The Drag City Newsletter - April 20, 2011

posted April 20th, 2011


You’ve been crouched down low — now uncoil an’ go! How long have we been waiting for prey? We know no time other than today! What if too long’s not long enough? We’re never sure if time’s just another bluff. So spring! Grab at your goal and shred for that thing! Spring! Spring! Don’t leave a bit in reserve! Jump to inherit the position you deserve! Be like us and spring! Forward! Don’t worry about a thing! Spring!

...this is our song as we prepare our next excursion into the world. It’s not a song that we’re gonna try and sell you, but we thought you’d like to know what the enchanted dwarfs and mighty midgets of Drag City chant in order to keep a shipping rhythm here. It’s all that keeps us even remotely close to on time.


The light’s filtering down into our underground cavern, filling us with sweet nostalgia and release as we construct the packages that take Drag City’s message out into the world in their charmingly old-fashioned way. It reminds us of record releases from days before, and not just Drag City’s either. For you see, all records are part of a continuum, whether they’re in yer preferred format of vinyl, or on cumpact discs or a stick drive or whatever you got! No matter what form they take, these records come from a moment in time and as such, are time capsules of sorts. Their paths are diverse - some are gonna be snatched up right away and worn down, while others won’t be opened for some time to come. And when that time comes and the seal is broken, out comes the moment in time, representing to future civilizations the breadth and beauty of whatever hell was lived through to make this sound. Ahh! (White) Magic (both the band and not). The light that filters down to us from above isn’t just bringing the past back to us, it’s promising something to the future. And that’s why we tingle so, and whether we’re right or not, we think that this has something to do with why you like music too. Or perhaps it just gets you laid, eh? You nation of jerk offs! Europe, you’re cool.

Ah well...we knew that light couldn’t last long. OK, now that our soft nothings are out of the way -


Man, I know we say this every year, but where the fuck is this year going, anyway? It’s April already and already we’ve got words in our mouth to the effect of “August” and “September.” Shit, dude — we’ve got April snowshowers on our rooftips and we’re talking about harvest-time?! Clearly, as time telescopes itself before our eyes and in the confines of our hand-held devices, the days between a “Spring” and a “Fall” becomes less and less. And so, with the future hurtling violently towards the bridge of our nose, we can’t even remember the recent past! But that’s okay, we’ll learn from these mistakes and time slips and before you know it, we’ll have arrived at the end of summer in real time, without a complaint in the world. Because we know that our struggle’s almost over. Just a few more records to issue before the whole fucking place goes fireball next year, you know? (Seekers please go here for more mind-breaking information) We’ll do what we can until then with what we’re given! That’s the same as we’ve always done. Or do you think we’re sitting around here, polishing the next masterpiece? That’s not how it works, people...


So now it can be told! The record industry is nothing more than a series of accidents that add up to things called “release dates” where “people” buy “records” and “listen” to them. And we make a “million dollars” in “profit.” The awful truth doesn’t stop there. Records themselves are merely recordings of loosely related incidents in a made-up language we call “music!” Ah, the whole thing’s a sham, it’s really mind-boggling when you come to think of it. This is why we never feel too bad when we throw together a bunch of disparate kinds of musical products and offer them to the world as a “New Release Date.” If we knew what we were doing, we’d put together a whole bunch of something that shared a root note — like good old-fashioned honky-tonk country, or soul music that nobody ever heard of — get all of our eggs (suckers) lined up in one basket. Alas, we’re too easily distracted to do something so logical. But who’s to say that our methods (if they can be called that) don’t actually whip up something kind of tasty, as far as release dates go? Let’s look at April, for example.


Shuffling into our present with a little bit of the future sparkling round their shoulders and a little bit of the past intact, the High Llamas are back on the racks with a new electro-acoustic opus called Talahomi Way. In the past, the Llamas have often been associated with various musics of the past, with the key to their approach being a love of meticulously-crafted pop music — yer Bacharachs and so forth. And if listening to and enjoying music can be termed an inspiration (it can - we checked our online dictionary), then High Llamas are guilty of being inspired by music. That said, when their inspirations for this new album include British jazz of the 1950s and 60s, but the record is a pop record with no overt jazz to take note of, one is required to reevaluate what inspiration is to a bunch of seasoned musicians like High Llamas. Or perhaps one doesn’t have to at all; listening to the record instead and finding the vibrant sounds that accent their songs in all the right places (and a few unexpected ones to boot) is all that you can really do. The rest is up to the record critics, isn’t it? And they’re either a dying breed (with no magazines to write for) or an exploding one (with blogs-a-plenty and Amazon reviews to boot!). What our ears have told us after a series of spins is that High Llamas have not only not lost their way with a hook, but they’ve actually grown and refined their way as well. Talahomi Way is rife with engaging tunes, all of which are posed in the mysterious way of High Llamas; about something, but it’s not evident all at once just what. They’re brain-teasers and they’re also ear-candy, and they’re something else as well that will come later, sweet and succulent and true to who they are. Let High Llamas be your tour guide as you make your way to the community of the future.


Pairing with High Llamas like Brazil Nuts with a fine Chianti is another Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy-based 10” single, the second one we’ve put on release this year! The first one, in case you have filed the facts behind the music away, was and is a record release to benefit our island brothers of the Caribbean, with all profits going to aid EDGE Outreach in their efforts to provide clean water to the beleaguered people of Haiti. Both sides were recorded in consort with The Cairo Gang and precious few clean, sealed copies are still available. Now you can get the first 10” single with the second one, and you’ll be delighted to find that they match like a set, not only in art and aesthetics, but also in that Bonny is presented in collaboration with a guitarist known from his starry past — this time, going a little further back to the Superwolf album and its co-progenitor, Matt Sweeney. The two of these guys got together and wrote half-songs that they presented to each other to write the other halves. Once that was done, they absconded to Nashville, where the tracks got fucking laid at the famous Butcher Shoppe, with famous Nashville types like Ronnie McCoury and David Ferguson contributing and the famous Bonny drummer Pete Townsend on the drums. This is a hot-weather sound that we’re grateful for, since the weather is anything but right now. Shit, when it gets to summer, we might just be too warm to bear this! Until then, it’s worth bringing into your life.


Putting an audiobook in a new release bouquet with a couple of musical LP/CD releases is kind of klike putting a basketball in your roast pig’s mouth! But hey, we’re all about unusual tastes going well together. Cause they do. Cause people say so. People outside our head. So we’re not just making this up. But we are hearing sounds that nobody else has heard! For shit’s ass, yeah! That’s what good record labels do. We put together poppers with jazzers and let the good tunes roll. We pair east and west and stand by, waiting for the tectonic plates to shift pleasingly beneath your feet! We bring everyone to the office after the show, roll the desks aside and have us a recording session. This is how hits are made. Who knows, we might even make audio books this way.

You heard right, audio books. April is the month (and 2011 the year) that Drag City finally offers you a combination of two approaches to entertainment in one super-solid package. The first in a series is Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Slow Fade as read by Will Oldham (with D.V. DeVincentis). This story first appeared in the mid-80s, heavy with the odor of the 60s-70s and the decay of the dreams and nightmares from that era. Focusing on a filmmaker (not unlike Wurlitzer’s former collaborator Sam Peckinpah) named Wesley Hardin and his freaky children, Slow Fade charts a course across several continents in search of elusive truths. You can read it this summer; we’re following the audio book version with an...uh, “actual” book? A hard-copy, let’s say. But to hear the book read in Oldham’s voice takes it into the realm of the cinematic — the realm in which it ultimately belongs of course, and we hope it gets there one day. In the meantime, this is a realization of aspects of the book that have sat on the page for over 25 years. Dig it...

And don’t forget to dig the reading tour that’s going down at the end of April! Will’s gonna be out on the road in the Northeast, making a handful appearances between Boston and NYC. Contributing to the circus atmosphere of the shows will be a slideshow of photographs from Lynn Davis, all of which excellently add to the vibes of the text; musical accompaniment from Ben “Six Organs of Admittance” Chasny; guest readers facing off against (and in partnership with) Will; an opening reading set from Elisa “Magik Markers” Ambrogio and appearances at a show or two by the author himself, Rudy Wurlitzer! We’re big fans of all Rudy’s books and film scripts and even if it were just us Q-and-A-ing him, we’d be at it all night! There’s got to be more like us out there, so make sure you get to these free events early enough to find a place to rest. It’s sure to be an exciting time - Slow Fade has made the leap into the next era!


Gah! Who comes up with these section headings? (tee hee! - ed) The new Bill Callahan record is nothing like any of these former Bill Callahan and Smog records - Apocalypse is an album of the here and now, functioning fully as stand-alone entertainment for people with stand-alone attention spans. Of course, if you like, you can cross-reference his other titanic albums like Woke On A Whaleheart, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle and A River Ain’t Too Much to Love just for a start and find yourself in the midst of an ever-expanding musical world. Or you can stick with his latest missive and be able to spend weeks at a time just living inside of a single song. That sounds to us like the profile of a super-Callahan freak, actually. With that fanatical cast in the eye, you know? I think we’ve all met one of you - or you’ve met one of us, in which case the question is, who’s the fanatic here anyway? We like Bill an awful lot ourselves. And we’re pleased to announce that he’s marching into Europe for like, all of May and then back here in America (America!) for like, a couple of months right after that. Dude, check out the tour dates here! Good news - Apocalypse is just getting started.


Man, this April is awesome. We’re really enjoying it, even as it kills us dead. No, we love it — but in a way, we’re looking forward even more to May. Now naturally you’re expecting us to tell you what fer — and we can do it in two words: Mickey Newbury. That should be enough — but shit, why not spill a few more words while we’re at it.

Saying that the late 60s-early 70s was a golden age in recorded music would be an assertion completely worth making - if only to spotlight the records made by Mickey Newbury during that heady time. These weren’t the biggest sellers in their day, but those in the know, well, they knew, and they stand up there with the idiosyncratic sounds of other American regional masters like Fred Neil, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and the rest. The thing is, Mickey probably sold more records than any of those guys — just not under his own name! Songs like ”An American Trilogy,” ”Sweet Memories,” She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,” and ”Why You Been Gone So Long” were fodder for country, soul and pop chart hits of all kinds throughout the 1970s, along with many other of Mickey Newbury songs. If that was all he achieved, that would be enough — but when it came time to make his own records, Mickey chose the path less traveled, recording in a Nashville garage studio called Cinderella with his pick of top men from the studios. To call the music they made unique doesn’t get it done. Mickey Newbury records are singular events - except in the case of our new four-CD boxset An American Trilogy, in which Mickey Newbury records are events to be absorbed as trilogies, thus making their massive countenances even greater, wider and more epic. In the case of the three records being reissued here (Looks Like Rain, ’Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help the Child), this is an effective angle through which to examine them. All three share a sound, a set of musical themes, a production crew and a song, ”San Francisco Mabel Joy,” which appears on two of the records and gives title to the other one. So, three classic albums. PLUS! They’re all three on CD from actual tapes instead instead of old vinyl for the first time ever! PLUS! There’s a fourth CD of Mickey Newbury demos, alternate mixes and a radio session! PLUS! A hundred page booklet that takes you around and around the history of Mickey Newbury, specifically the period of 1969-1973 which are now officially “The Cinderella Years.” This is an incredible package and what’s more, it’s a special limited edition!

But no, that’s not all. If you order now, you get a special Greatest Hits collection of Boxcar Willie...nah, we’re just kidding. The plus this time around is that if you’re not into CDs, you’re in luck! We’ll be selling each one of the LPs in their original packaging! They look and sound as beautiful as they did circa-forty years ago. And the fourth disc of rarities is it’s own album called Better Days. Better days indeed! That’s what we’ve got ahead, with all this freshly remastered Mickey back in our world. Coming in May!


It’s fitting that we have the new album from Bachelorette sharing space and time with Mickey Newbury on this May release date. Annabel “Bachelorette” Alpers is a young woman of the 21st century, making her a few decades removed from Mickey, but her music is similarly constructed. Starting with the song, she lifts off into an expanse that appropriately defines the mood, carefully choosing sounds to move the listener through the field. Annabel’s affect seems to emanate from the classic days of psychedelic pop music, with her New Zealand accent only helping to evoke the head-music of Barrett-era Pink Floyd and a similar vintage of Beatles and the rest of the fairy tale rockers.But that’s really only the first spark of inspiration for Annabel. Bachelorette transplants this inspiration into a latter-day digital brain, layering her well-balanced lines of music and lyric with synthesizer and artificial percussion, burying guitars amid the clouds of vocals and keyboards and reverberance. The sound blows up into a storm of cosmic proportions, but because it’s rooted in our fallible old-school earthman (and woman!) songwriting, the contrast touches our souls with endearing humanity. And the girl can write a hook! Check ”Blanket” out on the site right now. Buzzing synths, a galloping rhythm and a set of vulnerable-yet-literate words make a song that you’ll soon be humming and vibrating along with. This is the formula, and it’s like a new form of fuel for us. Empowering. Heartbreaking. We’re on our way to the future on the silver wings of Bachelorette. Join us.

And join Bachelorette as she wings around the country opening up for those one-hit wonders of yesteryear, Peter Bjorn and John. Dates are here!


Wake up! You can’t remember where it was! Has this dream stopped?

People, we don’t want to have to remind you anymore — it’s 2011 and that means new rules all the way around. Things are gonna be done different around here — even things that happen the same are gonna feel different. And you’re not gonna know whether it’s something in the water or what it is. You might have theories, but in 2011 it’s time to FUCK thinking those theories and live ’em in the moment instead! And to that end, have we mentioned we’re putting out a record by Ty Segall? Yes. It’s coming out in June. Yes! It’s really fucking great from beginning to end — because it combines thought and action in a series of spontaneous-feeling songs that strike physically but not without thoughts and tactics that have shaped the songs, all of which pours over the listeners ear and body in a simply stimulating way. Music for the mind and the body, we’re into it!

Anyway, that’s the album, and whotta classic album at that. In the spirit of classic albums, us and Ty are leading with a single that’s got a piece of the new album and a non-LP B. The A’s called ”I Can’t Feel It,” and it sports a shufflin’ tempo, with sparks lazily springing through the air as jangling guitars, reverbing vocs, and the soul of Ty collide in an ultra-musical manner. Not musical like Glee, you understand — but glee is what you’ll feel and you might just feel teenage joy as well. Or twenny-somethin’ joy, or middle-age joy — they’re all water from the same fountain of youth, and this is one for everyone. Don’t forget, it’s starts with a 7” single on May 17th. You heard it here first, internet!


Really? You call this newsletter pornographic? Wait no - the label? Where were you when we put out Final Flesh? You’re a little bit late, copper...unhand me! Where are you throwing me?

Okay folks, we should be out of this jam by the time our next monthly opus is due. We always are. See you then?

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

April 20, 2011