The first in an occasional episode of deep, deep Haze history. Man, I miss the ‘60s.
To be fair, I’ve been digging Crow Black Chicken for a while now. I caught them by accident, one day in Whelan’s, ages ago and have been loving their dirty blues-rock noises ever since.
Now seems an apt time to mention them, through, as they’ve got a new album, Pariah Brothers, about to drop. The boys recently did a Kickstarter to help fund the album and, for those that chipped in, there’s an early download available.
And it’s great. I’ve only had a chance to listen through a couple of times so far but I’m pretty sure it’ll make the regular rotation here in Haze HQ.
Track-wise, I’m loving The Prophet. It chugs along beautifully, John Lee Hooker-feeling guitar and great rail-riding percussion carrying us to some great choppy slide licks. It’s got a slightly more laid-back feel than other tracks but, at the moment, this might be my favourite track.
Not to say the rest of the album’s any slouch. It’s full of punchy bass and greasy slide guitar and fantastic fuzz. This is the sound I want when I think of power-trio blues rock.
Fans of Irish rock might like that there’s a track called Pat McManus. To my ear, it’s the least CBC-sounding track on the album (which may well be deliberate). It’s a cracker, though. Rocktastic.
The title track, Pariah Brothers, is definitely Crow Black Chicken, though. Possibly a slightly more polished CBC, but it’s got what you’d expect to hear.
Crow Black Chicken are evolving. There’s a bit more spit and polish on Pariah Brothers but I think it’s still got that rawness underneath. I’ve no idea of their studio habits, but these songs don’t feel like they’re played by musicians, jaded after thirty takes. There’s energy and looseness (and even an almost-flub here and there). I hope they never lose that because there’s a lot to love in the grit and dirt and drive that makes CBC.
Pariah Brothers launches in Whelan’s, on the 16th of July. I’m very bummed that I can’t go (DAMMIT!) but, if you can, you really should go see them.
Seriously, go see them.
Or do both.
Thanks to an article on Dangerous Minds, I've spent the last few hours listening—over and over—to various covers of Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park. The workshop's been a MacArthur Park zone all afternoon. Brilliant.
One of my favourites is Webb himself, singing and playing piano—no crazy disco orchestra. I've listened to this ten times or more.
Check out the post. There's a lot of different versions to enjoy (you really need to see Glen Campbell shredding it on his turn). Weirdly, it doesn't include the studio version of Richard Harris' original release. So here you go:
I'm starting a new thing. Stuff I’m Digging is just a way to talk to you guys about something I’m enjoying at the moment. This might be guitar-related, or music-related, or it might just something cool that I like and want to share.
I don’t remember how I found Windhand but, sometime in the last year or two, I came across their album Soma on Bandcamp.
Wonderful, fat, doom riffs—oh the noises. Great, big old doom bass and drums pumping things forward like a marching army of monsters.
And over it all, drifting—barely—above the brilliant doomy din is vocalist, Dorthia Cottrell’s voice. And that’s the differentiator here. I love a good doom-laden riff-fest as much as the next guy but the vocals let Windhand stand a little clear of the pack.
Soma got quite a few plays here in Haze Towers.
And now there’s a new album.
Grief’s Infernal Flower is Windhand’s latest release. It’s true to their roots (I’m happy that I can still hear some Sabbath creeping out) but there seems to be some evolution too. Despite the fact that there are two quarter-hour long tracks here, this album feels a little less indulgent. I sniff some production guidance.
Cottrell’s vocals are a little more forward too. They’ve still got a bit of distance to give them that ethereal thing but they don’t get lost here.
To sum up: Windhand. Check ‘em out.
I remember seeing BB King in the National Stadium in (about) 1989 and he jokingly complained about being old then. I'd rather hoped he'd live forever and, given the way he continued to tour, it almost looked like he was going to.
So long, BB.
Last Sunday (yes, I'm up to the minute, as usual), I had the chance to see a crap-ton of Irish bands from (or on the go since) Back In The Day™. There was a great gig at the Olympia called A Night For Pieta House and it featured a bundle of bands from the '80s, '90s, '00s and so on. And what a line-up:
Picture House, Blink, The Pale, The incomparable Benzini Brothers (coughothouseflowers chough), Friends Of Emmet and In Tua Nua.
There were also performances from members of The Fat Lady Sings, Cactus World News, The FountainHead, Cry Before Dawn, and Those Nervous Animals.
In the photo above, you can see Liam Ó Maonlaí and The Incomparable Benzini Brothers who really lifted the roof on the place.
A great evening's music for a really great cause. Pieta House provides free therapeutic help for people at risk of suicide or self-harm. They do some very difficult and—unfortunately—very necessary work.
An introductory word…
I've been thinking about this topic for a while now. I'd already written what you'll read below when I read Gene Simmons' thoughts (Rock is Finally Dead). Some of what he said resonated with how I felt (although I don't agree with it all). Dee Snider weighed in with his own opinion, and I tend more towards his views (except where he claims downloading is just sticking it to the man—I've much less faith in humanity). I recommend you read both articles, though. I reckon there's some validity in each.
My own disjointed thoughts follow.
Have you ever downloaded pirated music?
I have. I'm probably not what you'd call a super-pirate or anything, but I've downloaded stuff from shady sites.
I've stopped, though.
The Tired Analogy
Yes, yes, everyone knows that it's a pretty unoriginal argument to say, "Well, I don't expect to work for nothing, why should I expect someone else to?"
The truth is, though, even if it's unoriginal, it's right. I take pride in what I do and I work hard to do a good job. I'm pretty sure I provide something of value to people and I'm certainly not willing to do that for free. It rankles my sense of fairness to expect that I shouldn't compensate an artist for producing something that I value.
You might argue that's just my self-preservation instinct kicking in. After all, the people who pay me to do my job are musicians.
But that's not it.
The truth is, I've felt less and less comfortable downloading free stuff. My brain just ran out of ways to justify it and, as I pride myself on being a rational and fair guy, I can't just say, "Screw it, I'm doing it just because I want to!"
The Red Herring
"Oh, but the music industry is all corrupt and greedy and why should I pay to support that system?"
This is the boiled-down, red herring from almost any discussion of this topic. And, let's face it, it's easy to be cynical.
Years ago, when Napster was getting chased by Metallica, it was easy to be cynical—mega-rich Metallica bellyaching about a few free downloads. The same happens when the industry goes on one of its ill-advised lawsuit sprees. Engage cynicism.
Not really the point, though, is it?
While we can (perhaps justifiably) begrudge Richie McRich, Senior Vice-President of Rich Stuff at Sony, from getting a few extra bucks, the reality is that he's not really the one we're hurting when we pirate music. It's the boys and girls with the guitars, drum kits, and mics that bear the brunt. For every crass arsehole on Cribs, bragging that he wears his sneakers once and then throws them away, there are thousands of great musicians scraping by.
The corrupt-music-industry argument is just an easy way to minimise the cognitive dissonance we feel when we download music without paying—we're fighting back against the fat cats. Why, we're practically Robin Hood.
It's a funny thing that, as a society, we have come to the conclusion that we don't need to pay for art. And, it's fair to lump pretty much all art in here—writers get seriously and continually kicked in the groin for free-work, and I'm sure you can include photographers, actors, painters, topiary sculptors, etc.
It would be interesting to investigate the reasons for this but that sounds like a job for someone working on a doctoral thesis to handle. Reasons aside, the evidence is pretty clear, especially for anyone with a job requiring payment for some art-form. Working for exposure has always been something that artists have done from time to time (and, let's face it, I'm giving away an ebook on this site) but, as a society, we seem to have moved from where a few would take advantage of that artist's free work to one where we, almost universally, expect that all her work be free.
The bottom line
I have some (vague) idea of how much it costs to make an album—studio time, producers, engineers, equipment, cocaine-burgers, etc. I have an idea but, let's face it, I don't really care. That's not really what sways me, or anybody else, when we're about to click that download link.
Some sense of fair exchange niggles though. I have albums that I've listened to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. Obviously, I enjoy that experience and it would be massively mean-spirited of me to suggest that I shouldn't have paid ten or fifteen bucks for that album.
If we value art or music, we need to find a way to reimburse the artist—both for that experience and so he or she can continue to make that art.
I value it. And I'll try to show that in the future.
We might not be killing music but it's wounded and we're not helping. Now to work in a Band Aid joke…
I'm quite open to comments and discussion on this. Of course it's ok if you disagree but, if you do, please consider whether your argument against paying for music can be legitimately summed up as 'I just don't want to'.