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.