Skribe’s Postcards: A Special Delivery

Skribe fans know his minimalist approach.  He makes huge music and art with so few raw materials.  He kicks at a ratty old hi-hat cymbal and bass drum fashioned out of a battered suitcase while he yanks tunes out of yard sale guitars or a canjozookie, an 8-stringed creature made from an old oil can.  He plays a kazoo. skribe canjo-zookie It might look like an accident but it sounds like the sorcerer’s apprentice has enchanted a music store.  His sound and his vibe enchanted enough people to crowdfund his entire 2014 album, Less is More.  How one guy makes that much music is magic indeed!

In December of 2016, Skribe released Postcards, a collection of eight songs with him backed by a full band.  It’s exactly the album many of his fans already heard in their heads.  Anyone who has caught him live has seen plenty of high-test musicians lined up to jam with him and been treated to some obscenely good collaborations.  On Postcards, Skribe takes a road trip with all his musical buddies riding shotgun.  And from the first notes, you’re along for the ride.  This is a fun album!  And if you’re not careful, you might learn something too.

“Wide Awake,” the first track, is about insomnia.  You, fellow traveler, follow his imagination “…through the ceiling into outer space” and back again to the central questions of life.  How does he answer them?  He seeks “…the unturned stones still on the old frontier.”  The music buzzes and reverberates and sounds like infinity.  Six instruments include electric guitar, vibraphone and electric carillon.  After a few listens, you may actually dream about scenes from this song.  It won’t disturb your sleep but it might make you hum in the daylight.  It’s the new sound of ancient wisdom and wondering.

The deep thoughts continue on track two.  Yet “Common Ground” reminds us how simple life can be in the moment.  Horns and drums give the tune an international, festival kind of vibe.  He says, “…the settled heads of perfect pours rise with high demand so fill your soul or thirst for more but tonight won’t come again.”

“Home Sweet Home” would make a great rap.  Or it could have been a hit for Hank Williams.  Skribe grins that he’s gonna “…grow on you like a wicked weed.”   It’s a rambler’s tale of chasing a muse.

“Mayonnaise & Honey” is a rock song about passion.  You’ll get it.  It rocks.

The savory instrumental “Canned Ham Blues” is actually played on a hamjo.  Yep.  It’s a stringed instrument made from the can from a canned ham.  It’s all Skribe.

The song “M.I.Y” had its actual debut in a video Skribe submitted to the 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert series.  You can make it yourself.  It’s all about perspective.  In the video you actually see a tiny desk and the canjozookie.

The last original song on the record is “Partners in Crime.”  It could be a paean to his muse, his guitar, his band or his audience.  Whatever the meaning, he means it.  It’s obvious that Skribe, aka Aaron Yealdhall, is at home wherever he finds himself.  He’s enjoying looking for himself and for us.  At shows since the record’s release, he’s introduced himself saying “My name’s Aaron and I play in this band called Skribe.”

So fans can now have something in their hands that they’ve heard in their heads and hearts for a while.  Yes Aaron is Skribe but Skribe is also an idea, an entity.  It’s very Zen for garage folk.  It’s also rock, country and the blues with this big-ol’ band and high production values.  It’s the jackalope in the landscape, the wings on the vacuum tube, and the helmet on the dog.   On these Postcards, Skribe delivers some wonders of the world you will want to write home about and visit over and over.

The final song on the album is “Strangers” by Dave Davies of The Kinks, from their 1970 album Lola.  It says “Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.”  It’s a perfect fit with the journey metaphors of this album and brings us all home together.

Fits & Starts for Roots & Blues

Are you having fits & starts over the schedule for Roots & Blues?  Do you know the phrase fits & starts?  In the case of deciding who to see, where and when during Lancaster Roots and Blues festival, the phrase could describe how you are wrestling with choices.  You decide who to see, you discover an option, you feel conflict and you flip.  It’s a good problem to have.  Don’t give yourself conniptions as my mother’s people would say.

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I have to try and be everywhere at once.  It’s my job as Director of Operations.  Of course that’s impossible and I’ve learned to let it be.  I can’t introduce every band or even see every band.  I can’t stop what I’m doing and have a beer with every friend I run into.  So I build a framework for each night: start, middle and finish.  I try to mix business and pleasure into the decisions.  Then I let the chips fall.  All I have to worry about is getting everyone checked in, sound-checked, parked, fed, paid and pampered.

Friday 2/26.  By the time the VIP Reception opens at Lancaster Visitors Center at 5pm, I will have been on the job ten hours already.  So I’ll have a cup of Gerhart Coffee and a glass of Barossa Valley shiraz.  I’ll munch some delicacies by Chef Tim Carr.  I’ll hug and introduce my pal Kaleigh Baker before she performs solo acoustic.  Then I will dash to Convention Center to introduce Sweet Leda as they open the Main Stage at Freedom Hall B at 6pm.  I’ll get to boogie a few minutes there before I start the laps of this phase of operations: opening.

By 7:30pm most venues will have opened and the VIP event will be ended.  I’ll secure the Visitors Center and check in on the Food Truck Court on Market Street.  If I start a counter-clockwise lap from there, I’ll catch a bit of Sam Baker at Ware, Left Lane Cruiser at Tellus 360, The Ogham Stones at Elks Lodge, Banditos at Chameleon and Ten String Symphony at Trust PAC before introducing Kapali Long to open Dispensing Company’s stage.  Dude is coming from Hawaii to play our festival.  That’s my plan 7:30-9:30.

MaceoThat gives me 30 minutes to try and catch a few minutes of Marah at Tellus 360 and solve any festival problems before Maceo Parker hits the Main Stage at convention center at 10pm.  What could go wrong?  Of course I want to be there to see a legend and his 12-piece band show us what it’s all about.  That just doesn’t happen every day in Lancaster.   I hope to see 15-20 minutes before I begin the next phase of laps: finales.

Chameleon and Ware Center will be wrapping up between 11-11:30pm.  I hope to fit introducing Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants at Federal Taphouse into those laps.  They go on at 11pm and are some serious blues-rock pals who call Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport their home.  I know you never heard of them.  You heard it here first; be there!

Frog HollerAs I hit my 17th hour on the job Friday, I want nothing more than to introduce Frog Holler at Elks Lodge Ballroom and have my first beer of the night.  They will celebrate 20 years together in 2016 and for my money, they embody everything a roots and blues festival should be.  Last pause of the night will be at Federal Taphouse for Toronzo Cannon.  It will feel like being in Chicago and my feet will likely feel like I walked there!  Then it’s back to headquarters to review and prep for Saturday!

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August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

August Chronicles IV: Shovels and Rope at Tellus360

I mentioned this show in one of my blogs for Fig Lancaster but wanted to give it the full treatment.  I had seen Shovels and Rope open for the Felice Brothers at Chameleon Club last fall.  When I heard they were going to be the first ticketed show at Tellus360 in Lancaster, I pretty much went ape.  It’s hard to imagine that just two people can stir up such a rockin’ ruckus but I’ve seen them do it twice now.  Cary Ann Hurst and Michael Trent are Shovels and Rope and they are a roots/rock, wild-timey revival show!

Cary Ann plays guitar, stomps her feet, and sometimes kicks some drums.  Michael plays guitar, drums, harmonica and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on.  They both sing and their voices sound great together in both wails and whispers.  She has the classic country sounds of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton in her voice and every bit of their power and range.  His voice is subtle yet stylish: think Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, John Doe.  The themes and tones are classic but the phrasing and delivery make everything feel contemporary.  It’s hard to explain yet easy to understand when you see and hear it live.  You are back in time yet hurtling through the present moment.

Have no doubt; this is rock and roll.  Their latest album O Be Joyful might look like an old-timey hymnal but it convinced Jack White to ask them to join his tour (they said yes).  It might not be a kind of rock and roll you know but you will feel the familiarity.  Remember watching O Brother Where Art Thou and your reaction to “Man of Constant Sorrow?”

My recommendation is to watch some of my videos from the show, follow Shovels and Rope on Facebook, subscribe to their email list and get out to see them immediately if not sooner.

As for Tellus360, you will not find a more intimate or rewarding music venue in this area.  They only sell 60-70 tickets for each show.  The entire building and all its contents are recycled or reclaimed wood.  It resonates like a fine cello with every note of these performances.  The shows are BYOB and folks come prepared to share.  Their second ticketed event was Carsie Blanton and hell yeah, I went and blogged about it.  Upcoming shows included the Table Top Anniversary show on November 3rd.  These shows are how it all started at Tellus360: free, BYOB, SRO and open to the public.  Sunday November 18 will also be very special with Tellus360 hosting Andrew Combs and Angel Snow, singer-songwriters from Nashville.