Monday, February 9, 2009

Dynamic Meter Has Moved

Dynamic Meter has moved. Come on over to and check out the new site.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Monday Playlist 2.2.09


Here's the Monday Playlist for this week. I added The Fugees after seeing Dave Chappelle's Block Party on DVD this weekend, which features The Fugees. Enjoy!

Dynamic Meter 2.2.09


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Cowboy Junkies Interview

It would be a mistake to underestimate the influence the Cowboy Junkies have had. Simply put, they were alt-country before that labeled even existed and they have had a huge impact on bands and musicians over the last twenty-some years. Michael, Margo, and Peter Timmins as well as Alan Anton formed the band in Toronto in 1985—releasing their first album in 1986. It was the release of the “Trinity Sessions” in 1987, however, that brought them much wider recognition. Recorded in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, this album is hugely important, and not only for the band. The band set up in a circle around one central microphone and recorded live onto a two track recorder.

Dynamic Meter: The “Trinity Session” was released around 21 years ago. It’s been such an influential album both in terms of the music and the way it was recorded. When did you first realize the band had produced a record that would have such appeal and staying power?

Michael Timmins: We realized that we had created a very special recording almost immediately. The recoding is “live to 2-track” so we could listen back, immediately, to what was essentially the finished album. What we didn’t know was whether it would connect with other people outside of those who had been involved in the recording. Once we released it on our independent label we began to almost immediately get great reactions from all quarters . . . we had no way of knowing whether it would stand the test of time.

DM: You have released a 20th anniversary edition of “Trinity,” recorded in the same church, in the same way. Why did you decide to re-record? And also, why did you decide to add the guest artists such as Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt?
MT: We wanted to celebrate the anniversary of the recording in some manner. When Ryan, Vic and Natalie Merchant agreed to get involved we looked at the whole project as a fun and interesting artistic experiment. We knew that their involvement would give the recording a different intensity and perspective, but we didn’t know how it would turn out. We were very pleased.

DM: The Cowboy Junkies have always been great re-interpreters when if comes to cover songs. "Blue Moon" and "Sweet Jane" are great examples. Is there a different approach to arranging cover songs as opposed to original material?
MT: Yes, because the template for the cover song is in front of you—whether that be the structure, chords, lyrics and/or melody of the original. When you are writing and arranging your own material you start with a blank sheet. With the cover song you look for a way into the song that will make it your own, without completely losing that which made the original special in the first place.

DM: There's so much talk about the future of the music industry. What's the band's relationship with a record label now?
MT: “Trinity Revisited” was our last album released with any sort of contractual commitments outside of publishing. We are currently building a new website which will incorporate both the CJ site and the Latent Recordings (our label) site. It will become the center of all our future releases as well as other artists. We hope to launch it in early March.

DM: How does the band write?
MT: Usually I write the songs on acoustic guitar and then present them to the band as a whole. From there we work on the grooves and aesthetic as a unit.

DM: Cowboy Junkies has such a distinct sonic pallet. How has this evolved over the years?
MT: It has been a very organic and natural evolution. There hasn’t really been a master plan. We tend to have very similar likes and dislikes when it comes to our own music so we go with a group instinct and try not to do too much second guessing.

DM: For me, “Black Eyed Man” is a total time and place album. It came out when I was in college and I'm totally transported back there when I listen. From the side of you that's a music fan, are there any albums that have this affect on you?
MT: There are lots of them, here are two . . . Lou Reed “Transformer:” I broke my leg in Grade 8 and my older brother had to drive me to school every day. “Transformer” had just come out and he played it every day in the car on the way to school. I didn’t really understand it, but I was transfixed by it. Freedy Johnston “Can You Fly:” I was newly married, no kids, no mortgage, the record industry was flush with money because of the CD “revolution”, life was fun and easy and this is a great, great record that came out of the blue.

DM: Your most recent studio album, “At the End of Paths Taken,” really deals a lot with family. Can you please talk about how this came together as a theme for the album?
MT: I sat down with this theme and never digressed. I don’t think I have ever written an album where I have had the theme first. Usually the theme suggests itself as the album progresses. The reason for this theme is because of where I am in my life, the responsibilities and challenges that I, and most people my age face day to day.

DM: Lastly, what are you listening to currently?
MT: I have been in China for the past three months and had the good fortune to befriend someone who is very knowledgeable about the Chinese independent music scene. So I’ve been listening to a lot of Chinese artists. Three of my favorites are Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou, Zhang Chu and He Yong.

Also Noteworthy:
Bands who have had the staying power to still be together and to maintain their influence, often release twentieth anniversary editions of their recordings. The Cowboy Junkies took a different approach. Instead of repackaging the original recording with supplemental materials, they chose to re-record “The Trinity Sessions.” The band was joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeff bird, who played on the original recorded and has been an associate of the band ever sine. In addition, Ryan Adams, Natalie Merchant, and Vic Chesnutt—artists who were all clearly influenced by the band— joined the band. Cowboy Junkies once again recorded the record live, in a circle, at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. This time however, filmmakers were on hand to capture the music, and a DVD is included with “Trinity Revisited.”
While it’s wonderful to hear all of the tunes again, especially in there updated versions, that’s not what truly makes “Trinity Revisited” shine. The real strength of this twentieth anniversary revisiting is the way you get to hear a band that has matured, lived with its songs, and has still maintained its vitality and importance.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday Playlist 1.26.09

Here is this weeks playlist. I hope you enjoy it.

Dynamic Meter 1.26.09


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Interview: Light In Winter Founder Barbara Mink

Every January since 2004 Ithaca has been blessed with the presence of the Light in Winter Festival. Founded by Barbara Mink, the festival is a celebration of art and science—its intersections, overlaps, and sometimes separations. While the programs vary every year, there is a common thread: Light in Winter is always exciting and challenging. Also, it brings top tier performers to Ithaca in the cold of January, when we all need a bit of inspiration.

For the 2009 festival—as with every Light in Winter—there is far too much to list in a single article. Please visit for complete information. However, there are certainly some highlights. The highlight performance on Friday January 23 is illusionist Jeff McBride, who includes elements of Kabuki, pantomime, as well as other disciplines in his performances. In addition, PUSH, which features dancers from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is sure to be wonderful. There’s also a lecture on magic and the mind, a wine tasting seminar, a physicist who is also one of the leading origami practitioners in the world, and so much more. But for those who like to keep the festival going long into the night, head to Castaways at 9:30 on Saturday and check out The Future: Sounds and Images from the Next Dimension. This performance features Morgan Packard and Joshue Ott who use digital technology to create a visual and musical performance. Think of them as visual as well as musical DJs.

With all of this in mind, and the festival coming this weekend, the Tompkins Weekly was pleased to get a chance to ask Barbara Mink some questions about this years festival, the past, and more.

Dynamic Meter: Last year, Light in Winter had an overarching theme. Do you always have a theme?

Barbara Mink: Actually, last year was the only time we consciously programmed around a theme, “Identity;” but we decided not to do that again because it’s too limiting. Creating a synergy among music, art and science is a big enough challenge without complicating it further. That being said, it’s fun to look at how the weekend has shaped up and see what connections do emerge; after all, that’s what Light in Winter has always been about: finding connections. We try to have a range of art performances and science lectures, but sometimes music or dance will dominate depending on how things fall out, and people’s availability.

DM: Can you connect the elements of this year’s festival? It ranges from illusionist Jeff McBride to Wine Tasting, Origami, and PUSH Physical Theatre.

BM: Even though there is no over-arching theme, what unites everything this weekend is magic, whether it’s our delight in being tricked by illusions or the joy in figuring out how those illusions are created. For example, Alex Stone is a magician and physics grad student in NYC who is writing a book on how the brain processes magic. He and Jeff McBride will talk about how the brain is tricked by misdirection the day after our Las Vegas-style opening night. Or, when people see fantastic creations of origami shaped like birds or architectural wonders, it looks impossible; but Robert Lang will break the creation down into its mathematical formulae, and Mario Livio will reveal the mathematical underpinnings of the universe we’re not even aware of. PUSH physical theatre is exploring the way the body works, and how physical limitations can be transcended by creativity. To me, just about everything in the world around us is magical; how far we want to peek behind the curtain is what makes living so much fun.

DM: The nucleus of Light in Winter is the intersection of art and science. Had you explored this for a long time prior to launching the festival?

BM: No, I hadn’t. My original interest was in starting a summer chamber music festival here; but as we refined the idea over four years of discussion, issues of financial support, community needs, the complications of full academic calendars and so on went into the thought process. Former Cornell Concert Series Director Richard Riley suggested incorporating popular science in the mix. A feasibility study we commissioned suggested that it couldn’t be done on the shoestring budget we were looking at; but we decided to give it a try anyway by featuring local artists and scientists, and to grow from there. Now we have more than half the performers coming in from all over the country, which is thrilling, but I’d like to keep spotlighting the fantastic and generous intellectual and artistic resources in Ithaca that made Light in Winter possible in the first place, and which keeps it going.

DM: Has the way the festival is organized evolved over time? You've always been the artist director, correct?

BM: Yes, but it has evolved over time. First of all, the festival has a stellar Board of Directors, people who believe in the mission of Light in Winter and work so hard to make sure it’s realized. I’ve also had the privilege of working with some phenomenal people to bring the festival to fruition, many of whom went off the Board of Directors and then back on, keeping a sense of history and expertise. This year has been the biggest change, with Marie Sirakos, who had been the festival’s production coordinator, stepping into a new role of Executive Director, taking over the fundraising, operations, marketing, and overseeing production. She’s done a fantastic job, and it’s been wonderful working as a partner with her. I’ve been able to concentrate on what got me started on Light in Winter in the first place: bringing together performers and scientists to explore new and interesting ideas.

DM: Do you have any favorite performances from part Light in Winter Festivals?

BM: I know it’s a question you have to ask, but it’s actually very hard for me to single out performances. Whether it’s the fairly amazing headliners like Pilobolus, Laurie Anderson, Paul Winter, Kronos Quartet, or some of the smaller performances like Birdsong in Messiaen or Elegance of Motion or Who Are We or Einstein the Stage Show, or the big finales that brought music and science together like Forces of Nature, Sync, Dance of the Machines; whether we look at individual performances or the weekend as a whole, I think every year has brought something new to people who have attended that sparked their interest to learn more.

DM: Do does your work as a painter intersect with your other work, including Light in Winter?

BM: That’s an interesting question; I would have to say no, more competes than intersects. I don’t consciously try to bring together science and art in my work, though I have a lot of respect for those who do, people like Alexis Rockman. But I started painting around the same time that I first thought about Light in Winter, so there must have been some creative impulse trying to emerge. I think starting, developing, and running Light in Winter was really a cross between the creativity of painting and the skills I use in teaching Management Communication at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

DM: What creative minds are inspiring you now?

BM: In terms of current ideas, I’m very interested in the work of Michael Pollan, author of An Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the state of industrialized food production and consumption. I already tried to get him to come to Light in Winter next year, but he’s booked up. I would like to have something, though, contrasting the pros and cons of food science with the “locovore” and Community Supported Agriculture movements, maybe link that with a fun concert of music about food. There is also some interesting work going on with how the brain processes color and visual art, maybe linking that with the science of art authentication; and definitely another science play, whether for young people or older audiences. Maybe something on how the voice works, or questions of scale by looking at nanotechnology, or how babies are programmed to respond to music and how that changes as we age. Every day there are new articles and books being written that spark new ideas; the challenge is to keep them educational, accessible, and fun.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Inaugural Monday Dynamic Meter Playlist: 1.19.09

Here is a new feature I'm starting at Dynamic Meter, the Monday playlist. It's a group of songs to help you get through the week with a little rocking goodness. I'll also connect it to big events of the week. So of course this week we have Martin Luther King, Junior's Birthday and Barack Obama's inauguration. So I've added some tunes in that reflect this. And others that I just dig. I hope you enjoy!

Dynamic Meter 1.19.09


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Neko Case's New Album Countdown: Middle Cyclone

I've been greatly anticipating the upcoming Neko Case's upcoming album, Middle Cyclone, since I saw her live last winter preview and road testing material for this release. She has released the first single, "People Got A Lotta Nerve," as a free download. Listen to it below and download it here. Based on what I heard at the show, this is going to be another great release from Neko Case. And if you're like me, you can start crossing off the days until Middle Cyclone is released March 3.

People Got A Lotta Nerve - Neko Case


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time Warp Wednesday: The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Take the singer/songwriter from Blur and the Gorillaz, add the bass player from The Clash, The Guitar Player from The Verve, and the drummer from Fela Kuti and what do you get? TGTBATQ. This mix, which could have possibly been a train wreck of styles, turns out to be one heck of a band. They actually call it a project, though. Band, project; whatever you call it, this collaboration works. And with lyrics that comment on the current state of the world it is the perfect soundtrack to the Bush Years. “Kingdom of Doom” is a great example. When Damon Albarn sings, “Friday Night, In the Kingdom Of Doom/ Ravens Fly/ Across the moon/ All in Now/ There’s a noise in the sky/ Following the rules/ And not knowing why,” I couldn’t help but feel that he was taking our pulse.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Reviews: Two Recent Music Publications

At its best, writing about music should inspire the reader to go out and listen to what has been described. And it should provide some deeper meaning or context to the musician/band and her or his/their work. There have been two recent books that have accomplished this very well.

Clawing at the Limits of Cool
Clawing at the Limits of Cool explores the collaboration between Miles Davis and John Coltrane, two of the most famous and important jazz musicians, ever. Even though I’ve listed Kind of Blue—their most famous work together—hundreds and hundred of times, the book provided me with me insights and ways to listen.

Additionally, authors Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington frame these two artists in the cultural and political context in which they lived and created. It’s their success in providing new ways to listen and understand Miles and Coltrane that makes this book such an important addition to the cannon of jazz writing.

Best Music Writing 2008

Da Capo Press publishes this excellent annual series that mines the years top writing about music. In his introduction to the 2008 edition is guest editor Nelson George talks about, “Looking for God in the vinyl.” That is that listening to music can be “spiritual. Even transcendental.” And it really struck me how right he was and how listening to music for me is a totally spiritual experience. His approach to music is definitely in evidence with the choices hs made for inclusion.

One of the great strengths of this collection is how it covers a multitude of genres. This is great because it draws the reader out of her or his normal music comfort zone. That said, some of the highlight pieces for me included, “Apparition in The Woods: Rescuing Sibelius from Silence” by Alex Ross author of The Rest is Noise. Also, “Band of the Run in New Orleans” is a very powerful article that describes the post-Katrina police crackdown on the historic and culturally vital tradition of funeral marches in New Orleans.

Like Clawing at the Limits of Cool, this collection connects music to the larger societal issues in which it was created. And for me, this is the way music should be approached.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Emily Arin: An Interview With The Singer-Songwriter

While Ithaca has a great and vital music scene, new bands and musicians are what help keep it vital. So it was with great pleasure that I first heard recent transplant Emily Arin playing a lovely set at the Montour Falls Harvest Festival of all places. I was sitting on hay bails with my wife kids listening —pretty blown away. Her performance is definitely a nice highlight from 2008. Emily combines folk, a bit of country swing (ala Patsy Cline) with a great voice and really good tunes.

Another great thing about Emily Arin is she‘s approaching the rapidly changing music industry in a smart way, allowing her to start to build a career as an independent artist. She accomplishes this through a subscription music program. In fact, a new 6-month music subscription series is about to launch. Coming soon, subscribers will be able to purchase subscriptions on her website for $15. In return they receive one newly written and recorded song each month for six months. These are emailed as an mp3 file along with the story behind the song. Dynamic Meter recently got to ask Emily Arin some questions.

Dynamic Meter: You're pretty new to the area, how has it been going breaking into the Ithaca music scene?
Emily Arin: It's been a gradual and interesting process. I moved from Los Angeles to Montour Falls in August of 2007 to help my parents run The Harvest Cafe and to create a lifestyle for myself more conducive to reflection and songwriting. Eager to make friends and meet kindred spirits, I spent the first few months going to shows and handing my “Time and Space” CD to musicians whose work I enjoyed. I met The Common Railers in September 2007 at the Americana Jubilee held at the Rongovian Embassy. We kept in touch and performed along with the Yardvarks at The Harvest Cafe's first evening of live music in December of last year. As more people heard my music, the more I'd hear "you really should meet Jennie Stearns." I ran into her one night in the bathroom at a Keith Frank show at the Rongo and, without thinking, asked if she would like a CD. She graciously accepted. To my pleasant surprise, she got in touch with me about a month later, eventually asking if I wanted to sing backup at one of her shows. That's the beautiful quality of the Ithaca music scene—it's full of amazingly talented musicians and songwriters who are, at the same time, down to earth, welcoming and accessible. Because of this, I've had the good fortune of collaborating with Peter Glanville and Gordon Rowland—of The Common Railers—and Jennie Stearns and her band. I've grown so much as a songwriter and performer in these last several months as a result.

DM:How did you start playing and writing? Did you always write your own material?
EA: I grew up studying classical piano and attended the piano program at LA County High School for the Arts, but was never—for lack of the intense discipline required—a contender for being a serious classical musician. I knew I loved music though and, with a fantasy to join a band, I asked for a guitar in high school. A little too shy and clueless to start or join a group, I strummed away absent-mindedly from time to time in my bedroom. Around the same time my older sister played Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" for me and my mind was blown open with the possibility of what a song could communicate. I wrote a couple of song snippets before going away to school, but the urge to write songs really kicked in around sophomore year of college. I've been writing ever since.

DM: Who are your influences?
EA: In no particular order: Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Caetano Veloso, Townes Van Zandt, Os Mutantes, Asha Bhosle, John Prine, Van Morrison, Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell, West African Kora music, Glen Gould, Paul Simon, Billy Bragg, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Carter Family, Frank Sinatra, Brian Eno, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, Nick Drake, Edith Piaf, Amalia Rodriguez, Yann Tiersen, Cat Power, Buena Vista Social Club, Enya, Peggy Lee, Beatles (together and apart), Coleman Hawkins, Phil Ochs, Calexico, Thelonius Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ennio Morricone, Billie Holiday, Gordon Lightfoot, Josh Ritter, Will Oldham, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave, Orchestra Baobob, Willie Nelson, Cesaria Evora, Tom Petty, Memphis Minnie, Glen Gould, Cat Stevens . . . there's so much amazing music in the world that this list could go on forever, but these are some of the people/groups who've made a big impression on me over the years.

DM: You've started playing around a lot. How's that going?
EA: It was recently suggested to me that I needed to learn to crave the stage. A light bulb went off. Instead of fostering a dread of performing—which I did have when I first started several years ago—I'm now getting excited about shows and the possibility they hold of connecting with an audience. A show with heart and soul and laughter can really transform an evening for someone. Also, I can't say enough about playing with Peter, Gordon and now Brian Dozoretz. They're passionate about music and so much fun to perform with.

DM: Who are you listening to that might be kind of under the radar?
EA: I don't know how under the radar, but I don't hear of them often: Fionn Regan, Benjamin Biolay, Nicolai Dunger, Super Mama Djombo. Little Joy's first album recently came out—and it's great.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem's The '59 Sound

My apologies for being a very infrequent poster as of late. I redesigned the site. I hope you like it! Thanks to Iron Design for the great logo. But here I am in 2009 and I'm ready to roll.

The Gaslight Anthem is a band from New Jersey that combines melodic punk (think Social Distortion) with the storytelling of Bruce Springsteen. While location is important for most bands, it is especially true for this quartet due to the comparisons they have drawn to Springsteen. To me, the major points of comparison lie in the populism of Brian Fallon's lyrics and the epic quality of their songs. Throw in some soul and blues and you've got it. This is people's music.

The '59 Sound is the band's second full length album and it's really amazing. I don't know how I missed it when it came out in August. But had I heard it then, it certainly would have been on my 2008 top 10 list. The songwriting is fantastic. The interplay between the two guitars, especially the lead lines of Alex Rosamilia, make repeated listening a joy, discovering nuanced details of the tunes that I hadn't heard before.

What makes The '59 Sound so special is the excellent songs played with a sometimes you have to live as though you've nothing left to loose passion. And that has made me very passionate about this band.

You can stream the whole album here.

Or check out this live video of the title track.