Thursday One-Hitter: John Allyn Smith Sails

Posted by Payton | Posted in thursday one-hitter | Posted on 11-12-2009

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For our second edition of Thursday One-Hitter, we employ the Austin-based indie-rockers Okkervil River. I’ve been a big fan of theirs since I found 2007’s The Stage Names and subsequently discovered the band’s earlier material. Last year, Okkervil River released The Stand-Ins, the follow-up and stylistic sequel to their 2007 disc.

The final track on The Stage Names made a huge impact on me from the first time I heard it – and more every time since. What begins as a twisted retelling of a suicide ends in a cascading sing-along tribute to none other than The Beach Boys… sort of.


Okkervil River – John Allyn Smith Sails
buy The Stage Names (2007)

By the second verse, dear friends
My head will burst, my life will end
So, I’d like to start this one off by saying “live and love”

I was young and at home in bed
And I was hanging on the words some poem said
In ‘31, I was impressionable, I was upsettable
I tried to make my breathing stop and my heart beat slow
So when my mom and John came in, I would be cold

From a bridge on Washington Avenue, the year of 1972
Broke my bones and skull and it was memorable
It was half a second in, I was halfway down
Do you think I wanted to turn back around and teach a class
Where you kiss the ass that I’ve exposed to you?
And at the funeral, the University
Cried at three poems they’d present in place of a broken me

I was breaking in a case of suds
At the Brass Rail, a fall-down drunk with his tongue torn out
And his balls removed
And I knew that my last lines were gone while stupidly I lingered on
Oh, but wise men know when it’s time to go
And so I should too

And so I fly into the brightest winter sun
Of this frozen town, I’m stripped down to move on
My friends, I’m gone

Well, I hear my father fall
And I hear my mother call
And I hear the others all whispering, “come home”
I’m sorry to go, I loved you all so
But this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on

So hoist up the John B. sail
See how the main sail sets
I’ve folded my heart in my hand and I wanna go home
With a book in my hand
In the way I had planned
Well, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on

Hoist up the John B. sail
See how the main sail sets
I’m full in my heart and my head and I wanna go home
With a book in each hand
In the way I had planned
I feel so broke up
I wanna go home

It’s always a dangerous move to reference the fact that you’re singing a song in your lyrics, but the way in which Will Sheff begins his in-character biographical tale of late poet John Berryman sets the tone for a dangerously brave song. As John Berryman (born John Allyn Smith, Jr.), Sheff warns upfront that he will not live through the song, hell… not even verse two.

There’s no need to give you guys a Berryman bio here; Sheff does that pretty well in the song. But as a youngster, the poet witnessed his father commit suicide, only to do the same later in life – in much more dramatic fashion. In ‘72, after struggling through alcoholism and depression, Berryman lept to his death from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis. Sheff is undoubtedly schooled in the literary works of Berryman, alluding to his writing style and even borrowing a couple direct lines from his poems.

While doing a little research for this post, I quickly realized I’m in no way schooled enough in poetry and/or psychology to decode the thousands of underlying connections that Sheff has provided in this song. This person did quite the job, though.

While you may recognize the second half of the song as a Beach Boys cover, the surfing songsters were actually the ones doing the covering. Some form of the traditional maritime song (as Hoist up the John B sails, etc) has existed since before the surfboard was around. But Sheff’s choice to break into ‘Sloop John B’ for the coda was a well-devised plan. The sixth stanza marks the beginning of the covered lyrics. They begin with another allusion to Berryman’s troubled childhood, “hear[ing his] father fall.” Not only is the transition seamless in melody, but more Berryman references are found in the traditional lyrics: “full in my heart and my head” is apparently taken verbatim from one of his poems. And don’t think that choosing a song referencing a boat named the John B. was any sort of accident, either.

Summer Album Round-up….

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, album release | Posted on 09-25-2008

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As promised, i’ve sorted through my recent album purchases to bring you a Late Summer/Early Fall Album Round-up.

Most of the albums considered came from Volume 3 of my Album Release Forecast. One album, Punch, was released back in March, but because of the different billing from Chris Thile’s previous releases, i was unaware of the album until recently. Also, Todd Snider’s Peace Queer release date was pushed back to October. Not sure yet if i’ll do another Album Release Forecast for Fall/Winter, so here are some noteworthy upcoming releases:

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Okkervil River ~ The Stand-Ins
This is an album by a veteran band who is obviously very comfortable in their skin, although their dark lyrics may not express the same sentiment. Will Sheff is a pro at taking a deep, personal situation and creating a candid, incredibly catchy tune. While this disc may not contain as many ‘hits’ as its predecessor, it is by no means any less enjoyable. The only lulls within The Stand-Ins are the three short instrumental ‘title tracks’ that disconnect the disc from what would be a smooth-flowing narrative.

Okkervil River – Singer Songwriter

Conor Oberst ~ Conor Oberst
Conor proves that even without his longtime musical partner Mike Mogis and the shield of the Bright Eyes moniker, he’s still this young generation’s most inventive, fearless troubadour. He may even be better without the two – this disc is currently the best album to be released this year. From the start, Conor Oberst is a captivating album filled with original melodies accented with pointed spurts of alliteration. The aggressive acoustic solos are evident of his previous work with Dave Rawlings. While the subject of his songs continue to be spiritually driven, there’s none of the religious cult undertones that impaired Casadaga. The first couple tracks i came across from this one seemed only to be a continuation of that last album, but when you hear them in the context of the other stellar tunes, they become a perfect fit. Buy this one.

Conor Oberst – Get-Well-Cards
Conor Oberst – Moab

Old Crow Medicine Show ~ Tennessee Pusher
i heard someone else call this a ‘concept album’ centered around booze, drugs, partying, etc. While there are many nods to this kind of living (Alabama High-Test, Methamphetamine, and Humdinger are some track names), i don’t think The Show had a specific concept in mind. Just look at their previous albums and see if there is any less debauchery in the themes. You already know how i feel about the re-make of Caroline, and the sour-taste that Highway Halo left me with. Old Crow’s appeal is their imperfect, whiskey-fueled energy, and Don Was simply tried to harness this into an over-produced, radio-ready album. To sand down the sounds coming from the strings of this band is a crime. The good news is that, while most of the songs Ketch fronts were deeply affected from the heavy hand of Was, no one can make Willie Watson’s tenor wail sound anything less than pure backwoods emotion. It’s not completely a miss, but i’m already anxious to see what The Show does next.

Old Crow Medicine Show – The Greatest Hustler of All
Old Crow Medicine Show – Crazy Eyes

Carrie Rodriguez ~ She Ain’t Me
With her second solo effort, Carrie moved even further away from the Texas dancehall stigma she acquired while playing with Chip Taylor. She leans further toward contemporary jazz with fiddle highlights on this disc. Carrie also took the writing reins here, and proves she can be a successful solo artist. While i don’t think she’s found her exact sound yet, She Ain’t Me will be a stepping-stone she can proudly look back on.

Carrie Rodriguez – El Salvador

Rodney Crowell ~ Sex and Gasoline
Although he’s been making music since the 70’s, i’ve only really become a fan of Rodney through his last three records. Political tunes usually turn me off, but something about Rodney’s unbiased, regular-joe perspective coupled with unforgettable guitar riffs and melodies made much of his material very pleasing. On Sex and Gasoline, his subject matter remains the same, only none of the instrumentation is as catchy. i just can’t get into this one. An occasional political/social commentary song is a good idea, just don’t let it be all you do.

Rodney Crowell – I Want You #35

Punch Brothers ~ Punch
Had the pleasure of catching Chris Thile and his band live in Austin a few weeks ago. i went expecting a good bluegrass show but was blown away with not only their combined talent, but also the overall show experience. i knew his years in the spotlight with Nickel Creek would’ve taught Chris how to play big shows, but the way he handled a crowded room of less than 100 fans was impressive. As far a mandolin players go, Chris is no doubt one of the best around, but i was shown that each of the other players in the Punch Brothers rules their instrument just as well. The album contains four ’songs’ in the traditional sense as well as a four-movement piece entitled The Blind Leaving The Blind. Who does movements these days? Real musicians.

Punch Brothers – Punch Bowl
Punch Brothers – The Blind Leaving The Blind: Fourth Movement


These United States ~ Crimes
The biggest surprise and dark-horse for album of the year goes to These United States and their second album of 2008. Jesse Elliot has finally found the right lineup and sound direction for this ever-changing band, and let’s hope he keeps it that way. Read more here.

The United States – Susie at the Seashore

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson ~ Rattlin’ Bones
This album is everything i expected from reading reviews and from hearing the title track: Kasey and her new husband going back to their musical roots. It’s a groovy, folky, uplifting album that centers around themes of heaven and hell. The most surprising aspect is how much i enjoy the inclusion of Shane Nicholson. This album will receive a high place on my Best Of ‘08 list, and Rattlin’ Bones will be a strong contender for Best Song.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – The House That Never Was
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Sleeping Cold

Click the Album Covers to purchase.

Album Release Forecast, Vol. 3….

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, album release | Posted on 07-24-2008

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If you check the archives, i’ve only got 1 previous album release forecast (here). But i did, in fact, write two of them. One day, my second one mysteriously disappeared. My guess is some of the tracks i posted got some people angry, and instead of coming to me, they went to Blogger, who then removed the post – no questions asked.

But thanks to the internet and all its archiving glory, you can still find remnants of it – like here at Elbo.ws.

Anyway, my plan was to get an installment out pretty regularly, as not to miss any big releases. But this summer has been one big blob of uncertain locales and shaky internet service – with even more to come. So that didn’t happen, but i did manage to talk about some releases as i learned of them in single posts.

i will resume with a late summer/early fall album release forecast:

August 5
Conor OberstConor Oberst
(Merge Records)

This album has been talked about on every other blog and music mag, so i won’t get in-depth. Conor Oberst left behind the Bright Eyes moniker as well as his “better half” and longtime producer Mike Mogis and went deep into Mexico to record his latest effort. The self titled disc is reportedly not as much ’sad-bastard’ but more up-tempo midwest rock – much like Cassadaga, which i really enjoyed.

Conor Oberst – Danny Callahan
stream the whole thing here.

August 5
Carrie Rodriguez – She Ain’t Me
(Back Porch Records)

If Norah Jones and Allison Krauss had a love-child, her name would be Carrie Rodriguez and she would be a classically-trained violinist with a twangy, soulful voice. Carrie worked with songwriter Chip Taylor for many years, and in ‘06 released her solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. It’s a fiddle-driven, mellow album that features mostly songs penned by Chip. Carrie is set to release her sophomore effort in which she took over the writing duties – she co-wrote with Gary Louris and Mary Gauthier, and Lucinda Williams makes a cameo. Not bad.

Carrie Rodriguez – Got Your Name On It
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez – Keep Your Hat On Jenny
pre-order She Ain’t Me

August 19
Todd Snider – Peace Queer
(New Door Records)

i already talked about this one here.

September 2
Rodney CrowellSex and Gasoline
(Yep Roc Records)

The Houston Kid honed his musical chops as a guitar player/singer with olEmmylou. He ran around with Steve Earle, Guy Clark, and Townes in the 70’s and 80′ – oh yeah, he was also married to Rosanne Cash. Known mainly for his songwriting, he has penned songs that produced hits for Emmylou, Guy, Waylon, George Strait, Keith Urban, etc. With a slew of solo albums since ‘78, Rodney’s last few discs have been politically-fueled rants set to catchy guitar/mandolin riffs.

from Sex and Gasoline:
Rodney Crowell – Closer To Heaven
from 2005’s The Outsider:
Rodney Crowell – Don’t Get Me Started

September 9
Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
(Jagjaguwar)

Will Sheff and band didn’t take long to follow up 2007’s The Stage Names (which, if i could re-do my Best of 2007 list, would make the top 5). That’s simply because they had toyed with the idea of releasing a double album last year. Though the idea was forgone, The Stand Ins picks up where The Stage Names left off. The overall theme is said to carry over, there’s a sequel to the plaintive Savannah Smiles, and even the artwork coincides. Read more here.
here’s a live version of a song that will be on the new disc – my most anticipated of this list.

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines (WOXY.com Lounge Acts)

September 23
Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher
(Nettwerk)

i posted about this release here as soon as i found out. Since then, i’ve also been informed that an EP will precede the album release. Out next week (July 29th), it will include 2 songs from the full album plus an exclusive track, Back To New Orleans.

The album was produced by Don Was (The Stones, Dylan, Black Crowes) who has his own channel on MyDamnChannel.com - check out the boys playin’ some studio sessions with country legend ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement:

You can find an older version of Caroline at my original Tennessee Pusher post, but he’s another new tune from The Show that i’ve found:
Old Crow Medicine Show – Soul Rebel (live)

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If you know of any upcoming albums that fit the mood here at This Mornin‘…., please tell me.

Playlist Pulse: Slowies…..

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, playlist pulse | Posted on 07-17-2008

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Haven’t done one of these in a while. i’ve been pretty short on time this week, so no in-depth posts requiring a lot of thought are in the works. That’s why i started this Playlist Pulse thing anyway – to get some songs out to the people in a simple way.

Today, i’m pulling from my Slowies playlist. It’s simply a collection of soothing, slow-paced songs that i often use to fall asleep to. That’s not to say that the songs are uninteresting, just very calming. In fact, i often end up staying awake thoroughly examining the words – as simple, quiet instrumentation paves the way for lyrically driven songs.

  1. Iron & Wine – The Sea & The Rhythm
    buy The Sea & The Rhythm [EP]
    Sam Beam comprises about 20 percent of this playlist. His fluid vocals could calm a cat in a swimming pool. This song wouldn’t be near as magnificent if it weren’t for the shockingly simple banjo solos.
  2. The Wood Brothers – That’s What Angels Can Do
    buy Ways Not To Lose
    The Wood Brothers momentarily drop their heavy groove and show us a beautiful song in which Oliver decides that the only explanation for his love’s power of him is that she must be an angel. Listen close and you’ll hear trickling water in the background….
  3. Band of Horses – Part One
    buy Everything All The Same
  4. Okkervil River – Savannah Smiles
    buy The Stage Names
    The xylophone is a perfect touch for a song about your little girl.
  5. Todd Snider – All My Life
    buy Happy To Be Here
    Simply beautiful.

check out more playlist pulse….

Playlist Pulse………

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, playlist pulse | Posted on 04-23-2008

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Today’s Pulse comes from my playlist entitled: hipster-indie-folk

Ok, so as you’ll see, i’m great at coming up with playlist names – they’re usually pretty broad descriptions of the type of music that resides in them. But each playlist has a special purpose – if i like a song, i’ll find a playlist that fits it. Hipster-Indie-Folk is home to this new batch of music i’ve gotten into since finding the music blog world. Some folky, some indie-rockish, all good.

  1. mp3: Okkervil River – Westfall
    buy Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See (2002)
    A powerful song that gradually builds intensity throughout. F
    rom Okkervil’s 2nd full length album.
  2. mp3: The Avett Brothers – Colorshow
    buy Four Theives Gone (2006)
    From the Avett’s 2006 effort that shows more of their slightly screamo style. Wild.
  3. mp3: Iron & Wine – Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car
    buy The Shepherd’s Dog (2007)
    Sam Beam has that airy voice that, when coupled with a repetitive little acoustic riff, can be very calming. I used a lot of the songs on his previous albums to fall asleep to. With The Shepherd’s Dog, however, he beefed up his sound with some extra instruments and bigger grooves. This won’t put me to sleep.
  4. mp3: Mark Ronson – Most Likely You Go Your Way (I’ll Go Mine)
    buy Mark Ronson’s Dylan Remix (2007)

    British Producer and remix-master, Mark Ronson, finally got Bob Dylan to agree to let him rework a Dylan tune. Putting the hipster in this playlist is this groovy,-horn splattered tune.
  5. mp3: The Kooks – All That She Wants
    buy Radio 1 – Established 1967 (2007)
    This compliation disc features some top artists from the UK doing interesting covers (check out Amy Winehouse’s Cupid). Here we have The Kooks covering Ace of Base – and admit-it-or-not, you ALL know this song.

New Digs……

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, new digs | Posted on 02-18-2008

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Ok, so i didn’t even make two weeks in a row gettin my new digs out on time. i went back home for a wedding this past weekend and never found time. And then yesterday, my songs were somewhat inaccessible due to a much needed relocation and reorganization of my library to an external hard drive. i guess i just can’t take the chance of my iPod donkeyin’ off all my songs again. But never fear, better late than never, and all those clichés.

These first two tracks come simply from diggin’ deeper into a couple of the artists mentioned on last week’s ‘New Digs’:

mp3: Okkervil River – John Allyn Smith Sails ~ from The Stage Names (2007)
The closing track from their lastest release didn’t hit me as a great song on the first listen. i definately noticed the dark, cynical lyrics, but nothing more. Upon further review, i caught the irony in the song. Will Scheff takes some sort of ’suicide-note lyric’ and creates an hugely theatrical, uplifting tune (had to look this up, but John Allyn Smith was John Berryman’s original name. He was a poet that committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in ‘72).
Scheff claims that “by the second verse, [his] head will burst, [his] life will end”, and he doesn’t disappoint. What he means by his head bursting is that the band will break into a, somehow fitting, rockin’ rendition of The Beach Boys’ Sloop John B. If the title doesn’t ring a bell, take a listen – the melody is unmistakeable. Nice album-ender.

mp3: The Roadside Graves – Jesus Is A Friend of the Family ~ from If Shacking Up Is All You Want To Do (Self-Released album available only from the band)
Trips to the closest things to record stores in College Station (i.e. Hastings and Best Buy) proved futile for finding and Roadside Graves or Felice Brothers – two bands on the top of my wishlist. But i did come across this little song from the Graves. I still don’t know if i’m supposed to laugh at it, but i do – everytime.

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And here are some songs from dudes i haven’t posted about – both new and nowhere near new:

mp3: Nathan Hamilton – Hangin’ On ~ from Six Black Birds (2007)
Earlier this year, i went to visit some friends in Hunstville and happened to catch this guy at The Stardust Room. Had some kick-ass fish tacos at this cool little listening room/bar. i didn’t get to stay for the whole set, but i definately remembered this song. So, naturally, i was pumped when i found it for download on his MySpace. An inwardly reflective, slow tune that closes out his ‘07 release. Note the strange, but clever, use of cricket chirps almost indiscerable in the background.

mp3: Donovan – To Sing For You ~ from What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid (1965)
This was the first song of Donovan’s i ever heard. It was a long time ago, and i nearly forgot about the guy until, a couple weeks ago on one of the aformentioned failed trips to Hastings, i picked up Don’t Look Back - yet another Dylan Documentary i now own. There’s a really cool scene where both Dylan and Donovan (often compared to each other) are hangin’ in the same hotel room with a bunch of other beatniks. They each play a song – Dylan It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue and Donovan To Sing For You - and both give meager, but approving nods across the room.
enjoy responsibly….

New Digs……

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, new digs | Posted on 02-08-2008

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It’s hard to always keep an eye out for new music when my library is filled with tons of songs i haven’t really given a listen. But in order to try (and per John’s request), i’m gonna start a weekly, New Music Roundup. It may not always be newly released stuff, just new to me. i’ll try to post it on or around friday, so you can have some new tunes to get you through the weekend……
so here’s some newish songs i’ve been diggin’ this week:
mp3: Okkervil River – You Can’t Hold The Hand Of A Rock And Roll Man ~ from The Stage Names (2007)
Just got this record. It’s different, but i really like the rockin’ ones like this, and the slow ones like Savannah Smiles. Check it out.
mp3: The Roadside Graves – Radio ~ from No One Will Know Where You’ve Been (2007)
Really good, unique folk-rock. They’ve got two albums out, and they’re on the top of my wishlist.
mp3: Justin Townes Earle – The Ghost of Virginia ~ from Yuma [EP] (2007)
Yep, that’s his real name. And, yes, he is the son of Steve. His debut album, The Good Life is due out from Bloodshot records on March 25, 2008.
mp3: The Fratellis – Flathead ~ from Costello Music (2006)
These guys just won an award for British Breakthrough Act from the 2007 Brit Awards. Good indie-rock/pop. Plus who wouldn’t like a band who’s name is a reference to The Goonies?
mp3: The Black Hollies – Paisley Pattern Ground ~ from Casting Shadows (2008)
These guys from Jersey sound like they stepped out of time machine sent from the 70’s. Pretty cool psychedelic rock. Casting Shadows, their second album, comes out March 11, 2008.
mp3: The Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun ~ from The Felice Brothers (2008)
Don’t know much about these guys, except that they are touring with Bright Eyes (Conor also signed them to Team Love Records – the label he co-founded) and will be at Bonnaroo this summer. Their self-titled American debut is due out March 4, 2008.
enjoy responisbly………