Our next release from Hymie’s Records will be the debut album by Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band. Lonesome, Stoned and Drunk has been years in the making, and we could not be more proud of this project.
Jeff and his band are not only exceptionally talented, but also good friends. We have loved having them here over the years. Jeff’s songs are both poignant and hilarious, and on the album the band sounds like a classic “Bakersfield sound” honky tonk act.
The album will feature liner notes from local promoter Craig Drehmel and country music legend Sherwin Linton. We are currently working on scheduling some shows for November and December to celebrate its release. The album will be available here in the record shop, and at those shows, the week of Thanksgiving.
The folks at Piñata Records never fail to inspire us. This has been a quiet year for the Twin Cities’ best record label, who released a staggering series of successful singles and LPs last year. Their two full length albums this year have been awesome: Black Diet‘s return showed more depth, range and complexity than their debut (our review is here), and way back in chilly January the label released New Noir by Mystery Date, which is the most strangely compelling mixture of power pop, new wave and good old fashioned punk rock we’ve heard in years. We are weirdly addicted to both albums, as we have been to everything this retro-fueled, forward-looking label has released.
And now, after telling us they would never release another 7-inch single, they’ve outdone themselves by snaring another band which fits smartly into their distinctive roster. The rockabilly reared, punk perfected quartet L’Assassins have established a passionate following over the past couple years, but their recordings have been sparsely split over singles and EPs. Each has earned rave reviews, and the band is sure to find even more fans the more people hear them. We think this new single, “Fire of Love,” is their best yet.
The band is a perfect fit for Piñata Records, who have consistently found local bands with a strong retro base and fresh ideas. L’Assassins longest release, the Lovin’ on the Run EP put out by Big Action Records in 2013 (here), pulls together all the variety of vintage and contemporary influences they’ve cited in interviews: rockabilly like Wanda Jackson and Buddy Holly, killer psychobilly like the Cramps and Minneapolis’ own current music culture, in which the band is revered as a live favorite.
It’s hard to separate the band’s sultry aesthetic from their music, given the relationship between the “pin up girl” look and rockabilly’s historic role as an outsider music. In one interview, guitarist Monet Wong points to Thee Headcoats as an influence, “keeping music alive from the previous generation, [while] adding your own twist and of course doing originals too,” before acknowledging “there’s not a lot of female examples to point to.” Women were an anomaly in much of the rock and roll influencing bands like L’Assassins, more likely to objects of affection or anger than the ones offering the expression.
L’Assassins are sure to build a bigger following with rockabilly and punk rock fans as quickly as with young women who want to be inspired by more bands like Thee Headcoats. One thing we’re especially excited for is the video for “Fire of Love” to be released soon. There’s a preview on Youtube, which has hints of Tickle Torture creepiness, but also classic L’Assassins sexiness. If their epic video for “Backstreet Bomp” directed by Tyler Jensen is any indication, “Fire of Love” is probably going to be the best video of the year.
It’s disappointing, though not surprising, when reviews of the band focus more the women’s appearance than their performance: for instance, in a review for Razorcake, the always classy Rev Norb describes L’Assassins as “hot girls with nice hair and guns” long before he mentions their music. It’s pretty clear the quartet welcomes the attention if it gets their music a fair listen, and they’re actually backing up the oft-mentioned attitude with even meaner music. Seriously, listen Lovin’ on the Run, and don’t Monet Wong’s sweet guitar riffs in “Be My Dog” or our favorite track, the inventive, invective “Creep.” L’Assassins are so good the band would easily clobber the competition in a blind listening test.
They certainly impressed the Suburbs’ Chan Poling, who wrote “Fire of Love” with L’Assassins in mind. He and new bandmate Steve Price (who had joined the Suburbs for 2013’s surprise album Si Sauvage) produced the session for the new Piñata single, and Poling sat in on L’Assassin’s blazing original b-side, “Liar,” which might be our favorite song by the band to date. We absolutely love the addition of the organ, which calls to mind their new labelmates, Narco States, as well as a history of sweet keyboards on Minnesota garage rock records. Lead singer Tea Simpson never sounded better than on these two new tracks, and the guitar riffs and solos are explosive. Both new tracks are so well-produced they burst out of the speakers here at Hymie’s, and we’re glad nobody complains when we play the stereo entirely too loud.
The release show for “Fire of Love” is this Friday at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. Also performing will be Chicago’s Krank Dandys and Black Widows. The always awesome Travis Ramin will be spinning garage records in between sets. Details, on the facebook, here.
Addendum: The Video!!!
It was posted on Youtube this morning, between the time we posted our excitement over the single and the time we returned from a business meeting (yes, even record stores have business meetings — they’re just more fun than the ones we had in our old jobs). This is the 10th (!) video of L’Assassins written and directed by Tyler Jensen and producer Sasha Landskov, and it lives up to all our expectations! They all have a short film — Kill Kill Kill! Bang Bang Bang! — which will be featured in the Minnesota Underground Film Festival next month.
Morticia released a 7″ single (“Zombie Love” b/w “You Scare Me to Death”) and an LP (Mortal Fear) in 1987. Their last album, 13 Nightmares, was released five years later, and earned a Minnesota Music Award for Best Metal Album. All three albums they released before disbanding in 1994 were on local label Channel 83 Records. In 2005 an Italian label collected highlights from all three on a disc, Exhumed, which was popular enough with metal fans to quickly fall out of print.
Their act was described at the time as an updated Alice Cooper with darker shades of the Damned and Sisters of Mercy, and they were the first goth metal band from the Twin Cities to establish a following. Morticia stopped playing in 1994 with a final show at First Avenue, but reunited in April 2012 to take part in the 25th anniversary celebration of KFAI’s The Root of All Evil program at the Triple Rock.
Founding member Matt Batchelor performs these days with Black Rainbow, a Dio tribute band, and also an original band (still said to do a killer “Billion Dollar Babies”), Vicious Violet.
He also happens to live here in the best neighborhood in Minneapolis. When he came across a handful of copies of those original “Zombie Love” singles, he brought then into the shop — and our enthusiasm for the songs forged a friendship, and now we’re fortunate enough to host Morticia’s first show in years.
We have loved Halloween celebrations of all kinds for ages — Dave joined our friends Liberty and Izzy on KFAI’s Pop Shop with a ghastly playlist way back in 2011, and several years later we put together a similar playlist for a show with Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers. Last year’s Hymie’s Halloween mix was a hit, and we’ll have updated copies (as soon as we can find those pumpkin-stamped sleeves in the office!) for this year’s event.
Here’s the A side of that single that made us fall in undead love with this band.
Morticia will reunite for a special Halloween show here at Hymie’s at 5pm. Ghouls and ghosts aren’t just welcome, they’re expected…
Mary Lou Williams, who refused to be bound by a contract and even once founded her own independent label, is one of our favorite figures in jazz history. Her career outlasted the swing era and included collaborations with beboppers and free jazzers, and she was beyond simple ahead of her time. Her music was in many ways timeless.
She was connected to so many seminal moments in jazz history, performing with an early version of Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians (at the age of thirteen) in 1924. A year later, while playing with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in Harlem, her playing so pleased Louis Armstrong that he paused in his tracks to listen before kissing her.
Williams is best known to swing aficionados for her work with Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy in the 1930s. She was originally brought to Kirk’s orchestra by her first husband, John Williams, who was a saxophonist in the group. By the time she left, about a decade later, she was the primary reason for their success, which you can quickly tell from any compilation of their singles (the ones arranged by other members simply don’t swing the same). “Walking and Swinging” (1936) and “Mary’s Idea” (1938) are two of our favorites.
She began her freelance career while working for Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, who had taken a long engagement in Kansas City. She did work for Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, and for Benny Goodman. One track Goodman was especially pleased with was “Roll Em.”
The King of Swing was so pleased with the theme she wrote for his NBC Radio program, sponsored by Camel cigarettes, that he tried unsuccessfully to pin Williams down with an exclusive contract. She refused and continued to work for a variety of bandleaders.
Her second husband was trumpeter Shorty Baker, and when he was briefly engaged with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, she came along and arranged her version of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” for the Duke (as “Trumpet no End”), as well as adding “Walking and Swinging” to his prestigious repertoire.
One distinctive talent she shared with Ellington was an ability to arrange music to bring out the best in a specific performer. While still working for Kirk she produced “Floyd’s Guitar Blues” for Floyd Smith with the intention of highlighting his Hawaiian style on the lap steel guitar. The result is one of the earliest hit records to feature an electric guitar.
Williams made a number of her own recordings during these productive years, including a couple solo sides for Brunswick in 1930 which we would sure like to find one day. She was not, however, completely rooted in the swing era and became a close associate of Dizzy Gillespie and his wife Lorraine. Bebop musicians, notably Thelonious Monk, held her in high esteem. She had a regular program on New York’s WNEW (Mary Lou’s Piano Workshop), broadcast from Barney Josephson’s influential Cafe Society club. “During this period Monk and the kids would come to my apartment every morning around four or pick me up at the Café after I’d finished my last show, and we’d play and swap ideas until noon or later”, she explained to Melody Maker in a 1954 interview. Williams’ remarks reflected a welcoming attitude towards bebop and other developments in jazz not always held by members of her generation.
Right from the start, musical reactionaries have said the worst about bop. But after seeing the Savoy Ballroom kids fit dances to this kind of music, I felt it was destined to become the new era of music, though not taking anything away from Dixieland or swing or any of the great stars of jazz. I see no reason why there should be a battle in music. All of us aim to make our listeners happy.
Mary Lou maintained this attitude throughout her professional career, collaborating with free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor in 1978 on one of the most unexpectedly moving jazz albums of its era. Williams seems like one of those musicians who was capable of playing just about anything, but had the dedication to take her talent where she felt inspired.
Williams wrote or arranged a few songs for Gillespie’s experimental big band, which was one of the most interesting groups in the history of jazz (we last listened to them here, in a post about percussionist Chano Pozo). One of these songs was “In the Land of Ooh Bla Dee,” featured a fun vocal by Joe Carroll and, naturally, a great solo by Diz.
It was Gillespie who convinced Williams to come out of her brief retirement with a performance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival — she is featured on his live album of the performance. Her life thereafter was focused on liturgical music and charitable work, and her compositions during this time blend jazz with choral arrangements and traditional blues. The most famous of these is her Mass for Peace, commonly called “Mary Lou’s Mass,” which was recorded in 1970.
“I am praying with my fingers when I play,” she once said, adding that she hoped to inspire people’s spirituality with her music. Williams performed her Mass on The Dick Cavett Show in August 1971. Sadly, while you’ll have no trouble finding footage of John Lennon’s jackassery on the same program, nobody has posted Williams’ performance online. Priorities, huh?
Williams’ work involved at one time operating thrift stores which supported musicians and supporting children’s music education through programs like Billy Taylor’s Jazzmobile — in fact, one of her many fans was no less than Mr. Rogers, who had her as a guest on his show in 1973. And that was a clip we were happy to find.
Here is a surprisingly good privately pressed country LP from 1975. Sometimes we set aside these albums because the covers are comical, or there might be a good tune for the blog here, but this one was just a great honky tonk listen all the way through.
Herbert John Carter, ie “H.J. Kuntry,” is still out there touring and promoting what he’s called “dixiephonics.” According to this article from some batshit tea party website down in Florida, Kuntry has an index card for each of the 30,000 people he’s sold a a copy of They Call me H.J. Kuntry or another record. Kinda nice to know there’s still some folks out there rockin’ the old school promotional network (don’t expect Kuntry to invite you to join Linkedin any time soon). He reminds us a little of our own Sherwin Linton, whose motto is “forever on the stage.”
We had an opportunity to DJ our collection of honky tonk and rockabilly 45s at one of Sherwin Linton’s shows last year, just after the Turf Club re-opened after its reconstruction. Not only did he let our pal Joe Killem (The Annandale Cardinals, Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band) sit in on his set, but Mr. Linton was a ton of fun to talk to — he loved the records we were playing, and knew the words to just about every one. We kind of imagine H.J. Kuntry to be a similar kind of guy.
You can find his Myspace page here, which has a few tracks off this album. He’s still performing in the Tallahassee area.
“Bad Reputation” is a pretty awesome song when you think about it: girls are often scolded about the consequences of a bad reputation, as though its akin to wearing a scarlet letter. It’s hard to believe Joan Jett’s first album (originally self-titled and then reissued as Bad Reputation) was rejected by pretty much every record label in America.
Jett and producer Kenny Laguna pressed the album themselves, selling it directly to fans and record shops while touring. It was eventually picked up by Boardwalk Records (in the US) and Airola (in Europe) and is today considered a classic. The independent label she founded to release her first solo album, Blackheart Records, is one of the first female-led labels (we posted last year about Rosetta Records, founded by Rosetta Reitz just a year earlier).
Jett doesn’t seem to really have a bad reputation — in fact, one of our customers once brought us an autographed copy of this album to hang on the wall (its in the entryway by the 50¢ bin). He’d won front-row seats from a radio station, and also had a backstage pass which was still inside the album. He told us he was surprised when she gladly signed the record after inviting him to sit down and have a beer with the band. He’d expected her to be as mean as she looks on most of her album covers, but in fact she was just the opposite.
“Bad Reputation” is likely to be one of the songs you’ll hear at tonight’s show in the shop. We’ll be hosting She Rock, She Rock, an all-female punk rock jam session. They are a Minnesota based 501(c)3 non-profit organization focused on encouraging women to become involved in music performance. Female-identified persons can prepare a song (hereis their list of possible suggestions) and join them. Riot grrl rockers Bruised Violet will also be performing. We expect it will be one of the most fun in-store performances we’ve ever had here at Hymie’s.
Also today we are participating in the first-ever MN Vintage Crawl. Clicking on the link will take you to their website with full details. Many other businesses are participating and offering specials and discounts. We’ll be offering 15% off records to anyone who signs up for the crawl.
This Saturday we are participating in the first ever MN Vintage Crawl. Participants in the self-guided crawl who sign up and wear a wrist-band may enjoy a 15% discount here at Hymie’s and other special deals at other businesses (the link above will take you to their website, which has a list of businesses). Everyone will be starting at Public Funtionary, a northeast Minneapolis art studio, but many of the sites will be here in our Longfellow neighborhood.
There’s an article from Red Current about the Vintage Crawl and its founders here.
Saturday evening we will be hosting She Rock, She Rock, an all-female punk rock jam session. From their website:
We offer a very safe, supportive environment for folks with little or no stage experience and for those who are veterans of the music scene. This is a performance opportunity for anyone. If you want to play with the band, have one of the songs (here) prepared. We’ll have a drum set, guitar amps, bass amp, keyboard and mics available for you to use. You can probably use one of our guitar or basses too- but bring your own if that’s your fancy. We also have room for two guest bands to play a small set in between the jam band sets.
You can check out some videos from past jam sessions on their Youtube channel here.
Anyone interested in performing should email Sam Stahlmann ( sam at sherocksherock.com) to sign up prior to the jam. We’re asking a $5 suggested donation for this event — She Rock She Rock is a Minnesota based 501(c)3 non-profitorganization.
The music starts at 7pm, and they’ve invited Bruised Violet to join them as a special guest.