Eddie Hogan, Free Time, and How It All Began

CFT MastheadEnded 2014 with the sad news of the passing of Eddie Hogan down in Charleston; Eddie was the publisher and editor of an entertainment newspaper called Charleston’s Free Time until health problems caused him to cease publication in the late 00’s. An unselfish supporter of local musicians and the music scene around Charleston, Eddie and the Free Time paper gave the budding scene somewhere to focus itself back in 1990 when he began as a bi-monthly free paper.

Hogan managed the Record Bar in Northwoods Mall, and I was working at the other Record Bar location, in Citadel Mall, so I knew him in passing already when he started talking about the paper he was going to be putting out. I’m not sure if I was in the very first issue or not, but I’m pretty sure I contributed to every one after that for about four years. It was the first place I was published after graduation from the University of South Carolina in 1989 with a mostly useless English degree; I was working full time at the record store and part-time as a DJ for the local classic rock station. The remainder of my young single life was taken up with seeing live music around town whenever I could, at bars like The Windjammer, Cumberlands, Cafe 99, and the new Music Farm that opened during that time frame. People stare in wonder when I tell them I saw Phish on East Bay Street at the original Music Farm in 1990; or when I tell the story of interviewing a 14 year old Derek Trucks before his gig at the Farm around that same time.

The first things I wrote for Eddie and the Free Time paper were simple record reviews, but a need soon surfaced for coverage of the live scene I was already immersed in. “The Beat” was born, a column that covered local music news and spotlighted a few good shows happening during the weeks each issue was on the street. It was a pretty wide-ranging selection of bands and music included, as my tastes then were just as eclectic as they are now (check the archives on this blog for a few examples of the column in its early form). beat logo

Soon, we began doing bigger stories when touring acts came through town; the first really big one I can remember that I did was when Atlanta band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ came through around the time their Fly My Courageous album was blowing up; I did a phone interview with bandleader Kevn Kinney, then the day of the show we did an in-store with the band at Manifest Discs & Tapes (where I’d moved over to from Record Bar). I got Kevn to autograph a copy of the printed interview from the paper and later framed it, I still have that framed, autographed interview–In a rare editing error, Eddie spelled Kinney’s first name with the ‘i’ in the headline. Kinney was gracious enough (or intoxicated enough, maybe) not to notice or at least say anything if he did notice at the time.drivin n cryin feature 1991

The processes we used back then were positively antique compared to the publishing world of today; I would write or type out my copy and hand deliver it to Eddie (or he’d stop by the store and pick it up), who then re-typed it into his publishing program on a Macintosh computer setup, print that out and do paste-up on a light table for the pages that would go to the printer. I wasn’t ever involved in that part of the paper but any time I was at the house that table and computer were in various stages of use.

Eddie was always looking for ways to support the local music scene, being a musician himself. Between the two of us and a few others involved, we organized the Charleston Music Showcase for several years in a row, bringing regional industry folks like my favorite management curmudgeon Dick Hodgin and others in for a panel discussion of various topics, followed by a night or two of live sets from handpicked local acts we liked. It was, I hope, educational and informative for all the bands and musicians–me, I just liked seeing all the live music, all at once.

Eddie’s favorite story about me and my time with the Free Time involved Hootie & The Blowfish, who back then were just getting to be a regionally popular band not too many months removed from their cover band days at USC. In one of my columns previewing a Hootie show that was probably at the Windjammer, I made the pronouncement in a review of their demo cassette that the band “was going to be huge”, something that a more experienced critic might not have gone out on a limb of hyperbole with. That was in 1991, and of course we all know what happened beginning around four years later. Eddie was pretty proud of the fact that his paper had ‘called it’ earlier than anyone else. Years later in a Hootie exhibit in Columbia for some anniversary or commemoration of the band, there was a giant collage that featured show flyers and newspaper clippings from the band’s career; that column of mine with that prediction was included.

I left the Charleston scene and the Free Time ‘staff’ in 1993 when I moved to Columbia and got married, but Eddie’s influence and friendship didn’t end there. His sister-in-law Amy Whitaker, who had helped him start the Free Time in Charleston, was several years into publishing her own paper, the Columbia Free Times. When Eddie informed Amy I was moving up to Columbia she immediately asked if I’d be interested in doing similar work for her paper. I’ve now been writing for the Columbia Free Times for over 21 years–thanks again, Eddie.

Eddie and I kept in touch and he even mailed me the Charleston Free Time for a long time; when I noticed it getting a little slim on the local music coverage in the early 00’s I contacted Eddie and offered to resurrect “The Beat” from afar as a longer column in his now once-a-month publication. With the internet now a thing, I could easily scan club schedules and do a full-page rundown of upcoming concerts and significant club shows, and did just that for a while, enjoying being able to help out Eddie again, this many years removed from our beginnings in print together.

It has been years since I saw Eddie on a regular basis but any time I’d call it was like we could pick up wherever we left off the last time, talking about music that moved us, friends we both knew, or the latest band we’d seen. He was a friend to many, as the condolences that have been pouring in on social media this week have shown; I’m proud to give him the credit for kick-starting me and my own musical musings way back when. RIP Eddie Hogan, I’m sure you and Lowell George are in the middle of an awesome jam session right about now.

My Favorite SC Albums of 2014

I contributed my votes to the annual SC roundup in the Columbia Free Times and several of the following made it into that final list; here then are my original thoughts on a pretty strong batch of local albums from 2014:

Top `15 South Carolina Albums of 2014

Kevin Oliver

1. Various Artists, Mostly I Just Want to Watch My Friends Grow

Like a multi-artist version of my favorite tribute album ever, K. McCarty’s Daniel Johnston tribute **Dead Dog’s Eyeball**, this local collection of artists covering the songs of Those Lavender Whales’ main dude Aaron Graves casts new light on his eccentric catalog while serving as a benefit for Graves’ cancer treatment expenses. A sentimental number one? Perhaps, but the consistent quality of these different takes on Graves’ compositions makes it an easy choice even without the emotional pull of the back story.

2. Ali Arant, June July

Now expatriate singer-songwriter Ali Arant got together with Pocket Buddha’s Darren Woodlief before moving north to teach at Wagner College, leaving us with this intimate, endearing acoustic folk document that’s focused on her warm, conversational voice and lyrics.

3. Can’t Kids, Ennui Go

The most consistently interesting band in town the last few years, this go-round finds the Kids more than alright; a less abrasive sound throughout lets details such as Amy Cuthbertson’s cello shine through even the weirdest bits.

4. Ruby Brunettes, Woodshed Sessions, Vol. 1

An accidental EP that shows the potent live act that Chris Compton and company have become; Catherine Allgrim’s voice is tied with the almost funky backbeat of “Lazybone” for most valuable player on this four-song live recording from the Woodshed online music program.

5. Milton Hall, Coat From Japan

for his latest occasional musical missive, Milton Hall enlisted another long under-utilized local musical treasure in guitarist John Furr (Blightobody, the Tantrums) along with drummer Stan Gardner for a retro indie blast that rocks more than Hall’s ‘outsider’ reputation would infer.

6. MyBrotherMySister, Go Back Home

Yes, they’re in high school; no, they don’t sound like it. MyBrotherMySister have a talent for updated 90’s rock sounds mixed with the warm guitar swirls of J Mascis and the us-against-them attitude of Sonic Youth—definitely not your average teenage garage band.

7. Jordan Igoe, How to Love

You may have seen her singing with Rachel Kate’s band, but until you hear the songs on her solo debut you might not realize the depth and sincerity inherent in Jordan Igoe’s own music, which encompasses classic country twang, pop cabaret balladry, and sorrowful, soulful blues. A Patsy Cline for the Lana Del Rey generation, Igoe oozes sex, southern charm, and supple, smooth style.

8. Muscle Memory, Yes! Always!

David Adedokun is a maddening example of an incredible talent whose output is too infrequent to gain him the notoriety he deserves; his last project Daylight Hours was released in 2008. This new EP is more polished and pop-sounding, taking a bit of the focus away from Adedokun’s intricate wordplay but framing the songs within appropriately majestic context.

9. The Post-Timey String Band, My God My God EP

Sometimes you can over-think things and lose the original inspiration; this EP takes the opposite approach. Recorded in a night, mixed and mastered in another day or so, pressed and released the same week prior to a camp conference, it captures the old-time gospel feel of the Post-Timey String Band’s sound nearly perfectly by mixing Kelley McLachlan’s aching spirituality with Sean Thomson’s multi-instrumental flair; including Timshel’s cellist Alderman Douglas fills out the tunes nicely.

10. American Gun, Promised Youth

It’s been a couple albums now since the original version of American Gun developed into the current Todd Mathis-led outfit; their alt-country leanings have likewise matured into a more mainstream rock approach not unlike Boxing Day/Capital, Mathis’ pre-American Gun band that briefly achieved major label status. His vocal twang is the connective tissue between the various incarnations, but Mathis has learned enough from each phase of his artistic growth to employ all of those lessons here.

11. Grace Joyner, Young Fools

She may be young, but Grace Joyner’s no fool; her mellow indie-pop draws from the grandeur of Nicole Atkins and imbues it with a retro Kirsty McColl vibe. She’s not a great singer but her near-monotone fits the synth-laden tracks such as “Holy” like Debbie Harry fronting Blondie—it’s more about the overall vibe and feel than any kind of overt musical showboating.

12. Dear Blanca, Pobrecito

Recorded with the band he’s been playing live shows with since soon after 2013’s excellent **Talker**, this outing finds Dear Blanca frontman Dylan Dickerson even more confidently ensconced in a wall of garage-punk-blues skronk that’s not unlike Jello Biafra fronting an alt-country act. There’s plenty of swagger and swing to these tunes, overcoming Dickerson’s acquired-taste vocals with energy and enthusiasm to spare and marking a band growing into a sound and style all its own.

13. Analog, Arrow of God

“Get your speakers wet, baptized in sound,” goes a line in “Baptized”, the opening track on this local hip-hop mainstay’s latest. It’s an apt image for the immersive experience that follows, tracing beats and rhymes in a self-referential manner that takes fellow emcees to task as much as their fellow man.

14. The Mobros, Walking With a Different Stride

Modern blues is a mostly stale format that repeats itself ad nauseum like a stuffy museum; Twenty-something singer Kelly Morris and little brother Patrick on drums kick open the doors and let some air out of the room. Kelly’s voice is rightfully lauded for its resemblance to an old black blues singer; what the formal studio experience reveals is the serious grooves the guitar-drums pairing can lay down.

15. The Fishing Journal, Feathers & Twine

Chris Powell’s post-Sonic Youth abrasiveness has emerged from the flat-out extremes of previous releases to a place where it pushes and pulls against itself as often as it blows up into full-frontal audio assault.

My Favorite Albums of 2014

It was an odd year for ‘album listening’ for me, but as always a group of albums stood out as ones I went back to again and again. As always, these are what I consider my favorite albums released in 2014–not necessarily the ‘best’ albums of the year, whatever that means.

Lee Fields & The Expressions - Emma Jean: Great music transports the listener to another place; these tunes take you on a retro blast from start to finish. There’s not a modern sound that can touch Lee Fields, nor should there be.

Sturgill SimpsonMetamodern Sounds in Country Music: Truth in packaging; or the only reason country music didn’t totally suck this year.

Alt-J, This is all Yours: clubby anthems that don’t club you over the head.

Ed Sheeran, X: the rare occasion when my preteen and I agree on what’s a great album.

Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems: 80 years old and still as lyrically and stylistically agile as ever.

Matthew ShippI’ve Been to Many Places: And he takes us along with him to most of them here with just ten fingers and a piano.

EagullsEagulls: post-industrial age rock that soars, swoops, and scavenges the best of its predecessors.

Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin: Still abrasively sweet after all these years.

Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers: A comfortably heartworn slice of heartland Americana.

Chromeo - White Women: disco-funky-sexy-fun-lunacy.

Hannah Miller’s New Song “Promise Land” Used in Chernobyl Video Footage

One of my favorite musical exports from here in Columbia, SC is still singer-songwriter Hannah Miller, whose deeply expressive voice makes everything she sings sound phenomenal. Last week a CBS cameraman who worked on a “60 Minutes” documentary exploring the soviet nuclear disaster site Chernobyl uploaded some eerie footage of the area; the song he chose to use as the background music was Miller’s new tune “Promise Land.” The clip is over a million views, so I hope Hannah is getting some royalties off those plays. If you want your own copy of the song it is out now on iTunes as well. The original video post is below: