Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Blarg No. 55: Scotty Spenner

Once you get the ball rolling, it’s really hard to get it to stop. Not that I want it to stop—maybe just slow down for a little bit so I can take a nap. It seems to hold true, though, that it’s either deluge or drought, not much in between, and I’ll take the deluge any time. Hosting a weekly podcast, when the bank of recordings dries up and the bookings aren’t happening, things can get pretty harried, so I don’t feel like I can turn anything down. Then, on top of Limited Engagement, I’m doing the work to get a local podcast network off the ground, there’s a lot that goes into that, and it’s not like we’ve got a crew.

I don’t mean to complain. Like I said, though, a nap would be nice. I’m tired. It’s a good tired, but tired nonetheless. Hoot N Waddle is gathering momentum. You can already listen to the first show, Jessie Balli’s Chatterbox podcast, endearingly titled Chatterpod, and there’s much more to come—a lot of irons in the fire. Chatterpod also goes up weekly, so be sure to subscribe through Apple Podcasts (it will be up on other services like Stitcher and GooglePlay soon). There’s still a lot I can’t talk about until details are cemented, but the momentum is forward. Inexorable, but exciting.

Speaking of exciting, I was talking with Charissa Lucille of Wasted Ink Zine Distro (that conversation will go up in a couple of weeks), and I’m very excited to announce that we’ll be setup at this year’s PHX Zine Fest to document the experiences of anyone wanting to share them—vendors and attendees alike. Should be very cool.

On this week’s show, conversation and music with Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductee Scotty Spenner. Our talk went all over the place, and I had a blast. You can catch Scotty playing with with True Flavor Blues every Sunday afternoon at Copper Star Coffee, or in Celtic rock band Saints of Eirinn. Friday night, September 29th, he’ll be playing a solo gig presented by Emancipation Arts at The Trunk Space. Listen to Scotty’s playing at the end of the show, and you’ll hear exactly why you should go.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 55 – Scotty Spenner

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The Blarg No. 54: The SunPunchers

Guys, things are stressful out there. Unless you’re in a coma—then you might be able to relax. Maybe not. I don’t know, I’ve never been in a coma. Perhaps being in a coma is very stressful. For those of us relegated to a life of horrifying consciousness, though, it’s a real shit show—especially if you are compassionate, or have something like a conscience. Whether it’s a natural disaster (which I firmly believe we are experiencing at a much higher rate due to all the man-induced damage, because science, and really, when it seems like each successive event is the worst of its kind, how can you argue against?), or the daily, often hourly what-the-fuck moments handed down from governments regional, national, and international, it seems impossible to complete one reflection on how to positively impact/change/resist one situation before being forced to react to the next.

How do you cope?

Sometimes, you have to shut the world off, or risk being overwhelmed. Sometimes, you need a little break. Sometimes, despite the heat, you need a warm blanket of an album to soothe your frayed and frazzled nerves. For me, one of those albums is Some Fantastic Place. Released by Squeeze in 1993 (nearly 25 years ago!), Some Fantastic Place came at a time in the band’s career where they were being largely ignored commercially, and only about five years out from calling it quits for a second time (the first being back in 1982—I could go on and on about this band if anyone’s curious…anyone?), which is a shame, because they were making some of the best music of their career, and SFP is often considered by fans (myself included) to be the third in a trio of albums (preceded by Frank (1989) and Play (1991)) that showcase the band at the height of their abilities both in the lyrics of Chris Difford and the music (and voice and guitar) of Glenn Tilbrook. The album that followed, Ridiculous (1995), is pretty good, though not as consistent in my opinion, and the last album of Squeeze’s second coming, Domino (1998), has some great moments, but is one I really only suggest to completists. If you’re still with me at this point, there is a third act to Squeeze, and the first album to come out of it, Cradle to the Grave (2015), is a very fine return (essentially a soundtrack to a TV show for the BBC that I have not seen, the album reminds me a lot of Kinks albums like Arthur or Lola Versus Powerman that had a very definite throughline—an almost Broadway musical-like quality), and their new album, The Knowledge, is due out this fall (if you couldn’t guess, I’m very excited).

Why am I going on and on about Squeeze right now? Especially recommending an album that came out roughly a quarter century ago? Do I need a reason? This is what I do in times of stress that isn’t drinking excessively (thankfully something I’ve managed to break the habit of), compulsive eating, or just checking out completely. We’ve got to stay engaged, and for me, this means taking a step back every once in awhile, listening to a favorite album, and trying to play along to and master Glenn Tilbrook’s riff on “Third Rail” (read: cursing and failing). What do you do? How do you manage? I’m genuinely curious.

This week’s Limited Engagement features four of the five members of The SunPunchers: Betsy Ganz, Jon Rauhouse, Serena Fonze, and Dominic Armstrong (Lindsay Cates was not in attendance). These four fantastic musicians crammed their gear into our front room, played two gorgeous songs (“Hold You Now” and “Sodium Pentothal Blues”), then sat and talked to me for about an hour or so. Have I ever mentioned how much I love having musicians on the show? If I haven’t, you should know that it is a tremendous amount. You can get The SunPuncher’s EP, Honey, on their website, and their first full length album, Levity (which is one of my favorite albums of 2017 thus far), is available on Bandcamp, or you can pick up a copy locally over at Stinkweeds.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 54 – The SunPunchers

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The Blarg No. 53: Gift Children Books

Saturday night, Janell and I had the great pleasure of seeing first The SunPunchers, and then the Howe Gelb Jazz trio at Valley Bar. The SunPunchers are a superb Americana band led by the sizeable songwriting talent and beautiful voice of Betsy Ganz, and featuring the talents of Mr. Jon Rauhouse—a veritable wizard of a musician. I’m not just praising The SunPunchers because they’re going to be on the show soon, that’s just an added bonus. I highly suggest you check them out—they are equally stunning on record and in person.

For a little while there, it looked like I was going to get a chance to talk to Howe Gelb for the podcast, but it didn’t happen. We were first emailing, then texting back and forth all the way up until the last text I received from him just prior to The SunPunchers set, which reads, “meyer fo.” I’m not sure what that means, I think it was supposed to be “maybe so” based on the conversation we were having, but somehow “meyer fo” is better. No big deal, I think I’ll get to talk to him some day, and it was pretty cool to have a text-versation with a musician whose work I admire deeply.

Howe’s set was fantastic. He and his band have a tight telepathic connection—they have to in order to keep up with the unpredictability of the show (he half-joked about midway through the set that he hasn’t had a setlist in over 35 years). Several references were made to his advancing age and the effects of jet lag, but during a break between piano sets, Howe broke out an acoustic guitar and proceeded to display some impressive, agile, nimble licks. His style as a guitarist is that rare, precious mixture of technical know-how and effortlessly emotional execution that punches you in the head and the heart all at once. The cherry on top was hearing the gorgeous, haunting vocals of Lonna Kelley float over the last few songs of the performance. Howe Gelb’s album Future Standards (which features Kelley heavily throughout) is a gem, and I highly recommend it.

On this week’s show, our 53rd, I talk to Nazlah Hassan, the founder of Gift Children Books, an organization with the mission of getting books in the hands of children from families with economic hardships who would otherwise be unable to afford them. The organization holds annual bookfairs in Harlem and Phoenix, and the Phoenix bookfair will take place on November 11th at Booker T. Washington Child Development Center. November 4th, in the same location from 9am to 5pm, Gift Children Books is holding a fundraising book sale where members of the public will have the opportunity to purchase from a selection of 1500 titles written by and about African Americans.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 53 – Gift Children Books

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The Blarg No. 52: Chicago Edition

As I’m sitting here, writing this week’s blarg, it is our fifth and final day in Chicago. If you factor in Thursday being our arrival/getting settled in day, Sunday being taken up by wedding—which was the whole reason we flew out, and it was a lovely wedding—and today being the pack things up and leave day, we had roughly two days to explore the downtown area. I have the same feelings about Chicago that I do with any other city I’ve visited, which are that I could live here for years and never really know the city, that I feel most at home in a city, and that I really, really hate driving in the city. Driving is great in the suburbs and more open, rural areas, where there is space, long stretches of scenic viewing, and most importantly, more room between vehicles. Driving in the city is stressful, and I much prefer walking and utilizing public transit, because really, in a well-planned city, you almost don’t need a car. Which is why I would say Los Angeles is not well-planned at all. As the great poet laureate of the endearingly cranky once sang, “I love L.A.,” but I’m pretty sure that it was designed by someone who wondered what it would be like if all of the layers of layer were presented in pancake form.

Chicago has some wonderful, iconic cultural attractions, that I highly recommend you check out when you visit the city, and I hope to visit them as well the next time we come out. What I was more interested in, though, was book and record stores, so if you’re interested in hearing about those, then this week’s show is made for you. Janell’s family is here in Chicago, so the likelihood is that we’ll be back, and I’ll have the opportunity to do more exploring, but there is also an equal likelihood that I will continue to seek out the record stores that I didn’t get to on this trip. I’m a man with a mission, you see—I’ve been looking for a vinyl edition of Frank, my favorite Squeeze album, for quite a number of years now, and this search dominates every excursion we make outside of the Phoenix area. An obsession? Yes. An unhealthy one? That’s debatable. You live your life, I’ll live mine. We did go to a jazz festival, and that was interesting…

This week’s show was meant to be recorded entirely in Chicago, but I had difficulty finding circumstances under which I could record and not look like a crazy person, so some of it is recorded in Chicago, and some of it will be recorded when we get back into Phoenix, and the whole thing is going up a day late, because, well, we’ll say it’s due to the Labor Day holiday. Look for it to be posted late Monday or sometime on Tuesday.

LE 52 contains some thoughts on the institution of marriage and weddings themselves; reviews of the record and bookstores we went to; talk of breakfast food, a particularly delicious cookie sandwich, and our lack of culinary adventurousness; reflections on Chicago; and an explanation of how the unifying thread of this entire trip was the Tom Waits song “Better Off Without a Wife.” If this sort of stream of consciousness thing appeals to you, then this week’s show is so far up your alley, it’s tickling your tonsils.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 52 – Chicago Edition

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