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Black diamond strings on a catalog guitar

While in Louisville, besides the Dylan concert, I seemed to be soaking in music left and right. Even a lot of noodling around on acoustic guitars, while sitting on porches off the rooftop of 100 year old buildings, looking out over the trees. Drinking beer, too. Made me tell myself that I want to get back into playing and writing, just for kicks, and provided I'm employed come June (those of you who have been in touch know that that is unfortunately very much in the air right now), I'd like to go back to McCabe's to take lessons.

I tuned my old acoustic guitar yesterday, and played some Wilco songs and Lucinda songs. Some other stuff, too, off of the great Alt Country Tab site, including the Blasters' "So Long Baby Goodbye." It was a cheap hundred dollar guitar my father bought for me when I was 13, but so help me, it does have a pretty sound, despite its Japanese factory roots, and I think I'll always want it around. That said, I'm longing to throw some money down (when I'll have money to throw) and pick up a Martin or Gibson acoustic, maybe something with built-in pick-ups.

I had forgotten how much I missed it.

posted by Anon. 4:05 PM
Saturday pickmeups

Even though I still haven't finished the first round of enjoyment of the CDs I picked up in Louisville, I made a stop at Aron's Records today on Highland.

The booty:

The new Richard Thompson, the Old Kit Bag. It features a bonus disc that includes RT covering, yes, Prince's "Kiss." Hmmm. Listened to the main album once already -- it doesn't grab me as much as RT's last record, Mock Tudor. That one was produced by the guys who did Elliot Smith's XO; this one, instead, is produced by John Chelew, who produced the fab RT tribute record of a few years back, the out-of-print Beat the Retreat, and also produced another singer/songwriter classic, John Hiatt's Bring the Family.

I also picked up, based on Manfredi's recommendation, The Creek Drank the Cradle, the record by Iron & Wine, which is the nom de plume for a Florida cinematography professor named Sam Beam. I had listened to some of it before in Matt's car -- think of a mix between Palace Brothers/Bonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham and Nick Drake, with a little Elliott Smith for good measure. I look forward to listening to it.

The third CD I picked up, Albuquerque's finest, the Shins' Oh, Inverted World, was one I've meant to pick up ever since a friend put "New Slang" on a 2001 In Review disc he made -- I liked the song so much, I then swiped it and put it on my 2001 in Review disc, even though I didn't have the album from which it originated.

Then, to prove I'm a complete geek, I bought the two-disc DVD of the documentary about the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. I missed it in the theaters. Have been watching it this afternoon. While it's beautifully shot and the performances are great -- and its fascinating to hear the primordial versions of the YHF songs, often as spare as folk songs, in their early stages -- it's not very good in terms of actually getting into much of the meat of the story -- Tweedy is such an interior, withdrawn guy, not exactly a fascinating portrait for a documentary.

One of the highlights, though, is an interview with David Fricke of Rolling Stone. I've seen him on a thousand Behind the Musics, and usually find him to be the stereotypical rock writer -- weird-looking, geeky, the guy who probably owns a thousand Velvet Underground bootlegs. I've never cared for him much, but in the documentary, he does make an interesting point about how it's harder and harder these days for records -- or any kind of art -- that isn't an instant "get." Where you have to work at it to enjoy and reap the fruits the work offers.

Sometimes I find myself far too impatient with records, expecting instant enjoyment. One of the records I bought in Louisville did nothing for me the first listen. But I've been listening a bunch to is Neko Case's album from last year, Blacklisted, and it's grown and grown on me. Case almost sounds like an alt-country Nick Cave, with a little Kate Bush thrown in for good measure. Kinda hard to describe, and her songs don't follow the traditional structure, but the mood of the album is growing on me more and more.

posted by Anon. 3:40 PM


Writing to music

A common question I ask fellow writers is whether or not they can write while listening to music.

I find that I prefer music in the background -- even music with vocals -- while I write. Some folks I know can't except to non-vocal music -- too distracting -- and some writers I know can't write to music at all. Other writers I know can write with a television on; I can't. I'm also sure that some can write while artillery shells go off, 747s soar overhead, and twelve year olds set firecrackers off outside on the sidewalk outside their window.

Since my current gig as a television writer is up in the air -- ah, hooray for May and hiatus and the unknown -- I'm throwing myself back into writing my novel. Not sure what I'll be listening to today when I write. More soon.

posted by Anon. 10:41 AM
Interactive Palmermix

While at that great recordstore in Louisville, I also spied new releases by two artists/groups whose previous efforts I quite enjoyed: one, the Canadian bluegrass outfit the Be Good Tanyas; the other, the new album by former Whiskeytowner Caitlin Cary. I didn't buy them, or for that matter, Beatles for Sale, 'cause I was buying too much already. (Though in retrospect, I shouldn't have bought the boring Neko Case album.)

Any Palmermixers out there check out either of these new releases? Do tell! Email us at Palmermix at earthlink.

The new Richard Thompson record, the Old Kit Bag, is in stores this week. As his last record, Mock Tudor, was his strongest in years, I'm excited for the new release. RT is also playing in LA on May 16, I think; if you've never seen him live, he's truly one of the best live performers I've ever seen.

posted by Anon. 10:34 AM


AIM fun

A new feature to our pages: AIM transcripts with fellow music-loving friends. Today's dialogue is with Ethan Malasky, a software engineer in San Francisco town.

MichaelOPalmer: what have you been listening to of late
ethanmalasky: i'm thinking. i've been around a little bit
ethanmalasky: cody chesnutt
MichaelOPalmer: who's that
ethanmalasky: black soul/pop guy.
ethanmalasky: low-budget 2-disc debut: the headphone masterpiece. it got a lot of press, i thought
MichaelOPalmer: i'll check it out!!!
ethanmalasky: can't seem to get enuff belle&sebastian. it's not new, but i keep returning to it.
ethanmalasky: love the eps, especially
MichaelOPalmer: yes, they're good. i like the EPs ok, my favorite is still if you're feeling sinister.
MichaelOPalmer: i listened to the new album by the group arab strap at a record store in kentuccky, not so good
MichaelOPalmer: none of the belle side projects do much for me
MichaelOPalmer: looper, etc
MichaelOPalmer: i also didn't love fold your hands child
ethanmalasky: i didn't even know those were b+s side projects
MichaelOPalmer: i think they are
MichaelOPalmer: looper definitely is
ethanmalasky: i raged with the new white stripes for 10 days or so. i like it a lot
ethanmalasky: + the new yo la tengo; great for late-nite driving
MichaelOPalmer: i hope the new white stripes is better than white blood cells, i thought that record was the emp's new clothes
ethanmalasky: i've got tix to see them, which i'm really excited about. never seen 'em before
MichaelOPalmer: i listened to the new yo la tengo also at a listening station, didn't love it, but then they're a group that always rewards on repeated listening
ethanmalasky: yes yes
MichaelOPalmer: my favorite of theirs is still fakebook, though i like i can feel the heart beating as one
ethanmalasky: really enjoyed Le Tigre's self-titled album
ethanmalasky: it's a worktime fave
ethanmalasky: new for me...
ethanmalasky: have you heard the band The Negro Problem?
MichaelOPalmer: i've heard of them, haven't heard them
ethanmalasky: i pulled an album of theirs off emusic; it's ok. a little precocious
ethanmalasky: have you tried the apple music store yet?
MichaelOPalmer: i saw sheryl crow and steve jobs on the cover of some business magazine this week
MichaelOPalmer: sheryl has an ipod in her pants, but the headphones are connecting to steve's ears
MichaelOPalmer: it's hot, brother, HOT
MichaelOPalmer: i haven't tried it, what's your take on it
ethanmalasky: slick
MichaelOPalmer: i own an iPod, my boss gave us them for our christmas gifts, very nice of him
ethanmalasky: nice! the new ipods are sooooo cute. even smaller than before
MichaelOPalmer: i haven't used my ipod yet
MichaelOPalmer: i should
MichaelOPalmer: i'm still in the "burning CDs to jog to" is fun phase, rather than the "i'll just jog with my entire record collection place"
ethanmalasky: cheap access to music, with enough freedom to burn to CD and share w/ others on the network
ethanmalasky: my whole group has their collections online now, thanks to apple and itunes 4
MichaelOPalmer: how cheap is cheap
ethanmalasky: 0.99/song
ethanmalasky: the experience is sooooo slick
ethanmalasky: integrated into itunes.
MichaelOPalmer: and it's yours forever?
ethanmalasky: you search, it's zippy, dbl-click for 30 sec sample, press button to download and buy
ethanmalasky: it's yours forever
MichaelOPalmer: any final music thoughts?
MichaelOPalmer: why don't you give us your desert island 3 favorite records
ethanmalasky: well, palmermix, i'd love to
MichaelOPalmer: hit it!
ethanmalasky: ok, here's a good enough desert island list:
ethanmalasky: abbey road, if you're feeling sinister, rust never sleeps
ethanmalasky: rust never sleeps give me both the distored guitars I need, without wasting a whole album on it!
MichaelOPalmer: good list!

posted by Anon. 2:45 PM
Slip kid

Big news. The charges have been dropped against Pete Townshend, but he's still going to be listed on a national UK registery of sex offenders. I can't make sense of it, either. (But I can't help but think of the John Turturro character in Lebowski. Such a perfect film...) Here's the AP story:

Townshend Cleared of Possessing Kid Porn
The Associated Press
May 7 2003 1:02PM
LONDON (AP) - Rock guitarist Pete Townshend, co-founder of The Who, was cleared Wednesday of possessing pornographic images of children but still was placed on a national register of sex offenders.

That registration was part of a formal police caution Townshend received for accessing a Web site containing images of child abuse.

Townshend, 57, was arrested in January on suspicion of making and possessing indecent images of children. The arrest was part of Operation Ore, an FBI-led crackdown on Internet child pornography.

After a four-month investigation, London's Metropolitan Police said Wednesday the rocker ``was not in possession of any downloaded child abuse images'' but had accessed a site containing such images in 1999.

The musician acknowledged using his credit card to enter a Web site advertising child pornography but said he was doing research for his autobiography. Townshend denied being a pedophile and said he had campaigned against child pornography.

The title character in Townshend's rock opera ``Tommy'' - a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard - is sexually abused by an uncle, and Townshend said he believed he was sexually abused as a young boy while in the care of his mentally ill grandmother.

On Wednesday, Townshend said he was wrong to access the Web site, but said police accepted he had no ``nefarious purpose'' in doing so.

``As I made clear at the outset, I accessed the site because of my concerns at the shocking material readily available on the Internet to children as well as adults, and as part of my research toward the campaign I had been putting together since 1995 to counter damage done by all kinds of pornography on the Internet, but especially any involving child abuse,'' he said in a statement.

Police, however, said it was not a defense ``to access these images for research or out of curiosity.''

As part of the cautioning procedure, Townshend's fingerprints, photograph and a DNA sample will be taken by police and he will be placed on a national sex offender registry for five years.

Townshend's website doesn't offer anything new -- yet -- in Pete's famous diary section, but there is this official statement, in the News section of his site.

posted by Anon. 2:07 PM
Madison Avenue Rocks!

If you thought that Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" hawking Victoria's Secret was as bad as it could get, then you just haven't seen the new Sheraton ads using "Let's Spend the Night Together."

The commercials feature an anonymous "rock band" -- their hair all in that Ryan Adams bedhead mode -- singing "Let's Spend the Night Together" while running from the press, groupies, etc in a Sheraton hotel. Very much capturing that Almost Famous zeitgeist. The ads say, "Hey, Sheraton, there's a fun casual vibe at work here, people!"

Reasons why this ad is awful:

1) A song that was once so "dangerous" that Ed Sullivan's people forced Mick Jagger to sing "let's spend some time together" instead now is tame enough to sell one of the nation's largest hotel chains.

2) The Stones could part with the song, but not their version of it? After selling "Start Me Up" to Windows 95, what, the Stones could only go halfway this time?

3) The "cutesiness" this portrays of early 70s-style rock bands, excluding the less cute details such as the heroin use and rampant sexuality. (That would have made a much more interesting ad! Sheraton: Do smack in our bathrooms!)

I actually recently defended Dylan's selling "Not Dark Yet," and no, not just because I like lingerie ads, but because Dylan has never been someone who has had huge album sales. The same way I don't have problems with Moby selling all of his songs to ads to make most of his income so he can support little vegetarian teahouses that sell $10 cheese sandwiches. For artists of that size, advertisments are a real, and vital, income stream.

But for the Stones? There was no reason why the Stones needed to sell "Let's Spend the Night Together." Which, while we're on the topic, is easily one of my ten favorite Stones songs.

OK, because we're on the topic:

palmermix Top 10 Favorite Stones Songs

Shine a Light
Dead Flowers
Tumbling Dice
Loving Cup
Let's Spend the Night Together
Under My Thumb
Get Off of My Cloud
Before They Make Me Run
Salt of the Earth
Hang Fire/Can't Always Get What You Want/Beast of Burden

It'll change by tomorrow. Or in an hour.

posted by Anon. 1:25 PM

I was listening to Nick Drake long before you were.

posted by Anon. 9:31 AM
Seen on a T-shirt in Louisville...

"Legalize Bluegrass."

posted by Anon. 9:15 AM
File sharers, start your engines...

One of the albums I picked up in Kentucky is the new Daniel Lanois, Shine. Like his earlier Acadie and For the Beauty of Winona, it's an amalgamation of both songs and atmospheric instrumentals. I find this one more accessible than the earlier records, with much more attention paid to song structure. And already it's offering up one of my favorite songs of this still relatively new year: a duet with Bono, "Falling At Your Feet." Download it from your file-sharing software of choice, or listen to a minute of it on the Amazon page...

Support Palmermix and buy Shine here.

posted by Anon. 9:10 AM
Making bets on Kentucky Derby day

Louisville is a swell city, beautiful with tons and tons of trees and older buildings, somehow escaping much of the "ugly architecture" of the 60s and 70s. Restaurant-wise, it seemed decent; I visited a nice bookstore; there were many pretty galleries. But more importantly, they have good radio and a great local record chain, EarX-Tacy, which was one of the best independent music stores I've been to in a long while. Many terrific recommendations, a very good selection, but also, great categorization -- there was a thorough bluegrass category, a folk category, but also, an alternative-country section. (The potential problem, of course, is what happened when Blockbuster over-categorized -- where to find the compact discs which might fit into several different genre labels?)

Avery and I headed over there, on Bardstown Road, right after brunch on Sunday. I blew about $85; so far, a fairly good CD run. A couple of clunkers, though. I'll write about the purchases in the days ahead.

posted by Anon. 9:03 AM


Goodbye, Earl

Got back last night from Kentucky (more on that soon), and I'm welcomed home with... this:
DJs Suspended for Playing Dixie Chicks
The Associated Press
May 6 2003 9:02AM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Country station KKCS has suspended two disc jockeys for playing the Dixie Chicks, violating a ban imposed after the group criticized President Bush.

Lead singer Natalie Maines told a British newspaper she was ``ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.''

``We pulled their music two months ago, and it's been a difficult decision because how can you ignore the hottest group in country music,'' station manager Jerry Grant said.

He said there has been discussion about whether to reinstate the music, but the DJs, Dave Moore and Jeff Singer, became impatient.

``They made it very clear that they support wholeheartedly the president of the United States. They support wholeheartedly the troops, the military. But they also support the right of free speech,'' Grant said.

The station has received a couple of hundred calls and 75 percent favored playing the music.

Grand said Moore and Singer will be out for a couple of days.

``I gave them an alternative: stop it now and they'll be on suspension, or they can continue playing them and when they come out of the studio they won't have a job.''

The station plans to play the group's music again eventually. ``Most stations are starting to play them again anyhow a song here, a song there. I just have a problem with the way this was done. We would have put them in anyhow. But we'd like to do it on our terms,'' he said.
I love that how in the wake of the Dixie Chicks' album skyrocketing instead of suffering in the wake of all this, the radio stations are now depicting their ban as a brave statement of conscience. Not since Joe Lieberman condemned Bill Clinton...

posted by Anon. 8:50 AM