The Uniquely Weekly Roots Music RPM7

Photo by Sandy Dyas

Welcome to the front door of Roots Music and Random Thoughts where each week (or whenever I feel like it) I curate, aggregate and update news, events, images, ideas, sounds, odds and ends. Consider my effort simply a speck of dust on the highway; just a nice spot to pause for a few moments to take a break from the surf.

New Music Rising: Kaia Kater Brings Me Back From A Hype-Induced Coma.

A few days ago I posted my every other week Broadside column on the No Depression website, and I titled it Damn the Hype, Praise the Boxer. While you may feel free to click here to read it in its entirety, let me share the first paragraph here:. 

If I was a baseball player you might say I’m in a slump. I feel as though, when I’m up to bat, I swing at air. If a ball speeds toward me, I reach up to catch but it just sails through my glove. I could grow a beard, shave it off, lower my right shoulder, raise my left, shuffle my feet, or tug at my ears. No change. And that’s probably the best analogy I can come up with, as to my current relationship with new music.

I went on to discuss how frustrated I’ve become lately in searching for new music because the ‘roots music’ media seem to focus on the same few artists every couple of weeks, and the hype and over-exposure is just turning me off. That all changed yesterday when in my mailbox I discovered a package from my friends at Hearth Music, and inside was the new album from an African-Canadian woman named Kaia Kater and it has brought me back to the future from my recent immersion of ripped jazz 78s of the thirties. 

Before getting to the new album, here’s two videos that Kaia did for the Folk Alley Sessions last July to give you a quick sampling of her talent.

Despite already being written about with great enthusiasm on several notable websites, I think I might actually be ahead of the tsunami that will surely follow this singer, songwriter and clawhammer banjoist as more people discover Nine Pin. If like myself you missed her debut full-length album Sorrow Bound from 2014, I’ve pulled this bio information from her site to get you up to speed:

One of the youngest performers in the Canadian old-time and folk communities, this 22 year-old plays the banjo, sings, and has her own unique take on Appalachian and Canadian folk music. Originally from Québec and now based in Toronto, Kaia spends extensive time in West Virginia, where she is pursuing studies in Appalachian music and culture.  

Her songs on the new album are fueled by her rich low tenor vocals, jazz-influenced instrumentation, and beautifully understated banjo, and they’ve got as much in common with Kendrick Lamar right now as they do with Pete Seeger.

Nine Pin is a beautifully recorded concept album released in a world afflicted with ‘one-song attention span disorder’ and it was recorded in just one day. Augmenting her vocal, banjo and piano, producer Chris Bartos contributed electric guitar, 5-string fiddle and moog, while bringing in an ensemble that added in trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion and upright bass. Mixing up old time music with current world topics, here’s a song from the album about the Black Lives Matter moment, called ‘Rising Down’.

While Kaia was able to receive funding for Nine Pin from several sources, including the Canadian government who seem to value  supporting the arts more so than their southern neighbor, she’s also been running a crowd sourcing effort on Pledge Music. As I write this she’s at 118% of her goal, but it’s not too late to help out. Here’s a great overview of not only the album, but it’s an opportunity to get to know this amazing woman who will be graduating from college this month and is on the verge of breaking out in the roots music community and beyond. Perhaps too late for this summer’s festival circuit, I anticipate a very busy year ahead.

Every Picture Tells a Story.

The image at the top of this page was shot by my long-time-we’ve-only-met-online friend Sandy Dyas, who is a visual artist based in Iowa City that I’ve written about often. You can visit her website here and check out her work, books (buy them…really) and blog. And more of her images can be found on this site….like this one

Donovan and The Invisible Fourth Dimension of Transcendental Superconscious Vision.

The great English folksinger from the sixtes is turning seventy, and enjoying a renewed interest in his music with the release of a two-disc  anthology titled Donovan Retrospective. There was a show this week in London and he’ll be performing at dates in the UK, Europe and North America through at least September. 

I was a Donovan fan long before I discovered Dylan, and thanks to his hit single ‘Mellow Yellow’ I recall an afternoon spent with my friend David where we scraped the insides of a banana peel, dried it out in the oven and smoked it up while waiting for something to happen. Nothing happened except a coughing fit. Nevertheless, Donovan’s music dominated the AM radio airways for a couple of years, and his mystical-magical vibe and flowing satin garb was more interesting to me at the time than the denim-clad American folkies of the day. 

The Guardian put together an interview this past week around the making of ‘Sunshine Superman’ that I think is worth a read. Click here to be transported, but come back to listen to this favorite track where he out-Dylans Dylan.

From Vice: A Photo gallery of Ethiopia’s Emerging Skate Scene.

Ok…your scratching your head wondering about what this has to do with roots music, but the answer is that youth culture in general terms is a breeding ground for the creative arts, and Viceput together a series of photographs shot by Daniel Reiter that I find really interesting. Hope you do too. Here’s the link.

I’ve Been To Louisiana But I Never Visited New Orleans.

This years JazzFest just ended after a ten-day run with over 425,000 visitors. While it’s officially called the Jazz and Heritage Festival, the lineup was all over the place, going beyond the lines of what might consider jazz or heritage. Steely Dan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Paul Simon and Snoop Dogg appeared at the Shell Oil-sponsored event and performed on the Acura Stage, and while you can’t complain about a lineup that was also heavy with blues, zydeco and a lot of local talent…it seems from afar that jazz takes a backseat. I’m still jealous that I didn’t get to go and the online aggregator Flipboard published a really first class photo gallery. Click here to…bop de de bop bop…check it out

The Man Who Sliced And Diced The Hits Has Died…But Wait…There’s More!

Phillip Kives, the man who literally invented the television infomercial and sold over 28 million of the Miracle Brush (later renamed Brush-O-Matic) in the sixties before setting his sight to pitching various music collections under the name of K-Tel Records has passed away. 

Along with such household faves as Veg-O-Matic, Patty Stacker, run-proof pantyhose, bottle cutters and mood rings, K-Tel soared in music marketing. By the early eighties the company had sold over a half billion units worldwide. And while Kives’ biggest seller was Hooked on Classics, probably his greatest contribution was the creation of the one minute commercial that packed up to twenty or thirty songs for one low price. 

Videos You Wouldn’t Know Existed, Unless You Found Them By Mistake.

This is a cross-post from my site The Real Easy Ed, and is a slightly abridged version minus some imagery. You'll find the latest Uniqely Weekly RPM8 there if you can't wait until I post it here. 

I aggregate and post daily on my Twitter feed:@therealeasyed and Facebook page:The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts.

My every other week Broadside column is published at No Depression and you can follow me here if you'd like.