Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Traveling Circus, Goes Solo (Kinda)

Poet and singer Alex Ebert goes by his full name on his first solo album, Alexander. You probably know him better as his alter-ego Edward Sharpe from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. He breaks from the group to melodically craft an album that can be filed with other Pacific-Northwest folksters, such as Devendra Banhart, Fleet Foxes,  The Decemberists, Rogue Wave, Blitzen Trapper, and so forth.

While listening you may find some tunes sound eerily familiar.  The strong and steady percussions thumping in "In the Twilight" sound like a Paul Simon revival. Followed up with "Bad Bad Love" Alex(ander) resorts back to his ESMZ daze. The bizarrest track is "Old Friend," which sounds like a Johnny Cash lament from his final days - dark, dreary, and sad. "Glimpses" begins with an acoustic bluesy ballad, where Alex exercises his beautiful and ballistic vocal capabilities and his violin skills.

Alex gently croons on "Truth," backed by an addictive melody, "The truth is that I never shook my shadow/ Ever day it's trying to trick me into battle/Calling out 'faker' only to get me rattled/Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle." It's a song of overcoming struggle, and possibly a drug addiction. But he finds hope, "When everything's shining/Your darkness is shining/My darkness is shining/Have faith in ourselves," as he chants "truth" throughout - a constant reminder of facing it, even if it is darkness.

In "Million Years" he's back in love, comparing it to dangerous substances and orgasmic obscenities; "I love you like grave danger/Like moonshine in disguise." His passion for music, love and other things is so infectious it picks you up by the suspenders, lifting you high off the ground. Good luck coming down.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sam is the Man

No, I'm not talking about Dr. Seuss' muse. Sam Beam is the lead singer of Iron & Wine...a recent discovery of mine. He's been around for over a decade carefully creating his own orchestra of extraordinarily-talented musicians, including 2 backup singers, a banjo & mandolinist, a keyboardist, a percussionist, a drummer, a trombonist, a saxophonist, 2 guitarists. Although after Wednesday's (4/20) performance at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, the crowd seemed more intrigued by the lead singer. Everyone chanting "Sam's the man!" and "Sam, you rock!" made me realize that Sam is more than just a lead singer; he's the conductor of the Iron & Wine symphony.

A few songs from the new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, I could recognize because they colored within the lines. The rest, however, were unique spinoffs from The Shepherd's Dog, Our Endless Days Are Numbered, and Woman King; Sam improvising with octaves, instruments, lyrics, instrumentals. Keeping the experience new and exciting for anyone and everyone - for those who have followed them since their first EP to the present or for those who are seeing them for the first time (which was in my case). I caught myself with closed eyes, swaying back and forth, to focus on each musician, each instrument, each strum, each note, each octave by itself. They all stood so beautifully on their own. When I'd open my eyes, I was  in a sea of people that were all swaying like the tide. I was home.