 1 Comment

One of my goals, if you will, of 2011 was to travel to a city I had never been to before. Naturally, my inclinations were to go to a place that had a killer music scene so Austin, Boston and Seattle all made the list of possible destinations. Turns out that I didn’t end up in any of those wonderful cities, but accomplished my goal in a way that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the year, by going to Newport, Rhode Island, to experience the legendary Newport Folk Festival.

Originally conceived as a trip with my dad to head up to Newport (we’re both quite smitten with Emmylou Harris, after all) for the festival and then a couple days in Boston to see the Red Sox at Fenway, my sister and I ended up making it a bro-sis road trip to experience two days of every variation of folk music under the sun. It was an experience like no other, getting to see the aforementioned Emmylou, Gillian Welch, The Decemberists, The Civil Wars, The Head and the Heart, Typhoon, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Freelance Whales and many, many more.

Newport Folk Fest 2011 was my first festival experience despite living within two hours of Bonnaroo and there were several times over the course of that July weekend where I thought to myself “I’m coming back here every year if I can.” From the gorgeous port city of Newport to the water taxi ride each morning to get to the festival at Fort Adams State Park, from the super laid back, perfectly friendly crowd to the dozens of boats pulled up to the harbor to catch the music for themselves, it was hard not to fall completely in love with George Wein and Pete Seeger’s brainchild.

So now it’s 2012 and just yesterday the lineup was released for the festival, taking place July 28 and 29, and the folks in Newport have made it waaaay too easy to honor my words from last summer and make this an annual pilgrimage. Headlining the festival are My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne, who are both playing NFF for the first time ever. Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin and Guthrie Family Reunion (Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, etc.) also received top billing for the festival, but that’s just scratching the surface.

Highlights for me are The Head and the Heart playing for the second year in a row (the only band returning this year, I think), and a plethora of bands on my “Bucket List” that I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. 2012 buzz bands, Of Monsters and Men and Alabama Shakes will be performing, along with Blind Pilot, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Gary Clark Jr, Deep Dark Woods, New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames), and The Tallest Man on Earth, who I’ve been dying(!) to see perform for years. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure getting to cross them all of my list. And I’d be remiss to share how ecstatic I am to see Nashville’s own The Apache Relay take to the Newport stage. There’s honestly not enough space in this post to do justice to all the wonderful acts playing at the festival this year.

So, dear readers, what’s your festival experience been like? Anyone else been to Newport before? Who wants to join in on this brand new tradition of mine?