Music is Just a Bunch of Notes by Spider John Koerner and Willie & the Bumblebees is one of our favorite local records of all time.

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“Ramble Tamble”

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“Everybody’s Goin’ for the Money”

Its original pressing of 1000 copies was hand-stamped (pre-dating the Replacements’ Stink album by a decade) — many that we’ve seen here at Hymie’s have green marker circling the title. In the case of our own copy it’s a big wild squiggly circle. Some copies had a serial number, like the “White Album,” others have additional doodlings and marks. The photographs you see here are what we were able to find searching online — We had been photographing each unique copy that passes through the record shop, but when the Hymie’s computer suddenly pooped out on us last month we lost the files.

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We also found this unfinished or abandoned blog, where somebody had the idea of tracking down all 1000 copies.

My first copy of this album was a CD-R that Dave Ray made for me when I was working at Al’s Breakfast. At the time the album was out of print, and fairly difficult to find. Sadly, that disc didn’t survive one move or another, or the theft of a CD collection from a car or something. It would be something special to have today. Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes is in print again and now comes with DVD of Koerner’s weird 1970 movie, The Secret of Sleep.

The album includes crowd noise from a performance at Macalester College and a couple of absurdist comedy bits by Ted Olson. The remaining tracks were recorded above the Coffeehouse Extempore, as described in Dave Ray’s extensive liner notes. We first posted about the album’s stranger features in our very popular “Weird Stuff” series a couple years ago. Here is one of the tracks with Olson driving his car.

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“Waiting for go with Normal Dub”

Hearing Koerner perform “Summer of ’88″ on the new Live At Patrick’s Cabaret disc reminded us (we posted it here earlier this week) reminded us how much we love his songwriting and his totally original performances. People hang onto their Spider John Koerner albums, which is why several of them are so difficult to find — it took years to build up a collection of all of them, as well as all the great records Dave Ray made. We are, of course, very excited about the new Red House Records compilation of Ray’s records. A few customers here have been disappointed it wasn’t released on LP, but we’re just glad to hear all the rarities and live recordings.

In case you need it.

 

Cold Spring Harbor = The Germs

Streetlife Serenade = The Clash

Piano Man = Buzzcocks

Turnstiles = Fear

The Stranger = Bad Brains (classic)

52nd Street = Dead Kennedys

Glass Houses = Black Flag

The Nylon Curtain = Flipper

An Innocent Man = early Social Distortion

The Bridge = The Ramones

Storm Front = Bad Brains (without H.R.)

River of Dreams = The Adolescents

Fantasies & Delusions = Wire

BJ

 

Fish Story

The 2000 movie High Fidelity still comes up in conversation around here, and for many it seems to be the definitive big screen portrayal of life in a record store. We enjoy the movie and its very nice soundtrack, and we certainly get some smiles from the “Beta Band Effect” from time to time (what’s this?) but its not our favorite movie set in a record store.

Fish Story is a 2009 movie directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. It begins in a record store five hours before a comet is to destroy the Earth. Two young men are doing what we do here every day, nerding out about records, when a man comes in and asks, incredulous, “Why are you open?”

They ignore him and continue to discuss music, as the clerk introduces his friend to an obscure band called Gekirin. Their final recording, “Fish Story,” pre-dates punk rock, although it sounds suspiciously like “New Rose” by the Damned.

We follow the song backwards through history — witnessing moments of heroism and terror, before finally meeting Gekirin in 1975 and learning how they came to record “Fish Story,” based on a mis-translated poem.

There is a scene in another movie, Almost Famous, when Jason Lee claims that rock and roll will save the world. It’s the kind of hyperbolic statement often associated with pop music’s need to justify itself, not so different from the way we feel about some of our favorite records. “This is important,” we tell ourselves, even though  we know well that in the big picture our records are inconsequential at best.

Fish Story is about those dreams, and how one of our records might save the world.

We have a lot of pride in this neighborhood where we live and run our little record store. Many of our customers live as nearby as we do, and are friends and neighbors we see in shops and restaurants along East Lake Street and throughout the Longfellow community. With pride we’ve always done all our shopping right here in this neighborhood.

Many more customers come from all over the Twin Cities, the country and even the world to visit us — we’re quick to offer recommendations if they’re looking for a tasty lunch or another place to shop. Hymie’s is sometimes identified as one of the neighborhood’s jewels, which gives us a nice warm-fuzzy but also reminds us of a responsibility to continue to be involved with the work to build a better community.

We think one of the neighborhood’s real treasure is Patrick’s Cabaret, the non-profit theater just a short jump down East Lake from our shop. Their legacy of providing a platform for performance arts on the fringes can’t be beat here in the Cities, from the work of artists of color and members of the GLBT community, to young and emerging performers. They are open-minded, accepting and great neighbors, and we are glad to call them friends. Our favorite shows at Patrick’s Cabaret are their “Singer/Songwriter” and “Eclectic/Electric” Series, but that’s because we’re always most interested in music of course.

If you haven’t been to a performance at Patrick’s, there is one this weekend which would be an awesome introduction. They’re celebrating the release of their Live At Patrick’s Cabaret compilation, which features local musicians who have participated in those two ongoing series. The show is this Friday, November 21st, at 8pm, and will feature live music by Molly Dean, Love Nocturnal and i like you. The collection is produced by the Cabaret’s music programmer, Chris Mozena, and features live recordings of some of our favorite local artists. Take a look at the amazing tracklisting! (you can click on the picture to make it larger)

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“Tippy Toes” by i like you

The album opens with this awesome song by i like you (this band keeps getting better every time we hear them) and ends with a really great recording of “Summer of 88″ by Spider John Koerner, our favorite song on his great Red House Records album Raised by Humans. In between there’s a wide variety, which happily includes a lot of artists we’ve worked with here at Hymie’s. There’s even a song by Jack Klatt from his collaborative 2012 disc Mississippi Roll, a great recording of a song we singled out as a favorite at the time.

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“Do You Think About Tomorrow?” by Jack Klatt

Say, that’s twice in as many days ol’ Jack has appeared here — one more and we’re gonna have to ask him to start helping out around the shop. One of this collections best tracks is “St. Michael vs The Devil,” a lengthy story song by Davina & the Vagabonds (the same Davina Sowers who is performing at the Patty and the Buttons show we wrote about yesterday). They’re one of the best blues acts around, but this live recording is the next best thing to seeing them on stage.

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“St. Michael vs the Devil” by Davina and the Vagabonds

A friend of ours has long pushed a theory that there are places which become unique crossroads in the universe. They’re the places where you meet remarkable people who become lifelong friends (he first came up with this concept in the kitchen at Al’s Breakfast almost twenty years ago, and has been a friend of ours ever since). They’re also the places where people come up with incredible ideas together, and they provide people with something more than just a sense of community, something almost intangible it’s so fleeting and special. You might not even know where these places are in your life. The story of how Patrick’s Cabaret came to move into a hundred-year-old firehouse hints at how much it has become a magical place for many people.

We’re excited to see they’ve labeled this disc “Vol.1″ because it hints that more will follow. We’ve always been drawn to live albums and wish more would come out of the current Twin Cities scene. As it is, Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is a really unique cross-section of the things you can hear just by looking around town a little, and also a tribute to one of the most original and amazing places in town.

The release show for Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is this Friday, November 21st. You’ll find more details on their events calendar here.

When you spend all day in a record store, you are sometimes at a loss for what to choose next. Believe it or not, sometimes we’re not sure what to play out of the quarter-million or so records jammed into this building! On those days, we likely turn to a couple of favorite sections: the jazz section (especially the swing and dixieland records) and the local section. And of course, Minnesota has a long tradition of New Orleans style jazz music, sometime we have posted about often over the years (most recently here).

One new local release has become a favorite around here over the past few weeks — The Mercury Blues, the second full-length disc by Patty and the Buttons, reminds us why we have always enjoyed working with Patrick Harison over the years, and also why we love working here in the record store so much. Its the kind of music that puts a bounce in our steps, even on the chilliest of days when our feet can’t seem to warm up from the walk here.

Regular readers are likely to recognize Patty from his work with our ol’ pal Jack Klatt, and his appearance on the Cactus Blossoms’ Live at the Turf Club disc last year. As one of Jack Klatt’s Cat Swingers, Patty plays the role of ‘hype man’ in some of the band’s best numbers, like the as yet unrecorded “Crack Song.” His interplay with Jack reminds us that country music (specifically Bob Wills) invented the ‘hype man’ role decades before Flava Flav put a giant clock around his neck and shouted “Yeah, boy!”

Joining the Cactus Blossoms during their magical Monday night residency at the Turf Club, Patty brought the feeling of New Orleans to their genuine revival of western swing. Their jaunty “Down South in New Orleans” on those lovely nights took its Crescent City flavor from Patty. On Live at the Turf Club he alternates between his accordion and his washboard with the familiar, battered little cymbal. He studied and played in New Orleans, and few young musicians this far upriver can bring its worldly gumbo to a song with such grace. Who but Patty could shift so smoothly from Parisian Gypsy jazz to hokum blues? Sometimes he does it in the same set, sometimes in the same song.

Our pal Patty is also a performer of powerful convictions, especially when it comes to the subject of pop music. We’re guessing he cringes each time the Southside Aces perform Buttons bandmate Tony Baluff’s arrangement of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” (on their awesome disc A Big Fine Thing). It’s a number which surely signifies them as Aces in every way, one you could request if you checked out their third Thursday residency at the Minneapolis Eagles Club for yourself — It’s also based on the sort of pop music Patty loathes, and the sort of cover tune the bands he works with would never record. We understand (we stopped listening to “Bluegrass Saturday Morning” when it felt like every second song was a cover of an 80s pop hit). The covers in the Buttons’ repertoire are all from solid traditional sources.

So, to Muppet-ify Patty we’d describe him as divided somewhere between Gonzo the Great and Sam the Eagle. His dual role as traditionalist and irreverent outlaw reared hilarious results this winter with the release of XXX, a disc of vintage smuts songs recorded by the Buttons and presented as a low-budget kickstarter campaign (an project we enthusiastically endorsed here on the Hymie’s blog). Silly as it seemed, the whole venture pointed out a number of problems, and not just the suspicion of kickstarter campaigns which we share — most poignant for us was the challenge of making any money playing traditional jazz these days. That America’s only truly unique art form merits minimal attention from not just mainstream media, but local media everywhere (here in the Twin Cities in particular) is a tragedy. And yeah, tragedy plus time equals comedy, but we’ve been waiting a while for the laughs to come.

Actually, the marriage of jazz and comedy is maybe the longest-lasting and healthiest in our modern cultural history (except for Ozzy and Sharon, of course). Surely most straight-ahead and serious jazz musicians recognize the inevitable, inherent silliness of their craft, or they’d all end up like the “hot and heavy” guy from Seinfeld. If you don’t understand you ought to listen to a few Fats Waller records, or Lester Bowie’s recording of the “Howdy Doody” theme, or Nina Simone’s masterpiece “Mississippi Goddamn,” in which she takes the edge of biting commentary with prodding asides. “You thought I was kidding, didn’t you,” she says with an arresting combination of warmth and acidity.

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“You Can’t Swing”

To this end we’re enchanted with Patty and the Buttons‘ new disc, The Mercury Blues. their very best recorded outing to date. The band backs both sides of Patty’s personality through a selection split evenly between original tunes and traditional gems. Patty sings super fun tunes of his own like “I Really Hate Hawaii” and “Just a Little Song.” The Buttons are in top form throughout, especially clarinetist Tony Balluff, whose arrangement of “Back to Black” we’re guessing you already found by following that link above. He and Patty each deliver knockout, nimble-fingered solos throughout, but the best thing about the disc is the band’s solid arrangements. Guitarist Mar Kreitzer is no slouch, and his turn at lead (in a German tune he wrote, “Sag Nur Ein Wort”) is a riotously fun reminder of the band’s varied influence — and bassist Keith Boyles reminds us throughout the album why his is the instrument we most often watch when seeing the band.

Patty’s originals rightly stand out. Our favorite, “You Can’t Swing,” swings itself like one of Basie’s small groups. Rick Carlson’s fingers seem to dance on the keys. As we mentioned, other songs capture the sense of humor implicit in healthy jazz. “I Really Hate Hawaii” is especially fun because we know he often buys the very best Hawaiian and steel guitar records we can find for folks — records which are a relic of the boom in popularity of Hawaiian culture in the pre-War years. That he has taken to learning the steel guitar hints at his serious musicianship, while the song itself is a product of the sense of humor we’ve grown to love.

The various cover tunes, dating from the turn of the century to a very modern 1920, are approached with both reverence and silly fun — it seems likely “Alcoholic Blues” would be the first encounter for many listeners with the songs of Albert Von Tilzer (except for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which I’m guessing we could all sing together right now). The Buttons’ rendition of this prohibition lament is very potent jazz!

Mercury Blues also boasts the lightest, airiest rendition of “Whispering” we’ve found — more loved by us here than recordings by Oscar Peterson, the Dorsey Brothers, or either recording made by Miles Davis. It feels to us more old-fashioned and more in tune with the spirit of the melody.

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“I Hate Hawaii”

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“The Mercury Blues”

The songs we chose to share from the album are all originals. We have been playing the album here in the shop a lot, so it’s likely you’ve heard the rest if you’ve visited over the past few weeks. New Orleans style jazz music is some of the best stuff to warm up days like this, when the walk to work alone leave our bones frozen –Irene might have to take the day off, by the way, but we hope you’ll fight the chilly weather to stop by. At least you know you’ll hear some hot jazz!

 

The band has planned an incredible event to celebrate the release of this magical album –a Saturday matinee performance at the historic Heights Theater on Saturday the 29th. There will be a selection or rare silent films recently discovered by the Library of Congress (accompanied by the mighty Wurlitzer organ!) and a solo performance by Davina Sowers of the Vagabonds. Details? Are there details? Find em here.

amoratorium test pressWe didn’t know the song titles on one of our favorite new LPs until this week — that’s because all we had was a test pressing for Brian Laidlaw’s ambitious new project, Amoratorium. He was kind enough to let us keep this copy after it arrived, and we have been enjoying it for weeks for what it is — seven new songs by one of our favorite songwriters.

Of course, we like Brian Laidlaw‘s songs enough to have chosen two to be the first ever released by Hymie’s Records on a 45rpm single last month (check it out here). The new songs on Amoratorium are especially interesting because they’re part of a larger concept album project that Brian has been working on for several years. The album approaches the true story and the mythology of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, and it is accompanied by a beautiful twenty-five page book of poetry published by Paper Darts Press. There is a love story at the heart of Amoratorium, as represented by the first song below, “Will Our Love,” but one set against the Cinemascope background of Depression and death. The setting is ideal fit for Brian’s best work as a songwriter — the album seems at times very similar to the EP he released last fall both in its sound and its subject matter and approach (you can read our review of that disc, Echolaliahere).

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were famous when they were ambushed and killed by a police posse on May 23, 1934. It is said that people tried to take off with souvenirs from their corpses, and one man successfully took a lock of Bonnie Parker’s hair. People didn’t really know the real couple, though, but rather sensationalized stories of their exploits in newspapers. The mythology around their story continued to grow up until 1967, when Hollywood cemented the story with a hit film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Around the same time several records about the pair appeared. Flatt & Scruggs recorded an entire album, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, and artists as wide-ranged as Merle Haggard, Serge Gainsbourg (with Brigitt Bardot), Mel Torme and Georgie Fame all made hit records about Bonnie and Clyde in the year following the movie’s release. Amoratorium is part of this pop tradition, but also a unique approach to the familiar story.

The album was produced by Brett Bullion in a temporary recording studio set up in a historic, repurposed church in Granite Falls. The Hammond organ heard on several tracks hat set unused in its foyer for seventy years. Although he is not backed by his regular group, The Family Trade, the sound is not entirely different from their records together. Danny Vitali, who had performed on Echolalia with Brian, joins him along with pianist and fiddler Bex Gaunt. The result has the rounded edges and warmth of an old building, but also the rawness of an earlier time. Brian’s portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde is likewise fit to the times, romantic if not romanticized, and not his first recording to recreate a setting in the past –”Hangtown Hymn” from Whiskey With Goliath frames its story in a similarly sepia-toned atmosphere.

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“Will I Love” 

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“The Way That I Was Made”

Amoratorium cover crop “Nobody but a villain loves a revisionist,” writes Brian in the title poem in the brief book (do books of poetry have ‘title tracks’ in the same way as albums?). A quote from Arthur Penn, who directed the 1967 movie responsible for reigniting the Bonnie and Clyde mythology, is on the first page:

I’d grown up hearing all the stories about Bonnie and Clyde… Everyone knew someone who’d been robbed or kidnapped by them. Any farmer that had an old car that didn’t work, they’d take it out, shoot it full of holes, pour some animal blood on it and show it off as the car Bonnie and Clyde were killed in.

When Bonnie and Clyde were run out of a hideout in 1933 they left behind some undeveloped film and some sheets of handwritten poetry. Their playful pictures brandishing guns and cigars and the slang language in the poems were printed in newspapers around the country, making the couple and their gang famous, if not understood. We haven’t asked Brian why he’s worked for so long on their story but we assume he was in part drawn to the unusual role poetry had played in creating their legacy. The second of Bonnie Parker’s known poems, given to her mother just weeks before she and Clyde were gunned down in a V8 Ford, is the most famous. “They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,” she writes

They know that the law always wins.
They’ve been shot at before;
but they do not ignore
that death is the wages of sin.

When Bruce Springsteen told the story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, whose midwestern killing spree left eleven dead in 1957, his characterization was eerily cold. That he wrote a song called “Wages of Sin” around the same time, which was considered for Born in the USA and eventually cut, suggests he was likewise interested in the story of Bonnie and Clyde. We suspect somewhere in the basement of a New Jersey mansion there’s a notebook filled with lyrics which fall short of what Brian wrote for Amoratorium. Nebraska was a commercial failure for Springsteen in ’82, but today regarded as an artistic triumph (hard to believe its the same guy we saw mopishly hawk a children’s book about “Outlaw Pete” on the Daily Show this week). The record is also a relic of the early 80s recession, much as Amoratorium belongs to the current ‘economic downturn’ — which really is a bullshit term, considering that economists have been calling the crises of 2007-8 and their aftermath the Great Recession for years. Brian has often used historical vernacular and settings to explore contemporary concerns but not on such a large scale or with such an intimate focus. We heard a love story in Amoratorium first, and the setting second. New things catch our interest each time we play the album.

Amoratorium is one of the most ambitious LP projects to come out of the Twin Cities music scene this year, and we hope it draws some more attention to Brian’s work. We are very excited to have a copy with the book, so that we can read and enjoy the art while we listen.

Brian Laidlaw will perform music from Amortorium and read poems along with Gillian Conoley on Thursday, November 20th at the Walker Art Center at 7pm. It’s a free event. Additional details here.

He will also be performing here at Hymie’s on December 5th along with the Ericksons, who released their new album, Bring Me Home, last month.

Irene

Irene loves coming to the record store every morning, and she even has a fancy sweater knitted by Laura to keep her warm, but she sure does hate this cold weather.

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“My Blue Wave” by Lambchop

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