by Tom Hallett
Hey, hey, ‘Dial-heads- another busy week, an’ it seems like time is all warped an’ skittery, with the days lasting forever, while the nights, weeks, and months rush by like a runaway locomotive. Hell, even Mr. Peabody would have a hard time finding a nugget of wisdom or a worthy lesson in today’s panic-fraught world. In that spirit, then, we’ll just cut right to the chase this week an’ give ya somethin’ to take the edges off a bit...
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think the first song I ever wrote...was
called ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me.’ That’s an illuminating
little piece, isn’t it?”- David Bowie
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Take Me To Someday”- Dan
Texas-to-St. Paul transplant John Ewing returns with a warm, melancholy batch
of tunes on Augustine, his first official solo album and the long-awaited follow-up
to his last project, The Blue Violets. Fans and friends of John will recognize
a fair share of these songs as material he’s been playing live around
town for several years, while a few of them are more recent and showcase the
quieter direction the singer/songwriter/axeman has been heading for some time
Ewing’s first couple of local releases (Delta Flares and Seen
Yer Face, both under the John Ewing Band moniker) were tight, edgy collections
of snarling, youthful, electrified gut-punchers, Augustine finds the
soft-spoken, loveable smart-aleck laying bare his soul both musically and lyrically.
Kicking off with the title track, Ewing immediately establishes the comfortably
sad, wistful tone of the entire album. Over heart-rending strumming and lovelorn
harp blasts, he croons: “One day I’m gonna settle down/Stop my whoring
around/It might be a year, it might be soon/On that day, it’ll be with
Forgoing the pub-rock ethos of The Blue Violets for the intricate, subtle nuances
of acoustic guitars, piano, banjo, mandolin, and violin, Ewing surrounds himself
here with some of the most impressive pickers an’ grinners the Twin Cities
has to offer. Iron Ranger Rich Mattson (who also co-produced, engineered, and
recorded this album at his own Flowerpot Studio) chimes in with guitars, drums,
bass, and toy piano. Local axeman Eric Kassel lays down sweet guitar licks,
piano runs, and banjo plucks, longtime Ewing sideman/bassist Gabby Ramirez provides
the perfect, understated bottom end, multi-talented Centurions frontman Jake
Wisti liberally sprinkles goosebump-inducing violin runs across most of the
recording, and Bruce Johnson shores things up with soulful, down-to-earth mando
and harp playing.
tracks here (they’re ALL good, though) include longtime Ewing stage staple
“Dangerous Birds,” re-cut here with the able assistance of all of
the impressive talents listed above, “Cursed Or Blessed” which rides
a loping, regret-laden trail of tears (“...you only live once, but many
times you’ll die...”), the shimmering, almost ethereal groove of
Wisti’s violin on the instrumental cut “Thief In The Cabooze”
cuts through your heart like a straight razor, and the gorgeous, tearful plea
of “Half A Day” could melt the coldest, cheatin-est heart around:
“Half a day with you, baby/Means more than a life of strange old maybes/Shootin’
through our veins this pain ain’t lazy/I know you understand/I think I
understand/Now the speed is pickin’ up...all I need is half a day/I’ll
leave my weapons at your gate/Just give me one more half a day...”
But the real clincher here, for me anyway, is the off-the-cuff, visceral slice
of “Keep Your Collar To The Dawn.” Having spent a considerable number
of long, liquor-soaked nights talking music, life, and sometimes pure-dee nonsense
with John, I can recall a fair number of mornings when we’d both part
ways as the sun rose on the horizon and the last of the beer was heartily consumed.
As we separated at a crosswalk or an alleyway, I’d look back and nod at
him as he was turning away. Invariably, John would flip the collar of his sheepskin
cowboy jacket up, tip one finger to his cap, and grin that unforgettable grin
This cut perfectly captures both the carefree, earthy Texas grit and the soulful,
doubting, melancholy sides of its’ author, and will surely go down in
my book as his True, picture-perfect theme song: “...that’s the
best thing I done,” he intones, “You’re gonna need just a
little shelter, you’re gonna need a friend/An’ since I can’t
be neither to you/All I can send, never worry about the things you’ve
lost...and always keep your collar to the dawn...”
A truly inspiring, thoughtful, and thought-provoking batch of original, home-grown
Americana from a guy who actually lives and breathes the music, lyrics, and
life his art reflects. Augustine hits stores on March 24th, and you can check
out Eclectone’s website for more info at EclectoneRecords.com.
Live gigs (featuring some of the players on this album) will follow, watch this
space for details.
Gigs to watch for:
*Check out the River Of Hope Fundraiser, a musical benefit
for the still-suffering victims of hurricane Katrina, who are desperately trying
to rebuild their shattered lives and reclaim New Orleans for its rightful citizens.
Local angels of mercy Rebecca Hage Thomley and Marya Hage have created a non-profit
organization dubbed Zenith Services and volunteered their time and energy to
helping those folks, and talented musicians and artists like Alicia Corbett,
Grant Hart, Dave Boquist, Jerry Rau, and Black Bear Bayou will perform at Grumpy’s
in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 11th to raise funds for their next trip South.
Come on down and give a little while getting treated to some mighty fine performances
from a gaggle of local faves. 4-8PM, call Grumpy’s for more details
at (612) 789-7429.
*Don’t miss local guitar slinger Dan Vorderbruggen at 7th Street Entry
on March 18th, as he takes up axe duties for Minnesota cult faves Civil Defense,
whose punk classic, 1983's Gun Control, inspired countless local outfits. Check
out frontman Dale Schuster and the gang as they knock the shit outta fiery,
topical tunes that still make as much sense now as the day they were written-
with Impaler, E.G.F.C., and In Defence. 9PM, 21+, $6 at the door. Sponsored
by Radio K.
That’s it for me this week, kiddies. Tune in again, same time, same space,
for more, more, more. Until we meet again- make yer own damn news.||
If you have local gigs/CD’s/info you’d like to see mentioned
in this space, or you’d just like to commiserate with me about the tragic
recent passing of Dennis “McCloud” Weaver, send replies to: Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.