I’ve gone on and on about my favorite recordings of 2010, but live music is the backbone of any good scene. Here is a look back my 13 favorite shows of the past 12 months in chronological order, with excerpts from reviews already published in The Bulletin or on Frequency.
(Jake) Smith’s talents are many, but his voice is obviously his most distinctive quality. It’s a show-stopper. A jaw-dropper. It’s canyon deep and sequoia strong, with a natural resonance that 99 percent of singers would kill to have.
The closest comparison I can come up with is Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, though when he’s at his best, Smith makes Vedder sound like Bobby Brady going through puberty.
He’s just that great of a singer.
Smith showcased that voice on barnburners like “The Madman” and “Carnage,” with their ultra-low notes, as well as meandering, pretty numbers such as “Sleepy Little Town” and “Where Dirt and Water Collide.” And he let it soar during two of his best songs, “Love Song #1” and “Damned.” The ascendant pre-chorus of the former and the roller-coaster verses of the latter were perfect examples of Smith’s skill for writing melodies that are both unconventional and memorable.
This is where I implore you to at least consider seeing Iowa-based indie rockers the Poison Control Center at Mountain’s Edge (fka Timbers South, in that strip mall by the Goodwill). I already told you why in last week’s GO! Magazine; click here to read that. Today, more goodies to grab your attention:
1) PCC’s 2010 album “Sad Sour Future” is a sprawling monument to the joys of underground rock ‘n’ roll; it buzzes and jangles and stumbles, finding all kinds of nooks to explore within the well-worn territory of indie rock. Think Pavement’s “Wowee Zowee” on Ritalin. Here’s one of the best tracks, made available by the band for you to download:
2) I didn’t have the newspaper space or the time to call the PCC for an interview last week. Now, though, I kind of wish I’d made it happen. Four of the guys — the ones not driving the van from Seattle to Portland, I’d guess — took the time to answer some of my silly questions via e-mail, and they seem like awesome dudes who love exclamation marks! Here’s our digital convo, with some light editing done by yours truly:
Kelly Joe Phelps and Corinne West will bring their wonderful new duo to Angeline’s Bakery in Sisters next week. Both are well known solo artists on the folk circuit, but they’ve merged their talents. West told The Bulletin why:
We didn’t know quite what to expect other than that we were going to have a great time, which we did. However, we found a mutual bond on many musical levels that took the music places neither of us had been artistically. Very magical. It was an easy decision in the end to continue forward, as the music seemed to form its own life around us, and we both thought it was extremely beautiful. Heartfelt and strong. So many things.
We’ve been amazed by the sound of our voices together — something neither one of us ever expected to find in terms of a true sympathetic companion vocally. Not emotionally, necessarily (even though that does apply as well) but tonally. We’re still amazed by that. And we’ve found a commonality in things like phrasing, vocal or guitar, where we’ll be in the middle of some flight of musical fancy and find ourselves phrasing vocally or guitaristically in the exact same way at the exact same moment. Out of seemingly nowhere. It’s really turning into quite a journey.
Steve Earle performs at Bend's Tower Theatre on June 29. Photo by Rob Kerr / The Bulletin
Alt-country icon Steve Earle played to a sold-out Tower Theatre in Bend June 29. I was there and wrote a review, and here’s part of it:
I was surprised by how few songs Earle did from his new record “Townes,” a tribute to his mentor, the late songwriting genius Townes Van Zandt. He did the man’s best-known tune, “Pancho and Lefty,” and “Rex’s Blues,” as well as one of his own songs, “Ft. Worth Blues,” that’s about Van Zandt. But that was it, unless I missed one.
As he introduced “Rex’s Blues,” Earle described Van Zandt as a “migratory” fellow, and the lyrics of “Ft. Worth Blues” reflect that; besides the title town, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas (and Houston), Amsterdam, London and Paris all make an appearance in the song.
Five minutes later, Earle was plucking his guitar and talking about his sons, two of whom are grown and the other brand new. He dedicated “Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” — a tender lullaby released 25 years ago on Earle’s first album — to his boys, and turned in a genuinely moving performance that exuded a blend of love and regret that any workaholic parent can understand.
Somewhere in there, it occurred to me that “Ft. Worth Blues” and “Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” neatly sum up most of Earle’s oeuvre; almost all of his songs are about motion or emotion. Or both. If he’s not singing about being stuck in this town, getting out of this town, or wandering over to that other town, he’s playing a song he wrote “for what’s-her-name, wherever the hell she is,” as he said in Bend.
I hope you’ll click here and read the whole thing. And click here to see more of Bulletin photographer Rob Kerr’s photos of the show.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Former Men at Work frontman Colin Hay kicks off the Clear Summer Nights series, top-notch folkies Sid Selvidge and Amy Speace play a house show in Bend, The Aggrolites return to town, the Poison Control Center brings ’90s indie rock to Mountain’s Edge, and Silver Moon Brewing has a typically strong week planned, with the Raina Rose Trio tonight, Not An Airplane on Saturday, and a full band show by The White Buffalo on Thursday. As usual, you can find lots more fun stuff to see and hear in The Bulletin’s complete music listing.