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Monday, December 26, 2011

On Dec. 31st, there's no excuse...

For not joining me and the Deedle Deedle Dees on the radio or in person. Here's what's happening:

(all times Eastern)
At 9am, I'm the guest on The Kids are Alright, Amy Handler's splendid little program on AM1690 in Atlanta. Amy is devoting the whole show to our conversation, my in-studio performances, and tracks by the Deedle Deedle Dees. Stream it here: The show will repeat Sunday the 1st at noon. 

At 11am, I'm hosting a New Year's Eve Family Sing-a-Long & Jam at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Bring your voices and your instruments. I'll bring chord changes so parents and bigger kids can play along on their guitars, ukes, accordions, etc. And everyone is invited to sing along as we ring in the New Year a little early (we'll be counting down to noon).

And the grand finale happens at 11pm:
The Deedle Deedle Dees are playing a complete concert on Sirius XM Kids Place Live. We're going to play a full concert then lead do the old 10-9-8 to midnight. The show will be re-broadcast a couple of times during the daytime hours (on Jan 1st and possibly other dates) for all those who can't stay up late.

Hope you can join us!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Music you should try if you like Strange Dees, Indeed

The Deedle Deedle Dees listen to a lot of music and we're always excited to share new stuff we find. Our new record, Strange Dees, Indeed, in many ways represents our wide-ranging listening habits better than any of our previous work and we thought you might like to know where to go to hear more.

Organized by song, here's some music we think you should add to your family music library. As you start listening to this music you'll find that while some of it is a very direct influence on the music we make, much of it is simply part of our music landscape, the greenhouse, if you will, where the Deedle Deedle Dees music sprouts and grows.

1. Ah Ahimsa
This song is the most successful of some of my recent attempts to write a Bollywood song. Bollywood music is very diverse and reflects the era in which a particular movie was made but we tend to gravitate toward what I consider to be the classic era of the musical genre, the 1950s and 60s. Here are some absolute must-haves:

Doob Doob O'Rama: Filmsongs from Bollywood, Vol. 1
Every song a killer. Most famous song here is probably "Jan Pahechan Ho" (AKA "Jaan Pehechaan Ho") because a version of it was on the Ghost World soundtrack. Possibly the ultimate Bollywood compilation. Also check out Volume 2.

The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Asha Bhosle
The most recorded woman of all time? At one time at least I think she held that title. In all those old Bollywood movies, she's almost always the voice of the woman. The Rough Guide compilations are top notch and this is probably my personal favorite. Includes the seminal "Ina Mina Dika."

The Rough Guide to Bollywood by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar & Kumar Sanu

The Rough Guide to Bollywood: Lata Mangeshkar
In her better known work (at least as much as I know) Lata does more traditional stuff like wedding and devotional songs while Asha tends toward pop and lively dance-ready numbers. But that's a great generalization. Ignore what I say -- just get all these albums.

And if you've never seen a Bollywood movie, watch this clip. It will change your life.

2. Cool Papa Bell 
Some funky music that got our heads in the space that created this track:
The Meters
We have no illusions that our track sounds like a Meters track. But we did want to make a tune that makes people move the way their music does. Here are some good albums:
The Meters (debut)
Look-Ka Py Py
Good Old Funky Music

Gnarls Barkley
Yes, I'm sure you've heard these albums already. But they're great. Give 'em a re-listen next time you're in the car. I listened to The Odd Couple about seven hundred times while driving around LA one summer.
The Odd Couple
St. Elsewhere

3. a song for Abigail Adams
We weren't trying to sound like Wilco but a few people who have heard this track have asked whether we were. I do think we, like Tweedy & Co., were trying to figure out how to avoid the obvious choices that could be made with a simple ballad like this. At one point, in Dean Jones' living room, Ari and I were talking about how the mandolin part should sound. I expressed a strong desire that it not be "Taylor Swift mandolin," that pretty end-of-phrase arpeggio mando that's all over Nashville productions. Ari agreed but as he improvised it was Nashvillian parts that continued to lend themselves most obviously to the tune. So I said: Why don't we skip the mandolin all together and do something different?

Late that night, Dean helped us figure out what that different thing was. And as a happy accident, it did become a little bit Wilcovian. I don't listen to those guys much anymore, but if I did, I'd definitely spin Summerteeth. Much better than the much-heralded album that followed, I think.

Also try the solo work of Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore. I invoked their names during the after-midnight explorations that became "a song for Abigail Adams" more than once.

4. The Golem
As you might have figured out by now, the Dees take the various genres that inspire them, try to imitate them, and, most of the time, end up failing horribly -- but making something that we still find kind of interesting. That's certainly the case with my "klezmer" stylings on "The Golem." But if you want the real thing...

Old Brooklyn - Andy Statman
Best album of 2011, one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. It's blasting as I write this. I saw Andy play in the basement of the Charles Street Synagogue last night with my wife. John Goodman announces the album on track 1, Paul Shaffer (yes, the same) joins on keys for some tunes... Andy's buddy and regular stage guest star Ricky Skaggs shows up. Yes, that would be country idol and Christian Ricky Skaggs moaning like Ralph Stanley while Orthodox Jew Andy wails on the clarinet. Believe. 

You can hear klezmer on this record but also bluegrass and a lot of stuff I'm at a loss to classify. I could write all day about it.

All the Best - Avraham Fried
Another Brooklyn guy, Avraham plays a very different kind of klezmer. Lots of ear-searing horns. One of the Dees once said his music would be a great soundtrack for a cop show. As not subtle as Andy is subtle, Avraham is the party music you should be playing. Seriously, dump the Lady Gaga and the Pitbull and the get with the Fried.

5. Marie Curie 
Astor Piazzolla - The Soul of Tango, Greatest Hits 
Something about the mood he creates made him come to mind. Famous for the brilliant "Libertango." I'm partial to "Resurreccion del Angel." Just buy the catalog.

Django Reinhardt - Quintette Du Hot Club De France

"The Third Man Theme" - There's the original played by Anton Karas on the zither. There's also The Band's version on Moonlight Matinee. For a while this song was hot amongst high school kids I was giving guitar and bass lessons. 

Gypsy Rumble - The Stephane Wrembel Trio with David Grisman
Stephane is a guy you can see almost any night in the NYC area. He used to teach former (and always) Dee Anand Mukherjee gypsy guitar. The closest we have to a living Django.

6. Sojourner Truth
Why, yes, that is mastermind Dean Jones on the trombone. And, yes, you should get some of his records he makes for families. His group Dog on Fleas has this album Cranberry Sauce Flotilla that's kind of perfect for playing at any time of day. His solo + lots of guest stars disc Rock Paper Scissors is terrific. Get your credit card and head to and make your own choices.

7. River of Blood
If your kids like the sound of this tune -- and you don't have any Johnny Cash records in the house already -- quick get At Folsom Prison and one of the greatest hits compilations. I've never met a kid who didn't love the Man in Black.

Then, try The Lonesome Fugitive: The Merle Haggard Anthology (1963-1977). This is more for you, parents, but the kids will like some of the tunes. I instructed Dean and the Dees to sing like the female back-up singers on a Haggard track on "River of Blood." (they sound nothing like them, of course. and I like that)

Lastly, when was the last time you heard the Twin Peaks soundtrack? If there's ever a chord change or a passage of melody that hints at the theme that plays during the opening credits, all Dees immediately start playing it (listen for it if you're around for one of our sound checks). And in "River of Blood," you can hear Booker Dee just barely resisting the urge to go full on into the music of waterfalls and log mills and scary owls.

8. Penny Farthing
Like that crazy guy singing? So do we. That's Booker Dee AKA Chris Johnson. He plays banjo and piano with a New Orleans-style jazz group called the Red Hook Ramblers. Both their albums shake the walls of our house frequently. The self-titled first one features their versions of standards like "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Four or Five Times" while the recently-release Something More Sinister is all originals. I, like all good Americans, adore Chris' vocal on "That Extreme." 

I hope Chris doesn't mind me saying this: I think Fats Waller had no small influence on his vocal style. No Fats in your house? Get the Complete Recorded Works, the Best of Fats Waller, everything he ever recorded is worth having. Warning: it will ruin all current music for you. But who needs it? 

to be continued...