Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Randy Travis / Avett Brothers Split 7″ RSD


This week we bring you an exclusive Record Store Day only release. In 2012, country legend, Randy Travis, and up and coming folk heros, The Avett Brothers, got together to shoot a CMT episode of crossroads. The special featured both artists playing together on classics as well as each other’s songs. This 7″ gives us two songs from the broadcast: from the Avett Brothers a song entitled “February Seven” and a classic Travis song entitled “Three Wooden Crosses”.

The Avett Brother’s have been singing and touring the country for a decade and change, but it seems that they’ve just hit their artistic (and commercial) stride with their latest release, The Carpenter, as well as the album before that, I and Love and You. Their particular blend of bluegrass, folky, rock is hard to describe. Employing a banjo and mandolin, the Avett Brother’s don’t immediately strike one as a modern country band, but instead maybe the comparison can be found in their heartfelt lyrics (dealing with country mainstay subjects such as heartbreak, loneliness, drinking, whiskey, etc). Within the same songs the Brother’s might leap from delicate harmony to biting punk yelp.

Randy Travis, in the same vein, has been around the block more than a few times, although has been performing for a good 22 years longer than the Avett Brothers. CMT Crossroads seems to be a musical production pairing newer artists with stylistic forbearers, and the Avett Brother’s probably couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Maybe it’s the fact that both the Avett Brother’s and Randy Travis are both from North Carolina, but they both manage to wrap heavy topics in music both both accessible yet still distinctive.

Here are our thoughts on the two cuts:


February Seven (The Avett Brothers)


Eric’s Thoughts:   ‘February Seven’ is a slow song from the Avett Brothers album ‘The Carpenter’, but it seems somehow even slower with the addition of Travis’ warm molasses twang. The song itself feels natural with Travis, now instead telling the story of two travel weary brothers meeting a wanderer and finding that they share something of their walk of life. The song’s main theme is of not going back, not having regrets, just continuing with forward motion, even if sometimes you might need a moment’s rest.

Rob’s Thoughts:  I agree with Eric, that Travis and the Avett Brothers seem to really naturally complement each other on these two songs. Not only that, but the two songs seem to share the same theme, albeit with different actors. In February Seven, the narrator is out there looking for something, falls in love with a girl, makes some bad decisions, but is pulled out by earlier woman. This kind of thing is the bread and butter of country songs, and Travis’ twang makes it seem like he could have written it just as easily. The injured hero, who’s no stranger to the darker side of life, is pulled through to the brighter side of things by a love and faith. This song seems to be about a girl, but it could just easily be about god (and a country song without god, a woman, or booze just wouldn’t be a country song, would it?)

Three Wooden Crosses (Randy Travis)


Rob’s Thoughts: These two songs seem to complement each other really well. They’re both about faith, human connections, and redemption. “Three Wooden Crosses” is a little bit more obvious in the way it goes about the message (country never claimed to be subtle). We’re introduced to our cast of characters right away, a teacher, a preacher, a farmer, and a hooker. There’s a car accident, three of the four die and we’re left with a story of what each character left to the future. The chorus of “It’s not what you take, but it’s what you leave behind you” resonates in each of the characters stories, but the narrator is perhaps the most immediate and wonderful thing left behind by the crash. This song seems to be about how life and death sometimes collide in strange ways, but that for every dead tree there might someday be a flower.

Eric’s Thoughts:  Randy Travis’ classic tragic tale of four disparate travelers on a bus still strikes a chord. This time the song feels a bit sped up, perhaps it’s just the  Avett Brothers infusion of energy chugging the song along. I would say this country ballad suffers little from traded vocals and a slightly increased tempo.

Gonna have to listen to these one’s on Youtube:

Buy The Carpenter, Avett Brother’s latest or Randy Travis’ Rise and Shine.


Amethyst String Quartet June 18th, Cain Park


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne could argue that the best part of the summer is the wealth of music, plays, and general outdoor events that suddenly burst from the cold winter wasteland. Oh, there are still shows in the winter, but somehow being able to look up in the local alt-weekly and find a host of different events in one night, and half of them within biking distance is a wonderful feeling.

We’ve lived in Cleveland Heights for almost 3 years this August. Only a handful of times have we made the cross town bike trip to Cain Park, but last night there was a free performance by a local string quartet performing selections from Downton Abbey among other summery pops and classical numbers. The four ladies that made up the quartet were all skilled musicians, playing in the Cleveland Pops Orchestra as well as a host of side projects.

While the show was billed as a Downton Abbey recital, the performance ended up being much more than that. Starting with the main theme  from Downton (which itself is a compelling number; it’s hard not to imagine dramatic moments from the show as the music swells.) The quartet performed the swaying, breathing theme by John Lunn (who, on a sidenote, say’s he is influenced by funk bands such as Sly and The Family Stone and James Brown).

Picking up on the thread of musical influences, Mary Beth Ions, Amethyst’s lead violinist, took us on a rousing journey through musical history. Starting with Downton Edwardian era selections, we moved forward in time with period Foxtrots and Waltzes (including Nearer Mine God, to Thee which played as the Titanic sunk).

The second half of the concert explored more recent compositions, including two songs from Scott Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha, which apparently was written in 1910, but not performed until 1972 and apparently might have stylistic similarities to 70’s broadway smash, The Wiz). A high point of the second half was a rendition of a George Gershwin number from Porgy and Bess. The night ended on a return to Downton Abbey, and then a stirring performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

I haven’t always been the biggest appreciator of classical music, with my tastes leaning closer to rock and punk and pop, but this performance hit an a number of composers and compositions that I would enjoy exploring further. If a summer concert leaves one feeling more musically enriched, but with room to explore and learn, then I would consider it a succesful concert experience!

Here’s the Downton Abbey theme (although not performed by the Amethyst String Quartet).

And Amethyst String Quartet are bookable for events! Contact Mary Beth Ions on her Facebook page..

Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer 7″


Part of what makes Lemuria so compelling is the way in which they use alternating female and male vocals. In ways that certainly seem innovative (at least to me) the two lead singers will not only trade lines back and forth, but will also sing the songs that the other member has written. It creates a bit of gender dysmorphia; maybe causing the listener to consider the words carefully. (As a good example of this, see ‘Lipstick‘ from Lemuria’s 2008 album Get Better). When Lemuria switched to Bridge 9 records for their most recent release, Pebble, in 2010, people were a little confused. Bridge 9 is traditionally a hardcore outfit, putting out records by the likes of Agnostic Front, Death Before Dishonor, and Champion (funny story, I picked up their debut Bridge 9 CD way back in 2002, my first experience with Bridge 9). But, some would argue that the word ‘traditional’ is maybe not exactly of a punk ethos, so in a weird way, it makes some sense that Lemuria are on Bridge 9. They’ve always been a little bit moodier than traditional pop-punk bands, but not quite in an emo way. Get Better showed hints of sparseness, but Pebble created more difficult sonic landscapes, drifting away from the poppier sun land of Asian Man and heading down river towards ominous clouds. But, Pebble, while not as poppy, was still Lemuria, and had more than it’s share of quotable, sing along verses. (and It’s not like Get Better was that happy ie ‘I spend more time missing you than kissing you’ isn’t exactly the cheeriest of sentiments… So where does all that leave us? The relationship between Bridge 9 and Lemuria seems to be proceeding smoothly as they have released a few 7″s after Pebble, and are now on the verge of releasing a new Lemuria full length. To get ready for that release (pre-order here) we’re going to talk about the first single from the album and the b-side.

Brilliant Dancer

Eric’s thoughts: ‘Brilliant Dancer’ starts off with a rolling guitar that seems straight off of a Gaslight Anthem or Against Me! track. The difference being that there is never a throaty growl following that guitar, instead we get some female vocals sung quite pleasantly. A song about an unexpected appearance of a crush, it hits amazement and incredulity pretty well. And watch out for the key change about halfway through, it seems as if they start in a whole new song without warning.

Rob’s thoughts: I like the way we start with just a picked guitar, as the drums and guitar enter slowly. Then bring in the vocals, soft and sweet. But before the minute is over we’ve suddenley upped the volume, and now we have both singers, singing in unison. One of the most compelling part of Lemuria’s music is their ability to start one place and end up somewhere else completely different. They utilize stops and starts, tempo changes, and even have multiple movements within one song (see Eric’s comment above). This song is a good lead single for the new album, as Lemuria definetely have an anthemic aura about them, but just before you’re ready to start singing along, they pull the rug out from under you and go somewhere else, leaving you on the floor, brilliant dancer spinning above.


Eric’s thoughts:  ‘Helloing’ is a slightly shorter track and it wears its pop sensibilities on its sleeve, getting you toe-tapping right from the get go. I think ‘Helloing’ plays a good b-side to ‘Brilliant Dancer’ because they both seem to be about the tentative feelings that come before a relationship starts or later after one ends.

Rob’s thoughts: If ‘Brilliant Dancer’ sounds like an Against Me! track, then the riff influence on ‘Helloing’ seems to be Hold Steady. Those crunchy power chords stand out as the initial drum beat drops out and comes back. But instead of the speak-sing stylings of Craig Finn, we get Alex Kern’s melodic monotone (just about as distinctive). ‘Helloing’ seems to find the two character’s of the song in a long term relationship, wondering what’s allowed. The first verse brings up the question of fidelity, or flirting, which prompts the female character to defend herself, and at the same time bring up a philosophical question: where does friendliness end and flirting begin and end? As one mature’s in a relationship, does one have to sacrifice their own characteristics, blunting their personality to prove their love? ‘I didn’t talk to, look at, or touch any others /I wish I had more time to be nice to others’. The bridge is a crunchy guitar, with stop and start bass and drums coming and, driving us to a climax, before we repeat the chorus twice more, ‘Is it still safe to be helloing’,  stuttering and fading out.

Listen to the songs here or on Bandcamp, and buy Brilliant Dancer now!