Blogger Nolan Whyte returns with new Ultimate-Guitar tale – “I Sing When You Shut Up.”

Nolan Whyte

Nolan Whyte

Okay, this post is about seven weeks too late. But I’m happy to announce that one of my favorite music fiction authors has returned to action. Writer, blogger and self-proclaimed rock legend Nolan Whyte is back on with a new weekly series entitled “I Sing When You Shut Up.” Check out part one of the new saga here, and be sure to check back every Friday for additional chapters.

First debuting on the popular music-instruction site back on February 17, the story (so far) focuses on the troubles and trials of music writer Nate and his attempts to interact professionally with both his ex-girlfriend (who now plays in a band) and his upstairs aging rock star neighbor Terry (who many Whyte fans will recognize from his role in the previous serial novel “Comeback Road”).

While Whyte previously announced in January 2011 that he would be taking an extended hiatus from writing about music to focus on other projects, his break thankfully appears to be over. And judging from the wealth of positive reader reactions to his new work, the onset of fresh material couldn’t have come soon enough. “I Sing When You Shut Up” is after all the fourth complete novel Whyte has authored for, and many fans (this writer included) eagerly await the chapters to come.

For more information on Nolan Whyte please visit his other blogs at and

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Album review – Little Wings “Made It Rain” – March 29, 2012

Album review – Little Wings “Made It Rain” – March 29, 2012


“Behind the Beat: Travelin’ Band” The Sun Parade – March 29, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Travelin’ Band” The Sun Parade – March 29, 2012

Reflections on an album review: Sharon Van Etten’s “Tramp”

Sharon-Van-Etten-Tramp-608x608Several weeks ago, my review of the new Sharon Van Etten album Tramp was published in the Valley Advocate.

While balanced, my take on the record ended on a slightly negative note by brashly hoping for happier times in Van Etten’s future so listeners wouldn’t again be forced to endure “45-plus minutes of someone else’s relationship blues.” Yet, even as I wrote those words and clicked submit, I had misgivings. Odder still, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt the way I did.

As a music critic, one often has to juggle personal taste against the challenge of describing a record’s sound to an audience (read this great 2009 column by Advocate writer James Heflin for a better taste of such a conundrum). Try as I might I am still not a hip-hop or rap fan. However, if faced with the newest release by Kanye West or Eminem, I like to think I would do my best to dissect the music I heard in a strictly professional manner. And perhaps that is exactly why my opinion of Tramp confounded me to my core.

Van Etten’s music typically is branded under the large umbrella of indie rock, a genre I consider firmly in my wheelhouse. Also, I was very much a fan of the singer/ songwriter’s previous work Epic, which I even recommended to friends as “real music” and “full of spirit.” Then there was the simple fact that during her last stop in the Paradise City I was able to catch Van Etten live on stage. Though I attended the concert alone, I was moved by the experience and the sense of camaraderie that radiated between the band and the audience. So why then should I be so averse to this new album?

The simple answer is disappointment. Having become such a big fan of her previous work, I was unprepared for the sound Van Etten chose now to employ, and frustrated by this change in direction, my critical eye became clouded. Or so I thought.

Watch the official video for the song “Leonard” by Sharon Van Etten from the album Tramp here:

Returning once again to Tramp over the past few days, I am still not won over. Even the more notable tracks like “Warsaw,” “Serpents” and “Leonard” do little to distinguish themselves from the pack. Instead, the whole record almost plays like one long suite of songs indifferent to changes in mood or style. There are climaxes here and there, but no immediate moments. If one is concerned with buying albums strictly for the hits or tunes to play over and over again, then this disc is just what I thought it was upon hearing it for the first time – a disappointment.

Still, there are charms to be culled from Tramp’s languid beauty. As a meditation on the pains and joys of love or relationships in general, some might even call it a triumph. But not me. I will continue to be disappointed and confused. However, it’s not all bad. I still have plenty of more records to listen to tomorrow.

For more information on Sharon Van Etten or to see future show dates please visit

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“Behind the Beat: Delicate and Powerful” Sarah Smith – March 22, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Delicate and Powerful” Sarah Smith – March 22, 2012

Album review – Howler “America Give Up” – March 22, 2012

Album review – Howler “America Give Up” – March 22, 2012

Ragin’ against the machine: Valley rockers Doug Ratner and the Watchmen banned from returning to “Mass Appeal”

Doug Ratner and the Watchmen (Photo credit: Mary-Hope Beaulac)

Doug Ratner and the Watchmen (Photo credit: Mary-Hope Beaulac)

According to valley musician Doug Ratner, everything initially appeared fine during his band’s March 13 appearance on the locally produced television show “Mass Appeal.”

His group Doug Ratner and the Watchmen had just finished performing the single “Bomb in the Backseat” from the band’s new record Lessons Well Learned as the first half of a scheduled two-song set on the program, and were warming up for the next number when suddenly the gathered musicians received some unexpected news.

“There was a glimpse of one of the hosts getting something on her earpiece, sort of making a face and then saying when we were getting ready to play again, ‘Oh guys, we don’t have time for another song. Sorry about that,’” Ratner says.

The reason for the abridged set was apparently WWLP’s negative reaction to its first half. You see, Doug Ratner and the Watchmen did more than just perform the song “Bomb in the Backseat” on “Mass Appeal.” The group punctuated the track by smashing a laptop live on air during one of the song’s instrumental sections. And that incident, coupled with station higher-up’s alleged interpretation of the song as negative in content and message, was more than enough to earn the erstwhile rockers a ban from ever returning to “Mass Appeal” in the future, or so the band claims.

“We’re banned from the show,” says Ratner. “Clearly they were very offended. They didn’t like the references to the bombs, and to the explosions, and the negativity that it [the song] was implying. They won’t release the footage online, and our fans are pretty upset with the whole thing.”

When reached for comment the supervisor for the “Mass Appeal” program professed ignorance of such a ban on Doug Ratner and the Watchmen actually being in place, but a quick perusal of the show’s website proves that all evidence of the band’s performance has been wiped clean. In fact, the only proof of the incident’s existence is a bootleg video on Doug Ratner’s YouTube page which shows the performance in its entirety.

Watch video of the banned Mass Appeal performance by Doug Ratner and the Watchmen here:

Ratner says, “When we decided to record the song ‘Bomb in the Backseat’ and make it a single off of our new release, we kind of knew that it might cause some controversy because history is plagued with people not looking deep enough into lyrics and thinking that something stands for something that it isn’t. Look at a song like ‘Jeremy’ by Pearl Jam. Someone who is not a music fan might take that the wrong way. [They] might think this is a rock band condoning violence and singing about an aggressive act. Metallica has been accused of that. And so many bands throughout the ages have been accused of condoning violence and promoting aggression and things like that, but in reality that is not what music is supposed to do. It’s just making a statement about society.”

Oddly enough, the statement being illustrated by Doug Ratner and the Watchmen during their performance on “Mass Appeal” was a statement about the extremes to which society has become dependent on technology and the ramifications such an attachment could result in.

“The funniest thing that cracks me up is that right before we played there was gentleman on the show getting interviewed about Google’s new privacy policies, how invasive they are, and how, technologically speaking, they’re diving into dangerous territory because they’re getting into the privacy of the user,” says Ratner. “So, what better song than ‘Bomb in the Backseat’ to state the fact that technology might be going too far with its ability to dive into the human psyche? Then we play the song, and they don’t like it.”

Watch the official video for “Bomb in the Backseat” by Doug Ratner and the Watchmen here:

While Ratner professes he is open to any communication from WWLP about returning to “Mass Appeal” one day, he maintains that it was never his intention to offend anyone in the first place.

He says, “They could have told us no. They could’ve told us, ‘Don’t play it,’ because I was singing it, I was warming up, we were going through it. They easily could’ve said, ‘Do something else.’ But they didn’t. So we played the song. And during the song I did my little ditty with the laptop, and I didn’t go crazy on it. But I threw it on the ground and I smashed it. I didn’t touch any of their equipment. I didn’t harm anything of theirs.”

“I guess the biggest thing that we want people to take away from this is it’s almost like the revival of rock ‘n’ roll,” he continues. “In the ‘70s, the ‘60s and even in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you had rock bands making statements with their music. Rage Against the Machine. That is the perfect band. God, every song they had was a message right to the viewer. And that is sort of lacking right now in rock music, and even in mainstream music. We want people to realize that we’re not afraid to do this. We’re not afraid to take chances. We’re not afraid to write a song called ‘Bomb in the Backseat’ that makes statements about society. If people get very offended, we’re sorry that you get offended. We’re sorry if it’s controversial. But it’s reality. And if you don’t state things about reality then people are just going to be blind to it and ignore it for the rest of their lives.”

Remember: True rock ‘n’ roll never dies. And neither, seemingly, does the censorship of rock bands and musicians. To show your support for Doug Ratner and the Watchmen please visit the band’s Facebook page at and leave a comment. Also, if you wish to contact “Mass Appeal” or WWLP to voice your opinion on the situation please visit for further information or email the station at

For more information on Doug Ratner and the Watchmen or to see future tour dates please visit

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