Frontier Ruckus

Musical oddities twang relentless. Miniature concerti on the strings of the holler. Multiple musicians stretch lyrics taut over the bones of memory and loss and hope. Minor keys, major melodies.

A quavering voice driving earnestly before the musical buzz of flexing hardware and jangly picking.

The Orion Songbook by Frontier RuckusFrontier Ruckus is perpendicular to bluegrass; somehow, they cross it at right angles, leaving no doubt that either you are on the train or you have missed it until it next passes your station. Which it will, so pay attention.

Amazing Instrumentals

A while back we referred to Nickle Creek’s “Smoothie Song” as the first instrumental to reach the top of the AAA charts. An astute and musically enlightened reader, Craig Handyside, asked about the AAA charts and drew my attention to one of the greatest instrumentals ever written or performed, reaching the top of the pop charts in 1967, Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”‘

First note that the AAA charts are a reasonably recent phenomenon in the music world and as far as can determine, not available online so we can’t do much research into their history. However, if we cast aside all this “which chart are we using” pontificating, “Classical Gas” surely stands, if not alone, at least head and shoulders above the plethora of guitar instrumentals before and since.

Williams has been oft quoted explaining the song’s original title “Classical Gasoline” and the fortuitous mistake that shortened it to “Classical Gas“, carrying the additional groovy connotations of ‘gas’ which Williams hadn’t even considered in the original title. The original release on the Mason Williams Phonograph Record seemed doomed to commercial failure as an album, since this blistering jazz, rock, acoustic guitar instrumental was surrounded by country music, silly pop songs, novelty tunes and elevator music (all of which is spectacular beyond belief),

For example, “The Prince’s Panties” engages in fantastical word play and mental imagery while leading to a painfully punny finale, all the while accompanied by silly, spritely, hummable music. The country tune “Long Time Blues” is worthy of airplay on any country station in any decade. While Williams has included “Classical Gas” on two recordings, the “Phonograph Record” and “Classical Gas” with Mannheim Steamroller, the final track on the “Phonograph Record”, “Baroque-A-Nova” actually appears on all three existing Williams albums in different arrangements; one choral, one guitar, and one Chip Davis/Mannheim Steamroller special deluxe extra.

Williams, a brilliant guitarist, composer, and comic writer, has received too little praise and recognition for so great a contribution to the arts. Here’s hoping for another solo effort or even another collaboration with Mannheim Steamroller.

Smooth Indeed

For the first time in musical history an instrumental made it to the top of the Album Oriented Rock charts. It’s kinda fun that it was done by a band from my old home town, San Diego’s own Nickel Creek.

Calling Chris Thile (pronounce it THEE-lee with a ‘TH’ like ‘thumb’ and you’ll make him very happy) a ‘mandolin player’ is like calling Chet Atkins a ‘Country Guitar Player.’ I get blisters just listening to him. My own Fender mandolin should be arriving any day now. Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.Nickel Creek is bluegrass with an attitude. Nickel Creek is acoustic rock making a left turn in Albuquerque. Nickel Creek is doing what Jorma Kaukonen, Bela Fleck, and Stephane Grappelli did: creating a very new dimension to a very old genre. Members fiddler Sara Watkins, guitarist Sean Watkins, and mandolin player Chris Thile have been playing together professionally since they were in elementary school. Listening to a live radio broadcast on KPRI right now, it’s obvious they’ve made effective use of the time.

Nickel Creek's 'This Side'On August 7th, “Smoothie Song” made it to the pinnacle of the AAA chart; the first instrumental ever to do so. Named on the spur of the moment because the vendor at the fair delivered their smoothies just as they finished polishing the tune in their car, “Smoothie Song” was really going to be called something like “I Just Met the Girl I’m Going to Marry and Made a Complete Jerk of Myself” but they figured that wasn’t exactly a ‘radio friendly’ title.

Individually, the members of Nickel Creek have performed or recorded with The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, Bela Fleck, Glen Phillips, Lyle Lovett and others. Rolling Stone included the band in their “Best of 2002″ while Time Magazine featured them in the music innovators special in May of 2000, naming them one of 5 Music Innovators for the Millenium. Both their albums were produced by the angelic bluegrass/pop legend Alison Krauss.

Their website is stuffed with the kind of info that fascinates me. Give it a visit, and read about three remarkable musicians with a passion for their music—and for life.

Link Death

Link rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at Amazon.com, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: I’ve gathered up all the searches done here at KnowYourMusic recently. Maybe we can incite a dialog; I’ll see if I can figure out what you were looking for, and you see if you can figure out what I’m talking about.

What does egbdf mean? — The notes of the musical scale, when written on a musical staff, fall either into the spaces, or onto the lines. In normal melody notation, the spaces are easy to remember — the notes are F, A, C, and E — FACE. The lines, however, aren’t as simple; so throughout history, we’ve come up with endless mnemonics to remember the obscure and arcane pattern of the notes on the lines. The Moody Blues did an album with a common UK version, “Every Good By Deserves Favour.” EGBDF — the notes on the lines of the scale. (This musicblog was once at EGBDF.info.)
  • black sabbaths iron man — In case you didn’t find it, I posted Iron Man back in June.
  • Don Wahlberg — New Kids on the Block? No; that would be Donnie Wahlberg. Probably not here.
  • Little Feat — Closest I came was “Ride of the Tarzana Kid” back on September 1st. But they’ll show up in greater detail eventually.
  • Norah Jones — . . . sigh . . . Norah Jones, indeed. You couldn’t have missed “Come Away with Norah Jones“, also in September.
  • Rising Of The Sea — Anything to do with OB1? If so, tell me more; the clips I’ve heard are very interesting.
  • Steven Oliver — Pleasant relaxing jazz guitar. Not familiar enough to offer a real opinion.
  • Three Two One Let’s Jam — Still one of my favorite entries, “Jumping Japanese Jazz” should fill the bill.
  • Wild Wood Flower — If there were only two folk guitar songs, they would be “Wildwood Flower” and “Under the Double Eagle.” Written by A.P. Carter and originally sung by ‘Mother’ Maybelle Carter, mother of June Carter Cash (Johnny’s wife), this is an eternally beautiful song. I like John Sebastian’s cover on “Tarzana Kid”, but nothing approaches the scratchy old 78 RPM record of Maybelle Carter’s equally scratchy voice and AP’s stunning guitar.
  • 1990 groups — Um; which ones?
  • A Little Touch Of Heaven — Nothing comes to mind. Are there more details?
  • Alison Krause Let Me Touch You Awhile — I love Alison Krauss. Not sure if I’ve heard this one, though, so I’ll have to track it down.
  • alley — As in, “Loading Dock Dark Alley Swing“? Or maybe Stevie Ray Vaughan’s incredible “Tin Pan Alley” from “Couldn’t Stand the Weather.” I’m overdue for a review of a complete SRV album; that was my first, so watch for it sometime soon.
  • Blood On The Tracks — Bob Dylan — Mr. Zimmerman has made numerous appearances, but the most direct was “Shelter from the Storm” in October.
  • boy bands — Nope.
  • i know how he feels — Thank you; he appreciates your concern for his welfare. Wait; isn’t that a song by Reba McIntire? After 30 years, I’m coming into my second ‘country’ period. We’ll see about this one.
  • All Along The Watch Tower — “The Watchtower, All Along
  • Angelo Debarre — Ah; anyone who records Django Reinhardt songs gets my attention. Further investigation is indicated.
  • Coldplay — My daugher Cheyenne has both albums. I’ll get around to these talented guys eventually.
  • granted you one final wish — Would you ask for something like another chance? “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”, whether you mean the song and the album, is one of the pinnacles of modern music; a focal point about which entire genre revolve. If Steve Winwood had never played an instrument, had never recorded another thing, the vocals on this album would secure his place on a very short list of truly great jazz vocalists. On my vacation back in May, I wrote “While I’m Far From Home” about another Traffic tune.
  • Heavy Blinkers – I had never heard of the band. The bio at CDNow sounds intriguing. Have a CD you want to share?
  • homeworld — Yes. As in the group, Yes. First song on “The Ladder”, a wonderful album my oldest son Tristan has tried many times to steal from me. Maybe I’ll buy him his own copy (and maybe he’ll buy me my own copy of the PC game “Homeworld” designed around the song.) This got pretty thorough treatment in “Mountains Come Out of the Sky” back in July.
  • iz — Searching for Iz? “Finding Iz” back in June.
  • limbo song — Chubby Checker. Had the 45 when I was a kid.
  • Michael Nesmith — See “Tropical Campfires” below.
  • Michael Smith — Steve Goodman’s cover of Smith’s “The Dutchman” was more popular than Smith’s version, but Goodman’s tunes “Banana Republics” and “The City of New Orleans” gained wider circulation in the hands of Jimmy Buffett and Arlo Guthrie, respectively. Odd how things work out sometimes.
  • Michelle Branch — Performed ‘Game Of Love’ on Carlos Santana’s newest album “Shaman.” Nice work. Not too familiar with her own music, but I know it’s nice solid listenable stuff.
  • Route 66 — “If You Ever Plan to Motor West” — Well, I plan to motor east on my vacation next week, but this song will be along in multiple versions. They will all be played loud.
  • Tropical Campfires — When granting permission to use their graphics, the official Mike Nesmith website (in the guise of Neffie, the main character in Nez’s book “The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora”) included a link to “Laugh Kills Lonesome“, my review of what I’ve read of the book, and of the marvelous song, “Laugh Kills Lonesome.” Well, almost; they included a link to the home page. So in a day or two, it won’t be there any more. As of right now, this search won’t even find the article, so I’m re-indexing the search engine so folks can find it. I’ve also added what I hope is a really obvious link below the search tool. It’ll probably be with us for a while.

It is my heartfelt desire for this site to become truly interactive. Until recently, I believed I was on a first name basis with both of my readers. Instead, a perusal of the server logs indicates that, over the last month, nearly a thousand different readers have spent an average of thirteen minutes each here at KnowYourMusic. You can’t imagine how exciting that is.

So, tell me about yourself. Who are you? Where are you? What do you like? What am I doing wrong?

Let’s talk.

(If that link doesn’t work for you, you can use the ‘Comment’ link below.)