The DC Listener

Glenn Fink's Music Notes

Tiffany Thompson plays Jammin Java this Sunday

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I spent most Wednesday nights in 2008 playing the open mike at the Iota Club in Arlington, and I got to listen to a lot of very talented singers and songwriters who today populate the DC original music scene (many of whom I plan to write about here in the future). Tiffany Thompson came along after I had moved deep enough into the western suburbs of NoVa that I could no longer regularly attend those nights. Clearly I’ve been missing out. And not just at Iota: Tiffany’s been playing all over the DC area since arriving nearly 3 years ago. Her four song EP showcases her songwriting and her lovely singing voice. Her lyrics are personal, yet ultimately positive, and do a good job of pulling the listener in. The disc’s ethereal pop/rock style is like something you might expect to hear from Natalie Merchant or latter day Emmylou Harris.

Tiffany’s playing at Jammin Java this Sunday, July 24, opening for Mindy Smith. I’m going to try to be there as I’m betting this will be an amazing show.

Written by glennfink

July 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Looking for a DC-Local Fab Four (Five)?

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Public Service Announcement: Yes, D.C. has an extremely competent Beatles cover band whose set list runs the gamut of the british group’s full recording career. The Apple Core feature vocals that closely mirror the originals. And their rhythm section really has their act together. The drums and bass can swing, and the guitars have the twang and amp sound you’d expect. I’ve heard a lot of Beatles cover bands and this one ranks very high.

If you’ve got that Beatles jones and it’s bitten you hard, check in with TAC’s schedule, or consider hiring them and having a block party. Remember to invite me, please. Meanwhile, their next gig is on Saturday July 30th at the Paradiso in Alexandria, VA.

Written by glennfink

July 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in music, pop, rock, Uncategorized

Memphis 59 – Ragged But Right is a smart release with an even keel

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Memphis 59 is a country-tinged roots-rock band from Arlington, Virginia whose 2009 “Ragged But Right” CD for some reason got me thinking about Del Amitri’s hit “Roll To Me” from the 90s, as it’s informed by that kind of well-crafted radio-readiness.

There’s perhaps a slight Rolling Stones feel on a few tracks (especially “Knock Me Out”), and a slight twang in lead singer Scott Kurt’s voice. All 12 songs are original, and would be right at home on a contemporary rock radio station playlist. Pretty high quality songwriting and musicianship overall, and very nicely produced to boot. If you’re wondering how NOT to clutter a mix, this is a good case study. Definitely one of the most consistently satisfying rock CDs that I’ve heard come out of DC area in the last few years.

Probably my favorite track is the opener, “Me, Myself and Eyes,” but the whole thing is solid. Check out a few tracks on their reverberation page.

You can pick up Memphis 59’s Ragged But Right disc at CD Baby or iTunes.

Written by glennfink

July 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in rock, songwriter, virginia

High Hopes Band — Boston-based 70’s style Reggae

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Do you find yourself still haunted by Bob Marley’s ghost? Live anywhere near Boston? You’d probably be interested in the excellent High Hopes Band. Full disclosure: I met HHB’s leader, Jason Dick, back in the 90s when we both were in Grateful Dead cover group American Beauty. Since then, Jason has moved onto producing exclusively reggae music, using its 1970’s trademark sound as a cornerstone. Personally I think it suits him well. The band has a great groove, and some of these guys have been at it an awfully long time.

How does Jason describe High Hopes’ music? “The stuff you’d only here if honestly were into the Rastafari movement. I prefer to call it orthodox, because a lot of the singers and musicians were part of one Rastafari order or another.” They are widely considered to be one of Boston’s best reggae bands.

They are currently planning their first CD release, and also have plans for touring other parts of the USA. For the moment, give a listen on their reverbnation page and if you like what you hear, go check them out!

Written by glennfink

July 13, 2011 at 9:59 am

Posted in music, reggae, songwriter

Meet The Stevos – Genuine 80’s fare from dudes who were there

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Looking for local, quirky 80’s sounding ORIGINAL pop that wears its nerdiness on its sleeve? Look no further than Meet The Stevos. Most of it was written during the 1980’s, and influenced by the likes of XTC and The B52’s. You can preview the album here in its entirety (look in the bottom right for the player).

The Stevos are the brainchild of DC native Steve Dockery. The band’s only CD features 14 songs written for a New Jersey band from the 80’s called Batteries Not Included (who only properly recorded two songs during its lifetime), plus one Beatles cover. BNI’s bassist Marc Roulier is there to help recreate the magic of the original band. The resulting disc is a successful throwback, with lots of angular riffs and hooks that work. My favorite track is “Headphones” but the whole project is filled with neo-psychedelic touches including the use of a backwards guitar solo, various 80s-appropriate synth sounds, and surf guitar. And it’s a digital-only release, which is good for the environment.

Steve has a page dedicated to Batteries Not Included on his web site, and it includes demos for some of the material that made Meet The Stevos.

While this particular album is one of a kind, Steve recently recorded a new collection of songs called Wire & Wood. Look for him playing solo around town, or with his group, The String Theorists.

Written by glennfink

July 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Posted in music, pop, songwriter, virginia

DC’s The Grey Area leaves no gray areas – well constructed pop

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The Grey Area

The Grey Area is an indy-rock band from DC with only two members. They use the same lineup The White Stripes used before them – guitar and drums – to make a very full and focused sound.

Jason (guitar) is a composer with music in his family blood (his dad composed children’s songs). TJ (drums) was raised in a gospel church setting. Both benefitted from being exposed to many different styles of music while growing up, and gaining appreciation for everything from Zeppelin to The Beatles to Gershwin.

Other indy bands trying to break through could learn from their approach. They have already recorded several songs, but plan to release them as singles so they can focus promotion on one at a time instead of trying to promote a full CD as most bands do. When you think about it, that’s not a bad idea; in this day and age where attention is short-lived, most listeners are already using Youtube and Facebook. They’ve released their first song, the upbeat power pop track “Ourselveswhose video shows off a sense of humor and a song with a great melodic hook and memorable lyrics. It was shot in New York City without the aid of any permits. It’s good enough that I’m going to check back regularly to see what else they release.

You can catch The Grey Area at Jammin Java on July 19, when they’ll be the headliners.

Written by glennfink

July 10, 2011 at 8:56 am

Posted in music, pop, rock, songwriter

Ian Richardson, Duxbury troubador

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Ian Richardson

I first met Ian Richardson when he was a 16 year old kid looking to drum in my Boston area Grateful Dead cover band, American Beauty, back in the 90’s. He did an exceptional job and played several gigs with us as an underage musician. Don’t tell anyone. He has since pulled a David Grohl and become a formidable guitarist-singer-songwriter. One of his songs (“The Beer Song” if I’m not mistaken) made the scrap pile of an MTV feature, which must be worthy of SOME kind of honor. He’s also one of several of my Boston friends who has personally encountered Juliana Hatfield (see post below). An excerpt of that went like this:
Ian: “So I’m from Duxbury, too!”
Juliana: “I’m sorry.”
Go check out Ian’s myspace page and listen to his track “Nothing At All.” Then consider buying his CD Surrogate Mind. You can hear Ian live on almost any given night in the Boston area.

PS: found this impromptu performance by Ian on youtube.

Written by glennfink

June 29, 2011 at 8:35 am

Posted in folk, music, rock, songwriter