Celebrating twenty years with the creators of Hammerhead and Ruby, Myrna Yoder is one of seven artists who enjoy an unusual and enviable job. Employed full time, and—like modern-day Michelangelos and Leonardos working for Lorenzo de’ Medici and Pope Julius II—they have a benefactor. “Mike McMenamin is our patron,” says Yoder. “But instead of the Catholic Church and illustrating the Bible, it’s Mike’s world.”
Casey Neill and his raucous Irish band will play a host of upcoming shows to ring in St. Patrick’s Day.
Casey Neill has the kind of voice that makes you stop what you are doing. It’s timeless, like something that might drift out of a jukebox in a roadside tavern somewhere in Middle America. But there are other qualities there that make it truly unmistakable: hints of Michael Stipe’s vibrato tenor, some alt. country inflections of Jay Farrar and the occasional whiskey-soaked growl of Shane McGowan.
I caught a show by Casey and his band, The Norway Rats, at the Laurelthirst Public House one Wednesday as part of his month-long happy hour residency at Portland’s favorite Americana pub. I’ve been listening to him since college, and have come to expect a mellow, easy-on-the-ears folk/country sound (with an occasional rocker thrown in); essentially a predictable mix best characterized by his 2007 album, Brooklyn Bridge. The 2007 album was recorded mostly in New York City, and documents his stint in Brooklyn, while also placing his songwriting and vocals at center stage.
As I should have expected, a lot has changed for Casey since those days in New York. His live show at the Laurelthirst was anything but mellow. Since coming back to Portland and re-establishing his roots a few years ago, Casey put together a super-group of the city’s finest folk/Americana musicians—including Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, and Scott McCaughey of Minus 5. While not all the household names where there last Wednesday night, the band played a rousing set of rockers balanced by a few old favorites (see “Riffraff”) and some folksy solos.
Neill embraced the talents of some of these same stellar musicians on his 2010 release “Goodbye to the Rank and File” with a nice blend of Celtic punk, rockabilly and folk. Neill’s literate sensibilities ground each song in memorable images and turns of phrase. It’s a nostalgic homage to a country life that may have never been, and puts you alongside cool silver waters with a young lover on a hot summer night.
Look for his newest record “All You Pretty Vandals” to be released this year, produced by Chris Funk of the Decemberists.
Neill says of the new record in an interview with 1859, “We stayed away from any roots tropes this time—no train beats, no twang, no Irish bits, very little acoustic guitar… It’s very much a high-energy band record with a big anthemetic sound. It feels edgy and urgent. There’s some horns and strings, some guest vocalists. We had a lot of fun making it.”
In the meantime, catch one of his upcoming shows in March featuring his Pogues tribute band K.M.R.I.A. (And what does that stand for, you say? Kiss My Royal Irish A**, a phrase used in James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and in the Pogues’ song “Transmetropolitan”).
Thurs. March 15 – K.M.R.I.A. – CENTRALIA, WA @ The Olympic Club 7pm $15
Fri. March 16 – K.M.R.I.A. – SEATTLE, WA @ The High Dive 9:30pm 513 N 36th St.
Sat. March 17 – The Norway Rats – PORTLAND, OR @ McMenamins Kennedy School Gym. 4 p.m. Free.
Sat. March 17 – K.M.R.I.A. – PORTLAND, OR @ The Wonder Ballroom (Always sells out), 128 NE Russell St $13, Presented by Monqui with special guest SASSPARILLA
Fri. MARCH 30 – The Norway Rats – PORTLAND, OR @ The Aladdin Theater
Laura Gibson’s shows are entrancing. Maybe this is because they lack the explosives and theatrics that so many musicians turn to once they realize they’ll get more attention with antics such as taking their shirts off. Instead, Gibson’s quiet poise and confidence generally arrest her audiences into silence as she flawlessly picks her way through intricate patterns on her guitar and sings in a steely, crackling soprano.
Gibson performed a special early CD Release show at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon last Friday, February 3, for her new album “La Grande.” This early show was added at the last minute since her late show sold out. She made her way through most of the tracks from her new record and, with help from her full backing band and a vintage microphone, she was able to actually recreate many of the studio sounds. She also threw in a few oldies and a solo version of “In the Pines,” an old folk song made popular by Nirvana in the 90s.
Both her live performance and her new record go in new and expansive directions for Gibson. True to its name, “La Grande” feels like it could have been recorded in an old creeky house in Eastern Oregon that has been frozen in time since the 20s. A host of famous musicians, including two members of the Decemberists and Joey Burns from Calexico, add haunting, country-jazz textures. The overall effect is music that could be the soundtrack to a pre-Depression era cocktail party.
The only critique is that sometimes Gibson’s jazz-tinged vocal styling feels a little forced, possibly in an attempt to distance herself from the generic singer/songwriter label. Overall, “La Grande” should be added to the music collections of all Oregonians who love folk music, and are interested in songs written about the state.
When visiting the Willamette Valley’s wine country, often the hardest decision isn’t where to go tasting or dining but where to rest your head after all the sipping and supping. Sure there are a few inexpensive motels around, but with several distinctive and romantic accommodations, why not make it a more memorable experience? Here are some of my favorites:
Oregon is for music lovers, that’s no secret. As throngs of our nation’s hipsters flock to the world’s capital of indie-folk in Portland, the lines of local and national are blurred. The next two blogs highlight some the best Oregon albums of 2011. But don’t take our word for it. Listen for yourself. 1859 has provided a free track download for each album, so put ‘em on your iTunes, bring them along on your morning jog and let us know what you think.
Dave Dahl is remarkably composed as he recalls the decades when addiction and depression ruled his life. His résumé at one point was a rap sheet chock full of crime and drugs. But even more remarkable is the way he turned his life around. Today, as the president of the Dave’s Killer Bread juggernaut, Dahl’s story of redemption has become intimately intertwined with the bread he makes—in fact, a bit of his story is on the package of every loaf.
In the early and mid 1970s, hundreds of dory fishermen set off from Pacific City in a quest that generously produced fishing legends. Ray Monroe had been there then, alongside his father and grandfather. As a young man, Monroe was one of the 300 or so commercially licensed salmon fishermen sailing dory boats out of Pacific City to harvest the bounty for which the Oregon Coast is renown. The old salts recount stories of making thousands of dollars in a single haul, full of fish, prized for its fight, profit and taste.