American River College
Tuesday, November 18, 12:15pm – 1:15pm
Location: Raef 160
Facilitator: Michael Spurgeon
Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies
Hosted by ARC English Professor Michael Spurgeon, Christian Kiefer and J. Matthew Gerken will discuss their new triple CD project: Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies, an indie rock romp through American history. They’ll also perform a few of songs from this project live with help from drummer (and Presidential trivia maniac) Chip Conrad. Nick Miller, in a feature article on the group in the September 4, 2008, Sacramento News and Review writes the project is “dynamic, both stylistically and thematically, exploring ambient, prog and funk while portending a darker view of U.S. history.”
This activity meets ARC goals 1, 4 and state PD guideline B.
Hey! Jefferson, Matthew, & I spoke on Capitol Public Radio (Sacramento) show Insight today with the great David Watts Barton at the helm. Listen in as we talk about all manner of Presidential songwriting madness (including clips and discussion of Ford, Jackson, L.B. Johnson, and Washington).
Here’s the link for the archive. We’re on second, after the super smart scientists discussing the Hadron Collider. Yeow.
Link to Insight’s homepage here, in the advent that the link above is not working. Thanks to Mark Jones, Jen Picard, and David Watts Barton (and the absent Jeffrey Callison) for having us on air. Go team!
What’s this? There’s actually a tour date? Indeed, and what a tour date:
For one night only in the wee town of Sacramento, CA, I’ll be joined by Jefferson Pitcher (all the way from NY via Ontario) and J. Matthew Gerken for an evening of songs from Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies. & we’ll have copies of the thing for sale. FINALLY.
September 13, 2008 + 9:00pm + $3 (but bring $33 so you can buy the thing too)
Fox & Goose Pub + 1001 R Street + Sacramento, CA 95811
Christian Kiefer + Jefferson Pitcher + J. Matthew Gerken
I’m on first (on account of Chip, my drummer, having a double booking), then Jefferson (who you may never see again in Sacramento as he’s moved to Flesherton, Ontario, where he will likely live forever), and then Matthew with his crack team of sonic beasts Nice Monster. Oh! Hell yes! Get there at 9pm if you want to hear the CK experience. I’m starting with Washington and moving on from there.
Pitchfork ran their review of From the Great American Songbook today and gave it a staggering 8.5 (which in ‘Fork terms is really really great).
Dig it. It’s a good record too.
Meanwhile, I’m fomenting a new music/art project, albeit somewhat hesitantly as I wonder if I’m biting off more than I can actually complete. The Presidents project was fun and the end result is staggeringly beautiful, but it really took a lot out of me getting that thing done. I’m thinking that I might not want to take on something like that again for a while.
Like I just told a friend on the phone: It’s a bit like giving birth; one has to forget the pain before one wants to birth more babies (or at least that’s what my wife tells me).
From the pile...
Some of the pile on my desk includes:
Davy Graham, Folk, Blues & Beyond
Geoff Muldaur, Sleepy Man Blues
Calypso Pioneers, 1912-1937
Bob Dylan, Artist’s Choice (from Starbucks but MAN is it gooood!)
Sonic Youth, Murray Street
Loren Connors, As Roses Bow: Collected Airs 1992-2002
Gregory Orr, Burning the Empty Nests
Seek them all out fair traveler.
I’ve been writing some reviews for BLURT, a new on-line mag from the guys who used to run Harp, a magazine that I liked quite a bit. In any case, here are a couple that have recently appeared, with more in the queue and waiting to arrive in cyber-print:
Richie Havens, Nobody Left to Crown
Milton Cross, Light in the West
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why this is all so quiet in Crowtown, take a quick walk over to the Of Great and Mortal Men site as that’s where all the action is happening these days.
I have word from the trio that Silver Darling’s debut album “Your Ghost Fits My Skin” will appear soon on the scene, with a CD release show in Sept. That’s good news as it’s a good (dare I say great?) album, produced by yours truly. Their a moody country rock act in most ways, but I pushed them a bit more toward the Black Sabbath side of things with much help from drummer Chip Conrad and keyboardist Scott Leftridge. Resulting album will kill you it’s so good. Great songs, recorded with fantastic clarity by Bryce Gonzales. Good for all.
Below is a Polaroid I snapped. I think the track they were recording was actually “My Secret Wife,” so it’s mislabeled, but in the best way. View is through the control room glass at the Hangar in Sacramento. On the far left is guitarist Josh rocking it.
Silver Darling in action (somewhere)
I’ve spent the last week or so working on the Silver Darling album. It really turned out to be a great record. I’m at the Hangar now (the studio I use for such projects) and am working on the mixing. If you’ve not heard the band before, do check them out.
Meanwhile, as you likely already know, the Presidents project is doing it’s big roll out and around thing. Coolness there for all parties involved.
Apparently I’m having an inarticulate day. Best stop whilst ahead.
Nice notice from The Sydney Morning Herald, June 16:
Drawing on traditional American folk music, from Stephen Foster to blues, from ragtime to working men’s songs (all conveniently now out of copyright), Tom Carter and Christian Kiefer have gone straight to the source. But how they’ve approached the songs is anything but straight and the results can be both strikingly evocative and at times skin-crawlingly disturbing. This is the art house refracting a vision long thought to have been fixed in our culture. (Aided too by odd and oddly entertaining liner notes.)
Carter and Kiefer’s version of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer is something like the Necks playing Sonic Youth: sparse, built from almost nothing, in what seems like made-up-on-the-spot intersections before a squalling, pressing-on-the-bruise climax where for the first time the well-known piano figure emerges from within. By contrast, Camptown Races is reflective and pastoral while the high-country standard Will The Circle Be Unbroken is a slowly unwinding mix of sounds, which suggests squeezebox attached to a delay pedal and a collapsing church organ playing through a guitar amp.
Vocals appear periodically but the strength of this album is the sounds extracted from various instruments, sometimes natural, sometimes distorted and disguised, which put these songs of death, faith, murder and bastard entertainment in new contexts.