Motörhead Vodka

Four band-endorsed boozes

For some, plastering a band name on a bottle of booze is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Others, like Maynard James Keenan, pour everything into their creations. However you define the following, here are a few band-name beverages to request at your next show.

50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals who caught our ears with some serious jams.

Tom Waits

Record Review: Tom Waits’ Bad as Me

Tom Waits: Bad as MeTom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-, 10/25/11)

Tom Waits: “Bad as Me”

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Tom Waits is legend, larger than life. Few musicians are as cloaked in mythology. Yet his music has always been what music should be: comforting in places, jarring in others, pushing boundaries while always honoring the legacy of American songwriting. Bad as Me, Waits’ first studio album in seven years, is all of these things, continuing the direction that he established with Closing Time in 1973 and hammered into the ground with Swordfishtrombones a decade later.

At the time, Swordfishtrombones signified a new Waits, a man unafraid to be confronted. The confidence came in large part from his marriage to Kathleen Brennan. They’re still married, and Waits credits Brennan as his support, collaborator, and muse. Here, every track was written and produced by Brennan and Waits together. Those tracks oscillate between manic and maudlin, flip-flopping throughout the entire album. Where a Depression-era blues tune ends, a ballad begins. Waits’ voice is a freight train and then a frail leaf.

That voice, of course, is a wonder. Waits can sound like a woman down on her luck, a Mississippi blues man, a possessed mule, and an army of brokenhearted ogres. Every harsh word has been employed to make sense of the ragged clatter that emerges from Waits’ throat. It’s as if his voice has always been 60 years old and his body only now caught up.


Primus: Back on the Bike, Going “Green”

[Chromatic, our 400-page exploration of musicians and color, is out now. Order here!]

Primus: Green NaugahydePrimus: Green Naugahyde (ATO / Prawn Song, 9/13/11)

Primus: “Tragedy’s a’Comin'”

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“It’s kind of like trying to describe a wine,” chuckles Primus bandleader/bassist Les Claypool. “Everybody has their different adjectives that they use.”

Responding to the suggestion that the oddball Bay Area trio’s new album, Green Naugahyde, was recorded and mixed with a more transparent “sound” than previous work, Claypool doesn’t necessarily agree or disagree. The album is the band’s first full-length in 12 years, and listeners, of course, are bound to draw their own conclusions.

“Whatever ‘transparent’ means to you,” he continues, “might be different than what it means to me. From a production standpoint, the approach to this thing was very similar to what we’ve always done, which is record ourselves at my house. Over the years, I’ve collected a bunch of old vintage gear — we recorded to tape through an old API console, so it’s a very clean, very crisp, very clear recording. And for the most part, we weren’t coloring things after the fact. It was going to tape as raw as we could possibly put it to tape. But there’s also a lot of contrast between the individual songs.”

Q&A: The Dirt Daubers

The Dirt Daubers: Wake Up, Sinners!The Dirt Daubers: Wake Up, Sinners! (Colonial Knowledge / Thirty Tigers, 9/13/11)

The Dirt Daubers: “Wake Up, Sinners!”

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The Dirt Daubers is a slight change of pace for JD Wilkes, the wild front man for the raucous, rockabilly-inspired blues-punk band The Legendary Shack Shakers. Joined by his wife, Jessica Wilkes, and Shack Shakers bassist Mark Robertson, Wilkes has slowed down a bit to help craft ragtime-inspired country blues. The trio’s sophomore album, Wake Up, Sinners!, finds JD’s gritty and rumbling vocals balanced by Jessica’s rich tones and harmonies, floating over finger-picked banjo, bellowing blues harp, and thumpin’ bull fiddle.

The Southern gothic lyrics spin tales of traveling outsiders, a strong-willed woman, and the true tale of a misunderstood boogey man from the deep woods of Kentucky. The trio’s toe-tappin’ rhythms and earnest sincerity are apt ingredients for a slice of Americana. ALARM caught up with JD to ask about the roots of The Dirt Daubers and what’s up next.

What compelled you to start The Dirt Daubers?

I made a documentary called Seven Signs, a movie about Southern culture and music, that was selected by the Raindance Film Festival in London, England. The festival coordinators told me they would pay for my flight over if I came and played some music. My wife and I had been practicing banjo music, somewhat in secret, so I talked her into going. We got flown over, got wined and dined, played the gig, and had a blast. It was my first time playing banjo in public and her first time playing in front of people ever. Why, Les Claypool, of all people, was in attendance and told us it was great. So we decided to press onward and upward…eventually becoming the Dirt Daubers!

Is there a necessary balance between The Legendary Shack Shakers and The Dirt Daubers? What purpose does each band serve for you?

The Shack Shakers is the wholesale flaunting of my unfettered id. The Dirt Daubers puts a completely different demand on my skill set as a musician. In this band, if I stop playing banjo, there’s a huge hole in the song. So, yes, I like this new challenge of being responsible for the bulk of the band’s sonics.

Garage a Trois

Concert Photos: Garage a Trois @ Double Door

Groove/jam-rock quartet Garage a Trois is an all-star cast of players, featuring saxophonist Skerik and vibraphonist Mike Dillon (each of Critters Buggin and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade), drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic, Corrosion of Conformity), and keyboardist Marco Benevento (Benevento/Russo Duo).

The group can rip off wailing solos when warranted, but it brings some seriously hard-hitting riffs that translate to major live energy.  Photographer Jon Shaft captured some shots from the group’s recent stop in Chicago, track suits and all.

Garage a Trois: “Rescue Spreaders”
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Garage a Trois

Garage a Trois

Garage a Trois

Ten Current/Upcoming Tours to Catch

As the season’s wintry punishment eases (it cracked 50 in Chicago this weekend), more and more artists are getting back in their vans and braving the roads for packed and sparse crowds alike.

Here’s a list of tours on our radar, including dates from The Bad Plus, Fucked Up, Orange Tulip Conspiracy, P.O.S., Secret Chiefs 3, Young Widows, and more.

Weekly Music News Roundup

Announcements are made for new albums from Irepress, Karl Sanders, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Staff Benda Bilili — a group of paraplegic Congolese street musicians.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey releases its new studio album for free; Secret Chiefs 3 announces a concert DVD; Les Claypool announces an outstanding mini festival that will be in a town near you. This and more after the jump.