Sunday, October 23, 2011

Graphic Videos




Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Graphic

Reviewing albums you never heard of by musicians you may not know about. 
Buy New Mexico Music, 2.2 million New Mexicans can't be wrong

Flow Nice- Listen Closely
2005 World Records Music
Flow Nice brings groove-based beats to the local hip-hop scene. The gang bang boogie has long been the favored style around here. Gangsta rap, thoroughly lacking in an understanding of beat driven music, yet rife with macho posturing. The first thing you notice about Flow Nice is that they are.. intrepid beatmakers. This is not a crew of wall taggers or pseudo street thugs spitting out rhymes. This is a musical collaboration between two musicians reacting to the sounds reverberating in their chosen genre. "Listen Closely" was released six years ago. It's almost nonsensical to state that it doesn't sound dated because, it was essentially retro to begin with.  

Flow Nice is a duo from Santa Fe, Funkshin and DJ C-Darth have worked together since 2001. They're a nice throwback to the days of MTV Jams and lyrical gangsters, when rap was intelligent and relevant. They smartly blend turntablism & samples with smooth straightforward vocals to skirt the boundaries between the old and new. For their live performances they've been known to set aside the canned beats for the live backing of La Junta, a Santa Fe group with a similar style.

Only a crazed completest would break down all the tracks on this album individually. The intro is familiar (like a good friend) "These Kids" swaggers to a hypnotic repetitive beat as it flows into "Hit the Mic Right" which has an infectious pulse flowing behind the vocals. They crack about dumbing it down "we rhyme the best and our English is the wors-est."  But, you can't disguise the lyrical genius at work here. With "Hey Hello" they change up the tempo without missing a beat. "So Happy" is a declaration of independence "I need to learn how to unlearn school" 

"That Place" floats on a Beck Hanson experimental groove. "Me Saboriar" has a danceable latin beat designed to placate your dance floor needs. I could go on... but simply put, there's not a bad track in sight!  Flow Nice has a firm grip on the conceptual aspect and execution of their music, which is rare with local hip-hop acts. This duo has a knack for sample chopping, most culled from sources known only to them. Their acumen for lyrical continuation (flow) is highly developed and unmatched on the local scene. No false advertising here, they do Flow Nice!
Rate It: +1

The Alumni- Perfect Man
2011 Pro Legend Records
I'll be upfront, this is not my cup of tea. Christian music in my opinion is the musical equivalent of all these non- denominational storefront churches that keep popping up. A generic leap of faith for those who prefer their religion lite, and see church service as a perfect opportunity to network. The genre is inferior to secular music, be it pop, rock, rap or country. (all those style are lumped together as Praise Music) The strident dogma appeals only to true believers and born again Christians. It's an affirmation of righteousness without resorting to speaking in tongues or handling snakes. 

The Alumni view themselves as a hip-hop act that's crossed over to praise music. They're a duo made up of David Lucero who calls himself "Madik" and Josh Peterson known as Sevr 1 (how's that pronounced? Serve 1, as in serve one god, if that's the case wouldn't it be Serv 1, or is it Severe 1, God's lyrical assassin?) These smug overgrown Menudo rejects are quick to glorify their meager accomplishments (so much for being humble servants) In my view (narrow as it may be) misguided promotional hype, is the worse sin of all. They boast of national radio play and Billboard rankings, almost like we're obligated to believe them. 

The intro resembles a Nazi youth rally and it's all downhill from there. The album is chock full of uninspired, nondescript, generalized rap music, no brand entertainment at name brand prices.  "Perfect Man" the so called "single" starts with a bizarre interlude where these two douchey fucks go on about how they're not treating their wives with enough respect, set to a backdrop of solemn piano music. "I didn't do anything stupid or like major" It's so ill conceived and phony that it just spikes the song straight into the shitcan.  The album quickly goes out with a whimper of weak hip hop beats, boy band posturing and preachy "you gotta believe" admonishments. Good Lord!
Rate It: -1

Sticky Pistil- Hi Fi Superfly
1999   Vinyl Grooves, Inc.

 I'm fully cognizant of the fact that it takes more than cartoon cover art to add irony to music. Spinal Tap is a prime example of "irony meets music", Sticky Pistil was certainly not Spinal Tap. In the interest of fairness, objectivity and what not, I went back and gave that Taos band's 1999  eau de funk "Hi-Fi Superfly" another spin. Mr. Humorless, Scott Kesson the band's guitarist and resident killjoy, had decided to set me straight on a few matters. One of which is his claim that this album was oozing with irony and that I had failed to see that. 

At first listen, I actually liked the album. It was only after repeated playbacks, while writing a profile about the band, that I reversed my opinion. It seemed that with each subsequent listen it became more apparent that these jokers were faking it. The funky pimps of Taos  were pushing phony funkadelia, if that's irony then this is a fucking masterpiece. The contrite lyrics and funk by the numbers musical morass wore thin in a hurry. My search party of one was exhausted, I abandoned my quest for Kesson's lost irony. 

I have to wonder how his band mates felt? They were working hard to become the next Limp Bizkit or Red Hot Chili Peppers while Scott was flitting about being ironic. The only irony to be found, is that he thought it was ironic in the first place. Crimey! no wonder they never got down off the mountain. And yes, I'm fully aware that they played on a minor stage at Woodstock '99. Which turned out to be the music festival equivalent of a concentration camp. PANick! no more.
Rate It: -1  

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Graphic

Reviewing albums you never heard of, by musicians you may not know about. 
Buy New Mexico Music, 2.2 million New Mexicans can't be wrong

CD Baby has a very cool feature that allows you to browse artists by location. There are over 1,300 cd's listed in CD Baby's catalog by artists with New Mexico connections. Pure Volume has a similar feature, while LastFM allows limited sorting by location.

All albums reviewed are available at CD Baby (single tracks too!) CD Baby like Amazon and a few other online music outlets, offers a 30 second sample of each track (sometimes they go longer)
Rhapsody is another good source for local music, they limit you to 30 second samples if you're not a subscriber. 

Is 30 seconds enough time to judge whether you like a song or not?  Not really, 45 seconds would be far better, although it does cover most intros & interludes for what that's worth.  The albums are rated at +1(very good) 1 (good) -1 (bad)   For anything below -1, as PANick! would say "Why even bother"

Ryan McGarvey- Forward in Reverse
2007  self released

Ryan McGarvey is frequently compared (favorably I might add) to any number of blues rock guitarists. Therein lies the problem, too often it's hard to distinguish the true Ryan McGarvey from his influences. Contemporary southern blues rock follows a rigid format. The standard was first set by Buddy Guy, tweaked by Mike Bloomfield, perfected by Johnny Winter, revolutionized by Jimi Hendrix, and then in the 1980's re-introduced to the masses by Stevie Ray Vaughn. In my opinion everyone that came after SRV is simply lifting licks from the masters.

 "Forward in Reverse" is as American as the Rio Grande mud. McGarvey serves notice that he's an undeniably talented guitarist and vocalist. Ryan's influences range from Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray and everyone in between, including the full gamut of British blues rockers from the 1970's. Ryan was just 22 when he recorded this album, so he has the rare combination of time and talent to develop his own style. The music has an instantly likable quality, but Ryan McGarvey's original compositions, though well done, certainly lack the purpose of their inspiration. 

"Right in all the Wrong Ways" recycles familiar riffs as Ryan channels early ZZ Top.  "Joyride" mimics Midnight Rider era Gregg Allman, persuasive but not spectacular.  "Texas Special" is worth the price of admission, a hell-bent, brawling roadhouse rocker. "Someone Like You" breaks away from the formula, it's more Soundgarden than Stevie Ray. "Second Time Around" is a slow blues carried by soulful vocals and smooth guitar licks. "Watch Yourself", "Cryin' Over You" and "Blue Eyed Angel Blues" are Texas blues spiked with a heavy dose of SRV.
rate it: +1

Country Blues Revue- Blues for Too Long
2011   Mark and Mike label

Country Blues Revue, doesn't rock, but it does roll and shuffle along just fine. Country Blues Revue is a country blues duo made up of Michael Handler and Marc Malin. Handler plays blues harmonica and Malin strums guitar, both are more than capable vocalist.  On this recent self released album they're joined by a bevy of Santa Fe musicians. Vin Kelly- mandolin & fiddle, Cozy Ralston- drums, Larry Diaz- bass, plus vocalist Stephanie Hatfield and her husband Bill Palmer of Santa Fe's Frogville Records. 

"Blues for too Long" is engaging and uptempo. Handler & Malin draw inspiration from the easy side of the street. This relaxed nature makes for easy listening, it's multi-layered country blues, rich in the nuances common to this style. Marc Malin's finger picked guitar is the perfect accompaniment to Michael Handler's harmonica, reinforcing the joyous nature of each song. The production and music is very contemporary, it's not the least bit "old timey" which makes it just right for country hippies and other shaggy folks up around Santa Fe.  

"Gamblin' Wheels" comes from Malin's other band The Rattlerz, it conjures up San Francisco and carefree days spent just getting by. "Hey Baby"  stays just below the boiling point (I know you used to like my love... make you scream & shout) it covers a common theme, the break-up. On the other hand "Love Flows Around my Heart" a jaunty shuffle, is an affirmation of love.  "Love is Blind"(I used to be a king), "Earthquake Blues" (on the fault line darling, can't tell if it's yours or mine) and "Funny Feeling" (I saw my baby in the driveway and she had that leaving trunk) all ponder the question of what comes after the thrill is gone. 
rate it: +1

Jennifer Robin- The Bird and The Beatles
2011  Risky Robin Records

Sometimes you stumble upon something so idiosyncratic, that you're immediately drawn in. "The Bird and The Beatles" grew out of Jennifer Robin's stage show.  Jennifer would perform her version of Beatle favorites interspersed with spoken interludes recalling the effect Beatlemania had on two young girls growing up in Taos. Jennifer further explains: "The cover images were taken in Taos in front of the house where my family lived in 1968." These images show Ms. Robin decked out in retro mod gear looking quite fab. 

I know what you're thinking... it's 2011, does the world need another album of Beatles' cover songs? Jennifer Robin irrespective of trends and commercial success says it does.   "The Bird and 
The Beatles offers no tether to the past, Jennifer reworks these overly familiar tunes with steadfast and uncompromising vision. It helps that she's backed by a group of inventive instrumentalists, this includes Jennifer on vocals & steel guitar, Riner Scivally- guitar, Warren Giancaterino -upright & electric bass, Frank Marsico- harmonica & marimba, plus saxophonist Jasper Dutz.

Over the minimal soundscape of "You Won't see Me" Jennifer adds subtle vocals to sparse latin percussion. Jennifer's cool vocals, beautifully matched with the marimba & harmonica of Frank Marsico turn "Fixing a Hole" into a signature tune.  A couple of tracks drag or misfire, most notably "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which has a verse that's reminiscent of  Deborah Harry's awkward attempts at rap. Nonetheless, Jennifer redeems herself on "It's Only Love" and "Nowhere Man." 

The album's most captivating moments are when the instrumentation is at its sparsest and Jennifer's vocals at their most fragile. Where the Beatles wrote these love songs to please millions, Jennifer seems to aim them directly at someone special.  
Rate it: +1

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benefit for Kenta Henmi

Benefit for Kenta Henmi
with Sin Serenade, Lousy Robot, Pan!c, Up The Holler and more TBA
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.
618 Central SW
Tickets: $7, 21+

Iconic Albuquerque Rocker Kenta Henmi needs our help. A recent extended hospital stay left Kenta with a stack 'o bills (and I don't mean dollars) Please contact  Capt. America at for more information on how to donate and where to send it. The following article from The Weekly Alibi will give you the skinny on Kenta Henmi,  authored by Capt. America and reprinted here totally without permission of any kind.... but it's for a good cause, please help out if you can.

Music to Your Ears

Friends With Benefits

Natalie Bruce and Kenta Henmi
Natalie Bruce and Kenta Henmi
From Albuquerque to Las Cruces, Kenta Henmi has been slinging a guitar around these parts for well over 15 years. In that time he’s ripped out leads like Johnny Thunders meets Jeffrey Lee Pierce for many a rock outfit. The list is impressive. The frantic cowpunk of The Jonny Cats. The nasty fuzz punk of The Golden Showers. The tomcat strut of The T-Lords. The trashy rock and roll of The Blastamattos. In the past year alone, Henmi has found time for no less than four continuing projects: Suicide Lanes’ lazy cowpop-punk, psychobilly Cramps cover band the Teenage Werewolves, dirty rock and roll in High Iron, and as a bass player in The Scrams. And these are only the highlights of his musical career!
It’s all the more remarkable how much Henmi has accomplished in the past 12 months since he’s been plagued with a series of health issues that have kept him in and out hospital beds, most recently with a serious bout that had him laid up in the ICU for a week. Even so, Henmi kept his spirits up with antics like singing the old Bo Diddley song “Pills” to his “rock and roll nurse” and joking that he still looks young and healthy because of his “Jap genes.”
Considering the decade and a half (and then some) of superior guitar rock Henmi has contributed to the New Mexico music scene, it’s our turn to repay the man. This last-minute benefit show at the Launchpad will donate the proceeds directly to Henmi and his fiancée—High Iron bandmate Natalie Bruce—to help defray their outlandish medical expenses.
The lineup was still fluid at press time, but three divergent bands have confirmed. With a name like a cheap dime novel, Sin Serenade will cover the dirty twang angle. The pop punk purveyors of pulchritude in Pan!c provide the mirth. Lousy Robot will go for the gut with heartbreaking lyrics over some of the catchiest pop rock in town.
Friends, cohorts and bandmates are pitching in to make this gig a success, and so can you. The cover is seven bucks, but go ahead and toss a few extra dollars into the pot. You can make do with at one less drink that night.
Hayaku yokunatte ne, Kenta-sama!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Doth Protest Too Much!

 "your hair's on fire, you must've lost your wits, yeah"

I read an article that raised the question of who will be the Bob Dylan of Occupy Wall Street? To me it's no contest, the hands down winner is Foster the People, those trendy motherfuckers have captured the hearts and minds of Americans. That catchy little ditty about an outcast taking a gun and shooting everyone in sight, proves once and for all that Columbine and school shootings are now a marketable commodity. 

That sound you just heard was me flicking my Bic in tribute to Foster the People. I see the irony in this song, as a protest song this will do just fine, however the next round of classroom shootings will be on Mark Foster. The real question should be, why would we need a new Bob Dylan anyway? Bob is still around "Blowin' in Wind" still applies today, "Mr. Tambourine Man" is still relevant. Robert Zimmerman raged against the capitalist machine long before most Wall St. protesters were even born.

People are calling Occupy Wall Street our  Arab Spring, although a lot more blood will have to flow to match those "peaceful" uprisings. If 1968 taught us anything about America, it's the fact that if you push law enforcement they will push back. Do not kid yourself, the police of today are not that different from the bone breakers of Mayor Daley's Chicago. The good new is that Americans (since after WWII anyway) have maintained order without bloodshed. (four dead in Ohio not withstanding)

At my age I can't pretend to outrun bullets or guns, so I'll just have to return fire. 

New Mexico has been under occupation since 1848, Native New Mexico since 1598. That whole concept conjures up painful imagery. We know the legacy of the Spanish, the U.S. occupation of New Mexico resulted in mass hangings following the failed uprising in Taos (that left newly appointed Gov. Bent dead) Confederate forces occupied New Mexico, hanging a few Hispanic residents on the way in and a few more on the way out. 

Ghastly memories best left undisturbed... Let's call it something else, "Positively Fuck Wall St." or "Take Back Our America" (too Tea Party-ish?) Maybe, we should just call it what it is "Fix the Fucking economy or we'll burn it down to the ground, Motherfuckers!'  Over the course of the last four years my stock portfolio has shrunk by more than most people make in a year. My stock broker just smiles and talks football whenever I go in to see him. He's yet to explain where that money went... screw Wells Fargo or Bank of America, let's put the heat to Edward Jones.

This entire movement can best be put in perspective by those of us who get up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for work and see two young children off to school. Only to reverse the process and return home for the evening twelve hours later. It's a routine for the ages, one that never ceases regardless of stalled economies or recessions (unless you lose your job)  For most people the complaints boil down to this... everything we buy is more expensive, yet our take home pay remains unchanged.

For conglomerates meeting the bottom line means bleeding the consumer dry, and that's just bad for business. When the working class of this nation, (meaning the majority) stops going to work and starts protesting, then they'll feel the fire burning. A prophet once walked amongst us, preaching that come 2012 we would all live poor. Judging by his album sales nobody was listening, now is the time to listen.  Think carefully... is disrupting the process and stalling out what little forward progress the economy has going, worth it?...  Better the devil we know than the one we don't.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Felonious Groove Foundation

"Give the people what they want when they want, and they wants it all the time"

Felonious Groove Foundation was founded as a party band. Vocalist & guitarist, Cali Soberanes was once quoted as saying, "If the audience can't bust into a 'Soul Train' line at any moment, then we're not doing our job right." Their music is an infectious mix of hip hop, r & b and latino vibe, nothing ground breaking, just solid dance beats. The brainchild of Cali Soberanes and Todd Lovato, Felonious Groove Foundation came together at UNM in 1999. The two high school classmates from Santa Fe, called on a few members of the UNM music dept with a taste for that groove thang.

Felonious Groove Foundation's best known line-up included, Soberanes- vocals,guitar, Lovato- vocals, bass, Noah Wolters-keys, Chadd James-sax, Josh English-drums (of The Withdrawals) For the album “Felonious Groove Foundation Presents…Fantastic Planet” (a release that ushered in a change in musical direction and style) The roster included Paul Cornett- bass, Ragon Espinoza- drums, Noah Walter-keys, Bryan Highill- trumpet and David Diaz-sax (Sadly, Diaz passed away while the album was still in  production)  FGF's most recent (and final?) lineup has Colin Darby- tenor sax, Mike Jaramillo- percussion and Rick Moraga- percussion, joining Soberanes and Lovato.

FGF has an extensive discography starting with "Brand Name Funk" released in 2000. The band's first full length album was "Sixth Dynasty" (2003) followed by "Paper Tiger" in 2005. "Felonious Groove Foundation presents Fantastic Planet." in 2009. That album was recorded as Fantastic Planet and not FGF.  There's also another release "Great, Great, Great Gran' Pa?" (2004) which is credited to Skinnyfat, Todd Lovato's alter ego and a hip hop collective that also featured Cali Soberanes.  All recordings were released on Penguino Records, a label operated by Cali Soberanes & Todd Lovato and home to Felonious Groove Foundation, Fantastic Planet & Skinnyfat.

"It was cool, but can you imagine Doobie-in' your funk"

After the release of "Fantastic Planet" Lovato who now performs as Todd Eric Lovato, announced his departure from the group. It seems that Todd Eric has always been a banjo picker at heart (Say What!!) He's teamed up with Erik Sawyer to form Todd and the Fox. It's a hybrid form of country gospel, bluegrass, blues and electronic music. Since Todd Eric's split from FGF, Cali Soberanes has performed with an acoustic trio, quite a radical departure from that funky sound (he does versions of Somewhere over the Rainbow & Folsom Prison Blues)

"Felonious Groove Foundation presents Fantastic Planet" was in retrospect, a template for what was in store. Todd Eric Lovato had integrated banjo & lap steel guitar into the mix on that album. "Fantastic Planet" did signal that the group was moving away from their mantra of "we want the funk, gotta have the funk" but nobody expected such a radical change. It's a head scratcher, it's akin to George Clinton suddenly becoming a country singer or Carlos Santana taking up an acoustic guitar and playing nothing but John Denver songs. 

It appears that for the foreseeable future Felonious Groove Foundation is devoid of funk. We should have seen this coming, when "Felonious Groove Foundation presents Fantastic Planet" was released both Cali & Todd gave us clues of what was coming “We spent years thinking that making a club go crazy was the ultimate goal. So in many ways, ‘Fantastic Planet’ is our anti-funk album,” said Todd Eric Lovato in an interview. Cali would reiterate that statement in a later interview. Todd obviously felt constrained by the music they played. "You get defined as a Latin band, and that bugs me" Todd said.  

Damned if people don't categorize you as Latin, if you incorporate reggeton and contemporary Latin jazz rythyms into your music. For ten years it seemed to suit them just fine.  One thing for sure, when Todd Eric Lovato stands up on that stage holding a banjo, nobody will expect him to play Porcelana anymore. Although I'm sure he could and I would love to hear it. These days, people seem to gravitate more towards old timey music, but did Santa Fe really need one more banjo player and one less funk band?    

Back into the hinterland for another in a series of MySpace music reviews. The Band has five tracks and one video posted on their MySpace Music page, all music is from the album "Paper Tiger"

"I just heard it's gonna be one of those funky thangs"

Down Syndrome
Clocks in at over 8 minutes, but it never sags or drags. It's a kitchen sink tune chock full 'o chipmunk voices, funky breaks, scat singing, and Manu Dibango horns. "Yo let's shake-'em on down!" There's so much fun to be had, that you almost don't mind the unfortunate choice of song title. A lapse in taste that we can blame on The Black Eyed Peas and that Barack Obama theme song "Let's Get Retarded"  "When the syndrome is around.. don't let your guard down"

Founky Roads
FGF takes country boy John Denver's "Country Roads" and totally craps on it. With Toots & The Maytals having set a precedent on how to make Mr. Denver's music cool. This lyrically restructured version should have been better. Sadly, the new lyrics poop on the party  "eating moldy bread crumbs, dose of "penicil.... funky penicillin that is"  "it's almost heaven with it in ya" "founky roads shake me home to outer space where I belong" They should fling this stink bomb far into deep space to another galaxy.... far, far away.

This sounds so much like Smooth era Carlos Santana that I kept expecting Rob Thomas to saunter in and shove Cali aside to do the vocals. That's not to say it's bad, quite the opposite... just a wee bit derivative. Porcelana is a morenita with a taste for la lana, she calls and leaves a message asking if he's still going to lend her some plata. My advice is to lend her five dollars at first, if she pays it back lend her ten, if she doesn't pay it back then you're only out ten dollars. Ciao!

I Be Alright
Take a ride on the double dutch express, groove on old school beat while cruising through the heart of Funkytown. As with most of their funk tracks FGF nails it down, this song plays like a Bootsy Collins acid flashback. Never a dull moment when these guys are on. P-Funk, Sly Stone and a revolving cast of characters float in and out of the mix, the slice & dice of the turntables adds a hint of breakbeat funkiness to the party.  

My Sky
Are you up for the down stroke?, Felonious Groove Foundation at their finest. A languid mood piece that kicks off with a guitar laying down chicken scratch licks at our feet like rose pedals. "Your love comes like a bunch of grapes, first you refresh me then you intoxicate me" The flow is slow....set in motion by a simultaneous feeling of floating and sinking. "Lift me up and then set me down" Horns buzz and dive like angry hornets, keyboard notes wiggle like worms. Love and grapes, "everybody's got a little light under the sun."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Raggies- Videos & More




Who are The Raggies and why is their Singer Giving Me a Lap Dance? by Charles Honeywell 

First off, some of you may be wondering why we’re doing a rock and roll story in a gun magazine. It started off as run of the mill article on a gun collector, Jack Kilpatrick of Las Cruces, who owns a bunch of pre-ban full auto AK’s and SKS’s, as well as a serious collection of weapons previously owned by South American drug lords, such as a gold plated AR-15 with a tiger maple stock, previously owned by Pablo Escobar.

We were going to meet at a Las Cruces bar called El Patio for drinks and an interview. At the last minute, he told me that his band, the Raggies, had to take over a gig for another band who had canceled, and asked me if I wanted to see the show. I was 30 minutes from Cruces at the time and he offered free beer, so I figured, “Why not?” 

What I got that night was far beyond the limits of rock and roll. Half the band wore skintight spandex, something I hadn’t seen since the ‘80’s. The harmonica player, “Diamond” Dave Lavetts is reputed to be the world’s 6th greatest Jewish harp player. Kilpatrick wielded his Reverend Charger guitar with the same macho authority with which he aims his man-stopping autos. Last but certainly not least, is their ho-bag singer, “Little” Kim Foxxxe, who looked like she’d walked in off the set of a stroke film. During the band’s encore, the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself”, she came into the audience and gave me a lap dance that made me have to keep my hat over my fly on my way out the door. 

We ended up on this remote pecan farming compound where the band rehearses and records. Somebody whipped out some cheap Mexican tequila. The sun rose to find me in a field of trees in perfect rows. I was vomiting and my ears were ringing from automatic weapon fire. I never got to see the Escobar piece-he said it was at his mother’s house-but, by God, I rocked. The Raggies tour Texas from time to time. Check ‘em out. They’re our kind of people.

"The secret lives of Social Workers and the plights of their worst case studies"

It is with some reticence that I write these liner notes. For, while I enjoy this music well enough, and believe I had a good time at this gig, I can’t remember a whole lot about it. Guitarist Jack Kilpatrick lured me to the show under the ruse of having me help him dial in a new laser sight for his .357 magnum. He said I could come to the gig, stay at his house, etc. 

I worked on the sight in the afternoon while Jack broke in some new strings. He told me the story of the recent drummer swap: how Zeke had left the band due to dissonance between his fundamentalist Christian beliefs and the filthy content of Raggies music, and how founding Raggie, Chuck Manson had come to rejoin them a couple of weeks ago. Apparently Chuck had been living on the street in San Diego, and was discharged back to Las Cruces from a psychiatric hospital. He had had Jack’s phone number in his wallet and Kilpatrick, knowing he needed a drummer, was able to cajole a social worker into discharging Manson to the Kilpatrick household, where Jack was willing to “rehabilitate” him by harnessing Chuck’s love of drumming. I think there may have also been some forced confinement and stun gun torture, but I’m not supposed to talk about that. 

I was pressured into drinking a can of Cabron before the gig. Cabron is a sweet “energy” drink from Central Mexico, whose principal ingredient is the hallucinogen datura, or Jimson Weed. This is the well from which the Raggies’ inspiration springs. Listening to the playback of “Watching You”, I had a flashback of seeing the ourobouros, the mythological snake eating its tail. This would have been a beautiful vision had I not suffered it in the less-than-savory El Patio men’s room. 

“Diamond” Dave Lavetts charms a cobra from a jar with his harmonica. Jesse Gutierrez’s bass creates ripples in the earth like the quake that sends Hollywood into the Pacific. Gospel singer Mindy Bernal calls forth the wretched for salvation. Manson massages the drums in a way that offers wind and shadow to their desert landscapes. Kilpatrick’s guitar solos melt into the hungry ground like blood beneath an old rugged cross. 

I blacked out and then found myself nude in the desert near Jack’s subdivision, testing the laser sight with live ammo as the orange sun rose over the Organs (don’t know why the cops didn’t come). 

I’m a journalist for Texas Gun Monthly, a far-right gun magazine that’s little more than a newsletter. I know nothing about rock and roll. I don’t know why these guys keep asking me to review their work. I don’t know whether this music is good or not, but like Wallace Stevens’s crying peacocks, it exists, born from the fertile blackness at the heart of the world.

This Band is Doomed"
by Chet Smith, DIY magazine

"First of all, let me be clear in saying that this article is not an attempt at an impressionistic, new journalism take on the Raggies, a band I still do not fully understand. The honest truth is that I can't recall a lot of what went down during the day I spent with the Raggies at their rehearsal space on a pecan farm south of Las Cruces. Parts that I can recall lack what I would consider a natural narrative flow and seem to resemble what the aborigines call dreamtime. The reason for this breakdown in the chain of journalistic evidence has probably less to do with the band's mesmerizing music and more to do with the inspiration behind their music, an illegally imported Mexican energy drink known as Cabron, which comes in a black can emblazoned with the image of a demonic goat. The can's ingredients include "semillas daturas", the seeds of the hallucinogenic Datura plant, also known as Jimson Weed or Devils weed. The members of the Raggies inner circle suck this stuff down like gamers drink Mountain Dew. I spoke with my editor about this problem and he said we were desperate for copy and to check with the band. I asked Jack from the Raggies if they cared that some of my story might be inaccurate or hallucinated and he replied, "Cool man, go for it, but be sure and include the part where you pissed your pants."

Materially and artistically, the Raggies live in the wasteland between El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico, a place hysterically optimistic politicians call, the Borderplex. This is a cultural netherworld where Spanish is more common than English and you might find streets that look more like Juarez than Juarez does. They buy this Cabron stuff out of the back of a pawn shop in El Paso and started plying me with it as soon as I got off the plane and into guitarist Jack Kilpatrick's beat up truck. At first they told me it was an energy drink like Red Bull. I should have poured it out when harp player, Dave, added, "Its really helpful in that, after you do it, you won't be afraid to die." Not many soft drinks make that claim. We had a lunch of the best red chile enchiladas I ever tasted at a restaurant in Canutillo, Texas.

Their rehearsal space was a sheet metal shed on a pecan farm. Pecans, if you dont know, grow on trees, big trees. Pecan farms contain row after row of huge trees, all neatly and geometrically aligned. This curious alignment became important later, when I got lost in the orchard for a couple of hours before their manager, Cuco, found me. Cuco is notable for having made the papers as a suspect in the women of Juarez serial killer case. He naturally parlayed this press into band promotion. Apparently any of the bands he manages can get into the paper if he'll talk, a privilege he has not granted local police.

The Raggies gradually straggled into the dusty space: Diamond Dave Lavetts, the world's 6th greatest Jewish harmonica player; Jack Kilpatrick, who plays loud guitar, drummer Zeke X; and that supercute slice of Connecticut jail bait, Little Kim Foxxxe. This is where it starts to get a little hazy, the music sounded good. I was getting into it. Little Kim Foxxxe was wailing like a hellcat in heat and Dave was blowing the harp, not like a bluesman, but more like a snake charmer. Jack seemed intent on making surly facial expressions and torturing his amp to the edge of tonal Armageddon. This is where I started seeing snakes. I ran into a side room, where Cuco and some farm hands were drinking Cabron mixed with cheap Orendain tequila and playing Russian roulette. They offered me the gun. I stared at it for a moment and it morphed into a flesh-eating slug. I dropped it to the dirt floor and ran out into the orchard. Rows and rows of trees, endless, nameless...."

The Charles Honeywell article is excerpted from Texas Handgun magazine. The Chet Smith article is from DIY magazine, both have been re-printed without even a hint of permission by myself via The Raggies' MySpace Music blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Never Drink With The Raggies

A place hysterically optimistic politicians call, the Borderplex"

So it is, that fate has drawn me back to Las Cruces, that sun baked, dust coated, smog hazed, uncouth southern burg.  Chinga Chavin got it half right, sure you can walk down the streets of El Paso knee deep in tacos. But, in Las Cruces those same tacos, bought from a Taco Wagon will cost you less and taste better. Sad thing about Texans, no matter how close to the border they get or how much goddamn border they butt up against, they still can't make decent Mexican food!  

I'm not here to mess with Texas, for I've heard tell of a band from Las Cruces that plays it "as loose as an old prozzie's flange" (Dom Daley, Uber Rock magazine) They refer to themselves as "Credence Clearwater Revival on Meth" and pay tribute to all the Taco Wagons around the world "slangin' that meat in the street"  Naturally, I'm talking 'bout The Raggies a band who's music was described as being "born from the fertile blackness at the heart of the world." (Charles Honeywell, Texas Gun Monthly)

Las Cruces does have an active music scene, and there is a distinct "Las Cruces Sound." One which is influenced by the musical tastes of the NMSU student body. Who for the most part, are the ones filling the venues and spending their hard earned student loan money getting sloppy drunk. During the previous decade they favored third wave ska music, which made Liquid Cheese (a large ska band with at least a dozen musicians on its roster) the darlings of the local scene. 

"Put the heat to the meat and I'll sling it in the street"

Music fans are fickle bedfellows and after a while they dumped the cheese stixs for other flavors.  Punk rock made a stab at hoisting the fallen banner, but when your punk scene boils down to just two bands (and one metamorphosed from the other) well... you begin to see the limitations. The emo critters tried to dig their black polished finger nails into the public conscience, but unlike El Paso (where they dominate the scene) they were soundly rejected (they thrive on rejection anyway)

A true "Las Cruces Sound" was there all along, just waiting for the locals to take notice. The music is retro southern-rock played with enthusiasm and without  a hint of phoniness. It's best described as music to get loud and plowed, ripe with scruffy charm and belching beer soaked attitude. It's a steamy cow pie of Rio Grande dirtabilly blues soaked to its core with the muddy effluence of  The J. Geils Band, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top, Commander Cody, Johnny Winter, Joe Ely etc. Several Las Cruces bands have steered down that dusty path, each with their unique take on the style. 

The Beat Cowboys, Feral Root, The Moonshiners, The Rawdogs & The Raggies have drawn local if not regional followings. Other Las Cruces bands & musicians are close enough in style and spirit to warrant mention: Space Truckers, New Mexican Erection, Wormhole, Dirty Clydes, Janos, C.W. Ayon, Blues Messiah, Dusty Low, Soulshine & Dirty Jones. It goes without saying, if gigs are hard to come by in Albuquerque, just imagine how it is in Las Cruces. Hell! half of the bands I just mentioned are nothing more than distant memories. 

"I've got no time... like that G.G. Allin... so I'm crying like a titty baby"

Perhaps this mob of Mesilla Valley zanies has always been too unserious, dirty, rude and politically uncool to give a fuck that the odds are against them. At their core The Raggies are Jack Kilpatrick, guitar- vocals Diamond Dave Lavetts, harmonica and Little Kim Foxxxe, vocalist & "super cute jail bait", the supporting cast of musicians tends to change. Ms. Foxxxe who hails from Torrington, Connecticut was responsible for the name "Raggies" which is a "New England slang term for rednecks or po' white trash." I'll admit my ignorance and state that I had no idea Connecticut had any poor whites at all, unless you count the Portuguese. Ms. Foxxxe was rumored to have been locked up or dead, but it turns out she was simply on a family vacation.  

The rest of the band's line-up is fluid, Ryan Lee and Chris Churchill were replaced by Jesse Gutierrez "The Slapbassfunker" (a veteran of numerous Las Cruces bands) and drummer Zeke Ramirez. Thus, fulfilling Jack's dream of having an "All Mexican rhythm section."  For a while, The Raggies also utilized a hand drummer, Rene Romo who plays a djembe or West African hand drum. Zeke would later leave the band, scared off by the decadence that surrounds the Raggies. He was replaced by Chuck Manson, a psych patient, Jack met while carrying out his day job duties as a social worker.

These bar band denizens rightly earned their reputation as a must see live act, thanks in large part to the antics of Jack Kilpatrick. With his larger than life persona, it doesn't matter if he's singing the praises of a roach coach or  belting out a rugged blues song about the murdered women of Juarez. Jack demonstrates a rare combination of social conscience and ironic satire, which he serves up  disguised as cowbunk storytelling. The Raggies can be a lowbrow hoot, but they also strike a balance between tomfoolery and sharp social commentary.

"Little Joe go back home for this old world is stranger than you know"

There's a definite method behind this inspired madness, it's rude & crude humor, but never wrongheaded and it'll leave you laughing. Reactionary times demand inspirational reactionary rebels like Jack Kilpatrick. "He's a walking contradiction partly truth and partly fiction", he leans towards the liberal side politically, yet he has a love for firearms that only a right winger could understand.  Jack is a serious gun collector, his collection includes a gold plated AR-15 once owned by Pablo Escobar.

Charles Honeywell is a journalist for Texas Gun Monthly, which he describes as "a far-right gun magazine that’s little more than a newsletter." He was lured to Las Cruces under the guise of helping Kilpatrick "dial in a new laser sight for his .357 magnum" Honeywell is not a music writer but he should be, as he explains: " I don’t know why these guys keep asking me to review their work. I don’t know whether this music is good or not." 

Armed with West Texas stoicism, Honeywell met up with The Raggies at the Las Cruces dive known as "El Patio."  By the break of dawn, Honeywell would find himself naked, shooting the .357 in a forest of pecan trees, wondering why there were no cops around. With his head throbbing from Cabron and cheap Mexican tequila, Honeywell staggered back to Texas, much the worse for wear. Nonetheless, he gave them his full endorsement, advising his readers that "The Raggies tour Texas from time to time. Check ‘em out, they’re our kind of people."

"Its really helpful in that, after you do it, you won't be afraid to die." 

Another journalist didn't fare much better, Chet Smith of DIY magazine jetted into El Paso with the intentions of  doing a serious piece on the band and their "mesmerizing music."  Picked up at the airport by Kilpatrick, he was immediately offered a can of "Cabron" a Mexican energy drink not approved for sale or consumption in this country. The drink which is illegally imported from Mexico is said to contain "semilla daturas" or hallucinogenic datura plant seeds, also known as Jimson weed.

After guzzling a few Cabrons and chasing it with tequila, Chet spirals into a bad trip. Which according to Kilpatrick forced the band "to duct tape him to a chair in the shed overnight to chill him out." Smith's recollection of what took place is fuzzy as he explains "Parts that I can recall lack what I would consider a natural narrative flow and seem to resemble what the aborigines call dreamtime." Afterwards, Jack was disdainful of Chet Smith "He flew out here from California, and tried to party with the Raggies, and got sucked into the undertow."   

Safe at home in California, and facing a deadline, Smith contacted Jack Kilpatrick to let him know that parts of his story may be "inaccurate or hallucinated" to which Jack replied "Cool man, go for it, but be sure and include the part where you pissed your pants." I would highly recommend that in the future anyone wishing to interview The Raggies, do so by telephone. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

That Dirt City Sound Episode 20

"That Dirt City Sound" Episode 20 is 20 bangin' tracks of pure 'Burque hip hop. As my little nephew once told me, "Doesn't trilogy mean a set of three?" Smart boy that nephew of mine, I taught him half of what he knows.  Let's just call this a Dirt City Trilogy, sorta like a Baker's Dozen, and you know that extra one is always the best. 

These are songs that deal with the endless cycle of gang violence and retribution.  True tales from the city and about the city, presented by those who live and die in 'Burque. If you look past the gang posturing, it becomes apparent that these artists have a great love for Albuquerque and New Mexico.

Here's to peace between the north and south, the red and blue, the east and west. Let us wish for a world where color is not a distinction, be it bandanas, hats or skin. Keep in mind that it takes a lot more energy to be a hater than to simply co-exist with your neighbors.