post

A Wild Ride — No Bull

Ryan BinghamRyan Bingham’s smoke and whiskey etched voice is quite deceiving. You might think you’re listening to some dusty, middle-aged, leather-faced guitar slinger instead of a brooding, good-looking 29-year-old former bull rider. If his rusty-saw of a voice sounds familiar, then you probably saw the film Crazy Heart. Bingham penned the film’s theme song, “The Weary Kind,” for which he received both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Original Song this year. That’s a wild ride for a guy who didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 17 years old.

Bingham’s work on the Crazy Heart soundtrack brought him together with producer T-Bone Burnett, who produced Bingham’s latest album, Junky Star, a vehicle for his ever-improving songwriting skills and his raw out-in-front vocals. It also has all the markings of a Burnett project, giving it a stripped-down, timeless sound. The unobtrusive acoustic accompaniment of Bingham’s longtime band, The Dead Horses, never overdrives the vocals.

The 12 tracks of Junky Star are populated with characters from the harder side of life — junkies, murderers, strippers and thieves — clinging to a slender glimmer of hope. Bingham’s vocal style ranges from the Dylanesque “Direction of the Wind” to a Nebraska-era Springsteen on “Yesterday’s Blues,” with others bringing Steve Earl or Tom Waits to mind. In the standout track “Hallelujah,” a man robbed and shot to death tells one of the most compellingly tragic tales. He unwillingly wanders between life and the afterlife, refusing to abandon his passion for life and the lover he left behind.

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, September 16, 2010

Share the love of OKOM!

post

What’s Become of the Bus

After Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead officially decided to break up. Over the years, there have been a few reunions of the surviving members involving a variety of additional musicians. In 1998, former Grateful Dead band mates Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart formed a band called The Other Ones, which later became The Dead; they went on hiatus in 2004.

Ken Kesey with the original "Furthur" bus in July 2001. Photo: Brian Davies

The latest Weir and Lesh collection of musicians, Furthur, formed in 2009. The band’s name comes from Ken Kesey’s prankster-filled bus of the ’60s. The bus’ name placard, designed by artist Roy Sebern, gave inspiration to carry on whenever the bus broke down. The bus died shortly after a trip to Woodstock in 1969. It currently rests on the late Ken Kesey’s farm in Pleasant Hill.

Acid Test Poster 1965

The ties between Kesey and the Grateful Dead go back beyond the beginning — before Jerry Garcia picked up that old dictionary in search of a new name for their band, turned to Phil Lesh and said, “Hey man, how about The Grateful Dead?” Before they were The Grateful Dead, they were The Warlocks, and they played at many of Kesey’s parties during the mid-’60s. Their first performance as The Grateful Dead was on December 4, 1965, at one of Kesey’s Acid Tests. From there, The Grateful Dead — with an eclectic style that fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, reggae, country, jazz, psychedelic and space rock — took that long, strange trip into rock and roll history.

Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Furthur

In addition to Weir and Lesh, Furthur has a strong lineup: keyboardist Jeff Chimenti of Weir’s band RatDog; guitarist/vocalist John Kadlecik of the Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra; drummer Joe Russo, who first played with Lesh in 2006; and backing vocalists Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson. The Grateful Dead’s music remains the same, but the Deadhead has changed quite a bit over the years.

"Old Joe" O'Hara

"Old Joe" O'Hara - Click picture to watch video of Widespread Panic performing "Old Joe" at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, WI.

I spoke with a longtime Deadhead, Joe O’Hara, also known as Old Joe. For you Widespread Panic fans, yes, he’s that “Old Joe.” O’Hara has been going to concerts since the mid-’60s when he was about 6 years old (thanks to his older cousins), and he’s seen the Grateful Dead countless times since the early ’70s. Regarding the Deadhead scene, he told me, “Before ‘Touch of Grey’ came out [in 1987], it was a very kind, peaceful scene. We were family; we helped each other out. I would make big pots of stew or chili and feed others and sell some of it. I’d sell beer and tie-dye too.”

O’Hara continued, “After ‘Touch of Grey,’ — which, believe it or not, was their biggest hit with that MTV video — all of a sudden, the scene filled with a bunch of wanna-bes. We, as a family, would try to help those that looked like they needed help. Did they appreciate it? No, it would be, ‘Thanks, what’s next?’ They didn’t get it. It lost a lot of its appeal. It was that way until Jerry died.”

O’Hara assured me, “Now it’s come back to calmer people at the shows just enjoying the music.”

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, September 9, 2010

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Tyler Fortier – The Next Big Thing?

The Next Big ThingI became aware of Tyler Fortier a few months ago while doing an article on an act for which he opened. Honestly, after going to the show, I liked Tyler’s music much more than the headliner. That’s just me.
I interviewed him and I’ve been enjoying his music. I’ve had an in depth article about him on the back burner for a couple of months now (that I promise will be my next entry).

In the meantime, Tyler is in the running for the “Next Big Thing” that is sponsored by Eugene Weekly. His entry is the very timely and driving  “Fear of the Unknown”. “Fear Of The Unknown” is a not-quite, almost finished version of a song that will be found on one of Tyler’s future releases. For a not-quite, almost finished version it sounds damn good. Go listen to it (you can click on the song name or on Tyler’s picture to go listen to it and vote). If you like it even half as much as I did, vote for it!

Tyler Fortier, at the age of 25, has released 4 CD’s and proves to be a consistent presence in the NW as a prolific singer/songwriter. With the release of his new record, This Love Is Fleeting on April 15th of this year, Fortier embarked on a 2 month long/40 city tour throughout the NW (OR, WA, ID) and has been playing shows and festivals in the Eugene area throughout the summer before he heads back out on the road in September. Since Fortier’s return home, he’s recorded 15 new songs and declares, “ he has many more to go,” already planning the releases of his 5th and 6th records.

Much more on Tyler Fortier coming to OKOM very soon!

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Living on That Dusty Trail

Robert Earl KeenSince the mid 80s Robert Earl Keen’s songwriting styles have proven to be unequaled. His many loyal fans gladly venture into the vivid settings rendered in Keen’s songs – where his colorful and eclectic characters reside – to live the stories themselves. They know the gang that hangs out at Mr. Blues in “Feelin’ Good Again.” They’re in the alley with Sonny and Sherry in “The Road Goes on Forever” as that fateful shot rings out. They live to drink Mescal with the boys from the old Broken O at Amanda’s Saloon on “Sonora’s Death Row.”

Keen’s subject matter is as wide as the Texas skyline and can sometimes take you places dark and dreadful. He can cast you into a shadowy, paranoid persona where you know everyone is out to “Blow You Away.” In “Billy Gray” he shares the tender story from long ago of young Sarah’s tragic love for Billy. In the end, you’re there next to Billy’s headstone. Keen also has a very sharp wit that shines in the perennial favorite “Merry Christmas from the Family” and in the recent “Wireless in Heaven.”

Robert Earl Keen may very well be the father of Americana music (as some have called him). It’s unclear if he’s ever made that claim, so maybe he’s more like its illegitimate father. But he’s no deadbeat dad – after all, he’s nurtured and supported Americana for years and there are many singer-songwriters who claim him as their inspiration.
This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, August 19, 2010

Read OKOM interview with Robert Earl Keen…

Share the love of OKOM!

post

Take a Ride on the Wild Side

It wouldn’t be fair to attempt to categorize the Boulder Acoustic Society. Even their name doesn’t quite accurately describe their sound. It wasn’t what I expected at all — kind of like the feeling of riding in the passenger seat when a 15-year-old tries driving for the first time. You bravely hold on tight, try not to scream and hope for the best. In the end, your driver surprises the hell out of you by how well he or she pulls it off. You had more fun than you thought you would, so you say, “Let’s do it again!”

The Colorado quartet’s current release, the cleverly packaged Punchline, on Austin’s Nine Mile Records, is all musically over the place. Each track calls up a different genre tag — folk, punk, pop, gospel, blues or rock — or any combination of them. Each vocal treatment conjures a different voice from your melodic memory, be it Andy Summers howling out “Mother,” a smoke-enveloped Tom Waits hugging the keys or even the Irish whiskey-driven sharp wit of Denis Leary. In unskilled hands, this could end up as a big hot bowl of bile. The fearless boys of the Boulder Acoustic Society — equipped with violin, accordion, standup bass, percussion and the occasional ukulele — bravely deliver it all polished brilliantly. They once covered the Miley Cyrus song “Party in the U.S.A.” with Danielle Ate the Sandwich. Now that’s brave.

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, August 12, 2010

Share the love of OKOM!