Album review – Dinosaur Jr “I Bet On Sky” – November 29, 2012

Album review – Dinosaur Jr “I Bet On Sky” – November 29, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Road Warriors” Huckleberry Binge – November 29, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Road Warriors” Huckleberry Binge – November 29, 2012

Lou Barlow talks Dinosaur Jr, making a new album, and what it’s like to return to Western Mass

Dinosaur Jr (Brantley Gutierrez) 2

Dinosaur Jr (Photo credit: Brantley Gutierrez)

Back in March of 2011, I sat down for a conversation with alternative musician Lou Barlow (see photo, middle) prior to an appearance by his group Sebadoh at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton.

Since that time, Barlow has returned to the Pioneer Valley on several occasions, including an appearance at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton with Dinosaur Jr for a concert benefitting the Whole Children organization of Hadley, and a second appearance at Pearl Street with Sebadoh in August featuring the group touring behind its first newly recorded music in 14 years.

Now fresh off the release of Dinosaur’s newest album, I Bet On Sky, the third record since the original line-up’s reunion in 2005, I caught up again with Barlow as the bassist prepares to join guitarist J Mascis and drummer Murph on stage Wednesday for another show at Pearl Street with a portion of proceeds going to The Common School in Belchertown.

“I love Western Mass,” Barlow said during his call in from Los Angeles. “Every time I return there, the drive up from Westfield, I take [Route] 10 to Northampton. It’s just a lovely ride through the rolling hills to Easthampton and into Northampton. I love the Valley.”

And the Valley has proven to be a fruitful location for Barlow. I Bet On Sky was recorded at Mascis’ home studio in Amherst, and Barlow contributed two songs to the release – the up-tempo rocker “Rude” and the more riff-orientated “Recognition.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a Ramones-style song with Dinosaur,” Barlow says. “A simple song that could’ve also possibly been a Sebadoh song, but I just wanted to do it with Dinosaur and have a J Mascis lead in there. So my song ‘Rude’ I kind of had this idea of a Ramones-style song with a real country melody to it, and I picked together a song on acoustic guitar that seemed to fit that pretty well. I demoed the song here in LA with my friend Dale Crover from the Melvins.”

ibetonsky.textoptions2He adds, “‘Recognition’” was another one that’s on the record that I did. I’m a semi-closeted Queens of the Stone Age fan. I think they’re just a great hard rock band, one of the best modern rock bands, if not the best, and I had a riff that reminded me of Queens of the Stone Age. So I thought that would be really interesting to see if Dinosaur could pull that off.”

If early audience reactions to Dinosaur’s new material are any indication, the band seems to have risen to the challenge. According to Barlow, the group has been playing more new songs on tour than ever before. And set lists have been well-received, with a few surprises from throughout Dinosaur Jr’s career and beyond being played live on stage.

“We’re playing probably the best cross-section of songs from all the different eras of the band,” says Barlow. “We’ve been playing ‘Start Choppin’,’ a big kind of hit from the band in the ‘90s. We’re also doing a Deep Wound song from the very first band J and I had together. We’re spanning the band’s career I think.”

Another treat for fans has been a music video Dinosaur Jr completed for the new track “Watch the Corners.” The treatment for the video was written by the comedy website Funny or Die, and features an appearance by actor Tim Heidecker, who is known for his work on such Adult Swim shows as “Tom Goes to the Mayor” and “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

“If you want to make a video where no one knows how old and ugly the band is, that was the way to do it,” Barlow laughs. “Just throw a bunch of good-looking teenagers in the video, a sort of well-known comedian [Heidecker], and keep the band as low-profile as possible. In that way I think it achieved its goal.”

Watch the video for the new Dinosaur Jr song “Watch the Corners” here:

Still, despite all this focus on new material, Barlow notes that there’s another event on Dinosaur’s calendar that will see the band looking back into its past instead of towards the future. On December 1st, the band will be playing a special show at Terminal 5 in New York City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me. Special guests like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and guitarist Johnny Marr have already been announced as participants in the concert, and Barlow is excited to revisit one of his favorite records.

He says, “It’s going to be cool. It’s my favorite Dinosaur record. Everything really came together for us sound-wise. We’re rehearsing [for the show] in Easthampton, and we’ll throw together some ideas and see how we can make it something unique and special.”

In addition to his upcoming plans with Dinosaur, Barlow also can’t wait to get back into the studio with his other band Sebadoh to follow-up on the material the group recorded for its “Secret EP,” which was sold during stops on its recent summer tour, as well as possibly work on some songs for a solo release.

“[Sebadoh] has a bunch of material that we’re working on,” he says. “We put out an EP earlier this year, and we’re going to do an LP for next year. Solo stuff, I don’t know. It depends. I always have stuff. I just have to sit down and finish it.”

As for any final thoughts he’d like to leave with fans in Western Mass who are thinking about attending the Wednesday show at Pearl Street, Barlow wants to give a shout out to one special person in particular who’s been there from the very beginning.

“I just want to say hi to my mom,” he says. “Hi mom Barlow.”

Dinosaur Jr with opener Hush Arbors, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. $25, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp.

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Album review – Laetitia Sadier “Silencio” – November 23, 2012

Album review – Laetitia Sadier “Silencio” – November 23, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Let It Ride” Foreign Tongues – November 23, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Let It Ride” Foreign Tongues – November 23, 2012

Get your turkey on with a pair of tracks to help celebrate Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving clip artWell, it’s that time of year again – time for tryptophan-induced food comas, marathons of football coverage on TV, and enough Turducken leftovers to last until Christmas. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and here at the Northeast Underground I’m celebrating the only way I know how – with music.

One of the great traditions of this time of year is the appearance of holiday-themed songs on the radio and in homes across the country. Yes, it’s true some stations have already started their around-the-clock playing of Christmas tunes. Hell, I even heard such material cropping up weeks ago. But for me Thanksgiving is best represented by two songs.

First, appearing in 1993 on the album They’re All Gonna Laugh At You!, the aptly-titled “The Thanksgiving Song” by Adam Sandler brings back memories of watching classic Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Chris Farley, Chris Rock, David Spade and the rest of the show’s early ‘90s cast. While also including offbeat references to Betty Grable and Sammy Davis Jr.’s eye, the track can also inspire a hankering for turkey no matter when it’s played.

Watch Adam Sandler perform “The Thanksgiving Song” with Kevin Nealon on an episode of Saturday Night Live here.

Next on my list of required Thanksgiving listening, the 1967 musical monologue that is “Alice’s Restaurant” by folk singer Arlo Guthrie. For over 18 minutes listeners are treated to a rambling account of a now infamous trash dump performed on Thanksgiving Day in Massachusetts, and the unexpected consequences that follow the incident. How such a song caught on as an annual holiday tradition I will never know. But I can honestly attest that I had never heard of such things as “Mother rapers, Father stabbers, and Father rapers” until listening to the track at a young age. All ensuing psychiatry bills are headed your way Arlo.

Listen to Arlo Guthrie’s classic Thanksgiving song “Alice’s Restaurant” here:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

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Florence singer Lisa Palumbo washes over listeners with music on new album River

Lisa Palumbo 1 - Greg Eramo

Lisa Palumbo (Photo credit: Greg Eramo)

For Florence resident and realtor Lisa Palumbo, music has always been a part of her life.

From growing up with a mother, Violet, who is an accomplished classical pianist and retired music teacher, to even teaching middle and high school choruses herself for 10 years in public schools throughout the northeast, Palumbo has always kept her toes in musical waters even if she has never quite gone for a complete dip.

“I was encouraged to pursue music from an early age,” she says. “Growing up and through college, I studied clarinet and played in concert bands and orchestras. I play piano, acoustic guitar and know my way around the flute a little bit. [But] I am so busy with my job and being a mother that I have limited time to write and play.”

That all might be changing soon as the talented singer and songwriter hopes to build off the release of her debut solo album River, which she recorded with local recording engineer Mark Alan Miller and a collection of band members perhaps best known in the Pioneer Valley for performing at several of the annual Transperformance festivals in Look Park as “Page Six.”

“The band members who play on my CD are my husband, Greg Eramo on drums, Tom Sturm who plays acoustic guitar, and piano on one tune, and sings harmony, Conor Dowling on bass and back-up vocals, Lesley Smith on vocals and Russell Chudnofsky on electric guitar and slide,” Palumbo says. “I have been so lucky to play with this group of friends. They take my songs, add their part and make them into something so much more than what they were.”

Watch Palumbo help portray Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the other members of Page Six at the 2009 Transperformance in Look Park here:

With tracks like the bouncy “Mourning Song,” the piano-based “Water” and the radio-ready title cut, River plays like a mature and relaxed effort from a musician who has spent years honing her craft before taking the time to put her songs to tape. Though previous stints in projects like Lisaband and Cerillos Road saw Palumbo as the frontwoman, she sounds even more confident as the driving force behind the new disc. Many numbers feature very hummable melodies, and lyrically the material seems to spring from events in Palumbo’s own day-to-day life as well as influences like the texts of “The Sacred Harp,” which she cites as part of the inspiration behind the song “Rise.”

She says, “It works in two different ways for me. Sometimes, pieces of melodies and words are already in my mind. They swirl around and come back to me. Usually, the words express a feeling that I am working through on a subconscious or sometimes, conscious level. Then, I have to choose to sit down, find the time and write the rest of the song around what can seem like a preexisting melody. Other times, I strike a chord and just sing and listen to what comes out, switching up chords and melodies until I hear something interesting, something that expresses an emotion. If a melody makes me cry or laugh, I get the sense that I have hit on something.”

Though Palumbo has no immediate plans to play any shows in the area to promote her record, she is currently working on new songs and hopes to record another album as soon as she has 10 or 11 tracks finished.

“I have decided that it is worthwhile to keep making recordings,” she says. “Like hanging pictures in a gallery.”

“River” is available for purchase via http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lisapalumbo. Read a review of the record here.

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