by Tom Hallett
Hey, hey, ‘Dial-heads!! I’m comin’ at ya this week filled with the spirits of independence, joy, freedom and cheap bathtub gin!! That’s right, kids—it’s a full-on celebration here, I’m a’ hoppin’, jumpin’, and a’ pogo-in’ around my office like a 12-year-old at his first Pinhead Gunpowder gig—and all because of some BIG changes in radio over the past week or so. First, my ol’ buddy/nemesis MICHAEL POWELL has decided to RETIRE from the FCC!! Yahhh-hoooo!! I guess, like the rest of the rats deserting the leaky, rusting scow known as the U.S.S. Bush II (including his father, COLIN), Mikey figured he’d best git while the gittin’ was good.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There are no sounds in the English language,
nor are there words that are powerful enough, that they’ll send the listener
off to the Lake of Fire. And anybody who says so is full of baloney.”
— Frank Zappa
SONG OF THE WEEK: “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?”
— The Mothers of Invention
all, in the relatively short time he held the FCC Chairman position, the rather
rotund and perpetually frowning son of the U.S. Secretary Of State managed to
scam millions of dollars for the government of a country based on freedom of speech
by cracking down and levying fines for—you guessed it—the practice
of free speech; shine a months-long, nation-wide spotlight on a millisecond-long
breast shot on T.V. (Rolling Stone showed more on their Janet cover back in the
’90s) and open all kinds of legal doors for the rabid Christian Right to
continue eroding the foundations of said country.
Yay!! Good job, little buddy. I’m not sure what you’re gonna do now
(some reports say you’re considering political office—why does that
not surprise me?), but I’ve got a few suggestions. OK, for my long-suffering
editor’s sake, I’ll cut it down to just one, and make it the least
foul of them all. Here it is: Now that you’ll be free of the shackles of
“The Man” (finally!) and able to follow your own dreams (nightmares?
I mean, guys like you who are deathly afraid of human sexuality, honest self-expression
and free thinking certainly must have some humdingers of nightmares, filled with
giant evil penises and deadly, swinging breasts the size of your own massive gut—brrr!
I’d be scared all the time, too!), maybe you should put some time in serving
the good of the common man.
Now, now, I know that term “common” makes ya a little nervous, Mike-a-rollio,
but check it out: Think how good it would look on your political record if you
teamed up with that other social pariah named Mike (Jack-O), shed your Brooks
Brothers suits and Buster Brown shoes, and headed over to tsunami-torn Asia, where
you could start to redeem yourself for all the wickedness and lies you’ve
perpetuated upon the American people by pitching in and caring for the sick, wounded,
homeless and dying folks there. I mean, considering that you’re considering
a political career at some point in the future, what better way to prep for the
horrors waiting for you back here in the ghettos, economically-depressed rural
wastelands, and ecologically-challenged areas of the good ol’ U. S. of A.?
Maybe you’ll be the first politician in many a year to actually understand
why your country is rotting from the inside out, eh?
on my radio celebration list is the fact that our local Twin Cities airwaves were
transformed overnight last Monday when MPR station KCMP (89.3 FM) flipped formats
from classical to rock ’n’ roll/freeform radio. Double yay!! Not since
the heady early days of ol’ REV 105 have we heard the likes, and reconnecting
with familiar voices like Mary Lucia, Thorn, Bill De Ville and Mark Wheat is just
icing on the cake. Hearing such a wide assortment of (lotsa local!!) bands, artists
and genres lumped together on the ‘waves, folks, is kinda like reading this
column every week—you just never know what’s next. And that, as they
say, is rock and roll.
To listen online to The Current, go to MPR.org/Radio
and hit the link for the station. There you’ll also find loads of info and
message boards, as well as goodies and swag ops. Also, for fresh interviews and
updates, check out last week’s cover story here in Pulse. Congratulations,
both to the fine folks behind KCMP and to all of us lucky listeners. And remember—this
station is listener-supported, so make sure you pledge by phone or internet, or
better yet, head down to First Ave. on Saturday, 2/12, for the Low CD release
party/The Current fundraiser event.
And now on to our regularly scheduled Review Of The Week...
Randall Throckmorton is a genius. If Randall Throckmorton had been alive (in
his current incarnation, that is—I’m sure he was around in an earlier
life as an earlier version of the guy we know today) in the early part of the
20th century, I have no doubt that he’d have been an absolute, worldwide
singing sensation. Here’s a relatively young man who can, seemingly effortlessly,
conjure not only the sound—the very anti-supersonic essence—of that
era, but who can also transport himself and his lucky listeners there in an
instant. I’ve literally seen the man morph such disparate locales as the
Turf Club’s Clown Lounge (in the early days when many Sunday nights the
entire audience would consist of myself, the performers and bartender Dave Weigardt)
and huge bandshells at fancy, catered weddings into warm, sepia-toned pre-WW
II aural snapshots. It’s an awe-inspiring power, this connection to the
past mingled with a firm grip on the modern song form. So where does it all
His influences are many, but suffice it to say that, were modern American dictionaries
REALLY doing their jobs, you’d find his face next to the definition for
“Crooner.” Forget everything you ever heard about Bing Crosby, Frank
Sinatra or Bobby Vee being “Crooners.” If you’ve never heard
Randall, you’ve never heard crooning. The songs he performs here, some
solo, some with the help of his friends from Larme De Colere—keyboard
whiz Tom Siler and saw-player Andy McCormick—who are both as insanely
talented and unique as he is, range from fresh, Throckmorton-penned material
(the divine, jazzy “Honeysuckle Vine,” the dark and dreamy, guitar-strummed
“Flax In The Meadow,” which is the most gorgeous ode to a group
of clowns involved in a near-fatal auto accident you’ll ever hear, and
“The Giants Of Uuttgaard” stand out ) that are destined to be instant
standards to beloved favorites that already are.
the classic gems here that Throckmorton cribs from, pays homage to, and outright
covers, are presented with exciting, refreshing chutzpah. “The Lamp Is
Low” finds guests Siler and McCormick liberally sprinkling their cabaret-born
musical stylings over Randall’s hypnotically trilling vocals, while “Fat
Rabbit’s Hunt Down” reveals his love for old-time American hill
country balladeering (what he calls, “... the traditional hillbilly vernacular”
in the liner notes), with high-lonesome pickin’, accordian-grooves, and
rolling bass lines. “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” (which,
strangely enough, I heard an oddball version of by Basil Wolverton a week or
so before this review) features McCormick on saw (I can’t stress here
enough how soulful and eerily beautiful Andy’s saw work is—you simply
have to hear it to appreciate it, and once you do, you’ll be a fan for
life), melodica and organ. Throckmorton’s fairly faithful cover of this
1918 chestnut brings to life an ancient, happier and simpler time, yet still
rings with melancholy truth to this day.
“Dusty Bible,” a rustic, fiddle-driven spiritual that was recorded
in Throckmorton’s back stairwell, finds him a’ sawin’ an’
a’ singin’ his way through a spine-tingler so convincing it’d
send that banjo-playin’ kid from Deliverance a’ runnin’ for
his mama, and the gentle, soothing, ukelele-augmented “You’re Getting
To Be A Habit With Me,” though delivered with studied poise, both hit
home with all the power of a hard right cross to the gut. “The Giants
Of Uutgaard,” which I mentioned earlier, is the centerpiece of this record.
A rollicking, lilting sail through Randall’s “questionable”
(his term, not mine) interpretation of the Norse myth “Giant’s Glove,”
the song is a delightful combo of otherworldly music and wide-eyed, straightforward
storytelling that would make Harry Nilsson roll over twice in his grave, light
a smoke, and bare a bone-y, tooth-ful grin to the universe. I’ve said
it before, and I’ll say it again—Randall Throckmorton is a genius.
Buy this album now at ThrockMusic.com!!
Th-th-that’s all for now, kidz. Spin the ol’ Dial back this way
next week, when we’ll go all-out on reviews and try to clear some of the
swag out’n this heah office before ah’m buried alive in (ack!) New
Blues, rockabilly schmooze, an’ fancy Blue Suede shoez!! Until then—make
yer own damn news. ||
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CD’s you’d
like to see mentioned in this column, or you’d just like to help start
a grassroots campaign to appoint Joe Walsh the new FCC Chairman, send replies
and chewing gum to: (temporary e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org.