Music Review: Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons – Bend in the Road

Mark Stuart makes it sound easy, with or without the Man in Black.

With his former group, the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Mark Stuart injected a shot of traditional country into the broad biceps of what was confusingly called "alt-county." Now, with his songwriting chops and reedy baritone intact, he's written a new chapter under the title "Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons."

"Always been a restless, ramblin' man / Never stayed long in any town / Never could hold a good job down / Always been a restless, ramblin' man." Stuart's one of the few artists who can deliver lines like that with neither irony nor slick Nashville nausea. He does perform over 200 shows a year, after all, and so can claim to actually be a ramblin' man.

That schedule probably helps account for how easy he makes it all sound on this record, from the rockers ("When Love Comes A-Callin'", "Power of a Woman") to a love ballad like "Lonestar, Lovestruck, Blues," where he sings: "Now that I've found what I was looking for / I never had so much to lose." Even when the rambler man comes home, he's attuned to the possibility of loss.

The straightforward minor-key "Gone Like a Raven" is one of my favorite tracks, with its sad-eyed advice. Then Stuart and his ace musicians blast away those blues with a rockabilly beat in "Seven Miles to Memphis." In the infectious rocker "Fireflies" he couches an indictment of big-box commercialism and hyper-connectedness in joyful rock chords:

   The little guy he can't make it any more
   Starbucks and Wal-Mart don't give a fuck about you and us
   Gettin' screwed ain't nothing new
   Bet your ass it's happening to you…
   Fireflies and corn liquor
   Gonna have a little fun tonight
   Find myself a hard-luck woman
   Go dancin' 'neath the pale moonlight

Then everything goes slidy and sloshy in "Everything's Goin' My Way," and the good times are back in unadulterated form.

There's no filler here; it's all good, heartfelt stuff with a handful of great hooks sprinkled in, smartly played by an all-pro but understated band that includes fiddlin', mandolinin', and the cracklin' Lars Albrecht on guitar. Mark Stuart's new chapter is a satisfying summer read.

Music Review: Indie Round-Up – Craig Jackson, the Iveys, Bobby Long

Craig Jackson, Damn the Roses

Music is a funny, time-twisting business. With five albums to his name, Craig Jackson just got nominated for "Best New Band" in Nashville's Toast of Music City Awards.

Though Jackson's sound is commonly described as "Americana," at times it can suggest Tom Petty and Don Henley and 1970s-80s heartland rock as much as it does the polished but back-to-basics sound of Lucinda Williams and Jim Lauderdale. Too, Jackson's youthful, slightly scratchy voice is more typical of pop and alt-rock than of traditional country and Americana. Still, beginning with the second track, "Everytime You Leave," he slides into modern (but not "commercial") country music territory.

These terms, of course, are labels, and as such fairly unimportant. His voice, whatever "type" you call it, gives his arrangements a warm glow and a melded softness that carries through pretty much the whole disc. In general, these songs take their time, maintaining laid-back but emotionally potent moods. Highlights include the war story "1941," the keening title track, and the catchy pop of "Simple."

The Iveys, The Iveys

These Iveys are a band of three young siblings out of West Texas, not the now-obscure 1960s Iveys that evolved into Badfinger. But there is something pleasingly retro in their focus on thoughtful pop songwriting and glittering vocal harmonies.

The catchy soft-rock nuggets "Leave It To Love" and "Going the Right Way" are the best tracks on this eight-song disc; the single, "Back When It Was Our World," is solid too, though, to my ear, not quite as inspired. The slower tunes, like "The Promise," "Whispered Words," and the meandering "Your Love Now," though bedded in fragrant arrangements and decorated with sweet, nicely understated harmonies, don't have the pop flair of the more upbeat tracks. I suspect that as the Iveys' lyric-writing matures the emotional impact of their music will become more consistent.

Despite my reservations, this is a promising debut from a group that could, as likely as anyone, emerge as a Fleetwood Mac for the new century – without the messy divorces.

Bobby Long, Dirty Pond Songs

Staying on the youth tip, here comes Bobby Long. I almost didn't listen to this CD. The black-and-white sensitive-boy cover shot, the Myspace provenance, and above all, the fact that Long, still a London college student, had become known only because Robert Pattinson sang a mush-mouthed version of a song Long co-wrote in the movie Twilight – all these factors suggested that this was overhyped fluff.

Hyped, yes. Fluff, not so much. With raw vocal power and smart, evocative lyrics, Long is a folksinger with a spirited intensity that puts him outside and above the masses of singer-songwriters roaming our cities, towns, and social networks.

His original voice comes through in a combination of factors. One is his solid guitar playing, which takes a lot from the hard-strummed sound of the early folk-pop crafters like Bob Dylan and Dave Cousins. A more unusual factor is that, unlike most modern songwriters, Long seems to really like language, layering and intertwining his thoughts and images. Meanwhile, echoes of Nick Cave and David Bowie and Leonard Cohen shoot through his melodies, though many of the songs are rooted in real traditional folk idioms (think the Child Ballads).

Long's debt to traditional and Dylan-esque folk is evident in "Who Have You Been Loving," where detailed imagery in the verses alternates with a repeated one-line chorus – but with the composition juiced up by delaying that chorus. "The Bounty of Mary Jane" resembles an old, sad ballad: "I will fall upon this town / To call your name, my sweet suffragette / my sweet Mary Jane." Songs like the waltzing "Being a Mockingbird" would fit right into an Americana playlist today, but Long's undisguised working-class British accent reminds us, as Billy Bragg did, how the American Appalachian music tradition is deeply rooted in ballads from the British Isles.

Some parts of some songs don't always seem to quite make sense together, but, because Long sings with such an honest tone, the discontinuities mostly serve to hold the listener's interest. The melody of "Penance Fire Blues" at first echoes Bowie's "Jean Genie" and the song (coincidentally?) contains yet another curious mention of "suffragettes." Then it resolves into a cry to "let me run" and a worry about finding one's feet.

Though the songs don't always hang together, and a few are forgettable, this is a perceptive and rich collection. "I'm afraid to die," Long writes in "Left to Lie," the most powerful track on the disc: "I'm nearly old / I'm almost young / So I'm told." Shades of Dylan's My Back Pages, yes, but clinging to and building on those hoary roots in his own way. The CD will be released shortly via Long’s Myspace page, where several singles are already available including “The Bounty of Mary Jane.”

Music Review: Indie Round-Up – Trevor Alguire, Stillhouse Hollow, Hot Monkey Love

Trevor Alguire’s music is rooted in the traditions and commonplaces of country music, but it has a modern sensibility.

Trevor Alguire, Thirty Year Run

This world always has room for new easygoing, rootsy country music, as long as the songs are good, and Ottawa-based Trevor Alguire's new disc frequently hits the target. "Full of Rust," a basic, fiddle-charged, two-and-a-half-minute gem, opens the disc strongly. Other highlights include the slow-drawl waltz of "Troubles Me So" with its creamy harmonies, the insistently elemental "Like Old Times," the hard-edged, quirky "The One," and the rollicking "These Words," which asks an unusually honest question: "Would you hold me to / These words I say to you?"

The mostly brief songs don't overstay their welcome, making their statements and closing up neatly. "Away From You Now" is an exception, taking a while to get going but bearing fruit if you're in a relaxed, stick-with-it kind of mood — and that's the mood this disc will put you in, notwithstanding its sprinkling of up-tempo tunes.

Alguire sings in a smooth, unprepossessing, slightly vulnerable baritone that's both expressive and soothing. On the instrumental side, the performances are impeccable. Fine mandolin work by Gilles Leclerc and assured fiddling by Michael Ball stand out.

Melodic conventions pull certain songs down into country cliché, but most of the time Alguire stays on the honest side of the fine line between accessible and unoriginal. The sweet title track helps prove that although his music is rooted in tradition and country music commonplaces, he has a modern sensibility. It tells of a man who's spent his whole career working in a paper mill, but now those days are gone: "There's no such thing as a thirty year run today / Son, you're fired."

Stillhouse Hollow, Dakota

If Trevor Alguire is rootsy, Tennessee band Stillhouse Hollow is downright lo-fi. Their signature sound has a ragged charm, acoustic and old-timey, with banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and upright bass more prominent than guitar. The clear, light-spirited vocals from primary songwriter Nathan Griffin and the boys have a youthful simplicity with just enough quaver to convince. Standouts: "Strollin' In," which suggests the Byrds' country period; the jaunty "Painfully True"; and the silly, sad-eyed "Pimp Hand."

Hot Monkey Love, Speakin' Evil

Hot Monkey Love hits home with a barrage of Chicago blues all twisted up with strands of Southern rock and soul and a gritty New York City attitude. The disc opens with a crushing rendition of "Palace of the King," written by Leon Russell, Don Nix, and "Duck Dunn" in honor of the great Freddie King. (John Mayall also covered the song on a recent album.) The band is equally at home with Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," and lands a surprisingly tasty cover of Alicia Keys's breakout hit, "Fallin'."

The band can succeed with a song like that, first because they're good arrangers, but also because of clear-voiced singer Jack O'Neill's ability (like Lou Gramm, whom he resembles vocally) to convey a sensitive lyric as easily as he can belt out a rocker. This serves him very well in one of the strongest original songs on the disc, "Weight Off My Shoulders," a gorgeous duet with guest Antonique Smith (of Rent fame). Another great arrangement makes the original "Stay" a highlight, and the funky blues of the title track (also an original) brings Son Seals to mind. Overall the band's own songs stand up well against covers by the likes of B. B. King, Robert Johnson, and Artie White, and that's saying a lot.

Fans of electric blues can't go wrong with this disc. It has a little of everything, but a muscular, authentic blues sensibility infuses it all.

Theater/Dance Review: Le Serpent Rouge by Austin McCormick and Company XIV

This extravagant, sexually charged dance-theater piece is a visionary re-imagining of the story of Adam, Eve, and Lilith.

Austin McCormick's Company XIV is back with another extravagant, sexually charged dance-theater piece of the kind only they can produce. Where last year's Judgment of Paris drew on the young choreographer's study of French baroque dance (pre-classical ballet), the dancing in Le Serpent Rouge is more modern; but again the company creates a visionary re-imagining of a classic story, this time the legend of Adam, Eve, and Lilith.

In this telling, Adam (John Beasant III) is first paired with Lilith (Yeva Glover), but although the sex is great, he rejects her because she has "no soul" and what he needs is a soulmate. Nevertheless Adam continues to desire Lilith, both before and after the Fall, and this provides the production's ongoing tension as the wonderful cast of five dances through elegant and sensual enactments of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Narrating is Gioia Marchese as a Ringmistress in an outfit worthy of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, also functioning as the Devil, constantly proffering the infamous apple of the Tree of Knowledge to Eve (Laura Careless). Appropriately, the set is a circle, both cagelike and circusy. Coiling through is the serpent, evoked by Davon Rainey, who also delivers several interesting and illuminating (and highly crowd-pleasing) drag numbers.

But none of this factual description conveys the lurid opulence of the production. Swings, a giant chandelier hung low to the ground, a focused rain of water, a huge mirror (for Eve to lose herself in), light bondage, near-nudity, and the world's first threesome are only a few pieces of the puzzle. The choreography is continually expressive and beautifully realized by the amazing dancers; the movement is descriptive, never abstract, occasionally a little repetitious, but the spell holds for the production's full 70 minutes.

The score plays a big part in establishing and maintaining the mood. As with Judgment of Paris, it's sewn together from a variety of sources, this time from the likes of Eartha Kitt and Peggy Lee, Cecilia Bartoli and Nina Simone. The text includes a Bukowski poem and passages inspired by Thomas Mann along with elements from the Bible and the Apocrypha. While dance predominates, the cast prove themselves capable actors. Ms. Glover is both regal and slinky, Ms. Careless a package of joy and pain and anger successively, Mr. Beasant a compact, darkly human Everyman. Ms. Marchese and Mr. Rainey are pure over-the-top delight, as they were in Judgment of Paris.

Given the dark material, there's surprisingly little menace in the tale. One gets the sense that Mr. McCormick and his troupe take such pleasure in their work that real evil, even in circus guise, can find no purchase on their stage. But no matter; this is a richly woven, thoroughly rewarding entertainment, well worth the excursion to the company's beautifully converted tow-truck pound near the Gowanus Canal. Get tickets before it closes on June 6!

Photo by Steven Schreiber. (L-R): Davon Rainey and Yeva Glover

Glee, Rock of Ages, and the Show-Tunification of Classic Rock and Pop

Songs by Journey, Whitesnake, and even Amy Winehouse are becoming show tunes.

After seeing this week's premiere of FOX's new high school musical comedy-drama, Glee, and recently catching Rock of Ages on Broadway, it struck me how classic rock, pop, and pop-metal songs from the '70s and '80s have turned into show tunes.

There used to be a clear distinction between "show tunes" and other songs. Show tunes, as their name implies, came from classic Broadway shows, and sometimes from films of Hollywood's golden era. Popular music that you heard on mainstream radio — whether pop, rock, or country — lived in a separate cultural world. Not that you couldn't like both. But you didn't hear them in the same context.

Now Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is a show tune. Who would have thought?

I blame Mamma Mia, which helped spawn Jersey Boys and other semi-revues based on popular music. The end is not in sight; there's even a show in development based on Green Day's American Idiot.

Journey's hit, along with many other hard-rock anthems and ballads of its era, form the score of Rock of Ages, the new Broadway hit musical. "Don't Stop Believing" also famously accompanied the controverial final scene of the last episode of The Sopranos, and now it fuels the grand production number that climaxes the debut of Glee, a new show about high school glee club performers.

It's not a current song, by any means, and not the kind of music we'd expect today's high schoolers to be into. But the theater kids are into it, at least on Glee, and why? Because just like a classic show tune, "Don't Stop Believing" is a fundamentally good song that's also deliciously over the top. The kids also make a very funny production number out of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," a much newer song that shares those traits.

Of course there's always been "showiness" in pop and rock. For every sinewy, straight-up act like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, there's an equally successful act that's more self-consciously showy: the glam-rock of Bowie and T-Rex, the grandiloquent Freddie Mercury of Queen, the theatricality of Pete Townshend's Tommy and Quadraphenia scores, the stagy productions of early prog-rockers like Genesis, and of course the arena-pop music extravaganzas of the likes of Cher, Tina Turner, and Madonna.

But there was still a separation. And when rock did start to appear on Broadway, it came in the form of new shows with new music written for them (Hair, Godspell), or material that already existed in "show" form, like Tommy, which was conceived as a rock opera from the start.

Once Abba came to Broadway, there was, it seems, no turning back; it was just a matter of time till Rock of Ages appeared. And just as theater geeks of the '70s took inspiration from the music of an earlier era — what we knew then as "show tunes" — the kids of a new TV show circa 2009 (not to mention American Idol and its cohorts) go back to what is, for them, a correspondingly early era, the '70s.

So pop music feeding the theater is a well-established thing by now, but it's still a bit of a shock, if a happy one, to see Journey, Whitesnake, and Amy Winehouse becoming show tune fodder. Back in the '80s, "oldies" radio stations played doo-wop. Now they play music from the '70s and '80s. The definition has changed. And the same has happened to the meaning of "show tunes." Musical eras are like waves on the beach, arriving one after another, each one crashing, then falling back into the sea to feed the next wave. Cowabunga, dude! And don't stop believing.

A Historical Exploration and Musical Performance of Six Franco-Flemish Déplorations

Renaissance court composers would write pieces lamenting the death of an older composer who had mentored or inspired them.

Lately I've become something of an Early Music Deadhead, checking the Gotham Early Music Society newsletter and seeing all the pre-Classical concerts I can around town, especially the free ones. One such happened the other night at the beautiful, grottoed Church of Notre Dame, in Morningside Heights in upper Manhattan, where some fourteen members of the vocal group Pomerium sang a program of six Franco-Flemish Déplorations.

What are Déplorations, you ask? Heck if I knew. Fortunately Alyssa DeSocio was on hand to explain. She's a student of musicology who told us that back in the day — the Renaissance, that is — French/Flemish court composers would write pieces lamenting (hence déploration, deploring) the death of an older composer who had mentored or inspired them. The result was some exceptionally beautiful and interesting choral music.

The program ranged from the 14th to the 16th centuries, and included chansons (with words in the French vernacular), motets (in Latin), and motet-chansons (which combined the two). The music referenced medieval Gregorian chant but used polyphony, dissonant suspensions, and all the latest compositional developments of the time. The choral director helpfully pointed out a number of these features by having the chorus sing them in isolation before performing the whole piece.


The lyrics were poems written for the particular occasions. They mixed Christian and Classical allusions: Jesus, of course, but also Jove, Apollo, and Atropos, the Fate in charge of dispensing death. They also mentioned the deceased composer by name, glowingly praising his divinely inspired musical prowess and sometimes other qualities as well.

…Atropos, terrible satrap,
Has caught your Ockeghem in her trap,
The true treasurer of music and master,
Learned, handsome in appearance
and not at all stout…
Put on the clothes of mourning,
Josquin, Pierrson, Brumel, Compère,
And weep great tears from your eyes…

Josquin des Prez, one of the composers mentioned in the next-to-last line above, became the greatest of his time, and the program concluded with three Déplorations written in his honor.

Often part of the fascination of Early Music concerts is the proliferation of old-fashioned instruments that you don't normally see or hear anymore, instruments with names like sackbut, theorbo, and shawm, not to mention my favorites, the viol family. But this concert made purely vocal music from the Renaissance not just beautiful, but almost as interesting as a consort of curious antiques.

A Consort of Viols, a Bevy of Blooming Trees, and a Living Room Choir

Wave Hill is a sublimely beautiful place in spring.

Saturday we visited Wave Hill, a gorgeous public garden and cultural center near the Hudson River in Riverdale, The Bronx.

Wave Hill House

Flowering trees were just starting to bloom and the air was full of scents. It’s a sublimely beautiful place in spring.

Wave Hill

Then yesterday night I experienced a musical equivalent. I’d seen the viol quartet Parthenia and its music and poetry programs before, but this time they were in a proper concert hall, the Dweck Auditorium at the Brooklyn Public Library with its warm acoustics. Viol The audience was enraptured by the tones of the viols, by the actor Paul Hecht reading poems by Donne and Shakespeare, and by the voice of mezzo-soprano soloist Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, better known as a member of Anonymous 4.

Mr. Hecht’s readings made me want to go back to college and major in English all over again, but this time with him by my side to read all those poems aloud. Hearing great poetry in the trained, sonorous voice of an intelligent (and funny) stage actor gives one a whole new appreciation of the works.

Meanwhile, thanks partly to Parthenia, I’ve contracted a case of viol envy — I’d like to learn to play one of those ancient things. The viols are a family of fretted stringed instruments that predate the “modern” violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The sound is softer, less like a human voice heard through the air and more like what I imagine a mother’s voice sounds like to a fetus in the womb, soothing and humming.

They played works by Dowland, Byrd, and other composers roughly contemporary with Donne and Shakespeare. The second half of the program was all about aging and dying. Yet I left the concert walking very slowly and calmly, as if I were balancing a large object on my head, not wishing to tilt in any direction or elevate my heartrate past meditation speed.

Luckily I arrived home to a rehearsal of angelic voices preparing for my friend Meg Braun‘s CD release concert. With Amy Soucy and Elisa Peimer harmonizing, the three sounded like a whole choir in the living room. That’s the magic of well-crafted counterpoint: it makes the brain fill in parts that aren’t there.

But before Meg’s concert, in which I am also playing, Elisa and I will be back at Wave Hill. We’re getting married there in less than two weeks. Holy crap.

Viol photo: Copyright © 2000–2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Ray Charles, Leon Russell, JJ Grey… Kip Kolb?


Kolb, the lead singer of Florida’s kLoB, has a gruffer vocal style than those keyboard-playing soul singers, but there’s a continuity nonetheless. I caught the band at R Bar the other night. Their live set is tight and exciting. Kolb’s unusual singing, while a key part of the band’s sound, jumps out at you less in the live setting, probably because the band is so good. (Almost anyone can be made to sound good in the studio, but live is another thing entirely).

And a super-nice bunch of guys, too.

For one of the best live blue-eyed soul concerts around, be sure to catch kLoB whenever they come to your town.

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Theater Review (NYC): Die Roten Punkte: Super Musikant

The UNDER St. Marks theater is only a little bit off the beaten track, but it's been home to many an off-the-wall production. For three nights only (closing Saturday Jan. 10), it has hosted another. Tonight is your last chance for a while to catch Die Roten Punkte: Super Musikant – unless you live in Canada – and it’s well worth your $18.

This jolly evening of clever musical buffoonery comes courtesy of "Otto and Astrid Rot," a "brother and sister" from a fantastical land called "Germany." With a backstory suggesting a Teutonic version of the White Stripes, Die Roten Punkte ("The Red Dots") mug and squirm through a set of smart and catchy takeoffs on what they insistently call "rock and roll." Really, though, the music – played on child-size guitars (Otto) and drums (Astrid) – ranges from New Wave and Kraftwerk-era robot music to glam-punk and a drinking song, and more. Meanwhile the siblings' tension-filled banter pokes fun at recovery-movement psychology – an easy target, but a big fat funny one as well.

Perhaps the cleverest song is the duo's lengthy origin story. It's a Nick Cave-style dark fairy tale in which the kids' parents are killed in a tragico-absurd manner. Orphaned, the pair dream of being in the "best band in the world." Now, in their own demented universe, they are. The most impressive number, though, is the Kraftwerk sendup about a "robot with feelings," complete with hilarious 80s music video choreography.

The songs themselves are darn good, and the show is equal parts smart and smartass. At the performance I attended, the duo, being total pros, dealt firmly and funnily, but not meanly, with a smart-alecky kid in the audience who was intent on spoiling one of the main jokes. Also, just as the show was getting started, a woman in the audience shouted a hello to "Astrid" using the actress's real name. Man, people are stupid.

Go, be stupid with the Best Band in the World. Visit their website for information on where they're appearing next.

Music Review: Indie Round-Up – D’Haene, June Moris, Back Door Slam

D'Haene, Vinyl

D'Haene's new disc is spring-loaded with hard-locked rhythms, chunky guitar riffing, and metalized melodies sung with a bluesy, soulful inflection. If, vocally, D'Haene tends to be a touch more convincing on more easy-going fare ("Took Me So Long"), that's because of the soulful quality that defines his vocal style.

One of the CD's best points is the way many of the songs surprise you with unexpected bridges and codas, as in "Wouldn't You Like To Know," or with varied flavors like the Latin opening of "Brand New Threads!" The impeccable musicianship and harmony vocals are also a pleasure throughout. The soul influence becomes explicit with the nodding triplets and organ bed of "I'll Be Your Man," though D'Haene's characteristic guitar buzz remains, maintaining consistency with the disk's overall feel. The same thing happens in the jazzy underpinning of "Playin' It Cool," complete with muted trumpet.

Bookended by the hard-rocking "Another Like You" and "My Woman," this set of solid songs and ace playing is worthy listen.

June Moris, White Spot

June Moris' seven-song disc is a hypnotic set; her quavery voice sounds as if it's bubbling up from an underground stream, accompanied by the hum of insects and distant bells ringing. The atmosphere ranges from a strained, thinly angry pounding, slightly reminiscent of PJ Harvey, to a techno coolness, to a thick Brian Eno drone, but Moris' fluty voice carries through all.

It's an effective, even thrilling tactic through the first five songs. On the sixth track, "The Memory," Moris tries for melodramatic balladry, leaving what seems her natural, postmodern sonic habitat, and it doesn't work as well.

At the end one is left, not with melodies to hang a memory on – Moris isn't about that – but with a pleasingly disturbing sense of disquiet. Shivery mission accomplished.

Back Door Slam, Roll Away and Special EP

The blues-rock power trio is dead?… Long live the blues-rock power trio! Back Door Slam is the real thing. The group, which hails from the Isle of Man, may be barely legal in age, but singer-guitarist Davy Knowles has the grown-up, gritty sound, both vocally and on guitar, demanded by the tradition of Clapton, Gov't Mule, and Robert Cray.

A few tasteful acoustic numbers break up the heavy feel of Roll Away, their debut CD. "Too Late" is a pretty power ballad, but even here Knowles's guitar craftsmanship rides front and center. Ably backed up by bassist Adam Jones and drummer Ross Doyle, and fueled by a deep absorption of the electric blues, Knowles' assured riffs and solos would carry the songs even if the writing weren't inherently good.  But in a genre where spectacular playing is sometimes allowed to substitute for songcraft, Back Door Slam's songs stand up well – especially for such a young group.

In addition to Roll Away, a full-length CD of mostly original songs, they've recently released a download-only EP of covers on which they display their more straight-up blues chops. Knowles wails and shreds with brash confidence on a ten-minute live version of "Red House," while the band shows how tight and sharp it can be on John Hiatt's "Riding With the King," the Doors' "Been Down So Long," and a few more.

If there's still a place in the world for guitar heroes and for power trios with a timeless crunch, put Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam on the up-and-coming short list. In a world of hyper-talented young musicians, this is truly impressive stuff, because it feels real.

Freddy’s Still Rules

One of the negatives of moving from Brooklyn to Manhattan is the serious reduction in opportunities to hang out at Freddy’s, the best bar in the known universe. That was remedied the other night courtesy of my gig with the Kings County Blues Band at which an awesome time was had by all. Starting the musical festivities were The Walkers, pictured below, with a set of story songs that were also performance art pieces, with titles like “The Mayor’s Boyfriend” and “The Devil is a Man.” This is the kind of group you have to experience; simple hearing would not do the trick. It was only their second gig ever. Hope they have more.


Now here’s us – well, two of us anyway, Laura Stein and myself – with the KCBB. Below the photo is an MP3 from the show, of me singing Johnny Taylor’s “Last Two Dollars.” I can’t do it like JT, of course, or like my old bandmate Michael Brewster from whom I learned the song, but I think it’s not too bad for a Jewish kid from Long Island. Anyway, let no one say The Bagel and the Rat is not a hip, multimedia blog.


Oh, and of course: long live Freddy’s, and down with Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards.

First photo by me, second photo by Elisa Peimer.

Theater Review (NYC): The Klezmer Nutcracker

The Klezmer Nutcracker is an amusing play for children that mixes chanukah traditions and Jewish music with klezmerized themes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. The story, by Ellen Kushner (host of Public Radio's "Sound and Spirit" program) and based on her children's book The Golden Dreydl, won't win any awards for originality, but its winning characters and enthusiastic cast held the kids' attention at the performance I saw.

Bored young Sara (the spunky Danielle Strauss), down with a case of pubescent existential angst, is given, not an enchanted nutcracker, but a magical Golden Dreydl that becomes the Dreydl Princess (the graceful Melana L. Lloyd). This ballerina-like waif takes Sara to a magical kingdom ruled by her parents, Solomon and Sheba – not the biblical or historical characters, but a benevolent sort of Father and Mother Time who oversee a fairyland of Fools, talking animals, and demons who are more funny than scary.

When the demons snatch the Princess, the Tree of Life is threatened, and with it all of Creation… or something. The plot flops around a bit, with story points merely stated, and references and themes flying by at breakneck speed – rather like the Fool, who guides Sara through the enchanted land attempting to rescue the Princess. Dan J. Gordon plays the Fool with a big, loose-jointed nod to Ray Bolger's Scarecrow, and indeed kids may notice strong parallels to The Wizard of Oz, perhaps even more than to the original Nutcracker ballet.

This isn't a ballet, and parents of budding ballerinas should probably mention that fact ahead of time so kids' expectations aren't set unfairly. Nor is it a musical – it's a play with music. Chanukah songs are sung, and there's some boisterous choreography by Dax Valdes, set to recorded music that uses Tchaikovsky's themes transmogrified very cleverly by David Harris and Michael McLaughlin for the fabulous Shirim Klezmer Orchestra.

Most inventive of all is a wonderful Peacock scene, where the talking, preening bird is played by one actress (the amusingly brash Lindsey Levine) while a group of actor-dancers plays her feathers, all making one organism. This sort of thing is the true magic of the theater, the reason to take kids out to a show rather than plop them in front of a DVD.

The Klezmer Nutcracker runs Saturdays and Sundays at 11 AM and 1 PM through Jan. 3, 2009 at the Vital Theatr, 2162 Broadway (at 76th St.), 4th Floor, New York. Call 212-579-0528.

Opera Review (NYC): Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by The Dido Project at the Samsung Experience

Henry Purcell's 1689 Dido and Aeneas was one of the earliest English operas and is considered one of the composer's masterworks. It runs only an hour but is a true opera. Though the story, taken from Virgil's Aeneid, is a tragedy, Thursday night's performance at the Samsung Experience in the Time Warner Center was a joy, and one of an unusual sort.

The Dido Project comprises a group of singers and the Sybarite Chamber Players under the sparkling direction of Pat Diamond. They've transposed Purcell's Baroque opera about the Queen of Carthage and the hero Aeneas, with its libretto by the Irish poet and playwright Nahum Tate, to the modern boardroom. This Dido is the CEO of a major corporation, while Aeneas, rather than literally shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage, is a tycoon on the verge of economic collapse and in need of a business partner to merge with.

A bit surprisingly, the tale lends itself quite well to the updated setting. One reason is the story's resonance with the modern-day capitalist themes of independence and overwork, particularly for women. This opera is, and always has been, all about women. Indeed, its only major male role is Aeneas himself.

Another factor was the physical setting and the use of technology (I use the past tense because this was a one-time performance, though the group has plans for further events). Many modern theatrical productions use video to enhance or comment on the live action, but usually the screens or projections are fitted after the fact into a space designed mainly for live performance. The Samsung Experience at the Time Warner Center, on the other hand, is a showroom for the company's technology, particularly its screens and other video kit – a "10,000-square-foot interactive emporium of virtual reality experiences and technology."

You are surrounded by video. You walk through video to get to the performance space. You pass computers with interactive displays. Bright lighting and shiny equipment give a science-fictiony sheen to the whole environment. Everything is by Samsung, of course, including the two large screens that framed the stage displaying CNN-like "news" and commentary on the story we were witnessing. The backdrop too consisted of a large multi-panel screen, showing an image of the globe, slowly changing color like a Christmas display, reinforcing the sense that we're in a universe of nonstop worldwide news and action.

The video commentary, complete with a news crawl, was clever and funny and helped to both carry and clarify the story (I liked the novel use of the Windows "blue screen of death"). Its only disadvantage was that it replaced what in some opera performances would have been a display of supertitles. Even in an English-language opera like this one, the words can at times be hard to understand, given the strong vibrato of the female voices and the sometimes unexpected (to modern ears) phrasing of a 17th century libretto.

Still, though the audience may have missed some lines, the singers, with their top-notch voices and fine acting, made the essentials quite clear. And it is a story of essentials.

Dido loves Aeneas, but is reluctant to declare it until her sister (here an executive assistant) Belinda prods her. But three witches who hate Dido and want to ruin her life trick Aeneas into leaving town to fulfill his destiny of founding Rome (here, he is starting a new business venture without Dido). He changes his mind, but too late – Dido's heart has been irreparably broken and, more to the point, her pride fatally wounded: "To your promis'd empire fly/And let forsaken Dido die."

Blythe Gaissert conveyed Dido's sadness ("Peace and I are strangers grown") and precipitous fall with solemn, queenly magnetism. Her voice is strong, supple, almost buttery, and in the famous death scene, which was effectively video-assisted, she was moving and a little funny at the same time. Elena O'Connor as Belinda seemed slightly tentative of voice at first but quickly claimed the full measure of the role, singing beautifully while at the same time clowning divinely.

Alex Loustion was winning as the Second Woman, a more important role than its generic name makes it sound; she did a beautiful job with the lovely aria "Oft she visits this lone mountain." David Adam Moore brought a smooth, strong baritone, impeccable diction, and excellent acting skills to the relatively thankless role of Aeneas (this is a play about women, remember). Sarah Heltzel and Annie Pennies made fine witches, and Jessica Medoff-Bunchman was perfectly spectacular as the Sorceress (the head witch) – if she doesn't have a fan club, someone should start one.

The small Sybarite Chamber Players orchestra played with heart, precision, and even at certain moments a smoky intensity. Purcell's wonderful music lost nothing in the translation of the action to a setting of cutting-edge technology. Along with the musicians themselves, conducted by William Hobbs from the harpsichord, Daryl Bornstein's sound design must get some credit for this.

No more performances of Dido and Aeneas are immediately scheduled; I'm sure they'll be posted at the Dido Project's website when they are. As for the Samsung Experience, you can check it out any time you're in New York – it's right in the upscale mall at Columbus Circle known as the Time Warner Center.  A visit to a bright, shiny, holiday-dressed mall in the heart of the greatest city in the world is surprisingly cheering in these tough times. The next live event in the space is an appearance by comedian Mike Birbiglia on Dec. 10 from 4-6 PM.

DVD Review: Composing the Beatles Songbook: Lennon and McCartney 1966-1970

When it comes to Beatles fans, there's a whole spectrum. Some just like the music. At the other extreme are those who obsess over every detail of the band's life and work: reading all the biographies and analyses, studying all the lyrics, following all the legacy news.

This new documentary is for those who fall somewhere in the middle. The information and perspectives imparted by these variously scholarly interviews won't give extreme Beatles geeks anything they don't already know, and to the casual fan they may not be of great interest. For someone like me, though – a serious music listener and Beatles fan, but without the desire (or, I suspect, the brain capacity) for encyclopedic knowledge – it hits the spot.

The documentary focuses on "the centerpiece of their success: the extraordinary songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney." During the years 1966-1970 that partnership took the Beatles from pop stardom to the forefront of musical sophistication and even the avant-garde, resulting in a body of work that continues to stimulate imitation, inspiration, and study decades later. (A previous DVD took up the formative period, from 1957-1965.)

Authors, journalists, and creative souls like Barry Miles, Klaus Voormann, Allan Moore, and Robert Christgau talk about the progression of events and influences that fueled the creativity of the Beatles' two primary songwriters through the period of the group's greatest success. The Dylan influence, Lennon's taking surreal inspiration from random phrases and posters, McCartney's immersion in the London art scene, the challenges of Frank Zappa's experiments and The Who's noise-rock – all these and more collect into a pretty well-rounded picture of what made these boys tick.

George Harrison's songwriting contributions, which became very significant in the later period, aren't covered here, and one misses them – not because the filmmakers don't deliver on what they promise, but because one can't feel fully immersed in the world of Beatles music without Harrison. But purely as a study of the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney, it succeeds. The documentary footage is interesting, if limited, and despite the dry, semi-scholarly tone, one gets fairly caught up in the excitement and emotions of a time when pop music was becoming much more than trifles for the ear.

Since the focus is on a small selection of representative songs, full versions of them would really improve the film. Beatles fans most likely have all the songs anyway, but being able to listen right then and there would certainly be a plus. Of course, getting the full rights to songs can be difficult or impossible, especially for independent filmmakers.

Extras are scant: a structural analysis of the song "A Day in the Life" by Allan Moore (just the sort of thing I find fascinating), and textual biographies of the contributors. The latter are useful because I didn't know who half of these people were, and it's good to see what makes them "experts." British fans will find more of them familiar names.

For the obsessive Beatles fanatic who knows everything but also needs everything, this will be a welcome addition, but non-completists can probably take a pass. For those who are merely highly interested, it's definitely worth a look.

Music Review: East Village Opera Company – Olde School

The operatic tradition has always had a place in rock and pop. Elvis Presley and the Platters' Tony Williams, Pat Benatar and Heart's Ann Wilson, metal's Ozzy Osbourne and pop-rock's Dennis De Young, and of course Freddie Mercury, are all singers who have adopted, at certain times and to one degree or another, opera's highly controlled vocal techniques rooted deep in the body.

At the same time, bands and arrangers have utilized orchestras, mellotrons, samplers, synthesizers, and dense, powerful vocal layerings to capture in popular music the bombastic drama of composers like Wagner and Verdi. Just think of the Beatles' late, highly orchestrated experiments, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," The Who's "Mini-Opera" and Tommy, Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," and almost anything from Led Zeppelin's peak period.

The East Village Opera Company comes from the other direction, taking famous themes and arias from classic operas and crafting variously flavored pop music around them. Their adaptations, while often clever, are not mere exercises, but really enjoyable music in their own right.

Producer-arranger Peter Kiesewalter and the group have a fine knack for finding modern-day settings for timeless themes without the self-conscious slickness you sometimes find in pop-classical crossover projects. The opening track, a pastiche of Wagner, Led Zeppelin, and Rush, is something of an exception. But overall the music has a fairly consistent sensibility. One gets the sense that the East Village Opera Company is a band, no less than The Beatles or Black Sabbath were.

Granted, this band has a bevy of guest artists in addition to its core of three singers and excellent musicians (they carry three string players when on the road): a pedal steel player on "As You Were Then" adapted from Bellini's Norma, soprano star Nicole Cabell on "Brindisi Libera (Pop the Cork)" from Verdi's La Traviata, a very effective children's chorus on "Soldiers" from Gounod's Faust, and more. There are touches of jazz, funk, and even country, and a bit of schmaltz of the sort you get from operatic pop singers like Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman.

But the singers don't sing like opera singers, most of the time, nor like opera singers trying to sing pop music, but simply like very good pop singers. And some of the opera themes are pretty well disguised. My sense is that a pop music fan completely ignorant of opera would likely enjoy this disc, although less so than someone familiar with opera. As such it's not the kind of thing that would tend to draw a potential fan into the world of opera.

But I don't get the feeling that's what the group is aiming for. I think they're aiming, like any band, to earn fans, to do something different or exceptional, to put on a good show, and maybe sell some recorded music in the process. I for one am looking forward to the next opportunity to see them live.

Music Reviews: Matt Morris, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Asylum Street Spankers

Matt Morris, Backstage at Bonnaroo and Other Acoustic Performances

Listening to Matt Morris, intimate is the word that comes most readily to mind. His high, fluty tenor, recorded closely into the mic, wafts his words into your consciousness like a message carried on the wind.

The first three songs on this sparsely produced EP have little more than Morris's voice and acoustic guitar, with a few subtle lead guitar fills. For the final two tracks he switches to piano. On "Let It Go" Morris flutters close to Antony territory. The disc closes with "The Un-American," a deceptively sweet-sounding condemnation of consumer culture that nicely bookends the opener, "Money," with its pithy explanation that "Money ain't the villain / It's greed that's the killer."

Speaking of money, Morris, known for writing for Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson, is being championed by Justin Timberlake.  But in spite of these glittery associations, as a singer-songwriter he has a way of gently delivering serious lyrics that harks back to the early solo work of David Crosby, and to the more modern singer-songwriter feel of Elliott Smith. At the same time, his voice, though soft and plaintive, has an up-close tang and controlled yet emotional falsetto heights that make one think of what Jeff Buckley might have sounded like if he'd been able to write material with real hooks.

Lee "Scratch" Perry, Scratch Came Scratch Saw Scratch Conquered

It's hard to keep up with dub-reggae pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry, even for us relative youngsters. At 72, he's still putting out a full-length CD roughly every year.

Since I last wrote about Scratch he's released two discs. The newest features appearances by Keith Richards and George Clinton, but despite the heavy-hitting guests, this hourlong CD is all about Scratch and his new collaborator-producer Steve Marshall. (The two also worked together on Scratch's Grammy-nominated disc last year.)

Either you dig Scratch or you don't. Trancelike but jovial, self-obsessed but always with a slightly scary wink, the man and the music seem one. The dub and classic reggae elements are all here: the horns, the repetition, the stops, the sound effects, the social consciousness, the religion, the aphorisms, the weed. Then Scratch adds the flights of fancy and the wordplay. "Riches come / And riches goes / Cigarette come / Cigarette goes / But I remain / I am the rain / I remain," he declares in "Jealousy."

"Sinful Fuckers" needs no further explanation.

"Ha ha ha ha," he proclaims sleepily in "Yee Ha Ha Ha." "La la la la / Ha ha ha ha." And so it goes. Light something up and dive in. But look out. As George Clinton intones, "Headz Gonna Roll."

Asylum Street Spankers, What? And Give Up Show Biz?

The busy Asylum Street Spankers are back with a live double CD recorded at a series of concerts in New York City earlier this year. The Spankers are always fun, but they're more fun in person, and this set captures a good bit of the wacky, childish-for-grownups fun that makes their concerts such a hoot.

There's a mix of favorite Spankers numbers ("Beer," "Winning the War on Drugs," "Blade of Grass"), newer tunes, and classic covers like "I Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Since I Met You Baby," all strung together with spit, twine, musical saw, between-songs banter, and silly tales about life on the road. There are even a couple of songs from the band's recent children's album, including "You Only Love Me For My Lunchbox." And don't miss "Hick Hop," Wammo's fusion of country and western murder ballads and gangsta rap.

The Spankers handle blues, old-timey jazz, country, bluegrass, nearly every style you might hear at a postmodern vaudeville show – even a little rock – with equal skill, and a big dollop of silliness that wouldn't work half as well without the high-level musicianship; they make it look (or sound) easy.

Most often I wouldn't suggest a live album as a good introduction to a band, but if you haven't heard the Spankers, and you don't mind a fair amount of banter in between songs, this wouldn't be a bad place to start at all. At the very least it will probably make you want to catch a show when this clever, funny, and well-traveled band of zany gypsies comes to your town.

Music Review: Indie Round-Up – Laura Vecchione, Red Wanting Blue, and More

Laura Vecchione, Girl in the Band

Laura Vecchione’s second disc is a consummately crafted and craftily written set of tunes that straddle the borders between commercial country, country-rock, and alt/Americana. My colleague Michael Bialas detailed Laura’s devotion to and work on behalf of post-Katrina New Orleans. Notably, on this CD, she covers the traditional “Indian Red” a capella and flows it into her own “Fly Home Flag Boy.” “Magnolia” too evokes the “Crescent City moon” and “wrought iron lace and Spanish roofs.” It’s the same moon, of course, that shines over her Boston and New York City roots in “This Town” and the pillowy but catchy title track. My favorite, though, might just be the sneaky “Don’t Come Creepin’.”

Laura tried out some different styles on her previous disc; here she stretches a bit in her nicely subtle rendition of the Etta James ballad “A Lover is Forever,” while the closing number, the beautiful original “Stone By Stone,” also has a bluesy-jazz tilt to its folky bedrock.

If you haven’t met Laura Vecchione, this is a great place to start. Links to listen and purchase are at her website.

G Tom Mac, Though Shalt Not Fall

G Tom Mac is the strange moniker for the pairing of Gerard McMann, known for the goth track “Cry Little Sister” from the film The Lost Boys, and collaborator/producer Tony Silver. Perhaps because the duo has concentrated on creating music for TV and movies, there’s a variety of moods on their new disc, but a strong thread is their appealing fusion of industrial sounds with a skilled songwriter’s feel for pop music, along with a bit of gothic bite. A good listen altogether.

The Simple Things, The Simple Things

I’m glad I didn’t read The Simple Things’ press kit before listening to their music. “Imagine McCoy Tyner, Rickie Lee Jones, and James Jamerson coming together…” Sure, imagine those people…and then think about their opposites, and you might get something like The Simple Things. What we have here is a collection of spacious chamber pieces, feather-light yet highly focused. Singer Kaitlin McGaw alternates between a controlled wail (“Eyes For Me”) and an affectless Liz Phair delivery (“The Moon Is Torn”), both effective in their own ways. The music behind her is subtle piano and organ from Michael Gallant and tasteful, precise electric bass from Raymond Ruiz, who has a penchant for bass chords. The result is a very modern but accessible sound, contemplative and easeful but rewarding careful listening as well.

The Art of Walking, The Art of Walking

This music is so unobtrusive it’s hard to find something to say about it, other than simply that I liked it. One could safely say that Brian Malvey, who is The Art of Walking, makes excellent use of the studio in creating settings for his appealingly reticent songs with their often winning melodies. But that doesn’t tell you what they sound like. Let’s leave it at this: somewhere between Death Cab for Cutie and Sufjan Stevens, you’ll perhaps find The Art of Walking, treading on soft feet.

Red Wanting Blue, These Magnificent Miles

Listen to the first couple of bars of “Gravity,” the opening song of Red Wanting Blue’s eighth (yes, eighth) album, and if you were new to the band you’d be tempted to say, “Oh, no – another Pearl Jam clone – didn’t that go out of style around the turn of the century?” You’d soon be proven wrong, though – Scott Terry’s throaty baritone turns out to be its own thing, and so is this band’s music.

Based in Athens, Ohio, the group certainly has the earnest heartland-rock sensibility that you can’t avoid when you traipse through the Midwest. (“The road’s paved the same way for sinners and saints.”) But they vary the moods well. Try to resist the elemental rock of “New Cool.” And with solid songwriting, superior musicianship, and their own slant on the basics of rock, they carve out their own niche, with crashing symbols and ringing guitars framing catchy tunes and socially conscious lyrics.

A final note: if you decide to pick up this album, consider spending the extra few bucks for the physical CD. It’s one of the more impressive artistic packages you’ll find on an indie release.

DVD Review: Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan

The story of Donovan's life is a fascinating journey through a period in pop music that continues to shape the creative lives of several generations. A new video biography by Hannes Rossacher makes a good case for Donovan as a kind of nexus for many of the musical and musico-social strains that began to mingle in the 1950s and touched off the most resonant and lasting explosion of popular music in our history – that of "the 60s."

Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan is an unusual biopic in that the subject himself narrates the whole way, onscreen in a series of interviews in which the interviewer is unseen and unheard. As he takes us through his life from his childhood in postwar Glasgow through the present day, it becomes clear that Donovan has a healthy opinion of himself, his work, and his influence. But whatever his true or deserved place in the pantheon of rock godhood, this film demonstrates that he was certainly centrally located.

Along with the well-known facts and high points of Donovan's career – his hit singles, his bizarre encounter with Bob Dylan in the film Don't Look Back, his collaboration with the Beatles and famous trip to India with them to visit the Maharishi, and so on – there are also amusing tales, like getting squirted with a water gun by Keith Moon and Roger Daltry while trying to perform on a TV show. There are also numerous interesting clips of promotional videos, films in which Donovan appeared, and TV appearances ranging from Pete Seeger's show in 1966 to Later…with Jools Holland three decades later. There are concert and festival clips, culminating with a 2008 all-star jam on "Season of the Witch" at New York's Cutting Room, interviews with his wife and others, a brief account of his attempt to avoid taxes by "never living anywhere," a visit to his luthier in California, and more.

And the wardrobe… just seeing the extravagant hippie-wear Donovan used to don for his concerts and videos is nearly worth the price of admission.

Disc 1 is the three-hour documentary itself. The latter part is decidedly less interesting than the earlier sections, but it's hard to imagine how this could have been avoided, considering when the high points of Donovan's career occurred. (Halfway through the film, it's still 1968.) It's in those earlier sections that Rossacher, aided mightily by Donovan himself, makes the case for the artist's central significance. As he worked on his early hits – produced with legendary producer Micky Most – Donovan collaborated with many legends and legends-to-be. Backing him up on the famous recording of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" are Jimmie Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones, soon to become three quarters of Led Zeppelin. Elsewhere we see him befriending Brian Jones. There's Donovan in India, teaching the Beatles finger-style guitar. Here he is recording his later hit "Barabajagal" with Jeff Beck's band backing him up.

A brief montage of famous films that have prominently featured Donovan's songs attests to his continuing significance for creators and audiences today. (The most recent major example is the use of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" in the film Zodiac.) More obscure are the clips found on Disc 2, which, like the film, will be of interest to Donovan fans, completists, and students of the 60s.

Sound and video quality are excellent, even on the old clips. Latter-day Donovan remains hale and hearty. His stage style is winning, but, lifted out of the feel-good flower-power milieu that spawned his biggest hits, a little short of mesmerizing, so don't expect to be blown away by awesome live performances. But Disc 2 is packed with extras – not just videos and concert clips and TV appearances, but extended versions of some of the film's sequences, private moments, a family photo album, and, most valuable, several really nice unreleased songs in video form.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with this two-disc set. It provides a close look at Donovan's life, music, and, maybe even more interesting, his times. I recommend it highly not just for Donovan fans but for all fans of 60s music and anyone interested in the period.

MuchAdo About WhisperAdo

The long-awaited new CD from Whisperado has begun stirring towards existence. Meaning, we’ve started recording basic tracks, up at Scott Miller’s studio in the wilds of New Jersey. Your favorite songs from our shows will be on the new disc… and meanwhile, of course, you can still buy a copy of our first EP, Some Other Place. Get it at iTunes in the form of high quality MP3s, at Cruxy if you want to download actual WAVs (plus PDFs of the CD artwork), or for a physical copy, we recommend CD Baby. Your purchase will help fund the new disc. Onward!