Some things in this life are simply bad for you, no matter how good they feel. Take for instance, a Drive By Truckers show at First Avenue. A Southern fried, 3 guitar assault on your eardrums, and your sense of reality would seem to be, at first blush, the kind of thing that would appeal to your sense of fun and frivolity. The mossy, soggy truth, however, is that about 4 songs in, your knuckles are white and you're breathing through your nose. It's sometimes hard to explain to the hotdish crowd that watching two men drink straight from a bottle of Jack while the third works out on the fret board of a flying-V is normal behaviour in towns like Wichita, Kansas, Joplin, Missouri, and Chickasaw, Oklahoma. Back in the 70's, the county seats in these places had outdoor amphitheatres, and roving truckloads of bands like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Ted Nugent's crew, would show up and play to the sunburnt and inebriated until everyone was tired enough to get a really good night's sleep. The Truckers are the only true children of that ethos playing today, and while you get a warm feeling down in your heart as the amplified guitars burn the short hairs off the back of your neck, if you know their songs, you're tortured by the nightmare of some twangy little kid in hand-me-down jeans, who learned that a 9/16" wrench is pretty much the same as a 14mm one because they felt similar going up-side his head. I like this music, but it boils my blood, and makes my co-workers at my day job confused as to whether to call the police or an ambulance on me the next morning. Don't let your friends, relatives, or the little gnomes in the back of your head talk you out of seeing the Truckers right now, they're what things oughta be like, instead of the primping, lip-synching, choreographed bullshit, force-fed to us from other parts of the world.
Singer Ashlee Simpson's "extra help" may have been exposed when a "Saturday Night Live" audience heard her voice -- singing the wrong song -- while she held a microphone at her waist.
But it sounded suspiciously like a guide vocal that's a common -- although almost always unspoken -- concert aid. Either the singer "lip synchs" by mouthing words to a backing tape or has a live microphone and sings along to the tape, making the voice sound more powerful than it is.
Such vocal tricks have been used before on the show, making "Saturday Night Live" not entirely live, said a show insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Milli Vanilli was flogged back in the day for similar behaviour, and ended up out of the music business and in the defensive secondary for the Green Bay Packers (or so it seems). The sad truth of the mainstream music business is that the talentless are rewarded for their good looks (natural and otherwise) and their willingness to whore themselves out to a particular style or schtick. The use of guide vocals, Pro Tools in the studio, and flat-out lip synching is the dirty little secret they don't want anyone to know. Nowhere is the use of this shit more prevalent than among the peacocks and peahens of Music Row in Nashville, which has been commented upon in this space before. This little shit Ashlee Simpson has never had to WORK for her music. She may have some sort of nightmare show biz mom who has forced her into annorexia, dance classes, and plastic surgery, but none of that has anything to do with music. Ultimately, this is why alternative music (and by that, I mean anything that has developed itself in clubs, halls, and small theatres) is superior to the schlock on mainstream radio stations: if the guy or gal singing in your favorite band has somewhat of a shit voice, he or she doesn't try to cover it up, and, what you hear on the CD is typically what you hear live. So, if it appeals to you as you're introduced to it, that appeal is organic and real, and more importantly, deep. Also, small live shows are often, if not always, fueled by liquor and cigarettes; so the whole MTV, lip-synched, bare-belly, dancey-dancey shit doesn't typically fly with that crowd. Simpson wouldn't last 30 seconds on a Friday night at the 7th Street Entry, slightly less time than she lasted on the SNL stage.
There's a "Picked to Click" issue of CityPages coming up, so I'll save my thoughts on some local new releases to coincide with that bit; the good thing is, it frees me up to get to some stuff that has come out recently from non-locals.
I get all school girl over The Gourds because they embody the technical, musical excellence of what Grisman and Garcia were trying to work up, without all of the intellectual overhead of two stone-freak hippies doing a bluegrass "experiment." Some of their songs are obtuse and deep, but, they have all the rigors and neuroses of a hobo jug band playing a Friday night gig down below the 35W river bridge in July. Quite simply, if you can listen to the first song on this record ("Lower," a Kev tune) without standing in place, doing a horse gallop, and slapping yourself on the ass, ask somebody to dig a 6-foot hole in yer backyard, because you're dead. I think this CD finally catches in a studio recording, what The Gourds are like live. First of all, it contains a number of songs you'll recognize if you've seen them a few times in the last 2 or 3 years. They've been working these songs up, but never recorded them. I've been waiting a long time to have a copy of Max's "On Time," a miniature stadium rock anthem, done in acoustic guitars, mandolins and harmonicas; and, Kev's "Cracklins," a hillbilly song about, well, about being a hillbilly. As usual, Jimmy chimes in with the most playful song on the disc, "Wired Ol Gal," which is about what it's about. The real treat, though, is "Spanky," a live song where everybody gets their shot, both performance-wise and lyrically. This is ice-auger music; this is after-dinner, whiskey sippin' music; this is Fall freeze, Spring thaw music. Put on yer goddamn overalls and blow yer nose with a red handkerchief while yer cookin' that Turkey to this record. It should be sold in Fleet Farm, right in between the lawnchairs and rock salt.