Are You a Southeast Uker?

Do you play the ukulele? Have you always wanted to? Do you live in or near Atlanta, GA? The Southeast Ukers are a group of ukulele players who get together twice a month to play and sing together. We meet at the Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ restaurant on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been playing for 20 years, 20 minutes, or just played air uke in the shower, we would love for you to join us.

For more details, check out our group

The Southeast Ukers


My Varied Musical Tastes

I use the application on my Mac to “scrobble” what songs I’m listening to. This allows me to keep a record of what’s been playing, but it mostly allows me to be a complete exhibitionist and show “the world” what sort of music I like. When I indicate that I “love” a song, that even shows up on my Friendfeed page, for added coverage.

This morning, I happened to be on my page and I noticed the graph below, showing my top 15 artists by the number of songs I’ve played by them.


Pretty interesting, eh? I’ve always had diverse musical tastes, but Frank is still the man. If you go to my page, the little arrow icon indicates that you can listen to some of that artist’s work. Shame on them for not having anything by Eilen Jewell!

I Am Full of Teh Happy

Yesterday was a good day for me on several fronts. Let me tell you them.

First, whilst searching for various things in the iTunes store, I saw that Metallica had released their new album, Death Magnetic. I had bought the first single, My Apocalypse, a couple of weeks ago when it came out, and I was excited that Metallica might be good again. I was a Metallica fan from way back in the 80’s. I loved, loved, loved every album up to and including …And Justice For All. I didn’t like “the black album” at all for several years, but then it grew on me. I thought everything after that, starting with Load, sucked out loud. I listened to the samples of the new album and immediately clicked the “Add to Cart” button. I’ve listened to the whole album about 5 times now, and it’s playing again as I write this. This album is full of awesome. It’s fast and heavy with glorious Kirk Hammett guitar solos throughout. If you liked “old” Metallica, you will love this album. Buy it. Memorize it. Love it. Standout songs include “My Apocalypse,” “Broken, Beaten & Scarred,” “The Judas Kiss” and “All Nightmare Long.” 

I was also happy to see that iTunes had finally added 0 + 2 = 1 by the very strange band NoMeansNo. I had this as a cassette, back when it was originally released, but I haven’t been able to find it in any format since. iTunes had one or two NoMeansNo records, but not this one. I have been checking periodically, but they never had it. Until yesterday. I’ve listened to it twice since buying it. It’s heavy and a bit odd, but very good. “0 + 2 = 1” and “The Valley Of the Blind” are the best songs on the record.

And if that weren’t enough musical goodness, Dar Williams’ new album, Promised Land, was also available. I think this is one of her best albums ever. I have her entire catalog, and this album has already moved to the top of the list for me. It has her signature lyrical twists, and it’s quite upbeat, with beautiful melodies. I’ve only listened to it twice since buying it, but it’s really good. My favorite songs, so far, are “It’s Alright,” “Buzzer” and “Troubled Times.”

Yes, I have eclectic musical tastes.

Next, as anyone with an iPhone knows, Apple released iPhone OS 2.1 yesterday. I was really looking forward to this update because OS 2.0.2 had lots (and lots) of problems and annoyances. The biggest problem I had was with how long it took to backup the phone. Every time I plugged it into my Mac, it would easily take over an hour to do a full sync. That’s absurd. I have less than 2 gigabytes of stuff on the iPhone and it took one-hour+. I have 60 gigabytes of stuff on my iPhone, and a sync never takes more than a few minutes. The other major annoyances were a terrible lag when using the onscreen keyboard, and the fact that when you updated an application, it didn’t stay where you put it, instead moving to the first available open spot. Not good. 

I’m very happy to report that iPhone OS 2.1 has fixed these problems, for me, anyway. A full sync is taking around five minutes, which is completely reasonable. The keyboard feels responsive, and after updating applications, they stay where I put them. Bravo, Apple. Keep the goodness coming, KTHX.

And finally, the first two discs of season 3 of Weeds arrived from Netflix. I watched the first three episodes last night, staying up far, far too late in the process. Damn, I love this show, even though I know I shouldn’t like it, if you know what I mean.

My First Impressions of iTunes 8 “Genius”

After Apple announced iTunes 8 yesterday, I downloaded and installed it, eager to see the new “Genius” feature. This feature had been rumored to be similar to Pandora, the wonderful service that finds you more music based on what you already like and don’t like. In actuality, Genius has two parts. The first is the “Genius Sidebar” which shows you songs from the iTunes store that “match” or in some way go with the songs currently selected in your library. The second part generates playlists based on a song selection. You select a song, click the Genius button, and it generates a playlist of songs from your music library.

Since I have such varied tastes in music, I decided to give the sidebar a whirl. I selected “Rock This Town” by Stray Cats and checked my results. Expecting to see other rockabilly bands, I was a bit surprised to see the top three results:

  1. The Romantics: What I Like About You
  2. Kiss: Strutter
  3. Mötley Crüe: Shout At the Devil

I guess they went with 80’s bands instead. The rest of the list included Billy Idol, Jane’s Addiction, Cheap Trick, and others whose heyday was in the 80’s.

I then selected “You and Me and Rainbows” by The Tear Garden. I was shocked to see the top recommendation was a song by Jessica Simpson, but then I saw the text at the top saying that they couldn’t find anything based on that song, but here’s the list of top songs at the iTunes store right now. Reassured that the Genius was not a moron, I carried on.

I then selected “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Genius did a good job with this one. 

  1. Jimmy Dean: Big Bad John
  2. Marty Robbins: El Paso
  3. Hank Williams: Your Cheatin’ Heart
  4. Roger Miller: Dang Me

In this case, not only did it match the generation, but it also matched the genre and feel of the song pretty well.

I then tried several Tom Waits songs. Most of the results involved Neil Young, Tom Petty and Nick Cave, none of whom I like. Based strictly on which songs I was picking, I don’t think the matches were very good. You could argue that the bands gained fame at roughly the same time, but Tom Waits’ style(s) don’t really match with the recommendations, in my opinion.

Pressing on, I selected “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” by Tony Bennett. The top recommendations were:

  1. Fred Astaire: Puttin’ On The Ritz
  2. Frank Sinatra: Nice ‘n’ Easy
  3. Bobby Darin: Call Me Irresponsible
  4. Ella Fitzgerald: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

Good selections. What I like most about the first one is that this Tony Bennett album was a collection of songs made famous by Fred Astaire. Thus, having an Astaire song as the first hit seems very genius-like.

Next, I selected “Quicksand” by Abdel Wright, a Jamaican singer who does mostly folksy, protesty songs. I don’t understand the results from Genius, which included Maia Sharp, North Mississippi Allstars and Kyle Riabko. The Duhks were also included with a cover of Sting’s “Love Is the Seventh Wave.” None of these songs/artists share a style with Wright, and I didn’t detect any degree of protest in the thirty second clips. Curious.

Finally, I tried two songs by Afro Celt Sound System: “Deep Channel” and “Lovers of Light.” The results for “Deep Channel” were mostly Indian-influenced groups, which don’t really fit, but weren’t awful. The results for “Lovers of Light” were much better, including a song by Baka Beyond, which was very similar musically. These results rather impressed me, as this band bends and blends styles.

So far it’s hit or miss with Genius. I haven’t used the playlist-generation feature much yet. At this moment I’m listening to a Genius-generated playlist based on “Deep Channel” and I’m not too sure about these results. 

Click to see larger image

Some of the results seem OK, but not all. I can only assume that as more people use Genius, the results will get better. For now, if you’re looking for recommendations, you should probably rely more on Pandora than Genius.

Jason Castro Covers Brudda Iz — And Nails It

On Idol last night, Jason Castro announced that he was going to sing ‘Over the Rainbow,’ as performed by Brudda Iz. When I heard that, I thought, ‘OK, this is either going to be insanely great, or really awful.’ As it turned out, it was unbelievably great. He captured the essence of Iz’s version, but he owned it, too. And he played the ukulele! I was almost speechless when he finished. He got praise from all three judges, which he richly deserved.

You can buy Jason’s version of the song from iTunes, which I just did. I’m on my second listen right now. Wow.

No Full-Custom Gospel Sounds For Me

I really wanted to see The Reverend Horton Heat, one of the best rockabilly (psychobilly) bands around, tonight in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there were two major “cons” against the show that made me decide against it.

First, the show is tonight at The Tabernacle in Atlanta which, as I’ve complained before makes every band that plays there sound awful. Second, they have two opening bands. One is Hank III, the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams. Not interested. The other opening band is Nashville Pussy who I had the misfortune of seeing a few years ago when they opened for Motörhead. I have absolutely no desire to see those losers again. So I’m going to save my money, stay home and just listen to the Reverend’s records.

Two points to any reader who spotted the title of this blog entry as an homage to the Reverend’s second album The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat, which happens to be my favorite of the band’s records.

If you like rockabilly and/or punk, check them out. Though not with kids around. They aren’t really a kid-friendly band.

I Saw Neko Case Last Night

I went to see Neko Case last night at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. She sounded great, vocally, but I was reminded again of the reasons why I hate going to shows at the Tabernacle.

  • It’s in downtown Atlanta.
  • They took a beautiful, old church and desecrated it.
  • The acoustics suck. Not just “suck,” but “completely, totally, royally suck.”
  • It’s hot as hell inside.
  • The smoking lounge is in the basement, directly below the main performance hall. Guess where all that disgusting smoke goes. Remember, smoke rises.
  • The sound engineers believe all the attendees are deaf, and thus turn all the soundboard knobs to 11.
  • The acoustics suck. Mightily. (Yes, I know this is on the list twice.)

I said that Neko sounded good, but I need to clarify that. I could tell that the notes were correct as she sang, but had I not known the words to her songs, I would have no clue what she was saying. This goes back to the acoustics sucking, and all the soundboard knobs being turned to 11. And when Neko was talking, I have no idea what she was saying. She and Kelly Hogan made some comment about Chik-Fil-A and Kelly said something about Neko’s “wicked axe” but that was all I could make out. The sound was loud and overlapping (that’s the best word I can think of to describe it) and it was nearly impossible, once you added in crowd noise, to understand what she was saying.

I really don’t like going to shows there.

Kelly Willis’ New Record is Out… And Good

It’s just after midnight on June 26. Kelly Willis‘ new album, Translated From Love was just made available on the iTMS, and since I pre-ordered it, it was a-waiting for me to download it. Oh, yeah. I’m four songs into it, and it’s really good. I have all of Kelly’s stuff, but the last two, Easy and What I Deserve, have been my favorites. Based on what I’ve heard so far, they may have some competition with this album.

Kelly’s voice is just as smooth and luscious as always. She has that Austin twang, and her music is about as far as you can get from the “pop country” that passes for C&W these days. Kelly, Mindy Smith and Neko Case are my favorite ladies. You should check them out.

Kelly is coming to Atlanta on July 7! I went ahead and bought my ticket the other day, after I got hosed on the Mindy Smith show selling out. I was not pleased about that. I love both these ladies’ music, and I really wanted to see Mindy. Oh well, at least I’m assured of seeing Kelly.

Abrupt Music Changes

I’m sitting here working while listening to my latest purchases for iTunes (curse them!) and I was just struck by an abrupt change in style. I have very eclectic musical tastes, so buying disparate styles at one time is not unusual for me. But sometimes when listening, I get caught off guard.

I started out today with Oingo Boingo‘s “Dead Man’s Party,” a classic. Next in line was the lovely Sara Evans doing a Dwight Yokam song. Next came the latest single from Liz Phair, which is quite good. OK, so far. Next was some old Eric Clapton and some even older Cream. A quick track by the one and only Lemmy Kilmister, singer/bassist for Motörhead, with an old KISS song. Then into a fairly long stretch with the entire Haus der Lüge album by the great Einstürzende Neubauten. That record lasted 45 minutes or so. Now here’s where the abrupt change occurs. The last Neubauten track ends and on comes… wait for it… “Looking for Love (in All the Wrong Places)” by Johnny Lee. I was jarred from my trance by that one…

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

It’s 00:17 and I’m listening to the first Travelling Wilburys record, which came out in 1988. I bought it then and still have the CD. I listen to it occasionally, and I’m always struck by how good the music is on it. I’m struck because I never liked the music of any of the Wilburys individually. It’s just a really good collaboration where all the parts work together to, IMO, create something better than the parts themselves. That doesn’t happen all that often. Most “supergroups” that put out records pretty much suck.