“Simplicity is the key to doors divine”
Pickin' On is a series of tribute albums recorded by studio musicians in a bluegrass style. The series logs in at over one hundred albums, running the gamut from Three Doors Down to Hank Williams Jr. plus everyone and anyone that you can imagine in between. It's hit or miss. When it's good, (Van Halen's “Ain't Talking 'Bout Love” or The Offspring's “Gone Away”) it's really good. The bad stuff amounts to little more than the bluegrass equivalent of a square peg being forced into a round hole. “The Pickin' On series isn't alone in this world. Iron Horse a bluegrass band from Killen, Alabama has perfected the same formula for turning alt-rock songs into bluegrass tunes. It's the Sound-a-Like marketing technique of the early 1970s reinvented for the Americana set. The local tie-in? both Iron Horse and Pickin' On have covered The Shins, with good results.
Grand Canyon (Lesser bands have labels. We are the Grand Canyon) which evolved into Jenny Invert and hightailed it out of 'Burque, contributes “From the Westside” a cautionary tale about getting belligerent and shit faced, then having to walk from Albuquerque's westside back to the heights.... at night. Much ado about nothing. In my opinion, walking from the eastside to the westside would be much more harrowing, day or night. The best known band currently based in the Duke City would be The Handsome Family and “My Friend” does little to dissuade their reputation for producing music cloaked in a shroud of Gothic mystique. That can't be an easy thing to do in cheap and sunny Albuquerque N.M. What with all those colorful hot air balloons floating around on a daily basis.
Rod Lacy (The Old Main) is the product of his environment, Western New Mexico's coal country. Situated around Gallup on the state's western edge, it shares the same traits as its Appalachian counterpart. Rod Lacy hints at his roots with a jaded drawl that would seem more at home in West Virginia hollers than New Mexico arroyos. His plaintive tales pull you into the uncomplicated lives of the hearty men... broke dick and busted, who journeyed out to work the coal veins. “I feel okay but I came home with a busted back today” Rod's first album Blacklung was recorded in a cabin near Ruidoso while snowbound during a blizzard. It comes in two versions, the original 4-track recording from those cabin sessions, which is just a tad rough around the edges when compared to the subsequent studio version.
I will without the least bit of hesitation, admit to crying whenever I hear either Fast Heart Mart or The Handsome Family's original version of “My Sister's Tiny Hands” It's a song that fucks with my emotions. “We came in this world together, legs wrapped around each other. My cheek against my sister's, we were born like tangled vines” We all know the feeling of having someone ripped from us. Such pain being the vehicle that drives this heart rendering tale of sorrow and vengeance. “Every creature casts a shadow, under the sun's golden fingers” Makes ya' wanna grab a sharpened stick and start killing snakes. Fast Heart Mart (Martin Stamper) having completed a series of concerts in Germany and Finland, is still based in San Diego, with his most recent performances taking place at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin' dice. It's time to roll out another edition of New Mexico's one and only podcast dedicated solely to local music. This episode consists of tracks trimmed off previous podcast episodes in order to comply with Dailymotion's fifty nine minute rule. As a result, episode 44 is an odd mix of songs that slide up and down the genre scale. Nonetheless it goes down easy, not hard on the ears whatsoever. Excuse the two holiday tracks, I know we're nowhere near Christmas, but I just couldn't waste 'em. Boy Howdy!
Turn a Square- Iron Horse
From the Westside- Grand Canyon
My Friend- The Handsome Family
Black Xmas- Then Eats Them
Christmas Without You- The Angel Babies
Directions in a Bottle- Next 2 The Tracks
Black Lung- The Old Main
Norma Jean- Holiday Sail
Ought Five Thunder- The Foxx
Do Pot- Racist Cop
Soda Ride- Electricoolade
Darlin' Corey- Young Edward
My Sister's Tiny Hands- Fast Heart Mart
New Slang- Iron Horse