September Spotify Playlist

Starting a new recurring feature here where I’ll be putting together a Spotify playlist featuring new tracks and maybe some older stuff that I’m either listening to or writing about in various places each month. It’ll be a work in progress with commentary included below that I’ll also add to as the list grows, and I’ll start over on the first of each month. Hoping this clues you in to some tunes you might not otherwise find. Got favorites of your own? post in the comments.

OMI, “Hula Hoop”: silly pop song, been listening to a lot more of this kind of stuff since my girls became teenagers. This is one I can kinda dig.

Foals, “Mountain At My Gates”: Love the intensity of this one, without it having to be ‘heavy’ at all…reminds me of a more tribal Depeche Mode at times. From the new album What Went Down

Yo La Tengo, “Friday I’m In Love”: did the world need another self-conscious Cure cover? Nope, that’s why this gently acoustic take succeeds so well. From the mostly covers album Stuff Like That There

Cory Branan, “No Hit Wonder (Live)”: Branan is playing the upcoming Jam Room Music Festival here, and I know some folks pretty excited about that. This is a live version of a song from the 2014 album of the same name, released via Audiotree this year.

Mandolin Orange, “Jump Mountain Blues”: the new video for this is pretty neat, the song itself comes from an upcoming new album from this North Carolina folk-pop duo. It’s a nice tune and indicative of their quietly powerful sound.

Isabelle’s Gift, “Sonofabitch”: Getting psyched for another epic Halloween show from this Columbia SC band of veteran heavy hitters; this one always reminded me of Motorhead and with Lemmy in the news this month for health reasons it seems appropriate to throw it on here.

Josh Ritter, “Getting Ready to Get Down”: Still not sure if I actively dislike this because it’s an annoying song or if it just suffers in comparison to Ritter’s more contemplative, poetic work of the past. this new single from his soon to be released new album is a bit too Billy Joel “We Didn’t Start The Fire” or Barenaked Ladies “One Week” for my taste, but maybe it’ll grow on me.

Justin Smith and Fat Rat Da Czar Turn a Colorblind Eye to the World


What on the surface might seem an unlikely collaboration between acoustic hip-hop/rocker Justin Smith (formerly of the Folk-Hop Band) and serious, street tough veteran rapper Fat Rat Da Czar has resulted in a debut album under their collaborative moniker ColorBlind that addresses topics both personal and universal–including but not limited to the fact that Smith is white and Fat Rat is black. It’s all done in a spirit of unity and togetherness that doesn’t shy away from current events or issues such as racism and history, with the two artists’ styles meshing like they were made for each other.

The duo’s point is made immediately on “Undaground Railroad” as Smith takes on the persona of a runaway slave in the antebellum South. Equal parts resignation and desperation, the historical tale is accented with an intro track featuring a blunt spoken word piece from Regina Pendergrass.

Not everything is fraught with social importance, however. “Good Times” features a laid-back cameo from Ben G, trading verses with Fat Rat. “Country Roads” is the closest to Smith’s former band days, with a rock-rap sound that’s part 311, part Kid Rock; Fat Rat saves it from caricature with a fast-flowing rap.

It’s the important songs that have the most impact, however. “Live Like the Devil” takes Smith’s spiritual struggle and sets it to a gently strummed melody until Fat Rat’s low growl makes the point “Will it ever stop, I doubt it…”. The chorus sets out the battle in simple, heartbreaking terms: “I wanna live like the devil, I wanna die with the Lord / Tell me how do I manage, so torn.”

“Follow The Spin” is the obvious centerpiece here, an ode to a fallen friend with a chorus that rolls off the tongue despite its somber subject; Smith’s declaration “I need a heart of stone and a will not to give in” is a statement of purpose for this whole endeavor, it seems. “Nowhere Soon” deals the most directly with racism, an underlying theme throughout, as guest rapper Khujo Goodie declaims “It ain’t safe no more, not even in church,” a line recorded long before the Charleston shootings that reverberates with chilling intensity now. The song’s theme of closed minds needing to be opened is likewise more fraught with meaning in this post-Ferguson world where everything is viewed through an internet-fueled filter of rhetoric and partisanship, not to mention thinly disguised racism. Fat Rat has the point well in hand here as he spits out the line, “Love me or hate me, diss me or doubt me, but don’t hate if you don’t know shit about me.”

It’s the relatively sunny final track, “Stained”, which offers the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as Fat Rat makes a case for Colorblind’s ultimate impact:

“If I can forgive myself, maybe I can reveal myself, and if that can happen maybe these lines will mean a little more than just rappin’.”

The world may be a long way from being truly colorblind, but more artistic statements like this one can’t help but push it a little farther along the way there.

ColorBlind website

PREMIERE: Ivadell’s “Unknown Divide” Is Cascading, Beautiful Chaos | NOISEY

Great to see a Columbia SC band getting some Noisey love; nice words about their debut single at this link that confirm my own post-Slowdive impression–plus you can listen to the song, “Unknown Divide”, from their debut LP, ‘Maybe Tomorrow.”

Source: PREMIERE: Ivadell’s “Unknown Divide” Is Cascading, Beautiful Chaos | NOISEY

Painting Heaven Blue: Pete Ledbetter August 20, 1956 – August 17, 2015

pete ledbetter

On any given night in Charleston, South Carolina there are a dozen or more guys playing acoustic guitars in various bars and restaurants, delivering the classics and taking requests from the regulars and the tourists. I first met Pete Ledbetter when he was deep into that scene, a working musician who literally sang for his supper almost every night, and consider him one of my oldest musician friends. So it was with heavy heart and many memories that news came first of his recent illness, and now his passing today just days before his 59th birthday, which would have happened on the 20th.

As a young fresh-out-of-college nightlife participant and music fan, it was guys like Pete and his peers Carroll Brown, Robert Hutto, Michael Murray, Jeff Houts, and others who were the bedrock of many long nights out on the town in the Holy City. We’d start at the Best Friend Lounge, move to wherever Pete or Jeff or Robert was playing that week, take in a band at the Music Farm, Cumberlands or Myskyn’s, then congregate at the Back Market Cafe as everywhere else was closing. Musicians would filter in after their regular gigs and invariably wind up jamming on that tiny corner stage well into the morning, with us night owls the beneficiaries of their need to just keep playing.

One of those nights in particular stands out, and as always Pete was there. It was a Sunday so even the Back Market was set to close at 2 a.m., but by closing time the stage had filled with Robert Hutto, Carroll Brown, Michael Murray, and Pete–playing his ever-present harmonica. A generous patron offered to ‘rent the bar’ and make it a private party, so they closed the doors and those lucky enough to be locked inside saw a two-plus hour jam session that ran through every Dylan and Van Morrison song you could name; to this day I don’t think I’ll ever hear another “Tangled Up in Blue” that I’ll remember more vividly. That night was the impetus for Hutto to record his classic “Shadows” album, which Pete appears on–playing harmonica, of course.

One of my other most vivid memories of Pete was a panel discussion we had during a Charleston Music Showcase in the early 1990’s when I was writing for Charleston’s Free Time. Pete was visibly skeptical of the proceedings, as he was already a bit on the curmudgeonly side at the time, but he sat and listened, offering only one question. Looking back now, I’m not convinced he wasn’t pulling my leg a little bit with it.

“You know what kind of music I play,” he said. “What demographic should I be marketing it to?”

I can’t remember my exact answer but it had something to do with him needing to just play his music and the audience would find him. Naive, in retrospect, but in reality there wasn’t really a market for what Pete did, at least not in a national/radio/record deal sense. He was one of those guys who would make you forget your troubles for an hour or two just by playing a familiar tune for you, or shooting the breeze between sets of what for him was yet another three-hour gig. Think Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, but with a guitar and a harmonica.

Pete was always a little different than the average Jimmy Buffett human jukebox that’s always been popular in Charleston, however, as his repertoire ran to obscure blues, folk, and British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll. He’d usually play an original or two, sometimes the classic, raunchy “Cadillac Ass” if it was late and the crowd was drinking enough. And because he did work in Charleston, he’d play a Buffett tune or two, but only the really old stuff.

Long after I’d moved away from Charleston Pete hosted a songwriter’s open mike in West Ashley, I dropped in once or twice when I was in town but didn’t see him much over the past decade or so. When I did, it was as if we’d just gone a week or two between run-ins. I’ve known a lot of musicians over the years but few with as big a heart, or a heart for just getting up and playing, night after night. Those trips to Charleston will continue, but the Holy City will have a music-shaped hole in it for a while.