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.

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.

August Chronicles III: Pasadena Goes Looney’s

The August Chronicles III: Pasadena Goes Looney’s!

When I heard Pasadena was playing a place called Looney’s North in Bel Air, MD, I made two phone calls.  The first was to Pirate Rob to thank him for booking the band within an easy drive of Lancaster.  The second was to Ryan: party pal, fellow Airy Hillian, audiophile, concert lover and Bel Air native.  A road trip was born!

I’m a big Pasadena fan.  I knew their latest cd was about to drop and a coast-to-coast tour was imminent.  I wanted to see the band, wish them well and try to snag some advanced copies of the cd.  I didn’t get the cd’s but we were treated to a stellar night of music.

This was my first time seeing the band without a trumpet player.  I noticed it right away since they opened with “NFS.”  I think Joey should play those opening notes on harmonica, or the whole band should take up kazoos.  I’d hate to see the song pulled from the playlist but that trumpet call was like a call to arms for me.  I really missed the sound as they began with “NFS” but honestly, I rarely thought about it the rest of the night.

The new songs will be favorites before long!  We heard “St. Augustine,” “Paper Bag,” “If I Don’t Make it Home,” “Great Wide World” and the new theme “Nowhere Fast.”  They have that signature reggae/rock sound and Joey’s thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics.  I think anybody who liked Sublime even a little would love Pasadena, especially live!  They rounded out the first set with “Ron’s Song,” “Realize,” and “Spinning Wheel” so no worries that all our old favorites are going away.

As for Looney’s North: this is a GREAT sports bar with serious food and a million TV’s big and small.  They had dozens of beers to choose from, cheap food and drink specials and a fun, stadium-like atmosphere going.  The Orioles were playing and the Ravens had a pre-season game so the band got delayed until halftime.  I’m from Pittsburgh so neither of those teams is my favorite but I had to admire the team spirit and conviviality of all the patrons gathered to cheer it and beer it.  Plus, it gave Ryan and I a chance to eat some great burgers and wings and sip a few Natty Bo’s before the show.  The stage, sound and lighting for the show were impressive!

NOTE: The show was August 23rd but I wrote this October 23rd.  Pasadena and Bumpin’ Uglies have been on the “Nowhere Fast” tour since September 23rd and killing it all across the country.  They are in Texas tonight and headed east.  I can’t wait to see them again live but for now I and you and everyone can enjoy videos of their Looney’s North show at www.YouTube.com/user/Gigspots1

Watching the Clothes Go Round

Watching the Clothes Go Round

So it’s Monday morning.  I’m doing laundry, uploading videos, blogging and remembering all the great moments I experienced this weekend.  As usual, there were some great events I had to miss, but I’m a “focus on the positive” kind of guy.  Also following a theme, my weekend started on Thursday!

Sara Watkins and Dawes at The Strand-Capitol Theater in York were exhilarating! Sara and her brother Shawn opened the show: she on fiddle and the occasional drum, he on guitar.  Their crystal-clear voices blend as only those of siblings can.  She joked about the awkwardness of singing love songs with her brother but shared being thrilled about touring behind her own music.  She was a strong current in Nickel Creek for years and recently spent seven months on tour with The Decemberists.  The theater was packed and a strong contingent of Sara Watkins fans made their presence felt.  It was beautiful to experience.

The GM crowed about selling out this Dawes show in four days and about how they sold out the last time they played there.  Hello?  You have a huge, beautiful room right next door.  Move Dawes to the big room!  Sell 500 more tickets and let the band and its fans really celebrate their next visit to York!

I have been chasing Dawes since their North Hills album and just kept missing them.  I know they are playing Long’s Park in Lancaster on July 22 but I wanted that intimate theater experience.  I got it!  They played a few from North Hills, many from the brilliant Nothing’s Wrong and even some new material from their upcoming project.  Songwriting and musicianship are back, jack!  Their music feels as genuine and accessible as sunlight.  They made the Strand-Capitol and its packed house glow in it!

I knew Friday night’s show would have to be a giant to overshadow Dawes.  Cabinet and The Kalob Griffin Band were a virtual eclipse!  Holy shit can these bands play!  Calling Cabinet a bluegrass band is like calling The Who a rock band; the label is too shallow for the depth of their work.  One minute they are relentlessly picking some bluegrass to pieces and in the next, they are soaring through some ethereal, sonic landscape like Weather Report, Return to Forever or Jean-Luc Ponty.  I think I have a clue about their name. They bring the medicine cabinet, the kitchen cabinet, the liquor cabinet, the gun cabinet and the whole pantry to the table when they come to play.  Who ever heard of a bluegrass/jazz/fusion/experimental rock band with gospel harmonies?  These fellas are a masterful invention and hot as lightning!  Bela Fleck and the Flecktones may have met their match!

I could gush about KGB all day.  The chants of their rabid fans are still ringing my ears.  With all the sadness in State College these days, these boys are bringing the happy back to Happy Valley.  For a lively review and stellar photo gallery, follow this link to TriState Indie and the posting by Autumn Walden.  I have TSI and Fryth at DipCo to thank for turning me on to this band and Autumn is now my official dance partner at KGB shows.  Their presence Friday let me go civilian, put down the camera and kick up my heels!  Kalob Griffin Band shows are a huge party and who wants to work through that?!

So 570 words and four loads of laundry later, I’ve still only told you about Thursday and Friday of my weekend: the indoor shows.  For today, I’ve been indoors enough.  It’s time to pull on a freshly-laundered Gigspots shirt and get back out there!  Tune in next post to see my review of Saturday’s and Sunday’s events, videos and all.