Mid-Week Beat: Happy Birthday to Daniel Johnston

chapterone2Most people know singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston from the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston but this one-of-a-kind musician was influencing underground musicians well before the celebrated documentary came out.

Johnston became initially known within the Austin, Texas music scene in the early to mid 1980s. He recorded all his material on a $59 Sanyo monaural boombox, singing and playing piano, guitar and chord organ. He would hand out his cassettes to pretty much everyone he met and eventually gained attention from the press, developing a large and devoted fan base through his quirky, yet heartfelt, compositions.

Johnston self-released his cassette-only releases for almost a decade before he actually entered a real recording studio in 1988 to record 1990. However, it’s these early, lo-fi recordings that he’s best known for and which contain some of his best-loved songs like “Speeding Motorcycle” and “True Love Will Find You In The End.”

These early recordings have earned him a reputation as a seminal artist in the so-called “lo-fi” and “outsider” genres, but Johnston’s method of recording was more based out of necessity than a desire to achieve any sort of artistic aesthetic. It goes without saying though, that Johnston’s primitive recording techniques did give his songs a certain vulnerability that is often hard to achieve in a “professional” recording studio. The songs were recorded “as-is” complete with out-of-tune guitars, instrumental flubs and background noise! The definition of D.I.Y.!


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The Mid-Week Beat: Jazz for Autumn Nights

This week on the Mid-Week Beat, we turn our attention to some of the great jazz performances we got coming up this week.

There’s nothing I like better on a rainy Seattle fall night than putting on some great Verve or Blue Note recordings (on vinyl of course), eating some good food and enjoying a nice glass of wine. It really doesn’t get any better does it? Good jazz can often envelope you in a nice rhythm and mood like no other music can.

While jazz recordings are wonderful to listen to in the comfort of your own home, live jazz is where it’s at. Jazz is rooted in improvisation and there are few more visceral experiences that witnessing a skilled player improvise around a solid rhythm section. Fellow wino, Jack Kerouac often wrote about the transformative qualities of witnessing a live band that was really swinging and anyone that’s witnessed a jazz great in action knows exactly what he was talking about.

Well, this week, we got some world-class jazz performances happening all around the country and I thought I’d share a few that jumped out at me. For all the hep-cats out there!
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