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Jonathan Wilson At Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival...Or, If You're Unemployed Or A Music Writer, You Have No Good Reason To Miss This Show...MORE OR! "Can We Really Party Today?", Yes We Can!

With a smile like that, he definitely knows something...
Occasionally as a music writer you need something to snap you out of the malaise of all the "samey" sounding recordings that come across your desk. A tendency to become blase, with the mere name of a band inspiring a mountain of irk inside you, takes over. You wonder if all those bands and artists you were so hot for a few months back were really worthy of all the love letters and verbal flowers you bestowed on them. Then, as the impulse to delete incoming emails from publicists touting their latest and greatest has become almost a reflex, you give pause, move past the superlatives and overused musical reference points, and open your ears again. The thrill of discovery washing through your body like some drug you had sworn you were gonna kick, but then, it feels so good you blow off rehab again and settle in for a night of binge listening. This is the sensation I felt when I recently discovered LA via North Carolina's Jonathan Wilson and his debut album Gentle Spirit. Gentle Spirit was released here in the states on September 13th on British label Bella Union (Veronica Falls, Low Anthem) and it slipped past my radar, as I was heading out to Austin, TX for the Austin City Limits Festival. Had it not, it would have been the only thing I would have been listening to on the flights to and from Texas. Wilson - who lives in LA's notorious Laurel Canyon - is not only an accomplished musician (having worked with Chris Robinson, Dawes, Erykah Badu, Jacksone Browne, Jonathan Rice, Elvis Costello, and SF's Vetiver to name a few), but is credited for reviving the dormant folk volcano that was Laurel Canyon in the late 60's and early 70's. He is known for hosting some the most intense all-night jam sessions at his home, where on any given night some of the finest musicians in town find their way to the circle. In addition he is a highly sought-after producer - his Five Star Studio has since been relocated from Laurel Canyon and is now based in LA's Echo Park.
The thrity-seven year songwriter and mulit-instrumentalist has produced in Gentle Spirit not simply a folk rock record for his generation but one for the ages. Songs navigate between the cosmic folk of Tim Buckley, the eerie strum and atmospherics of early Pink Floyd, and the ragged crunch of Crazy Horse. The sound is one that can sound as intimate as someone sitting on a stool playing an acoustic guitar or as howling as the weight of the Pacific Ocean crashing on California's rocky shores. His deft hand in the studio and reverence for the past recordings of some the Laurel Canyon era's greatest residents ( think CSN & Y, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young & Crazy Horse) makes Gentle Spirit and its creator stand out from the clinical, digital recordings of most of the past two decades. The circular melodies in songs like, title track "Gentle Spirit" and "Natural Rhapsody" are mesmerizing. There are elements to his songwriting that remind one of Paul McCartney. This is reinforced buy some of the best bass lines I've heard laid down in quite awhile. Another stand out track - there are no weak ones - "Can We really Party Today?", asks the needed question, "Hey, can we really party today...with all that's going on?" The albums finale, the ten-minute plus "Valley of the Silver Moon", is in a word , EPIC! It has the ominous plod of Crazy Horse's classic "Cortez the Killer" with some wonderful organ stabs and swirls augmenting multi-layered guitar tracks. Throughout "Gentle Spirit" his calming voice guides the listener through an enchanted forest of nature-inspired imagery. Jonathan Wilson is the REAL DEAL. In an effort to purge myself of the flooding feeling of self-loathing attached with missing the early boat on Jonathan Wilson, I will be heading to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Friday - at the unheard of hour of 11am for both writer and musician - to see him perform his set on the Rooster Stage at this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. I implore you to do the same. One more request, see below to listen to Jonathan Wilson's Gentle Spirit to get yourself primed.  I assuredly won't be as quick to dismiss the messages that come in my inbox in the future.


Do Kids Still Play Cowboy and Indian? Well, These Kids Do!...WAIT, HOW ABOUT! Just Enough Chiefs And Just Enough Indians!...NOT CONVINCED? THEN TRY THIS ONE! Cowboy And Indian Not Likely To Fade Under The Glare Of Friday Night Lights!!

Cowboy and Indian inspiring a rain dance onstage at this year's ACL by RLC
The winners of this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival, in addition to music lovers, were the bands and artists calling Austin, Texas home. Over the course of the week I saw some amazing examples of why Austin considers itself the "live music capital of the world". Whether it was the ramshackle glory of the Hickoids second annual ACL alternate the Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta or any number of bands blasting out of bar fronts on the legendary 6th Street, there was a wide array of music on display. Perhaps, no better band crystalized the city's diversity and eclectic reputation than the seven-piece collective headquartered in Austin know as Cowboy and Indian. The band has only been around for a year and a half and is already making waves on both coasts, generating buzz and interest from record labels and recruiting followers via the "tribal" quality of their live shows.
Indians Daniel James & Jazz by RLC
The core of singer/guitarist Daniel James (also of Bay Area favorites Leopold and His Fiction), singer Jazz Mills, and singer/guitarist/banjo player Jesse Plemons (who some might recognize from television's critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights) , tweak Americana music by giving it a spirit that feels fresh and unique. The band grew out of a songwriting partnership struck between Plemons and James, bringing Mills in to complete their vision.
Cowboy Jesse by RLC
With their mid day set in blistering heat, Cowboy and Indian helped cool things off with songs that recall country while injecting enough rock to have the crowd in attendance dancing. They even managed to conjure a little rain by the end of their forty-five minute set. Songs spanned from the haunting "Bali Hai", to the rollicking choogle of "Ledbellies (Hurt My Pride)" and the just plain RAWKING of "Hand Me Down". Even more impressive was Mills who is seven months pregnant delivering an arresting performance in the extreme heat. I was able to sit down with James for an interview on the most recent "What Duvet Said...About Music" Issue 35 HERE. He details the bands inception, growth, and future in the twenty minute conversation that mixes in plenty of music from both of his bands, in addition to helping curate they show's playlist. Below are two videos the band has released in support of their EP. The band is scheduled to have their first full-length release come out sometime in 2012 on a label TBD.

Additional Indians, sisters, Phoebe (back) & Stephanie by RLC
The lovely and soon to be mother Jazz by RLC
Daniel James of Cowboy and Indian/Leopold and His by RLC
The full tribe in all their by RLC


The Says She's Ms. Blat Interview: Lottie Lottie This Brooklyn Band Is Quite The Party...Also! Carnival Soul Meets Violent Nudity Producing A Most Unholy Captain & Tennille!...Additional Also! WDS Refuses To be Scooped On This One, You Hear That Pitchfork!

Rock and Roll by Lauren Pilson
It's rare that I reach out to a band based solely on one song but I felt compelled to when Says She's Ms. Blat deposited their 7" "Violent Nudity/Ha Ha Ha" with accompanying video into my inbox. The Brooklyn-based duo do "carnival soul" with moxy and revved up infectious glee! Pianist/ vocalist Lottie Leymarie and drummer Bret Puchir have a sound that feels born of Coney Island sideshows, with some impressive musical chops and vivid lyrical imagery. Below is the interview along with video (the band teamed up with another Brooklyn-based group, R360, a "creative production and marketing shop" to make the video), so you, dear readers, can bask in the unhinged glow of life spent living under the ultimate "big top" New York City! Go here to Says She's Ms. Blat's Bandcamp site to download the above mentioned 7" for FREE!! Don't let this musical circus pass you by...Hedonism never sounded so good!

WDS - Let’s start with the name, I was compelled to listen to you based on the name of the band – initially, I wasn’t sure if I liked it but it really seemed to connect with the music when I listened to you.  What’s the story behind the name?

Lottie - The meaning behind the name Says She's Ms. Blat stems from an old New York Times article found on the Internet. The headline was "She Says She's Mrs. Platt". The article was about a woman in 1915 who had continuously married wealthy men, divorced them, took their money, changed her name and moved on to the next victim. She was a con artist who was quite progressive for a woman in the early twentieth century. I liked the idea of her ever changing persona. As an artist, you are constantly changing and coming up with new ideas. Ms. Blat is the persona I took on as a musician. Although I write from personal experience, my world is constantly forming and reshaping around me, I'll never be the same person I was when I wrote a particular song or album. I'll be whatever I want to be and right now, I say that I'm Ms. Blat.

WDS - So give a bit of background on how this project came together.  How long have you been together?  Other bands you were involved in, how you & Bret met, etc.?

Lottie - Bret and I met in 2000, we were naïve little teenagers that had just moved to the Bronx for undergrad. We had dabbled and “jammed” but never did anything serious. I had been writing on my own for years, since I was a little kid, and was ready to record and play out. I didn’t want to play piano by myself; I hate that whole “singer-songwriter” bullshit. So I contacted Bret. We began to record my songs in his old studio in Bushwick. I played the keys and he decided to get behind the drums, something that he wasn’t used to doing as a guitar player. All of the sudden we were a band. It happened easily and naturally. I guess we got lucky, we work really well together and have a great chemistry as friends and musicians. That doesn’t happen very often.

WDS - There are seemingly so many types of musical genres at work in Says She’s Ms. Blat – from the carnival freak out of Man Man or Gogol Bordello to a bit of a nod to artists like Regina Spector.  How would you describe your sound?

Lottie - The hardest thing in the whole world to do is to describe your own sound. I have no clue. Sometimes when I think I might understand, I realize I am wrong. I wish I could give you an explanation that would put me into some neat category and make it easier for everyone, but I can’t. I think we sound like Ms. Blat. Loud fucking drums and keys. Excited! Aggressive! Energetic!

WDS - How are the songs written (is there one songwriter or is it more collaborative)?

Lottie - I normally have a piano part or lyric that is the basis of the song. I get things in my head then work them out on the keys. Bret always adds the drums and gives suggestions along the way. We normally work the songs out together once I show him my initial idea. I do most of the lyrics, but Bret will always add his two cents.
Says She's Ms. Blat's Bret Puchir & Lottie Leymore photo by...Aileen Abercrombie
WDS - Tell me a bit about your recorded work?  What label, who produced it, was there a sound in mind or record that guided the recording process?

Lottie - No label, we are DIY at the moment. Bret produces all of our material in my home studio in Brooklyn. Like I said, we do everything ourselves. We follow our own rules and experiment as we go.

WDS - I really like the video for “Violent Nudity”…it led me to think of Says She’s Ms. Blat as a forum for combining many different mediums, not just purely music.  Is this a consideration when writing songs or for the project more generally?

Lottie - Most of the music I write comes to me at random moments. The lyrics and sound stem from my experiences, ideas, dreams etc.  Most of the songs have some sort of story or idea that could become visual, whether it is via video or stageshow. I guess the tunes are a soundtrack to my life. They are what I hear in my head everyday when I am going about my life. “Violent Nudity” came to me after I stepped outside of my loft and a sudden feeling of euphoria swept over me. The day was absolutely stunning, it was a perfect summer day. As I began to walk through my neighborhood I noticed lots of crazy thing going on. New York City is a weird place. You see crazy shit all the time. Pair that with a warm day and…. BOOM! Wild stuff happens. I wanted to project that into a video. All of the performers in the video are real life artists that live and work in the city. They made my vision a reality by just showing up and being themselves.

WDS - What is the state of the New York City/Brooklyn music scene these days?  You seem out of step with most of what I’ve heard coming out of that “scene” recently.

Lottie - I take all of that as a compliment. Brooklyn definitely has a scene. I am not interested. I like to stay away and do my own thing. There are definitely tons of musicians doing their own thing that are extremely talented that don’t fit the stereotype of what is coming out of Brooklyn. I like to hang around those kids. I am over the “throwback” genre. I like fresh ideas. I am sick of Pavement and 50’s girl doo-wop and lo-fi, etc. etc. Give me something NEW and Different.

WDS - For the readers that only have the video and this interview to go on, how would you describe your live show?

Lottie - We are very loud, fast and hard. Extremely sweaty and energetic. We completely let ourselves go, no inhibitions. We both have been musicians our whole lives. It is natural for us to be on stage and perform. It is where we belong.

WDS - How tough is it out there for an up and coming band to get noticed and get your music out to a wide audience?

Lottie - It’s tough. We are working hard…..

WDS - Any plans on touring the West Coast?

Lottie - Yes. Soon. We just need money.

WDS - Where would you like to see Says She’s Ms. Blat be in the next couple of years?

Lottie - Touring the world. Several more albums under our belt. A few more videos.

“Ridiculous but Necessary Questions”

What is your favorite cheese? Midnight Moon

Louis Prima & Keely Smith or Jack & Meg White? Captain and Tennille

Beverley Hills 90210 or Gossip Girl? My So Called Life

Violence or Nudity? Nudity


God Announces Presidential Run In A WDS Exclusive!! Or, Stand Up And Be Smited...Can God Unite The Partisans Into Believers Or Will The Sea Stayed Parted?

Instant Frontrunner...Or, Just Another Sideshow? God Enters 2012 Presidential Race
Tired of being sited and misquoted by a Republican presidential candidate field with no clear frontrunner, God has announced that he will be running for president in the 2012 election. The deity will run on the strength of his proven leadership experience in creating the universe - a claim widely disputed by Democratic partisans. God has eschewed both leading political parties, running as the ultimate independent. The announcement comes ahead another expected announcement for the presidential candidacy by Satan, who some say is silently being backed by Democrats in a bid to challenge current president Barak Obama for his own parties' nomination. While rare, it is not an unprecedented move in presidential politics – happening as recently as 1980 with Ted Kennedy challenging, then incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. God hopes his creation of man will bode well for his chances in the election but those who oppose his run cite this a political liability given the high numbers of unemployed who currently identify as being men. This puts several Republican presidential candidates in a lurch as they have borrowed liberally from "The Creator's" playbook, laid out in his extensive autobiography widely released in 1611, entitled “The King James Bible”. With so many polls indicating the economy and jobs as the top priority God would seem to have a leg up on the rest of the crowded field.

Potential Running Mate, Jesus H. Christ
His announcement was made in the tiny town of Baxter, Iowa as he took to the podium to popular Carrie Underwood hit, "Jesus Take the Wheel". Many say God's son Jesus is a strong contender as a presidential running mate but may be more polarizing politically. “Republocrat”, Joesph Lieberman welcomed God into the race but tempered his enthusiasm by reminding people of the flip flopping in tone and the more left-leaning ideas contained in the new Testament - an argument sure to be explored and hammered by Repulican's and Democrats alike. God could draw on an impressive list of names for his cabinet should he get elected. Moses, John the Baptist, and Joan of Arc are just a few of the names many consider to be explored for top cabinet positions. There has been some backlash since the announcement came, with many questioning whether we need another old, white, moral conservative in the field.

WDS will be hosting its first presidential debate sometime in early 2012 with WDS's Galvin (from WDS's HIT SHOW "Galvin") acting as moderator. This presidential debate will be unique in that candidates will not be allowed to speak - testing the popular assumption that if politicians lips are moving, then they must be lying. This would appear to give God a distinct advantage given his ability to work in mysterious ways, moves those that oppose God's presidential run consider pandering and lacking real substance. With all the political posturing going on God should add a needed gravitas as the election cycle gets into full-swing.