Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Radio Free Song Club

For the past year and a half, I've been hanging out with some of my friends about once a month to record a podcast called the Radio Free Song Club. I'm there as a photographer, but the others assembled are songwriters, musicians, sound engineers and visiting guests. It's hosted by Nick Hill (formerly of the Music Faucet on WFMU) and singer-songwriter Kate Jacobs. Dave Schramm is the bandleader, and is joined by a semi-rotating band known as The Radio Free All Stars, which includes David Mansfield, JD Foster, Jeremy Chatzky, Doug Wieselman, Andy Burton, Paul Moschella, Ted Reichman, Anton Fier and many others.

The concept of the show is that the club members-- which include (among others) Freedy Johnston, Jody Harris, Laura Cantrell, Peter Blegvad, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Peter Holsapple, Victoria Williams, Kate Jacobs, and Dave Schramm--contribute a newly written song each month. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't, but the results are always interesting. Some come as finished masters sent by email from across the sea or out on the road. Others come as demos which are then dubbed live by the all-stars in the studio. On one episode, the band played live with Victoria via Skype. Peter Holsapple has released a CD of new material comprised entirely of songs written for the show.

There have been numerous guests as well as live performances by the club members on each show, including Syd Straw, Beth Orton, Ronee Blakley, Bob Neuwirth, Mary Lee Kortes, Lianne Smith, Susan Cowsill, Glen Hansard, Alana Amram, Steve Wynn, Katell Keineg, and Michael Hurley.

Everyone involved, including Gary Arnold and Andy Taub, who have offered their studios as well as their services, have worked for free, giving their time and their talent to this labor of love. The shows are available for free and have produced some 150 masters of new songs thus far.

This is top-shelf entertainment, folks.

So, the Radio Free Song Club has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for incidental costs in producing this fine show.

Won't you please consider sending a donation? This project will only be funded if at least $5,555 is pledged by Thursday Jun 23, 11:58am EDT. We are most of the way there, and every little bit helps.

In the meantime, here's a few of the songs from the show, including Victoria Williams's version of Townes Van Zandt's "Buckskin Stallion," recorded for the last show, live at The Living Room in New York City, in tribute to her recently deceased horse, and for now, only available here.


"Do You Remember That?" mp3
by Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: No. 007 Double Issue

"Buckskin Stallion" mp3
by Victoria Williams, 2011.
from Radio Free Song Club: Sweet Sixteen Tons
(coming in August)

"Cote d'Azur" mp3
by Peter Blegvad, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: Third One Now

"Letters She Sent" mp3
by Laura Cantrell, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: If 9 Was 6

"Don't Call Me Pete" mp3
by Peter Holsapple, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: Third One Now

"A Little Bit of Something Wrong" mp3
by Freedy Johnston, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: Second Number

"Mister Control" mp3
by Jody Harris, 2010.
from Radio Free Song Club: First Issue


Visit the Radio Free Song Club on the web: HERE
on Facebook: HERE
and at Kickstarter: HERE

video by Tony Cenicola:

all photographs © Ted Barron, 2011.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gil-Scott Heron

"The youth was gone, and he looked like an old man, freshness erased by some unknown blackboard cleaner. It was a new day for John Lee. There had always been a smile on his lips and a chuckle rolling over his vocal chords, ready to be exposed with only the slightest provocation. The daytime was gone from his eyes. All that remained was the night."

Gil-Scott Heron, from The Vulture, 1970.

by Drew Hubner

Gil-Scott Heron wrote "The Bottle" in the late 60's but he never stopped drinking. He never left Harlem, he smoked crack, and when I saw him last summer in Marcus Garvey Park, he had the gap-toothed gleeful grin of a bum. Whenever the band kicked in, he threw his head back and no one looked happier to be there. He looked like a six foot seven homeless guy leading the band. He also looked like a three year old kid. Most artists when they make it, they go live in LA or whatever. Gil-Scott Heron never did. He was not a rapper, though he did rap in the same way that Bob Dylan rapped. Dylan was not a folk singer either, he's a blues guy. He always was. Heron is jazz. That night in the park he told a story about the origins of jazz. He rapped. He was from the generation that used that word a little differently; Rap Brown comes to mind. It seemed incongruous that someone like Heron smoked crack, someone so intelligent, so aware. But he was eaten up by the same monster that ate Rap Brown. It also seemed incongruous when we heard that Brown shot a black sheriff in Alabama with a big ol' pistol.

Heron knew America. He wrote about America like no one else and the America that he lived with and lived in was not kind to black artists or to black men. Some can live in the suburbs, Heron never could. This is not even a black thing altogether; it's an artist thing. And it's not a value judgement either. Why does Dylan keep touring, when he can't even sing really? Why did Joe Strummer go to raves and hang out with wankers half his age, when the consumers of his music wanted the Clash to play "Rock the Casbah"? Heron's final album, I'm New Here from last year was amazing. It was just like those Johnny Cash records produced by Rick Rubin, spare genius in the raw, a voice in bare essence. In Harlem on 3rd Ave there's a bike shop that has that photograph of all the jazz guys taken on an afternoon in the late 50's, right there in the neighborhood. Everyone from Diz to Monk. Dozens of guys along with 10 lucky neighborhood kids. The thing that amazes you is that all those guys could be in the same place at the same time to pose, but they all lived right there in Harlem. That's the NYC Heron lived in, still. But the city passed him by. The city had changed, not altogether of course, but Heron had not left. That's what that album said. Listen to it. It is not even music, more of a testament, like the pictographs on canyon walls left by the Apaches to tell us what they saw of the world. Heron did rap but he was not a rapper, he was a jazz singer. RIP, brother.


"New York Is Killing Me"
by Gil-Scott-Heron, 2010.
available on I'm New Here

"On Coming From A Broken Home (Part 1)" mp3
by Gil-Scott-Heron, 2010.
available on I'm New Here

"On Coming From A Broken Home (Part 2)" mp3
by Gil-Scott-Heron, 2010.
available on I'm New Here


The Other Side of Gil-Scott Heron
video and photographs by Monique de Latour
from The New Yorker