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It was right around this time last summer that Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band released their debut LP, Promises to Deliver, with a show here at Hymie’s followed by another at the Turf Club. Since they’ll be playing here again this Sunday at 4pm, we thought we’d rerun our review of the album, still a favorite around here, originally posted on June 21st of last summer.

Drop a needle on your new copy of Promises to Deliver, the worth-the-wait first album by Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, and you’ll know why we love this guy before the end of the first verse. The last time they performed here on the Hymie’s stage Nato (as his alter-ego, the bespeckled “professor”) offered an impassioned lecture on places that have soul, including our record shop in a list that also named our favorite venue in town, the Turf Club. If you can’t get enough of Nato and his reliable Blue Diamond Band you’ll be able to see them perform on both stages tomorrow, along with some awesome supporting acts as part of an epic celebration for the release of their first LP.

The awesome story by Zack McCormick for the City Pages‘ blog Gimme Noise (here) captures him insisting he’s not a “Springsteen-clone” but you can’t seriously sing a song like “Julie (Hang Out a Little Longer)” and express surprise when people note similarities. Besides, a couple track – especially “Econoline” – are more Bon Jovi than Boss.

Seriously, there is a lot of range to Promises to Deliver that was only hinted at in the band’s previous release, a 45rpm single that pretty much solidified Coles as the Cities’ purest purveyor of genuine rock and roll. “Play Loud” has already made a few appearances here on the Hymie’s blog (like this one) and taken up residency in our jukebox. Its an anthemic paean to the pleasures of rock and roll, one of the most joyful singles to come out of Minneapolis in decades, and a sure cure for the blues. And its a song I don’t think Springsteen could write anymore.

Promises to Deliver maintains the furious intensity of that 45 for more than thirty-five minutes in a stunning race that captures Coles’ wanderlust. Hardly a “Springsteen clone” indeed, this album draws from the country rock of the bible belt as tactfully as it does the hard rock of the rust belt. From one moment to the next it will remind you of every rock and roll album you’ve loved since you first heard Jailbreak – you’ll find yourself variously wishing you were cruising east on I-80 or west down the Will Rogers Highway. Either way, you’ll wish you were heading somewhere.

In the Gimme Noise story Coles talked about putting more work into his lyrics, throwing away the throw-away lines, and the result is nine narratives as concise as the arrangements that frame them – simple descriptions and pedestrian, working class settings (a record store, a neighborhood bar, an Econoline) set the stage for real emotions. Excitement, anxiety (“all day long I’m climbing the walls”), loneliness, restlessness.

Lead guitarist Sam Beer’s work is integral to that drive that makes Promises to Deliver such a fun listen. Without walking over the dynamic bandleaders’ delivery, Beer turns in an exceptional tour de force performance. His solos and short fills match Coles’ energy bar for bar – sometimes heavy and bluesy, like borrowed from Joe Perry’s solo at the beginning of “Mama Kin,” other times more earnest honky tonk than anything on a Steve Earle record (check out what he brings to “Hard to Hear the Truth”). Beer frequently recalls those classic metal records we never really outgrow, as in the warm lead that launches “You Can Count on me Tonight” and throughout the album’s opening track, “See Some Lights.” There’s even a solo in the middle of “Econoline” that could have come off the last Nightosaur disc! His playing in each track fits the epic feeling of the album perfectly, so as far as his role is concerned this album could have been called Promise Delivered.

That’s not to say fellow Blue Diamond boys Kyle Sando and Mike Cranberry don’t deliver. Keeping up with Nato Coles must be an extraordinary challenge – there’s moments Promises to Deliver where it feels like the only thing that keeps the band from exploding to a frantic 200 bpm is Cranberry. Restraining a band with deep punk rock roots in a track like “Hard to Hear the Truth” is no small feat. Here and there bassist Sando seems like the most driven to play faster, and some of his playing (at, say, the end of “See Some Lights” or throughout the aging lamentation “Late Night Heroes”) shows shades of punk rock in an otherwise very much “classic rock” album.

Classic rock. Yep, stuff our dads listened to when we were growing up. Stuff you hear in the background of TV commercials today. Stuff those of us who worked in construction are goddamn sick of thanks to KQRS. We’re pretty sure that if the people at that station didn’t have their heads so far up their corporate Cumulus Media butts, they’d be spinning this record (if they even spin records at all anymore). Here it is the longest day of the year, the midpoint of 2013, and we’ve got a leading contender for our favorite local album of the year.

Addendum: Nato’s response was that he “had never, willingly, listened to a Bon Jovi record.” And that he, not Sam Beer, played the lead on “Econoline.” “Sam can play all kinds of things. He’s awesome, but anytime it sounds like Neil Young, that’s me.”

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“Nobody’s Gonna Change Me” by the Dynamic Superiors

 

It Friday the 13th but we’re feeling pretty lucky this morning. Wanna know why? Because tonight we get to go to an awesome five-band show at the Hexagon Bar. And it’s not just any ordinary five-band bill at the Hex, the awesome Now People from New York will play, and it’s a “record release show” for Lutheran Heat.

And we’re so lucky today that we already have copies of this great new single in stock. This is a much-anticipated record around here because Lutheran Heat knocks us out every time we’ve heard them, and they’ve even performed here in the shop (told you we were lucky). Everyone here has loved the scattered tracks they have on a bandcamp page (click here), which incidentally have been collected onto a lovely little cassette you’ll find here at your friendly neighborhood record shop. Yep, we’re real lucky.

Lutheran Heat is a little jangly, a little power pop-y, and a whole lot of fun. We love this band for the same reasons we love Mystery Date and Chokecherry — all three bands are crafting catchy, memorable tunes which reflect a lot of passion and energy without falling into the gloomy shoegaze-y rut kids are calling rock and roll these days. Lutheran Heat’s songs are especially singable, and especially air guitar-able too.

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“Shoot into the Sun”

Betcha want to hear the second side now, huh? It’s great. You’ll have to shake your rear down to the Hexagon tonight and catch Lutheran Heat along with four other great bands, and they’ll be glad to sell you a copy. Can’t make it or afraid to go out on Friday the 13th? Come one by this weekend and you can get a copy.

lutheran heat

Mikkel Beckmen introduced us to the idea that during the post-war period traditional music, which naturally includes country music, started getting swept under the rug. People were taught to be ashamed of it in the culture now lauded by programs like Mad Men. Beckmen, the renaissance percussionist whose work with Charlie Parr, the Brass Kings, Corpse Reviver and his own Thursday evening acoustic series at the Dubliner, is who we need when we look for a local authority on the current state of the old-timey.

We’ve never limited ourselves to be a genre-specific record shop (although there’s an important role filled by places like that here in the Cities) — we do, however, love traditional American music, including country. Our favorite country/honky tonk local acts that have performed here in the shop range from Jennifer Markey & the Tennessee Snowpants, to the Cactus Blossoms, Fletcher Magellan, and Pleasure Horse — this last group was founded by a member of the Flying Dorito Brothers, a Gram Parsons cover band that played here at the shop and also at one of our West Bank record sales (at the Triple Rock Social Club). Of course we’ve also hosted Twin Cities honky tonk heroes the Bootstrap Family Band, and Whiskey Jeff & the Beer Back Band, who have enthusiastic followings but no records to offer to sell to you.

Twice we hosted a six-act “Schlitz Kickin’ Country” series in the fall, until the city ungraciously came around and said we couldn’t let people drink a can of Schlitz while watching honky tonk music. And so recently we’ve indulged our taste for twang with occasional in-store performances as new records catch our ears.

vernon dixonHere’s the latest edition, a band from right here in the neighborhood whose album was released with a big show at the Eagles Club in April. Vernon Dixon‘s debut, Corn Whiskey, opens with “Hey Bartender,” a great closing-time number that would fit alongside the songs by our local favorites Jenn Markey & Whiskey Jeff.

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“Hey Bartender” one and tunes like “I’m Hurtin’” and “Only When the Bottle Runs Dry,” are unique in the Twin Cities’ country scene for reviving the classic duet format along the lines of Red Foley & Kitty Wells, or Ernest Tubb & Loretta Lynn. Katy Vernon Thomasberg wrote and arranged the album, but guitarist/co-leader Drew Dixon provides just the right accompaniment.

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“Madeline” is the record’s catchiest track, closer to bluegrass or the old-time driven pop of groups like the Be Good Tanyas — what sets it apart, besides bass and drums, is a nice pedal steel solo. Corn Whiskey also expands its range a little with the title track, a darker piano ballad, and “Beyond Me,” a minor key heartbreak song with a more modern feel. Dixon’s lead guitar here is great.

Vernon Thomasberg provided hilarious liner note drawings for each tune, which is one of our favorite things about the album — the picture for “I’m Hurtin’” shows a bride at the bar with her bouquet, being served a drink by a horse. The doesn’t really tell us what happened, but what’s happening now (“You call the chapel, I’ll drink a double”) which makes for a great country record. You’ll have to guess, or fit the what’s there to your own story.

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Corn Whiskey has bluegrass-feeling harmonies throughout, and with songs about drinkin’, trains and the farm next door it’s got the bluegrass spirit too. There’s a wistful sense to the whole record, whether its the nostalgia in “Mary and Joe” and “Lucky 19″ or the standard heartache of a country single in a jukebox (captured by this Wynn Stewart single we posted a while back). Just like Kitty Wells or Loretta Lynn, Vernon Thomasberg puts it out there with confidence and poise — she sings the hell out of the rockin’ numbers and leaves it all out there with a sad story like “Beyond Me.” And like the songs in a jukebox filled with classic country, there’s a backstory to the heartache you’ll have to find between the lines — it all explains that likely apocryphal story about Charlie Parker selecting only country songs on jukeboxes. Legend has it when asked why, he replied, “The stories, man. Listen to the stories.”

Vernon Dixon will perform songs from Corn Whiskey here at Hymie’s tomorrow, Saturday May 24th at 5pm. Corn whiskey, unfortunately, will not be provided. Stupid liquor laws.

Yesterday we introduced you to what’s been our favorite recent record, Gabe Barnett’s new album (click here or scroll down to check it out) and started out by mentioning this story about Larry Long from Sunday’s Star Tribune. We’re surprised Larry is not more familiar to younger folks following the local scene, because he’s a really remarkable figure.

A few months ago he stopped by the shop for a visit, and mentioned that Kim Ode at the Star Tribune was working on the story — and that since Pete Seeger’s passing  people had taken an new interest in his music. Pretty cool, and pretty long overdue. For a while now we’ve been encouraging Larry to make a compendium of his protest songs that are scattered over singles, tapes, and compilations — songs like “Pope County Blues” (we posted it here) or more recently his song “Redskins!” (here). If Hymie’s made enough money to start our own record label it would be a project we’d be proud to put out there.

We had posted here on the blog some of our favorite Seeger songs, and it’s cool that Gabe Barnett is one of the only people we can think of performing and recording one of them recently (on his second album a couple years back). Just five years ago an extraordinary list of big name musicians celebrated Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden with a benefit concert that supported the non-profit Hudson River protection group Seeger and his wife founded in the 60s. American root music legends (look at this list!) from three generations joined together in some of Seeger’s favorite songs, including standards such as “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome.” Larry was there representing Minnesota.

And he’s organized a concert to celebrate Seeger’s 95th birthday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul (details here). In what is perhaps a more suitable tribute to Seeger, remembered by all who knew his for his deep compassion, Larry Long’s American Roots Revue will be touring greater Minnesota this year to write and perform folk music with community organizations focusing on “forgotten populations.” It’s a program made possible through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Long and his troupe will connect with homeless shelters, incarceration facilities and community centers serving new immigrant populations and veterans. If you’re reading this outstate and would like to see if the tour will visit your community, check out the details on Long’s website here.

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Friends know we are terrible at taking pictures, even during special events like Saturday’s block party here at the record shop. Fortunately, lots of other folks carry cell phones and cameras and capture some things for us — this year we we struck up a new relationship with Radio K that we hope will continue. And here is their coverage of the block party, complete with some awesome pictures and videos.

Hymies RSD Block Party(Click on Events above for details!)

Tomorrow is our Record Store Day block party, and it is the biggest and best we have ever planned! We could not have done it without the support of enthusiastic employees, neighboring businesses, and good friends. Today on the Hymie’s blog we’d like to thank those people — next week we’ll return to posting weird records…

Promotional support for this year’s block party has been provided by Radio K , whose tagline “Real College Radio” doesn’t tell the whole story. They’re also real local radio, because they support local music by playing it on the air, not just talking about it.

They’ll be here on 39th Avenue with some giveaways and to record some of the bands for airplay. Laura visited their “Rock and Roll Over” morning show today. Here’s a little listen:

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RadioKLogoSignalsColorSound for the outdoor stage on 39th Avenue is provided by Mother of All Music, who offer a wide variety of event services to musicians and businesses such as ours. They also did the recording for our “Practice Space” series of videos this past winter, which included awesome songs by Sean Anonymous and DJ Name (with Lizzo and Phillip Morris), Pennyroyal and Narco States.

new mom logo 082009While not technically a sponsor, the good folks at Northern Sun might as well be — Our neighbors down at 30th and East Lake are generous enough to loan us a variety of festival gear like tents and tables, making everything you see at the block party possible. You’ll see ‘em here, too, with a sampling of their huge selection of T shirts, bumper stickers, and other products for progressives.

logoYou’ll be able to refresh yourself from 1-7pm at the Merlins Rest Pub beer garden. This week they were named the “Best British Pub” in the Twin Cities by City Pages, and they deserve the nod. You can also stroll down to Merlins after our marathon of music finally winds down tonight and hear a little Record Store Day after party with Mikkel Beckmen, Lonesome Dan Kase and Sneaky Pete (check it out here). We love Merlins, both for an afternoon lunch with the kids on their patio, and for a night out with friends. They are a true neighborhood pub.

HB-LOGO-4c-OFFICIALA very special pour provided at the block party this year is from Harriet Brewing, who will be releasing their anticipated Saison on Saturday. From Harriet’s brewmaster Jason Sowards, “Saisons were traditionally brewed in Wallonian farmhouses for farmhands and local consumption.  Our saison greets drinkers with notes of tropical fruit and black pepper.  A prominent tartness is coupled with an assertive floral/spicy hop character. Rigorous mashing and a long boil lend a yellow-orange hue to the eclectic malt malt backbone. Harriet’s Nourrice is flavorful and complex, with a dry, light yeasty finish that goes and goes.”

1482973_264084213744853_956327362_nMassage therapy for the performers is provided backstage by the accredited professionals of Vagabond Bodyworks, whose stated goal is “to make our hometown of Minneapolis an even better place to be involved in the arts for local participants.” They have supported more awesome local acts and events that we could begin to name (check out the clients list on their website) and we are really excited to have them here as part of our event.

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Design for Hymie’s Records, including our T shirts, posters, buttons and stickers — as well as the Record Store Day block party programs and signs, has been provided by Vinyl Afterlife. They also produce art and other products from destroyed records, so you might check out their site or visit them during the block party.

Last but not least promotional consideration is provided by Irene, the ten year old Boston Terrier who works here at Hymie’s Records every day.

ireneWe all hope you will be able to make it out to our fourth annual Record Store Day block party.

Hymies RSD Block Party

Black Diet
(album release)
Brian Just Band
Chastity Brown
The Ericksons
Martin Devaney
Adam Kiesling & Mikkel Beckman (Corpse Reviver)
Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade
Jake Manders
Pennyroyal
The Poor Nobodys
Southside Desire
Ben Weaver
Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band
The White Whales

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“Babe the Blue Ox”

From the first we met them we were in love with the White Whales, who played one of their first shows here at Hymie’s a couple years ago and will be playing their last on Saturday at our block party. They were fantastic from the beginning, and only got better as time went on. Coincidentally, their album release show at 7th Street Entry last summer was the same day Saturday’s headline act, Black Diet, played here in the shop for the first time — we had to rush out after the dust settled from their great set to get downtown in time to see the Whales.

We wrote about their full-length album Lakestate a couple times, so you can read a little about it and hear some more tracks here and here. All we’ll say today is that we’re sad Saturday is going to be this band’s last show. We’ve enjoyed Matthew Shuffman and Michael Wojtalewicz’s new project, Graveyard Club, but we’ll miss the White Whales. Lakestate is one of our favorite local albums of the past several years.

…is something we’ve never enjoyed doing. First of all, it implies there’s something wrong with them. And us. But worst it misses the whole point. Why do people make them in the first place? Most bands we know and love (even the really awesome ones) struggle to find the time to practice together and get to gigs that hardly pay, let alone the challenge of raising thousands to put together what they’ve created on an album. Why buy records? Because these people worked really hard to make them.

There’s some things we don’t love about Record Store Day: the gimmicky, novelty feel of some of the releases, the esoteric nature of others. The enormous risks we must take in ordering either. Over the four years we’ve been hosting a block party on 39th Avenue to celebrate the occasion, the quality has improved — earlier Record Store Day releases were often felt shoddy, ironically disposable. Not so with the stuff we’ve been unpacking this week. Could the price be lower? Yep, we think so and thanks to the indie labels who have heard folks on that. Could the special releases just be more awesome? Yep, again we think so, but this year is the first that we wish we could steal a couple of the special releases for ourselves. [Laura covets the Cake box set that collects all their albums and more, Dave really wants the reissue of the Litter's 1967 single on Scotty Records -- in case you feel like shopping for us]

10151982_10152356921289445_418789765615247478_nThe cartoony microphone at the left represents for us, as owners of an independent record store, the best thing to come from six years of Record Store Day marketing. Holding it is a reporter from MPR (whose voice was instantly recognizable!) who spent a morning in the shop recording sounds and what we had to say about running a business, about the role our shop plays in the neighborhood, and about trying to balance small business with family.

Every year we have a few of these visits — local TV, radio stations, newspaper writers. We spend the first couple of weeks of April answering emails full of questions or doing telephone interviews while also trying to help the folks who come into the shop — it all adds up to an enormous marketing campaign, a blessing. Other folks are reporting stories about other record stores and it’s happening all over the country. Sure, those really big shops probably make a killing off the Record Store Day releases, herding people like cattle to troughs filled with colored singles in still plastic sleeves and reissues of albums you could just hunt down — but smaller shops like ours benefit the most from all of the unexpected attention. It’s the best advertising in the world. It’s why we’ve outlasted the chains, it’s what makes record stores totally unique in American commerce. Small is better.

The months after get more fun each year, with new people trickling into the shop. New collectors, old collectors we won back from the internet, and folks cleaning out attics and basements filled with dust-draped albums that haven’t been touched in years.

Record stores like ours aren’t going anywhere, not like they were six years ago when this shop might have been liquidated. Look! Two new shops have opened in St. Paul this year. Record Store Day and its special releases may have jumped the shark, but we hope this annual tradition will not disappear. We appreciate the attention that comes from outside of the local music scene, the collectors’ community, and the neighborhood which has, by the way, been awesomely supportive of us.

The interviews are all fairly similar — not because the people assigned to report on Record Store Day are lazy or unprofessional, but because their job is to explain something apparently mystifying to most people. It’s a question that eventually comes up, one we are asked in a different way every April. Each year we offer different answers, never as eloquent as we’d like. It happens at other times, whenever we are introduced as owning a record store in a setting outside of a record store…

Why do people still buy records?

Some people just do it — who knows why. Probably the same reason that people out there, somewhere, have collections of everything from the glass insulators on powerlines to the AOL cd’s that you found in your mailbox for years. There’s no underestimating the collector impulse — we wouldn’t run a record store if we didn’t love records and enjoy the really narrow and specific of collecting them. Mono or stereo? Is this a reissue? The original cover? Does it have the inner sleeve, the liner notes, the inserts? There’s no underestimating the allure of the postcards in a Pink Floyd or the panties in an Alice Cooper.

But that simply doesn’t explain it — we’re not all collectors like that, though bless them for being the keepers. So many of us write on those original covers and send those postcards. It is surely a smaller number who wore the panties inside original copies of School’s Out, which of course were doomed once teenage boys (believe it or not this was Alice Cooper’s core audience in 1972) discovered they were instantly and awesomely flammable. This is why things become rare and valuable.

Records, let’s not forget, are essentially a disposable product. They were never intended to be heirloom pieces — that’s the “Record Store Day record” mentality talking. Astral Weeks may have been a masterpiece but it was pressed on the thinnest, cheapest piece of plastic Warner Brothers could get away with marketing, and shipped in the cheapest package possible. Did you ever wonder why nearly every original copy of Nashville Skyline has a jacket that’s split open — because it was poorly made, the glue that held it together was no good. Nobody at Columbia Records cared that tens of thousands of people had to fix the latest Dylan album with packing tape. We’ve always thought the Sundazed Records reissues of this album fail in their otherwise accurate reproduction in that the jackets stay securely glued together.

The 45 is an even more extreme example: today an object of collector fascination and lust, but originally designed to be the most disposable of all. They were meant for teenagers to stack on portables while they boogaloo. They arrive here in water-stained cardboard boxes and old cookie tins, sometimes packed tightly and sometimes dumped without a care — most have been damaged in at least some way. They often contain stickers, initials, are moldy, are warped, or simply so scratched that they won’t play ever again. Still, every box is worth a look.

schroederAnd the 45, bless it, is a very durable thing. It’s remarkable how well they’ll play, even in the poorest of shape, and how good it will feel to play them. The tactile experience of holding a record has, for us and for so many of our regular customers, an enchantment we couldn’t possibly express in words.

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just one lookA nice copy of “Just One Look” by Doris Troy is surprisingly uncommon. We understand, having worn out this copy a good deal ourselves in the ten years or so it has been in our collection. That is, of course, only a fraction of this single’s life, which began its long journey to our living room in (presumably) the Monarch Pressing Plant in Los Angeles, based on the marking in its matrix. That was 1963, meaning it was around forty years old when we captured it and filed it next to Joe Turner’s “Honey Hush” in a box in our house. It has spent around twenty percent of its long life with us, and will likely find its way into another box in another home one day. You don’t own your record collection so much as you’re taking care of it for a while.

Replacing our record would be as simple as a handful of clicks. A nicer copy could be on its way to our door for five or ten dollars in less time than it took to listen to the song just now — for some this is the only way to buy records: Nearly everything you can imagine can be found online — for a premium, of course. Would you like to hear Sidney Poitier read Plato over west coast jazz arrangements? You could by Friday. Would you prefer a track for track synthesizer re-make of Ringo’s third album (Ringo!) — there’s one out there somewhere online waiting for you.

One thing that keeps us open is that the people who bought those two albums when they passed through Hymie’s almost certainly didn’t walk through the door looking for them (who on Earth would?) — they were looking for something interesting. A question we’re always asked by interviewers is “Which records are we trying to find?” Is there something we dream about, besides a grocery store opening across the street?

We’ve never had a good answer. We’d love to see a few rare gems, if not necessarily own them. Jethro Tull’s first single mistakenly named them Jethro Toe — we think they should have kept the new name, and one day we’d like to see a copy of that single. Both sides (“Sunshine Day” and “Aeroplane”) are on the 20th Anniversary box set so we could hear them anytime, but to hold a little artifact like that in your hand would be a pleasure.

Several of our favorite groups in the world are working on their next records: Southside Desire is mixing their second album, Wizards Are Real recording their third, Narco States recording and re-recording and re-recording their first. And Whiskey Jeff… Lord knows what he’s doing with that album — when you hear him play here with his awesome band on Record Store Day you’ll understand why we so much hope he’ll have an album we can hold, take home, hug and kiss, and never take off our turntable. Maybe the record we’ve always been looking for hasn’t even been made yet.

Record collectors love the unexpected. It keeps us digging in crates, it makes it impossible to pass a garage sale, and for some it takes them not to a single record store but to several over the course of an afternoon. Who knows what new surprise will be in the next bin? For instance just this week we brought a large collection into the shop which included this delightful version of “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” by Joe Bonsall and the Orange Playboys:

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This is why we’ve never had a good answer when asked about the records we wish we might find — who knew a cajun cover of Jim Croce existed? Some collectors may be looking for a big score, but most of us are looking for something no one has heard in years. A lost treasure. Every one of us wants to be Harry Smith in one way or another. When you put a record on your turntable you are, after all, bringing to life a frozen moment of the past through a nineteenth-century technology that, while easily explains, is endowed with an enduring magical aura.

difficult listeningWhat comes out of your speakers is both a link to the past and a moment in the present, for that record you’re playing will never be quite the same with each new listen, each new owner and each new turntable. It could be something as stupid as a musical version of the Bible in which Thurston Howell III plays the part of the Almighty Creator, or it could be a moment of sublime beauty: there is a recording of Johannes Brahms playing the piano, made in 1889. This is the impulse that has driven many posts here on the Hymie’s blog — one day what is beautiful, the next what is joyously absurd.

There’s a poem by Charles Bukowski where he describes a three-legged cat he adopted, called “The History of One Tough Mother.” You can hear him read it here, but you’ll have a hard time finding any of the Bukowski records. Here’s how it ends:

and now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,”look, look
at this!”
but they don’t understand, they say something like,”you
say you’ve been influenced by Celine?”
“no,” I hold the cat up,”by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!”
I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he’s relaxed he knows…
it’s then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
graphed together.
he too knows it’s bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

Our interviews go a little better than this, and Irene still has all four legs and her tiny tail, but the ending sometimes feels similar. We walk someone around the shop and show them the listening stations, peculiar records. We show them the picture of Hymie above the jukebox and pose for another ourselves behind the very same counter. And at some point we find ourselves in the very same position as Bukowski, trying to explain this extraordinary and inspirational thing to someone who just doesn’t understand.

This year it was Pennyroyal‘s second album, Baby I’m Against It that was our cross-eyed, three-legged cat. And these folks can appreciate a good pop song, they’re good people. But they don’t understand. Here’s a band that runs down the Velvet Underground and Lucinda Williams, sometimes in the same song, that out-discos the new wave bands that found that happy medium, and has written some of the best new songs the Twin Cities has produced in the five years we’ve been hosting Record Store Day events. Not to mention the best female vocalist in the Twin Cities, no matter what the dumb old City Pages says.

What the reporters hear is another “rock band” on another record, and marvel at the fact that somebody is still making records, let alone buying them. And the same story always appears in print, on the radio. Presumably on the nightly news too, because somebody always comes in the next day and says “I saw you on the TV!” We learn that vinyl sales are up some remarkable percentage over the past year or decade (though we never learn they are still a fraction of the massive music entertainment industry). Specifically we hear what people come in and tell us all the time: records are coming back!

We have always said that around here they never left.

 

 

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