Minneapolis is one of the largest cities in America to toss out Columbus Day and no longer celebrate the life of a genocidal mass murderer. Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in the city, although when you got to the bank and thought Damn! the sign on the door probably said “Closed for Columbus Day.”

There are celebrations at the Minneapolis American Indian Center on Franklin Avenue this afternoon starting at 4pm. Similar events are taking place in Duluth and Red Wing, both cities that have also dropped the archaic holiday.

We’d like to offer a huzzah and hurray to Alondra Cano, who took our friend Gary Schiff’s seat on the City Council two years ago, representing the 9th Ward. She worked very hard to make this change, and was quoted in this mornings paper as saying “It’s much more than a symbolic gesture.”

We had proposed this change here on the Hymie’s blog every Columbus Day for years, and also produced a program about the music of the Native American protest movement for KFAI’s Wave Project in 2011. Re-run for the last time, here it is:

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Our last post linked to a Washington Post article about the challenges of making vinyl LPs as the number of functioning presses in America doesn’t keep pace with rising demand. To the existing challenges — from finding a sound engineer familiar with the format’s range for recording and mastering, to hoping your test press sounds just right, to timing an event to celebrate the whole six to ten week ordeal — add one more potential disaster. Fed Ex might lose your records somewhere in the middle of the country.

And that’s just what happened to one of the two records we released on Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center. Having safely received the first shipment of Ben Weaver’s LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo, we couldn’t even figure out what happened to the 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade. One box was entirely missing — and its tracking number useless — and the others disappeared for a more than an entire day somewhere in Ohio, putting it all perilously close to arriving too late.

Laura spent two days tracking down the packages. There were a lot of phone calls that started with, “Speak to a representative. Speak to a representative. SPEAK TO A PERSON!” And it didn’t get easier after breaking through the automated phone system — most of the representatives were in India, and it seeing as we were connecting over tens of thousands of miles, it didn’t seem unreasonable to suggest we drive the 750 miles to pick the records up ourselves.

Finally reaching someone in the United States, Laura learned where one box was — on a truck traveling to the Twin Cities Friday morning. It was due at late afternoon in Mahtomedi, and would be unpacked shortly after. Finding a single package would be “like finding a needle in a haystack.” But we were welcome to wait for the truck and ask.

And that’s how Laura got to spend the afternoon before our first ever record release show in a suburb we’d never heard of waiting outside a warehouse. She wasn’t the only person waiting, so this sort of stuff must happen a lot. Eventually, someone came out in the parking lot and started asking people their names. “Nope, don’t have it,” he said to the first three. Laura told him she was waiting for the package to Hymie’s. “Oh, the records! I have those!”

 

Fighting Friday rush hour, she made it to the Cedar just as Brian’s band was finishing their soundcheck, shortly before the doors were to open at 7pm. In a reversal of what usually happens, everyone on the stage cheered!

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Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?           –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ben Weaver Buffalo LPListen closely and you can hear birds and animals throughout Ben Weaver’s new LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo. It was recorded by Tom Herbers, an engineer with a storied career capturing Minnesota music, in a barn outside Rochester. It’s Ben’s eighth album, and also the first released by our shop through its own in-house imprint.

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7 Inch LabelTomorrow we’re also releasing a 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, two songs we are very proud to share with the world. If you’ve been following us here, you’ve already heard the A side, which was featured in a very sweet video shot by Ali Rogers (here) and included footage of the band playing at our block party this past spring. We’ve added the B side of the single at the end of this post.

You may have read this Washington Post article when it was picked up by our local paper last week — one of the plants featured in the article is Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, who are the folks we worked with in making these first two releases. You may also have an idea how difficult it has become to press records these days. The cost, the quality and the timing are all very serious considerations — we’re really happy with our experience working with this plant (and would totally recommend them!) but we’ve heard some terribly heartbreaking stories from friends who have had poor luck with other, larger presses: lost masters, entire runs mis-pressed, damaged lacquers and poor communication. And this is all after the long process of learning to play, writing new music, performing it before an audience, and recording what you want to preserve and share.

Those of us who never stopped buying and listening to records are a little confused by the “resurgence of vinyl” craze. None of us understood what everyone was doing with their CDs and iPods, and DJs that don’t play records. We’re baffled that record shops stopped selling LPs for years, though not surprised they jumped back into it once it proved both fashionable and profitable. When asked if records are “really coming back” by new visitors here, we’ve always just said they never left.

Dropping the needle onto a record never loses that magical feeling — it’s sublime no matter how long you’ve understood the physical process that recreates the sound stored in the grooves. And playing one you helped create has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had here in the record shop.

While we have been working on these projects, I have been running along the river, which is a unique experience early in the morning during this time of the year — the trees are beginning to show us the fall colors, and all the critters are frantically storing away for the coming winter. It has provided a perfect setting to think about ideas presented by these two records, and what Ben and Brian and so many others have brought to our lives with the music they bring to the shop.

I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, for the second time this fall. Emerson is one of those writers one ought to revisit at different stages of life, because they’ll find new inspiration. A young man takes his lessons from Self Reliance and its theme of independence and individualism, but after the world has worn him down a little he can appreciate the more pensive expressions in Nature.

There are passages of Emerson’s essay which fit beautifully with the words Ben wrote for his new album. In the second section, “Beauty,” he describes the benefits our access to the natural world provide for our physical and spiritual well being:

The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

Of course, even in Emerson’s time, urban life prohibited such peaceful repose, and little has changed in the nearly two centuries since. Artificial living continues to leave us both physically and spiritually unfit. Even one of our most base expressions, music, has become sterilized when it is produced in insulated and windowless studios intended to eliminate such nuisances as the wind that rustles the leaves above our heads.

This past week Ben has visited a couple local radio shows, including one of our favorites, KFAI’s Pam Without Boundaries, which happened to be, sadly, on its last broadcast. In his conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer (which you can stream here) and with the Current’s Dave Campbell (here), Ben offers a familiar explanation for his bicycle tour, one we have heard before here at Hymie’s: “There’s nothing harder than driving to Cleveland on a Tuesday night and playing to ten people in a bar, where they’re probably not listening anyway,” he explains. “It’s so inconducive to having the kind of interactions I want to have with people.”

Instead he has planned to tour on this new album by bicycle, performing in farms and nature centers instead of bars, and participating in projects such as prairie restorations along the way. Details for Ben’s tour to New Orleans, which he has called It’s All the River, can be found on his website here. It’s a plan which again recalls Emerson, who famously wrote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Way up above we promised to post the B side of Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade’s new single, and its fitting we should. It was a conversation with him at the picnic table in our garden which led to the creation of a record label based in this shop — and since announcing these two releases we have started building the plans for the next several.

Over the years we’ve expressed our love for the flip side of a single several times (recently here and here), and so it was with a sort of reverence for the irreverence of the B side that we approached the first ever issued on our own label. Brian brought to us a song he described as “classic Family Trade” which we could hardly resist.

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“Glad for Every Burden” expresses just how we feel about all the work that has gone into these two records, and into this record store. All of it has been a blessing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ben Weaver and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will both perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday October 10 (details here). Both new releases from Hymie’s will be available. They will also be reading at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday (details here).

 

Recently, after moving a large collection to the record shop, we discovered one of the boxes contained not albums but a variety of books. Many of them were jazz biographies, and one — Duke Ellington’s 1976 memoir, Music is my Mistress — has proven to be an especially enjoyable read.

One of the most remarkable things is its appendix which lists all of the songs he composed during his career in their copyright order — from “Blind Man’s Bluff” in 1923 to the four-part Togo Brava suite written in 1973 it takes nearly thirty pages to list them all!

ellington flaming youthHere is a song from early in his career (1929 according to this book) which was re-recorded many times over the years. It is on this RCA/Victor compilation of the 1927-9 band, which features several Ellington Orchestra alumni who worked for Duke for decades — one could hardly imagine the Orchestra without Johnny Hodges or Harry Carney for instance.

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“The Mooche”

Our favorite era of Ellington’s enduring Orchestra is the 1940-2 incarnation known by fans as the “Blanton/Webster Band.” We posted about bassist Jimmy Blanton not long ago (here). One could spend a lifetime collecting only Duke Ellington record, and always have plenty of great jazz to listen to — his music changes so much from decade to decade based on the distinct personalities that make up the Orchestra, and it would take a post longer than this to list all the favorites of jazz listeners.

From his autobiography, Ellington describes the process of fluctuation as members come and go:

The cats who come into the band are probably unique in the aural realm. When someone falls out of the band — temporarily or permanently — it naturally becomes a matter of “Whom shall we get?” or “Whom van we get?” It is not just a matter of replacing the cat who left, because we are concerned with a highly personalized kind of music. It is written to suit the character of an instrumentalist, the man who has the responsibility of playing it, and is almost impossible to match his character identically. Also, if the new man is sufficiently interesting tonally, why insist upon his copying or matching his predecessor’s style.

In other words, if we are completely satisfied with the horse and buggy, who invent an automobile or airplane? In the first place, when a man is needed, I personally scarcely even know which way to look for a replacement. I haven’t the slightest idea whether the grass next door is greener or leaner. So someone suggests so-and-so, and we send for so-and-so, and get him. We play together a day or two, and then I inquire whether or not the new cat likes what we are doing, having already watched his reaction in the band. If he likes it, he is invited to stay.

Everybody agrees he’s a nice guy until one day, sooner than expected, one of his other selves breaks through, or one of his more eccentric sides show. Then I confess, or one of the other cats in the band hollars, loudly, “Duke, you never miss!”

Our new man has come home to the home of homies. He manifests his acceptance of the honor bestowed upon him, and settles down to the prospect of welcoming the next new so-and-so.

So far as we recall, there were only three discs by the Carpetbaggers, an awesome trio from Edina whose music fell somewhere in that sweet spot between honky tonk and rockabilly. We were fortunate enough to see ‘em play a couple times — they were just as good live as they are on record.

country miles apartBut the sad part is that we loaned two of the discs to someone years ago, and only noticed they were gone this morning when we went to hear their hilarious parody of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.” The only disc we have left is their first, Country Miles Apart.

At least this one has some of our favorite song by the Carpetbaggers, especially “Always A Pallbearer,” which was an original by Jim Magnuson. The best songs on their discs were the originals.

Not sure where these fellas are today, but there are at least a couple fans of their music still around — and there’s an old friend whose going to get a call today about a couple CDs they borrowed ages ago.

If you like this song, you can see a couple awesome performances on Youtube — “Sober Again” and this song from a 1997 in-store at Garage D’or, the legendary record shop which was on Nicollet Avenue (one of us was there that day!). They were a great band who would probably be a huge hit in the local country/roots scene today.

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“Always A Pallbearer”

Alan Jackson scored a huge hit with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?” in 2001, although hindsight suggests it was opportunistic schlock. The song was parodied by South Park when Jackson appeared to sing “A Ladder to Heaven,” about the boy’s attempt to climb to clouds to get a raffle ticket from Kenny.

Actually country music has a long history of patriotic records in poor taste, and Jackson’s song was far from the most shameful cash-grab of the era (Toby Keith can have that dubious claim). That got us to wondering how long until somebody hits the money button with a song about Uncle Sam kicking the snot out of ISIL.

Recently, we read about Al-Rahel Al-Kabir, a Lebanese band (whose name means “the Great Departed”) which writes humorous songs about political and social issues in the Middle East. We don’t understand a word of their latest song, but have read it mocks ISIL and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. From the audience reaction, the song must be world-class satire.

freedom wins againSadly, we’re guessing any song about ISIL in the traditional American style will be more like this 1991 single by Quarter Moon.

 

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“Freedom Wins Again” by Quarter Moon

If you’ve been by your friendly neighborhood record shop recently you’ve noticed some changes. Earlier this summer we started some ambitious landscaping in front of the building, and in September it was finally re-painted by an awesome local craftsman, Jonas Bakkan and his Alchemy Painting and Restoration.

10615954_10152383722010028_8163201052826852815_nWe have been working hard on the launch of our own in-house record label (Hymie’s Records, naturally) and its first two releases. All the while we’re putting together a program of fun, free live music for the fall, even putting together a couple of fun in-store performances for December. Our own Trevor and his lovely wife are expecting their first baby in just over a month, and the little ones you used to see drawing and playing in the booths around here are now in school full time.

This fall is going to be an exciting time for local music, with so many new albums coming out in October alone. On Friday, The Ericksons will release their fourth album, Bring me Home, at the Cedar (we posted the single when they first sent it out here). Southside Desire is releasing their second album on October 22nd at 7th Street Entry, and we’ll be posting our review of it next week. Right now if you follow that link you can hear about half of the album on their bandcamp page, as they’re adding a new song each week. Another release from Piñata Records due this fall is Narco States’ debut, Wicked Sun, which we have been eagerly anticipating for a long time (you can rock out to the first song here) — the release show for this album will be here at Hymie’s on November 8th.

Another album we’re proud to be a part of is the first record put out by our shop, I Would Rather be a Buffalo by Ben Weaver. Ben has long been a supporter of the shop, and has been a part of our block party each year, and has been a good friend — we’re just returning the favor. With the release of his album, October 10th at the Cedar, he’s launching an ambitions bicycle tour down the Mississippi where in addition to performing the new songs he’s going to participate in community river cleanup projects. Also out on the new Hymie’s label is the first in we hope an ongoing series of 45rpm singles highlighting local roots/Americana artists — This single is by Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade, and was written by Brian after visiting the drought-stricken region of his home state California. You can hear the A-side on the new Hymie’s Label page in the menu above.

So that’s a little round-up of local artists with new vinyl coming out in the next six weeks or so. There’s just one other we wanted to highlight, because it was a band who played here in September and really knocked us out. Hanan’s first album, Sonder, is also being released by a new start-up label, Inspirus Records. The release show for the new LP is October 21th at the fabulous and newly re-opened Turf Club. It’s one of the most original and enjoyable local releases we’ve heard this year.

We were lucky enough to hear Hanan and meet them when another instrumental band, Echo’s Answer (from Minot, ND) invited them along to an in-store. Their live set was an unexpected surprise, and one we really enjoyed — and their album is a remarkable combination of sounds which transcends genre. This group paints pictures with post punk energy and ambient grace, all with a base coat of progressive rock.

Rare is the album which can create such a natural, organic landscape, while incorporating electronics so intimately. Sonder opens suggestively, with a brief prelude called “Buttons,” before launching a solid, hypnotic rocker, “Parsimony,” which reminds us of the instrumental half of Story of the Sea‘s double-disc swan song. Even here Hanan’s approach to composition is less rock-oriented, and more like mid-century serialism — check out the incredible passage at the end of this song for an idea of how they bring together the different approaches.

Their experiments in ambient sound are heavier and more directed than what Sativa Flats was doing in the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge for years (not that we didn’t love sharing a night with those guys all that time). Instrumental music often attempts to take the listener’s mind on amazing journey’s or into realms where words would become cumbersome, making it often music associated with science fiction and fantasy. A lot of bands re-enforce the connection with evocative album art and titles, while others leave it to all but entirely to the listener’s imagination by providing cryptic clues — it’s no secret we love Wizards Are Real for this reason, among many others.

The instrumental half of Story of the Sea’s final, self-titled album establishes this with a clear thematic development, moving from “Launch” to “Landing” over ten tracks. Even at its most electronic and experimental (the highly addictive “It’s Real Science” in the middle of the disc) their approach sounds like a rock band’s approach to instrumental music. Sonder is not like that, bringing in such a wide variety of sounds and styles. Done poorly it would perhaps have an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clutter, but Hanan moves with seductive grace through its ideas.

The album’s single is a great example. “Pay Attention” is like a classic King Crimson which shifts, sometimes suddenly, from driving percussive passages to long, quiet stretches, even hinting at modern jazz in the middle with a keyboard part that sounded to us like the timbre of Courtney Pine’s tenor. When really rocking the band sounds just as much like Fugazi as it does “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic,” but less harshly angular. Moments later the next song has the interesting lilt and shape of Charles Ives’ short works. And “Widdershins” is an interesting combination of programmed composition and guitar that’s really its own animal — it’s track seven on the album and definitely one to hear for yourself.

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Sonder is an album which rewards repeat listening, as it balances cerebral and sensual to create soundscapes likely to inspire the listener’s imagination. It’s a rainy fall morning here in Minneapolis and we’re finding this album hits a sweet spot, in between ‘wait, go back, what was that?’ and moving forward — just the way we feel about the days that pass like minutes and the sublime minutes that pass like days.

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