Tag Archives: Kate McGarrigle

Sloan Wainwright, The Decemberists in January, and I Can’t Breathe

I Can't BreatheOn a cold Sunday night with few people walking the streets of downtown Manhattan, a sold out audience were cozy and warm inside the City Winery for Sloan Wainwright’s annual holiday bash. Fronting a solid band led by guitarist Stephen Murphy, who has been her accompanist for close to twenty-five years, and with the half-dozen strong choir of ‘Sloanflakes’, the audience was dazzled and delighted by the range and depth of Sloan’s set of classic holiday covers and original compositions.

It was a Little Rascals’ style review, with Sloan slipping on and off the stage to allow her fellow musicians and singers, friends and family to share the spotlight. Among the people who dropped in were legendary Holy Modal Rounder Peter Stampfel, Muppeteer Peter Linz with assorted furry friends and Boston-based singer songwriter Cosy Sheridan. And with her uber-talented family tree, we were treated to the great vocals of Sloan’s son Sam McTavey, and niece Lucy Wainwright Roche with her mom Suzzy Roche. Brother Andy was dressed as Santa and selling posters at intermission to raise money and awareness for The Kate McGarrigle Foundation. And her other brother Loudon the Third contributed a sultry, entendre-laden “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” as only he could pull off.

Sloan’s show comes just ten days before she’ll perform at Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s Noel Nights at New York’s Town Hall. With the afore-mentioned Wainwright clan also onstage, special guests will include Emmylou Harris, Cibo Matto, Justin Vivian Bond, Jenni Muldaur, Cyndi Lauper and Renee Fleming.

In addition to her albums and shows, you’ll find Sloan at a number of songwriting and voice workshops and camps in the summer months. She also teaches privately throughout the year, with both individuals and groups Here’s a video I thought you’d enjoy…on how to sing like a Wainwright. As if we could.

You never know who you might come across performing for tips in a New York subway or train station. And a couple months ago on a street corner in Brooklyn you might have stumbled upon Decemberist’s Colin Meloy busking with an acoustic guitar. I imagine it was either a tune-up or stress relief. With a new album dropping on January 20th, a tour kicking off in February that travels from Ireland to Nashville in just two months, and last week’s debut of probably the funniest video since David Lee Roth’s “Just a Gigolo”…they’re back. What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World will feature 14 new tracks, and mark the band’s first new album in four years.

I can’t breathe.

When did NBA and NFL players become America’s new folksingers? Last week I guess. Wearing shirts on the field and in stadiums that proclaim ‘I can’t breathe’, they echoed and amplified the feeling in the streets from coast to coast. For those of us who grew up with Guthrie and Seeger and Dylan and Ochs and all the others who raised their voices in the fifties and sixties against war and poverty and civil rights…the silence is deafening.

I can’t breathe.

While not wanting to add to the twenty-four hour barrage of info-commercial-entertainment-journalism, there is something that seems to get lost in this concept of justifiable homicide. A man. A father. Big. Black. Imposing. Prior arrests. His crime that day? He bought a pack of cigarettes, opened them up and was standing on the corner selling them one by one for a buck. And a group of policemen, more than the three you see in the video, are standing there and not one of them raises their voice to say…hold on, let’s back off for a second. Let’s talk this out. Figure out where we should go from here. Not one. Crime and punishment.

I can’t breathe.

Do you know how many thousands of people in the financial industries were culpable of manipulating the laws and loopholes to bring the world economy to it’s knees not even ten years ago?  Less than zero. How many homes were taken over by the banks? How many jobs were lost? How many retirement funds turned to zero? How many families were destroyed? How many were prosecuted? How many were taken down to the ground with a forearm compressing their airways?

I can’t breathe.

Last week I sat on the couch like many Americans and watched the protests on television. And I felt guilty for not hopping on a train, riding into the city and joining in. I felt helpless and hopeless. And a little lazy if I’m to be honest. My heart was there, but not my ass. Hard to criticize such few voices that rise up from our music community, when I myself stayed inside. I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.

And I can’t breathe.

Last July, soon after Eric Garner’s death, there was something different that took place at Times Square in front of the NYPD station. I found the video below, while searching for a song that might be appropriate to post. Don’t think this made much noise on the news, and it only has received less than a half million views on You Tube. Hell, a dancing cat in a tutu eating chocolate pudding gets ten times that.

Kelly Pardekooper’s Yellow Vinyl, Kate McGarrigle…and Apples

Kelly Pardekooper

It’s been a pretty busy week here, what with all the pickin’ going on out in the orchard and preparations being made for my very first trip to Brooklyn, the ancestral homeland of Woody Allen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Ernie Borgnine’s Marty.

Before I get into the music, let me just mention that so far this season my favorite variety of the moment is the green Matsu, followed closely by Honeycrisp and a new one for me, Macoun. And although they have fallen in disfavor over the past few years as being the poor man’s lunchbox fruit, I must speak up for the Gala, which when found at it’s crispiest, can’t be beat.

This week I must have shed a thousand tears watching the Lian Lunson documentary Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You. Filmed back in May 2011 ay New York’s Town Hall, this is the concert tribute to the life and music of Kate McGarricle. With interviews featuring sisters Jane and Anna, and also many of her friends and musical family, the real star power here are Kate’s songs and her two children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright. I want to hug them each. Netflix it if you can.

Kelly Pardekooper, a performer and songwriter who kicked off his recording career back in 1998 when he was in his early thirties, this week released his seventh album, Milk In Sunshine. While you might not know the name, you most likely have been among the millions who have heard his songs.

The guy seems to drop a new album or two whenever he moves to a new city. Starting out in Iowa City, he then moved to Nashville, Madison, Los Angeles and now Indianapolis; a rootless existence for a roots musician who writes some of the sweetest blues infused American rock music these days.

Milk In Sunshine is a great starting point for the uninitiated, as the album is eight brand new tunes riding along with the sixteen tracks that have made his musical career quite unique. And although he falls into the singer-songwriter ‘wall of death’, if you’re lucky enough to catch one of his shows it’ll likely be in a bar and not someplace that charges you a ten spot for the mocha-china.

He grew up playing in Iowa and Midwest beer joints and says this about his live music: In that environment, you often need a good little rockin’ band so folks can dance and drink and have a good time. It’s not a quiet coffee house setting…but it also thickens the skin and makes you work to grab folks by the throat to get your songs across. It wasn’t until I started touring in Europe that I experienced the first real “hushed crowds” that came to hear all the lyrics. Freaked me out at first, but I got used to the quiet vibe and it allowed me to perform more of my lower-key songs too. I truly enjoy both environments now.

That brings me back to those sixteen songs on the albums…and how you’ve likely heard a few of them.

When Kelly made his way to LA, he had over a hundred songs in his suitcase. Owning the copywrites and publishing rights, he took some great advice from his old friend and collaborator Bo Ramsey (who along with his wife Pieta Brown also appear on the new album), to get himself a music attorney to help navigate the sea of Hollywood sharks as he went after the television and film placement business in a big way.

My wonderful music publisher is Black Toast Music and they deserve a lot of the credit for all these placements. Musicians ask me about this all the time. No tricks or secrets. A bit of luck and a lot of hard work and rejection. Bob Mair and Black Toast work really hard every day in LA to find shows that might need my songs. That’s why he deserves his publishing cut and why we’ve been working together since 2009. I’m grateful for this TV exposure. It’s really given my songs a second life and allowed me to keep financing my new recordings.”

While I personally find the Jerseylicious, America’s Next Top Model and Amazing Wedding Cakes placements curious, the really big shows that most people know are True Blood, Justified, Blue Bloods, and Cold Case. And possibly the jackpot would be multiple songs heard on Sons of Anarchy, a hit American program in its final season.

In my research for this article, I found a huge entry for Kelly in the German-version of Wikipedia. One line stood out: Mit Roots Rock-lastigem, schrammelndem Gitarrensound sowie Texten, die einen kritischen Blick hinter das Alltagsleben im amerikanischen Mittelwesten werfen, hat sich Kelly Pardekooper in der weit gefächerten Alternative Country- und New Country-Szene einen Namen gemacht.

Kelly credits No Depression…the magazine you used to buy at the newsstand or local record store…for his European following. In 1998 he placed a small ad for his first basement-recorded album, and the response from Europe was immediate.

I just kept building and touring and releasing over about 10 years and the European audience really supported me and grew with each release. I hope to get back over the pond again soon. And loosely translated, that German Wikipedia entry goes something like “Kelly Pardekooper is surely destined to be America’s Midwestern Roots-Rock version of David Hasselhoff”. Or something like that.”

Don’t bother looking for Milk In Sunshine on iTunes or Amazon, at least for now. With a truly niche but rabid worldwide fan base, he’s only selling it through his website and Bandcamp page. Aside from the fact he actually makes money being his own merchant, people can choose FLAC, WAV, mp3…and of course a yellow vinyl version. You can watch it spin around like the old days…this is “Release Me” with Pieta Brown.