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Archive for July, 2010

Baltimore-based boogie-woogie-bar-band bombast, raucous, rowdy ‘n’ rough, unhinged, unbridled swagger.


J Roddy Walston and the Business Official Website

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[Futurebirds perform on Sessions at American Songwriter magazine]

If you need a fresh psych-country fix, go grab Hampton’s Lullaby, the newest release from the Athens, GA-based Futurebirds, replete with warm pedal steel, banjo, and electric guitars that jangle and chime as much as they crunch through dirty, frenzied solos.  Their dusty, reverb-soaked sound recalls their southern kin, My Morning Jacket, thrown in a blender with Neil Young, Gram Parsons, and the rough yelp of Kings of Leon circa 2003.

Recommended tracks: the uplifting, anthemic “APO,” the glistening slide work and shuddering tremolo of “Battle for Rome,” and the gorgeous, airy harmonies, squalling guitar and thundering drums of “Happy Animals.”  It’s only appropriate that these guys are on a label called Autumn Tone.  Hear more and check out some of their SXSW performances over at MySpace.

Local/regional readers: their late summer/fall tour will stop at Tea Bazaar in Charlottesville, VA on October 15th and at DC9 in Washington, D.C. on October 16th.  Hope to see you there.

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[image from Miniature Tigers on MySpace]

I’ve been hearing some chatter about the Miniature Tigers, the Southwest transplants to the Brooklyn indie community who are generating some buzz with their newest release, Fortress.  While I can’t say I subscribe to the idea that the world needs another band named after an animal, I will say that the world could always use more sunny, strummy pop songs like those heard on the band’s second record, out this week on Modern Art.

The new record is streaming this week over at Spinner, and Stereogum has  quirky single “Gold Skull” available for download.  Driven by squeaky synths, dreamy harmonies and a humming bassline, “Gold Skull” is a nice slice of pop, easily digestible in its two-and-a-half minute runtime.  It finds a nice companion in “Bullfighter Jacket,” which recalls the catchy chant of the Flaming Lips’ “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” before bursting open with chugging acoustic guitar and rolling percussion.

Other highlights: the choppy acoustic guitar, pounding lower-register piano and McCartney bounce of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Mountain Troll,” the folk-fingerpicking of “Dark Tower” on a bed of bells and piano and softly-sung vocals bathed in echo; and “Lolita,” which opens with a sparkling, classical-like piano intro and explodes into anthemic breakdowns with a Shins-like snap.

For local readers, the Tigers will creep into the area on August 17 at The Black Cat in D.C. and on August 18 at the Sonar Club Stage in Baltimore.  More tour dates and tunes are available over at the Miniature Tigers MySpace page.

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I really don’t have anything else to say other than I’m ecstatic about this upcoming release.  Mavis Staples, one of the most inspiring gospel/soul-belters of the last 40 years, is a phenomenal talent, and with Jeff Tweedy in the producer’s chair, You Are Not Alone is sure to win her a swarm of new fans.

Staples said that Tweedy, prior to their working together, sent her a copy of Sky Blue Sky. I hear it.  And so much more.  September 14th can’t get here fast enough.  I hope there’s a vinyl pressing.

Learn more about You Are Not Alone over at ANTI-Records.

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Continuing the baseball thread for a moment, my wife and I joined our Virginia-based relatives last month to catch my hometown Kansas City Royals here in Washington when they arrived to take on the Nats for a series of inter-league play.  Sitting in a company suite (not my company), we had a terrific view of the gorgeous stadium and its expansive reach.  We (us Midwesterners) also probably represented 1/6 of people in the whole complex sporting blue.

We chowed on burgers, peanuts (no cracker jacks), beer and tried our first half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl, which I must say wasn’t as good as many of my new Washingtonian friends built it up to be – apparently the half-smoke dogs served at the stadium don’t quite measure up to those served at the U Street location.  I’m willing to give it another try.

My Nats-loving cousin and I talked plenty of [friendly] trash throughout the game, including the rain delay, and the home team eventually came out the victor, although the boys in blue put up a few ninth inning runs and kept it interesting.  Despite the loss, this ballpark hang – like most others – was yet another top-notch experience.

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Recalling Camden Yards

After living in Maryland for nearly a year, I finally made it to Camden Yards last month for my birthday to watch the Orioles take on the Mets.  In my essay “Bringing the Heat” from last year, I professed my love for the game and recalled some of my best memories of growing up playing baseball.

Visiting this tremendous ballpark reinforced what I love so much about the game. After a pre-game polish sausage and a few cold ones at Pickle’s, my companions and I nabbed several day-of $10 tickets and picked out a sun-drenched spot in the left field section.

Although we all only lasted about 30 minutes or so before retreating into the shade, we happily sat, sweat and downed our share of salty snacks while taking in the sights, smells and sounds that can only be imbibed at a ballpark: watching the slivers of shade creep around the field as the sun’s angle over the stadium slowly changes over the course of an afternoon; fried goodness wafting through the air; the sweet cracking connection of bat and ball while the crowd’s collective gasp echoes through the stands like the last pulsing notes of the organ.

Is it going out out of the park?  Or will it come up short on the warning track?  The anticipation swells in your chest while your eyes track the tiny white orb sailing through the air.

We use our senses every day, but they’re stimulated in a certain way at a ballpark that can’t be replicated anywhere else.  It’s a beautiful thing.

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I’ve Got Beef.

[photograph by Brian Leatart at Bon Appétit]

An AP article I spotted in The Washington Post a few weeks ago gave Washington, D.C. the title of a “better burger” capital.  I’ll admit I haven’t sampled enough of the area’s burger offerings, but being a Midwestern transplant, my deepest loyalties lie with the establishments 1300 miles west of here.  I would like to get my hands on a Strasburger though.

Next to the wondrous Andouille and Beef Burgers I’ve feasted on in a particular backyard in Fairway, KS., perhaps my greatest burger eating experience came 120 miles west of there at So Long Saloon.

With a menu boasting everything from a chipotle raspberry black bean dip and deep-fried fish tacos to burgers slapped with fried eggs and whole green chiles and smoky chicken sandwiches laced with tortilla ribbons and guacamole, the corner joint on Moro Street in Manhattan, KS is one spot I’ve missed since my migration out east, much more so than others.

Several years back, a friend and I both took on the Saloon’s Cowboy Challenge and succeeded.  How I managed to gnaw my way through 10 layers of beef, fried eggs, cheese, bacon and Texas Toast – and a double-order of hot, crispy fries – is beyond me.  Maybe it was the PBR that helped wash it down – at the time, that’s all the Saloon had on tap.  But it was all so good.

The only beef I have with the experience is the $16.25 that I still had to, um, fork over for the meal.  A t-shirt is all I had to show for my gluttonous adventure – but fitting into a prize tee after eating that much beef is near impossible.  If you’re looking to try your hand at an upscale burger that you can make in your own backyard, I’d recommend the one pictured at the top of this post, one of my absolute favorites.

Go crazy with andouille sausage, chopped pecans, and okra.

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