Jonathan Bright from Bright Little Field and Dan Reeder
Jonathan Bright’s recommendation: “Before I start, I should probably mention that I am not a fan of acoustic based, singer-songwriter fare. While I have a healthy respect for the art form, most of it doesn’t really move me. As a general rule, if there aint a great drummer involved, I aint interested. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, which brings me to today’s topic: Dan Reeder.
The son of a minister, Dan was born in Louisiana, grew up in Southern California as an art student, then relocated with his wife to her home country of Germany. While making a living as a painter, this guy took the DIY ethos to a whole new level. First, he built some stringed instruments. Crazy, asymmetrical pieces of art almost, including acoustic and electric guitars and basses, a ukulele, and even a three stringed paper “banjo”. Next up, like a deranged Les Paul, he built himself a mixer and began recording some of his original songs to his computer (I’m fairly certain he built that too), playing and singing all of the parts. He burned some copies, painted and printed the cover, then on a whim sent a CD with a note to one of his biggest inspirations, John Prine. By way of explaining himself, Dan wrote “I am not a musician. I am a painter (I paint pictures). I made the CD pretty much just for the hell of it. Partly because I love to sing harmony, partly to annoy the “real” musicians here (hell, I can do that) partly because some things you just can’t paint, and partly just to show off a little.” The letter got through to Prine and resulted in a deal with Prine’s record label, Oh Boy Records. THAT’S punk rock. Except it isn’t.”
New to Dan Reeder? Jonathan suggests you start here: “Dan’s debut, Dan Reeder, is a twisted mixture of blues, folk, and gospel. But beyond the beautiful stacked harmonies and sparse instrumentation, what really knocked me out was the writing. This is some of the most unique and “direct to the point” song-writing I have ever heard. Additionally, much like another favorite of mine, The Replacements, Dan can switch from heartbreakingly beautiful to side-splitting hilarious in an instant. For example, Tulips On The Table, a heartfelt lament that could have been a Hank Williams tune, is followed by Food and Pussy (“Whadya want? I want food and pussy. How come? It’s just the way God made me”). However, this is not a “joke” record. Dan pulls off the one of the rarest feats: his funny songs are so well written that they don’t grow stale after repeated listenings. His singular world view and affinity for old school melodies provide for some of the most interesting and, simply put, GOOD and honest music I have ever heard.
So if you are looking for something truly unique, and most importantly listenable, do yourself a favor and check out get any one of Dan Reeder’s three records (they are all amazing), check out his website, and you can thank me later. And Dan, if you happen to see this, what’s a brother gotta do get one of those sweet Dan Reeder ukes?”
About our guest author, Jonathan Bright: Jonathan Bright is one half of Bright Little Field, a band that most recently has taken on a task that some might see as blasphemous: they took what they considered the best Replacements tunes and recorded them only with light percussion, ukuleles and their own polished harmonies. Sure, the concept may sound gimmicky, but the result is strong, especially the band’s take on I Will Dare, which you can sample in the video clip below. Before joining forces with Tom Littlefield to form BLF, Jonathan Bright played in more of a punk style, but he was drawn to ukulele that his father had bought in Hawaii. Bright also recently co-wrote The Moon Song for Raelyn Nelson, a tune that was recorded with her grandfather, Willie Nelson. With rumors of a possible Replacements reunion, Bright Little Field’s timing couldn’t be better. Give the record a spin, lean back and imagine the possibilities of BLF backing Paul and Tommy. Hey…it could happen!
Kevin Bowe’s recommendation: “If you held a gun to my head and made me name just ONE band or artist that has influenced the way I hear, play, record and write music I would have to say The Replacements. If you listen to my stuff, this would come as no surprise! I wear my love of their music on my sleeve.
I was lucky enough to get in on their stuff right from the beginning and they caught me at just the right time; I was 19, it was 1980 and since corporate rock had taken over the radio since about 1976 or so, I was feeling very disenfranchised from music in general. Also, I had just quit smoking pot so a lot of the bands I had been listening to just didn’t sound as good to me any more. When I saw these guys play, it was not exactly a breath of fresh air, more like sucking on a big belch from a dirty diesel burning train. I knew they weren’t the “best” band in the world but I also knew they were my favorite band in the world. Still are probably.
Kevin Bowe with Paul Westerberg
Not unlike pizza or sex, when they were good, they were VERY, VERY good and even when they were bad they were kinda good. After being subjected to years of slick corporate rock that was always perfect, this band was SUCH A FUCKING RELIEF!!!! Why did I like them so much? First is because of Paul Westerberg’s songwriting. He was the first American punk rock (or whatever you wanna call it) guy to instill classic songwriting values a la Hank Williams Sr. or Bob Dylan into this trashy style of music. Most early punk was more based on style than songwriting and he was the one to open my eyes into that world of great songwriting. Second was his voice – a mixture of sweet and sour that I just found instantly familiar and believable. So it was a combination of his stories and the voice he told them in. Third was the dynamic of the whole band, each one so idiosyncratic, kind of like The Who, Zeppelin or The Band, they were each so weird and unique that they were (ironically) irreplaceable. Even without the original members, Paul’s stuff was compelling enough to keep me riveted but the original line up did have a thing to it that will never be replicated.”
New to The Replacements? Kevin suggests you start here: “If a Martian came down here to earth and asked me “what’s all this about The Replacements?” I would probably say that Mr. Spaceman should listen to Pleased To Meet Me. Many people have very strong opinions on what record was the best and I truly love them all, every single one, but it’s pretty hard to beat songs like Alex Chilton and IOU. I was lucky enough to tour with Paul as his guitarist and I think and I pretty much lost my mind every time we would light into one of those songs. They really haven’t lost any of their meaning or feeling to me over the years.”
About our guest author, Kevin Bowe: If you’re not hip to Kevin Bowe, now is the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon. Kevin started playing in local Minneapolis punk and rock bands in the ’80s, but he really found his niche as a songwriter, penning hits with and for Etta James (who loved his writing so much, she cooed, “These songs are so bad, you bring it on back home like the Rolling Stones. Are you a white boy?” Full story on Minnpost.com), Jonny Lang, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Richie Sambora, Three Dog Night and Delbert McClinton. In 2005, he landed the gig of his dreams backing Paul Westerberg on his US tour. Bowe also fronts The Okemah Prophets, which has released two records that snagged plenty of critical praise. Here in 2012, Bowe and the band gift us with Natchez Trace, Bowe’s first full-length offering of new material in over 10 years. On the collection, Kevin hosts an all-star party in the form of collaborations with the best-of-the-best in the biz, including a co-written song with Paul Westerberg himself (Everybody Lies, below, which also features a scorching guitar solo from Wilco’s guitar maestro, Nels Cline) and various contributions from the Jayhawks’ Tim O’Reagan, Freedy Johnston, Chuck Prophet and Scarlet Rivera (Dylan’s violin player, Rolling Thunder Revue era). The album is the perfect entry point for new listeners, so jump over to http://kevinbowe.com/, pick up the record and be sure to check his upcoming gigs while you’re there.