Monday, June 24, 2002

Don't Touch Me

Who would have thought a decade ago that it would come to this? Loosely based on an idea from Cliff the first newsletter was produced in the basement of #80 ten years ago this week. It looked a little different, typed out on an actual electric typewriter, ten pages of one column copy slapped on ripped out paper from an old typing class practice book found while pricing out green tag junk sold at Landfill.

The editor at the time played by TV's George Takei was a little younger, a little more naive, a load less weary, a little less gray, and knew a little bit more than he knows today. He never could envision that ten years later he would still be doing the newsletter mostly done Saturday nights, developing a rhythm over the years, a routine: music carefully picked playing in the background, a load or two of laundry being washed out of sight, a kitty craving some attention wandering every now and then between his feet as the man struggled to decipher some scratched out handwriting.

Of course none of this would have been possible without all the wonderful often times amusing contributions made over the years, the voices come and gone (and those still remaining), and the paycheck (hey, just when do I get a raise?) provided by the man who has taught me more than just about anyone else I've ever known.

It also wouldn't have been possible had it not continued to be a kick working for a company dealing in one of the most joyous elements of life- music. That said with a spate of recent CDs that qualify as must listens (the two! Tom Waits, Lauryn Hill, Wilco, Gary Wilson, Elvis Costello, Paul Westerberg, Mason Jennings, Neil Young, David Murray, etc.) I must admit I was feeling a bit burned out and strangely emotionally distant from trying to digest all the new songs from some of our most talented songwriters (I've been in a Nick Drake mood as of late). Unlike usual, nothing much was seeping in until I came across a disc that came out a few months ago that I had been meaning to listen to but just recently got around to playing for the first time- Kasey Chambers' inspired Barricades and Brickwalls.

Chambers has been described as a young Australian version of Lucinda Williams. Such a label isn't necessarily fair- it's like calling Sandra Bullock a Hollywood version of our favorite purse sewing seamstress who went to Simley High in Inver Grove Heights. Like Williams the music is a mix of country, blues, and rock. And like Williams, Chambers' voice has a quirkiness that adds an emotional nuance to the solidly written self-penned songs (indeed Williams makes a guest backing vocal appearance on one track) though as a lead singer she sounds more like Iris Dement to these ears.

The songs themselves are about heartache, loss, and love. The title track strikes a defiant tone "I'll be damned if you're not my man before the sun goes down..." that works as a nice metaphor for a young songwriter trying to make a statement on her second major label release. My favorite song, "A Little Bit Lonesome" sounds like a long lost Hank Williams track. It's so sad that it makes your back hurt although the humor of the writer shines through and ultimately serves as some sort of redemption. "I'm gonna drink you out of my head." Perhaps the catchiest song amongst the bunch is the driving "Runaway Train" that somehow sounds sensuously sinister with a foraging no hostage melody accompanying Chambers' confident, almost menacing vocal.

The CD is admittedly less an artistic achievement than some of the aforementioned discs but it is the one I'll be playing more than any other this summer. Given her youth the 25-year-old Chambers has probably had fewer life lessons than those other songwriters but she ain't exactly Kylie Minogue either. It will be interesting to listen to her growth as a songwriter on subsequent records; indeed the development since her first disc The Captain is impressive enough. Chambers herself has said the first disc was more of an introduction while the follow up is a "many moods of..." disc. Who knows? Maybe the newsletter will even be around ten years from now to chronicle some of that growth.

Why u Wouldn't Want to be Stuck on an Island with D. Ma

Editor's note: I find it somewhat ironic that in the tenth anniversary issue of the newsletter we have a number of lists submitted. When I interviewed with former GM Scott Kuzma a decade ago for this job I was known for organizing top ten lists within my store. I joked with Scott that if we couldn't fill up the publication with articles I could always resort to lists. Scott scowled at me...Thanks for the idea Sam.

Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
Liz Phair- Exile in Guyville
Coleman Hawkins- Hawk Flies High
Frank Sinatra- Watertown
Bob Dylan- Street Legal
Lucinda Williams- Lucinda Williams
Tubby Esquire- Return of the Last Castrato!
Barry Manilow- Greatest Hits
L7- Smell the Magic
Lyle Lovett- Road to Ensenada
Paul McCartney- Red Rose Speedway
Cibo Matto- Stereo Type A

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