Tuesday, June 19, 2007

10000 hits

Wow. Thats all I have to say. Wow.

Great job guys, looks like there is actually something like a readership developing on this blog :)

To celebrate, next upload will be some Velvet Underground, hands down my favorite rock band ever, and the creators of some of the most creative and interesting music ever made. I've been waiting till I was in a VU state of mind to do a writeup on them justice, recently I have been getting back into them, so now is the time.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Just like how it is really hard to find a contemporary bluesman more authentic then Alvin "Youngblood" Heart, its just as hard to find a more authentic contemporary classic rock and roll band then Vetiver.

If you are like me, and believe rock died in the very early 70s, you will immediately fall in love with these guys. Vetiver really captures that innocent, authentic spirit that got lost when rock and roll became rock. There was a warmth in music back then that got lost to the pretentious electric guitar solos of the 70s, and then totally buried in the synthetics of the 80s. Thank God we are past that now, but nowadays music is all about production values, and in the quest for getting that perfect, pure tone, much of the life gets strangled out of music.

For those of you with sharp eyes, yes, that dude on the far right is Devendra Banhart. He was pretty much a member of the band for the first two albums, and still will often play with them if they are touring together (which regularily happens). Listening to their music is always a real pleasure; full of warm, pleasent tones, backed by etherial, introspective vocals.

Ironically, these guys remind me alot of the Velvet Underground, although they have an incredably different sound. I think what it is is a true authenticity, and a love of the 60s that shines through in everything they do. I highly recommend this album to pretty much anyone. I uploaded the Between E.P because of the variety of songs, and the first and last songs are two of my favorites by the band.



Thursday, June 07, 2007

New Banner

Well, it's been awhile since I posted, once again, I apologize (as usual). Life is busy, and there are only so many hours in a day. Unfortunately, when something needs to be put on hold to make room for other things, this blog is the first to go. That doesn't mean I have forgotten about it, or anything like that. Just means my posts get less then regular.

One of the things that has been keeping me busy is that I have been learning flash, because of a new job opportunity opening up in the next few months. Since the best way to see if you know something is to try and apply the knowledge you have gained, I decided to throw together a little banner for the blog. Nothing extravagant (I have a fairly zen view of web design, I like things simple and subtle.). It starts off with a picture of a dude playing a national with a slide, I tween the saturation down, and tint it to match the color of the header used in the template. Then there is a fade in of the title text, and about a quarter of a second of blur animation as the caption comes in. The only thing kind of heavy is the background music, (backwards blues, by bob brozman), but that can be controlled with the play/pause buttons in the lower right hand corner.

Anyways, let me know what you think. And for those who enjoy classic rock, I just uploaded the Between ep by Vetiver. Gotta run now, but expect a new post tomorrow, or super late tonight.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Guy Davis: Legacy

I just can't seem to stay on top of this blog, can I?

In my defense, my ad-blocking program (admuncher) spontaniously decided the blogger editing tools were ads, and munched em. I thought that it was a problem at bloggers end for about a week, and by the time I figured out what the problem was, I was once again swamped with work.

Anyways, hopefully today's post will make up for it. This is another one of my favorite "contemporary" blues albums, and bluesmen.

The most interesting way to say you came by an artist is that you happen to see them perform at a local venue, and was so entranced you immediately became a fan for life. Or maybe you were talking to another artist, and they share this obscure performer with you. Or at least you are in a cafe, and happen to catch a tune on their playlist. As much as I wish I could say something like that, in this case it is a bit more embarassing. I was playing hookie from work, with local public access television playing in the background. Vicky Gaberau (a canadian daytime interviewer) was on, and it was a chance glance at the tv set that I saw a black man with a big hat sitting on a stool picking on a guitar. I immediately dived for the volume, but only raised it in time to catch the tale end of his performance of "Payday" by mississippi john hurt. Well, let me tell you, that was enough to make me a fan for life.

This absolutely stellar album kicks off with "Uncle Tom's Dead" (for those that don't know, Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book that pretty much kicked off the emancipation movement that caused the American Civil War wiki) While not exactly fitting with the rest of the album (an acoustic blues/rap fusion), Guy expresses the frustration that alot of black people have with the state of their community. People like him love his people, love his people, and see unlimited potential in what they can do, but are frustrated by the raging social diseases gripping the group as a whole. In this particular case, he is saying that the current culteral music (gangsta rap) gives nothing to the black people ("you try to be thugs, you glorifyin drugs, you oughta go back to your momma for hugs"), and that taking back the blues from white people is an important part of making things better. ("you think rappin is new, and it started with you? that blues is just for white boys to listen to? the blues is in your blood boy, you cant get away. the blues will be with you till your dying day.") While I do think there is (and alwas has been) a strong social justice message in rap music, for every Mos Def there will alwas be a Chamillionaire that overshadows everything he says.

From Uncle Toms Dead, it totally switches gears into the ragtime guitar of MJH with payday. This isn't just a good arrangement, it is a phenomenal arrangement. Guy has a bit of a rougher tone to his voice then MJH did, which automatically takes the song in a different direction, but as much of a master MJH was, what Guy does to this song makes it very hard to decide which is better. The banjo playing off the guitar is just delightful, and the penny whistle ups the emotional ante right at the end, leaving you completely floored, in that happy ragtime kinda way.

The rest of this album is (as I have said many times before), my favorite way of making albums. Taking standards and putting your touch on them, and mixing that with origional songs in the old styles. Guys songs stand out more then AYH (last post, big mammas door), but they are all extrordinarily well written, and beautifully played even though they don't sound like they were written 150 years ago.

If you are seriously into the blues, chances are you've heard of Alvin Hart (Big Mamma's Door made quite a splash), but Guy should still be new to you. This is by far my favorite of his albums, hopefully you guys will enjoy it as much as I have.

As for whats next, Im thinking either this wonderful Django Reinhardt tribute album I have (Gypsy Jazz), or some Antoine Dufour (modern acoustic fingerstyle) as I saw him last week and he was so incredably phenomenal I really want to talk about him a bit. I'll do my best to get something up within the week.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Alvin "Youngblood" Heart: Big Mama's Door

Once again, I am very sorry about the infrequency of posts. I have just been incredably busy recently, and havn't had time to breath, let alone blog about music (I was up till 4am last night wrestling with sql server 2005). But the good news is that I have a new laptop, and as such, all my old music has come out of storage and is once again on my harddrive where it belongs (got an HP Pavilion dv9000, which comes with dual 110 gig HDs, which is a huge change from my old 40 gig dinosaur). So, to apologize for the lack of posts, I will give you guys two of the best old-time bluesmen around nowadays. (the other one will come tomorrow.)
Alvin "Youngblood" Hart is the kind of artist that renews your faith that the old music is too universal to ever truely die. He has a nice mix of origional music in the traditional style, and traditional music with his own personal touch, which is exactly what folk players are supposed to do.
The album kicks off with the title track, Big Mama's Door, and from the first slide I sat up and started paying attention. There is something about slidwork on a national that just cant be beat, it has a more aggressive tone then acoustic, but more warmth and character then an electric. In short, perfect for the blues. Big Mama's Door is a phenomenal song, but then Joe Friday starts, and I knew I was a fan for life. One of my all time favorite blues songs, there are not many people who could play (or sing) a song like that.
The album continues after that with many old friends (France Blues, Thing's Bout Commin My Way, Pony Blues, Hillbilly Willie's Blues), and plenty of new ones. I guarentee anyone who loves bottleneck will instantly fall in love with Alvin Hart, and if you arent and would like to get into the genre, this is a great place to start.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Downloading Problems

A friend of mine just told me she couldnt download the six organs of admittance album, but It seems perfectly fine on my end. If other people are having problems, I'll start using something other then megaupload.

Beirut: Gulag Orkestar

About time I actually put something new up. Sorry for the delay, I have been absolutely insanely busy recently, and will do my best to be more regular in the future.

Thank you to everyone who wrote in support of this blogs eclectic (sometimes schizophrenic) format. Its nice to knowthat your work is actually being appreciated by people out there.It wasnt until I stopped listening to the radio and started downloading stuff that I actually learned to love music, and anything I can do to help people along in their own journey of musical appreciation, I consider to be time well spent.

Now, on to the show. Beirut is a delightful little gem I ran accross about six months ago. For those of you who are elephant6 fans, they have that wonderful, eastern bloc folk/ marching band sound that NMH managed on their instramentals. For those who don't have any idea what I am talking about, just think the aimelee soundtrack, with a bit more intensity. While the lyrics arent really anything to write home about, the vocals will propel you into a different place and time. The lead singer is just a kid, but as one reviewer put it, he sounds like "a sixty-year-old man, on a porch sipping vodka." While his lyrics fall very far short of the genius that is Jeff Mangum (NMH), his voice is at least as good, if not better.

Beirut is everything that I love about indie music, people taking music to unexpected places, blending old and new sounds, or just making everything up as they go along. I highly recommend this download to pretty much anybody, I guarentee it will end up on your playlist more and more as time goes on.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Six Organs Of Admittance: School of the Flowers

There are a lot of people out there doing fuzzed out psychedelic music, but among all of them, Six Organs of Admittance really stands out.

There is quite a bit of what you would expect, but with the haunting acoustic lead runs, and the mix of gentle vocals and sweeping soundscapes make this a band that will end up on your playlist more often then you may think on first listen.

There are times when I really sit down, and listen to music. At those times, I need some seriously complex, in-your-face lyrics and/or musicianship. Other times, I'm working, or talking, or doing something that requires my almost complete attention. At those times, I don't want Dylan, I want something like these guys. Their sound really fades into the background and creates a pleasant vibe that everyone can enjoy.

Anyways, these guys aren't a group that I am seriously on fire about. They are a group that is relatively obscure, but that I heartily enjoy. So if you are looking for some nice, mellow, trippy ambient sounds, give these guys a listen. You won't be disappointed.



1042 page hits in a bit over a week. That's really astonishing, I didn't realise I had anywhere NEAR this many readers. From looking at the stats and where people are coming from, I'll do a few more psych folk/indie posts before going on to the next thing (I am thinking of starting a series on Dylan). Next up will be some Six Organs Of Admittance, and I think I will wrap up this whole freak folk extravaganza with Devendra Banharts compilation album, Golden Apples in the Sun.

What I have been doing so far is just posting what I am listening to at the moment. I tend to go through phases. I start by really getting into a genre, I listen to alot of different stuff. Then I start getting the urge for something new, and start looking for cool new stuff. The music from the previous genre starts getting pruned off of my iPod until I have only a handful of albums that I really love, and those tend to stay with me for whenever I happen to be in the mood for them. This is what has lead to my exceptionally eclectic listening habits, and is why the music choices on this blog tend to be fairly schizophrenic (I mean, theres a BIG difference between Joanna Newsom and Mississippi John Hurt).

I know alot of my page hits are people looking for something specific, and that's OK, but I also know I do have regular readers. To develop an audience, typically you need to focus on one kind of music, and I really haven't been doing that. So folks, what do you say? I could probably go on and on for a long time about, say, folk blues and bluegrass, and that would bring a specific kind of audience. I could also continue as I have been, and give people the opportunity to expand their horizons. If you don't dig something now, doesn't mean you wont in a year from now. A big part of finding good music that you aren't into yet is trust, and if you can trust that I won't post garbage, then you will have the opportunity to broaden your taste in music with me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Joanna Newsom: Live on WMFU

Joanna's voice may be a bit much to swallow for alot of people, but if you've been on board with Neutral Milk Hotel and Devendra Banhart, then you owe it to yourself to give her a fair chance. Once she starts growing on you, it wont stop.

I don't listen to many female soloists, simply because I find that women almost universally go for the tonally sweet vocals that permeate the radio. That's not a problem if your into that stuff, but as you may have noticed from the stuff I have posted so far, I'm really not. I much prefer vocals with "character", people who sound unique, and use their voice for emotional effect rather then the whole Justin Timberlake/Celine Dion thing that most vocalists go for.

Her voice aside, this girl can play. She is an absolutely stunning harpist, and she plays her instrument in ways I didn't even know it could be played. She has a real rhythmic style, one hand doing arpeggios, the other doing bass accompaniment (very similar to fingerstyle guitar). The harp itself gives her the range that a piano gives, and her technique is just stunning to listen to. The harp is a perfect compliment to her bizarre vocals.

Usually I put up studio albums, but in this case, the radio interview is so damn good, that I chose to put it up rather then the album. The songs here are from "The Milk Eyed Mender", which is her first LP. If you are into Devendra and Jeff (from Neutral Milk Hotel), then this is HIGHLY recommended. If you really aren't into that kind of thing, then you may want to give her a pass, as she is even further from the acceptable range of voices then the two I just mentioned.


Blog Changes

As you may have noticed, theres been a few changes here at fourth string, third fret.

First of all, I was getting real tired of that blogger template (what is 897, and why are those numbers all over the place?).

I have had a few complaints about the idiotic thing I used to do with font sizes My excuse is that many of those posts were written at 800x600 resolution, where it looks fantastic. However, at 1024x768, or even worse, 1280x1024, its friggin tiny. So I went through all my old posts, and fixed the font sizes (although I kept my oh so professional humungafacation of the first letter).

There was also that awful, pretentious thing I had in the About Me thingie on the sidebar. First of all, I wrote that five or six years ago, when I was significantly more angst filled then I am now, and secondly, This blog isn't about me, it's about the music I listen to. So instead of about me, I just put the intraductory post to this blog.

Last but not least, it seems like there are alot of people reading this blog. I never really realised, until I accidentally changed the archive password from the old one to what it is now. Suddenly, I got a flurry of emails from every post that had the old password. So, now theres a counter, and we'll be able to see just what kind of traffic we get here.

Anyways, If you guys have any comments or suggestions, feel free to, you know, comment. ;-) Hope you are enjoying it so far, next I am going to put up a radio show featuring Joanna Newsom, an absolutely wonderful harpist, with an extremely unique voice.

- The Google Ninja

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands

Its definately time for some more psychedelic folk stuff. For those who don't know him yet, but are into indie/psych folk, Devendra Banhart will be a real gem.

Im a big fan of psychedelic songwriting, because its highly enjoyable no matter how many times you listen to it, just being carried away by the imagry. Also, it really leaves itself open to interpretation, which is really what art is all about. Typically, singer/songwriters go for introspective emotional prose, which can be good if the person has talent, but most of the time it is angsty, self-indulgant drivel. Devendra however has the soul of a poet.

The man is an absolutely delightful guitarist, his classically based fingerstyle technique is rather unique, and is a great complement to his voice. People like him can end up being real downers, but you cant listen to certain songs (for example; The Body Breaks, This is the Way, Rejoicing in the Hands) and consider him to be a downer.

Rejoicing in the Hands is, in my opinion, his best album. Its actually well produced and recorded (unlike his earlier stuff), and there is a level of refinement to his voice that wasnt there on his first records. His latest album (Cripple Crow) is also fantastic, but the reason I didnt post it is because, while being incredably eclectic (everything from 60s rock to Bossa Nova), there isnt much of what makes Devendra Devendra.

Been getting into alot of what is being called "Freak Folk" recently, expect more posts real soon of similar content.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Men Of Steel: The Art Of The Steel String Guitar

Ok, this one is for the guitar nuts out there. The idea behind the men of steel was to form a guitar group with some of the most talented pickers in the world, and they definately managed it.

First you have Beppe Gambetta. Even though Italian, he is one of the best american bluegrass players in the world. His song on the album, Traveling with Mama, is beyond fantastic (although for the full effect you really need to hear the studio version, they fake the slide in this performance. Then you have Dan Crary, who is another one of the best bluegrass players out there. He has been incredably influencial on flatpicking in general, and in my humble opinion, is the most talented man with a pick alive today. Then there is Montreal born Don Ross, who more or less invented the modern acoustic percussive fingerstyle subjenre (which he jokingly calls "Heavy Wood"). Last but not least, Tony McManus from Ireland, who is an impeccable picker, but whose claim to fame is transposing gaelic bagpipes tunes onto the guitar.

All in all, a highly enjoyable album, especially if you play the guitar. If you aren't a musician, it may be a bit much at times, but still highly recommended and well worth the listen.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Andy McKee - The Art of Motion

I have been a bit hesitant about posting some of the stuff I have recently been listening to, as it is quite new, and the artists really need to make money. I decided for it simply because many people don't even know music like this exists, and if you get hooked on it like I have, these guys will get plenty of money from you. The prices are more then fair at 10$ an album (mp3 download) at www.candyrat.com. I highly recommend both Andy and Antoine DuFour.

I have alwas been a huge fan of fingerstyle guitar, more so then lead stuff on electric, and strumming on acoustic. Flatpicking is wonderful, but for me, fingerstyle is pretty much my favorite way to play the instrament. Well, there is a whole new world of acoustic fingerstyle happening as we speak, with some of the most talented guitarists the world has ever seen.

Andy Mckee cut his teeth on stuff like Joe Satriani, really hardcore lead guitar, until he got introduced to this kind of music. He realised the alternate tunings, harmonics, two handed fretting, and percussive body and string slaps was the kind of thing he wanted to do, and traded in his electric for an acoustic. He is now one of the leaders of this new style of instramental music started by a fellow named Don Ross.

In recent times, the world has really had an obsession with the whole singer/songwriter phenomenon. The problem with that, is that what is deep and meaningful to one person, is pretentious highschool poetry to another. Unfortunately, we've gotten far too much of the latter. But for some reason, the movement continues, to the point that people don't consider you a musician unless you write "meaningful" songs. This stigma is very new, back in the day there were performers, writers, and performers who wrote. If you go even further back, you have the whole classical music thing, where you had composers, not writers.

This style if music is insanely hard to play, and singing would be insanely difficult. Not only that, but there really is no need, andy is so incredably emotive and at times, downright verbal, that you dont need a human voice to be moved. Now, don't get me wrong, as I have mentioned before, I love Bob Dylan. There are notable singer/songwriters, but that doesnt mean thats all there is. At times, I like to hear a story with my music, at other times, that isnt what I want at all (when I'm working, reading, have company over, thinking about something else). At these times, I throw on andy mckee and ride the groove.

As I said before, the prices are very reasonable, and these are not huge artists with multi-billion dollar contracts. They are also not artists who died a century ago. So please, if you like the music, head over to http://www.candyrat.com and buy some albums. If you like andy, check out Antoine DuFour (he is even better technically then andy, just alot less mellow), Robert Taylor, Don Ross, and Erick Turnbull. All those guys are just stunning.