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Archive for the ‘Marah’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MARAH-Kids in Philly (2000).

After reading about Marah in Hornby’s post I decided to listen to their Kids in Philly CD.

I totally get why Hornby likes them and I can absolutely imagine what their live show would be like.

They’ve absolutely got the whole Springsteen vibe–good time rock and roll with close harmony backing vocals.

There’s a harmonica instead of a saxophone (I prefer the harmonica) on “Faraway You: and there’s even xylophones like on Springsteen’s Christmas song on “Point Breeze.”  The horns (and the chanted “come ons”) do appear, this time on “Christian Street.”

“It’s Only Money Tyrone” slows things down with slinky groove and a sound that’s less bar-band.  “My Heart is the Bums on the Street” feels like a quieter Springsteen song–classic rock with gentle vibes and a clap-along feel.  Although I suppose like he sounds more like Craig Finn than Bruce Springsteen.

“The Catfisherman” is a stomping honky-tonking song with an Aerosmith vibe.  “Round Eye Blues” slows things down with a simple melody (in the vein of U2s “With or Without You”).  It also recycles all kinds of early rock n roll lyrics into its own melody, which is fun.

“From the Skyline” has a great guitar riff/solo running through it with a bit more distortion thrown on top.  “Barstool Boys” sounds a bit like The Replacements’ “Here Comes A Regular” only with banjo.  “The History of Where Someone Has Been Killed” adds some acoustic guitar while “This Town” keeps the mood with a quiet album ender.

I am genuinely surprised that this band wasn’t more popular.  They would seem to push a lot of classic classic-rock buttons.

I only wish I had some idea why they chose that name.

[READ: June 15, 2019] “Rock of Ages”

After reading Hornby’s 2000 review of Marah I found this 2004 review of Marah.  Since I had seen that they later did a tour together, I was curious what this lengthy review would be about.  It’s about seeing Marah live and lamenting that a band this good should have to resort to “passing the hat” for tips.

He says

Philadelphia rock ‘n’ roll band Marah is halfway through a typically ferocious, chaotic and inspirational set.  My friends and I have the best seats in the house, a couple of feet away from Marah’s frontmen, Serge and Dave Bielanko.  The show ends triumphantly, as Marah shows tend to do, with Serge lying on the floor amid the feet of his public, wailing away on his harmonica.

What I love about them is that I can hear everything I ever loved about rock music in their recordings and in their live shows … because they are unafraid of showing where their music comes from, and unafraid of the comparisons that will ensue

This show was at a small pub in England.  Which seems a shame since a few months earlier (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE EARLE-Transcendental Blues (2000).

I’ve never really liked Steve Earle’s music.  For some reason I always thought of him as a kind of outlaw country.  But the review of this album from Hornby made me want to check it out.  And while there are certainly country music trappings, this is a solid fun rock record.

Earle’s voice isn’t what I thought it was (or wasn’t was it is now)–it’s much softer and much higher than I imagined.  So what’s going on on this record?

“Transcendental Blues” has a great distorted guitar riff running opposite the throbbing bassline.  Earle’s voice sounds like a cross between Dylan, Petty and (anachronistically) Kevin Devine.  “Everyone’s in Love with You” sounds like a rocking R.E.M. song with a very 90s vocal style and even a reverse guitar solo.

“Another Town” sounds like a song that I’ve heard a million times (but I haven’t).  It’s a simple pop song with a crazy catchy melody and it’s barely 2 minutes long.  “I Can’t Wait” slows things down a bit with a real poppy Matthew Sweet-vibe.

“The Boy Who Never Cried” is a dirgey song, slow and story telling.  It has strings with a slightly Middle Eastern feel.

“Steve’s Last Ramble” is a stompin’ song with full on harmonica introduction (which makes it seem even more Dylan).  “The Galway Girl” is a mandolin-based stomper while “Lonelier Than This” is a quiet, sad song.

“Wherever I Go” is only two minutes ling and has a country feel, even though it’s not that different from the other songs.  The guitar solo is totally early Beatles, but the lyrics are pure country:

I could drink corn whisky ’til my brain goes soft
I could run this highway ’til my wheels come off

The harmonica returns on “When I Fall” the start of a trifecta of country songs.  His drawl really comes out here, possibly because of his duet partner (Steve Earle’s sister, Stacey Earle, a country singer in her own right).  It’s a shame this song is so long as it’s my least favorite.

“I Don’t Want to Lose You Yet” is a simple country pop song (the twang remains).  Although “Halo ‘Round the Moon” is a softer song with a gentle shuffle beat.  “Until the Day I Die” continues with the old school country/bluegrass style with a big ol’ banjo intro, close harmonies, and a fiddle solo.  You can imagine a jug solo, hand clappin’ and a hoedown in a live version.

“All of My Life” rocks out again, with some loud bass and distorted guitar, which I desperately needed after those last few songs.

The disc ends with “Over Yonder (Jonathan’ Song).”  From songfacts:

This song is about the execution-by injection of Jonathan Nobles, which Steve Earle witnessed. The alt-country star told Mojo magazine May 2008 about it: “I don’t recommend it. I befriended Jonathan for several months beforehand. Then I saw the execution and later brought his remains to England for burial according to his wishes. But the execution was incredibly toxic to me. It’s hard. You can’t believe it’s really happening. I remember afterwards I thought, ‘did I black out and miss it? I let Jonathan down.’ Then the blank filled in… it was the shock… I realized exactly what I’d seen. I can’t see myself doing it again. I’ve absorbed enough death. And I still work hard against the death penalty.”

So I’m still on the fence about Earle, but I did enjoy this record much more than I thought I would.  Thanks, Nick.

[READ: June 15, 2019] “Alternative Earle”

I am aware of Steve Earle and I really like his lyrics.  I don’t love his music though–too much country in the alt-country.  Although Hornby describes it as Nashville folk and rock n roll hybrid.  But man, his lyrics are great.  I wish I liked him a bit more especially after reading this review.

Hornby is a passionate music lover and anything he likes sounds great when he describes it.

The album in question is Transcendental Blues (and in the photo Earle’s beard is much shorter than it is now).  As of 2000, Earle has been married and divorced six times (to five women–4 and 6 were the same person). In 1994 he was imprisoned for possessing narcotics.  This sentence ending years of heroin addiction. (more…)

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