Leave Me Midnight – My Gold Mask

This Chicago-based band was written up in Chicago Magazine and I noticed that the female lead is a “lifelong Iron Maiden fan,” so I immediately bought the album. That’s all I really need to validate a band, but My Gold Mask has something else going for them, they’re based in my neighborhood, for now at least.


British Lion – Steve Harris

I had some free XM Radio for a week in February and I couldn’t keep the dial off Ozzy’s Boneyard (XM 38). My musical tastes have some range dammit, I’m serious. But in the end 70s heavy metal and 80s hair metal are my favorites. I need me some Iron Maiden, Ozzy, and Dio. I don’t think it’s nostalgia that drives it either. I just like it.


Arrow – Heartless Bastards

I went down the Heartless Bastards path because a buddy of mine kept talking them up. Then I saw they were from Ohio and have a Black Keys style (somewhat), so I dove in. The leader, literally and figuratively, is vocalist Erika Wennerstrom. She runs the show, named the group, and has been the one constant in the band’s almost decade-long history. I Googled her and there are a ton of recent interviews with her because this album was released in Feb 2012 and they toured in mid/late 2012. She’s passionate about her music for sure.


Searching for Sugar Man – Rodriguez

One of my clients mentioned the movie Searching For Sugar Man in passing and he seemed to have really enjoyed it. He said it was about a tortured American artist who had marginal success at home but was highly successful outside of the country.


Carry the Fire – Delta Rae

I got a tip that Delta Rae was in Chicago from a friend who lives in Charlotte, but I couldn’t make it. I bought the album instead and gave this crew a whirl. Friend recommendations are my number one source for new music now. The days of Pandora are over.


Jailbreak – Thin Lizzy

This was another $5 Amazon surprise. I’m getting concerned that I’m overusing this method of researching new music. Oh well, I’ve never owned any Thin Lizzy, but I’m damn glad I do now. Damn glad. By the way, that’s a Michael Katon reference.


Bootleg Boogie – Michael Katon

So I’ve grabbed myself another helping of Michael Katon. I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to Katon. Outside of Iron Maiden concert prep, it’s the only full album experience I’ve had in months. It’s been a sparse few months of music for me. I go in phases, but October is bringing some renewed vigor for listening to tunes, so look for more reviews coming soon.


The Big Bach Set – Various Artists

I grabbed this after seeing it on Andy Ihnatko’s Twitter feed. I trust him on a variety of topics, like computers, cameras, and mobile devices. I follow him because he tells me stuff I need to know or stuff I’m interested in regarding various digitalia. He gets paid for doing this, by the Sun Times and by, but I feel like he answers to a higher calling.

I’ve never heard Mr. Ihnatko discuss why he puts links to deals on classical music in his feed. I’m assuming it’s because he likes it. Whether he truly appreciates classical music or whether he uses it for background noise doesn’t really matter to me, I’m just thankful for the tips, because cheap is important for my purposes.

I just need background music, man, for the most part, but I feel the urge to dig a little deeper. About a decade ago I got a Handel CD from somewhere and just wore it out while working. I loved it, but can’t really tell you why. That’s a trend in my life I’m trying to end. I want to be able to give reasons for everything that I like, thus, this.

So now I pop on this Big Bach Set of 120 songs and try and decipher the very Bachian nature of this thing. Heck, it was $0.99, at least for that day, so it was a low risk purchase that I can tool around with without any buyer’s remorse. I’m going to start with the Wikipedia page and go from there.

Or maybe I’ll just play it and forget it, hoping it will sink in enough without any effort that I suddenly start to recognize Bach chords at weddings, funerals, or on TV news programs. But what if I do start learning the nuances of Bach’s music? Then I can’t use it as background music anymore because I’ll be thinking about the music, bringing it in to the front of my mind, so it’s not background music any more.

That seems to defeat the purpose. Hmm. I’ve just talked myself into one big circle. I’m out, we ain’t going around again.


Tunnel Blanket – This Will Destroy You

This group was one of my earliest forays into instrumental rock along with Explosions in the Sky (EITS). I first started dabbling in this stuff during my music renaissance about seven years ago (that’s when I discovered Pandora). I no longer actively pursue new music via Pandora because it had such a one-time broadening effect on my musical tastes that I can discover stuff on my own via friends now. Or, ah, via Amazon.

Yep, this album popped up in a targeted add from Amazon during a $5 sale and I just clicked “buy with one-click” like a fool. I’m not disappointed that I did so because it’s pretty cool stuff, but it was probably a superfluous buy. By that I mean that it will sit in my “instrumental” playlist which I’ll shuffle often when I’m working. It won’t hit the regular album rotation.

This group hit me when I started putting EITS into Pandora after seeing the movie Friday Night Lights. This Will Destroy You (TWDY) started popping up consistently, as did Pelican. I bought TWDY’s first album called Young Mountain. They’re just about all instrumental but a little more funkier than EITS. They layer in some digitized background sound behind the guitars, drums, and keyboards. They also toss in some vocal stuff. It’s not necessarily background vocals, it could just be people talking (I even once thought I heard a death metal style grunt).

It’s difficult to pick out a best song. That’s just not how I listen to most of these instrumental-only artists. I rarely pay much attention individually to songs unless it’s Pelican. I have plenty of instrumental stuff to last me for awhile so I need to be more selective in the future.

Cool note: these guys are from San Marcos, Texas, a neat small town about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio. I’ve actually been to this town before and had some great doughnuts at this little shop called Dixie Cream Doughnuts. I’m just keeping track of my doughnut life. That’s not too abnormal, is it?


Bustin’ Up The Joint Live – Michael Katon

I have a friend who’s passionate about Michael Katon’s music, I mean really passionate. I like that. Passion! We need more of that in this world. I asked him what the best album to listen to would be if I wanted a sampling of the man’s music and he suggested Bustin’ Up the Joint, a live album cut at Howard’s in Bowling Green, OH. My buddy’s description was something like, “It’s blue collar blues with some boogie.” I had no idea what that meant.

Know this, I’m not very familiar with the blues. Many refer to Katon’s music as blues-rock, a sub-genre that brings the blues a little closer to my musical tastes. Hey man, my musical tastes are pretty broad. I’m a heavy metal fan at my core, but I like plenty of rock, classic rock, prog rock, easy rock, alternative, pop, hip-hop/rap, house, and classical music. Check out the list, I’m pretty well-rounded. Huh? Right?

Thanks for noticing. But the blues? I don’t own much, unless you consider The Black Keys… No? You’re right, their stuff nowadays is a little too refined to be called blues. Aside, The Black Keys seem to have overtaken AC/DC as the official band of TV sports intro/outro music. Squirrel!

So let’s get back to this term “blue collar blues with some boogie,” I had no idea what that meant. Nothing. But man, he was right on. Right on.

How do you like that short, repeated, non-sentence tactic I employed in the last para? Please give me your thoughts on that. Thoughts. Please.

I’ve been trying to simplify my life lately and this album embodies that spirit. The stripped-down beauty of a drummer, bassist, and lead guitarist/vocalist (Katon) from the Detroit area, playing at a small venue, in a midwestern college town (BGSU), had a big effect on me. My buddy says he was there the night they recorded this. It just feels right, and tangible, and it sounds great. Also, I’m not polluted by any studio sound because I’ve never heard any of his studio stuff.

It’s starting to make sense why both Adele and Pelican have struck such a big chord with me over the last few years. They also have aspects of stripped-down and simple. Adele sounds great without any electricity and Pelican makes great music without any lyrics. And both sound great outside of the studio.

Over the last month I’ve listened to Bustin’ Up the Joint in it’s entirety at least five times on long car rides during business travel. It’s really relaxing, for some reason. The lyrics may have something to do with it, blue collar is right. Let me give you a flavor.

Right of the bat, from the first song Rip It Hard, in throaty vocals:

Been all day since I seen my honey
been working ten hours tryin’ to make that money
slaving all day just to earn a dime
now it’s five o’clock and it’s party time
I’m gonna rip it hard

From the same studio album, No More Whiskey:

I drank enough whiskey to make a young man blind
boogied so hard then I lost my mind
no more whiskey
I don’t need no whiskey
living gets risky
when I drink that whiskey

Then there’s Get on the Boogie Train, which I think is one of his most popular. It has a bunch of somewhat familiar bluesy guitar sections and prodigious use of the word boogie. Three of the songs have the word boogie in the title, he uses the term in his lyrics often, and it describes some of his style. It’s a technical term folks, so don’t take it lightly. During this song he also wraps things up, thanks the audience, introduces his band. I love hearing that.

Yeah the boogie train
runs right on time
taking that load of boogie on down the line
ya know it never stops rollin’
catch it if you can
ride that train together
down to boogieland
get on the boogie train mama
ride it on down

After reading Guitar Zero, I’m trying to pay more attention to guitar tracks, bass lines, and arrangements, but I haven’t made any progress. I read that Wiki entry on boogie and I can’t make sense of it. I can tell that Katon is a serious guitar player and I can tell that I like it, but I can’t tell you why (not an Eagles quote). I have to do something about this, I know.

I’m on it.