The Mid-Week Beat: A Little Bit of Folk, A Little Bit of Rock and Roll

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220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Bob_DylanOn this day in 1962, Bob Dylan released his first record for Columbia Records. Not only was this record the start of one of the modern era’s most prolific and groundbreaking songwriter’s careers, it also created a template for the modern folk musician. What made Dylan different than the other folk singers of his time, was that Dylan seem to have one foot in the folk tradition and another firmly planted in the world of rock and roll and its associated counter culture. While it was clear that he was drawing heavily from Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, there was also something new to Dylan’s sound and that difference brought folk music out of the coffee shops and political rallies and into the bedrooms of teenagers everywhere.

In honor of that groundbreaking record, I wanted to feature modern artists that are little bit folk and a little bit rock and roll. Everyone of the performers featured today, borrows strongly from the folk tradition but throws a little rock and roll attitude into the mix, creating a traditional music that would be way too raucous for the coffee shop crowd.

Lydia Loveless and Jon Langford wowed audiences at Bloodshot Record‘s showcase at SXSW last week and Larry and His Flask and Bob Wayne and his Outlaw Carnies have built up a strong international following through their relentless touring and blistering live performances. All of these performers have brought traditional music to rock audiences with great success.

Thanks for being you Dylan and let’s hear it for the legacy that he created 52 years ago with that classic record.

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Thursday, March 20 I Lydia LovelessSan Diego, California317786-250

In support of her new CD on Bloodshot Records, Lydia Loveless will be performing an intimate, high-energy show at the beautiful Seven Grand Whiskey Bar in the North Park section of San Diego tomorrow night.

Two years after the critical success of her breakout second album, Indestructible Machine, Lydia Loveless emerges from the trenches of hometown Columbus, Ohio with the gloves off and brimming with confidence on Somewhere Else. While her previous album was described as “hillbilly punk with a honky-tonk heart” (Uncut), this one can’t be so quickly shoehorned into neat categorical cubbyholes. No, things are different this time around. Loveless and her band have collectively dismissed the genre blinders and sonic boundaries that come from playing it from a safe, familiar place.

On their fourth overall release, Loveless and Co. (Ben Lamb on bass, Todd May on guitar and vocals, and new drummer Nick German) have coalesced into a band with a broad rock ‘n’ roll range, after a couple years spent performing everywhere from rowdy festivals to pin-drop quiet dinner sets. Without ditching the ribald, spit-in-your-eye attitude of her previous recordings, Loveless travels into some parallel-universe, roots-born Exile In Guyville territory. These are songs that find her asserting stylistic choices, while baring themes of insatiable desire, unrequited emotion, and mistake-making on life’s crooked path.

Lydia will also be performing a week later on Thursday, March 27 at The Brewhouse in Modesto, California. You can pick tickets up for that show right over here.

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Saturday, March 22 I Jon LangfordCobden, Illinois

Jon Langford was originally the drummer for the Leeds punk band The Mekons, who formed in 1977. He later took up the guitar as other band members left. Since the mid-1980s he has been one of the leaders in incorporating folk and country music into punk rock and has released a number of solo recordings as well as recordings with other bands outside of The Mekons, most notably the Waco Brothers. He is also involved with the Chicago-based independent record label Bloodshot Records.

Langford’s music is full of soulful urgency and longing. He sings songs of lost sailors, cruel pirates and creeping inevitabilities. His most recent album Here Be Monsters travels o’er the seas and malls, from the pubs of Wales to the swamps of the settled life, steeped in the haunted, never-ending search for place. Old Devils sits on the tuff wharves of the world and swaps stories and worries, the lies told much better than the truths, conjuring the ghosts of mates-in-spiritual-arms from Dylan Thomas to Johnny Cash.

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20111230_tgf_spirit02Tuesday, March 25 I Larry And His FlaskFort Wayne, Indiana

Musical anthropologists interested in the study of just how fast a band can evolve need look no further than the six upright, upstanding men in Oregon’s Larry and His Flask.

Formed by brothers Jamin and Jesse Marshall in 2003, the Flask (as the band’s expanding army of fans calls them) spent its first half-decade stuck in a primordial, punk-rock goop, where a blood-sweat-and-beers live show took priority over things like notes and melodies. Don’t misunderstand: The band was (somewhat) skilled and an absolute joy to watch, but the goal was always the party over perfection.

Over the past two years, however, Larry and His Flask has gone from crawl to sprint at breakneck speed. First, Jamin Marshall moved from gargling-nails vocals to drums. Guitarist Ian Cook became the band’s primary voice. And a trio of talented pickers and singers — Dallin Bulkley (guitars), Kirk Skatvold (mandolin) and Andrew Carew (banjo) — joined the family. (And no, you didn’t miss something. No one is named Larry.)

Determined to make music for a living or die trying, the six brothers set out in a van, intent on playing for anyone, anywhere at any time. From coffee shops to dive bars and street corners to theater stages, the Flask honed their sound and show through experience, attacking each gig like buskers who must grab and hold the attention of passersby in hopes of collecting enough change to get to the next town. The band’s new songs are a blurry blend of lightning fast string-band picking, gorgeous nods to old-school country, and sublime multi-part harmonies, all presented through a prism of punk chaos. The boys have grown and changed, yes, but their shows are still gloriously physical displays of live music’s sheer power. In other words, keep your eyes peeled, or risk taking the heavy end of Jesse Marshall’s flailing, stand-up bass right between the eyes.

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Sunday, March 30 I Bob Wayne and the Outlaw CarniesJamestown, California

Till the Wheels Fall Off ain’t just an album title. It’s a way of life. And the Outlaw Carnie responsible for it ain’t no character. Bob Wayne is 100% the real deal: a raucous, rambunctious, storytelling rabble-rouser with a passionate zeal for life and a reckless charm that is completely unbound.

Bob Wayne is as true of a DIY act as there is, kicking off his career without an agent, manager, record label, proper touring vehicle or fulltime backing band. He picked up and moved from the Pacific Northwest to Nashville and was instantly embraced by the community of underbelly outlaws whose stripped down and straightforward country cuts through the mainstream noise and pop pretenders. Bob’s songs often deal with the spiritual torment of living life pulled between good and evil; or they are about cutting loose and partying with your best friends; and then there are what he calls “the story songs.”

The compositions on his latest album are wrung from his heart, spirit and guitar with an authenticity that’s lacking in many of today’s various subgenres and scenes. It’s an out front, direct and in-your-face approach that has struck a chord with people whose music collections span the divides between country, roots, bluegrass, rockabilly, punk rock, hardcore, indie artfulness and the rawest of stoner rock and underground metal. It’s country, to be sure, but of the strongest grain and purest intent.

** WARNING! This video contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. **