Greetings and Salutations!
2014 marks ELEVEN YEARS OF MIDNIGHT CALLING EZINE!
At long last I have a review of Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs’ fine CD ‘They’ll never Play My Songs in Nashville.” Upcoming reviews include Christophe, Jim Strange, The Exploding Boy, Chuck Champion, and others
Also see the reviews of of the great debut album by Pretentious, Moi? The review of Heathen Apostle’s fine CD “Boot Hill Hymnal”.
It seems like “stuff” has intruded in a major way over the past few months. Aftter buying a house, a couple of months ago I had minor surgery, which didn’t seem quite as “minor” to me as it did to my physicians! But more importantly, a stray cat brought her five tiny kittens to my porch one day. I could not leave them at the mercy of dogs, coyotes, and cars, so I brought them inside. I adopted the mommy cat, who I named Moonshine, and one of her kittens, who I named Mosby in honor of Mosby and his Partisan Rangers of Civil War fame. My girlfriend adopted two of the kittens, and I found a foster agency to take the other two. Less than a week later, another cat brought her own kittens to my porch. I guess they saw the sign, heh. The mommy is apparently Moonshines sister, who I named Shadow. I adopted Shadow, and I have been trying to find the second litter a home. Not long ago, Jenn of the famous Carolina Rollergirls stopped by and took little Juju and Sushi to good homes. Lucky who turned out to be a boy instead of a girl, misses his siblings, but he has his mommy, aunt, cousin Mosby, and my three big cats to keep him company.
On Saturday, 9/28/13 we traveled to Plan B in Smithfield, NC to see Rebel Son. This was a great show! See our event review for their show at the Dog House in Fayetteville. Both shows were a blast, and at both venues, the staff and patrons were friendly. It’s interesting that we can go to Biker bars and find people to be much nicer than at local venues that cater to people who tout their affluence, education and culture. Read the event review for more on the topic.
Not long ago, we caught Jonathan Parker and the Bel Airs and John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff at the Pour House in Raleigh, NC. Jonathan was pure Outlaw Country (and from Johnston County, no less. where I now live!) , and gave a fantastic performance. John Howie, Jr. and his band were high energy, and really pushed it to the edge. This was a great show.
Check out the interview with Jim Strange, and the review of the fine EP from Stupid Bitch Reject. We had the fortune to check out John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff at Saxapahaws on May 25th. As usual, they gave a great performance, rockin’ their unique brand of galvanized Country. We also met one of the most unique craftsmen I’ve seen in along time, the friendly and personable Mr. Johnny Mack, who hand carves wooden bow ties and top hats. Yes, that’s wooden top hats! Our Steampunk meter immediately activated! Other festival goers were rather rude and unpleasant. More later.
Take at look at some of the bad videos filmed by yours truly at:
We are having some glitches on the website. Buttons at the top of the page do not work (except for the Issue and Staff pages.) However, you can access all of our reviews and articles by on “The Issue” button at the top, clicking “next” at the bottom, and then scrolling through all back content from there. Or if you are only interested in reviews, culture, etc. you can click on the category headings on the right, then click on “next page” at the bottom. Not long ago I added much of our material from our original website back in 2003, some interesting stuff that well worth perusing!
I hope everyone enjoys the reviews, interviews, and articles!
“It’s not about the ‘scene’…”
It’s all about the music!“
I first saw Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs at the Pour House in Raleigh, NC and I was immediately glad that we had jumped through all the assorted hoops to go out on a school night. About two songs into their set, my girlfriend turned to me and said “This guy is GOOD.” Bear in mind that she grew up in Harnett County, NC where Country music has always been a big part of people’s lives. Hell, the great Bill Monroe once stayed with her grandparents when he played in nearby Newton Grove. So if she says someone is good, they’re good.
Not long before this we had attended the Hank Williams Tribute Night in Dunn at the Stewart Theater. We saw the renowned Clyde Mattocks playing with the phenomenal Malpass Brothers. At the Pour House we looked at the stage and my girlfriend exclaimed ‘Is that…???” And I said “Yep, that’s Clyde Mattocks all right!”
The first thing I noticed about the band was that they are not pretentious. They’re just down home Country guys playing down home Country music. This is refreshing in an era where you see so many Country bands, even Honky-Tonk bands, with carefully constructed stage personas. I don’t care what they look like. I care what they SOUND like. And when Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs take the stage, it’s all about the music. Just as important, they are friendly guys who really appreciate their fans. All their fans, not just ones who fit their “scene”. I’ve had some very negative experiences with local Country bands in this regard, but JP and the Bel-Airs have always made it a point to come over and say “hey”. They are not rich urban cowboys, Country hipsters, or snobby music elitists. Jonathan Parker and the guys have played venues like The Icehouse; The Sundown Saloon, and places where real Country people go who don’t give a hoot about “authenticity” or being seen, but who just want to hear some kick ass, boot-stompin’ Country. I saw them play at the National Hollerin’ Festival at Spivey’s Corner NC, and it doesn’t get any more Country than this!
“They’ll Never Play My Songs in Nashville” is a hard-driving, heavy hitting song in the best Outlaw Country tradition. The song sort of reminds me of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” Even more brutally honest, “They’ll Never Play My Songs in Nashville” takes a shot at the Country Pop establishment with “I’ve seen Country Music take a nosedive in the dirt./they’re scared to write them songs about the whiskey and the hurt.” Now THAT”S the truth! Guitars here are clean and sharp, fast paced, and meshes with the masterful steel pedal in a way that sends chills down your spine. Jonathan’s vocals are low-down with the same kind of dangerous visceral impact as Buddy Miller and Ray Wylie Hubbard. There is some fine harmonizing, and the bass charges alongside, pounding out a rhythm you can feel in your ribcage like a shot of Johnston Country moonshine. This fantastic song is quintessential Jonathan Parker, with all the elements that make his music great. “I guess they done forgot about them outlaws, the ones like Clyde Mattocks and me.” I guess they have, but the rest of us damn sure haven’t forgotten! There is a big dose of Waylon in this song, but its leavened with little thump in the way of Hank Williams, Jr. too. Hank, Jr. isn’t popular these days, but his early stuff was good.
“I’d Have It Made” will get your boots moving. The bass is heavy, yet sharp like a loggers axe, as it rollicks along in true Country fashion. Guitars are deft and clean, with the steel pedal soaring like a vision from Nashville in the glory days. Vocals are strong as usual, with a touch of fine harmonies. I love the little asides, like “Like my daddy used to say…..still does” that brings Johnny Cash to mind. The counter-play between the guitars is great. Yep, this song has some bite to it. The deep guitar flourish at the end is a nice touch.
“I Woke Up This Morning With the Blues” is slow and sad. I’m reminded a little of George Strait. This is the down-home, back-roads kind of hurtin’ song that you can almost see truckers on old Route 51 listening to 40 years ago. The backing vocals are subtle yet crucial here. I hear more than a little Vern Gosdin this song, too.
“Cedartown Georgia” is one of our favorite Waylon tunes. Jonathan and company do it perfect justice. As a matter of fact, Jonathon sounds even meaner than Waylon! And no doubt about it, this is a song filled with fatalism and sheer menace. “I made up my mind what I’m a gonna do/
Eased in the pawnshop and bought a 22″ This is a true-to-life kind of song that has always set classic Country music apart from other genres. Jonathon’s vocals sink to a somebody-done-somebody-wrong (and they’re gonna PAY) kind of growl, while the guitar cuts like a lock-blade knife and the drummer hits the high-hat like a harbinger of doom. “Gonna be a lot of kinfolk squallin’ and a grievin’/cause that Cedartown gal ain’t breathin’ ” Yeah!
“Fly Over You” is another slow number. “I watch from the bar stool and you walk in with him/I don’t know why I came back here again“. Play it loud. Sad, moving, and fatalistic, this song definitely brings some of George Jones’ greatest songs to mind. “With a hand on the Bible, and a knee on the floor“ I can almost taste the whiskey. Jonathan’s vocals, the funereal pace of the bass and percussion, and the languid, yet gripping steel guitar are classic. ‘By the end of the night I’ll be high as a kite/hoping I’ll fly over you.”
“Circles” is a great dance number with awesome pedal guitar, and hard-driving bass. This is a fine duet with Jessica Gardner, which recalls some of the great duets of the Golden Age of Country. The song has the perfect cadence that you can dance to and not lose a grip on your beer. I can feel some strong Merle Haggard and a dash of Tom T. Hall in here somewhere.
“Hobo Willie” is pure Country. From the rousing guitar, dead-on steel guitar and percussion, this is a perfect song for driving the back roads or sitting waiting on sundown. Delightfully bass-driven, this is a fine ballad in the mode of Marty Robbins, with the power of Waylon and the iron-clad conviction of Cash.
“The Encounter” is slower and more introspective. In many ways this song showcases the sheer depth of Jonathan’s vocals. Lyrically the song reminds me of Marty Stuart’s highly crafted works, and Jonathan’s delivery evokes the great Jim Reeves, with a bit of Faron Young thrown in for good measure. As usual, the band keep perfect step.
“The Way Things Used to Be” is magnificent Outlaw Country! From the low-down guitar slide and Jonathan’s “hah” at the start, the guitars weave perfectly around each other, accentuated by a fine segment of steel guitar. The bass provides a cool, but heavy foundation. I hear the same sense of pride as I hear in Johnny Russell’s classic ‘Rednecks ,White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer”, and all the open sincerity of Buck Owens.
Last is a fine galloping rendition of “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang”. Jonathan’s firm baritone is perfect for this rip-roaring, Outlaw finale. I detect some Ferlin Husky here, too, like a trace of oak in fine whiskey. Jonathan combines a touch of regret with defiance and just plain acceptance of a bad situation. I love the bass here, and the low pickin’ on the guitar. There is even a touch of that high lonesome sound in the guitars, and the bass rolls on like a train inexorably heading towards the State Penitentiary and a pitiless destiny. “There ain’t no good in an evil-hearted woman and I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse James.”
I have mentioned a lot of Country musicians here, but these are just to provide reference points. As a certain President once said, “let me make it perfectly clear” that this band is not just rehashing 30 year old music. Their music is all their own. They have built their music on firm Country and Southern foundations, from Hank Williams, Sr. to Skynyrd and beyond. No one sounds like JP and the Bel-Airs. They have brought Country and Honky-Tonk into the 21st century, while leaving all the roots wonderfully intact.
Darkness, fatalism, and religion have always been important elements in Classic Country music. When these are taken out of the music, the result may be more palatable to today’s urban, affluent, and “progressive ears”, but is not true to the spirit of classic Country. Country music always included the cold, hard facts of life: drinking, screwing, cheating, and killing. It wasn’t ironic or snarky. It was reality. You”ll find no artsy-elevator-music-with-a-twang or “Sugartonk” here! Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs deliver nothing but bona fide, 190 proof gen-u-ine Country music! Like the original Honky-Tonk artists, Jonathan and the band play it straight up and honest, with chain-whipping, bone-stomping GRIT. Even the sad songs.
Everything on the “They’ll Never Play My Songs in Nashville” is tightly produced and the sound quality is excellent. The band are all seasoned and accomplished musicians. As long as there are bands like Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs, Country music is alive and well in NC. They aren’t scared to sing about the “whiskey and the hurt”, and they do it from the heart. We are looking forward to seeing them perform out here in Johnston or Harnett County again: a real Country band in the real Country!
This CD is living proof that trad Goth is not, as some pundits have claimed, dead. With their debut CD Pretentious, Moi? manages to invoke that magical feeling I had back in the late ’80′s to mid ’90s, when you could hear great Goth music in the clubs, and before the tsunami of electro-dance submerged everything. There are elements of nostalgia present, but as more than one reviewer has pointed out, Pretentious, Moi? does not sound dated at all. All the classic elements are here: layered guitar and vocals; dark themes and imagery; and an infectious dance beat. There is a wonderful contemporary feel that is very relevant.
The lyrics are truly magnificent. Melancholic, yet intense; and accessible, yet cryptic, they strike a perfect balance that delightfully avoids the traps that have ensnared so many other lyricists. Unlike a lot of Gothic bands, Pretentious, Moi? provides lyrics that do not spiral into unintelligible, overblown pompousness. Like the works of classic poets, these lyrics have a sense of universality that allows listeners to connect the themes to their own lives.
There is not a weak track on the CD. My current favorites are “Witchhouse”, “Faith and Reason Part Company”; and “Living Dead and Undecided”, but this can change daily. ‘Witchhouse” evokes many an old school Goth night. “Trapped between the crumbling walls/And poisoned answers/upon the stars I wore/But still they whisper“. “Faith and Reason Part Company” is sheer art. It doesn’t fly, it soars. This is sheer aural art that is intense and visceral. “Don’t cry/’t even think of it/Ask When, not why/Try not to notice/I’ll try not to breathe”
“Living, Dead, and Undecided” is an absolute, chilling, masterpiece.
“I’ve seen enough she said
They went to war we went to bed
I’ve seen the future
Let tomorrow be a day to die for
When today is playing dead”
“Had I wanted, I had all I ever needed
Held the future, saw the past
And I know all that we conceded
No opinion, undivided
Living, dead, or undecided”
Pretentious, Moi? merges the lyrical mastery of Queen with the iconic Goth foundations of Ikon and Love Like Blood. Everything is tight and well produced. This album will appeal to old Goths like myself, as well as people who have never heard a Goth track before. When I play this CD at home, the urge to dance is overwhelming, and I seldom resist, beneath the amused, inscrutable gaze of my seven cats. Bravo, Pretentious, Moi!
From our Batcave friends in Poland:
“Return To The Batcave” celebrates its 5th successful year, and in honor of this anniversary, we decided to celebrate and expand the event into a mini-festival.
So that’s officially: Return To The Batcave Festival will take place on November, 30, 2013 in Wrocław (Poland)!
“Return To The Batcave” is the event which promotes crazy, spooky and twisted music known as post-punk, cold wave, deathrock, gothic-punk, gothabilly and other related weird and experimental music genres, as well as those with a lighter music touch and whose common denominator is the words “art” and “party”.
The Gothic-punk movement is amazing, both visually and musically, and very eclectic: combining the best and most fascinating music genres which have underground roots in the late 70′s and 80′s. As in previous years, “Return To The Batcave” would like to move back in time to the beginning of the 80′s and bring back the exciting atmosphere of the legendary London club Batcave.
Return To The Batcave Festival will feature the following bands:
Soror Dolorosa (FR)
Velvet Condom (FR)
The Proof (PL)
This Cold (PL)
Wieże Fabryk (PL)
Nacht Und Nebel (PL)
Augen X (PL)
After the concert, prepare for after-party until the pale dawn or you’re fallen, as you will.
Afterparty will be conducted by:
DJ Black Ossian (DarkItalia.it) (IT) (darkwave, post-punk, batcave, punk 70′, italian wave)
DJ Mss (Return To The Batcave / Bat-Cave.pl) (PL) (post-punk, deathrock, synth-punk)
DJane Novelty (Return To The Batcave / Ian Said Dance!) (PL) (post-punk, coldwave, 80 ‘)
DJ Woodraf (Return To The Batcave / Bat-Cave.pl) (PL) (goth-punk, batcave, coldwave, 80 ‘)
Doors open: 18:00
Gigs Start: 18:30
Tickets Cost: 50PLN (12,5€)
Location: Klub Muzyczny Liverpool﻿ Club, ul.Świdnicka 37, Wrocław (Poland)
Bat-Cave.pl / Return To The Batcave (www.bat-cave.pl)
Klimatyczne.pl – Dark Shop (www.klimatyczne.pl)
Chaorder Agency (www.facebook.com/SiedemZyczenpl)
DarkItalia.it – Music Magazine (www.darkitalia.it)
Castle Party Productions (www.castleparty.com)
Wrocławska Sekcja Alternatywna (www.wsa.org.pl)
Do you have any questions? Please email us at : firstname.lastname@example.org
More info: www.return.to.the.batcave.pl
Some time ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Mather Louth’s CD from “Radio Noir” so I was very pleased to see the advent of Heathen Apostles. (Mather is one of my favorite musicians, and I also admire her impeccable fashion sense.) Not only does Heathen Apostles consist of Mather, Chopper Franklin, and Thomas Lorioux, Viktor Phoenix, and Luis Mascaro, all accomplished musicians, but the band also combines two themes very dear to my heart: Goth and the Old West. I have always thought that the Old West teemed with Gothic elements. Here was not the brooding poetry of the drawing room and absinthe fueled dreams , but the open menace of a strange, dangerous, and alien land. The merging of Gothic and Old Western sensibilities only seemed logical.
Several bands have taken this path, and Heathen Apostles are among the foremost. Mather’s wonderful voice and darkly charming demeanor are a perfect fit. The Old West conjures images of vast desolate spaces, grim conflicts, and lonesome death, punctuated by roughshod towns teeming with a disparate mix of sophistication and brutality. It is no accident that Heathen Apostles rises from Los Angeles, that musical Mecca of the Far West, and that their music is steeped in 150 years of history and musical lore.
“Red Brick Dust” starts evocatively with acoustic guitar and low, moaning violin. Electric guitar suddenly punctuates the song like shotgun blasts in the alleyways of old Tombstone. Vocals are pleading, yet dangerous at the same time. Late in the song, violin emerges Paganini-like with a brief, impulsive burst.
Ominous, yet rich violin opens “Dark Was the Night”. Masterful percussion drives the song with a rocky gait, and the mandolin adds a definite western flavor. Vocals are exquisitely layered, sultry and moody.
‘Forget-Me-Not” is a rollicking tune, with sharp, syncopated percussion and edgy banjo, as the violin hovers in the background, only to suddenly rise with the fervor of an assassin. Vocals are strong and confident, yet with an underlying sense of foreboding.
“Never Forever” has a very edgy, evocative intro, with guitars in tandem and violin. They are joined by low-key, yet striking banjo that reminds me of some of Neil Young’s works. Vocals are slow and expressive. The song slowly rises in volume, and vocals drop to an eerie whisper at about 3:06. Then suddenly, some wonderfully cowpunk-ish guitar erupts, and Mather’s superb vocals rise to a crescendo. There is a cool spaghetti western vibe adeptly mixed with ’80′s alternative that makes this is a very compelling song.
‘The Reckoning” ramps things up with Saturday night saloon exuberance and energy. The intro reminded me of the movie “Dead man”, and there is a vague steampunkish element somewhere here amidst the rattling percussion and gypsy flourishes. Brief flashes of fuzz laden guitar add to the demented carnival atmosphere, as Mather’s vocals are both enticing and dangerous.
“The Dark Pines” is one of my favorite songs here. With what I call a ‘Western Cabaret” style, haunting mandolin and menacing violin accompany Mather’s darkly vibrant vocals. Rousing guitar licks and driving percussion propel the song to a very ominous finish.
“It All Came Down” starts with a great little vignette of a tinny Blues song playing as the actions of various firearms are worked and clicked. Then the song launches with syncopated percussion, slow banjo, and low bass that brings a smokey Speakeasy to mind. Guitar is low and menacing, and the organ gives an unsettling edge. This is further heightened by the sardonic, yet sinister male-female vocals that deftly weave around each other.
“Murderer of Souls” is awesome! This is pure Cowboy Gothic for the 21st century. There is some excellent post-punk guitar and sparse, eerie banjo over a gripping electro background. Very edgy violin emerges, then grows stronger as the song progresses. Percussion is as rhythmic and pounding as hooves along a lonely trail. Vocals are smooth, with a nice touch of layering, which heighten the sense of desolation and fatalism that the song evokes.
“Darkness of Dawn” is more Cowboy Cabaret, with Mather’s soulful vocals, wandering violin, and sparse banjo. The percussion canters along, while the guitar adds a darkly expressive touch, especially on the moving, yet dynamic refrain. This song makes me envision a high mountain range on the horizon, with miles of emptiness behind you.
“Lonesome Whistle” is languid and moody, with an ominous carnival-like beginning. Vocals are refined, yet a bit ominous, while the guitar has a definite edge. The backing atmospherics are measured, and inexorably move the song towards a doleful finish.
“Boot Hill Hymnal” is superbly produced, and the arrangements are precise and striking. The band clearly takes their music seriously. The wonderful thing about “Boot Hill Hymnal” is that Heathen Apostles are not bound by the usual boundaries. For example, they are not just a Gothic band that dresses up in Victorian and Old West fashions and makes a few literary references amid the standard doomy droning. They are not a Steampunk band. They are not a Country/Roots band trying to be “authentic”. Heathen Apostles have skillfully created their own innovative sound and vision. There is a delightful variety of musical here, including Gothic, Cabaret, Blues, and Gypsy Jazz, that is deftly bound together by the band’s dark and sometimes brooding sense of a bygone age. This is all filtered through a wholly contemporary level of musical excellency that is both relevant and unique.
This is a very fine work, indeed. I look forward to hearing more from Heathen Apostles.
“To the East, the blood moon rises
And the blood is burning in my veins”