Kroll LIVE at Durham’s Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits – Friday, May 9 – 9:00 PM

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I’m excited to announce that my 2014 spring tour of the three-county, Research Triangle region will kick off this Friday night at Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits on Historic West Parrish Street in downtown Durham. I’ll start around 9:00 pm and play two, 75-minute sets.

I’ll be playing many of your old Dogs in the Yard classics from my band in Denver as well as some new and not-so-new original compositions. I’ve also gotten really excited about playing other great local music I’ve heard around the Triangle and on my last trip to Denver for the Association of Health Care Journalists meeting in late March (where I also had a nice night of jamming with Dan and Jay from the Dogs).

I’m particularly excited to be playing at Intrepid Life, my go-to coffee shop for business meetings in Durham. You’ve probably heard the story about the owner, Matt Victoriano, a Marine combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

He was first interviewed by WBUR’s Here and Now in Charlotte at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he had visions of opening a brewpub. Plans changed – not the least of it due to the challenges of small business loans for returning veterans – and we were fortunate that he chose Durham to open Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits Bar.

The updated version of Matt’s story came earlier this year when Here and Now’s Robin Young caught up with him to check in. When I heard this story, I was impressed that the owner of Joe Van Gogh coffee roasters in Hillsborough loaned Matt equipment to get the place off the ground, instead of just thanking him for his service to the country.

So I emailed Matt when he opened the place and offered to play for free pretty much anytime to do my part to support his mission to advocate for veterans and progressive non-profits in his community space. Editor Lisa Sorg describes the vibe perfectly in her INDY Week piece last month.

So even if you don’t come to hear my sets, I encourage you to drop by Intrepid Life this Friday night, or anytime. If you can’t find street parking, you can try the city lot by Rue Cler and the Post Office, then just walk through Orange Street past Phoebe Lawless’s Scratch bakery.

I have a soft spot for people with the guts to volunteer their lives to serve in the military for this country. My Dad was a Marine and Heather’s been working at the VA hospital in Durham for almost two years. And my longtime Texas songwriting idol, Darden Smith, has been using his musical prowess to help veterans process their emotions through songwriting retreats – a project appropriately called SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

Matt has made an investment in our community so I hope that we can all make an investment in him – and in downtown Durham.


Review of Times Right Now by smokin’ Piedmont acoustic singer-songwriter, Jon Shain

Jon Shain and his Trio will be performing this evening (Saturday, July 17) at The Soul Cafe in Durham, NC, together with Washington, DC’s The Grandsons and Pat Wictor. The Soul Cafe is an alcohol-free venue near Durham’s Brightleaf Square. Sadly, I’m out of town and can’t attend – but you should. Click here for more information on tonight’s show from Jon’s Facebook page.
Times Right Now cover.jpgTimes Right Now is the 6th album by Piedmont Blues guitarist Jon Shain since he went solo in 1998 after a decade with his folk-rock group, Flyin’ Mice, and their spinoff, WAKE.
Shain’s album covers as much diverse ground as you might expect from a Jewish boy from a Massachusetts milltown who came to Duke to major in American history and seek the mentorship of legends in the Piedmont blues style (biography here). There’s something for everyone on this album regardless of one’s musical preferences.
Perhaps the greatest departure for Jon is the partnership with The Grandsons from DC who add a layer of vintage horns not normally seen on previous albums. Hailing largely from DC, The Grandson bring a self-described “pawn shop of instruments” to the effort. Together with members of his time-tested trio, FJ Ventre on bass, Bill Newton on harmonica, and John Currie on dobro, Times Right Now is a work of finesse and strong songwriting and musicianship while also serving up a few earbugs for even the casual listener.
Self produced with Scottsburg Jonze and Jackson Hall, it’s the fresh mixing of Chris Stamey that comes to the forefront from the first note. Stamey, a long ago member of the dBs and outstanding guitarist in his own right most recently partnering with his old mate, Peter Holsapple, has made a consistent name for himself with his recording and production skills. Stamey brings the clarity and authenticity of each instrument to the overall mix and Holsapple even shows up for a guest appearance. After listening to Auto-Tune-worked songs and sampling loops out the wazoo elsewhere, it’s truly refreshing to hear exquisite playing that doesn’t skimp on melody and hooks.

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Roger McGuinn, John Coltrane, and the banjo

Something about Sunday mornings leads me to really enjoy listening to folk and other acoustic music. These guys ended up being electric, though.
The Byrds were a Los Angeles-based group that grew out of the folk music scene in 1964. The original line-up was Jim McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke. The distinctive sound of the band came from the electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar of McGuinn – in fact, all three guitarists played 12-strings.
200px-Byrds-MrTambourineMan.jpgOn the recommendation of jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader, Miles Davis, Columbia Records offered The Byrds a contract to record one single in January 1965. Bob Dylan had previously written and recorded the song “Mr. Tambourine Man” but one of the background vocals was off and the version was not released. The Byrds changed the timing of the song and used only one of Dylan’s verses to keep the song under two minutes and thirty seconds, the unwritten limit for a 1965 pop song.
The single was released June 5, 1965 and reached #1 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart three weeks later. An album of the same name followed.
The Byrds subsequently recorded other big hits that included Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” and “Eight Miles High,” among others. The Byrds influenced many bands since but especially Tom Petty and R.E.M. The band kind of trickled to a stop in the early 1970s leaving just McGuinn to work on a solo career which continues today – here’s an article by Jeremy Goodwin about his gig last night at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Earlier this week Professor Paul Jones retweeted a link from Roger McGuinn to this video of McGuinn talking about the origination of his playing style – I had not known of some of his influences.

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Science with Moxie’s Princess Ojiaku: PLoS Blog Pick of the Month this week, on tour with band next week

Princess O bass.jpgI want to get this quick shout-out for local hero, blogger, musician, and all around too-cool Princess Ojiaku before her band, Pink Flag, plays tonight at 10 pm in Durham, NC, at The Broad Street Cafe. From their website, “They’re a regular three girl rhumba dancing on the common ground of a love of early post-punk, riot grrl and top 40 of the 1990s.” Their name pays homage to the 1977 album by Wire (that also includes the song “Three Girl Rhumba”). I like these kids, paying proper respect to their elders.
Some of you may know Princess from having met her at ScienceOnline2010 in January or from her blog Science With Moxie. One of her recent posts, Music Emotions: Chill Edition, was selected as the PLoS Blog Pick of the Month for her review of, “The Rewarding Aspects of Music Listening Are Related to Degree of Emotional Arousal,” by Valorie N. Salimpoor et al. She wrote:

When we get chills or feel intense pleasure when listening to music we enjoy, there is an actual range of bodily responses that go along with that! This seems like common sense, but this is important scientifically because having an actual, quantitative measure of the changes our bodies go through when experiencing good music opens doors to scientists thinking about other questions like, “why is music so unique that it causes actual emotional and physical arousal?”
Usually emotional responses have a definite function, such as joy from eating good food serves to keep us alive, or bonding with friends keeps us happy and connected to our fellow humans. Feeling these emotions helps us by making sure we keep doing the things that are good for our survival and well-being. But music is one of the only things that makes us happy without having a clear beneficial function to our survival as human beings. I think that makes it pretty special and interesting, and that makes me content to consume and play it.

Princess Ojiaku.jpgAnd music she knows as she takes Spring Break away from the lab next week for a short tour with Pink Flag in Wilmington, NC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NYC. Check out their MySpace site for dates and locations.
One last thing on this multi-talented scientist and musician: Princess was featured in a Wall Street Journal article last September on virtual internships. Typically wired, Princess found out about the internship via Twitter:

Princess Ojiaku, a graduate student studying biology at North Carolina Central University, wants to work in science policy. In July, she began a virtual internship of up to six months with Scientists & Engineers for America in Washington, D.C. She learned about the internship on Twitter, where she was following updates for the nonprofit group, which promotes awareness of science and technology issues to policy makers.
As part of her internship, Ms. Ojiaku spends 15 minutes to an hour each night tracking news articles, ads and poll results for this year’s Virginia gubernatorial election, one of the elections the group is following. She posts updates on the group’s Web site, including YouTube videos, campaign ads and summaries of the candidates’ positions on science-related issues.
Ms. Ojiaku, who is considering being a lawmaker or policy adviser, says the internship has helped her learn about the legislative process and key players in Congress, without driving eight hours round-trip to Washington. “I’m getting an inside view,” says the 25-year-old, who juggles the internship with classes and work as a graduate assistant in a university lab.

Damn. I’m tired just reading about everything she’s doing.
Have a great show tonight and safe travels on your Northeast tour!
Readers can follow Princess O on Twitter @artfulaction, on her blog Science with Moxie, and at her band’s MySpace or ReverbNation sites.

Tsuken gets his Ash Customworks guitar

The Australian psychiatrist, musician, amateur astronomer, daddy, and blogger Tsuken just sent out word that his custom electric guitar has arrived from New Zealand luthier, Adrian Hamilton, at Ash Custom Works in Auckland.
At his blog, Music, Medicine, and the Mind, our giddy colleague writes:

Oh. Baby. Yeah. I’m here today to tell you: there is nothing – nothing – like a custom guitar. No way will a production instrument compare. To illustrate, I will describe the guitar I have just collected.
This is truly a fantastic instrument; I can hardly keep my hands off it. It plays like a dream, and the tones it produces are fantastic. It looks awesome, and is mine – all mine. Everything about it is how and what I wanted. It’s not the product of corporate compromise, or appeal to the lowest common denominator; the good stuff isn’t kind of “averaged out”. The care and attention to detail is something that of course doesn’t happen in a mass-produced instrument, and it really does make a difference.

I won’t bother explaining – I can’t. In fact, I’d need all of Mission Control in Houston to know how this thing works. The guitar is so advanced, his blogpost is dated tomorrow (heh).
If you are a player, I just recommend that you go to his post and read about the process and see a video of him playing. And, yes, he can play.

More of The Knack

Following this weekend’s loss of musician Doug Fieger, I’m going through some YouTube vids and found two of my favorites from the less-appreciated 2nd album by The Knack, “But the Little Girls Understand.”
“I Want Ya” was the second cut – just a bunch of simple chords but Bruce Gary’s drumming is even better than I remember.

This is the cover of The Kinks’, “The Hard Way,” that I mentioned on Monday.

And yes, I owned a black and a brown skinny tie – the only way to express individuality in a boys Catholic school uniform in the late 70s and early 80s.

Doug Fieger of The Knack dies at 57 of metastatic lung cancer

Get The Knack.jpgI was an angry 14- or 15-year-old in late 1978 or early 1979 – can’t recall which year, but definitely angry – walking home on a Sunday night after a dishwasher shift at Grandma’s Saucy Apron, a now-defunct Italian restaurant in my hometown where I was working to make money for a Spanish National Honor Society trip to Spain over the upcoming Spring Break.
I turned on 99X (New York City’s WXLO-FM) at 9 pm for a new radio show I enjoyed from KXOA in Sacramento, CA, called The Great American Radio Show with Mike Harrison. It was the near-end of the disco era and this album-oriented rock (AOR) weekly countdown show breathed new life into my burgeoning adolescent music experience with the deeper tracks – not the top 40 hits – from bands like Dire Straits, Van Halen, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
On one particular night, I heard a song called “My Sharona” by an L.A. power pop band called The Knack. A simple but catchy testosterone-raged song of yearning that was deemed sexist then but seems so tame today. And an incredible lead guitar break by Berton Averre that was truncated on the single for pop radio play because it pushed the song length to an untenable four minutes and fifty-four seconds.

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Saturday Serenade: Shawn Mullins “Lullaby” and “Shimmer”

With all the technopop, hip-hop, sampling, and all kind of nonsense in music today, it’s always refreshing to see an incredible songwriter kick total and complete ass with just a glorified wooden box, some steel strings, and her/his own voice.
This is Lake Claire/Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins singing perhaps his biggest hit, “Lullaby (Rock-A-Bye)” in the studio of WRVR in Memphis back in 2006. This is a killer version enhanced further by his great taste in wearing a Colorado state flag T-shirt. Joining him is Clay Cook, another Atlanta musician who was instrumental, as it were, in the launch of John Mayer’s career.
For the music readers here at Terra Sig, Shawn wrote this song in open-G tuning: GGDGBD. The chords themselves are quite easy to play and the resonance of the open strings makes this such a great progression but I can’t for the life of me work out the syncopation – how he does the spoken word thing over that amazes me further.
Shawn is also active in the 12 Bands project to raise funds for pediatric cancer research and family support.

For our readers in the northeastern US, Shawn will be at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia this coming Wednesday the 27th and at City Winery in New York City on Thursday the 28th.
If you want more, here’s a terrific version of “Shimmer” from the Durango Songwriters’ Expo in Colorado Springs last fall. The first 2:30 is a funny story about his first visit to Australia.

Zenph Studios now hiring music analyst and technology coordinator for “re-performances”

Audio documentarian, local hero, and Pharmboy family friend, Richard Ziglar, let us know over the weekend of some employment opportunities for music and tech-minded folks at Zenph Studios in Research Triangle Park.
What is Zenph, you ask? Zenph takes classic piano recordings, often from long-departed performers, dissects them digitally to capture nuances of the live performance, and then “re-performs” them live in a recital hall on legendary Steinways driven by the software. These are *not* digital remasterings but recordings of an actual replaying of the original work.
Listen to this example of a 1926 performance by Alfred Cortot of Chopin’s prelude #3 in G major from the original 78 rpm record and the 2005 re-performance.

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Toaster Sunshine channels Jack White for science and technology outreach

At the recent U2 Academic Conference, I had the opportunity to be at the local premiere of It Might Get Loud, a much-more-than documentary of the electric guitar as told through the careers of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge, and Jack White of The White Stripes and Raconteurs. For the record, I thought that White was going to be totally out of his league – while I wouldn’t call him a “legend” as billed by the producers, I left being incredibly impressed with his background and breadth of abilities.
Related to the movie trailer below, I had an exchange with Toaster Sunshine, a musician and scientist who writes the blog, Mad Scientist, Jr. (Tagline: “Sticking stuff that wasn’t made to be stuck to stuff to stuff that wasn’t made to have stuff stuck to it.”) The trailer opens and closes with Jack White constructing a primitive electric guitar with a weathered wood plank, a bottle, and some wires and such – Toaster knew exactly what it was and told me how to do it myself.

However, as a microcosm of our respective lives (Toaster is still in the lab and I am primarily at my computer), Toaster actually made the instrument yesterday.

For the hackerspace, I send out a lot of emails. Most of them get ignored, but some of them stick. One of the ones that got a reply was a request to tour a museum collection of rare and antique musical instruments that the university’s music school owns. In one of the conversations we had with the outreach director of the collection, we decided that co-hosting an educational event that melds technology and music into a workshop for kids and their parents. This is what is referred to as a Make and Take, participants register, pay a fee for parts, come and get taught how to make stuff, and then get to take it home with them afterwards.

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