On this date in 1980, the British awards program honoring songwriters, The Ivor Novello Awards, bestowed the awards for best Pop song and best lyrics to The Boomtown Rats, the Irish Punk band featuring Live Aid founder Bob Geldof. The song that won the honors was the band's biggest, "I Don't Like Mondays," a tune written by Geldof after reading about the news of a 16-year-old high school student who started a shooting spree on a playground in San Diego in early 1979.
The young girl killed two adults and injured eight kids and one cop. With a rifle given to her by her father as a gift, she began shooting from her house across the street from the elementary school playground. When she was asked by a reporter why she did it, she said, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." She also told police during a six-hour standoff that "there was no reason for it, and it was a lot of fun." She was sentenced to 25 years to life and has been denied parole multiple times. During parole hearings, the woman has made various excuses, from claiming that it was the cops who fired the shots that killed and hurt people to insisting she was sexually abused by her father to proclaiming she was on alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs at the time.
She is not eligible for parole again until 2019.
The Boomtown Rats released "I Don't Like Mondays" that summer. The song gave the Rats their second No. 1 in the U.K. (it only made it to No. 79 in the States) and became the tune for which they're best known. The tune wasn't a celebration of the girl, nor was it a tribute to the victims. Rather, it was a clever, emotional look at mental illness and how it can effect anyone, even those you'd least suspect.
Russell Brand referred to the song when he hosted the NME Awards in 2006. When the often curmudgeonly Geldof won the "Best DVD" award for the Live 8 disc (ooh, what an honor!), he began his speech by saying, "Russell Brand … what a cunt." Brand shot back and won the diss battle instantly, saying "It's no wonder Bob Geldof knows so much about famine — he's been dining out on 'I Don't Like Mondays' for 30 years."
Here's a clip of Geldof and Rats pianist Johnny Fingers performing my favorite version of the song, at the 1982 Secret Policeman's Ball benefit concerts for Amnesty International.
Click below for Born This Day featuring Andrew W.K., Billy Joel, Richie Furay and Ghostface Killah.
On this day in 2004, Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering put their differences aside to honor their legacy and make a shit-ton of cash, reuniting for a Pixies reunion tour that recently completed its seventh year. The first show back was at Minneapolis' Fine Line Cafe, where they opened with "Bone Machine," the first song on the group's first full-length, Surfer Rosa. The band has mixed things up on their global tour by performing albums in full and, uh, mixing up the setlist (maybe?), but one thing they haven't done is record more than a smidgen of new music. On the other hand, it seems only fair that the group members reap some rewards from their influential work. It would just be interesting to hear what the four of them could come up with if they attempted a new album.
Here's "Bone Machine" performed live on a TV show in the Netherlands, "back in the day." Scrappy!
Boston’s Barrence Whitfield & the Savages have returned to Cincinnati in a big way this week. The R&B/Soul-rockin’ crew has several local ties, including employing prolific locally-based drummer Andy Jody on the skins. The group also features Peter Greenberg of pioneering Boston band DMZ (as well as The Lyres) and groundbreaking Cincy Garage rockers The Customs (fellow Custom Jim Cole records with the band but doesn’t play live). The Savages recorded two albums in the ’80s; their 1985 Rounder Records release, Dig Yourself, was their last until the group's recent reunion activities.
"I met Peter at The Customs reunion in 2008, drummed for them the following year, which led to him contacting me to record Savage Kings upon the reformation of the original Savages," Jody says about his initiation into the band.
The Savages are in town to record a new album, returning to Ultrasuede studios, where they recorded Savage Kings.
"We decided to record here, partly logistics and partly in tribute to King Records," Jody says, "and it was the same studio where The Customs cut (their trademark tune) 'Long Gone.' "
Last night, Whitfield & the Savages debuted some of the new material at Shake It Records. Shake It, the label, released the Savage Kings in the States; The Customs' "Long Gone" single was the first release on the Shake It imprint.
The Savages will be warming up for recording this weekend with a two-night stand (Friday and Saturday) at The Comet in Northside. Both shows are free and kick of at 10 p.m. (Friday a DJ warms things up and Saturday Customs-inspired local rockers The Long Gones fittingly open the show). Click here for more info on the band. Below is a live clip filmed in Paris last year.
And here's a clip (with performances and interviews) from the band's earlier days when they were featured on the BBC.
Scott Preston and his excellent local music web mag Cincy Groove are presenting a benefit concert at Southgate House Revival tonight to help keep a spotlight on the Cincinnati area’s outrageously rich musical history and influence. The 9 p.m. show will raise funds for the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, a non-profit that has done great work drawing attention to Cincinnati’s impact on popular music by promoting and hosting numerous creative events to honor historical moments like Hank Williams’ Cincy recording sessions and the immeasurable impact of King Records.
To become a member of the CUMHF's supporters group The Funky Drummer Society and read more about their mission to expose and celebrate Cincy's important place in music history, visit the Foundation's official website here or on Facebook here.
Tickets for tonight's benefit show are $10 for those 21-and-up; it's $12 for those 18-20. Music will take place on all three of the recently opened venue's stages. Below is the lineup of performances. Click each artist's name for audio samples and more.
9:15 - 9:55: Bri Love
10:15 - 10:55: Hank Becker (of The Rubber Knife Gang)
11:15 - 11:55: Terminal Union
12:15 - 12:55 : Andyman Hopkins
9 - 9:40: The Young Heirlooms
10:00 - 10:40: Shiny Old Soul
11:00 - 11:40: The Stories
12:00 - 12:40: SOUSE
1:00 - 1:40: Sassy Molasses
9:00 - 9:40: Shoot Out The Lights
10:00 - 10:50: Kelly Thomas with Arlo McKinley & Lonesome Sound
11:10 - 12:10: The Cincy Brass
12:30 - 1:40: The Cliftones
Kelly Thomas, Arlo McKinley and Lonesome Sound will be doing an all-Hank Williams set tonight in honor of Hank's ties to Cincy through his historic recording sessions at Herzog Studios. Thomas and McKinley recorded a version of "Lost Highway" at the old Herzog space earlier this year and filmed the proceedings. The song and footage became the centerpiece of Thomas' first in a series of short films featuring her favorite songs and local musicians called Sacred Harp Sessions. A new video and song will be released monthly for the Sessions; Thomas recently unveiled Episode 2 featuring Ricky Nye and the tune "Come On In My Kitchen." Click here to check it out; below is Episode 1, in honor of Cincinnati's music heritage and tonight's concert.
A quick Google search confirmed the terrible news that The Doors keyboardist had passed away on May 20 in Germany while seeking treatment for bile duct cancer.
By virtue of my mid-'50s birth, I am an actual child of the '60s and the parade of my musical heroes joining the choir invisible has seemed to pick up the pace here in the new millennium. So many have fallen, it's difficult to keep track.
My dear friend Rob, a high school bud from my Michigan hometown, has for years sent out emails with the name of a recently deceased musician in the subject line, which has led those of us in our immediate circle to refer to him as The Reaper. A few years back, he sent us an update about a new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album and from his simple subject notation I came to the horrifying conclusion that Tom and the boys had gone down like Lynyrd Skynyrd.Fortunately, that was not the case.
Rob was in the midst of trying to send us all a message from his phone about Ray's passing when he got my email. He hates it when I scoop him, but this was not a scoop that I could lord over The Reaper. This was as devastating as a death in the family.
I teared up a few weeks ago when my comedy hero Jonathan Winters died and it was the same when Ray's death became a verifiable fact. Ray Manzarek wasn't simply one of the thousands of musicians who I greatly admire. He was the guy who made me listen to music.
My earliest exposure to Rock came, oddly enough, via The Ed Sullivan Show. For you youngsters, Sullivan was a well-connected entertainment reporter who wound up hosting radio shows in the late '20s and emceeing theater revues in the '30s and '40s which led to one of the first television variety shows, Toast of the Town, in 1948. Eventually renamed after its stiff but brilliantly intuitive host and talent booker, The Ed Sullivan Show occupied the Sunday-at-8 p.m. slot for 23 years.
Sullivan didn't care for Rock & Roll, but he knew teenagers were viewers and would attract advertisers, so he began booking the artists that would become the foundation of Rock in the '60s. I saw The Beatles on the Sullivan show in 1964, when I was 7 years old — I liked the music but I distinctly remember thinking, "I wish those girls would stop screaming so I can hear it." By the following year, The Beatles became a cartoon series and largely stopped being real people in my comic-book-obsessed head.
Sgt. Pepper changed that in 1967. So much changed in 1967.
The catalyst for all that change was The Doors' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in September of that magic year. I didn't know anything about the band beyond its interesting name. I always watched Sullivan for the bands (although I was just as intrigued by the plate spinners, magicians and comics; George Carlin was an early favorite), so I looked forward to it as much as any of the others who had displayed their wares for Sullivan's audience.
Until The Doors' hypnotic vibe came pouring out of the tinny speaker in my grandparents' old black-and-white Zenith, music had been little more than an accessory in my life. I didn't follow music or collect it or pay much attention to it beyond checking it out on the occasional TV program (Sullivan, Hullabaloo, Shindig, sometimes American Bandstand on a rainy Saturday). The bands were fun and interesting to watch — by then I'd seen The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Dave Clark 5 (whose big beat, roiling Farfisa organ and frenetic guitar hooked me more than most) and many more — but I had not yet been infected with the Rock virus.
That September evening, I camped out in front of the TV to see what Sullivan had in store before The Doors played the final segment. There were the standard array of variety acts that made Sullivan a star in his own right and there was a sweaty, bug-eyed comic who was pretty funny (it turned out to be Rodney Dangerfield, making his TV debut).
At commercial, I ran into the kitchen, probably for a chocolate chip cookie stack, and when I got back to the living room, there was Ed, arms folded across his chest, ramrod straight as if a stagehand had shoved a mop handle up his ass all the way to the base of his skull.
"Now, The Doors...here they are with their newest hit record, 'People Are Strange.' "
The insistent lope of the first single from The Doors' sophomore album, Strange Days (which was still a week away from being released), emanated from the television and I stood staring at the set, afraid to sit down for fear of missing something. In two brief minutes, I was galvanized, pulverized and mesmerized, between Robbie Krieger's three note guitar intro, Ray Manzarek's circus organ, John Densmore's shuffling beat and Jim Morrison's trance-like presence. The best was yet to come.
Without a break, The Doors — with dozens of actual doors forming a backdrop — segued straight into their real hit, "Light My Fire," which had come out just after the first of the year. When I heard Ray's masterful intro, I remembered having heard a bit of it on the car radio before my father changed the station, presumably to get away from it.
For the first time in my life, I got music.
"Light My Fire" seeped into my DNA and I went through what seemed like an alchemical transformation, touched by the philosopher's stone of The Doors' cryptic groove. It felt like every molecule in my body had changed places with every other molecule in my body. Outwardly, I looked no different. Inwardly, I was not and would never be the same.
Morrison was clearly a compelling figure onstage as he writhed without seeming to move to any great degree — and the emphasis when the word "fire" erupted from his throat was hair-raising — but it was Ray Manzarek who commanded my attention. I kept wanting the camera to get back to Ray so I could watch his hands and see how they corresponded to that transdimensional sound he was creating. Morrison's smoldering role in The Doors' passion play was clearly evident, but Ray's position was so much more subversive and fascinating to me.
By the time the Doors completed the two-and-a-half minute single version of "Light My Fire," I was paralyzed (the first time I heard the long version, probably a few months after the Sullivan show, my head nearly exploded). It was the first time I can remember thinking, "Play something else. Play that thing over. Play someone else's song. Just do that to me again."
From that moment on, I pursued music. I found the cool radio stations that played Rock and Pop and began paying strict attention. Motown had already been in full swing for a few years and that sound got its hooks into me as well. I kept an eye out for a repeat Sullivan performance by The Doors but it never happened; little did I know at the time that Ed and CBS executives had told the band to change the "girl, we couldn't get much higher" lyric in "Light My Fire" because of its possible drug connotation, which Morrison agreed to do and then either defiantly or nervously forgot. Sullivan was furious and reportedly shouted at the band after the show, "You'll never do the Sullivan show again," to which Morrison allegedly replied, "Hey, we just did the Sullivan show."
Over the next four years, my reverence for The Doors grew exponentially and I continued to be captivated by everything they attempted. I was not deterred by what some critics deemed inferior songs on Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade, and the epic tales of Morrison's booze-and-drug consumption merely added to his mythic status. Only his conviction for public indecency was worrisome, from the standpoint that a jail term could have stopped them from recording and touring.
I was not even dissuaded when I realized that Ray was only four years younger than my father.
After its April 1971 release, L.A. Woman became the soundtrack for the end of my sophomore year in high school and the beginning of my 14th summer. On July 3, 1971, my stepbrother Rick and I were listening to WVIC in Lansing when we heard the news of Morrison's death from a supposed heart attack in Paris, where he had decamped just after the release of L.A. Woman.
I was devastated, but I thought, "At least it wasn't Ray."
After Rick and I discussed what we thought were the band's possible options for a while, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote a letter to the surviving Doors, imploring them not to quit in the wake of their terrible tragedy. I told them, "You can't quit. It's not what Jim would have wanted, it's not what we want and, if you're honest with yourselves, it's not what you want."
I found a Doors fan address in one of my Rock mags and mailed the letter off a few days later. (I would send an eerily similar letter to the Allman Brothers four months later, just after the death of Duane Allman; those are the only two fan letters I have ever sent).
A few weeks later, I received a hand-signed form letter from Danny Sugerman, who was The Doors' second manager, which stated that the band appreciated their fans' concern and best wishes and they were definitely staying together and working on a new album that would be released in the fall.
Other Voices was an amazing album, although critics generally hated it. I looked at as if it were a Ray Manzarek solo album; from that perspective it was great. The following year, they pushed even further into Jazz territory on Full Circle and then decided to officially end The Doors. Ray began his real solo career with The Golden Scarab in 1973, followed by 1974's The Whole Thing Started With Rock and Roll, Now It's Out of Control.
Scarab was magnificent (particularly the unhinged instrumental, "The Moorish Idol," the first song I heard from the album on a college radio station), as it offered up serious musical chops but also something that Morrison found difficult to achieve; whimsy and humor. Out of Control was aptly named as it was slightly chaotic, but it was Ray so I found plenty of ways to love it. I still do.
After that, Ray took a zig-zag approach to his solo career. An Electronic Rock version of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," a collaboration with Phillip Glass, was extremely cool, but his work after that was sporadic at best. He did a couple of cool albums in the late '70s with his new band, Nite City, and he produced the first three X albums in the early '80s (their version of "Soul Kitchen" is harrowing).
As an artist, Ray tended to stick to collaborative situations (although he did release a true solo album in 2006, an instrumental set of originals titled Love Her Madly, presumably the soundtrack to a B-movie he wrote, directed and starred in). In recent years, he had done a couple of albums with slide guitarist Roy Rogers, including the blazingly excellent Translucent Blues in 2011. And of course, he and Krieger famously pissed off John Densmore when they relaunched The Doors, first as Riders on the Storm, then as the 21st Century Doors and then, due to legal acquiescence, as Manzarek/Krieger.
The fact is, with Doors record sales topping 100 million worldwide, Ray could do whatever he wanted to do, for as long as he wanted to do it and he did just that. But it could be equally argued that Ray did exactly what he wanted in The Doors as well, because that gothic Rock sound didn't exist before The Doors' debut album in 1967. While many tried to replicate it in the aftermath of their staggering success, no one could quite master the formula of Morrison's shamanic poetry slam, Densmore's fluid pulse and Krieger's combination of Rock swagger and Jazz swing.
Most importantly, they could not fathom the incredible musical ability and intuition of Raymond Daniel Manzarek, and without that, there would be no Doors.
I would have come to Rock in some form or fashion; weeks after seeing The Doors on Sullivan, I heard Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" and "Purple Haze," yet another subatomic moment, and weeks after that was my first mindbending spin through Sgt. Pepper.
But it was all teed up because of The Doors and their singular keyboardist, the man who revealed the universe of music to a 10-year-old boy in Michigan and sent him on a pilgrimage to find more of the same, a journey that continues to this day with the same passion and dedication that marked its initial steps over half a century ago.
I would guess that my marching orders from Ray right now would be similar to those I offered to him and his grieving bandmates in 1971: Keep going, because it's what I want, it's what we want and, if you're honest with yourself, it's what you want.
On this day in 1968, one of Rock & Roll's Shakespearean tragedies came to an end as singer Frankie Lymon, a Pop superstar in the mid-’50s with Rock & Roll/R&B vocal group The Teenagers, died from a heroin overdose at the age of 25.
Actually, if you've ever seen the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall in Love
(named for Lymon and the Teenagers' biggest hit), you know that the
singer's death was a trick ending. The story of Lymon's sad legacy
(blockbuster hit leads to lead singer ego explosion; quits group; can't
find solo success; finds drugs; gets drafted; quits drugs; mounts
comeback; celebrates with drugs; dies) took an unusual turn in the ’80s.
Three different women came forward claiming to be Lymon's widow and
entitled to his estate. Turns out, they were all
telling the truth — Lymon had married all three but never divorced any
of them. Ultimately, the singer's estate was awarded to his third wife;
if that conclusion was reached on a coin-flip, could you really blame
Here's archival footage of Lymon's last TV appearance, a 1965 slot on the program Hollywood A Go-Go where the 22-year-old singer lip-synched to the original version of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" — recorded when he was 13.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a Feb. 27 birthday include Jazz legend Dexter Gordon (1923); ex-WKRP in Cincinnati DJ, Dr. Johnny Fever, aka Howard Hesseman (1940); Journey guitarist and MILF pilfer Neal Schon (1954); guitarist/songwriter with Metal giants Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith (1957); Sex Pistols hanger-on Nancy Spungen (1958); singer with R&B/Hip Hop/Pop trio TLC, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas (1971); and Classical/Pop vocalist Josh Groban (1981).
Groban is the kind of singer who would be really easy to make fun of if he didn't have such a good sense of humor about himself already. One of those Classical/Opera crossover Pop stars (like Charlotte Church or Il Divo) who approaches Pop and Rock material with the same overly careful enunciation and melodrama, Groban has parodied himself on various comedy programs, including Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and this bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live, where the singer used his talents to make Kanye West's nutty tweets sound even nuttier.
On this day in 1956, innovative guitar builder Leo Fender was awarded the patent for a "Tremolo Device for Stringed Instruments," commonly known as the "whammy bar." The device was misnamed — it's more accurately a vibrato bar (tremolo is a "wavering effect in a musical tone, produced by rapid reiteration of a note, by rapid repeated variation in the pitch of a note," according to the dictionary) — but that didn't stop musicians from using it in a variety of ways to create new sounds and techniques. The bar was introduced with Fender's Stratocaster, which was invented a couple of years earlier.
The Greater Cincinnati area has given the world two "twang bar kings" (or maybe "twang bar Picassos" is more appropriate) —pals and bandmates in The Bears, Adrian Belew and Rob Fetters.
Thirty five years ago today, the original Apple Computer — now called Apple I — was introduced. This week it was revealed that Apple's market value hit $600 billion. Only one other company — Microsoft — has ever reached that value level (it's now back down to a paltry $255 billion, according to the Associated Press).
Not even its creator could have known that the little box designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak (with entrepreneurial spiritual guidance by Steve Jobs) would lead to multiple revolutions, including in the worlds of technology, telecommunications, media, music and likely hundreds of other fields.
Who knows where those fields would be today were it not for Apple. One thing that certainly would not exist today is the following song tribute to Jobs by New York City-based progressive House DJ/producer AzR featuring only sounds and tones from an Apple computer (aside from some Jobs quotes). Every time I hear that "chirp," I think my iPod connector cable is going haywire.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 11 birthday include early Jazz musician Nick LaRocca (1889); Pop and Jazz music's first African-American personal manager (and also a noted Jazz bassist) John Levy (1912); composer of Rock classic "Louie Louie," Richard Berry (1935); original member of The Specials (and singer in Special Beat with The English Beat's Ranking Roger) Neville Staple (1955); late singer/guitarist for one hit wonders Big Country ("In a Big Country") Stuart Adamson (1958); co-founder of Gin Blossoms (who later committed suicide after leaving the band) Doug Hopkins (1961); British Soul/Pop vocalist Joss Stone (1987); and singular actor/musician Vincent Gallo (1962).
Gallo is best known as an indie film actor with a public persona so over the top, many find him obnoxious. Though he's never had a mainstream breakthrough (in part thanks to his refusal to go the Nic Cage route and make shitty, big-budget craptaculars just for the paycheck), he remains one of America's great underrated actors. And his stellar feature Buffalo ’66 (in which he starred and directed and wrote) is one of the best twisted RomComs of all time, second perhaps only to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Hopefully he'll make another masterpiece at some point. But his experimental streak seems pretty domineering.
Gallo has been as adventurous in his musical work as he has in celluloid. When Gallo moved to NYC in the ’70s, he played in a band with art legend Jean Michel Basquiat and later performed in other groups and as a solo artist. He continued to write music for his films (notably Brown Bunny and Buffalo) and has put out a few releases on U.K. electronic/experimental label, Warp Records.
Gallo has directed music videos (including John Frusciante's "Going Inside") and appeared in several clips as well, the most famous being Jay-Z's "99 Problems."
In 2005, Gallo curated a weekend of show at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K., booking Yoko Ono, Frusciante (Gallo, coincidentally, toured in 2001 with a band that included Frusciante's Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer) and Yoko Ono (Gallo and Ono's son Sean Lennon also made an album around that time that has yet to be released).
Here's the first song on his 2001 solo album When, "I Wrote This Song For the Girl Paris Hilton" (for no clear reason).
On this day in 1973, the musical act Richard Nixon dubbed "young America at its best" performed at The White House. At Nixon's request, Adult Contemporary superstars The Carpenters performed for the Pres and visiting German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
Laugh now, but that will seem cutting edge after the fourth or fifth time The Osmonds play Mitt Romney's White House.
Meanwhile, at the Obama White House, Bob Dylan will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, later this spring, along with Madeleine Albright, John Glenn, Toni Morrison, basketball coach Pat Summitt and several other honorees.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May Day birthday include vocalist (best known for her rendition of "God Bless America") Kate Smith (1907); Country/Pop crossover star ("Young Love") Sonny James (1929); the Charlie Parker and/or Jimi Hendrix of Blues Harmonica, Little Walter Jacobs (1930); Jazz singer/pianist Shirley Horn (1934); singer/songwriter Judy Collins (1939); the singer forever tied to Ghostbusters, Ray Parker, Jr. (1954); half of Wang Chung, Nick Feldman (1955); Country star Tim McGraw (1967); original bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins, D'arcy Wretzky (1968); late Garage Punk artist Jay Reatard (1980); and singer Rita Coolidge (1945).
Along with her hits with versions of Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" and Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone," Coolidge was something of an artistic muse in the ’70s. Leon Russell wrote "The Detla Lady" about her, she was married to Kris Kristofferson for seven years and Willie Nelson's refers to her in "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" ("Just got back from New York City/Kris and Rita done it all/Bought perfection there for all the world to see/Lord, I heard an angel singing in that Philharmonic Hall/Rita Coolidge, Rita Coolidge, cleft for me").
Coolidge continues to record and tour. She formed a group with her sister and niece called Walela, which performed in a traditional Native American style (Coolidge is part Cherokee). Check out Rita's Facebook page to see what she's up to lately.
Here is Coolidge and Kristofferson on the U.K. show The Old Grey White Test in 1972.
This particular version of "Many Rivers to Cross," featuring Greater Cincinnati greats Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies, has been haunting me all week (in a great way). It was recorded as the third episode in a brilliantly conceived yearlong project by Thomas and several of her creative pals, The Sacred Harp Sessions, in which she documents her musical inspirations in monthly installments.
"Many Rivers" is such a great song, with its uplifting and optimistic Gospel vibe shining through the lyrical desperation. Thomas and The ’Pies version might just be the best I've heard outside of Jimmy Cliff's original version (sorry, UB40). And I thought it kind of fitting for New Year's Eve (or, perhaps more fittingly, New Year's Day morning) because, although there is a bittersweet aura, Cliff wrote and sang about overcoming his heartbreak and moving on to cross many more rivers in his future. Though he's devastated that his "woman left … and … didn't say why," he knows he'll live through it thanks to his strong will and pride. If you had a tough 2012, make this your theme song on your way to a better 2013.
The Sacred Harp Sessions (produced, on the video end, by Alex and Tiffany Luscht of Mind Igniton) is an engaging passion project, with Thomas choosing songs, area musicians and even local studios she admires and appreciates. Ultimately, it's a tribute to the things that have made Thomas who she is today as an artist (and person).
In the accompanying videos, Thomas talks about what the songs mean to her, but the short films are not purely autobiographical — they can also be educational. The first episode, for example, discussed Cincinnati's King Records and the city's Hank Williams connection; Kelly recorded Williams' "Lost Highway" with Arlo McKinley at the location of downtown's former Herzog recording studio, believed to be the last standing building in which Williams recorded.
Episode 2 of The Sacred Harp Sessions found Thomas teaming up with Cincinnati Blues piano legend Ricky Nye at downtown studio Sound Images for a great take on Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."
Click here to subscribe to Thomas' YouTube channel so you know when the latest installments drop and can watch and re-watch your favorites. And keep an eye on Thomas' website for any updates and for limited-edition free downloads of the latest tracks recorded for the project ("Many Rivers" is currently available).
Thomas is currently singing in three bands — her longtime Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups crew, the classic Country outfit The Tammy WhyNots and The Lonesome Sound (which formed recently after the aforementioned Hank Williams sessions). She'll be starting off 2013 with free shows with all three acts — The Fabulous Pickups join Sassy Molasses at Northside Tavern Jan. 4, on Jan. 5 The Tammy WhyNots play with Tex Schramm and The Radio King Cowboys and Doctor Bombay and The Atomic Bachelor Pad at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub and The Lonesome Sound has a gig on Jan. 12 at downtown's Taqueria Mercado.